Category Archives: Review

How To Build Brick Cars | Book Review

Lego Cars

‘How can I build [insert model here]?’

It’s the question receive more than any other here at The Lego Car Blog.

Until now we’ve politely diverted people to the builder of their desired creation directly, knowing full well that instructions won’t be available and that they’ll leave disappointed. However we may now have an answer, thanks to Peter Blackert (aka Lego911) and Quarto Motorbooks and their new release ‘How to Build Brick Cars’.

It sounds perfect, but is it all it promises? We hand over to Lego car-building legend and TLCB Master MOCer Firas Abu Jaber to find out…

‘How to Build Brick Cars’ – A book for all LEGO fans and petrolheads!

First of all, I’m no pro in reviewing books, but I’m a big fan of LEGO and a petrolhead myself. I build LEGO cars as a hobby as well, so I can assure you that you’ll have a very interesting and unique experience with this book if you have any interest in LEGO and/or cars.

There’s no more fun than building your own favourite scale model out of LEGO bricks yourself, rather than getting a die-cast model. ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ can help you to build some of the greatest vehicles ever made, from city cars to super cars, you’re sure to find something you like in there!

What first took my attention of this book is the cover of it, very well designed and printed it gives you the expression that you’re dealing with a high quality product. That goes for the whole book as well, every single page is well printed, the pictures are very sharp and the instructions are clear enough and easy to follow, just read the ‘How to use this book’ section before you start collecting your pieces and building the models. Experienced Lego builders will be able to use the instructions without reading the introduction, but I would still encourage you to do so.

Lego Ford '32 Hot Rod
This point leads us on to the content of this book, ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is divided into three main sections, 1. Foundation, 2. Intermediate, and 3. Advanced. But before we look at these sections let’s talk about the first pages of the book and a bit about the author.

Peter Blackert, who is very well known in the Lego community as “lego911”, is a prolific and talented Lego car builder. Fortunately for me I know him through Flickr, and although I’ve never met him personally I can assure you he’s a very nice person. I have always been impressed by the quality of his work and the ‘speed’ at which he builds his models! You might never believe me if I told you he can build a very nice and detailed car every day. No wonder he works as an engineer for Ford Australia!

In the few first pages of ‘How to Build Bricks Cars’ you’ll find the introduction, ‘Why build brick cars’ and a detailed contents page so you can see what the pages of this book contain.

Another important section is the ‘How to use this book’ page, as mentioned above, specially if you’re not an experienced Lego builder. Although the instructions are pretty clear and easy to follow they are made in a compact way to ensure the book is able to contain as many different models as possible, so you need to pay attention while putting the pieces together, but for me that adds to the fun in the process!

1. Foundation Section

1. 1932 Ford V8 Roadster.
2. 1932 Ford V8 Coupé.
3. Ferrari 488 GTB.
4. Ferrari 488 Spider.
5. Citroën 2CV Charleston.
6. Jaguar E Type Coupé.
7. Jaguar E Type Roadster.

After the few introductory pages you’ll find the first main part of the book, the ‘Foundation’ section, in which you’ll find instructions for seven very detailed and accurate small scale cars in a scale of 1:28. Being small scale doesn’t mean they’re simple to build though, they are still challenging and big fun! The models in this section range from cars as old as a 1932 Ford (above) right up to the latest Ferrari 488 GTB.

Lego Citroen 2CV Instructions

My own favourite of the Foundation section is the Citroën 2CV Charleston. I built one myself (see below!) and noticed some very smart and interesting techniques and connections between the bricks all over the model, something you’d never guess just looking at the model from the outside.

2. Intermediate Section

1. 2017 Ford F 150 Raptor
2. Datsun 240 Z Coupe
3. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder
4. BMW i8 Hybrid Coupé
5. Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

The second part of ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is the ‘Intermediate’ section, where you’ll find some of the most iconic sports machines have ever made. The models in this sections are at a slightly larger scale of 1:20 (LEGO Miniland scale), with more advanced and complicated techniques than those in the previous section. They also include more detail and a few working elements too, including opening doors, hoods, trunks, even working suspension, afforded by the jump in scale.

My favorite model of this section is the 240Z/Fairlady Z (maybe because I’m a big Nissan fan!), it was a big joy to build and very satisfying with some superb techniques, details and features.

Lego Datsun 240Z Instructions
3. Advanced Section

1. Bugatti Veyron 16.4
2. Ford GT Le Mans Race Car
3. 1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda

Finally the third part of ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is the ‘Advanced’ section, which features instructions for some of the fastest cars that have ever been produced. Fasten your seat belt and get ready for the adventure!

As you’d expect, in the third and final section of the book you’ll find the most detailed and complicated Lego models. Whilst these models are at same scale as the previous section you’ll experience a much higher degree of build complexity utilising more advanced building techniques, enabling you to create an even higher level of engine and chassis realism.

After building the cars in this section you’ll have gained more building skills and a greater breadth of techniques enabling you to build better models for yourself, plus of course you have some very nice models from the book to display on your shelf!

Lego Bugatti Veyron Instructions

Continue reading

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10258 Creator London Bus | Set Review

LEGO 10258 London Bus Review

The Set Review Library here at The Lego Car Blog is – just like your Mom – ever expanding. Today we’re joined by guest reviewer Andy Boal to add one of the most eagerly anticipated sets of 2017 to the library’s stock – the 1,686 piece Creator Expert 10258 London Bus. Is it worth £110 of your cash? Over to Andy to find out…

When I was young, I wanted LEGO’s London bus set 384. Smart, red, and it looked like a Routemaster to someone like me who had never been to London and didn’t know it was modelled on the Routemaster’s predecessor, also manufactured by AEC, the Regent III RT.

So I decided to make my own London bus, a full half-cab bus, and I made it 10 studs wide. Unfortunately I ran out of parts after the lower floor, so I didn’t bother making the stairs.

My history with Lego buses is otherwise rather chequered. 696, a white and blue bus almost entirely unlike the Ulsterbuses I would later take to school, was given to me in the 1970s, and I bought the original Knight Bus 4755 in 2004, complete with beds racing all over the floor.

I finally got my hands on 384 and, some time later another set I coveted for making models in the 6000 and 7777 Lego ideas books, 379, from eBay some years ago, and with at least one unique chassis part, 384 lives at my parents’ house.

So until this year I only had one model of a London bus. A Valentine’s trip let me pick up the four stud wide 40220 in Leicester Square, but then this week we were in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries shopping mall…

LEGO 10258 London Bus Set Review

The 10258 London Bus box is the standard size for Creator Expert sets, and boasts two pictures of a real life Routemaster, as well as interior shots of the completed model.

Opening up reveals what is a relief to those of us who have had to build and later rebuild a nephew’s Death Star after parts had broken off while moving house – numbered bags. The bane of many a builder’s life, but I’m fully sold on them for making it easier to find the piece you want. Call me a wuss if you want.

The instruction book is 176 pages long – I have to say I like the single books. Looking at the sticker sheet though reminds me that the number plate is incorrect, because no UK numberplate runs to five digits. Of course, I’ve no idea whatsoever whether Morten Graff-Wang could have a personalised numberplate MGW258 or not, but GW was a South-East London registration.

Anyway, back to the set itself, and I’ve thrown the bags for parts 2, 3 and 4 back into thebox to save space and leave me with four to cope with. And breathe.

Part 1 is the chassis and the body sides up to a row below the windows, and the staircase. Turning the page reveals what many will assume is a new innovation, and that is highlighting the added pieces with a yellow outline, but those of us with longer memories will remember outlines on added pieces from the 222 Lego Ideas Book (there’s my childhood again!)

As you would expect, the chassis begins with Technic bricks and frames – all studded construction, of course, and establishing a strong foundation for the rest of the set.

After 21 main steps the floor is laid, the stands for the seats are set up, the staircase has begun, we build the engine with grey bullion forming the top of the engine block, and finally it is time to start building bodywork. 4×3 panels provide most of the flat bits, with a hint of a curved back to come.

As I build the driver’s seat I decide I’m glad I’m not driving this thing, as there is only one stud of leg room between the driver’s seat and the steering wheel and gearstick, and the seat won’t go back.

And then it’s time to build the stairs! The construction is very straightforward – the end of each step is held in place with a single stud round plate. I don’t think the five resulting steps are quite enough, but shh, it’s impressionistic.

The back of the bus includes a new 1x1x1 2/3 brick with two studs on the side, which match up if placed on top of the washing machine piece. It’s used to attach both rear light clusters – the left one directly, and the right one indirectly due to the curved corner I’m now expecting. You also get a yellow number plate option. A yellow fire extinguisher goes under the stairs (Hmm. Canary yellow is for hot oil fires. Who’s keeping a commercial deep fat fryer on a Routemaster bus?).

The side benches complete Part 1, and then we move on to Part 2 to finish the lower deck. Continue reading

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Technic 42064 Ocean Explorer | Review

LEGO Technic 42064 Ocean Explorer Review

It’s review time here at The Lego Car Blog, as the first of 2017’s Technic sets is placed under the microscope. Reader and previous bloggee Nils O has got his hands on the new 42064 Ocean Explorer set, and he joins us here at TLCB Towers to let you know whether you should get your hands on it too. Over to Nils…

Worth a second look?

OK, this isn’t a car, but it’s Lego Technic and it’s a vehicle. So, who cares…? When I saw TLCB’s preview for the first 2017 Technic sets I was a little disappointed by the picture of the 42064 Ocean Explorer. It was already written in the blogpost that the model looked more like a City set than like a Technic model, and there weren’t many Technic functions visible on the photos.

Despite this, I really liked the look of the ship, so I thought that I’d give it a second look when the set became available in stores. When I finally saw the set I was pleasantly surprised; it really had enough functions to wear that Technic logo on the box. So I made a wish for my birthday and now I’ve got it!

Ok, so what do we get? We get quite a big ship with a clean, studless, almost LEGO City like look. We also get a small submarine and a small helicopter. Each of the three models has one or more Technic functions. The scale is more or less in line with LEGO City, so if you like you can use a crew of mini-figures with it.

First of all there is the ship, a big explorer vessel of the type you would expect to search for a sunken ship or to explore the deep sea fauna. There are three ‘hidden’ functions operated by ‘HOG’ gears on top of of the ship’s bridge. The first function is the steering of the ship. The model has four little wheels for smooth movement on the floor. The rear wheels have a steering function operated by the bigger gear mounted in the centre of the bridge. The steering is also connected to two steering rudders on the rear end of the vessel. The second and third function are for the operation of the crane. The crane can be rotated and lifted by turning the two smaller gears on the left and right side of the bridge. It works perfectly to drop the submarine into the ‘water’ and get it back on board.

The second model is a little deep sea submarine. It’s quite small, but it has two Technic functions built inside. One gear is connected to the rear propellers, so when you turn it, they turn too, whilst the second gear is connected to a mechanism that opens and closes the pair of robot arms like a pair of pliers. With a little practice you can grab ‘specimens’ and bring them back to the vessel.

The third model is a small helicopter. Even though it’s smaller in size than most LEGO City helicopters it has the typical Technic helicopter function of both rotors being connected to an ‘operation gear’ outside the model, allowing them to spin simultaneously. Both smaller models – the submarine and the helicopter – have a canopy big enough to carry a mini-figure, and by adding one or more ‘half pins with a stud’ you can even fix the figures inside.

So, after all, the 42064 Ocean Explorer is really worth a second look, and for me it really was worth buying it. My son loves it, too. For him it’s like his LEGO City models, just better. I think it could also be cool to see all the functions of the vessel motorised with Power Functions elements (hmm, I think I see a new project appearing on the horizon…).

Thanks to Nils O for joining us as a Guest Reviewer to add another set to the Set Review Library. If you’d like to write a set review as Nils has you can; simply get in touch with us via the usual channels.

LEGO Technic 42064 Ocean Explorer Review
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The LEGO Batman Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Review

It’s been three years since The LEGO Movie became the surprise hit of the box office. Rapturous reviews (including here at The Lego Car Blog), a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and winner of the BAFTA for Best Animated Film, the animated adventure shook up a cinematic genre that was starting to look a little tired.

Fast forward to 2017 and LEGO, DC and Warner Bros. are hoping to repeat the huge success of the original with the spin-off we all hoped for. Yes, LEGO Batman has got his very own movie.

Reprising his role as the Very Very Dark Grey Knight, Will Arnett is joined by an all-star cast including Zach Galifianakis as an inspired Joker, Michael Cera as Nightwing, and the brilliant Ralph Fiennes as Batman’s long-suffering butler Alfred.

It is Batman of course, who narrates the opening credits… “All important movies start with a black screen…”, Arnett growls, and The LEGO Batman Movie duly does.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

A frenetic opening returns movie-goers to the colour and vibrancy that only a world built from LEGO bricks can provide. The animation is absolutely first class, and there are some brilliant adult-friendly sight gags and pop-culture references throughout, including a nod to every Batman movie ever made (especially the bad ones) and a long-running joke about the pointlessness of many of DC’s superheroes (kudos to DC for the self depreciation!).

The story itself is pretty engaging, probably on par with even some of the better Batman movies – whilst some of the worse ones would be glad to trade their plot for this one – and it employs a wealth of cameos and small-part characters to keep the amusement coming.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

Our favourites though, are the two leads. Arnett’s mini-figure Batman we know and love from the original LEGO Movie, and Zach Galifianakis’ Joker is no doubt his equal, being both brilliantly comedic and delightfully scary in equal measure. Our warmth for these characters doesn’t extend to Nightwing though, who is just as annoying as he is in the trailers, and is surely the Scrappy Do of the entire Batman franchise. To that end at least, Michael Cera has nailed it.

The Lego Batman Movie is a wonderfully self-aware addition to the Batman franchise, poking fun and reverence at the comic’s history, whilst also managing to continue the LEGO Movie saga.

However, the film is not quite as fresh or clever as The LEGO Movie of 2014. Whilst a very good family-friendly animated movie, and no doubt enhanced by the inclusion of the LEGO universe, The Lego Batman Movie could ultimately have been animated in any number of ways and remained a very good family-friendly adventure. It’s a film made because the box office demanded it, and with The Lego Ninjago Movie on the horizon too, we could be entering a period of diminishing returns.

The Lego Batman Movie is the film that cinema deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

★★★½

The Lego Batman Movie Review

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42054 Technic Claas Xerion 5000 Review

Lego Technic 42054 Claas Xerion Review

It’s time for another official LEGO set review here at The Lego Car Blog, and it’s a big one. Welcome to the Claas Xerion 5000 Trac VC.

This TLCB staff member has wanted to get his hands on LEGO’s 42054 Claas Xerion set ever since he first saw it. A large lime-green tractor now sits next to him as he types, so has it met expectations?…

42054 sits, a little surprisingly, in the middle of the current Technic range. A little while ago it would have probably been the Technic flagship, but so huge are the current models getting that the Claas is less than half the price of the Volvo L350F and Porsche 911 GT3 RS. However at almost 2,000 pieces 42054 actually features a few hundred more than the big Volvo.

Many of these are new too, with brand new (awesome) tyres, and a wealth of new bushes and pin connectors making their debut in this set. LEGO have employed a few interesting techniques in building with these, as some of these parts are used purely as a construction aid (think an unseen bracket on a car bodyshell that serves no purpose once the car is built, but allows a robot to align a laser or something during manufacturing), and all are coloured in a way that aims to assist with the build process (as opposed to the colour being chosen to best suit the finished model’s aesthetics).

If that makes you concerned about how authentic the Claas looks, don’t be. 42054 is one of the finest looking Technic sets ever produced, and it continues the trend of featuring almost Model Team levels of detailing, with Technic lift-arm holes concealed by smooth plates, lights, mirrors, and some very well chosen stickers.

The downside of the aforementioned colour choices is that black and dark grey parts can look almost identical in the instruction booklet, and when you first come across one of the new pieces you may spend ages looking for it amongst a sea of 2,000 bricks, scanning for black, when it is in fact nestling in a pile of grey. Not that this reviewer did that of course. He’s far too experienced to make that mistake.

Lego 42054 Review Claas Xerion

Colours aside the instructions are clearly laid out, and feature some huge sub-assemblies. Which brings us neatly on to a new phenomenon that the Claas Xerion demonstrates wonderfully; Density of Engineering.

Yes, we have just made that phrase up, but 42054 features some of the most compressed and tightly-packed mechanics of any LEGO set. Ever.

It’s the first set where the design has genuinely amazed us in its complexity – it’s so far above our building ability that we could never hope to better it. Some of this engineering brilliance fulfils relatively simple tasks, for example when the motor isn’t in use the battery box is automatically switched off (a thoughtful piece of design), whilst other elements, such as the three-mode steering, are mind-bendingly fantastic. Continue reading

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21103 – Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine – Review

Lego 21103 Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine

The Lego Car Blog Review My Set Competition is drawing to a close, so there’s just enough time to fit in one more fan review! Today’s reviewer is a previous bloggee himself, and today he’s on the other side of the screen after joining us here at TLCB to pen the final reader review of the competition. Over to Nils O to pick up the story…

A Dream (Almost) Come True…

The LEGO Ideas set of the Back to the Future (BTTF) time machine could have been one of the best LEGO sets ever. For me the project on LEGO Ideas (then still called CUUSOO) is still one of the best on the platform. The pictures of the car / time machine are so cool that as a BTTF and LEGO fan you just want one thing: To own that model!

The set that hit the shelves was another thing entirely. If you want to be nice you could call the look weird, but let’s be honest; it’s ugly. I think most BTTF fans still want the set, but they also want to do something more; modify it to make it look better.

But first things first. 21103 comes in a high quality black box featuring a cool BTTF design. There’s a book with instructions for the time machine from all three parts of the movie franchise, including a hover function and 1950s’ wheels and ‘electronic components’, and the parts are included for all three versions of the car. There are also unique mini-figs of Marty and Doc which are instantly recognisable, and additionally you get a skateboard, but no – no Hover Board.

Lego 21103 DeLorean Box

But what you do get is a handful of excellent printed parts (yes, printed parts, no stickers) (Hurrah! Ed.): License plates for 1985 (‘OUTATIME’) and 2015 (bar code), a time computer and, of course, a Flux Capacitor. The only part I’m not a 100% happy with is the Flux Capacitor. I just don’t like the 1x2x2 panel, for me a 1x2x2 printed brick or a 2×2 printed tile would have been a better choice.

After building the set (I built the version from Back to the Future Part II) the second thing you notice (after realising how ugly it really is) is the untypical fragility of the set. You can’t really touch it without something falling off. I had to modify the thing, especially the 4-wide roof which didn’t look right. Surprisingly I could build a 6-wide roof and matching A-pillars and doors just using parts from the set. So, why didn’t the LEGO designers do something similar? We will never know. Continue reading

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5591 Mach II Red Bird Review

Lego 5591 Mach II Red Bird

The Lego Car Blog Review My Set Competition is drawing to a close, but we have just enough time to squeeze in a couple more reader reviews before the end of the year deadline. Today’s set review comes from a TLCB reader, and also one of our Master MOCers, the brilliant Andrea Lattanzio aka Norton74, and things are getting decidedly 1990s. Over to Andrea…

This Red Bird is ready to fly.

My love affair with the set No. 5591, also called ‘Mach II Red Bird’, started during a very cold Sunday morning of a past winter when I saw the big truck displayed on a flea market counter. I immediately bought it even though a few yellow pieces were replacing the missing originals, red train doors in place of the white ones, and other things like that were afflicting it. But for the price it was on offer for I got it with no hesitation! Without difficulty I replaced the incorrect parts with the right ones and the set is now restored in all its glory alongside the other Model Team sets in my collection.

Let’s step back. The Red Bird is the eighth set of the Model Team series, released by LEGO in 1994. Model Team was the large scale vehicle line that LEGO produced from 1986 until 1999, with a total of 15 sets, plus a re-release of the 5541 Hot Rod in 2004 as part of the Legends series.

Model Team vehicles were characterized by realism, although whilst there is no doubt they were detailed and charming models the techniques used are fairly basic by today’s standards.

Lego Model Team Range

5591 Red Bird is a big set and it’s rich in pieces, an impression I had the first time I looked at it. Despite the basic colours – white, red and black – the livery is really spot on, reminding me of the “B.J. and the bear” colours. The wide usage of stickers makes the set more appealing too.

The set is composed by three parts: the tractor truck, the low loader semi-trailer and the Red Bird jet aircraft. Let’s take a look.

The tractor truck is probably the best part of the set. It’s based on a typical US truck with the cab behind the engine and a long front nose. The truck has a very well balanced design and it’s rich in details, among others: side mirrors, windshield wipers, opening doors and many auxiliary lights, with the side ladders located on the lateral fuel tanks.

You can open the hood to reveal the cool looking engine which was probably influenced by the first LEGO Model Team engine ever, found in the 5580 Highway Rig. The hood is wedge shaped too, which I really like as it helps to make the front of the truck more streamlined. 5591’s interior is quite simple featuring two yellow seats, a steering wheel and the dashboard constituted of two printed slopes. The front wheels can steer by turning a knob located on the roof and the Hand of God control works well – all good so far.

However, the back of the truck is a little bit poor without a realistic fifth wheel and with a simple bumper featuring only rear red lights. We’d have to wait until 1996 for the 5571 Black Cat to see a decent rear to a truck with a convincing fifth wheel.

Lego 5591 Mach II Red Bird

The second part of the set is the semi-trailer, which is quite simple and it perhaps looks more Technic than Model Team. Naturally the trailer can be hooked unto the truck by a plate modified with a towball socket. Continue reading

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21307 Caterham Seven 620R Review

Lego 21307 Caterham Seven Review

The Lego Car Blog Review My Set Competition is nearly at an end, but we’ve just got time to squeeze a few more of your Set Reviews in before the competition closes in December. MOCpages’ Marco. qm joins us today with the set that everyone’s talking about, fresh from the LEGO Ideas platform and designed by TLCB Master MOCer Carl Greatrix, it’s the magnificent Caterham 7 620R…

The LEGO Company are known for making strong and resistant sets. Lego Fans are experts in making good-looking cars. When they get together, great things can happen. Things like a LEGO Ideas project that achieved the magical number of 10,000 supporters to gain approval to become an official LEGO set, which in in this case is the Caterham Seven 620R by Carl Greatrix.

Two years ago, on December 2014, Carl’s Seven started its journey on LEGO Ideas, by May 2015 it reached 10,000 votes and finally in March of this year Carl’s design was approved for production as an official LEGO set.

Now let’s talk about the product, the $79.00 brick-built Caterham, or as the builder called it ‘the kit of a kit car’. Although officially licensed by Caterham, 21307 is not a particularly expensive set; it’s $20 cheaper than LEGO’s previous Creator Expert sets and it comes in a nice black box with wider cardboard usual, something that I think is a nice detail.

Upon opening it, you’ll find one instructions book and seven bags of bricks, with the typical larger 1, 2 and 3 numbered bags, plus some smaller bags with the same numbers on them.

Lego 21307 Caterham 7 Review

The moment you start building it you notice how cleverly designed the 21307 set is, with a very rigid chassis and a nicely detailed exterior, it’s a builder’s dream. Upon finishing the first part of the build you’ll already have a strong chassis and the rear fenders completed.

Next you open the bags labeled with a 2 and build the second stage of the car, in which you construct the engine, the seats, the front wheel arches (which by the way are very well designed!) and the exhaust. Basically all you’re missing after this is the nose cone, the hood, the trunk and the wheels. Continue reading

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Review – The Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide – Second Edition

This review must start with a disclosure. The lovely, kind people at the No Starch Press sent us a copy of this book for free. The weighty package from the USA, dropped through the letterbox of TLCB towers and caused great excitement. So much so, that all of the 32⅞ Elves in the office were given a Smartie each to celebrate. This was followed by a short, sharp blast from Mr. Airhorn, just to show them that we weren’t going soft. So a big “Thank you” from The Lego Car Blog and some well fed Elves too.

ultbg2e_cover

For this particular reviewer, Paweł “Sariel” Kmieć’s first edition was published at exactly the right moment. I had emerged from my Lego “Dark Ages” and was enjoying building again. As kid I’d enjoyed building both space and Technic models but now beams had no studs on them and apparently they were called “liftarms”. Connections were all via pins and axles and specially shaped pieces that were undreamed of in my teenage years. These new parts and techniques opened the doors to building things that were either too bulky or too structurally weak in days gone by. The opportunities were immense but also bewildering.

The light in the wilderness was the first edition of “The Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide”. My copy is bent, dog-eared, coffee stained, tear stained and much cherished. The second edition is bigger, at just over 400 pages but still small enough to keep handy on your bedside table or read in the bath. If you don’t own a copy of the first edition and have any interest in Technic building, the new book is a must buy. It is presented in a clear visual style, well written and has a good index. At around $35/£25 the book is great value too. But if you already own the first edition, is it worth buying the new version? Let’s take a look inside.

ultbg2e_370-371

The second edition uses the same style as the first. The pages are packed with information but are easy to read, with text and illustrations placed well. The font is the same, comfortable to read font as the first edition. The author is a graphic designer by profession and it shows through in this product. This is a very technical book but it doesn’t have the feel of a school science textbook. Although most of the illustrations are the same as in the original book, many have been changed for subtle upgrades that are visually clearer. There are also many brand new illustrations.

The second edition is 70 pages longer than the first. One of the ways that these are accounted for is in additions to the early chapters that cover the parts range of Lego Technic. It’s amazing to step back and reflect on quite how many new Technic pieces have been created by Lego since the book’s first edition just three years ago. There are also additions to the definitions of technical terms and “Tricks with Bricks”. Chapter 5 is a brand new chapter on wheels. It starts with defining what a wheel is, in Lego terms and finishes by covering the up-to-date topic of using RC car tyres on large Technic cars. As you carry on leafing through the book you spot more upgrades. There is a tabular version of Sariel’s famous online gear calculator. The “Pneumatics” chapter includes the V2 version of Lego’s system and like the “Pulleys”, “Building Strong” & “Motors” chapters, the pneumatic “Devices” chapter has been slightly upgraded too.

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The one big disappointment for me in this book is that the chapters on “Levers & Linkages” and “Custom Mechanical Solutions” are unchanged. These were one of the most inspiring chapters in the first edition, making me want to revisit my old engineering text books and try building some of the mechanisms in there. It would have been good to have seen some extra ideas here. These sorts of things are extremely useful for landing gears or feed mechanisms or kinetic sculptures. Overall the book is very focused on Lego vehicles, which is what you’d expect coming from a famous builder of Lego vehicles of all types. Lego Technic forums tend to be focused on vehicles too, so this book is spot on with its content for the market. However, it would have been nice to have had a bit more about the creativity, engineering and Lego techniques which go into things such as Great Ball Contraptions or kinetic sculptures. Then again, Lego produces model vehicle sets, the market is about cars & lorries and things that swoosh along are more fun than a static model. Oh, and we’re car blog, so we’d best not go on about this for too long… Continue reading

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9398 4×4 Crawler Review

 

Lego Technic 9398 4x4 Crawler Review

The Lego Car Blog reviewing Anorak, hanging nerdily for a short while, has today been removed from the office coat-rack and thrust at one of you for another Reader Review! Doubling his chances in the ongoing Review My Set Competition is Marco. qm of MOCpages, who adds another set to the Set Review Library. Over to Marco…

The 9398 4×4 Crawler, around $200 when I bought it, and it looked great on the shelves at the shop. A little expensive? Not really, it comes with 2L motors, a Servo motor, a battery pack and the signal receiver with the controller. Plus another 1,321 pieces.

The set comes in a big grey box, containing many different bags filled with bricks, the building instructions, and nothing more. It’s definitely not the box of the 42056 Porsche 911 Gt3.

Building 9398 you start with the chassis – as always in Technic sets – adding the two L motors for power to all four wheels and the Servo motor for steering at both the front and back of the vehicle. However after a time you’ll notice that the gear ratios are aggressively slow, which some builders won’t like, and for such a big set there is no V8 engine… in fact there is no engine at all! Even the little 8256 set has an engine! If mechanical functions are your thing then unfortunately 9398 will prove disappointing.

On to the looks of the set, where things don’t get much better. 9398 resembles a modern El Camino monster truck, yet looks neither strong nor powerful, more like a graffiti artist has spray painted Barbie’s Jeep. Not good. (Agreed! Ed.)

Lego 9398 Crawler Review

OK, let’s stop talking about all the bad stuff. 9398 is the type of LEGO set which is useful if you’re the kind of builder that buys sets for the parts, where it is a good investment. With multiple electric components and those great-looking (and huge) tyres that are under-utilised here, there’s plenty to pilfer for your own creations. Continue reading

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31041 Construction Vehicles – Set Review

31041

Come with us on a journey as we review the cheapest set that The Lego Car Blog has ever examined. We thought that we’d have a change from the big Technic sets that usually feature here. At £3.49 (30% off) from amazon will our purchase prove to be value for money? How will it rate for fun and playability? Will the Elves eat most of the 64 pieces before we can use them? Read on…

Packaged in LEGO’s usual bright and attractive box, 31041 scores over a large Technic set by only requiring a strong thumb to open its cardboard tab. None of that cutting or ripping sticky tabs here. Collectors will obviously want to cut the packaging open with a sharp knife in order to preserve its collectability, in a manner similar to this video.  A recurring theme of our reviews is the need for parts to come in numbered bags in order to reduce confusion & sorting and to help make building more pleasurable. Sadly the bag of parts is not numbered, possible as there is only one.  On the up side, a quick flick through the 32 page instruction book reveals that it contains instructions for all three models. As we’ve mentioned in other reviews, it would be great it if LEGO did this for their big, expensive Technic sets too. At the moment, builders having to traipse off to Lego.com and download PDF files.

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Moving on to the build, the headline model is rapidly built in 14 pages. The construction is the conventional, studs up type. There’s nice use of commonplace bricks, such as 1×1 round bricks and headlight bricks with 1×1 round plates to give the detailing. There’s also the neat use of a 1×2 tile, at the centre of the model, which will make it easier for children to take apart and re-build (which is what LEGO is supposed to be for!). The backhoe is a conventional bit of building too but the front bucket and its arms, are a good example of economical use of parts to good effect.

Builders young and old can learn quite a bit from this tiny model. As with short stories when compared with novels, micro-scale builds force modellers to consider each and every brick carefully. With model completed, you’re left with a spare 1×1 trans-orange round plate, a dark grey clip arm and three 1×1 light grey round plates to shovel around.

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In terms of functionality, this is a strong build, which rolls well across a floor or table. Sadly it suffers from the usual problem in LEGO vehicles of having poor Ackerman steering geometry. This is probably due to it having no steering but let’s skate over that one. Both buckets are firmly attached to the body of the tractor and have good ranges of movement. It’s a bit tricky to keep the grey plates on the front bucket, though this can be improved by swapping the corner pieces from the backhoe with on of the 1×2 edge pieces. Overall the model is fun and nice proportioned. It would be great if it had different diameter tyres, fore & aft, like a JCB but that would reduce the flexibility for making other models.

The other two vehicles are strong and fun to build and play with too. The dumper is a particularly nice little model. The way that the rear skip hinges is neatly and interestingly done.

This set is a great little parts pack, with most of the pieces in standard LEGO colours such as black, yellow and grey. There are four, yellow 1×2 curved bricks amongst other useful stuff. It’s also a brilliant, cheap bit of fun for the younger builder in your household: a great addition to that order for the 42055 that you’re buying for yourself (yes, we know, those big yellow rings are essential for your next MOC and it’s the only way to get hold of them). At this price, you could buy three 31041s and build one of each vehicle to use together in a diorama (obviously you wouldn’t be playing with them). Go on, make that investment!

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42035 Mining Truck Review

Lego Technic 42035 Mining Truck Review

After prompting the wrath of pneumatics fans following his controversial Set Review last month (and meeting TLCB Elves, which can be just as perilous), Thirdwigg has returned to join us here at TLCB Towers to add another official LEGO set to the burgeoning Set Review Library. Over to Thirdwigg to explain…

Most of the sets I buy now happen after months of deliberation, intense community scrutinization, and reading every online review I can find. And usually during double VIP months at LEGO.com.

Not this one. I went to the local toy store in a moment of children-induced weakness, purchased this cute little dump truck, and went home and started building it right away.

The box of 42035 is smallish, but the weight of it conveys a $30 set more than the size does. Upon opening the box, you’ll find a couple of bags of parts, a small sticker sheet, and wrapped instructions for both the A and B model.

As I started sorting the contents I found some of the new or rare parts that attracted me to the set. First, the new panels are pretty fun. Basically, they are a 5×11 panel with a 9×2 triangle removed. They are robust, and have an empty center; both sides of the panel are flat and can be presented to the outside of a model. Second, are the newish tires. They were part of the reason I was interested in this set, as I wanted to try them out in some MOCs, as their size fills a nice hole in Technic wheels range. Third, there are a smattering of new unique and/or interesting parts, like a piston and cylinder and the 3L pin with 1L axle.

Lego Technic 42035 Review

The build starts with the chassis, and before you are 8 steps in, you ask yourself “why no differential?” I’ve stopped trying to answer questions that start with “why did LEGO not do_____?” Now I just change it myself when I am done. Continue reading

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Remote Control Racers Review

Lego Racers 8366 8475 Review

It’s time for another Set Review here at The Lego Car Blog, and this summer we’ve been handing the Reviewer’s Pen over to you – our readers. Today we have a double review, courtesy of Saberwing007, and he’s feeling all Top Gun…

So, do you feel the need? The need for speed? I hope so, because we are going to be reviewing some really fast sets today.

Back in 2002, Lego released set 8475, which was the debut of their new system for making remote control models. I actually saw the set in catalogs at the time, but I did not realize how special it was, and I kicked myself for missing out on it down the line. However, I recently got both 8475 and 8366, partially for the parts, and partially to get a set I missed out on. There is another set, 8376, which uses the same system, but we won’t be covering that here today.

As some background, all three of the sets, 8475, 8366, and 8376 use the same basic RC parts, but are otherwise quite different. At the end of this review there will be an overview of the RC system, but for now, let’s head off to the races!

Lego Racers 8475 Review

8475 The first set released, 8475 retailed for $130 in the US, but only had 284 parts. That seemed like an awfully high price for such a set, but today it’s a bargain, considering how much these sets go for on the secondary market. The set build is fairly simple, with most of the structure being made of the RC receiver, and motors. Despite this the finished set has fully independent suspension, which works well for keeping all the wheels on the ground. The styling is very much in line with the other Racers and Technic sets of the era, being mostly a wire frame made up of flex tubes, with only a few panels. This allows the set to have a fairly low part count, and keeps the weight down. In spite of the limited bodywork, it is an attractive model, probably due to the fact that most dune buggies actually look like that. The color is quite nice as well, with most of the parts being pearl dark gray, a very rare color that was only included in sets of this era.

Driving the set is a blast, due to its speed, and the ability to use the set outdoors, where said speed can actually be used. The set is actually much too fast to be used indoors, unless you have a large house or an empty gym to use (or TLCB Executive Washroom and Sauna, Ed.). Unfortunately, the center of gravity is a bit high, which could cause a flip if you’re not careful. Luckily, controlling the model is easy, as the controller is not only quite ergonomic, but the joystick for drive and steer are proportional. In an unusual move, the B model for the set has different tires than the A model. Said B model is far less attractive, being a rather sad looking pseudo F1 car with off-road suspension. As a hilarious side note, in the instructions for this set there is a mini comic that shows 8475 losing a race against another set, 4589, in spite of the fact that 4589 is much slower, does not have suspension, and uses IR remote control.

Lego Racers 8366 Supersonic RC Review

8366 Ultimately, between 8475 and 8366, 8366 is my favorite, as it looks really neat, has more parts, and is faster as well. Like 8475, it retailed for $130, but had 429 parts. Although there is an increase in part count 8366 does not have suspension, but it really isn’t needed. Like 8475, the build structure is primarily based on the RC Receiver and motors, with most of the parts going into body work. Unlike 8475, 8366 is much more paneled, but there are still many flex hoses used, particularly around the cockpit. It also has an actual cockpit interior, although it is neither mini-fig nor Technic-fig scale. Like 8475, it included many dark pearl gray parts, but mixes it up with some light gray panels, and red highlights, although those are only sticker details. In a somewhat odd twist, 8366 actually includes two different types of large panels, the 20 and 21 panels, and the 3 and 4 panels, with no other set including both. An additional unusual part is a pair of fully plastic wheels. These wheels are identical in size to the wheels used on the model, and are used to make it into a drift machine. However, this is an inelegant solution at best, as the model is really fast, and really hard to control with the drift wheels fitted. As well, the drift wheels scratch easily, so using them outside is something I would not recommend. Performance wise, 8366 uses the fast outputs of the RC motors, and so is faster than 8475. The lack of suspension actually helps, and keeps the car from flipping. Since the controller is the same as 8475, it is still easy to control, in spite of the speed. Also like 8475, the B model of the set is rather weird, being some sort of dragster that can pop wheelies due to how much torque the motors have, although I must confess I’ve never built the B model, it just does not appeal to me.

So, in conclusion, both of these models are quite fun to drive, and have useful parts for your own creations, even if the building process for the sets themselves is not the most interesting. It took me a long time to get my hands on these sets, and man was it worth the wait!

Now, let’s take a look at that RC system in detail….

Continue reading

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8069 Backhoe Loader Review

Lego Technic 8069 Backhoe Review

PC or Mac? Ford or GM? Edward or Jacob? These are the questions that have dominated our age. However since 2008 a new and even more important choice has arisen, one that has conflicted the minds of academics and that has caused lifelong friends to stop talking. So… Linear Actuators or Pneumatics?

Thirdwigg, returning to TLCB for his second Reader Review (and risking ostracisation by half of the online Lego Community), is brave enough to make his case…

Bias alert: in the Linear Actuator vs. Pneumatics debate I am conclusively in the former group. Feel free to send your “dear idiot letters” to thirdwigg.com, I can handle it. After the release of the Large Linear Actuators (LA) from 8295 and 8294, it was clear to me they were an improvement over pneumatics. They had a simple design, better integration with Power Functions and manual controls, actual mid-range control, and no clunky hoses to connect and manage in your model. But I still felt like something was missing after the LAs. Something shorter, smaller. When we first got teasers images of 8069 I was excited. Did it have what I was looking for?

Like most sets, this one comes in a box. You have to open it. It has parts in it. 609. And it costs $60. The tyres, buckets and stickers are loose in the box, along with two loose instruction manuals for the A model. B model instructions are online. All you need to know about new parts in 8069 is that it is the first set that included Mini Linear Actuators (mLA). You get four of them. You also get two yellow panels (they are kind of rare, it turns out), the buckets, lots of gears, yellow parts, and the mLAs. They are great. Great.

The build starts with the chassis and the front steering, then quickly onto building a worm gear submodel. “What’s this” you think? It’s for the bucket tilt. We’ll come back to this. Two mLAs are used to provide the bucket lift. Then off to the rear, where you start building a complex structure of gears for the rear bucket. The design is good, and teaches many gear structures including worm and bevel gearing. It also offers a great lesson on how to build good cross supporting structures in Technic when the rear supports are added.

You then build the cabin, which has some nice details. Next all the rear backhoe controls placed on the top and the backhoe is added with a neat little design for the two stages of movement utilizing two of the mLAs. Finally the fenders are added, the front bucket is placed, you add the wheels, and you are done.

Lego Technic 8069 Backhoe Loader

The finished 8069 model has a lot of functions; steering, bucket lift, bucket tilt, backhoe slew, backhoe arm, backhoe bucket, and rear stabilizers. For a set of this size it’s an impressive list. How well do they work? Better than pneumatics (zing!). The steering is light, and the turning radius is stunning (Hurrah! Ed.), especially if you take out the ¾ pins in the steering. You might bump the hood a bit on full lock, but it’s worth it. The bucket lift is excellent – it’s strong, and the controls are easy to use. The range of motion is good; though a little more height would be welcome. Continue reading

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8081 Extreme Cruiser Review

Lego Technic 8081 Extreme Cruiser Set Review

The Lego Car Blog Set Review Library is packed with over seventy sets, but we want mooooah! This is where you come in, as we’re looking for TLCB readers to add their own sets to the Review Library, and in doing so you could even win some loot! You also get to become a TLCB writer for the day, with literally none of the privileges that you’d expect this to offer you. Still, this hasn’t put off friend of TLCB Thirdwigg, who has joined us here at TLCB Towers to add one of his favourite sets to the Review Library. Yes, we said favourite. We’ll let Thirdwigg explain…

8081 Extreme Cruiser gets a bad rap. It’s not extreme. It’s not a 4×4. It has a funny engine. It’s black. On and on it goes. Blah Blah Blah.

I love it.

But it took me some time. When I bought it for $60 through LEGO, I tagged it onto my 8110 order as an afterthought. I was decidedly more excited about 8110. After 8110, I got to work on 8081. Opening the box, you find a number of bags, wheels and tires, and a number of loose instructions books (ugh). There are a lot of black parts, and some red parts, but the set really has no new parts among the 590 included. However some interesting pieces include the newer frames, four pistons and cylinders, suspension parts, a bunch of black panels. There are also instructions included for a B Model. You’ll like A better.

The builds starts with the frame of the 4×4. LEGO uses red for the chassis, which seems silly at this point. You add the knob gears for the steering, and add the rear suspension. The suspension is a single pivot design like we saw in the car from 8042. But there is a differential (clap, clap), and the structure is solid. We can let it slide. You then build the engine and the front suspension. You build a V4?! What is this, a motorcycle? Then the front suspension. Independent setup with no drive?! On an Extreme Cruiser? Who named this set?

Yep, no four wheel drive, and an anemic engine.

The bodywork comes next with the second bag, and the model is finished with bag three. Redemption for 8081 is starting. The structure is solid and cohesive. The black works well, and the execution comes together as the Technic panels fill gaps and lead your eyes to a quite a pleasing overall shape. The hood is long, as is the roofline, and 8081’s stance looks great; balanced and not too heavy. The tires fill out the wheel wells appropriately. The doors, hood, and tailgate all open – simple, nice features to include. The blue seats are basic, yet they look good and compliment the aforementioned red, which highlights the chassis well.

Lego 8081 Extreme Cruiser

When it’s all done you cannot help but like the cute little SUV. Continue reading

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