Welcome to the forth instalment in TLCB’s Pro Series;
How to Become a Lego Professional
In this series we’re interviewing builders who have taken their hobby to the next level, and who are now earning an income from their Lego building, either via a full time career, or via side projects such a commissioned creations or book publication. If you’re interested in a career working with Lego, these builders can help you, because they’ve made it happen. Let’s get started…
Pro No.4 | Peter Blackert
We’ve reviewed several excellent Lego books here at TLCB over the years. However we’ve always thought there was one fairly sizeable gap left unfulfilled by the Lego-related literature released to date… How do you build cool Lego cars?
It’s the question we receive more often here at TLCB Towers than any other, and finally we have an answer! Well, we don’t… but legendary car builder Peter Blackert (aka Lego911) does, and his answer is now available to buy via Quarto Motorbooks.
Peter has become a published Lego author, and in doing so gives you the chance to build (and customise!) a range of superb Lego vehicles through step-by-step building instructions. We’ll be reviewing his book ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ shortly, but until then, how did Peter go from uploading his Lego cars online to having a book available to buy in stores around the world? Read on to find out!
Hello TLCB Readers, my name is Peter Blackert, aka ‘Lego911‘, I’m 45 years old and I’m an engineer in product development for Ford’s Advanced Vehicle & Systems Architecture, Asia Pacific.
I’ve been building all sorts of automotive models over a long period. I use the pastime as a way of looking at engineering problems and the broad solution set to solve them. In engineering, we use all types of models – analytical, virtual, hard-property buck and surrogate vehicles as a way of solving our current and future problems, and as a way of understanding very complex systems. With Lego, though the model is much smaller, it does present the opportunity to look at many complex systems, and to alter the parameters very quickly, and study the effects.
I use a lot of LEGO Technic in the engine and suspension systems, but that is mostly hidden by the bodywork. It’s there, and it all works – it saddens me sometimes that people who see my work online don’t get to appreciate the working mechanical systems!
Most of my LEGO work is displayed online, particularly photo-sharing site Flickr. It periodically gets blogged out into other places too (shout out for TLCB! – Ed). I periodically display the models in public, including the Geelong Ford Motor Company ‘Employee Vehicle Display’.
I also occasionally do commissioned models. I undercharge significantly against my time (should I be saying that out loud?), but at one stage there was a tentative offer of $5,000 for a model I created. It was a pretty nice model! It had been created to assist a small team to start a public LEGO display in Adelaide, South Australia. The show had the opportunity to engage with and use the facilities of the National Motor Museum. Along with a number of other iconic Australia cars and rare cars in the Museum’s collection I designed a replica of one of the collection’s most valuable models, a 1925 Roll-Royce 20HP re-bodied by Van Vooren. The real car is worth quite a lot of money, and the owner was very partial to the replica. I still don’t have the money though. Hah!
I tried my hand at marker-type automotive drawing a number of years ago – pretty much how you imagine studio-type work. There is a reason I’m an engineer and not a stylist. The LEGO car & truck building has reached a new level, with a published book of detailed models with instruction plans – “How to Build Brick Cars” released in September this year. This involved making sure that the models were robust to ‘play’, and the writing of the instructions and text. This was a really big project, but it did mean that I needed to improve my skills and the quality of my models in the process. There’s a Ford P552 F150 Raptor in there – separate chassis, suspension and everything.
I have been asked why I did the book project. A very valid question. There are a few key drivers, including the opportunity to give back to the Lego-fan community. I see it currently going through a phase where the work that is recognised tends to be highly artistic, often very large scale and detailed, and totally out of reach of ‘normal’ adults or kids. With the book, I looked to created quite small models that included a lot of interesting technical functionality and interesting techniques. I used parts that are readily available, and that most people with normal-sized Lego collections could go and make.
Secondly, the Lego models I make dovetail very well with what I do in my professional life – a connection that is critical when we discuss kids, STEM and their future employment opportunities. When I was growing up, LEGO was the toy you had when it was likely that you were going to end up as an engineer, scientist, and even a computer programmer.
Nowadays kids all have iPads, but they are playing games or watching youtube, not learning how to write code. I wanted to re-establish the connection between engineering, object, education and play. If you wanted to know how cars work, the models in the book provide a pretty good insight, and you can build them yourself. I also wanted to show that if you played with LEGO as a kid, and crashed LEGO cars into a million pieces on mum’s kitchen floor, you can grow up into a productive member of society, where you can pretty much do the same thing as an adult.
Putting my money where my mouth is, I am closely involved in community outreach programs Ford Motor Company supports in Australia, including mentoring LEGO robotics in the school local to the Geelong Ford Research & Development Centre, and sponsorship of the FIRST Robotic competition at a National level. This give me the opportunity to talk to young people about STEM, engineering, car design, education and problem solving. All these skills are critical for us to develop in our young people to allow them to solve society’s problems into the future.
Apparently LEGO have a file on me. This was told to me by another Lego vehicle builder who had visited Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark. I don’t know if this is true, or just a tall story. If true, I don’t know what is in the file. If its everything I’ve ever made in Lego, it would have to be a pretty big file! They haven’t come around to my house and broken my legs (or fingers) yet, so they can’t be too upset!
A big thank you to Peter Blackert for joining us here at The Lego Car Blog Towers. Like many Lego builders Peter simply started out building cars and posting these online, before branching out into commissioned builds, and he now has his very own book published and available to buy right around the world.
We’ll be publishing a review of Peter’s new book ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ soon, and you can get your hands on a copy yourself by clicking the link below. It might just be the tool you need to one day become a Lego Professional yourself…