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Your favourite Lego Cars blog (whaddaya mean there’s only one…?) goes off topic again…

Welcome to our review of Lego’s latest big thing with wheels. As a fan of all things mechanical, and Lego, I couldn’t fail to notice this; an impressively faithful rendition of the 1917 Sopwith Camel, pioneer of the earliest days of airborne warfare.


It’s another one of those models that seems to have been created by an aficionado of the real thing. If anything about it looks a little strange – e.g. very short front, stubby fuselage – it’s because the real one was exactly the same. Even the colours are spot-on.

So, what do get for your eighty quid ?

Answer; a well-stuffed box with lots of fine goodies, some of them pieces I haven’t seen before in strange and exotic colours. It’s quite a lot of money for the number of pieces you get, but since many of them are big and/or special; even chromed, it’s well worth it.

Once you’ve emptied the whole lot into a big and unsortable  pile you can get cracking: a couple of hours of enjoyable building await. There’s nothing too tricky here, although you do need to take care of installing the long strings that control the flaps to avoid snagging – follow the instructions carefully and you’ll be alright.

Speaking of which, is it just me or does everyone find it difficult to see individual brown pieces in the instructions when there’s already a mass of them ? Perhaps this old git should admit defeat and get his eyes tested… At least there isn’t the trouble differentiating black from dark grey that there used to be.

When finished, what you’ll have is a surprisingly large model and nowhere to put it… still, it can always hang suspended on a wire from the ceiling, ready to strafe unsuspecting visitors.

It’s a working model, too. The control stick in the cockpit will activate the turning flaps with a side to side motion and the tail flaps with a back and forth movement, all done via the aforementioned strings. Very clever.

Of course, Lego have been here before, with this from 10 or so years ago:


… the previously inflated price of which is about to get a lot more reasonable. It’s a pretty good effort, but it’s easy to see where the newer one improves things.

The Sopwith Camel was a hugely significant aircraft, and not just for Lego. It was famously tricky to fly, with a deliberately front-heavy instability that made it highly manoevreable – a feature of most modern fighter aircraft, which are so unstable they wouldn’t fly at all without computer controls.

No computers in 1917, of course, just very skilled and very brave pilots. This ‘plane shot down more enemy aircraft than any other in World War One.

The engine was an air-cooled rotary (not to be confused with the Wankel rotary, a totally different design), sometimes known as a radial engine, whereby instead of a rotating crank in a fixed block, it was the cylinders that rotated around the fixed crank. For aircraft, this had several advantages. The rotating mass of the cylinders did away with the need for a heavy flywheel – the engine was the flywheel – and, when exposed to the air, it could be effectively self-cooling, without the need for a radiator. This made for a much better power to weight ratio than conventional in-line engines of the time.

This type of engine nearly always had an odd number of cylinders – typically seven, or in some cases, nine, in the Sopwith Camel. The only inaccuracy of Lego’s model is that it has eight. Still, at least it spins round with the propellor.

Speaking of which, shouldn’t the guns right behind it shoot it off ? Nah, Sopwith had that covered with another innovation; a synchronization gear that blocked the guns from firing when the blades were in front of them. The pilot could keep his fingers on the trigger and not worry about shooting himself out of the sky.

All very interesting, I’m sure, but the very best thing about this model is it’s sturdiness: strong enough to swoosh about the house, making authentic ‘duggaduggadugga’ noises and scaring the cat….

Get one. You won’t regret it.