Tag Archives: 396

It Could Have Been A Contender…

… if it was made of smaller pieces and released 30 years later…

That’s ‘hobby sets’ for you, an almost forgotten line from the 1970s that lasted just 2 years and spanned 7 sets. In those far-off pre-Technic days, this was as sophisticated as small Lego models got, and it wasn’t enough. If they tried something similar now with the advantage of more and smaller specialized pieces, it might work. Oh wait, they do. It’s called the VW Camper and I will get to that eventually, via a circuitous route that takes in various models and themes spanning all Lego’s attempts to appeal to the mature car fan.

Being old, I feel the need to start in the 1970s… The three vintage cars I’ve already talked about, so here’s a pile of blue plates looking somewhat like Jody Scheckter’s 1974 Tyrell….

Lego 392

… not exactly a picture of beauty but there’s something about it. Stand back and squint a bit… oh well, please yourselves… In the year 2012 it does look a bit basic, but in 1975 there was nothing to compare it with. They did what they could with what they had.

Check out those wheels – old, old pre-Technic red gears for hubs! It doesn’t lack ingenuity. Mind you, even with what was available at the time the engine could have been better – all yellow, really ? Still, the stickers give it a lift. So, don’t fall over yourselves to buy a boxed one at an absurd price; if you like it, make it from your collection. You will have the pieces…

Possibly the only set that sold more slowly than a hobby set car was a hobby set bike; there were only two and this is the better one of them…

Lego 394

… while a vintage or F1 car (only just in the latter case..) could get away with using basic pieces and still be a nice thing, the bikes were just too small to convince as models with their relatively large pieces. The Harley above is quite nice, but can’t avoid looking clunky and the Norton was even worse – possibly because clunkiness quite suits a Harley…

Clunkiness does suit a 19th Century American steam engine, and the biggest set, the 396 Thatcher Perkins locomotive, was a looker in it’s multi-coloured, oddly proportioned way. It was a standalone piece, not designed to run on rails and far too big for any train layout; yet, like the others, not quite pretty enough to be an ornament.

So that’s Hobby Sets. A curio from another time when Lego tried to engage older builders. The release of the first Technic sets in 1977 killed them stone dead. I’ll shut up now so you can go and look at something modern and smooth. Try scrolling down…

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