Not just an excuse for a slightly rude title, but a comparison of Technic fork lift trucks….
We’ll start with set 850, just as Technic itself did, way back when the summers were warm and everybody was on strike. In 1977, this was the very first ‘Expert Builder’ set. In common with the other early sets, there were instructions for 3 models and a wealth of further ideas on the box. The model itself is very cute, if somewhat basic. A quick build, it uses the limited palette of pieces then available to good effect. The first technic model is still the one with the best steering system, for instance. Exceptionally smooth in operation, sensibly geared and with a generous lock; a system that simply hasn’t been bettered since. Ally that to the very short wheelbase and you have an amazingly manoevreable model.
Moving frontwards, things are less happy. The forks are too long and too close together, they don’t rise very far and the system to move them is very basic. Tilting them is but the fevered dream of a madman… as for loading them – you’ll need to put something heavy under the seat first. So, 850 the model is probably a 5/10. 850 the set is more like a 9. There’s a perfect mix of bricks and the new technic parts here to make all kinds of yellow building site stuff. The perfect starter kit.
Moving on to 1984, and a demonstration that original style pneumatics can actually work, in the form of the slightly unhappy looking 8843. Maybe it should just be red or yellow, rather than both… This time at least, the forks will tilt, and there’s even an additional hand-of-god steering control to supplement the one in the cab, which (praise be!) is still connected. It’s rather a pity, therefore, that the steering feels very stiff, because the system incorporates 8 bevel gears (4 of which are in the roof!) and these are the older, flat 14 tooth gears which seem to have more friction than the newer design. It doesn’t help that the cab’s wheel rubs against some of the pneumatic tubing as it turns.
Whilst it does feel somewhat churlish to criticize a feature that I’m always begging to see brought back, this would actually be better without it. Don’t think for a moment that this will stop me nagging to see its return on new models…. capricious, moi?
At the front, things are better. The pneumatic installation is quite neat, there’s an extra long piston (not as illustrated; the one pictured is assembled from my collection, with period pneumatics from 8040) to facilitate a good range of movement, and the forks are linked to it via short lengths of chain. Operate the pump and they whizz up and down very happily, and will do so with a reasonable load, as well. To achieve this, millimetre perfect lining up of the chain is necessary – it uses tread link pieces wedged in holes and some of the clearances are very tight – but do that and it’ll work fine.
8843 is a good effort; in some ways a useful improvement on 850, but it’s lost that model’s best features – the B model here is a sketchy looking tow truck and the varied colour palette means there’s not enough pieces of one colour in this small set to make convincing alternatives. 6/10.
Fast forward to 1989; it’s goodbye Berlin Wall and, somewhat less momentously, hello 8835. Much better looking than its predecessor, it also benefits from a lifting mechanism that closely mirrors the solution on real forklifts. Smoother steering too, although wouldn’t it be nice if there was a wheel in the cab….? (yes, yes, I know…)
The only demerit with this model concerns the jerky movement of the forks. The brick-built carrier that wraps around the spars is too tight-fitting to move smoothly, as if the designers had forgotten the far more elegant solution to this problem found on 8843. At least they hadn’t forgotten about the tilt function.
Although 8835 is just as multi-coloured as its predecessor, the colours are much more harmonious and this is a handsome model. The B model suffers in the same way as 8843’s, though. It’s a less-than-convincing tractor. Stick to the forklift though and this is a good set, with only one major flaw. 8/10
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