Welcome to the third instalment in our series of Lego’s ‘ultimate’ car sets reviews. The year is 1988, and progress marches on, technically if not aesthetically…
The ‘Test Car’ – so called for no reason I can discern – represented a useful further evolution in the technical capabilities of these early cars, adding a very effective double wishbone independent suspension system at each corner to the features already present in the earlier 8860.
Not only that, there were pop-up lights and an attempt at some sort of bodywork for the first time…
First, the build. Having unpacked the (disappointingly flimsy) box you may notice lots of new (at the time) and very useful pieces – the parts for the front suspension and those stiff black pins made their appearance here. On piecing the chassis together, it becomes apparent that it lacks the elegance of earlier versions – almost as if it was designed by two people who never spoke to each other. Still, there’s lots of details here to delight the budding engineer.
Suspension: It works very well, much better than 8860’s swing axles, if a little soft at the front. Strong, too – the car can be dropped from quite a height and will just bounce. I will not be accountable for any breakages that occur from readers chucking it down the stairs, however… The problem is, this very strength makes it bulky, leaving nowhere sensible to place the engine. The other problem is, the rear axle’s movement is accommodated by 2 universal joints on each side, forcing an absurd width on the poor thing.
Engine: A neat little V4 that’s not that little (blame those old square pistons, much as I like them..). There’s nowhere for it to go except on top of the bulky rear suspension. If the car was longer, it could have been some much more exciting mid-engine sports car: as it is, these technical compromises made it too tall, much too wide and not long enough. An opportunity missed. Runs well, though.
Gearbox: Still a three-speed linear arrangement, but it manages a smoother operation than 8860’s thanks to an extra shaft, and the engine spins freely in all three gears. A success.
Seats: A disappointment. These hinged together plates show evidence of concerted cost-cutting and are not a patch on the items used in 8860, which can be made to fit this – just don’t do them in blue…
Lights: My favourite thing on this car – they work smoothly and are a delight to operate. Is this where the money saved on the seats went ?
Steering: Works quite well, but not brilliantly. There’s a UJ in there forced through a 45 degree angle and it’s slightly too much – leading to a gritty action. Also, Lego’s strange obsession with limiting the steering lock of it’s models first made itself known here. Blame those wishbone parts, I guess. It’s not bad in this respect – and would in the future get a lot worse – but it could be better.
Body: Oh dear. Perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered. It’s very sketchy, not at all pretty and lends the whole thing an even more unfinished air than the (body-less) 8860. It is very strong, though – thank those black pins, which you won’t be doing when it comes to taking this apart… These are the earlier ‘interference fit’ pins that really jam themselves in the holes, making for a finger-crushing experience to remove them. Use a 10 axle with a toggle on the end and PUSH. Or a nuclear device… Better still, use later ‘push fit’ pins to spare yourself the agony.
Overall, this is a curious device. There’s plenty of good stuff going on here, but it falls down badly on it’s – for want of a better term – fashion sense. It’s colour scheme has more clashes than a war zone and it’s proportions are just plain odd. 6/10.