Tag Archives: american

Big Is Beautiful.

Welcome to another TLCB review of a Model Team classic. This one’s from 1996 and ain’t it pretty?


The 5571, or ‘Black Cat’ as it was known, was the crowning glory of the Model Team line. It certainly went out in style. However, over £100 was a lot to ask for a Lego set at the time and they didn’t sell many. A pity, as it was actually good value; with more pieces than any Lego set ever, at the time.

If you want one now, it will cost you more than double… still worth it.

So, what do you get in exchange for all that moolah ? Many good things, including unique wheels (they look the same as those on 8285 but they’re slightly bigger), a pair of very large one piece printed doors that do at least look more at ease than such items on the smaller models, lots and lots of black plates, some shiny chrome – properly shiny – loads of tools and the sort of greebly bits that spaceship designers love. And a Fabuland shovel!

Putting all these together takes time, naturally enough, but there’s nothing difficult here – Lego hadn’t yet got around to incorporating many SNOT techniques in even their most elaborate sets, but the appearance of this doesn’t suffer for it.

Instructions for this are easy to follow, with not quite today’s baby build steps but they are simpler than contemporary Technic models. There’s a nice B model too, a European style truck that’s good enough but is rather blown away by the main event.

Whoever designed this was having fun. It’s possible that they got a little carried away with all the bars and doors and bits and bobs festooning the body, but it’s all very nicely done and you really can picture this haulin’ ass across the wide open spaces of America. Probably not Denmark, though. Us Europeans never see trucks like this, but we do love them, and so do Lego – look at how many they’ve made over the years compared to flat fronted European trucks. There’s a romanticism here entirely missing from the more utilitarian domestic lorries, good as they are; and this set makes the very most of that.

Features; if it’s technical wizardry you’re after you’re looking in the wrong place, although it does steer (slightly) via a hand of god control on the roof. This can be improved upon easily enough, and there’s room for a ‘working’ engine to replace the – very nice – show engine supplied. Other than that though, this is all about the details.

So many details. Starting with the little black cat perched on the hood, and all manner of steps and bars and stacks and lights and, and… I’m out of breath. It could have done with bigger windscreen wipers, though… As well as all the stuff you see on the outside, there’s some comfortable looking seats, that tilt forward to get at the bed behind, the driver’s got a well stocked dashboard – including a dash mounted coffee maker that we can only hope succeeds in keeping him awake, there’s little opening compartments on each side full of little tools, ladders and levers and things on the back, the doors and bonnet open; the latter to reveal the well detailed V8 every self-respecting rig of this size’ll need… I could go on forever…

…Until I get to the back half. Was it done by a different person ? Was he given no budget ? Aft of the cab, this does look a bit… underdone, and not just because of the OTT front part. There’s a start at a rear fender, but it is just the start, there’s only two wheels on each axle, the trailer hitch looks OK but not strong enough. The rear bumper and lights set-up is nicely done – something that’s often neglected on Lego models; then and now. I guess it’s 80% there, apart from the lack of wheels, but it just looks naked behind the exuberantly decorated cab. Maybe that’s a little unkind. Give it complete fenders and double up the wheels and it’ll probably be just fine. Or build a trailer for it to cover it’s nakedness, but you’ll need lots of pieces – this isn’t a small model.

But this is proudly American, and biggest is best. It really is. If you like these kinds of trucks at all, you’ll really enjoy this. 9/10

Model Team Is Alive And Well…

.. And living buried inside the Creator range. Meet set 7347, ‘Highway Pickup’


Mmmmm stripey! Nicely detailed too, at least as far back as the exhaust stacks. In case you’re wondering, this is one of TLCB’s occasional reviews of current sets – I’m back, baby!

So, where to start… how about unpacking its nice big, shiny box; that’s reasonably full for a change, with 800 or so pieces and there’s loads of good stuff here for vehicle builders of all kinds. The bags aren’t numbered, so there’ll be much sifting but we’re used to that, aren’t we? There are 4 instruction books – 2 for the main model – and isn’t it nice to have printed instructions for the secondary models ? Come on, Technic! Be careful, though, with the only blue parts of the set (two hinge pieces that fix on the dashboard) as they don’t appear all that blue in the book. Maybe it’s these old eyes again, but I spent several minutes looking for grey ones…

Building it is a pleasure, if not at all difficult, and there’s an intriguing mix of old and new Technic in the chassis. Studded beams give it a dose of rigidity, and studless ones at the back allow the truck bed to slide and tilt. Very effective. There are no mistakes in the instructions, at least for the main model – I haven’t built the others, mostly because they don’t look nearly as good.

The first part to build is the yellow car that goes on the back, and what a curious beast it is… out of scale with the truck (it ought to be two studs wider, at least), it’s otherwise nicely proportioned but clumsily detailed. You’ll be able to fashion something better, even if you just use these bricks.

Thankfully, a great deal more design effort was put into the truck. I’ll call it a truck, since it’s very much in the American style; although the second model is very definitely a lorry… Anyhoo, it features that sliding and tilting bed on the back, a winch, opening doors and bonnet and working steering. Just remember NOT to put in those black ball joint pieces at an early build stage, lest it end up with the turning circle of a supertanker. You’ll need something there, else the wheels will drag on the inner arches, but I found a 1×1 plate, stud in the beam’s hole did the trick. Now it’s got the turning radius of.. an ordinary tanker. Never mind, at least it’s nice and smooth in operation.

There’s also a pair of light bricks in the roof, that blaze forth when you press down in front of the steering control. It wouldn’t be too hard to make them flash authentically, or even stay on. A nice feature, but a bit of a gimmick.

Putting the cab together, with its very attractive stripes and comprehensive detailing is what reminds me most of the old Model Team sets. This is the same size as 5580 from 1986, and where this scores over that classic set is in the way the paintjob is achieved. It’s entirely brick-built. No stickers or printed parts. Hurrah!

And here it is in the company of an old friend..


I must say I do prefer 5580’s grille; those grille tiles on the new one do tend to look a little flat. The oldie  also has a nicer engine, and the fenders are attached to the hood as they should be. Still, the new boy’s got some tricks, not the least of which is to be found around the back, precisely where 5580 ran out of ideas…

That tilting and sliding bed is very nicely contrived, but the thing could have looked less… basic, perhaps? Especially given the exuberance of the front. Lego have always been better at the front part of a truck : even the fabled 5571 ‘Black Cat’ looked a little unfinished aft of the cab, so I guess everything’s as it should be. Still, some rear lights and a licence plate back there might have been nice.

But enough carping. This really is a nice set, and it’s level of features and detail is just fine for the market it’s aimed at. Trouble is, the market it’s aimed at might baulk at paying £60 ($80) for it.

Is Model Team alive and well, then? Kind of, but you wouldn’t call it alive and kicking. 7/10.