We like rule breakers here at The Lego Car Blog. Thus when No Starch Press offered us a sneaky peak into a book with ‘rule-breaking inventions’ written on the cover, we had a take a look! Well, one of our readers did, seeing as we don’t have a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set in the office, and re-coding this site nearly killed us. However reader Wilson Luk is far smarter than we are, and a better writer too; check out his assessment of No Starch’s dangerous new book below!
For every new breathtaking advancement in robotics, 10 memes come out declaring the end of humanity (Boston Dynamics, I’m looking at you). LEGO appears intent on speeding up robotic dominance with the new LEGO Mindstorms 51515 Robot Inventor set, the much anticipated successor to the EV3 Mindstorms set. While the new set offers a bunch of quality of life improvements with its new app and native scratch and python support, no one can discount how the new Gelo build looks eerily similar to Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot…
Luckily, our topic today is a little more human-friendly. Grady Koch’s new book High Tech LEGO Projects demonstrates that there is still a ton of life in the older EV3 kit, pushing the boundaries of what the 7-year-old kit can do, without the whole world-dominance vibe.
No Starch Press has kindly provided me with a print copy for this review. My particular copy may be a pre-production copy as it has a bit of a raised splatter texture on the back cover. Nonetheless, the actual contents of the book is clearly printed on nice semi-gloss paper. Colours and text come out well, ensuring no issues following build and programming instructions.
High Tech LEGO Projects is the most recent book tailored towards EV3 users from No Starch Press. This time around, High Tech LEGO Projects introduces some basic circuitry and hobby-grade sensors to the mix, extending the capabilities of the ageing EV3.
A wide range of projects are covered in the 12 chapters of this book, with 2 extra projects available for download from the No Starch Press website. Each project showcases a different electrical component either to use with the EV3, or simply to add to one of your existing or upcoming lego creations.
Many of the projects will require extra pieces beyond what is provided in the EV3 Mindstorms set. Most of these can be found on BrickLink/BrickOwl, while many of the electrical components and tools can be found at local or online electronic stores.
Get comfortable acquiring the extra LEGO pieces, but don’t get too attached to them. Some of these projects are not for the faint of heart. The second project already has you drilling holes through TWO technic gearbox pieces! I can already hear the collective screams of agony right now. The first time I saw the picture demonstrating where to drill, my first reaction was to cover the eyes of all my Lego mini-figs.
It’s been a Technic-filled day at TLCB, but are you looking at some of the models featured here and wondering how they work? From steering and suspension, to ratchets, walkers, gearboxes – LEGO Technic can be used to create any mechanism you can think of. And probably a lot you can’t.
And that’s where Jorge Moreno Barrios’ eBook ‘LEGO Engineering Fundamentals’ shines, as the first 3D interactive guide to creating incredible mechanisms (and the basics too) from LEGO Bricks.
‘LEGO Engineering Fundamentals’ is divided into five chapters, each of which features 3D interactive renders of the subject;
1. LEGO brick alignment (effectively the measurements needed to build)
2. A complete 3D catalogue of LEGO Technic parts, sorted by use (e.g. ‘steering’, ‘gears’ etc.) with part numbers
3. Simple machines, consisting of levers, pulleys, wedges and screws
4. Basic mechanisms, including gears, ratchets, cams, chains, and junctions and linkages
5. Basic structures
Each render can be rotated on any axis, allowing the reader to see it from any angle, with the moving components rotating/sliding/lifting on a loop as if they were built from real bricks. Rotating the subject also reveals Jorge’s explanation of the render in question, with key words highlighted to ease understanding. If that sounds complicated it isn’t, and it works wonderfully. Naturally we can’t share the interactive element here, but hopefully the static images we’ve included will provide some insight.
In the examples above the inputs and outputs turn on the screen, with all the components of each mechanism following suit. Many of these are very simple pulleys and levers, taking readers through the basics of both Technic building and machines in general, but some – despite the ‘basic’ in the chapter titles – delve into advanced physics, recreating the beautifully intricate designs by noted engineers and kinetic sculptures. Again, each of these is completely interactive, and is ‘alive’ on the screen running through its mechanised loop to demonstrate how the design works in practice, with some looking really rather incredible indeed.
It’s mechanisms such as these we think readers will find most useful, as ‘LEGO Engineering Fundamentals’ provides a toolbox of options for ‘I want my creation to do [this], but I don’t known how’.
So is the eBook perfect? – It is Version 1 after all.
Not yet, as there are a few of refinements we’d like to see for v2, chief among which is a contents page. The ‘How this book works’ animation also didn’t work on our copy, and there a few official LEGO sets rendered within the book that are – we think – used as examples of either parts or mechanisms in action, but without any explanation. A brief ‘Set No. [xxxx] uses pneumatic cylinders and a basic lever. You can find details of these on pages [x]’ would definitely help to explain their context. The same is true for a few mechanisms that don’t have descriptive text – often because it isn’t needed, but we would prefer at least a title for every render as a minimum.
Despite a few obvious improvements, the basics behind ‘LEGO Engineering Fundamentals’ are superb, and the first time you rotate a moving mechanism on screen to see the explanation appear you do go ‘Ooooh!’. Well we did anyway.
It’s also the first book we’ve received here at TLCB that has actively made us want to try creating new things, things we would never have thought of on our own, nor had the engineering capability to do. For that reason alone we can’t recommend ‘LEGO Engineering Fundamentals’ highly enough.
For now, this is a four star book. With a few tweaks for v2, it’ll be an easy five.
We can be accused of many things here at TLCB, but not reading isn’t one of them. The mass of emailed complaints our inbox receives don’t read themselves…
Requests for building instructions also land here with frequency, and as such a whole industry has sprung up to provide the online Lego Community with step-by-step directions to build all sorts of creations, from realistic real-world supercars to tiny micro models. Today we have another addition to this increasing pool of instructional resource, thanks to Charles Pritchett and the guys at No Starch Press, this is ‘Lego Trains Projects‘.
Running to 200 pages, ‘Lego Train Projects’ brings seven rather lovely train creations to life via step-by-step building instructions, with everything from a coal hopper to a hefty diesel locomotive. Each is compatible with LEGO’s own 6-wide train system, and matches their more advanced models – such as the 10020 Santa Fe Super Chief – for detail, only without the need for stickers.
Whereas previous No Starch books have offered small descriptions or backstories to the builds within them, there’s little pre-amble here, as Charles gets straight down to the building steps. A title page for each model displays the number of pieces, whilst a bill of materials (aka a parts list) and alternative colour suggestions finish each section.
The instructions themselves are fantastic, equal to LEGO’s own with clear steps, sub-assemblies, additions to each step highlighted in yellow, and probably a touch more complexity. The models aren’t necessary more complicated than the more advanced of LEGO’s own offerings, but they do pack in a variety of techniques that are probably above those within the grasp of the average builder, thus ‘Lego Train Projects’ could be a worthwhile educational aid for those wishing to up their game beyond basic studs-up construction.
The result is a set of train-based models that will up the realism of most layouts considerably, and which can be easily tailored to suit the preferred colours of the owner, with our favourite of Charles’ seven designs probably being the milk tanker, which could easily be converted to an Octan tanker if you prefer petrol over cow juice by simply switching the coloured rings.
As we’ve become used to with No Starch Press publications, the quality of both print and paper is superb; ‘Lego Train Projects’ not only looks great, it feels great too, with a soft matte cover and beautifully crisp pages within. Whilst we personally don’t always understand the need for building with instructions, if you’re looking to use them to build yourself some really rather lovely train creations, they don’t come much better than this.
They’re the questions we receive here more than other (apart from your Mom calling to find out if we’re free); “Where can I buy this?” / “Are there instructions?”.
We’ve reviewed a range of books here at TLCB (see here, here, here and here) that aim to answer the questions above, providing parts lists and building instructions to enable readers to create real-world vehicles from LEGO bricks. Today we have another, kindly provided by publisher ‘Brick Monster‘ who have a range of both instructional books and downloadable building instructions available at their website, offering everything from BrickHeadz to dinosaurs.
Fast Bricks: Build 6 LEGO Sports Cars!
Overview: Brick Monster’s latest publication, entitled ‘Fast Bricks’, details the step-by-step building instructions and complete parts lists for six real-world sports and performance cars. Each car is designed to match LEGO’s old six-wide Speed Champions scale which, whilst less detailed than the new 8-wide standard, should mean both a plentiful parts supply and that fewer parts are needed.
The book follows the now familiar format that we’ve come to expect from instructional publications, offering a brief (and really well written) introduction to each car, along with a few key statistics – although in this case they are about the model itself rather than its real world equivalent.
Instructions and Print Quality: The bulk of the book is taken by the step-by-step instructions, which are clear and well laid out. Minor sub-assemblies are used every so often and all parts added are highlighted by a contrasting brightly-coloured outline, which is very nice touch. A ‘Bill of Materials’ ends each section, along with the alternate colour schemes available for each build. Unfortunately we have no images of these available to show here, which is something that Brick Monster should look into so that they can showcase this content.
‘Fast Bricks’ is not the glossiest book we’ve reviewed and nor is it printed in the highest quality, but it’s well suited to its purpose, where ultra high quality paper can actually be a hinderance to following building instructions, however beautiful the product looks. On the other hand one area where higher print quality would have been useful was in the instructions for C8 Corvette pictured on the cover, where the dark blue bricks chosen are hard to distinguish against the black lines that surround them. This is never an issue with official LEGO sets and highlights just how good LEGO are at both designing and mass-producing the building instructions found in their products.
The Models: It’s the Corvette that is probably the best model within the book, although all feature a range of excellent building techniques that newer builders may appreciate learning.
However, unfortunately for us in some cases the builds are not particularly recognisable as the car they are purported to be. We could have ten guesses for the Mazda MX-5 and Lamborghini Huracan and we wouldn’t have guessed correctly, with other models having only a passing resemblance to their real-world counterparts.
It’s a shame, because – whilst not really offering anything new – the layout, instruction designs, descriptions, and parts lists of ‘Fast Bricks’ are all pretty good.
Verdict: We wouldn’t have thought there was a need for yet another building instructions book, however the constant requests we receive here at The Lego Car Blog indicate that – as usual – we know nothing, and there remains a significant interest in step-by-step instructions for models.
We’re not sure that any book is the best medium for providing step-by-step instructions anymore, with digital downloads performing the job just as well, but nevertheless ‘Fast Bricks’ take on the book-based instructional formula is another competently engineered addition, utilising well-judged techniques and instructional designs to walk readers from a pile of LEGO bricks to a finished sports car model. We just wish the models found within it looked a bit more like the cars they’re supposedly based upon.
Today we’re privileged to share a piece of work that combines all three of the areas above, as the awesome guys at No Starch Press sent us a copy of their new book written by Sariel; ‘Build a LEGO Mustang‘. And not just any Mustang either, it’s the same glorious 1960s GT350 fastback that first appeared here almost two years ago, with remote control drive and steering, LED lights, a 2-speed transmission, opening doors, hood and trunk, and a V8 engine. So, what’s it like?
Firstly, as with all the No Starch Press Lego products we’ve reviewed, ‘Build a Lego Mustang’ is a very well published book. High quality, glossy, and with excellent full colour imagery throughout. Unlike previous publications though, ‘Build a Lego Mustang’ is not coffee table art, a Lego history, or varied model showcase. Instead it’s an instruction manual, detailing the 420 steps required to recreate Sariel’s Mustang masterpiece.
Running to 110 pages, Sariel’s book provides the building process to create his amazing Ford Mustang GT350 for yourself, using a presentation and process that will be familiar to anyone who has built an official LEGO set. Like LEGO’s own instructions, ‘Build a Lego Mustang’ includes a complete parts inventory at the start, followed by the traditional ‘spot the difference’ steps that turn a pile of bricks into a complete model. Continue reading →
Here at The Lego Car Blog we’re definitely towards the more adult end of the Lego fan spectrum (not that you’d necessarily know that from our writing ability or professionalism…), however it’s worth remembering that LEGO is, first and foremost, a toy.
It’s therefore with great pleasure that today we can share with you a book aimed exactly at LEGO’s core audience, and on a topic that we’re surprised has taken so long to be published. From Lowey Bundy Sichol‘s ‘From an Idea to…’ series, this is ‘From an Idea to LEGO’.
Lowey’s ‘From an Idea to…’ series of books explore some of the world’s most famous companies, explaining to children aged 8-12 how they were created whilst teaching entrepreneurship and business along the way. They are in fact the only books in the world that provide biographical business studies to kids, which – in a world filled with ‘influencers’ teaching children little more than how to open boxes of free things – is a wonderful alternative.
‘From and Idea to LEGO’ runs to around 100 pages and is filled with lovely illustrations by C. S. Jennings, fun facts and pop-out text (more on that in a bit). Printed in black and white on non-glossy paper the book is typical of those aimed at children (and a price point) so don’t expect another glossy coffee table publication of the type we usually review, as that’s not the point of this book.
Lowey charts LEGO’s history from carpenter’s shop and the invention of the plastic brick, via near bankruptcy to its position today as the world’s largest toy maker. The language is easy to understand, yet still detailed enough to educate, and when a new piece of business terminology appears it’s printed in bold and accompanied by a small pop-out explaining what it means, examples being ‘Patent‘, ‘Brand Equity‘, ‘Profit‘, ‘Revenue‘ and so on.
It’s this aspect of ‘From an Idea to LEGO’ that we particularly like as, whilst it’s well written, the history of The LEGO Company has been detailed many times before. What hasn’t is the business acumen behind the story, particularly in a format that children can understand. Lowey’s explanations are well-judged, clear, and will undoubtedly help readers to join the dots between having an idea and turning it into a profitable business. Lowey’s ‘Lemonade Stand’ example in the book may be slightly cliche, but it communicates the basics brilliantly.
If you’d like your kids to begin their understanding entrepreneurship, and perhaps to fuel ambition beyond becoming a YouTuber, then the books from ‘Lowey Bundy Sichol’s ‘From an Idea to…’ series are a wonderful way to start. That one of the four books published so far is about our favourite plastic bricks is a bonus!
From one of America’s worst 1960s vehicles to one of its best. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was something of a revolution for US sports cars when it arrived in 1963. This is the C3 iteration that launched a few years later, with about 58 different V8 engine options (seriously, just look at this list!), the same slightly dodgy handling, and ridiculously good looks. This lovely Speed Champions-esque version of the iconic American sports car comes from previous bloggee ZetoVince who designed it for the ‘How to Build Dream Cars with LEGO Bricks‘ book reviewed here last year. Head to ZetoVince’s photostream via the link above for more details, and you can read our review of the book in which it features by clicking the final link in the text.
Public transport is a depressing place these days. Only inhabited by people staring zombie-like at the screens clutched in their claw-like hands, endlessly scrolling through mindless drivel and self-promotive imagery, without having a clue what lies outside the windows or if the old man two seats in front is having a heart attack. Still, talking of mindless drivel they could be reading The Lego Car Blog so it’s not all bad.
This is much more our thing though, a gorgeous 1959 Salem Ameriliner bus re-fitted as a travelling library, with over sixty mini-figure books, a gramophone, and probably containing more than a few hipsters. It’s the work of Chris Elliott and there’s more to see of his beautifully presented creation at his Flickr album – click the link above to hop on board and open a book.
There’s one question we get here at The Lego Car Blog more than any other; ‘Can I have instructions?’. Mattia Zamboni, author of the previously reviewed ‘Tiny LEGO Wonders‘ and previous bloggee ZetoVince have decided to respond to the call, and recently sent us their latest book that claims to provide the answers…
Thunderbay Press’s ‘How to Build Dream Cars with LEGO Bricks‘ aims “to deliver accurate car models of epic cars”, and it really does feature some epic cars. From legendary American classics like the Ford GT40, Dodge Charger and Corvette Stingray, through European supercars such as the Lamborghini Countach and Porsche 911, to modern-day exotic hypercars like the Pagani Zonda.
Epicocity achieved then, but how about accuracy? Well Mattia is so confident in the realism of the builds within ‘How to Build Dream Cars’ that the contents page doesn’t name them, or even feature colour, instead showing simply black and white renders of each of the models featured. It works too, creating a beautifully clean look that is maintained throughout the book.
The models are indeed instantly recognisable, at least for car fans which we suspect you’ll be if you’re reading this. LEGO’s own Speed Champions sets are too of course, and we’ve loved seeing each new release in this line-up as LEGO create more partnerships with real-world car manufacturers. However there are many brands that LEGO have not yet partnered with (and may never), and often the sets can be quite sticker-heavy, making recreation from spare parts at home impossible.
‘How to Build Dream Cars’ manages to accurately recreate some of the world’s best known cars without a single sticker, whilst using more advanced techniques to achieve greater realism than LEGO’s Speed Champions sets. Let’s take a look at how!
Each model starts with a description and image of the real car, including the all-important fact sheet that all car fans require. The instructions continue the black and white theme and add colour simply via the bricks used in the build. Like Mattia’s ‘Tiny LEGO Wonders’ book, these are slightly more complicated than those found in an official LEGO set, both because the techniques themselves are, and because LEGO have simplified their own steps, sometimes to the point of adding just one piece at a time.
‘How to Build Dream Cars’ feels more like LEGO instructions did a decade or so ago, being noticeably more advanced, and using more monochrome piece colours. This means that there are few contrasting-colour pieces in hidden places (as LEGO now use to make them easier to find/identify), which is appropriate given most builders will be creating these models from their own parts and black/grey is a safe bet.
Ingeniously the book also contains a complete parts list (which can be dropped straight into Bricklink should you need to buy them) and video instructions for each model, accessible via the QR Codes printed inside. This makes creating the models in ‘How to Build Dream Cars with LEGO Bricks’ a properly interactive experience should you wish it to be, and makes us wonder why LEGO haven’t done this themselves.
Graphics are excellent, and whilst black-on-black isn’t quite as easy to follow as LEGO’s white-pages the instructions are well laid out, clear, and printed in high quality, with good visuals for sub-assemblies and piece positioning. Most importantly the results are superb, successfully mixing System and Technic parts to recreate the iconic shapes of some of the world’s most famous dream cars, such as the AC Cobra pictured below.
LEGO are a roll right now with their ever-expanding line-up of officially licensed vehicles. However there are many more amazing cars out there not yet licensed to become official LEGO sets.
If you’d like to expand your own car collection by building some stunning real-world replicas that LEGO haven’t yet created themselves (and that are more detailed and more advanced to build to boot), ‘How to Build Dream Cars with LEGO Bricks’ fulfils the brief brilliantly. From vintage classics to modern supercars, Mattia and Vince have created an excellent instructional guide to building your own dream cars at home, with enough technical specs and vehicle history to keep car fans happy too.
That the book also contains complete parts lists, video instructions, and looks beautiful is the icing on the cake. Highly recommended.
Here at The Lego Car Blog we receive all sorts of requests for endorsements. Frankly this is as surprising to us as it probably is to you, because we’re idiots, but nevertheless somehow we’ve found ourselves in a position of power. POWER!!
We may have got a little over-excited at this realisation but don’t worry, we were brought back down to earth when we asked our intern to pose for the picture above, with the result being a new entry into the Mis-Conduct Box and a picture of a mini-figure instead.
Back to the task in hand, and it’s probably time to assemble some of our recommendations into one handy guide. So here they are, TLCB Recommends….
Third-Party Bluetooth Control| SBrick & BuWizz
We’ve tested two third-party LEGO-compatible bluetooth products here at The Lego Car Blog, and we’re pleased to say that both earn a recommendation.
Reviewed here earlier in the year the SBrick controller provides Lego models with bluetooth capability, allowing control via a mobile phone, gamepad, or other device. This has clear advantages over LEGO’s own IR control, being unaffected by bright sunlight, and allowing the receiver to be completely hidden inside a model.
Where the SBrick really scores though is the superb programmable app, allowing the bespoke set-up of a model that surpasses even LEGO’s own Mindstorms robotics sets. We tried the SBrick with the LEGO Technic 42030 Volvo L350F set and were amazed by how easy it was to set up, and how beautifully controllable the Volvo became. It’s a new dimension in Lego robotics.
Like the SBrick above, the BuWizz offers all the benefits of bluetooth control, but with the added bonus of a built in battery that can provide up to eight times the power of LEGO’s Power Functions system. The BuWizz brick can be programmed too, although we found this far more limited than the SBrick’s abilities, but really this product is all about power.
The BuWizz bluetooth battery genuinely transforms what Lego models can be capable of, and whilst we suspect far more axles, gears and pins will break a result, their owners will be having riotously good fun in the process! Read our review of the BuWizz brick by clicking here and see how fast your model can go.
Books | No Starch Press
We’ve reviewed loads of Lego-themed books over the years and most are really very good. Our favourite publishers are the guys at No Starch Press who have brought several top-quality building books to print, including some authored by builders who have featured on these very pages.
You can find all of the books we’ve reviewed via the Review Library, and you can check out NSP’s current range via the link above.
LEGO Set Reviews | Brick Insights
Our ever-expanding Set Review Library has become (and this is a rare thing at TLCB) something that we’re quite proud of. With one hundred sets, third-party products and books reviewed to date, a few of which were written by you – our readers – it’s as good a place as any to find out whether that eBay seller really can charge that much.
However our reviews are only written by us lot here at TLCB Towers (plus a few from you) and, as mentioned previously, we are idiots. Better then to trust an amalgamation of many reviews before you make a purchase decision, and the brilliant Brick Insights does just that. Pulling review information from multiple sources (of which we’re one) you can quickly see all the reviews for a particular set, the average, highest and lowest scores and much more.
If you’d like to know how some of the greatest Lego model-makers create their masterpieces, and very probably learn some useless facts about them too, then head over to the Interviews pages via the links above. We’ll be adding more builders to this Hall of Fame very soon too!
Other Stuff | Blogs, Creation Sharing, LUGs and more
We’ve a whole heap of references worth your clicks to be found in the Directory, including the sources our Elves use to find creations, rival blogs, games, Lego User Groups and Friends of TLCB.
Take a look via the link above, and remember that your clicks and page visits here at The Lego Car Blog directly contribute to worthy causes around the world, as our limited advertising revenue is dispersed to those who need it more than we do, and that’s entirely thanks to you.
Thump. It was just before Christmas, and a brown package slammed onto the hallway floor of TLCB Towers. A dozen TLCB Elves immediately ran towards it, but thwarted by its weight were unable to make off with their prize. A lot of post goes missing here.
Fortunately this TLCB writer is considerably bigger than a TLCB Elf and thus was able to pick up said package and, with some Elves still attached, retreat to the TLCB ‘staffroom’ (an ancient sofa in the corner of the office).
Usually heavy packages received here at TLCB Towers are ‘Cease and Desist’ notifications wrapped around a breeze block from The Brothers Brick, but this time we had a present! No Starch Press; we like you!
No Starch have been in the Lego book game for a while, consistently churning out books about our favourite plastic building blocks for some years. Their latest publication is this, the 230-page ‘The Lego Trains Book‘ by Holger Matthes.
In compact landscape format and produced in No Starch’s usual glossy high quality form ‘The Lego Trains Book’ really is surprisingly heavy, but does the content live up to the cover?
‘The Lego Trains’ book begins, after a brief Forward and Acknowledgements section, with a chapter detailing the history of LEGO’s official Trains line, following the range from its beginnings in the 1960s, through the battery era, live rail era (this writer’s favourite), to the latest remote control Power Functions sets. It’s a comprehensive compilation of the LEGO Trains history and one that’s sure to be of interest to anyone who loves the theme, although it is perhaps a bit too in-depth for the more casual Lego builder.
Chapter two is entitled ‘Basic Principles’, and it’s brilliant. Detailing building techniques and parts ratios it’s perfect for any builder of any theme (not just Trains) looking to create more advanced Lego creations. Utilising well-chosen digital depictions the author makes even the more complex techniques easy to understand, and whilst these aren’t quite as high quality visually as LEGO’s own they are good enough to make for useful teaching-aids.
Chapters three and four build upon these techniques with practical application, detailing the considerations and choices available when designing your own train models. This is a very thorough chapter offering insights into a variety of scales, how to ensure models can handle tight corners, how to connect carriages to one another, how to create realistic steam train mechanisms and such like.
It’s a gloriously nerdy section and as such Holger includes links to third-party products and design software that can help a builder reach the utmost level of realism. This may be a bit too in-depth for most builders (ourselves included), but it’s usually better to have too much information than too little.
The final chapter, which at 100 pages long makes up nearly half the book, is where ‘The Lego Trains Book’ comes alive. Continue reading →
It’s the question receive more than any other here at The Lego Car Blog.
Until now we’ve politely diverted people to the builder of their desired creation directly, knowing full well that instructions won’t be available and that they’ll leave disappointed. However we may now have an answer, thanks to Peter Blackert (aka Lego911) and Quarto Motorbooks and their new release ‘How to Build Brick Cars’.
It sounds perfect, but is it all it promises? We hand over to Lego car-building legend and TLCB Master MOCer Firas Abu Jaber to find out…
‘How to Build Brick Cars’ – A book for all LEGO fans and petrolheads!
First of all, I’m no pro in reviewing books, but I’m a big fan of LEGO and a petrolhead myself. I build LEGO cars as a hobby as well, so I can assure you that you’ll have a very interesting and unique experience with this book if you have any interest in LEGO and/or cars.
There’s no more fun than building your own favourite scale model out of LEGO bricks yourself, rather than getting a die-cast model. ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ can help you to build some of the greatest vehicles ever made, from city cars to super cars, you’re sure to find something you like in there!
What first took my attention of this book is the cover of it, very well designed and printed it gives you the expression that you’re dealing with a high quality product. That goes for the whole book as well, every single page is well printed, the pictures are very sharp and the instructions are clear enough and easy to follow, just read the ‘How to use this book’ section before you start collecting your pieces and building the models. Experienced Lego builders will be able to use the instructions without reading the introduction, but I would still encourage you to do so.
This point leads us on to the content of this book, ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is divided into three main sections, 1. Foundation, 2. Intermediate, and 3. Advanced. But before we look at these sections let’s talk about the first pages of the book and a bit about the author.
Peter Blackert, who is very well known in the Lego community as “lego911”, is a prolific and talented Lego car builder. Fortunately for me I know him through Flickr, and although I’ve never met him personally I can assure you he’s a very nice person. I have always been impressed by the quality of his work and the ‘speed’ at which he builds his models! You might never believe me if I told you he can build a very nice and detailed car every day. No wonder he works as an engineer for Ford Australia!
In the few first pages of ‘How to Build Bricks Cars’ you’ll find the introduction, ‘Why build brick cars’ and a detailed contents page so you can see what the pages of this book contain.
Another important section is the ‘How to use this book’ page, as mentioned above, specially if you’re not an experienced Lego builder. Although the instructions are pretty clear and easy to follow they are made in a compact way to ensure the book is able to contain as many different models as possible, so you need to pay attention while putting the pieces together, but for me that adds to the fun in the process!
1. Foundation Section
1. 1932 Ford V8 Roadster.
2. 1932 Ford V8 Coupé.
3. Ferrari 488 GTB.
4. Ferrari 488 Spider.
5. Citroën 2CV Charleston.
6. Jaguar E Type Coupé.
7. Jaguar E Type Roadster.
After the few introductory pages you’ll find the first main part of the book, the ‘Foundation’ section, in which you’ll find instructions for seven very detailed and accurate small scale cars in a scale of 1:28. Being small scale doesn’t mean they’re simple to build though, they are still challenging and big fun! The models in this section range from cars as old as a 1932 Ford (above) right up to the latest Ferrari 488 GTB.
My own favourite of the Foundation section is the Citroën 2CV Charleston. I built one myself (see below!) and noticed some very smart and interesting techniques and connections between the bricks all over the model, something you’d never guess just looking at the model from the outside.
2. Intermediate Section
1. 2017 Ford F 150 Raptor
2. Datsun 240 Z Coupe
3. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder
4. BMW i8 Hybrid Coupé
5. Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS
The second part of ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is the ‘Intermediate’ section, where you’ll find some of the most iconic sports machines have ever made. The models in this sections are at a slightly larger scale of 1:20 (LEGO Miniland scale), with more advanced and complicated techniques than those in the previous section. They also include more detail and a few working elements too, including opening doors, hoods, trunks, even working suspension, afforded by the jump in scale.
My favorite model of this section is the 240Z/Fairlady Z (maybe because I’m a big Nissan fan!), it was a big joy to build and very satisfying with some superb techniques, details and features.
3. Advanced Section
1. Bugatti Veyron 16.4
2. Ford GT Le Mans Race Car
3. 1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda
Finally the third part of ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ is the ‘Advanced’ section, which features instructions for some of the fastest cars that have ever been produced. Fasten your seat belt and get ready for the adventure!
As you’d expect, in the third and final section of the book you’ll find the most detailed and complicated Lego models. Whilst these models are at same scale as the previous section you’ll experience a much higher degree of build complexity utilising more advanced building techniques, enabling you to create an even higher level of engine and chassis realism.
After building the cars in this section you’ll have gained more building skills and a greater breadth of techniques enabling you to build better models for yourself, plus of course you have some very nice models from the book to display on your shelf!
The single most frequently asked question we receive here at TLCB Towers is ‘How do I build this model?’. We receive queries like these in the hundreds, and – despite our urge to scream ‘enough!’ and run out of the building brandishing whatever office implement is nearest – we offer a continuous stream of polite replies explaining that the models we feature are not official LEGO sets and thus instructions are not available.
Well, finally, we have a generic answer that may actually be helpful!
Legendary (and prolific) vehicle builder Peter Blackert (aka LEGO911) has appeared here at The Lego Car Blog numerous times, and is therefore probably responsible for generating some of the ‘How do I build this model?’ comments himself.
Now, after years building stunningly realistic vehicles numbering in the hundreds, Peter has published a book containing full-colour illustrations and step-by-step instructions for many of his models!
Vehicles such as the 1932 Ford V-8 Roadster (pictured above), Datsun 240Z, 2016 Le Mans Ford racer, Ferrari 250 GT California, Jaguar E-Type coupe and convertible, Ford F150 Raptor, Bugatti Veyron, Porsche 911 and many more are all featured, allowing you to build and modify these for yourself using your own bricks!
We’ll be bringing you a review of Peter’s book ‘How to Build Brick Cars’ in due course, but until then how did Peter go from uploading his Lego creations online to having a book published and available for sale all over the world? Find out as Peter joins us as the fourth builder in our ‘Become a Lego Professional‘ series – click the link below to read his story.
It’s been a while since we let the Elves watch a Transformers movie. This is partly because they’ve not found much in the way of Transformers-related builds, but mostly because after the abomination of ‘Transformers 4 – Age of Extinction’ we just couldn’t stomach any more Michael Bay directed nonsense.
Today though, we’ve relented, because one of their number returned with this cache of superb fully Transformable Autobots courtesy of Alex Jones aka Orion Pax.
Each creation is an ingenious work of art, and you can now build them for yourself, as Alex has released a new book containing step-by-step building instructions! There’s more to see via the link above, where you can also find a link to Amazon where Alex’s book is available to buy.
This review must start with a disclosure. The lovely, kind people at the No Starch Press sent us a copy of this book for free. The weighty package from the USA, dropped through the letterbox of TLCB towers and caused great excitement. So much so, that all of the 32⅞ Elves in the office were given a Smartie each to celebrate. This was followed by a short, sharp blast from Mr. Airhorn, just to show them that we weren’t going soft. So a big “Thank you” from The Lego Car Blog and some well fed Elves too.
For this particular reviewer, Paweł “Sariel” Kmieć’s first edition was published at exactly the right moment. I had emerged from my Lego “Dark Ages” and was enjoying building again. As kid I’d enjoyed building both space and Technic models but now beams had no studs on them and apparently they were called “liftarms”. Connections were all via pins and axles and specially shaped pieces that were undreamed of in my teenage years. These new parts and techniques opened the doors to building things that were either too bulky or too structurally weak in days gone by. The opportunities were immense but also bewildering.
The light in the wilderness was the first edition of “The Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide”. My copy is bent, dog-eared, coffee stained, tear stained and much cherished. The second edition is bigger, at just over 400 pages but still small enough to keep handy on your bedside table or read in the bath. If you don’t own a copy of the first edition and have any interest in Technic building, the new book is a must buy. It is presented in a clear visual style, well written and has a good index. At around $35/£25 the book is great value too. But if you already own the first edition, is it worth buying the new version? Let’s take a look inside.
The second edition uses the same style as the first. The pages are packed with information but are easy to read, with text and illustrations placed well. The font is the same, comfortable to read font as the first edition. The author is a graphic designer by profession and it shows through in this product. This is a very technical book but it doesn’t have the feel of a school science textbook. Although most of the illustrations are the same as in the original book, many have been changed for subtle upgrades that are visually clearer. There are also many brand new illustrations.
The second edition is 70 pages longer than the first. One of the ways that these are accounted for is in additions to the early chapters that cover the parts range of Lego Technic. It’s amazing to step back and reflect on quite how many new Technic pieces have been created by Lego since the book’s first edition just three years ago. There are also additions to the definitions of technical terms and “Tricks with Bricks”. Chapter 5 is a brand new chapter on wheels. It starts with defining what a wheel is, in Lego terms and finishes by covering the up-to-date topic of using RC car tyres on large Technic cars. As you carry on leafing through the book you spot more upgrades. There is a tabular version of Sariel’s famous online gear calculator. The “Pneumatics” chapter includes the V2 version of Lego’s system and like the “Pulleys”, “Building Strong” & “Motors” chapters, the pneumatic “Devices” chapter has been slightly upgraded too.
The one big disappointment for me in this book is that the chapters on “Levers & Linkages” and “Custom Mechanical Solutions” are unchanged. These were one of the most inspiring chapters in the first edition, making me want to revisit my old engineering text books and try building some of the mechanisms in there. It would have been good to have seen some extra ideas here. These sorts of things are extremely useful for landing gears or feed mechanisms or kinetic sculptures. Overall the book is very focused on Lego vehicles, which is what you’d expect coming from a famous builder of Lego vehicles of all types. Lego Technic forums tend to be focused on vehicles too, so this book is spot on with its content for the market. However, it would have been nice to have had a bit more about the creativity, engineering and Lego techniques which go into things such as Great Ball Contraptions or kinetic sculptures. Then again, Lego produces model vehicle sets, the market is about cars & lorries and things that swoosh along are more fun than a static model. Oh, and we’re car blog, so we’d best not go on about this for too long… Continue reading →