Tag Archives: Hobby

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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Blast From The Past

In 1975, was this Lego’s first attempt to create an AFOL market ? Discuss…

All the sets in the ‘Hobby Sets’ line from the mid to late Seventies are rare items now, and highly sought after; but they weren’t at the time.

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Take the blocky beauty above, for example; who’s it aimed at ? For kids, it wouldn’t fit in their town layouts, older kids want models that do something; if an adult market existed at the time, it’s just not intricate enough thanks to the lack of specialized pieces in 1976.

The whole line bombed, and that’s a shame. These are nice models. Not snazzy, complex or huge; just pleasant display pieces. I remember the 395 Rolls-Royce I got when I was about 7, still have it in fact, and I loved it. Standing proudly atop it’s cardboard display stand, here was a thing that said Lego bricks can make something nice.

It’s not entirely without detail. Those old 1×1 yellow windows make fine vintage headlights and the white spoked wheels are great. They only ever appeared in this and the 391 Renault. Mostly though, it’s an assemblage of white bricks and black plates in the rough shape of a car…

Nice car, mind. But again, it falls between two stools. Kids want stuff of the moment (apart from me, but then I was a strange kid…what do you mean I still am ?!); adults want more realism, yet the bricks weren’t quite up to it.

The first set in the series was even simpler, but it’s still a pretty thing….

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It’s a 1913 Cadillac – a curious choice of launch model for a whole new line of sets. First car with an electric starter, apparently.

So, what are these ? Toys ? Not really. I don’t remember making ‘vroom vroom’ noises with mine. I’d just look at it, and make inevitably similar alternatives with it.

Are they an attempt to create something like the modern VW camper ? Perhaps. That’s a thing that’s a joy to build and behold, for all that you can’t play with it. But that works because it’s so exact – you instantly know what it is.

Hang on – they came in nicer boxes with classy, simple artwork; which could be used as a display stand – they’re ancient Architecture sets on four wheels! Hmmmm…

I’m probably over-analysing. They’re of their time in design, and ahead of their time as an idea.

Feast your eyes on the biggest of the first three cars, an impressive looking 1926 Renault Limousine – this was quite a bit longer than the other two and doesn’t the blue look fab ?

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Anyway, enough of my prognostication, these can all be enjoyed today for what they are; nice models made from basic bricks that have a certain period charm. If you’re a vintage car fan, you’ll enjoy having any of these three.

Just don’t scroll down and compare them to Malte Dorowski’s Porsches. It’s simply not fair.

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