Much like our Elves, go-karts are small, noisy, and deceptively fast. However unlike our Elves they’re also great fun, and – being rear-wheel-drive – they’re proper driver’s tools too.
This wonderful little Model Team recreation of a generic rental kart comes from previous bloggee Angka Utama, and the detail he’s squeezed into it is simply astounding! Pedals, steering rack, brake lines, fuel lines, single cylinder piston engine… there’s more to see at both Flickr and MOCpages – click the links above, aim for the chequered flag, and win that little plastic trophy!
New for 2016, and looking like it means business….
…meet the LEGO Technic 42048 Race Kart in all its orange-and-purple glory.
First impressions are very positive – this is, by a long way, the most realistic and best looking Go-Kart style set there’s been in the Technic line. Price is pretty reasonable too, at £25 for 345 pieces.
Being a smaller set, it has an instruction book for the B-model as well, which is always a plus.
Building it is not too taxing but there’s some interesting stuff here. For the first time in a long time, there’s a proper gearbox, doing what a gearbox is supposed to do; bringing the noise! (a bit). It’s usefully compact as well; the input shaft being the rear axle itself. This does mean there’s no diff and the rear wheels are locked together though. Elsewhere, those new curved panels do a great job of styling it and, in a highly radical change from the norm, it’s got a proper floor. Whatever next!
Lots of those newish ‘pin with pin hole’ connectors, that’s what’s next. The designer is clearly very fond of these. Can’t say I blame him; whatever did we do way back in 2014 without them?
Moving forward from the superbly detailed single cylinder engine atop its 2-speed gearbox, we have a brilliantly designed seat, nice chunky steering wheel, a novel steering system that you actually operate with the actual steering wheel(!), all riding on four well chosen wheels with the lowest profile tyres I’ve seen in LEGO.
Clearly, unlike last year’s 42022 Hot Rod, the designer has seen a real Go-Kart rather than having it described to him over the ‘phone…
This set is looking more and more like a winner….
And then you steer it. On full lock, the front wheels will deviate a maximum of 11 degrees from the straight ahead. 11 degrees. The mechanism is compact, quick-acting, strong and precise, but seriously…. 11 degrees. Most cars will turn around in about 2 times their own length. A little thing like this; maybe 3 or so. Or in this case, 7. It needs 7 times it’s own length to turn around. Sheesh. With that and the solid axle, oversteer is right off the menu. Understeer is all you’ll get; something this can ill afford…
It’s not all bad news. There’s that gearbox; the lower gear of which allows the engine to spin at 2x wheel speed, the styling is superb, but if there is ONE thing you want a Go-Kart to do, it’s to steer properly. And this just doesn’t. For comparison purposes, I measured the angle of the ancient 854’s front wheels on full lock – a realistic 35 degrees. In every other respect 42048 is a better model, but because of this one flaw 854 is still a better Go-Kart.
Maybe we’ll have better luck with the B-model :
Eurgh! Maybe not. It’s a ‘track car’ apparently. Perhaps the designer had a KTM X-Bow described to him over the ‘phone… It does steer better than the main model, though. Slightly.
There are many good things about this set. The styling. The engine detailing. A proper gearbox. That seat. The fact that it looks good with or without the stickers. Everything in its rightful place and looking all Go-Karty. It’s good value for money. It’s a superb looking model. If it steered like 854 it would get a 10. It barely steers at all. 7/10
…Or according to the picture below, just red and blue ones; but as everyone knows, they’re the best Smarties….
Under Starter’s Orders…
The Technic Go-Kart. These have been delighting lovers of oversteer and leaving tyre marks on kitchen floors since 1978. Time to see what’s what.
First up, the dear old 854, whose under-tyred front wheels and odd-sized seat mattered not a jot when it came to whizzing it along the carpet, engine singing away as it zoomed around in ever decreasing circles. It was strong enough to handle it too (not always the case with the early efforts..) so long as those grey toggle joints around the steering column haven’t cracked. Did someone say kragle? Banish them! This set is a little blue bundle of fun, there’s the usual early set selection of alternate models on the box, it was wildly popular when new and therefore cheap and numerous now. If you haven’t already, get one; TLCB will give you your money back if you don’t love it* 10/10.
A great score, but how does it do in the handling test? In the interest of consumer research (nothing to do with playing with toys, you understand..) this and 5 other Technic Go-Karts have been subjected to an exhaustive analysis of their handling. This encompasses such vital aspects as controlability, grip, weight distribution, sound effects, strength and breakaway characteristics. A go-kart is not a Go-Kart if it isn’t fun to fling around…
Technic Lewis Gets A Wiggle On…
First up, the 854. Flinging it around holding on to the steering wheel is possible (provided it’s assembled carefully and the joints aren’t cracked), the single cylinder engine clatters away at 3x wheel speed nice and smoothly, the hard tyres lack grip. This is excellent. Thanks to it’s relatively long wheelbase and slight rearward weight bias, it can be persuaded to perform graceful drifts at any angle you like. Too slow, though, and it’ll understeer. Overall, a very respectable 8 on the oversteer-ometer.
Next, the tiny 98 piece 1972 from ’85. A larger gear acting on the steering rack makes this exceptionally flickable; its short wheelbase makes it very tail-happy and grip of the softish tyres is easily overcome. A winner. It’s strong enough thanks to it’s lightness and the only thing really lacking is noise – the engine’s a dummy. 8.
The largest of these sets, at 281 pieces, is 8842 from 1986. It took Lego 8 years to dare to replace 854! They used the time well. This machine’s Model Team tyres afford an amusing lack of grip, the overall design is interesting and unusual, it repeats 1972’s trick of a very flickable steering rack and it’s long wheelbase makes it effortlessly controllable. This machine is king of the high-speed J-turn. The engine could be louder (it runs at wheel speed) but that’s easy to modify. Overall, a successful model and a fun steer. 9.
The 8815 ‘Speedway Bandit’ promises much. It looks like a 1972 with the bonus of an engine. At 78 pieces it should have been the ultimate in cheap thrills in 1991. However, it’s handling was hobbled by new steering parts that include that awful flexible rack that Lego foisted on us for a few years; this makes the steering wheel feel far too flimsy in your hand as it has no other support. The engine’s nice, if a bit quiet, and not at all smooth thanks to the crank only being supported at one end! It’ll oversteer nicely though, if you’re gentle. 5.
Next up, the 8219 ‘Racer’ from 1998. This is definitely one of the better efforts from that year… At 103 pieces it’s still small and cheap, it looks good and, despite using the same steering rack piece as its predecessor, it feels sturdier thanks to a little extra support. Its longish wheelbase, slow steering and soft, grippy tyres curtail the oversteer fun somewhat, but it’ll do it on a smooth surface. Its engine runs at 3x wheel speed and provides a chattery soundtrack. 7.
The most recent go-kart is 8256 from 2009. Since I don’t have this, I made one up from my collection, minus the lime green panels but in all other respects the same. It’s certainly the most realistic looking of these (even without the panels) and it’s plenty strong enough, but the steering system kills it. Instead of a rack, you have a pole reverser handle flailing about in a gap along the track rod and, while quick-acting, it feels loose and there’s not enough lock. With that and the long wheelbase and grippy tyres, oversteer is pretty much off the table. Boo. The ride-on lawnmower B-model looks more fun. 4.
Speaking of B-models…
The big red one is from the 853 car chassis set, and the blue comes from the 5541 ‘Blue Fury’ Model Team set, reviewed not long ago by m’learned colleague. Continue reading →