Satisfying your hoisting needs since 1978…
We like cranes here at The Lego Car Blog. Technic cranes tend to make excellent, functional models that can be a lot of fun to muck about with. From the earliest era of Technic, LEGO thought so too, and gave us the 855 Mobile Crane in 1978. How would it compare with its grandchildren?
Thank you for asking that question.
In the picture above, ready for battle (lift-off?) is a slightly nervous looking 855, along with 8854 from 1989, 8460 from 1995 and the later and larger 8421 and 42009 models.
After at least twenty seconds of careful cogitation I arrived at a reasonably fair way to compare them. Each crane must be parked with its stabilisers deployed, the superstructure slewed through 90 degrees, the boom lifted and extended to its fullest height; then it must hoist a steadily increasing load of batteries until something breaks. It would have been elves, but they ran away for some reason…
First up, the vintage 855:
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the old stager. I’ve always regarded it as one those models that’s dated more than most and lacked any meaningful strength due to it’s almost entirely studded construction and build-it-yourself stabilisers. Still, it’ll set a baseline…
Turns out it did pretty well – 14 batteries off the deck and nothing’s broken although you’ll see below that something’s about to…. this is why cranes need counterweights! Each battery weighs 23 grams, so that’s a good 350 grams with the pallet as well.
This particular 855 is doing a most un-855 like thing; steering! Always a glaring omission from the original set, I’ve added it to mine as well as another control to slew the superstucture. I can promise you that the base / stabiliser combination isn’t any stronger than standard. There’s also a small mod to the lifting mechanism to help the boom achieve greater verticality (if that’s not a word, it should be!). The boom goes about 10 degrees higher than standard with 9 long axles actuating it instead of 8s. This mod does help its performance; without it, 12 batteries are hoisted in the air before the superstructure makes its bid for freedom.
Even with only early parts, 855 manages to do the important crane-y things like lifting and extending the boom and hoisting stuff; slewing’s manual and the stabilisers are fiddly to deploy and seem flimsy but it performs reasonably well. There’s many more types of crane illustrated on its box as well, all of which are many times better than the weak and uni-functional tipper lorry you get instructions for. 7/10 – it gets an extra point for its surprising performance here.
Next in line is 1989’s 8854 ‘Power Crane’, looking all butch and handsome and Unimoggy. Built with just 516 pieces (4 more than 855) it sports an impressive array of features, with pneumatic boom elevation and controls for the stabilisers, slewing, steering, boom extension and hoisting. The piece count / functions ratio is one of the best of any set. They’re not all perfect, however…
Here it is taking on the TLCB lifting test:
Thanks to those stumpy little stabilisers, it has not a chance of lifting 10 batteries. How about 5? No.. 3? No… it managed ONE. Pop a second on the pallet and it falls over. Oh dear. Pity, I really like this set. It corrects many of the flaws of 855, the most glaring of which is solved by a threaded axle clamping down the turntable, it’s highly playable and it’s pretty rugged. The pneumatics work well here, although their shortness does limit the boom’s maximum elevation to about 45 degrees and the pipework means this is the only crane here which won’t slew through the full 360 degrees.
I’d still recommend it though, and it has a good B-model; another tipper lorry but this time stronger and cleverer with articulated steering and a pneumatic tailgate. 7/10 – a point has to go for its poor test performance. Continue reading