Failed Jump – 75178

While I’ll always be a mostly Technic LEGO guy, it gets boring at times, especially in light of the recent run of rather mediocre Technic sets. That’s why it’s nice to deviate and explore other branches from time to time for a bit of variety.

Now I’m a Star Wars fan as much as the next guy, but don’t consider myself one of those über-nerds. I appreciate the original movies, but never got fully hooked, just like I consider the prequel trilogy a guilty pleasure for some of its ideas and I even found myself watching Clone Wars and Rebels occasionally on TV. Still, none of that was ever so important to me that I couldn’t have lived without it. Only the recent movies under Disney‘s reign have invigorated my interest in Star Wars as a whole and while you could endlessly debate their Pros and Cons, you have to at least give props to that.

Inevitably of course LEGO always follows suit and churns out kits for every new movie or series to the point where the ideas are so paper-thin and repetitive, it gets in itself boring. That makes it difficult for occasional builders like me to find some good affordable models that are not based on just lumping together a ton of angled black or grey panels. For me being ever conscious about cost out of necessity it’s also an important point that the sets contain parts that could possibly be re-used for later projects and add something new to the collection.

In this case the many cylindrical parts, the fins and several silvery parts fitted the bill and thus I opted for the Jakku Quadjumper (75178) from The Force Awakens.

This particular spacecraft is of course barely seen in the movie itself – it only stands around in the background at Unkar Plutt‘s scrapyard and then is immediately is shot down as Finn and Rey try to reach it as a means of escape. This makes it difficult to judge who realistic it is, but some concept art seems to confirm that within the expected limitations it is a fair rendition. It of course makes almost no sense engineering-wise – those four engines would be real fuel-guzzlers, yet the ship is way too small to hold any notable quantities of propellant – but that’s a different matter entirely.

The set contains the aforementioned movie characters as minifigures plus some generic baddie only described as Unkar‘s henchman, a Stormtrooper and of course BB-8. I don’t have too much use for them, but who knows? If I wait long enough they might be worth a few pennies one of these days.

Construction of the model is pretty straightforward since you essentially build all sub-assemblies separately and then just plug them on to the central cabin part via simple pin connections that match the holes in the cylindrical parts. The center piece is intentionally scruffy looking with parts in multiple colors, but in my opinion it could have looked better had they opted to build the model at a larger scale. It’s also very crammed, furthering the impression that this thing could never actually fly.

The glass canopy and doors/ lids in the front and rear can be opened, though personally I don’t think it makes much sense in terms of realism nor am I friends with those ratcheted mini-hinges. Same as before – if it were larger it would have looked more believable. this theme also continues on the undercarriage, which is just an affair of flat bricks and tiles instead of at least being a bit on stilts/ hydraulic pistons.

My pet peeve is the ugly ball knob that drives a lever as a means of pushing off the upper two engines. Sort of an emergency jettison system, if you get the idea. It works okay, but isn’t particularly convincing. It probably should be spring-loaded and then you could use a simple tap release to have the parts jump away in a snazzy fashion. Yet another of those things that might be worth some re-engineering effort one day.

The engine nacelles are really just a bunch of different cylindrical parts stacked together and then capped off with the silver wheel hubs. The details are again attached via pins, micro-hinges and some SNOT converters, which is sufficient, but not very sturdy. You can even see this in part on the photos – just accidentally touching some parts will misalign them.

This being my first Star Wars-ian model, after all, I’m not as dissatisfied as it may sound, just not perfectly happy, either. This is a nice compact model that can be assembled, handled and stowed away easily, which my LEGO side likes a lot, I just don’t feel that my Star Wars side would see it the same way if I were a “pure” collector.

Most notably the scale is too small to really capture the proportions and allow for a more robust construction, which in turn also might have made for some increased play value by ways of a larger aft bay and cockpit. Not that it’s particularly critical, given that the spacecraft doesn’t even have any significant role in the movie. It’s just that one can’t help but feel that at least for enthusiasts that wanted a good replica of the genuine article it could have been approached differently…

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LEGO is car-wet-dreaming again

It looks like this year’s Technic offerings due in August are going to be as boring as the ones from last year, though presumably at least the Bugatti Chiron just confirmed via some inept “Let’s make it ominously obvious!” marketing video on Facebook will cause some car fetishists wet stains in their undies. I get it – the Porsche (42056) still sells like crazy and LEGO would be foolish to not follow-up with something similar, but to me it’s a boring and predictable cash grab. It only furthers my impression that their focus these days seems to be on expensive collectibles rather than truly playable sets. Of course in the wake of this news came some more discussions on the other new models, but that is a discussion for another time…

Little green Frog – 60181

I don’t usually do LEGO City, but how could I resist this particular little kit? Like it or not, it is way too reminiscent to the 42054 Claas Xerion in the Technic line for anyone at the LEGO headquarters to not lose some sleep because of that. You know, licensing and copyright stuff, possibly.

Lego 60181, Box

Having built the big version, the similarities are striking, though of course anyone would be hard-pressed to prove which Claas tractor model it is actually supposed to represent exactly. Personally I can’t wait to build the big version a second time (with the inevitable improvments and changes) and see both models side by side.

Lego 60181, Overview

While the overall stability is okay, I guess, it seems to me that the cockpit glazing is too easy to accidentally snap off, especially the front part. It would probably have been a good idea to add two of those little curved bits that have those overlapping stairs to add a bit more fixation.

Lego 60181, Left

In my opinion the actual play value is a bit limited. Other than just rolling it around on the floor there’ isn’t much you can do with this model, as the crane unit is also rather fragile and a pain in the rear to open the claws. Arguably, though, the version on the Technic model isn’t that great, either. At least here it looks elegant.

Lego 60181, Front

Though I may be dreaming, I think what really would have helped here is a bit more focus on the tree. I can’t quite figure what you would do with the small “Christmas tree” while on the other hand there’s already a considerable number of cylindrical elements for the stem segments of a chopped down tree. It’s ironic that they didn’t opt for the ribbed version, or I could have created a real long tree trunk with the additional parts from the Technic set. I’m almost tempted to just order more plant parts from Bricklink and build my own little pine/ fir.

Lego 60181, Rear

Naturally, this may be a one-off and I may never add another City model to my collection, but for what it is, this is not the worst model I’ve seen in this kid-oriented series. It’s almost too realistic to fit amongst the other kits there, but clearly I’m not the ultimatte authority on that.

Setting Sail – 42074

Since every second model in Technic (or for that matter in most LEGO series) is some sort of wheel-bound vehicle, I’m always a sucker for a bit variety and alternative designs and so I was immediately a bit giddy when first images of the 42074 Racing Yacht appeared. No, I’m definitely not the naval type (beyond the loose connection of my brother having served in the German Navy), it’s really just about diversity. That and I have definitely developed a taste for the new Dark Azure color. That’s why for the time being I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Lego 42074, Box

In addition, this set has four curved yellow panels, which might come in handy if I ever get around to re-building and MOCing some of my more construction-site-themed older kits plus some other projects that might come along the way. Generally this set is rather colorful, with LEGO seemingly going out of their way to introduce several parts not only in the new azure, but also offering some tried and trusted parts in different colors. This in particular refers to the two types of 3L axle pins, with the male version (previously dark grey) coming in red and the female version in orange (formerly red, black and light gray), see aft section in the image below. It really tickles my visual nerve and makes we want to buy a larger lot of the orange pins. 😉

Lego 42074, Bottom View

In terms of construction none of this is necessary, though, since ultimately the pins are hidden and wouldn’t blend in with the rest of the colors one way or another. the same unfortunately can’t be said for some other places, where red pins and axle connectors peek out. this looks a bit iffy, as the 2L short axle definitely exists in black just like the axle connector exists in light gray and those colors would have been a better choice here.

Lego 42074, Left View

The overall proportions are okay, though these kinds of models that deviate from the trodden path of automobiles always painfully illustrate the lack of genuine large radius Technic panels. It would definitely look much better if there were some curved transition piece between front and aft. Personally I also think the cabin fairings could have been complemented with small yellow no. 21/ 22 shields as a side wall.

I also feel that the model could sit higher on the wheels. Why? It would have allowed to add at least one or two liftarm bricks to the rudder plus possibly some emergency propeller beneath the hull or as an external motor unit. In my view the whole thing looks clipped a bit too high up above the waterline and unless you are playing on a plush carpet, the ship being immersed in water is a hard sell as a play fantasy.

Lego 42074, Right View

Speaking of which – while it’s an acceptable rendition, I feel LEGO these days never does seem to go the full mile when it comes to play value. I’m not in the least tempted to build the B model (the catamaran), because that would have required to throw in more components to mimic the two hulls. Yes, even a catamaran isn’t an affair of two half-shells.

Similarly I feel that it would have been easy enough to through in some rope elements for the railings, perhaps a chain and an anchor, some ladders, flagstaffs or even the safety mesh from the LEGO Friends recreational yacht. You know, all those little details that bring these things to life. It wouldn’t have increased the cost by much, but done a lot to make this more attractive. I honestly don’t get why they always have to be so measly about these things, even more so since those parts exist plentiful in pirate sets and others and should be at hand in the factory without much trouble.

Arguably the same could be said about the sails. I totally understand that it takes time and effort to design and produce these things, being a graphics artist myself, but in a day and age where printing on plastic foil is so common, would it have hurt to throw in another pattern or even a plain white pre-cut foil that could be colorized with suitable felt pens? Now that I think of it, it would have been a wonderful marketing idea – imagine opening the package with a bunch of white sheets and a box of sharpies in it… 😉

Lego 42074, Detail

Mechanically this model is robust enough to withstand stronger handling, though in fact some of that can ironically be attributed to some flimsy connections just as well. That is to say if somethings wriggles out of place, it would either totally fall off and remain undamaged or easy enough to reset in the right position with the rest forming a solid “core”, i.e. the center beams at the bottom and the upper deck. The only point of concern is the long mast that may totally break when your model hits the floor at an unfortunate angle.

The winching mechanism and the steering wheel work just fine, though I’d feel safer if LEGO were more generous and threw in a couple of spare silicone rubberbands. The steering mast also could probably have been constructed using five small cogs to make it a bit less obtrusive. I guess there’s another idea for a simple future MOC here in addition to adding more details.

Regardless of my niggles this is a neat little model for the simple fact that due to its flamboyant color scheme and choice of subject it pretty much stands out in any collection. Sure, it doesn’t bring much new to the table if you are an experienced builder, but it makes for a relaxing and enjoying quick build for an evening with an almost immediate gratification. Also the price is pretty okay, given that now it can be had for slightly above 22 Euros in some online shops. I picked up mine during one of my excursions due to my many medical appointments and paid a bit more, but that’s still okay with me.

A little Surprise – 42057

In our little family it falls onto me to act as the online ordering hub and so it happened that last week I once more scoured Amazon in search of something for my brother and ended up a few Euros short of free shipping. As an adult LEGO builder what do you do? Yepp, you throw in a small model just to avoid having to burn money. As they say: a penny saved is a penny earned and so spending 5 Euros extra to pad out the purchase on a set instead of letting the same amount go to waste seems only logical.

Lego 42057, Box

I opted for set 42057, the little gyrocopter. I didn’t plan to ever purchase it, but now that I have it, I’m actually quite positively surprised. I’ve been an aviation aficionado all my life and to boot, this vehicle is not quite unsimilar to several of the small helicopters/ autogyros seen in several of the James Bond movies. So what’s not to like?

Lego 42057, Left View

The set of course was a very quick and simple evening build, but a welcome and relaxing one, regardless. Many people tend to underestimate the value of these small sets, but in this case it actually has a lot going for it. One of the most important things for me is the varied selection of parts.

As someone who doesn’t have a lot of storage place I’m always carefully weighing the parts you get vs. how useful they may be for later custom builds without ending up with too many redundant or useless parts. No point in having the ump-teenth liftarm in a weird color that you can’t use for anything else but one specific model, if you get my drift. This isn’t the case here and in addition to the standard panels/ shields, connectors, axles, pins, gears and a few liftarms your get a dark grey corner panel (I don’t have one of those in this color yet), the prop blades, a small propeller, a tail fin and a “horns” type steering wheel. It also features two handlebars and, which is nice for me for some of my planned aircraft projects, small and narrow wheels of two types.

Lego 42057, Right View

Once assembled, the whole model is pretty sturdy, though during the build some things are a bit tricky to hold in place temporarily and occasionally one could use a third hand. With the model being a decent scale and not too heavy it offers some great play value to re-enact those scenes from the Bond movies. The second model looks somewhat similar and could represent a prop-driven experimental vehicle with a highly aerodynamic body from one of those “longest duration” contests for solar mobiles or whatever, but I’m probably not going to bother actually building it.

Lego 42057, Bottom View

While this was fun for the most part, there are some minor niggles. For one, I would have much preferred something different for the motor than LEGOs ever same, crappy-looking motor blocks. In reality most of these things run off small boxer motors or gas turbines and I’m sure it would have been possible to include parts for a rendition of one of those. The other thing are the blades of the main rotor. Unfortunately there don’t appear to be some suitable existing parts in the right size, so perhaps it would have been better to include stub-based bricks and tiles to cobble up an imitation.

Overall, though, this is good value for money. The box can be had for slightly over ten Euros and given the wide selection of parts and the good playability, this really is worth every penny. I’m going to come up with something that fixes the issues I criticized, so perhaps you’ll see something pop up around here soon.

Welcome again!

Ah, LEGO‘s legal policies are a wonderful thing, are they not? After having become aware of some more specific caveats (utterly my own fault, I should have researched better and not opened up a site so spontaneously) I decided it would be best to start over to not get into hot water. I made a mess of the structure on the other site already, anyway. So here I am again with a hopefully less conspicuous little blog on all things LEGO that doesn’t set off any alerts in someone’s legal department. Again, apologies for the slight mixup, but I suppose it’s a good thing this was only a few days and no damage is done either way.

Welcome!

Welcome to the latest of my blogs, this time dealing with all things LEGO. Over the past few months I’ve really been getting into it with Technic and now that I’ve got a reasonable collection of sets and parts I plan on moving on to some advanced stuff like adding larger modifications and improving perhaps some things while sharing my ideas and discoveries with the world. I find doing so on my own blog more satisfying than on Facebook or elsewhere for a number of reasons.

The first is of course full control over my own content, taking my own sweet time to get things done and not being dependent on somebody elses whims. So sometimes you might find me flooding this place with tons of photos documenting my latest progress, other times it may be quiet for longer periods.

The second, and to me almost more important point is freedom of speech. Yepp, it shouldn’t be necessary, but I feel that in many established LEGO communities there is some sort of sick (self-)censorship, where things like Chinese knock-offs or leaks of the latest set announcements cannot be discussed with the necessary leeway.

There always seems to be an innate fear of LEGO coming down on someone with a copyright strike or withdrawing their endorsements and benefits like free stuff, so no matter where you turn, there’s always some “eager beaver” deleting posts, kicking users out of groups or otherwise making life difficult. I hope to at least avoid that here and occasionally offer some news and comments that may be not welcome elsewhere.

As for the page itself – I made a rather spontaneous decision to open it up, so everything is still in flux. Things may change and some stuff may be confusing, but I’ll keep working on it and straighten everything out in time.