Twice the V, twice the Fun? – LEGO Creator Vespa 125 (10298) and Vespa (40517)

I try to adhere to my self-imposed 50 Euro limit when it comes to LEGO sets due to my limited finances, but occasionally I find myself coveting certain packages so much that I’m willing to disobey my own rules even if it isn’t always easy. The Vespa 125 (10298) was one such set as it just looked good and the Bright Light Blue color was extremely appealing to me, especially given that for my taste LEGO are using it way too rarely, anyway.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Box

Rather cleverly LEGO pulled off a double-strike on the whole matter and also released a significantly smaller version of the Vespa (40517), this time in Red. I would not necessarily have bought it had they designed it differently, but again this one has some pretty clever parts usage and just looked excellent so I had to get it, not just for the purpose of this article.

LEGO Creator, Vespa (40517), Box

Contents and Pricing

The large version of the Vespa comes in at 1106 pieces and a suggested retail price of 100 Euro. Since many of the elements are larger than average and at the same time there’s really not too many 1 x 1 plates and similar that already would be a good and fair price. Being on a budget I’m of course always on the lookout for discounts and I was almost ready to buy this for around 75 Euro when rather unexpectedly an even better offer came along. During a special “LEGO Week” promo of one of our large German online retailers I was able to pick it up for a mere 63 Euro, representing a 37 percent discount from the original price. That’s hard to dismiss as nothing, so I even postponed some other LEGO purchases that week in May just to be able to afford this and not over-stretch my budget. Currently the price is back hovering at around 72 Euro at the cheapest outlets, which means that even if you missed out or lack the patience to wait for a next promotion you can get it for a reasonable price.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Overview

The small Red version is really not worth making much of a fuss about. For now it is exclusive to LEGO stores and their online shop, essentially nixing any debate about price. Even if that wasn’t the case, at 10 Euro and how nice it looks it’s almost a steal. The 118 pieces are put to good use and the model feels “weighty”, meaning it has enough complexity and volume to not feel like you have been overcharged. Undeniably it would likely go down to 7 Euro in free retail, but for once I feel that even I wouldn’t be concerned to much if it still cost full price.

The Big One

The big version of the Vespa is indeed quite a large lady and comes in at around 35 cm length, 22 cm height and 13 cm width at its broadest section thanks to the “hips”, i.e. the aft wheel covers. For me quite a surprise, as naturally most sets I build have way fewer elements and result in smaller models. You really have to make room for that one if you want to keep it around for display. In particular the height will be an issue, given that it surpasses most much “flatter” car models.

Thankfully the construction process is nicely modularized, which certainly is advantageous for a person like me who struggles to concentrate beyond a certain amount of time and often just wants to put away the LEGO after a while because I’m too tired and exhausted from my illness or something else gets in the way. So yes, I stretched this out across three evenings separated by extra days inbetween, though in fairness you could probably build it in four to five hours in a single sweep if you’re a quick builder.

The assembly starts out with the main trunk of the aft section, which in itself is made up of three separately built blocks which then click together using clips and hinges. This is a very straightforward process with bricks and plates being stacked conventionally for the most part. The only difficulty during this phase is that some elements are only attached by a few studs on either side to provide the hollow space for the wheels in the middle and tend to “cave in” until you fixate them with plates and tiles on top bridging the chasm. In addition, some of the sideways studs you integrate don’t feel very logical as they are only required much, much later. I also would recommend you pay more attention than I did to really pressing the different blocks together for minimal gaps. This is difficult to rectify later as one tends to push other elements out of location, increasing the gap size, while trying to fix one problem area.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Front ViewThe second phase focuses on the front shield and steering column and admittedly feels a bit repetitive and boring due to having to build basically the same shapes twice, just in a mirrored arrangement. This extremely benefits from the new 5 x 5 round corner plate introduced only this year or else they’d likely have had to piece it together from multiple straight elements attached at an angle or arrays of e.g. the 6 x 3 arch. One thing I found totally unnecessary and disappointing were the two yellow modified tiles. Yes, they would be hidden behind the spare wheel, but what if you want to display the model like this? They really should have gone with Light Bluish Grey and if you feel like I do you should fix this right away with some spares from your own stock.

At the aft of the vehicle there’s a small cargo rig/ baggage holder and this being based around the variant from the 1960s it would not be much more than a simple construction with bent tubes and wire, reinforced with fiber board or plywood at the bottom. This is nicely captured here with some bars, droid arms and tiles and while it merely is affixed by a single hinge, the design is such that the angled lower bars perfectly stop when touching the body. a clever solution, if not immediately obvious. Of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the whole thing to be actual Metallic Silver or at least Flat Silver, but I guess that’s too much to expect.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), CrateThe flowers packed in the wooden crate are based on a re-color of the crown/ cracked egg shell element and this nicely illustrates what potential uses it could have if LEGO ever considered doing more colors. In fact I would have loved if they had included an alternate color set in Bright Pink, Dark Pink or Dark Red and possibly some in White so one could create different variations of “tulips”. Similarly, it could have been fun to include a few more bricks to build food items like a wine bottle in transparent green and some fruit like a sprig of grapes, a melon or even the stereotypical pizza box and ciabatta bread.

A small gag item is provided with a buildable helmet. It nicely captures the very symmetrical dome like appearance from that time and is all in all done well enough and very efficiently. The crux however is that there’s just no good place to put it on the scooter. It doesn’t really just want to hang from the steering bar on its own accord (you can, but it falls off with the slightest movement), but there’s no dedicated storage compartment for it, either, like it is common on newer models. In a pinch it would probably be best to just ditch it if you can’t find a good way to place it on your shelf/ showcase next to the main model.

The detail on the model is meticulous and often only could be improved by pieces that LEGO doesn’t have – like more inverted tiles to cover the undersides of elements – or that they only produce very selectively such as Metallic Silver tiles for the edge trim Outside that the sheer number of elements that they’ve recolored in Bright Light Blue is just stunning and they’re put to good use. Of particular not here are the container and inverted wedge used in an upside-down manner to form the center of the steering bar and headlight housing. The right-hand-side has a small clutch lever and there’s a 2 x 2 round tile for the tank hatch between the two seats whose origins go back to the LEGO Ideas Voltron (21311) set.

The seats themselves are one of those “Okay, but…” things. The Dark Blue “leather” cannot be faulted and is actually accurate to models of this era according to references, but there are some apparent problems. For one, there’s that mess with the uneven coloring. More on that further down. Two, despite being correct, the color does not scale well. To me the contrast just looks weird and it would have to be more on the black-ish side or – which is perhaps the better idea – would have had to have some secondary color to create contrasting seam bands. That also brings us to the third point: The seats are extremely bulky and not very elegant. If you look up photos of the original they’re more like thin wafers pressed into shape with a distinct attachment and damping mechanism similar to bicycle seats.

The wheels are another area where LEGO surprisingly went out of their way. Not only did they again recolor a huge number elements for the housing, but they created an entirely new tire type and matching wheel hub. the latter is dual-molded to create the illusion of white wall tires. The downside to that is that the actual rim and tread is very flat and does not sit particularly firmly on the hub. It can be pushed out of the recess easily. For a mere display model that is certainly not a big issue, but those tires would be useless of they needed to work like real ones because there is almost no grip and the treads would just slip on the hubs. The right side of the front wheel is one of the few areas where some Technic pieces are exposed and by necessity also had to be tinted in Bright Light Blue. Here you also find a completely new piece for the suspension and shock absorber. While it’s premiering in this set, I’m pretty sure it will make its way into more upcoming ones.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Left Side View

Understandably, the “ugly” parts have to go somewhere and that is the underside. It reveals a lot about how some things are constructed and it also exposes some of the optical illusions going on like the aft wheel housings being quite offset from the actual wheel and the wheel being mounted on a rigid center frame rather than a swinging mechanism as it would be on the original. The kick stand is essential, as similar to a real scooter the model does not stand stably on its own just on the wheels.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Bottom View

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Engine HousingThe two wheel fairings are a bit of a delicate thing due to their hollowed out construction and the aft large shell/ wedge piece not having too many attachment points due to how it was originally designed. When you take these things off, you should always try to grab them in the front with the large 4 x 4 quarter domes. The right side hides a small motor imitation with the typical large fan/ momentum wheel. As you well know I never use stickers, so yes, that is the single printed piece on the entire model you see there.You can also see the kick starter.

The left housing does not hold any surprises. Removing the cover only shows the three main blocks of the aft section I spoke about earlier.

Color me baaaddd…

One thing that’s really bothersome, especially for such a slightly more expensive offering, are the inconsistencies in the coloring. This problem is pervasive throughout many LEGO sets and has persisted over many years without the company ever getting a handle on it. Of course it is clear why and how this happens – with millions of different types of the individual bricks being produced in separate batches across multiple factories around the globe, some inconsistencies are inevitable, but man, sometimes it’s just really bad. This is also the case here, which is even more disappointing as many of the parts have been manufactured for the first time in the Bright Light Blue color specifically for this set.

It is also particularly baffling because the variations can clearly be seen with the naked eye, especially under direct daylight. Don’t they have Color Assessment Boxes and spectrometers in their factories or is this particular part of Quality Management/ Quality Assurance (QM/ QA) only stuffed with elderly people with visual impairments? Point in case: If I can see those variations under average conditions in my poorly lit kitchen, I definitely would expect them to see this, too and not let such glaring deviations pass, even if some of them are inherent in the production process like in-machine mixing of base materials and pigment grains.

The arrows show the most egregious offenders which (at least in my package) are:

  • a grey-ish shift on some 1 x 1 brackets along with a white-yellowish discoloration on the 1 x 3 tiles (not just on the front shield, but also in other places they are used)
  • an uneven discoloration on some of the curved plates on the wheel housings causing recognizable strips of lighter shades
  • the wedges at the tops of the wheel housings having a slight yellow-ish tinge, shifting them

There are a few more locations, but many of them are actually hidden under the covers or the “flow” of the surface is interrupted by gaps or other elements, so they visually disappear based on the context.

Dark colors tend to expose the issue even more and while Dark Blue may not be as notorious as the million shades of Dark Red in some sets, it feels particularly bad this time around. This is due to how the bricks are used to form flat surfaces for the seats and spare tire cover. It would be a lot less visible if there was more structure like actual rounded edges, which in itself of course is a point: The shaping on the real vehicle is much more complex and you’d need to use wedges and curved slopes on the model to even come close to it.

The real stinker here is that not only should these color issues not occur in the first place, but that somehow through utter ineptitude they are unable to resolve this. I requested replacement parts for a few of the critical areas and what did they send me? Yes, the exact same problematic pieces. It really wants to make you *facepalm* hard and the slap sound shall be echoing through the universe forever…

The Little One

The small version is just called Vespa in the most generic sense and unlike the large model isn’t pinned to a specific period. As such it could represent anything from classic era models to the modern electrical drive versions of this iconic scooter and on top of it would be an appropriate representation of many similar scooters from competitors that drew major inspiration from the Vespa or copycatted it outright. In any case, it certainly allows for a very broad interpretation and looks distinct enough, yet quite different at the same time.

Similar to the bigger version this little red gem benefits from a few new curved/ rounded pieces that have come out in the last few months or else it would look slightly more angular and the proportions would be different. The most notable items are the round corner pieces used on the front wheel’s housing and the “shoe” slopes I spend some time exploring in my Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184) review. Both elements make their first appearance in Red in this set, though they’ll soon enough found in others as well.

The building techniques used in this model aren’t nowhere near as elaborate and fancy as on the huge version, so this is a very quick build of half an hour or less. It’s the perfect little set you can build on an evening after a stressful day and it will just relax you and give you a good feeling.

LEGO Creator, Vespa (40517), Front View

Concluding Thoughts

It’s interesting that LEGO have been able to actually produce two excellent models of the same subject in different scales. That is so unlike them and you’d totally expect them to still screw up at least one just because they are who they are (as a company, not the actual model designers). This makes for an enjoyable experience all round. There is little doubt in my mind that you definitely should pick up the small version on your next trip to a LEGO store. It’s really a no-brainer.

The large Vespa is a bit of a different story. It’s worrisome that a company that constantly brags about being the market leader does not get a handle on their color consistency issues even on a new set where they had to produce a ton of pieces explicitly. That’s why I would be very picky about what I pay for it. Since it’s available via regular retail that gives you some options and the funny thing is that you could even be lucky and get a perfectly fine package from a different production batch just by chance.

On the whole this has been a very good experience, small complaints notwithstanding. I would definitely recommend these two sets, assuming you are even remotely interested in this sort of vehicle.