Da Bond’s (DB) Five – LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin DB5 (76911)

Even if you’re not a fan, it would be hard to be completely unaware of the cultural phenomenon that is the James Bond movies. Even back when I was a child in East Germany in the 1980s it was hard to escape them and we watched the films in terrible quality via terrestrial reception on Western TV on a black and white TV. That inevitably also means that I hold dear a few of the more cheesy older movies from that era like Octopussy, but I also like several others and there can no be denying that Daniel Craig was the best Bond of them all. Strangely enough I can’t really get behind most of the Sean Connery ones, though, and think they are massively overrated. anyway, which version of the suave agent you prefer is of course entirely a matter of your own preference.

A staple of these movies have been the cars and while there have been many different ones over the years, the original Aston Martin DB5 has appeared and reappeared over and over again, including the most recent No Time to Die. That provided the opportunity for LEGO to sink their teeth into creating a brick build model and after a bigger one two years ago we now also got one in the Speed Champions line with set 76911.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin DB5 (76911), Box

Contents and Pricing

Regrettably, LEGO once again have raised prices and so now even a simple Speed Champions set like this one will set you back 25 Euro. On paper this still sounds good enough for 298 pieces, but one must not forget that primarily you’re still dealing with a lot of 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 elements. In terms of the (perceived) volume of stuff we’re getting pretty close to this becoming a bad deal. Fortunately, and in some way this shows that the designers put their heart into it, this is offset further in this specific case by many new parts. This does not only include the usual printed parts, but also a bunch of exclusive wheel caps to emulate classic spoked wheels and a new type of canopy plus there’s a large number of  Metallic Silver tiles.

The minifigure is the man, the myth, the legend himself – Mr. Bond, but it’s very unspecific and not particularly recognizable in terms of which actor it is supposed to represent. If you feel like it, you can of course you can see him as Daniel Craig from the most recent movies, but to me a better match is George Lazenby from the  ill-fated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In the end it doesn’t really matter that much and you could even imagine this to be just a generic character. One thing that seems like a very obvious oversight or omission is the non-inclusion of a Martini glass. Given that this piece has been available for two years now it should have been an easy decision. It would have made the minifig so much cooler.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin DB5 (76911), Overview

Despite the price raise you can count on retail discounts and indeed I recently saw this package being sold for slightly above 14 Euro just like when the MSRP was 20 Euro. I had gotten mine for those 20 Euro because I wanted to be reasonably quick with my review and not wait too long, but as of now the average is somewhere around 17 Euro.

Sticker Conundrum

While I can fully accept that not everything can be printed on brick built models (it’s not just an issue of cost but also actual manufacturing capacity), I’m still not friends with the extensive or even excessive use of stickers. This is even more the case for such a prestigious model like the DB5. The most glaring WTF? moment is that not even the elements holding the company logo (here a 1 x 2 slope and a 1 x 2 tile) are printed. Furthermore not a single of the number plates comes as a printed version. I mean it’s good to have the option to pick from multiple variants as used in different films and they even included the extra 1 x 3 tiles for quick changes, but overall for us lazy types there should at least be one print.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin DB5 (76911), Stickers

A big stinker with the stickers is the incorrect color. As a graphics artist of course I have an eye for this and can’t unsee it, but even as someone with no such experience you can see the difference. The stickers are slightly warmer in color temperature, meaning the grey is a bit more yellowish/ brownish when holding one of the Light Bluish Grey pieces next to it. What makes this even weirder is the fact that LEGO could have done this without any of the grey color and just printed the White and Black on transparent film. There’s literally no other color that would have necessitated a background fond.

The Car

This model is LEGO‘s second attempt at a DB5. The first one, the big James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (10262), quickly became the Internet’s laughingstock. Not only did LEGO have the audacity to try and fool everyone into thinking it would be actual silver with some tweaked lighting and photo touch-ups, but also was the front looking anything but correct.  Here in Germany references to the Trabant 500 were common. The proportions just weren’t right, everything was too straight and then those terrible “googly eyes” for the headlights. They really screwed this one up. Thankfully things have changed and right from the start one can say that this smaller Speed Champions rendition is the better, more realistic version.

Even at a superficial glance the model looks pretty gorgeous right out of the gate. Everything just seems right and you can really feel the “classic British car” vibe with a bit of heavy, conservative design, but also a certain unmistakable elegance. A first disappointment is the non-matching color of the printed canopy piece. I can bluntly say that this is just sooooo lame of LEGO to create a new part design and mold and then not invest in the manufacturing process. The problem here is pretty clearly and unsurprisingly the lack of opacity and thus the light not fully reflecting off it while at the same time the black interior exposes the transparency and makes things look darker. This definitely would have needed a second coat of paint or a white underprint.

I understand that they are doing it to not get into alignment issues when two stamps need to hit the same area or else they’d end up with a ton of rejects that don’t pass QA, but at the end of the day it’s one of those “Why should I care?” things. If they have to put up an extra worker or develop a super fancy machine that checks alignment this with a ton of cameras before applying the second layer I don’t know that it should matter to me as a customer. It’s not like LEGO is cheap to begin with, you know, and they definitely ought to have the money for such an investment. This is one of those points where there highly optimized automated production has gone one step too far in the wrong direction and they need to fix it.

In contrast to some other Speed Champions those last two years the construction techniques used on this car are pretty ordinary. It’s to a large extent based on stacking elements from bottom to top with not too many sideways building moments except where you would expect them like the rear lights. Those are printed on a new 1 x 2 tile with rounded corners, matching the similarly shaped plates. A weak point are the various silver tile elements. Many of them are only held by one or two studs and you kind of wedge them between other elements. This is a somewhat fragile solution that’s okay for a showcase model, but would be terrible for a play car. To some degree that’s also true for the Pearl Silver horns mimicking the mounting points for the front and rear bumper. They’re attached to bar holders under the car and move around. You have to pay attention to alignment to make things look good.

The thing that broke the camel’s back on the big model is also still the most critical area on this small one. It is markedly better, but still incorrect as the cooling intake grate isn’t flush with the hood’s edge and the area isn’t curved accordingly. This is one of those things where I wish LEGO had invested in designing a new slope or wedge piece. In a way they of course have done so by introducing the 1 x 1 quarter dome elements with the headlights printed on, but there’s no counterpart on the inside for a really smooth transition. Those domes are built on top of another new piece, BTW. The cooling intake is another of those wedged in constructs, but since it fits the gap tightly, there is no risk of it falling out. you only notice the loose parts when touching it and they move slightly.

The interior is generously large and would allow to place a full quartet of figures in it, so you can re-create any such scenarios from the films, be that Moneypenny sharing a passenger seat or a bad guy tied up on the rear bench. It’s just too bad that Bond‘s car has a Black interior indeed even in the movies, so we’re getting another model that exploits the “black hole” illusion and thus can pass on more details and prints.

Concluding Thoughts

It is probably fair to say that this is one of those rare “essential” sets that you can’t avoid buying one way or the other simply because it offers something for everyone. Fans of the movies will want it just as a small memento of their love for them. Car fans will want it, because the DB5 is so iconic. Even people like me who always have the later usage of the parts on their mind rather than filling up their showcase will love it because of the many interesting pieces. The many Metallic Silver tiles alone are a major bonus. I really can barely imagine anyone not wanting this except for kids that are too young to have seen the James Bond movies.

The design is of course not without flaws and once again it would have made a good impression if LEGO had designed a bunch of new curved slopes/ wedges to get a more correct shape on the front. At the same time the staggering quality issues really get on my nerves. Considering that LEGO still bill themselves as a premium toy manufacturer, those color differences on the stickers and the rear canopy piece are simply not acceptable. They basically negate all goodwill on display with the custom wheel covers, the other silver parts or for that matter having included a new canopy mold in the first place. It’s like they were hoping that users would just be glad this model exists at all and forgive any production flaws.

Despite those issues I would still recommend this set, but as always pay attention to getting a good price. At full price the metrics just don’t add up (unless you are a collector who doesn’t mind) as ultimately this is a very simple model where the main cost driver clearly are the exclusive printed and metal-coated parts and the new molds introduced with it/ created for it. Ironically, just a bit more of that could perhaps fixed the biggest shortcoming, the hood, and made this a near perfect set…