Hidden Ghosts, Visible Disappointment

It’s that time of year where we’re hit with news about soon-to-be-released new LEGO sets basically every day and while I don’t consider my little blog a news site and try not to flood it with the nonsensical trivialities of LEGO‘s marketing, I feel I need to say a few words on yesterday’s reveal of the first wave of 2020 Hidden Side sets (images and info here for instance) simply because I like the series it so much. That is, until now. And there’s the rub.

If you care to look at the images via the link or your very own favorite news page (they all have them, of course), you might feel a sense of being let down like I did. Compared to the first wave, the second outing sure feels underwhelming. It’s unimaginative, to say the least, and all too obviously some models have been stripped down to the bare minimum again, making their subject barely recognizable. The latter category is most notably presented by the Newbury Subway Station (70430). It’s tunnel and quay are literally just two-brick deep facades. The Lighthouse of Darkness (70431) doesn’t fare much better with it looking like a scaffolding structure with some panels shimmied on.

Finally there’s the so-called Ghost Fair (70432), which to me feels like a rehash of the all too similar Unikitty set from two years ago or for that matter any of the roller-coaster-ish sets, be that the Creator 3in1 pirate-themed version or the one in the Friends boardwalk fun fair. Point in case: They may be relatively large in terms of area they occupy, but without a wealth of extra parts to build additional attractions and landscapes around them the literally look like someone just dumped some old rusty railway tracks in the middle of nowhere. It’s one of those things where I tend to think “Why even bother if you’re not willing to go the full mile?”.

The rest is just as unimpressive. Given that we already have a pick-up truck by ways of El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) there was no reason to already revisit the topic with Jack’s Beach Buggy (70428). Conversely, even now as I’m writing this, there’s still the air show plane from the Friends series available as is the Creator 3in1 stunt plane. Aside from specifics like color scheme and figures there is literally no good excuse for El Fuego’s Stunt Airplane (70429) to even exist at this point.

The only halfway original set it turns out will be the Hidden Side Portal (70427). Not so much because it would be extraordinary in design or construction, but it appears to introduce a new spin on the theme and possibly a new play mechanic for the associated game. All that said, of course I’m still going to get at least some of the sets to scavenge them for parts. After all, there are several unique re-colors for some pieces that weren’t available before. Still, I’m not going to jump at it and will take my time until I get a good price so the economics add up.

That’s also going to be true for the new Speed Champion sets (images here) as well, I’m afraid. For unfathomable reasons LEGO decided that it would be a good idea to bring out more dual sets featuring two cars at the same time and along with the switch from 6 studs wide to 8 studs making the models larger and requiring a few more pieces plus a general price hike this turns what should be good fodder for spontaneous casual into a genuine investment. I dare say that this isn’t a smart move and as some have pointed out it indeed feels like they are trying to dump unattractive secondary models on customers that only want that other hot one. We have to see how that works out…

Grey Beauty – LEGO Speed Champions McLaren Senna (75892)

I’m not a car person by any stretch of the imagination.The subject doesn’t particularly interest me to the point where I couldn’t tell cars apart if their names and logos weren’t on them. Therefore this review of the LEGO Speed Champions McLaren Senna (75892) will be solely based on my perception of the model and some quick looks at photos on the Internet, not an endless discussion about technical details and accuracy compared to the realworld item.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Box

The set first piqued my interest when the new line-up of sets for 2019 was announced last November. I almost instantaneously liked the orange and dark grey color scheme. This made it easy to decide pro the model, as elements in those colors can be used almost universally on a lot of other builds once the model would be disassembled. It also helped a lot that there’s a good number of newer parts like the curved wedge slopes or even the white arched tiles on the fan.

All this can be had for slightly above 10 Euro in some places, but actually even the full price of 15 Euro is more than okay, given that there are more than 200 parts. Some are larger ones like the wheel wells and canopy, but naturally the majority are smaller pieces. What really adds the value is their uniqueness and the fact that some of those parts only are available in other, more expensive sets otherwise. So for me as a parts scavenger this is really good bang for the buck. Of course if you just want to build the model and keep it around as a collectible item this won’t matter much to you.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Overview

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Fan Front View As much as I love the set, there is a bit ofLEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Fan Back View a shadow looming in what I would call a completely squandered opportunity. That is of course the wind tunnel. I totally dig the idea, but not how it has been rendered here quite half-assed. The point is that shooting advertising photos of cars in wind tunnels (or alternatively in coating/ drying chambers) is totally a thing due to the unique lighting conditions in these specialized rooms and a good few parts of the surroundings being blank metal or various shades of white and grey, providing interesting reflections and a stylish cleanroom look. That being the case, it would of course have made for an awesome little vignette to place the car in such scenario. Granted, it would have easily doubled the price of the set due to the extra parts, but it would just have been cool. As it is, the simple frame with the propeller doesn’t do much for me, but I’ll gladly take the white tiles for rounded window frames on other projects at least. Really too bad…

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Left View

The car itself is pretty elaborate and uses quite some interesting techniques to render the details. Some of that trickery is however dependent on using stickers, so forgive for not having used them and the car perhaps not looking as good as it could otherwise. One spot where this becomes a glaring issue are the doors, more specifically the lower parts which on the real car have the same color as the rest of the body, but with a specific transparent window area. On the model this is in fact another windshield element used upside down, locked in place by the upper canopy and some plates and bricks around it. Quite ingenious!

The proportions overall look okay, but are limited by the standard six stud wide construction. It looks a bit narrow from certain angles and perhaps should be just that bit wider like on most of these super cars. Unfortunately it seems in this case this would mean something like two thirds of a stud or at most a single stud and that in turn would presumably cause a ton of issues with symmetry and parts usage, so more or less one will have to accept the decision to go this route.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Front View

One thing that still puzzles me is the actual color of the orange parts. Apparently the livery represented in the set is a special edition (if the word “special” even has any meaning left when the baseline model already costs a few million) and on images it looks to be neither genuinely orange nor yellow, but more like a bumped up version of LEGO‘s own Bright Light Orange/ Flame Yellowish Orange shifted even more to the orange-y side. It’s really hard to pin down, as every image looks different depending on the lighting conditions. It’s unsatisfactory, so I only accept it with a few reservations. Chances are, though, that unless I see it for real myself I’ll never know for sure. Guess how likely that is to happen… 😉

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Right View

Another interesting technique are the front lights, which actually use Nexo Knights broad axe blades and yes, they are in Trans Neon Orange even. in the strictest sense, though, it’s more of a visual cue to hint at the flat, wing-like headlights than an actual representation of the real situation in this area. Personally I likely would just have wedged in rounded plates or tiles, so this is an interesting example of lateral thinking and a valuable lesson for inspiration.

The rear end uses the Nexo spear heads to similar effect for the respective lights. This isn’t quite as new, as the same approach has been used for a variety of purposes from simulating Ninjago dragon eyes to all sorts of glowing light elements, but this makes it no less effective. The spoiler and aft section themselves are reasonably complex and detailed, though the many black parts make it hard to discern details from a certain distance.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Senna (75892), Aft View

Within the limitations of the Speed Champions line like the need to keep all cars to almost the same scale and combined with my own ignorance I would call this model an all out success. It looks nice and if I were into it, I’d not be ashamed to put it on my collector’s shelf. More importantly to me however it illustrates a certain sophistication of the design and construction. It’s wondrous how many clever tricks have been squeezed into this single small model. For that I give at a big thumbs up. I thoroughly enjoyed building this and it looks the part…