Looking back in…?

…Frustration? Anger? Bliss? All of them? End-of-Year summaries are a difficult thing and where LEGO is concerned, I sure have a bag of mixed feelings. So how was this year? Good? Bad? Terrible? Awesome? The answer is likely: “All of the above.”, so let me explain.

Personally I’m not that unhappy within the restrictions that I have to work within, anyway, meaning smaller, not too expensive sets. There indeed have been a number of good sets like my favorite Deep Sea Creatures (31088), a couple of excellent LEGO Friends sets that for once forewent the kitsch in favor of more palatable realism, a few surprising Star Wars models and even some of the The LEGO Movie 2 stuff was quite good. I also got a bit into Harry Potter and the new Hidden Side series also was surprisingly good.

On the other hand there has been a lot of frustratingly bad stuff in the same series I mentioned just as well. On top of that LEGO keep screwing around with Ideas by “improving” the sets in the opposite direction and over-optimizing them and this year has ruined Technic for me for good. Aside from the big and expensive showy models there is not much left there that would pique my interest. The smaller models are often just an embarrassment with their flimsy engineering. If that wasn’t enough, there’s that thing with a still barely functioning Control+/ PoweredUp system that gets stuffed into boxes with no rhyme or reason and makes models unnecessarily expensive for very limited return value.

On that note and on a more generic level I feel that the rift between relatively costly sets and the lower end is also growing. There’s definitely a dichotomy between pretty well-executed, large but expensive sets and many relatively lackluster packages in other price ranges. In addition it seems that LEGO are just trying too hard too see what they can get away with. There’s no way around it: Many sets feel unjustly overpriced and if it wasn’t for the magic powers of a free market regulating itself, i.e. discounts being available, this would be one heck of an expensive hobby/ special interest.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem LEGO haven’t learned that lesson yet and as the first previews for 2020 indicate, we’re in for another round of sets where you wonder how they even arrived at some of the rather ridiculous prices. That in itself could be considered a statement and what bugs me about the whole matter that they just don’t seem to care. In fact a lot of this customer squeezing has a somewhat desperate undertone and one can’t help but feel that things aren’t as rosy as the company will have you believe. Now it’s of course pure speculation, but there are some signs that things didn’t go their way this year.

First, of course The LEGO Movie 2 was an epic fail. In Hollywood movie terms it was a bomb and didn’t break even, which in turn of course affected sales of the sets associated with the film. A second wave was only rolled out reluctantly in August and just before Christmas all the remaining sets were shoved out in a sale with crazy discounts. That and just at the same time Warner Bros. not extending their deal and the development shifting over to Universal. Cynically one could say that a tainted property was dumped at a different outlet in the hopes of producing tons of cheap movies.

Another big bummer also right in time for the end of the year is of course the acquisition of Bricklink. This also fits the pattern of a company perhaps not doing so great trying to control the market. No matter what, it’s just bad for the AFOL community at large and repercussions are already felt only a few weeks after the announcements with major changes to sales policies affecting what can be found on there.

All things considered this may not have been an outright terrible year, but some of what has happened just feels unsavory and a few things have been set in motion that just don’t feel right. So far it also doesn’t seem that we will be off to a good start in 2020 and that is just as much reason for concern. There will still be plenty to buy and to cover on this very blog and I’m more than certain that just like this year we will get some more announcements every now and then, but overall excitement on my end is limited for the time being…

Rigid Green and Black – 42077 B-Model MOC

When I wrote my review of the Technic Rally Car set (42077) I already mentioned that I almost like the B-model, the sand/ dune buggy, better than the main model and was thinking about how to fix some of its issues, so now here we are and I can present you with my solutions.

First let’s have look at some cosmetic changes, though. As I also mentioned in my article, I wasn’t particularly fond of the overall coloring. I have nothing against Red just as I have nothing against Dark Azur, but the disproportionately excessive use of both colors on the model is still a bit of an eyesore. That’s why I decided I would change it eventually early on. Of course the limiting factor is the availability of the parts in respective colors. An easy fix would have been to throw in some Orange parts, which go nicely together with the Dark Azur. I, however, was aiming for something a bit more exclusive and at some point settled on an overall Black model with some Bright Green trim elements.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Overview

As it turned out this was an almost genius stroke of luck, mainly because indeed the extra Black and Bright Green parts were easy to procure and so cheap, I’m almost ashamed to admit it. Apparently there are still a lot of the green parts floating about from the 24h Racer (42039), yet there seems to be little demand for them, so in turn prices are low. The black parts are not quite that cheap, but still very affordable. Either way, I’m not complaining as I’m always on a tight budget. Of course you can try out other combinations and the recent release of the Bugatti Chiron (42083) would possibly even allow you to build a real “classy” buggy in Dark Blue with contrasting wings and “leather” seats in Dark Tan from its parts.

The yellow wheel hubs can be sourced from the infamous 6×6 All Terrain Tow Truck (42070) or the old Volvo LF 350 (42030) and I also had just enough yellow angled liftarms in my stash to match the seats. Primarily I opted for Yellow because the shock absorbers already are in that color and are very visible on the car. On the other hand – when you add more color you have to get rid of it elsewhere or else your model looks like a flamboyant parrot. Therefore I threw out as many Red parts as possible. A few are still in there due to the fact that I didn’t rebuild the set from scratch, but rather replaced the components step by step on the original build and didn’t want to disassemble it further.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Side View

Replacing the “tubing” from the cage/ stabilizing frame is perhaps the biggest hiccup you will encounter during the build. Ever since LEGO decided to color code axles (Red and Black for even-numbered lengths, Yellow and Light Bluish Grey for odd ones) you are limited to those four colors and have to make do. In the upper section I could of course have gone with Black, but that would have eliminated every bit of contrast. So I opted for Light Bluish Grey instead. This has the unfortunate side-effect of the frame with the flashlights on it to be one unit shorter. thankfully, however, the lower section of the framework it is connected to is a bit of a cheat and only held together by flexible joints, so it can adapt and will only slightly change in angle.

An unresolved mystery is replacing the 16L Steering Link axles. Since they have ever only been included in a handful of sets in Light Bluish Grey they are rare as gold and prohibitively expensive even in used condition. Plugging together some suitable alternatives from shorter axles and connectors therefore is a lot less painful and when done in a thoughtful way it doesn’t looks that bad. The same goes for the windscreen frame.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Front

Getting to the juicier bits, naturally it’s not all about looks One of the things that really teed me off on the original LEGO model was the sloppy construction of the front hood as laid out near the end of my original article. Treading the fine line between wanting to improve the model, but also not wanting to spend an eternity redesigning the entire chassis I went with a simple solution that is so obvious, it makes you wonder why the LEGO designers didn’t use it. Perhaps it eluded them, perhaps they were under the gun and not allowed to use more parts, perhaps something else. Either way, looking at it, it is an almost ridiculously easy fix. The only caveat is that undeniably it changes the appearance drastically and the whole section now looks a bit like the Caterham Seven‘s (21307) front.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Aft Section Closed

The original aft section of the model uses the Technic mudguard/ wheel well panel as a shortcut for simplified construction, but due to my color choice and this part not existing in Black currently I needed to completely change this area. The benefits should be pretty clear. By eliminating this element completely from the equation, it frees you up creatively. You are no longer bound and limited to colors that have it, which is great. Additionally, the newly constructed hood closes seamlessly, making this much more believable as an engine compartment.

Personally I also think that a plain flat area is much more credible for a vehicle that drives around on beaches and similar locations. You could strap an inflatable boat, a rolled up tent, a bunch of sleeping bags, your surf board, fishing equipment or any number of other things to the flat platform.LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Aft Section Open

Most importantly, though, all of these changes make the whole affair a lot more rigid, both at the front and rear ends of the car. I’m not going to say that it’s stiff as a brick, but compared to the wobbly mess that the original construction is, I’d consider it a major improvement. Point in case: It may not be relevant for a display model, but if you ever plan on adding a motor and RC the greater stiffness will pay massive dividends.

Since all of this is hard to explain and also not easy to recognize by some simple photos, especially when everything is black, I have gone through the trouble of creating custom instructions. There are a few things you need to keep in mind, however:

  • I did not re-create the entire instructions and only the parts that actually require modifications are shown.
  • The build steps are more of a suggestion than a fixed order. They show you how things are supposed to work, but implementing the changes may require some fiddling.
  • Similar to the previous point, adding the modifications may require to disassemble the existing model, at least in part.
  • Color choices are based on my customized model. Feel free to use whatever you have at hand, especially in the internal areas that may not be visible from the outside.
  • Some extra parts (liftarms, panels, axles) not included in the original kit are required.

The instructions in PDF format can be downloaded by clicking on the image or the link below it:

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, MOC, Instructions Cover

LEGO Technic Rally Car (42077), B-Model (Buggy), Custom Enhancements

If you have specific questions feel free to ask them here and on the forums where I’m active and will spread the news. Enjoy your build!

Final Surprise – 42057 MOC – finished

It took me much longer than I anticipated, but I never lost sight of finishing up my custom version of the small gyrocopter (42057) I was so pleasantly surprised with back then.

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Overview

After I had built a better-looking engine imitation (at least to my eyes), I started by recoloring my model, so after the issues with the black liftarms in my last article the photos I would take eventually would allow to discern the details better. I also used this opportunity to re-arrange a few pins in preparation for the additional steps I had in mind.

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Left Aft View

The large rotor seemed easy enough and I stumbled upon this more or less accidentally when I realized I actually had those 12 x 1 plates in my inventory. That would provide enough stability and the curved slopes could easily be plugged on. Admittedly, it still looks somewhat bulky, but that probably can’t be helped. Those blades in reality are quite thin, but very wide and after I scrapped my idea of using standard helicopter rotor blades from the City line (which only would look okay if there were at least three of them, anyway) this is as good as it gets.

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Bottom View

The other thing I so wanted to do was add some sort of damping on the landing gear. Those small vehicles often land on rough terrain, so something would need to be done to not only make this more bearable for the pilot but also protect the equipment from heavy impacts and vibrations. This doesn’t necessarily mean there would be explicit shock absorbers, though. The gear could be mounted to elastic connectors, the airframe could allow for some twist and torque with semi-rigid connections, the struts could be made of carbon fiber or another flexible material. There would be many ways this could be implemented.

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Detail

Of course you don’t have these options with LEGO, so right from the start I had to think of somethings else. Due to the lack of space on such a small model using genuine shock absorbers with springs was out of the question, so I opted for the 2L rubber axle joiners as the elements to take the forces. The real trick then became to fit them in a way they could

  • serve their function as a damping element
  • keep the landing gear overall relatively stable and robust
  • not exert too much force on the plastic parts so they don’t crack or block pins by too much tension and friction
  • be mounted at reasonably perpendicular angles so as to not destroy the rubber itself by too much force.

This was further complicated by the fact that I wanted to retain the overall proportions of the vehicle and make it look halfway elegant by using only 0.5 thick liftarms. As a result of course some connections are a bit flimsy and other Technic aficionados might scoff at “not doing it correctly”, but for such a small model I find it perfectly acceptable.

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Detail

Since all this long-winded hubbub of mine is not going to be much use, I have once again created a full instruction for you to follow along and build the model yourselves. I’m almost getting good at this…

Before you begin I would recommend you study the original LEGO instructions, especially if you don’t own the actual model. This will give you a better idea about the parts used and what elements you would have at hand if you were to buy the box:

LEGO Technic, Helicopter (42057) (LEGO website)

Keep in mind that, while you can make good use of the white panels and other elements in the original box, you are still going to need a ton of extra parts, so my pimped version will require to do a little shopping or resorting to your existing back-catalog of Technic parts from other sets as well as some stud-based LEGO. Some prior experience would certainly be helpful.

The colors I used in my model are of course only recommendations for a consistent, unobtrusive color scheme. As long as everything works, you can use whatever you want. Conversely, feel free to implement your own alternative solutions if you don’t have the parts. As they say, there’s many ways to skin a cat and before I settled on my final design, I tried out a lot of alternatives.

Click on the link or the image to download the building instructions!

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC

LEGO Technic, Gyrocopter (42057), MOC, Instructions Cover

Bugatti official

The LEGO world is abuzz with news on the Bugatti Chiron (42083), for it is the day. The lucky few who got their early review copies free from LEGO are flooding YouTube and other media channels with their reviews and as of the official release event you can in fact buy the latest Technic monster already, for the time being of course only at the full MSRP directly from LEGO.

As I hinted a few days ago, I feel I need to say a few things about it as well, especially since I’m bursting with thoughts on some of the new Technic elements found on the model. So rather than yet another giddy video of someone getting excited about a free lunch, this is going to be a more reserved, neutral look at things. I only sprinkled in two of the official marketing photos (© 2018 The LEGO Group), but you can easily find more materials on respective seller and news sites.

LEGO Technic, Bugatti Chiron (42083), Front View

Let me preface this again by saying that I’m not in the least a car aficionado. I already mentioned that in my review of the Rally Car (42077). That doesn’t mean I could be swayed and coaxed, especially if LEGO sent me one of those boxes at no cost, but overall it’s not a top priority. Even disregarding my limited financial options I never could convince myself to actually buy the Porsche (42056) and presumably this will not be much different. The initial price is just insane, anyway, and unless one has the hots and needs/ wants this right now, waiting for a got promotion with discounts will probably be the smart thing to do, no matter how you see things otherwise.

For me personally it’s all about finding a good middle ground in terms of looks vs. reusability of parts with Technic models,since I usually can’t keep them around in their assembled form for long due to my small flat. In that regard neither the Porsche nor the Bugatti are or ever were a top priority. What would a do with a gigazillion panels in very specific colors? And storing those wheels and tires consumes an awful lot of space! I also don’t necessarily think that their realworld counterparts are particularly attractive and of course the limitations of LEGO Technic impart their own extra bit of “ugliness”, so you get where I’m coming from. It really becomes a matter of “if the price is right”.

That said, there are some interesting bits in the Bugatti by ways of some components in previously unavailable colors or even entirely new items. When the first clues about this model dropped early this year, I had hoped for Dark Pearl Grey/ dark grey silver-ish parts, as those would be more generally reusable for other car models as well. Fine, we ended up with lots of Dark Azure (again) and Dark Blue. From the looks of it the latter now encompasses almost every panel and liftarm shape, so buying a bunch of them on a parts-selling site like Bricklink might make it possible to rebuild older models in this color. Personally I’m in fact almost tempted to attempt to build an older US Navy jet or one of the Blue Angels aviatic team, so there’s that.

Other “new” colors include the small no. 21/22 panels in Light Blueish Grey as well as in Dark Tan. Likewise, there are now also some liftarms in the latter color, which should come in handy when you build Star Wars stuff or military-themed models. This is complemented by a plethora of conventional bricks (lots of curved slopes) in same colors to mimic various covers and smooth out transitions between elements. The Dark Azure is very prominent, too, though I hope LEGO realize that it’s getting a bit tiresome when it’s used so excessively an almost every new model in some way.

LEGO Technic, Bugatti Chiron (42083), Aft View

Where the technical details are concerned, this model seems to offer some interesting solutions here and there like the extendable aft spoiler or the seven gear transmission. On the other hand I totally don’t get why they once again they threw in their old crappy motor imitation in light grey with yellow pistons. Ideally they would of course have created a custom engine part for such an expensive model, but I would have settled if they had at least made the parts silver. Similarly I’m not convinced using flexible hoses to simulate colored ridges is the best possible solution, though at least the creative use of some light grey stud shooters put a grin on my face.

Similar to the Porsche a lot of the good stuff will barely be visible and barely be used, but it’s definitely worth mentioning the new gear parts. The corkscrew switcher nubbins for the clutch mechanisms ar a godsend and will make construction of complex transmissions (and automating them for RC models using a motor) a million times easier. I seriously hope LEGO will be rolling out this stuff in other models as well together with the new twenty tooth blue cog and the redesigned clutch bushings. The rest seems pretty much standard fare, but I’ll wait for the building instructions to become available to everyone. Who knows, there might be some clever trick hidden in there?!

Regardless, my overall conclusion is that the model probably has been severely over-hyped. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a good model, but it’s also highly divisive. A little less marketing noise and a quieter rollout along with a more realistic price would probably have left a better impression. Currently it leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste as in “Even if you save money for the next two years you can’t afford it.” and that cannot be a good thing. After the initial rush from the most ardent enthusiasts it may deter other people and they may take their money elsewhere. One can only hope that the market regulates itself and finds a good price. After all, that’s what gave the Porsche such a long life…

Bugatti SNAFU

You know what’s really bad? When your inflated marketing hype bubble implodes! That’s what LEGO must be feeling right now with the Bugatti Chiron (42083). I’m not even proactively looking for this stuff, but it feels like no matter where you look, you see leaked images – only days away from what was supposed to be the big reveal event on June 1st. I’m not going to spoil the details I can deduce from the images, juicy as they may be, however I’m still wondering why.

At the best of days, LEGO are as tight-assed control freaks as any other big company about the exclusivity of their product releases, so these clear breaches of whatever embargo/ NDA clauses may exist seem just puzzling. When I was still very active in software testing, our NDAs basically read “If you say anything to anyone before day X, we can have your balls.”

The thing is, that of course we had free licenses and early access to prepare articles on our blogs and create demo content to go with the day of release. This is no different, as no doubt the usual news sites and YouTubers will be there to put up articles and videos based on their review examples. Still, in all my time I’ve never seen such an obvious SNAFU. It’s a downright debacle for LEGO. How ’bout sending me one of those free boxes? I swear I won’t tell anything before the date. 😉

Anyway, I’m giddy for some of the things I’ve seen and will summarize my thoughts on the weekend. Until then you can either catch up on those leaks or enjoy staying ignorant and not knowing what I’m even talking about, so the release will have a bigger impact. It’s your choice…

Double the Fun? – 42077 – Rally Car

Before next week’s big showy announcement for the Bugatti Chiron (42083) will flood all LEGO-related media channels (yes, I’ve already seen leaked images and have formed an opinion based on them, but more when the time is right) it’s time to what seems like half a look back at the Rally Car (42077) that came out at the beginning of this year.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), Box

Before getting to the actual juicy bits, I need to explain a few things. First off, I’m by no means a car enthusiast. The only reason I even started out my LEGO career with Technic was an accidental gift from my mom to my brother which he didn’t like and gave to me that got me hooked. Likewise, I’m usually more interested in exploring the engineering and construction principles plus decking out the functions.

That being the case, I got it in my head to buy the 6×6 All Terrain Tow Truck (42070). Of course that turned out to be a total disappointment, even if I only paid slightly less than 160 Euros for it. At the time seemed like a steal, but as of the writing of this article is its normal price. Talk about the market regulating itself!

Slightly miffed I was considering my options and then info about the Rally Car came out, which of course also hat a large array of the then new Dark Azure parts and several ones that didn’t exist before. This presented an opportunity to perhaps maybe build other stuff in the future in a consistent color scheme, so I waited a bit for prices to drop and got the set.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), A-Model, Top View

One thing you need to be aware of right from the start is that this isn’t a very elaborate or fancy model. This is by no means as detailed as the Porsche (42056) and it pretty much comes down to whether you can lieve with the somewhat skeletal appearance and limited functions or you might just want to get it to cannibalize the parts for future custom builds. For the most parts it’s really just a lot of panels popped on to a simplistic chassis that looks largely empty.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), A-Model, Top View

As far as those parts go, the thing to note aside from the many no. 13/14 and no. 17/18 large panels in White and Dark Azure are some 5×7 liftarm frames in Black (previously only available in Light Bluish Grey) and the many red parts which surprisingly include 16L link axles with fixed pin holes, an element that is used very rarely.

Interestingly enough LEGO also feel generous and throw in a full set of shock absorbers that were so sorely missing from the Tow Truck. It’s really hard to comprehend how they arrive at such decisions and it’s a very bitter irony that a model that would mostly sit flat on the surface has them, while another off-road vehicle with much greater freedom of suspension needs to do without.

The rest of the parts is pretty much standard fare, but can in particular help to bolster your supply of white components, as you really get a lot of them in addition to the usual greys and blacks. Naturally you get a lot of red items and some other colors, too, and that’s a bit a point of contention for me.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), A-Model, Aft View

Despite the fact that even my designer tastebuds can’t argue with the overall color scheme, the red makes it look extremely aggressive and annoying after a while. The problem here is that one of course is supposed to apply a ton of stickers (the sheet is almost two-thirds A4 size) that would visually break up the uniformly colored surfaces and make them blend, but if you don’t use them (like I do) the concept doesn’t quite work.

Additionally, the interior also prominently features red parts like those 16L link axles for stiffening up the cage, which poses yet another stark contrast to the white and azure parts. It would have been easy enough for LEGO to just make those parts dark grey or black. What tops this off is the choice of regular blue for the seats, which really makes you go “WTF?”. This is just crazy! Throw into that their obsession with yellow axles (Why oh why, LEGO?) and it isn’t too difficult  to imagine that quite simply it could have looked better.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), A-Model, Aft View

As hinted earlier, this model doesn’t have many “guts”, but what little is there, looks actually pretty okay, the odd color choices notwithstanding. It’s equally light on actual functions which only extend to steering and opening various hoods and flaps. The aft section takes the crown on that one with the little flaps being connected to the large main one. This is reminiscent of some luxury sports cars that use a similar approach due to lack of space to provide access to their engine compartments.

On the other hand, the two fan imitations at the front are just a sad excuse. They aren’t even connected to the engine and wheels to at least rotate automatically and as they are the designers could have just left them out and covered up the floor with a large panel.LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), A-Model, Bottom View

The shot from below nicely illustrates this see-through effect across the whole model even further That said, it also is a reminder that there’s plenty of room e.g. for adding your own motor and RC functions. I haven’t tried yet myself, but it looks easy enough to fit a battery box and an L motor in there…

On to more positive things, let’s have a look at the B-model. Aside from the things I mentioned in the introduction, this is also what won me over to actually buy the set. it looks very straightforward and simple, yet very credible as a rendition of a sand buggy/ dune buggy. In fact I almost regret that this isn’t the primary model as with a bit more work to add details it could have sold just as well.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Top View

This point is reinforced by the fact that the buggy doesn’t use a single of the large no. 13/14 panels in Dark Azure, which if you are a bit cynical like me almost makes it feel that the only reason the rally car exist is to throw those in and thus pad out the price. The same could of course be said for the leftover white parts as well. I guess my point here is that the buggy itself could have been a wonderful product in the 50 Euros range and LEGO didn’t recognize and realize this opportunity.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Front View

To me this model looks really like fun and they only would have had to sell it in a different color. Even something weird like Light Lime Green or Light Sky Blue would probably have looked fantastic.They also would have had to fix some issues. The window frame constructed from whatever pieces were left over is simply an embarrassment and pretty unbecoming of the rest of the model.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Aft View

Otherwise the B-model has a lot in common with the A-model as should be evident in the images. Once your strip down the car body parts, changing the chassis is straightforward and pretty quickly done since things like the suspensions and seats don’t change while other parts can be handled as “chunks” where you only need to plug together panels or liftarms without needing to integrate them specifically.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Bottom View

The only seriously weak spot (again aside from color choices) is the way the front section has been affixed to the rest of the model. Yes, as shown in the faded image, it’s really just a 4×2 L-shaped liftarm on either side that holds the curved panel onto which in turn the other panels are attached. as a result, the curved panel can be moved and changes its angle. Arguably of course such buggys would be extremely lightweight and possibly have fiberglass bodys that would equally only be loosely hinged and held with a handful of screws, but I feel that this is something that needs to be rectified.

LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Body Suspension Detail LEGO Technic, Rally Car (42077), B-Model, Body Suspension Detail

Overall, though, this was one of the more enjoyable technic builds in recent memory. If you take it for what it is and don’t expect something miraculous, this can be fun and you can get a result pretty quickly, even more so if you build the buggy. This isn’t something you are going to collect, so it’s a case of “use it or lose it” – you must have an idea what you do with the car (or its parts for that matter) or else you’ll be frustrated about its shortcomings.


New Technic Releases revealed (and some opinions on them)

It’s the week of LEGO firing out one new product announcement after another and this offers up the perfect opportunity to write down my thoughts on them. I had seen leaked images several months ago already (as I’m sure many of you had, too) and even had written a little article about them, but then was smart enough to delete it again as to not draw LEGO‘s anger and fury.

The photos in this article are pulled from official sources, so credit where credit is due: All images ©2018 LEGO Group.

42079 – Heavy Forklift

Umm, yeah, a forklift. There have been several variations on that them already in the past and there is literally nothing you can add to the subject without being repetitive. It’s all been done a million times with the only real difference being the size and design.

This one would turn out reasonably large and with the wheels borrowed from the Mercedes Arocs model I might in fact already have what I need to build it from scratch in my parts repository, just perhaps not in this color combination. Mine would probably end up having a red gear rack to extend the fork vertically and the rest would be all yellow or white.

Overall the model looks decent enough, it’s just not particularly exciting and the suggested price of 70 USD, which undoubtedly will translate to 70 EUR, seems way too high. It’s probably safe to say that you should wait until it drops to around 50 or 40 Euros.

LEGO New Releases 2018, 2nd Quarter, 42079, Heavy Forklift

42080 – Forest Harvester

This, quite frankly, is a bad joke, at least for the more serious Technic enthusiast. Clearly this is aimed at kids that will really play with it, but I don’t see how that will work at a 150 EUR price tag. The irony here is that there could have been a market for this, but LEGO pretty much got everything wrong by toy-ifying it way too much.

On the bright side, we will get some panels in colors that weren’t available before, but that’s about it. Even that idea hasn’t been carried through as no doubt several panels that are black on the model would also be Lime Green or Green on the real thing and then the white trim line would make much more sense. Additionally the overall proportions just look totally whacky. This thing would probably topple over even with a Christmas tree.

The real stinker for me, though, are the disproportionate felling/ sawing unit and the pneumatics. Without this stuff the set would have looked a lot better and probably even fitted in with some nature-themed City sets. The way it is I can’t see it working for either side. It’s likely too complicated to build for kids while at the same time as a Technic builder the many simplifications will leave you unsatisfied. That being the case it would probably be a good idea to support this LEGO Ideas project and hope we might one day get a better incarnation of a forest harvesting machine…

LEGO New Releases 2018, 2nd Quarter, 42080, Forest Harvester

42081 – Volvo Autonomous Loader

I still have the large loading shield from the Volvo L 350 F model (42030) clogging up my parts collection, so it’s a goo bet that I won’t be needing a second one and will pass on this model as well. That said, I think it looks interesting enough to be worth building from existing parts. The re-issue of the large excavator bucket also will allow many fans to build “that other Volvo” if they never got their hands on it.

The yellow wedges on the robot arm and wheel hubs are amor parts from the Buildable Figures series, BTW. You can see the on the elbows of my Speederbike Stormtrooper as well. I’m just throwing this info out there since somebody asked about it on a German forum already.

LEGO New Releases 2018, 2nd Quarter, 42081, Volvo Autonomous Loader

42082 – Rough Terrain Crane

We’ve all been waiting for this and touted as “the largest Technic set ever” (so far) it certainly looks that way. The staggered/ layered panels alone could ramp up parts count considerably as will the massive long arm. That’s also going to be the biggest issue: Where will you put the damn thing without it getting in the way?

On a hunch I also would say that you probably can’t avoid buying it if you really want to build it. The turntable gear segments so far only exist in yellow on the Bucket Wheel Excavator (42055), the telescoping arm is probably going to use some very long gear rack elements that haven’t been available for years and overall the sheer number of parts might have you coming up short with some elements even if you have a huge LEGO Technic collection already.

On the other hand the parts count is inflated hugely by a number of standard parts on which you could stock up for pennies already now, so I’m not sure if 230 Euros is a good price. Depending on your existing supply the answer to that could be yes or no, so I’d definitely wait a little and see how prices develop for this monster, even if I would admit that I think that this would be a much, much more satisfying experience even at full price than last year’s 6×6 All Terrain Tow Truck (42070), which was similarly priced, but totally failed to deliver on what was promised…

LEGO New Releases 2018, 2nd Quarter, 42082, Rough Terrain Crane

Unfinished Business – 42084 – Hook Loader

As I’ve hinted at in my other posts, I often buy small sets with the intention of bolstering my supply of parts. Depending on what parts are actually in the box this can be a million times more cost-efficient than scraping them together from other sources. The Hook Loader (42084) in the Technic line is a good example for this with its two dark grey curved panels and tires almost accounting for the entire cost of around 7 Euros, if you were to source them from a parts-selling site like Bricklink.

Lego Technic, Dump Truck (42084), Box

Regardless of my ambition to use the parts in other projects, of course I always build the kits at least once to see how they are supposed to function, whether the parts are all there and possibly in the process also learn and discover some interesting technique that might come in handy one day. As such, this little set with its 176 parts takes about 15 minutes to assemble for any well-versed Technic enthusiast, making it a super quick build.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Left Side

For what it is supposed to represent the model looks the part. The proportions are okay-ish, even though it stands very high on its wheels. The chassis is pretty sturdy despite its simplicity, so this should work well enough and have playability even for clumsy toddlers that may lean on it a bit too much. On the other hand the actual loading tray/ dumpster is sitting very loosely on top, which could be a problem. I feel that this could have been constructed much better and only  would have required a few more and different parts, in particular for the hook mechanism and the guiding latch between the chassis’ beams.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Right Side

Another thing that irks me is the “open” front region with the windscreen’s lower edge not even plugging into anything. In fact this could have been entirely avoided by making the cockpit 1 unit taller and 1 unit longer, so another angled connector and a liftarm would have fitted inbetween. This seems so obvious, it really makes you wonder why they didn’t pursue this further. It seems so simple and would have elevated the set to a somewhat more realistic rendition. The same goes for the wheel hubs, BTW. Black may be common in the real world but I feel that silver or light gray would have looked better.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Front View

As far as functions go, naturally there is a steering mechanism plus the mechanical hook to load and unload the tray. The latter could have easily been omitted, as in light of the issues with the loose fit it would likely have been better to opt for a simple plug-on construction. This might also have allowed to throw in some different or extra elements to e.g. represent mudguards.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Underside

Returning to my introduction, the part yield consists of quite a few connectors of different types and in different colors, a few gears, the two large curved panels already mentioned and a handful of liftarms. Nothing you would get excited about, but again, the set as a whole pretty much costs what those parts would also cost separately, so you can’t really complain about the price (in contrast to many other LEGO sets). As dark, deep grey tones are really my favorite color these days and I have a penchant for substituting IMO all too flamboyantly colored parts in my builds, I’m sure those panels alone will be worth it.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Unloaded Tray

On its own the set doesn’t have too many merits unless you actually have a 3-year-old at home that would play with it. For everybody else it’s a pretty short diversion with limited longevity value unless you plan on combining it with parts from other sets or expanding/ improving the somewhat dysfunctional areas. I do get what LEGO are intending to do with this set, but it seems to me that those minimalistic models are really not what Technic is meant for and rather than being an interesting entrée into this world, this would probably put of kids beyond a certain age.

Lego Technic, Hook Loader (42084), Unloaded Tray

A better Surprise – 42057 MOC

A few weeks ago I was quite surprised by a random lucky find after having padded out an Amazon order without much further thought beforehand and ever since it has been on my mind to improve on some of the quirks the model also had. I dabbled around on and off on some evenings and tried many things until I arrived at something that satisfied me.

Note: I was oblivious to the limited capabilities of my old photo camera and for aesthetical reasons used a lot of elements in black, so things may be difficult to recognize. You should be able to determine the types of pins and axles used based on their colors and I’ve added call-outs for some critical elements to make things a bit easier, but if you have specific questions just fire away in the comments. I’m also considering building a model in LEGO Digital Designer and generate a building instruction, but this is still way off in the more distant future.


First and foremost of course I wanted to get rid of the ugly motor and that shall be the primary focus of this article. Other things like replacing/ improving the rotor blades are left for a later date, as I haven’t yet really looked into alternatives, which presumably are going to be some sort of the City line stub-based helicopter rotor blades.

To make things not too complicated my goal was too retain as much of the original model as possible. This in particular meant to keep the overall proportions and appearance by re-using sub-assemblies that already exist. Thankfully, since the model out of the box is already designed to resemble a lightweight helicopter/ gyrocopter many sections are already constructed in a way to simply plug on to a central body like you would on the real thing.

E.g. for transportation purposes the aft tail would indeed be just a simple tube or scaffolding structure that can be transported side-by-side with the main fuselage in the same car trailer and then easily be bolted on at the airstrip’s preflight pad. Same for the main rotor or the various covers.

With that in mind I kept the overall logic of the groupings intact. You just have to be careful then to always move the entire group like for instance the seat assembly to retain functionality. On occasion it means however that you may have to move a few pins around or change their type so they plug into different holes and connectors.

Additionally I wanted to avoid the use of too many extra parts. I knew I would need some parts from my own inventory simply because they are not contained in the set and I also knew that I would need quite some pieces to create a custom engine rendition, but otherwise I tried to restrain myself and not go overboard. This is an affordable set, after all, an there seems no point in making it too difficult and too expensive for other people to customize it.

The clunky motor being the big stinker, it represented a few challenges to get rid of. Because it is used as a structural element, once it would be gone the model would lose a lot of its stability, so I had to come up with a way to compensate. On a similar note I also wanted to free the cockpit parts from their use as anchors for the elements that stabilize the main rotor’s bearing and shaft. This may seem unnecessary, but if I ever decided to customize the model ever further, it would facilitate things like replacing the panels

With all this it only seems natural that one would also want to improve other details also while at it. One simple thing is for instance adding all sorts of little lights to make things more lively and at least retain the illusion of the air vehicle complying with FAA regulations. 😉

Lego 42057 MOC, Overview

Basic Idea

To achieve what I wanted I knew I was going to need a lot more room or more specifically longer arms and more pin holes. Initially I thought it would be as simple as replacing the small L-shaped liftarm with the bigger version and then plug everything else onto it, so this acts as some kind of central girder/ bulkhead, but no such luck.

To even come close to that I first had to extend the length of the model while at the same time not actually making it longer. This contradictory requirement stems from the fact that in order to keep the functionality of the rotor gear you have to keep it as a compact unit, but at the same time sneak in those two or three extra pin holes. The bottom view illustrates this best.

Lego 42057 MOC, Bottom

The front beams are 11L instead of the kit’s 9L and likewise the original 5L side rocker bars made from two 0.5L thick elements have been superseded by a conventional 7L arm. To account for the increased length, the front wheel was moved one hole aft and the 7L liftarm equally has one more hole of overlap. The large L-shaped elements now fit in-between the rest without a gap. You just need a lot more pins and also move the connectors on the cockpit side panels.

Onto the top of the large L liftarms the smaller ones were attached horizontally and pointing forward, which would later serve to hold the gear shaft for the main rotor. With that in place, we can start thinking about the actual motor.

Motor Design

In the process of coming up with an alternate engine I must have tried  at least ten different designs. Ultimately I wanted this to be more representative of a small V-shaped four or six cylinder dual row engine as it very likely would be on a real aircraft of this kind – small, not too powerful, high rev engines that make a lot of noise, but run smoothly and reliably, avoiding vibrations and providing some safety margin in case of emergencies.

Unfortunately this turned out to be more complicated than I had anticipated. Since there are basically no wedge type/ angled lift arms that can be plugged together directly it all ends up being a mess. Any connector that you insert to produce a specifically add to the width, which has the potential of making things look way too bulky, even more so on a model that for a large part is only 5L wide or even narrower. Also the angled constructs lacked stability and it was difficult to add the axles for the transmission gear.

Lego 42057 MOC, Detail Aft

In the end I settled on something a lot simpler. I used an H shaped 5 x 3 liftarm (or “bone”, as I like to call them) as the base. At the bottom I added two pins with holes that would later act as the bearings for the big cog’s axle. On the sides I added two 5L liftarms onto which I built the “cylinders” using lots of grey bushings, axle pins, and 3L and 4L axles to fill in the open spaces. Two of the cylinder heads are again connectors with holes for the propeller axle. This is a straightforward construction that is robust and stable.

Lego 42057 MOC, Detail Engine, Top

The engine block then was fixated with a short T-type connector that is anchored between the two smaller L shapes on the main frame with a simple 3D axle. This has the advantage that as long as the bottom part is not locked down, you can swivel up the whole affair, which makes working on the lower parts easier. With this you also get an exchangeable modular platform onto which you can build other drive units like a small gas turbine or other engine variants. I fancied up mine by also adding exhaust pipes, which e.g. could be found in another small set like the speed racing boat (42045) and the red top light on a black pin, the latter of which plugs into the remaining free hole of the hinge mechanism.

Lego 42057 MOC, Detail Engine, Bottom

To properly work the bottom of the engine needs to be pinned down as well. I re-used the lower section of the original engine holder yellow axle, but modified things to make use of the now elsewhere redundant 0.5L thick liftarms. This made sure the delicate overall appearance was retained and provided just enough room to accommodate all those little axles and pins. So in essence the engine at the bottom is held up by a 3L pin going through one element affixed on the engine itself and the other two connectors on the frame clamping it in, as it were.

Lego 42057 MOC, Engine

Offsetting the connector for the aft beam by one unit also made for a more realistic look with the small propeller having a little more room. Sadly enough there’s no rivet-like pin with a flat or hemispheric stopper head, so I used the freed up ball-headed pins. This looks a bit odd, though. An alternative might be using stud adaptor pins and cover them with a red and green transparency, so this could double as board/ starboard formation lights.

Main Rotor

On the original model the main rotor is held by a somewhat awkward, yet at the same time almost ingenious construction that involves the two white sidewall panels. It plays on the tension of the two tubes used for the canopy frames and is built as a self-stabilizing block that really only works once you have flipped up the two connectors (page 46 of the building instructions). As I wrote in the first paragraph I wanted to come up with something simpler that would allow to remove the panels without affecting the rest, so I had to turn this on its head.

Lego 42057 MOC, Detail Left

Here’s where we revisit our two small L-shaped elements from earlier, as there’s still three empty holes to cover. In goes another connector, which is locked in place with a 3L axle in the front and a black axle pin in the rear. The protruding pin (and its matching counterpart ordinary black pin on the opposite side) then serve as a holder for two connectors in-between which a no. 2 axle-to-axle connector with pin hole is placed. Said pin hole is then occupied by yet another pin with hole and once you add the rotor axle into the mix – voilà, you get a pretty stable construct that holds the rotor firmly straight in place. Don’t worry! It sounds more complicated than it is and you’ll figure it out.

Lego 42057 MOC, Detail Engine


After all the trouble all that is left is taking care of some details. I added yet more connectors to re-attach the small shields that cover the engine. Depending on what your preference in the matter is, you could leave them out or with a bit of creativity leave out the exhaust pipes and use just the shields.

Another considerable change/ improvement I made with the steering linkages for the rudder. Say what you will, not even the aft section running parallel to the beam looks just sloppy plus using the clunky 3L 40th anniversary white liftarm annoyed me. With the 4L lever type liftarm from the original motor holder no longer used anywhere, it came in handy here. The only caveat is that the direction is inverted and the freedom of movement is not as large, but I consider this a minor thing.

Due to using the longer liftarm on the base frame I also had a pin hole to spare to directly plug in the “stick”, allowing to omit the extra pins on the white panel. See the recurring theme here? with no obstructions in the way you can literally swap the panel for a different one in a minute and turn your little chopper into a police vehicle or fire surveillance plane using blue/ green or red panels, respectively.

Final Words

When building my models I do small changes all the time, but sitting down and making a dedicated effort to completely change someone else’s work is a whole different matter. It reveals that the logic applied to LEGO models is not necessarily in line with “how stuff works in the real world” and it also illustrates that different ways of thinking can result in completely different methods of approaching (engineering) problems in order to solve them. This isn’t always fun, but an interesting challenge no less.

With the engine part now being almost 100% foolproof I might indeed try and come up with some other methods of emulating drive units. There’s already ideas rummaging around in my head on how to do a jet turbine. Other things I’m contemplating is some work to build an elastic, damped and fully steerable undercarriage system and of course one could go crazy on detailing everything to your heart’s content. Even a bubble canopy now seems easy enough by just replacing the front section. and yes, that main rotor thing, too… 😉

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…