No-Good Octopus – Funny Octopus Ride (41373)

Being a lover of oceanic sea life, LEGO sets themed around this subject are of course high on my list even if they are only tangentially related. That’s why the Funny Octopus Ride (41373) from this years alternate-ish boardwalk fun park series in LEGO Friends ended up on my table.

First Things first

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Box

To get the obvious out of the way before digging into the details, given the title I chose: No, this set isn’t good. So many things with it are so wrong in so many ways, that I’m going to sound like a negative Nancy all throughout this article. Of course it’s up to you to make up your own mind and draw your own conclusions, but perhaps consider this a sincere warning about what you may get yourself and your kids into.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Overview

I myself had been pondering whether to get this set on and off so many times. The pro argument to pursue a purchase was of course once again my desire to get some good parts for my stock and funny enough the set delivers on that front. there are a number of unique parts in the form of re-colored elements that didn’t exist before, there’s a lot of Dark Pink elements, some of which like the smooth pin connectors are also a first and of course then there’s the balloon shells which I wanted to add to my collection, being that I didn’t have one of the older Friends or Elves sets they were featured in in the past. I have vague plans for a model in my head that I might actually need them one day.

It also so happens that quite incidentally the set also contains the exact four rounded plates in White that I might need to rebuild the smaller promotional Gingerbread House (40139) from 2015. With the official Winter Village Gingerbread House (10267) available and me indeed considering buying it eventually, this seems almost inevitable. I also like the transparent tubes. They could be a great way of decking out a better Hidden Side ghost lab or something like that. And finally there’s that printed 1 x 1 popcorn brick. I never bought the small Popcorn Cart (30364) polybag even when I had a chance, so it’s good to catch up on that, too.

Engineering Degree Failure

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View complete

The actual construction of the model is super simple and ultimately that’s the biggest failure of the set. It’s really not pretty to look at and as someone who started out with Technic and through his 3D work has a working understanding of some of the finer points of mechanical engineering (at least that’s what I like to think) it just feels wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, it’s for kids and the build needs to be straightforward and easy, but it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Point in case: Someone forgot that there is this little thing called friction and ultimately the whole “system” (in the physical/ engineering sense) is totally bogged down by it. No, unfortunately it’s not as easy as turning the knob at the top of the octopus’ mantle. I as an adult struggle to overcome the initial “stickiness” (static friction), my mom can’t do it easily and I don’t even want to imagine how a first grade school kid will have to make quite an effort to even get this going.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View separated

There are two main issues here: First there’s the Technic elements used on the arms themselves and by extension the internal axis inside and turntable below the balloon-y body. It’s all a case of the overall forces becoming to strong no matter how much you wiggle the bushes around to loosen up the connections and reduce tension just like there is no good way of dealing with a 10 units and 12 units long axle plugged together and sticking them into stacks of axle holes at the top and bottom. This, BTW, is yet another exercise that requires so much force that it may be beyond a kid’s capabilities. There’s just no way to get this perfectly balanced so everything moves lightly and without getting stuck.

The second and by far just as critical an issue is of course the corrugated hoses vs. the arms themselves. If you think about it for a second, what you are creating here is a ratcheted mechanism with four (!) “teeth” burrowing themselves in the crevices of the hoses. Even if they do so only superficially it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this adds up to considerable resistance. What’s worse is that even if you assume that part would work, there’s still this little problem with plastic sliding on plastic. Ironically the friction here is too insignificant to ensure that the connectors actually smoothly roll on the ridges of the hoses, and when they don’t, they just scrub along. After a while both the connectors and the tubes will get dull and show scratch marks. That much is certain.

Animal Pods or Pod Animals?

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Shark Pod What makes this so sad is that the passenger pods on the merry-go-round are actually quite neat they nicely illustrate that if the set wasn’t betrayed by its shoddy cheat mechanics it could have been something great. The shark is particularly nice and if you replace the foothold piece for the figures with a tile you could re-use it in many scenarios once separated from its mounting plate. It would even fit into the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378) as a shark circling the ship wreck just as it might fit e.g. as decoration on the Pirates Theme Park Rollercoaster (31084). The highlight here is of course the little 1 x 1 modified hinge plate in Dark Blue, a new and thus still relatively rare and expensive re-color of this element.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Clam Shell Pod

The clam shell isn’t nearly as complex, but for what it is supposed to represent sufficient plus you get another load of the Bright Pink 1 x 1 heart tile.

 

 

 

 

 

On first sight the crab looked a bit weird to me until I realized what this was actually supposed to represent. Aside from the way too short “legs”, which really are only stumps, I guess the failure is the lollipops/ paddles not being in Yellow plus there being no claws. In a way this makes the whole thing look more like a bug.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod  LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod

The turtle is basically just another variant of the one in the Turtles Rescue Station (41376) and the poly bag variant mentioned in the article or for that matter even the Elves oneLEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Turtle PodDepending on how you interpret it, the basic ingredients are always the same as is the building style and whether one’s shell is Dark Azure and the other’s Reddish Brown ultimately makes little difference. in the end it’s probably down to there only being so many ways to skin a cat, i.e. building this model, if you want it to be at a specific size. Similar to the shark here at least another re-color of that little round hinge in regular Green making this worthwhile. A small complaint would have to be that they easily could have included angled 1 x 2 wedges (29119, 29120) to represent the flippers, given that they already have the 1 x 1 modified plates with the clip in Bright Green in place. This would not have interfered with the rest of the model and made it so much more “realistic”

Stranger in a strange Land

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Fluke PartIn yet another anecdote of LEGO‘s quality going down the drain these days, this time I actually had a completely wrong piece in my set, meaning an utter fluke that doesn’t even remotely resemble any item that the set actually uses. The part in question is a 2 x 4 curved slope part in Dark Orange from the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control (60228) set in the City line of products where it is used on the large central booster sections.

The irony here is that this single piece gives me so many ideas, I almost wish they had mixed up an entire bag that contains all the eight slopes used in that other set. If you look at it long enough, you just can see how this would make a perfect padding for an ocre-ish colored leather sofa or padded seating bench in a restaurant, bus or train. With this yet again being a new re-color of this part for the first time exclusive to the set you can see how this would be valuable to a guy like me who’s always thinking about the next possible project.

and what was the part it was actually supposed to be? Of all things a Dark Bluish Grey 4 x 4 round plate used on the socket of the octopus mantle! See how neither the shape nor the color relate to one another? Those sorting cameras at the LEGO factory really must have had a bad day. Anyway, thankfully I had a few of those pieces in my stockpile and in fact the color doesn’t even matter because the parts are mostly invisible and any of them would do, but if I hadn’t, I couldn’t have finished the model that evening. It’s one thing if some small 1 x 1 tile is missing that you can add on later, but it’s a different thing when a critical structural part is missing from a bag.

No Fun in the Fun Park

While I’m certainly not a fan of entertainment parks and fun fairs, I can get behind the concept as a technical and artistic challenge in the LEGO world. In fact I have been tinkering with such mechanisms on and off and if I ever finish them, one day some pretty awesome contraptions might come of it. Yupp, it sounds like self-indulgent  boasting, but at the very least it’s going to be better than this. A lot (presumably). It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to surpass the hacky cheat mechanics, if you allow me to put it that way.

Overall I don’t know how to sum up all my frustrations with this particular set. It’s neither a good example for overall design and aesthetics nor for engineering. It just falls short of even the lowest expectations and is for all intents and purposes quite terrible. Unless you have a specific use case like myself for scalping the parts and/ or are willing to put in some major work to improve the details, you are not doing your kids or yourself any favors. I paid 25 Euro during an Amazon flash sale for this, but at the end of the day this feels too much for such an awful set. Paying the full 40 Euro would be totally crazy.

didn’t want to look at this abomination for much longer and couldn’t disassemble the set fast enough to salvage the components while they still were pristine. That’s how bad it is. Clearly the mess with the missing/ wrong part did nothing to improve my mood, either. The only things that gave me some joy are the little pod creatures, but that’s just not enough, unfortunately.

Waiting for the Winter Train – Winter Village Station (10259)

I owe many of my talents to my mom such as my artsy inclination because she introduced us to painting and crafting from the toddler age on, but her penchant for seasonal home decoration isn’t a trait I inherited. That’s part of the reason why my interest in LEGO‘s Christmas-y sets is limited and they tend to never float to the top of my lists, but somehow I couldn’t resist the Winter Village Station (10259).

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Box

I wasn’t exactly planning to get this set, which was last year’s special edition, yet somewhere along the lines I fell in love with it. It brought back memories when we would put up my grandpa’s and then my father’s model train stuff for the end-of-year-season and play with it.  If I wasn’t living in such a small flat I would almost consider continuing that route and build myself a small LEGO train track.

That and of course if I had the money, which is always a concern. In case of this train station that decision was made easier by the good price I got it for. I was able to order it for just under 50 Euros one day on Amazon, bringing it in just shy of that magical limit that usually makes or breaks my purchase decisions.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Overview

For what I paid I feel I got quite a lot of stuff and even better yet, good stuff. As you well know I tend to be quite critical of sets that contain too many “useless” parts, i.e. small, very specific parts in colors that are hard to combine with other colors, but here there is little to complain. One can never have too many parts in Sand Green or Medium Dark Flesh, there is a load of Dark Tan plates, including some larger ones, and there are some items unique/ exclusive to this set like the yellow arches for the aft wheel wells on the bus or the printed clock faces. Some yummy stuff that alone makes it worthwhile.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Front

The overall appearance of the train station nicely captures the typical look and feel of many small town/ village train stations built in the 19th and early 20th century you can find here in Europe, be that a more robust stone building like in the Swiss Alps and Germany or the more wood-based construction of the Northern regions and some eastern countries. The designers can be congratulated for evoking this familiarity without being too specific in the details.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Right

All that being true, there is a small criticism here, though. For all intents and purposes this should be a two-storied building, as back then those buildings were built to have the actual railroad operations stuff like the ticket booth or the station chief’s office on the ground floor, while above there were free living quarters for some of the personnel as part of their employee package. On the set specifically it would have helped to make the main building a bit more distinct from the platform and possibly also would have allowed to integrate the clock into a bay rather than making it a separate tower (which they rarely ever were).

Another minor shortcoming of the exterior is the lack of more snow elements. I’ve already tried to add a bit more variation using the spares that come with the set, but I would have loved if there were more white tiles and “tooth” elements to give the impression of thick snow areas and icicles. Granted, it wouldn’t be much trouble to source some extra bits from my collection, limited as it might be, but one shouldn’t have to. It feels a bit like LEGO have been miserly about ten or so elements that could have made a noticeable difference.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Back

The backside reveals a good part of the construction, which would have to be my second real gripe with this set. As you can see, it is built very loosely with separate walls and framework that isn’t always interconnected. This doesn’t make for the most stable construction and it is far too easy for my taste to inadvertently break off parts.

In particular I also found the foundation frame downright annoying. It tends to fall apart over and over at certain locations until you cover it with the plates for the boardwalk. I appreciate the desire on the designers’ part to be efficient and keep the model light, but regardless I feel that a simpler, more straightforward conventional construction with some large plates as the base for the brick frame would have worked better and spared some frustrations.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Detail

The detailing on the inside/ backside is not particularly elaborate, but sufficient. It’s basically the kind of limited dressing you get with most Friends sets – a coffee machine and some other contraption represented with a bunch of rudimentary bricks, in this case the ticket booth. It does the trick, but wouldn’t it have been fantastic if the floor extended a bit more and the booth could be facing opposite the door? This would also have allowed to extend at least one wall and add another seating area for customers to wait in a heated hall. Seems useful during winter time, don’t you think? 😉

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Figures

I’m still not big on minifigures and my use for them is certainly limited, but I guess the ones that come with this set are okay, even if they are as generic as it gets and variations of them have appeared in other sets already more than once. Given how small the set is, putting them all into their positions almost makes the model look overcrowded, so there’s definitely no need for more. It just would have been nice if they actually looked more wintery with real parkas, gloves, printed on thermal boots and the like. Them being dressed so lightly only reinforces the perception that the train station is more on the verge of spring, with good chunks of the snow already having melted away, instead of being in a deep freeze winter.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Railroad Crossing

Since this is a train-centric set, after all, it comes with four straight rail segments and on one of them you are supposed to build this little railroad crossing. Nothing out of the ordinary and a nice side build, though for me the two large slope parts are actually going to be more useful one day as a roof on some MOC as will be the rest of the parts then. The model is too fragile, anyway, and breaks apart easily so there seems little point in keeping it around unless you integrate it in a fixed position in your tracks. This is really only meant to be assembled once and glued into a fixed position, in a manner of speaking.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Left

As already hinted when mentioning the exclusive parts of this set, the second large build is an old-timey looking bus and it simply looks gorgeous. LEGO could sell this as a separate 15 Euro set and I’d totally buy it, even more than once. Funny enough it looks more appealing than many comparable sets from the City or Creator series. that’s just how good it really is.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Aft

The construction is pretty much a “no frills” affair and I guess that’s why it’s so appealing. It doesn’t try to be too clever by using specific parts like a custom windshield element and except for the roof Wedge elements could almost be built completely from stock basic parts you may have in your own repository, give or take the lack of a specific piece in a given color that may break the appearance. If you have a bunch of windows and arches from an architectural model floating around you could totally try to create your own flavor of the bus.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Right LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Front

Since it uses standard one unit wide bricks and window frames instead of the sleeker panels, the interior space is a bit limited and everything feels kinda crammed. That doesn’t take away from its quality, you just can’t squeeze in a ton of figures. I also tend to think that they could have placed the seats directly at the window and thus gotten a two studs wide walkway. It would have been more credible and in fact it could be reminiscent then of some really, really old busses, trams and trains that actually had their seats only arranged on one side and were completely made from wood. Could have been cool and cutified the set further.

A small caveat is the way the removable roof is affixed. The two 1 x 1 plates near the front portion tend to come off with the roof instead of staying put. it makes you wonder why they didn’t use the 1 x 4 tiles with the two studs at the opposing ends like they have been tried and tested on pretty much every Modular Building or other sets that feature removable floors and such. If you have some of those in your parts collection, you might want to rework the upper frame a bit.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Interior

All in all I’m quite satisfied, though. This feels to me like what all LEGO sets should be like – reasonably enjoyable to build, interesting building techniques, nice colors, fun to have a play with and amazing to look at again and again. If only every set was that nice! I fully recommend this set not just because it’s Christmas season. Given the subject matter, you could derive some joy from it even in summer (and perhaps adapt its look to reflect the season). If I had the funds I could see myself buying at least one or two more sets to extend the platform and beef up the building. It seems one can’t really go wrong here, so get it while the set is still available!

Piranha with no Bite – The Piranha Chase from The LEGO Ninjago Movie (70629)

Once more a matter of trying to be complete within a specific subset of a themed series, of course I couldn’t let the Flying Jelly Sub stand on its own. In fact things were the other way around and while the sub was just the conclusion (after much hesitation due to its relatively high price), the Piranha Chase (70629) had been the first of the lot. It’s also the cheapest/ most affordable one, so there’s your explanation.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Box

I won’t pretend that this is the best of the series, but for the around 13 Euros it is being sold in most places, you actually get some quite acceptable value. There are four minifigures and a number of larger parts, after all. The main build is also bolstered by the little rickshaw, which perhaps isn’t the most useful item unless you really build your own version of Ninjago City, but regardless is cleverly put together and doesn’t look all too shabby. The lanterns could also easily be reused on buildings and the large wheels might come in handy as round windows or decorative gratings somewhere.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Overview

The figures are your basic run-off-the-mill Ninjago stuff that you’ve seen a million times with only the scared unnamed extra guy providing a bit of comic relief and surprise.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Figures

The actual “piranha” vehicle doesn’t look particularly threatening and if it wasn’t for the name, you’d probably not even come close to thinking of a piranha’s frontal face. To me at least it looks more like a cute, googly-eyed monster of sorts. That’s not bad in any way, I just feel that it would have taken a lot more for it to count as one of those little annoying sharp-toothed buggers, including possibly a completely different color.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Front closed

Thanks to the use of pre-formed large hollow parts, there’s plenty of room inside for a cockpit. While what’s there is certainly adequate and sufficient, this could have been quite a bit more elaborate. There’s clearly enough space for a chair/ back rest plus some overhead instrumentation attached to the hood. Not that anyone would get to see it much when in the lowered position, but it would just give this satisfying feeling of knowing it is there. Perhaps it could even have been designed in a way that the front part was open to show all the detail.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Front open

The exterior parts, including the rear section mostly suffer from the sub-assemblies just being plugged on with single pin connections. This makes it dangerously simple to whack everything out of alignment just by handling the model. This could very likely have been done better, though of course the extra parts/ different parts would have slightly increased the price.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Piranha Chase (70629), Rear

Within the limitations of its price, this is a nice set despite my niggles. You get a pretty decent return value and in its simplicity it looks elegant and convincing enough. If it wasn’t for the flimsy attachment of the add-on items, this would even be reasonably playable and safe as a regular vehicle replacement for your kids – opening the hood, placing a driver in it and all that. You can still do that of course, but a bit of caution is required. Otherwise you get an okay-ish model that will fit into the overall theme, but doesn’t stand out particularly.

 

Flying Dome – The Flying Jelly Sub from The LEGO Ninjago Movie (70610)

At the time of writing this article I still haven’t seen The LEGO Ninjago Movie in its entirety, but regardless of that it has apparently led LEGO to turn out some very nice sets that I really do like a lot. The Flying Jelly Sub (70610) is one of those.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Flying Jelly Sub (70610), Box

In a way it’s perhaps a bit of a tragic set. I waited forever for prices on this set to drop to the point that I consider adequate, but they just never went down noticeably. That could indicate that the set just isn’t really popular or that it was produced in too small numbers to allow resellers larger discounts. Both theories seem applicable to me, even more so since it literally is only available from Amazon and one other retailer here in Germany, despite it is in no way an exclusive set only special distribution partners are allowed to sell.

The lack of competition naturally figures into the equation and keeps the price firmly pinned to a certain threshold. I ultimately bit the bullet and bought it at around 27 Euros, which is only a measly 3 Euros shaved off its suggested retail price. In other words, the price is in my view too high. I also felt there was a bit of urgency, since the set has been on the market for a while now and I think it is likely to be withdrawn soon. With so few vendors having it, this will be a very rapid disappearance.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Flying Jelly Sub (70610), Overview

I really wanted this set rather badly, because overall it looks pretty gorgeous. To me it represents LEGO at their best and it is regrettable that this kind of brilliance, where simple, yet elegant and functional designs, some interesting building techniques and a good play value come together have become so rare. This set is a joy to build and to look at, though arguably of course you are basically looking at two totally separate sets that have been thrown together in a box. That’s also how I’ll treat them in this article. Let’s begin with the actual sub.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Flying Jelly Sub (70610), Sub Dome Scratch

Even though I love this set, it still has the marks of some bad things I really begin to seriously hate about LEGO. In this case it’s the totally unnecessary sloppy packaging of the large glass dome. Yes, it was thrown in loosely in the box and almost inevitably got a big ugly scratch that was so large and deep it couldn’t be polished away. I had to put in a request for a replacement, which thankfully I got without a hitch and that arrived undamaged.

Still, this seems like a stupid decision and unnecessary inconvenience for the customer (and extra cost for LEGO). Point in case: In some sets even the tiniest parts are bagged separately, even if it may not be necessary, and here a sensitive transparent part was left fully exposed to all kinds of possible mayhem. It just doesn’t make any sense and someone wasn’t thinking!

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Flying Jelly Sub (70610), Sub Right

Building the model is a quick and straightforward operation that takes you half an hour. You basically just build the round section with relatively large parts and then plug on the details to the hinges, ball joints and pin holes more or less. Building the six tentacles/ legs is a bit repetitive, but not too daunting, either. The large “eyes” are attached at an angle by using colts (!) clamped into the clips. Now that’s original!

Interestingly enough there is another such tiny detail by ways of some 2 x 1 plates in Transparent Medium Blue being used. It’s the rarest of the transparent blue colors (and thus quite expensive on Bricklink) and, what makes this so awesome, since it’s used in places where it isn’t exactly particularly prominent, nobody would have noticed when another color would have been used. Someone really poured his heart into this and gave us some exclusive parts!

The chains are of course supposed to represent the tentacles of a jellyfish/ medusa and I actually wish they had added more and in varied colors. This could have been a real rainbow of different chains at different lengths arranged like a curtain. The presentation also would have benefited of including some kind of stand made from transparent bricks, so the model could have been shown in its flying position. My “curtain” would then have disguised this nicely. Overall it’s okay, though.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Flying Jelly Sub (70610), Boat

The second item in the set is a small fishing boat, which could just as well hold up as its own set. It’s not complicated to build, but reasonably complex and realistic. It uses some interesting building techniques to shape its appearance with as few parts as possible and those parts are actually very reusable, should you decide to disassemble the thing and cannibalize it for other project. It can also be used right away along the similar boats included in the Ninjago City (70620) and Ninjago City Docks (70657) sets, as it’s stylistically similar. This would even more be an argument to sell this as a 5 Euros polybag to complement those sets for people who may want them to be a bit more busy.

As I’ve said throughout the article several times already, this is a superb little set that you can enjoy even if you don’t know much about Ninjago. It simply looks amazing! I could stare at the boat for hours and dream of one day owning a Ninjago City. I also like the Sand Blue parts that should come in handy on other projects one day and I could even see myself re-using the dome e.g. as a greenhouse cover or sky dome on a building or similar. The only grain of salt is indeed the price, which could have been just that tad lower for my taste and limited finances.

 

Wishing upon a Brick

LEGO is not a cheap hobby and while I try to make do and keep current on the latest new stuff with what limited resources I have, I find myself way too often thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice to have this and that set, but who’s gonna pay for it?”. That’s why as a start I have added a dedicated LEGO shopping list for Amazon to the sidebar, so people can have a look at what drives my imagination.

The point of this is not necessarily that I expect people to buy me a free lunch and beg for it (though clearly I wouldn’t object to get something like Ninjago City as a present), but perhaps some of you have one such set floating about that you have no use for and are willing to part with it for a good price, throw some LEGO VIP points at me that you don’t use or simply want to bolster my purchases with LEGO or Amazon vouchers.

As they say: Every bit helps. Obviously, also the more options I have, the more likely it is that I can share cool stuff and ideas here from which everyone can benefit. Who knows, perhaps this little adventure will turn into a useful LEGO resource one of these days…

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.

Objectives

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

Details

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… 😉

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.