Spring Car Wave – LEGO Speed Champions, Porsche 963 (76916), Pagani Utopia (76915) and McLaren Solus GT & F1 LM (76918)

Fair Warning: Long, long article ahead! Yes, I figured instead of tackling them one by one i’ll pack three sets with overall four cars into a single review and be done with it, at least for this release cycle. So have a look at my thoughts and ramblings below.

LEGO Speed Champions, Porsche 963, Pagani Utopia, McLaren Solus GT & F1 LM, Banner

Contents and Pricing

Within the established standards of this product line. After the raise last year the single item packages cost 25 Euro and the dual pack is that same price times two minus a factory default discount, so we arrive at 45 Euro. Considering, that LEGO occasionally do stupid things like when they inexplicably raised the price of the Lamborghini set to insane levels, I guess we should be satisfied this time. The doesn’t negate the fact that cheap is sexy and a good retail discount never hurt anyone. That’s why you can get the small boxes for as low as 14 Euro and the big one for 33 Euro if you’re lucky. I got mine for 16 Euro and 34 Euro, respectively, which is pretty decent for 280, 249 and 581 pieces.

Parts Cornucopia

One of the reasons I like the Speed Champions sets so much (despite my total ignorance in most things cars) is that they 90% certain introduce some new part every year and really a bucket load of recolors of existing elements. Last year’s big thing was the new 3 x 2 wedge appearing in several sets with prints in order to mimic the headlights. We’re getting more of that this year as well, but LEGO really have upped the ante with a ton of other pieces. Before moving on to the individual cars, therefore let’s have a look at them in a single sweep in the interest of efficiency.

As usual there are a few obvious candidates: Inevitably each car will have its own canopy and many times those have individual prints even if they may be the same type otherwise. This is of course the case here as well and in an added twist, they are actually new shapes for three out of the four cars discussed here. The Porsche 963 and the McLaren Solus have the 180 degree “cylindrical/ conical” windshield with extended sides in four studs wide and the Pagani Utopia has its 6-wide equivalent. The beauty of those items is their simplicity. No complex curvatures in multiple directions that leave gaps, just plain “panoramic” windows that can be seamlessly covered with other round elements. They probably also would make for nice regular elements in solid colors to be used for roofs and display stand bases.

The other very noticeable items are a few recolors. Of particular note are the many ones in Orange required for the McLaren F1 LM. Those in particular cover a number of brackets previously not available in this color, the 1 x 1 x 2/3 brick introduced last year and even the minifigure oar element. The latter is probably its own story, given that after years of being only available in Yellow and Red it has seen a bit of a renaissance as a greeble part in some sets and of course also as a petal piece in various sets of the Botanical Collection and thus is available in a variety of colors now. Two slightly more hidden recolors in Black are the large Technic propeller blade, which should make aviation enthusiasts very happy, and likewise the rarely used long horizontal fin. Both fall into that weird “What? I thought they already existed for ages.” category where you could swear you’ve seen them before, but your memory is betraying you.

A lot of buzz/ fuss has been made about the small 1 x 1 x 2/3 SNOT piece with rounded back. There’s even one of those designer videos on how it changes everything and *blah, blah, blah*. Does it, though? I’m somewhat torn on the matter. As someone with a model building background in my youth I naturally favor filigree building techniques over more crude ones. In that regard having what is basically a tried & trusted SNOT brick only one plate thickness thinner is not a bad thing. The other advantage is that due to the rounded back side it can be rotated into arbitrary directions instead of being forced to the grid. This will/ should allow more freedom building connections at custom angles.

However, and that is ultimately the big “if” with this element, as a 1 x 1 piece it only has so much clutch power. This effectively means that under certain conditions you are always going to need multiples of this element. That by itself could also force you back into the grid pattern, which kind of defeats the purpose. Another point to consider and a feeling I had during building the models is that oftentimes the part could potentially be substituted with existing 1 x 1 (rounded) plates. All that and finally, as long as they are only out in Black, options are quite limited. I would love to see this in Light Bluish Grey to build custom railings or in green to integrate it into plants for instance.

When a few years ago the 1 x 2 plate with rounded ends found its way into LEGO‘s portfolio it was quite an interesting thing. Having had built some Mega Construx sets at this point it seemed such an obvious omission and the lack of the element could be felt, given that I had an idea what it could be used for. Its introduction really solved quite a few problems. Apparently that wasn’t the end of it and the designers recognized the value, which now led them to also give us a 1 x 3 version and a 1 x 4 type, respectively. similalrly to the small SNOT brick I did not find that they were always necessary and could have been swapped out for their conventional counterparts, but regardless it’s nice to have them.

One thing that slightly rubbed me the wrong way was the introduction of yet another variation on the chassis. It now has cutouts on the front and tail ends, allowing to inset elements by another row of studs. With my engineering hat on I see why they did it just as I recognize that after the transition from 6-wide to 8-wide models they may not have considered a few things with the original chassis design, but can we please now settle on this one? That also goes for the updated wheel housing/ mudguard design. It’s okay and clearly there’s a reason, but I’d rather see new designs with different shapes instead changing existing ones. It’s not that the older version with the higher step was not usable and couldn’t have been padded with a few plates and bricks.

Moving on to the more specialized parts in the sense of being (for the time at least) specifically tailored to a given model we get some new wedge elements, those being the pointed wedge with base in Orange and Black found on the McLaren cars and the pointed wedge in Dark Bluish Grey on the Pagani. It’s not much of a stretch to come to the conclusion that we will be seeing them again a lot on Star Wars and Ninjago vehicles soon enough. They definitely solve some major design issues, given that this is the first time we really get sharply pointed versions.

Porsche 963 (76916)

LEGO Speed Champions, Porsche 963 (76916), Box

Long-distance-racing at the end of the day is more of a technical battle than an actual race (at least once the first two hours or so have passed and the gap distances are big enough), so it’s not necessarily something I would go out of my way to watch. I catch bits of the LeMans, Spa and Nuremberg races on TV, but that’s where my knowledge basically ends. One thing that’s for sure is that the cars tend to look highly unusual or weird even, weirder in fact than a Formula E car, at least to my eyes. With that we already are again at the most critical point: How the heck do you capture those complex shapes in a brick-built model?

LEGO Speed Champions, Porsche 963 (76916), Overview

On first glance things don’t look that bad. The car is very flat and in another universe you could believe that’s how those vehicles are built. That is in a very 1980s way when aerodynamic computer simulations and and construction were much less sophisticated and you had to keep things simple. The illusion once more falls apart as soon as you start searching the Internet for photos of the real car, however, and then you realize that not much is actually representative of the genuine article. The approximation of the curvature along the longitudinal axis is okay, but the same can not be said transversal direction. the cross sections along the central axis are always more or less harsh steps, not nice rounded transitions.

LEGO Speed Champions, Porsche 963 (76916), Stickers

One of the things that could no doubt help here is the sticker sheet. The original has an elaborate pattern of faux streamlines (literally) that would help to disguise straight edges. Being “that guy” who never uses stickers, this doesn’t help me of course and the original point stands. In addition the sheer size of the sheet and the number of stickers makes this the worst offender in the selection of the three models reviewed here. Again, this can’t be held entirely against LEGO. It’s just how the livery of the car is in the real world. Further evidence is even provided by the decals themselves not having too many fake air vents, intakes and hatches printed on them as it would be on some other cars. Still, it’s more than a little unsatisfying. If at least the three bricks on the hood had their stripes printed on…

As a fully custom racing car this model has a few unique design aspects, one of the most being that it uses a ton of jumper plates to center elements along the main axis. The middle section is based on an odd number of studs (three), so there’s quite a few of those required to get the spine and cockpit where it needs to be. The rest of the build is then quite conventional. It isn’t even big on studs-on-the-side building except for the two wedges behind the cockpit. This makes the model beginner friendly and quick to assemble.

The details are a bit sparse and most of them kind of drown in the sea of black; but they are adequate. A small highlight are the headlights actually being 2 x 1 half-circle tiles in Trans Clear instead of having them printed on the slopes and the lateral air intakes hint at the internal airflow guiding system using stacks of the equally new semi-circular 1 x 2 jumper plates.

Pagani Utopia (76915)

I admit that I never heard of Pagani until I researched their name and history and stumbled upon their relation to Zonda, which rang a bell, if only very faintly. You know, those fading memories of 1980s and 1990s racing…

LEGO Speed Champions, Pagani Utopia (76915), Box

The Utopia is admittedly a pretty stylish vehicle that could appeal even to me. Unlike other hypercars it has this air of understatement and not pushing all its fancy features and extras in your face like an exhibitionist, yet you get the impression that it is a total beast. It also looks kind of “normal” in the sense that it feels more like those more attainable Ferraris or a Porsche. If it passed you by you could easily mistake it for one of those if you’re not an expert and it looking rather compact no doubt helps.

LEGO Speed Champions, Pagani Utopia (76915), Overview

That said, next to the minifigure the model appears a bit too small, regardless. It’s hard to judge those things if you never saw the actual thing, but to me it looks like it could be one or two studs longer and slightly wider. the other thing is of course the color. I’m pretty sure you can order it in whatever color you want and are willing to pay for, but at least for this model it would have been wonderful if it came in the actual silver metallic with a hint of gold tone seen in most of the promotional materials. Yes, I’m asking for miracles, as naturally LEGO never do that. It just would be nice…

In contrast to the Porsche, this is one of those models that uses quite some tricky construction methods here and there, in particular to get the front and rear mounted at an angle. At times it feels a bit like the designers are merely showing off, though, as some of these sub-assemblies are a bit too involved for their own good and there would have been alternate ways of doing things. The downside to this very granular style of building and changing directions at every step really is that it hampers you from jumping ahead or otherwise you may end up getting stuck because elements block each other. You really have to stick to the instructions pretty closely.

One of those convoluted building blocks clearly is the aft section. The model uses a bunch of the small door elements to represent the trapezoid airfoil/ spoiler assembly of the real car. While in and of itself it is an interesting solution, the result feels hugely exaggerated. This is further exacerbated by the 2 x 2 round tile with the exhaust ends being too large. This is one of those weird situations where you would need something like a 1.5 x 1.5 tile or such. I’m not meaning to complain, but the fact remains that it is way too large.

The front is much better in that regard. I only wish they’d a) produced the ice skate piece in Dark Bluish Grey and b) come up with a way to align things better the sharp edge on the front of the hood really is quite distinct and here it looks like this is actually two entirely unrelated sections of the car.

McLaren Solus GT & F1 LM (76918)

The big package for this cycle comes yet again with two McLaren cars. LEGO seem to love them and in turn the car company seems to be generous in licensing their designs, probably betting on the promotional effect. At least there have been several of their cars turned into Speed Champions those last few years.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Solus GT & F1 LM (76918), Box

For this offering we are getting the Solus, their latest exotic racing care and the F1 LM, one of their earlier designs from the 1990s.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Solus GT & F1 LM (76918), Overview

The Solus is its own kind of weird. Not only does it hit all the standard tropes of those over-designed hypercars, but it takes them to a new level by looking extremely futuristic. Unfortunately not in a good way. This is one heck of an ugly mofo! This goes to show that having money doesn’t equate having good taste and I have some really disturbing thoughts about people who could even afford this thing in my head.

The part that is more relevant for us is of course how it translates into LEGO at a small scale. Regrettably I have to give it and F in that department. It’s really not just the usual “less than ideal choice of subject”, but a total failure in my view. The big hang-up for me is that this is basically a black cardboard model with all the other parts painted on. This kind of illusion painting wouldn’t even have worked had they opted for a different color variant. It’s not dissimilar to the Porsche – the contours just look fine viewed from the side and in this case if you forgive the straight edges and squint a little the shapes of the wheel housings would also look okay from a flat top-down view, but there is just no genuine curvature and viewing it from any other angle totally betrays the illusions

Other points of contention for me are the ways in which the air guiding plates are attached in a way they come off too easily because they have built-in tension, especially the ones in the front. In the first moment you marvel at the creativity, but soon you find out how much it sucks when a triangular tile is only attached by one stud. It’s just not great.

There aren’t too many visible details on this model, which is in line with the real thing being super smooth and also sort of spartan. The rear lights immediately reminded me of having seen the same approach using Nexo Knights spear tips on the McLaren Senna. How fast time has moved forward from that 6-wide era!

The F1 LM very much immediately reminded of other cars from that era, be that Ferraris or Hondas. They kind of looked all quite the same with the real differences being in the details. that being the case, you could probably use this model as a template and derive a number of other cars by only changing a few things. the irony here of course is that the lack of some rounded edges even makes this viable in the first place. This is a major complaint if you read other reviews, but ultimately you have to accept the limitations of LEGO at some point. In fact I’m almost of the opposite opinion because I like how the front has this nice slope while not having considerable gaps like on some other models. therefore it really becomes a matter of what’s more important to you.

That notwithstanding, I do have a huge gripe with the sides of the car. That ugly hole just doesn’t belong there. It’s like someone carved an ugly gash into the doors. now here’s the thing: I get that they were aiming to emulate the sort of embossed pattern with the aerodynamic ribs the original has, but it just is way too much. This for all intents and purposes could have sufficiently be hinted at with a conventional build using more and different wedge plates. Even recoloring some Ninjago sword blades and stacking them creatively might have worked, now that I think about it. I’d definitely consider these options or simply close the holes in a “dumb” way with more plates if I was serious about collecting these vehicles.

On a bright note, I like the grille effect printed onto two 1 x 8 plates and the way it’s designed it would even be adaptable to shorter plates. LEGO should seriously consider using the pattern on some white bricks for Star Wars models for those slotted walls or air vents.

Concluding Thoughts

The quality of the models is all over the place. The Pagani Utopia and the McLaren F1 easily come out on top despite their undeniable flaws and the Porsche 963 is kind of okay, but the Solus for me is a dud. As a non-collector I got my mileage out of the building experience, but to be honest if I were into serious collecting I’d consider other options. Yes, it’s always a compromise to build these cars with a limited selection of bricks, but I feel there’s just too much amiss this time around. I’m just not getting this satisfied tummy feeling like with the Aston Martin DB5 for instance. This won’t deter true car aficionados, it’s just not for me.

Silver Linings? – LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909)

I’m far from a car buff as you well know, but Formula 1 has a special place in my heart. It’s not that I was particularly interested to begin with, but in the early 1990s my brother couldn’t get enough of it and so I casually picked up a few things from his magazines and of course watching races on TV. That and of course the Michael Schumacher era began soon to be followed by Sebastian Vettel. That’s why even today I try to keep an eye on developments there, if only tangentially. Checking out the Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909) therefore was also a bit of a given, be it just to poke a bit of fun at my brother and have a discussion about the details of the model(s).

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Box

Contents and Pricing

As a dual pack this set initially cost 40 Euro MSRP, but after LEGO‘s ridiculous recent price hike costs 45 Euro. The good news is that despite all this, this more or loss still equates to merely twice the price of single-item sets. Unlike e.g. with the Lamborghini Urus ST-X & Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO (76899) they didn’t throw a large premium on top. At the same time the less good news comes in that you won’t be able to shave much off those 40 Euro. As an exclusive set only available at LEGO stores and a handful select retailers there’s no wriggle room for large discounts.

However, effectively I got mine for 38 Euro, which in a funny way is even LEGO‘s fault. they appear to be producing this set in such low numbers that they’re constantly running out and it’s out of stock. I tried to pick it up directly in the Leipzig LEGO store on three separate occasions before I gave up and ordered it from one of those few alternate vendors that still had some packages. You should be prepared that it may take a moment before you can get your hand on this.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Overview

Sticker Madness

Another of those things I keep boring you with is of course my dislike for stickers/ decals and in this case it’s really, really bad. As we all know, the Mercedes Formula 1 cars aren’t called Silver Arrows for nothing and consequently this would have meant that LEGO had to produce a ton of pieces for this set in Flat Silver, which of course never happens. Instead they are trying to compensate this with “illusion painting” by means of printed adhesive foil and here once more the sheer number of sticker pieces is beyond belief. And the AMG Project One doesn’t do much better, since in reality it’s also another silver Mercedes. So ultimately you end up with two relatively large sticker sheets and what makes it even worse for me is that you right away can see how they’re even trying to cheat the surface curvature by using gradients on the F1 car’s spine.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Stickers

The Formula 1 W12 1

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), F1, Variants PiecesInevitably LEGO‘s heavy reliance on stickers is a two-edged sword and while not using them increases the re-usability value of the sets, but it also diminishes the aesthetic value. Often this can be overlooked, but with the Formula 1 car it really shows very painfully. It has none of the magic it should have and more or less just looks black. This also affects the minute differences between Hamilton‘s car and Bottas‘ version for which some extra pieces are included. Aside from the distinct Yellow camera bar the differentiation is lost without the stickers.

As such, only the Dark Turquoise and Dark Red elements will really stand out and add some flair. The Dark Red 1 x 4 modified plate is exclusive to this set and so are the little knobs used for the rear view mirrors. The wedge slopes have since appeared in more sets, but initially were also limited to this one. There’s a few unique printed parts like the wheel covers used to shim over the regular wheels and create the illusion of those specially marked tires to indicate their softness rating. I feel that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. While the Blue looks very harmonious and calm for a display model, in light of the overall lack of contrast I would have preferred Yellow or Red markings. In fact it would have been cool if they included at least one of those options as an alternative. Other printed pieces are the Mercedes star of course or the faux air intake above the cockpit.

The assembly of the car is simple enough, but make no mistake – this is overall rather fragile. Many elements literally only hang by a single stud or clip and handling requires a tender touch. The model should be held by the modified plates mimicking the chassis or the wheels, but other areas will immediately come off if you don’t have a tender touch. That’s almost like on the real thing except that it doesn’t require racing at 300+ kph or bumping into a wall for the front or rear wing to fly off.

The other apparent issue is the lack of smoothness. At this point I don’t consider it so much a general limitation of using LEGO bricks, but rather of the scale. Point in case: With introductions like the recent “jester shoe” arch it would be possible to create some of the subtle, yet complex curves, just not at this size. This also goes for the suspensions of the wheels, which of course aren’t big fat tubes on the real thing. Neither are spoilers and winglets big and chunky, but I guess there’s really no good way to translate all those paper-thin carbon fiber bits into bricks.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), F1, CockpitThe cockpit is surprisingly adequate in its sparseness and even using the game pad once introduced for the Collectible Minifigures series for the steering wheel is fitting. However, since there is no sticker for it I feel that including the printed version from way back then might still have been better, even if it doesn’t represent the actual button layout. A point that has caused much discussion is the largely inaccurate depiction of the HALO device. Using a rigid tube is really not ideal and overall it looks way too bulky and too large. Short of creating a new piece I can’t think of a much better solution, though. All the swords/ blades or hotdogs that come to my mind are not curved enough to capture the shape.

The Project One

The second car in the package is apparently one I know even less about than the F1 one. That’s why it more or less looks like the many other (super) sports cars in the series. Indeed it also almost builds like the Aston Martin Vantage or the Corvette, give or take the necessary variations to accommodate each car’s specific details. In this case this in particular refers to the large fin blade in the aft section.

Otherwise the car is rather mundane and once more one can only bemoan that there are no genuine silver parts. This would make things look so much more interesting even without the stickers.

Similar to other cars in this year’s Speed champions line-up this one also uses the new 2 x 3 curved wedge slope and all the same these are also printed with the shapes for the headlights. The other printed parts are the AMG logo on the intake grille and of course the canopy piece. The latter lacks opacity, something which sadly has become an “expected” (or dreaded?) standard, even if it didn’t need to be this way if LEGO invested a bit more time and care.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), AMG, CockpitThe cockpit is very plain again and shamelessly exploits the fact that a) those racing cars have very stripped down interiors in the first place and b) the dark tinted glass would further restrict visibility. Would be nice to have some bright red Recaro seats and support tubing from the inner frame shining through from time to time, though.

Concluding Thoughts

Despite my criticisms this is quite an okay set. LEGO (and by extension Mercedes AMG) had the good sense to not gouge their fans with excessive pricing inflated by licensing fees and that alone deserves some recognition. As someone who builds these models only for fun it would of course have been even better if the set were broadly available in retail and thus I could have gotten some discount, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

The Formula 1 car is clearly the weaker of the two due to the limitations of the system. This would probably make more sense as a Creator Expert/ Icons set in around 1/12th scale, but ironically then I might not be able to afford it. I guess I’m caught between a rock and a hard place on that. If you take the set at its face value it is definitely okay and will fit nicely into your collection of similar Speed Champions models.

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

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

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

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

Contents and Pricing

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

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

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

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

Sticker Conundrum

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

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

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

The Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

Car Triple – LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763), LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127) and LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

As a LEGO user on a limited budget it’s sometimes not easy to find something to buy, strange as this may sound. Some sets don’t interest me right out of the gate, others I may actually want are out of my league and then there’s this weird thing where you have downright lulls when you have ticked off your “Must have” list and newer sets aren’t released yet or there’s no worthwhile discounts that deter you from buying something. In those situations, especially when the drought becomes too long and I get this nervous itch, I like to resort to my alternate “Would be nice, but only if…” list. This is sort of a random collection of sets that I might buy, after all, to scalp them for parts. This inevitably requires them to be cheap or offset the cost by being able to sell minifigures for a good price. The three sets featured in this article are exactly that. None of that means that they would be bad on their own merits, it’s just not the main focus of this review.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Box

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Box

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Box

Pricing and Contents

Not being much of an actual diesel head or any other kind of car aficionado, the underlying logic for these purchases has always been the potential long-term usefulness of the parts vs. the price and the short-lived fun I might derive while building. As it is, I never got too worked up over the specifics of Ninjago lore or the The Batman movie’s details and the accuracy of the model. With that in mind, the motto of the day always has been “It needs to be cheap!” and so I was biting my time on each of the sets until my gut feeling told me to buy them at what logically seemed to be the lowest price realistically feasible.

That mostly worked except for the Street Racer (31127) where I missed my window of opportunity and had to buy it at slightly higher cost. This one was 15 Euro, which is not too bad, given that a 20 Euro set would not be discounted as much proportionally compared to others. Interestingly, this set seems reasonably popular, so the price is pretty stable and it more or less never was “dumped” anywhere for 10 Euro during a promotion or something like that. The lowest I’ve seen is 13.50 Euro, which really isn’t that significant compared to what I spent.

The other two sets have a regular asking price of 30 Euro, which quite frankly is ridiculous, especially for the Ninjago car. Sure, the number of pieces is there that would fit the usual piece count x 10 Cent per piece = price, but there just is not enough volume of stuff. LEGO are even giving away their game with the marketing photos. One can’t shake the feeling that only half the parts are actually being used anywhere. That said, of course you can rely on discounts, which kind of is the point when you want things cheap, so I ultimately got both packages for around 18 Euro. That’s so much more tolerable and feels more in line with what you would pay for a comparable Speed Champions car for instance.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763)

Perhaps the most disappointing of the three, Lloyd’s Race Car will be the first to get a look. It comes with 279 pieces, which on paper sounds good enough, but as mentioned before it just doesn’t feel that way. This isn’t unexpected or even untypical for a lot of Ninjago sets, as a good chunk of the elements are always swords, blades and other appendages/ decorations as well as side builds and minifigure add-ons. Once you strip them down and put them on their own pile, you sometimes already have 50 pieces that don’t contribute much to the bulk. In this case this is further reinforced by the EVO concept where you are supposed to upgrade a barebones base build to a fully decked out maximum version or vice versa. More on that later.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Overview

The minifigures in this set are very colorful with Lloyd having multiple shades of green and the snake warriors heavily featuring orange. This makes them almost look a bit too friendly compared to other iterations of these characters. Still love the snake head piece as much as back then, though. If LEGO were to produce Light Bluish Grey or Tan versions, they’d make for wonderful decorations of some similarly themed temple.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Figures

There’s a small buggy for the bad guys, but it’s basically one of those lazy lackluster designs I’ve criticized a million times in my LEGO magazines reviews. It’s an utter waste of pieces and simply not worthy of even being there.

The main vehicle as depicted here is the maxed out and leveled up version. Not only was I simply too lazy to take photos of the lesser variants with some pieces removed, but in my opinion this EVO stuff also just doesn’t really work that well. The base version looks rather underwhelming and a bit weird and one can’t help but shake the feeling that this was fundamentally designed the wrong way. By that I mean that my overall impression is that the car was designed as the complete version and only then they started thinking about which parts could be removed when in fact it should have been the other way around.

This isn’t helped by the modular concept not having been thought through. Whenever you try to remove the sub-assemblies there’s a good chance you also pull off other parts that are supposed to stay on or at least you loosen up some connections. This isn’t the end of the world, just sloppy design and it feels utterly unnecessary.

The car itself is just fine and has a few things going for it in terms of useful pieces. For instance the green wedges haven’t been in any set in ages and could be interesting to some. Similarly, the relatively new golden “motorcycle style” wheel hubs haven’t been in too many sets yet. This package is also one of the few to have the 2 x 2 corner tile in Green. The most important item however, if you wanna call it that, is the transparent windshield element. It’s rather common in Trans Black, but outside this set it has only been once done in Trans Clear. That means it has been rather expensive (though not particularly rare) and increased availability will help to bring down that cost. Personalyl I can see that piece being useful if e.g. you want to convert a Speed Champions car to a different version and are tired of the shaded windows.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Front ViewOn a somewhat broader note, I really hate LEGO for doctoring their promotional images the wrong way. I was under the impression that the Green would actually be Bright Green, which would have made the car look a bit more aggressive but would also have been cooler overall. You can imagine that I was mildly disappointed when I realized that. As a Photoshop user myself I find it baffling that they don’t put much emphasis on a reasonably correct rendition of their own colors. It really cannot be that difficult, considering that no doubt they can easily afford all the bells and whistles of expensive photographic equipment and high-end calibrated computer screens.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), CockpitThe play value of this model is acceptable. The car is pretty robust and the cockpit is large and accessible. However, there’s not much else to do. Unlike some other Ninjago offerings this one doesn’t have some hinge-based transformation features or hidden functions that can be triggered with some lever. Even the stud shooters feel less than ideal, considering that the round 1 x 1 studs more often than not tend to be consumed by the carpet monster and are harder to retrieve compared to arrow shooters.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127)

I got this set somewhat reluctantly. It’s not that I totally disliked it, it just didn’t strike me as essential when viewed from the angle I was treating the whole operation. Arguably one could say that this is a bit of an acquired taste and my interest only grew when studying the digital building instructions and realizing that it would offer some unique Dark Turquoise parts and a few useful ones in Light Aqua as well.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Front Left View

The set comes with 258 pieces and they are put to good use, at least for the primary model. Apparently I haven’t built the Formula X racer and the custom dragster, which use less elements. I might have if the set had a different color scheme, which is a bit of a qualm I have with this. I don’t mind the Dark Turquoise, but I feel that other contrast colors would have served the set better. The Light Aqua could have been substituted for Yellowish Green or Dark Azure and if nothing else, at least the Red decorations should be Bright Light Orange. That and of course the exhaust pipes and the compressor intake would look way cooler if they were in a metallic color.

Building the model is pretty straightforward as unlike some other cars this one use mostly conventional building techniques and not fancy sideways or upside-down construction as often found on Speed Champions these days. This makes for a rather relaxing time and a quick turnaround. I’m a slow builder at the best of times due to often being distracted with other stuff like watching TV, but this was a pleasant build that didn’t drag on for a whole evening.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that this car is rather big and has a lot of usable volume. The downside to that is that it’s definitely not minifigure scale and any of the little guys you put in the cockpit and behind the wheel will look like an elementary school kid having hijacked his parents’ ride. The available space is really huge as evidenced by the images below. There’s even a well worked out stowage area, it’s just that in order to actually use any of that and make sense scale-wise you may need to find some dolls/ puppets/ figures from an alternate manufacturer like Playmobil.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

The The Batman movie came and went without much fanfare. It was barely marketed and then it felt like it was in cinemas for two weeks only. The short window of opportunity certainly hasn’t helped to compel me to drag my lazy ass to the movies, but I won’t use it as an excuse. I haven’t seen the whole thing and only know bits and pieces from trailers and isolated clips. Based on that, the model appears to be an adequate rendition.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Overview

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), FiguresThe set comes with minifigures of Batman himself and his nemesis The Penguin. The decapitated head isn’t some unfortunate victim, it’s a replacement for Batman without the cowl. I guess for the realistic look of the film they’re okay, it’s just that they don’t look very spectacular, either. Bats doesn’t even have any weapons and for Mr. Cobblepot  you can build a small rocket launcher (forgot to include it in the images), but that’s pretty much it.

The set officially has 392 pieces and they’re are used well. as you can see on the photos, it has a certain fine granularity with many individual details breaking up what otherwise would just be a sea of black. It even has the flames from the nitro charger to make things look more intimidating. They get a bit tiresome to look at, so if you want to keep the model around for your showcase, it’s likely better to remove those transparent blue parts.

The car in the movie is a custom build, though it has clear references to a Mustang, a Pontiac and some others, depending on which details you look at. Within reason that has been translated well enough to the smaller scale version, though of course some of the straight surfaces would be curved on the original. In terms of size this feels like an oversized Speed Champions car and it even builds similarly. You start out with a 8 wide chassis element which is considerably extended front and rear and then add the other elements.

One of the things I found slightly problematic is how fragile some assemblies are. It is inevitable that some of the flames will come off occasionally, but there’s also several other locations where pieces are only attached by two studs and you can break them off just by handling the model wrongly. The overhang of the front hood is the most annoying of those, but also some of the 1 x 2  slopes used for the sharp ridges tend to dislocate. Another weak spot is the “forked” suspension of the motor. With all that in mind you should handle the model carefully.

The interior details are sufficient. Personally I’m a bit irked by the shooter mechanism. It requires you to have the arrows in the model at all times or else the hinged mechanism will just drop down and stay at an angle, ruining the illusion of a solid surface on the hood. If I were to build this a second time I’d just forego the arrow shooters entirely and close up the gaps with regular bricks and tiles.

The motor is an interesting little assembly and sells the illusion nicely. Most importantly it does so by using some Flat Silver elements that have only been introduced in this color this year such as the 90 degree clip/ bar and the Fez cone. Definitely interesting pieces for anyone building machinery or designing Steampunk stuff.

Concluding Thoughts

Given that I bought all the sets under the premise that I would harvest their pieces and derive a little distraction from them rather than looking at them too critically for their originality, realism and other factors, I’m not that disappointed. Yes, they all have notable shortcomings, but I don’t find them too bothersome within my reasoning.

Of course my opinion would be most definitely different if I was more serious about the matter. I might criticize the lack of more minifigures on the Batman set and its less than robust handling and I might simply write off the Ninjago set as lame and unpolished in relation to the official retail price. In reverse this however also means that I really would not necessarily have bought those sets if they hadn’t been discounted massively. Such is the logic forced upon us by LEGO‘s crazy pricing.

To my surprise I really liked the Creator 3in1 race car and if you’re on a budget and can get over the slightly weird color scheme I would recommend picking this over the others. It’s just as robust as the Ninjago car while looking a lot better and at the same time it’s as big and reasonably detailed as both its alternative offerings. The Batman car would be last on my imaginary list due to its stability issues and boring black look. There simply are way too many other black cars out there.

Classico Rosso – LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906)

Childhood memories are of course treacherous, but I had a bit of a déjà-vu when the 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906) set in the Speed Champions line. It really looked and felt extremely familiar, though I couldn’t tell you from where. Could have been a slot racer car at my cousins’, could have been one of those coveted Matchbox cars we traded on the school yard with other kids who had Western relatives (growing up in Eastern Germany without such relationships was clearly a disadvantage). Anyway, despite me being rather uninformed about all things relating to cars old and new, this struck a chord with me and brought back some memories, false as they may be.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Box

Contents and Pricing

As a standalone Speed Champions set this one falls into the standard 20 Euro price category. For 261 pieces that certainly would be okay in the LEGO realm, but of course you have to make concession to the fact that the majority of the elements are just 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 items. That being the case, discounts are welcome and as of now you can get this offering for around 14 Euro at a number of outlets like I did. That improves the value perception, though in the end this car still turns out quite small-ish even compared to some others in the series. This is mostly owing to its “open” structure and shape gobbling up a lot of small parts during construction without contributing much to the mass and volume of the vehicle.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Overview

The Car

As a racing car from the 1970s the 512 M has a very distinct look with the square-ish wedge-like appearance being a design trope shared by many cars of that era. This makes it quite hard to translate into a brick-built model, since a lot of stuff has to be attached at specific angles. This is to a large extent resolved by building the model sideways in both directions rather from the bottom up. As a result, there’s a ton of – shall we say – interesting techniques used to connect all manner of studs, holes and bar elements. This is not only rather confusing at times, but also requires careful execution as everything needs to be aligned quite well so the later steps actually work. Inevitably it also means that the model isn’t always the most stable, as some areas are pretty hollowed out to make things work and some sub-assemblies only are attached by two studs. Once everything comes together it works, but halfway through one sometimes wonders if it will turn out correctly.

A real weak spot that is clearly the canopy. The shape is legitimately wrong and makes it look like the satellite housing at tip of a rocket. I know I bring up this topic every time and complain way too much just as I understand that LEGO just can’t do a new canopy for every car, but I feel that in this case even the equally wrong piece e.g. from the McLaren Senna (75892) would have looked better. The whole matter isn’t helped bei the once more extremely poor print quality, either. The opacity is severely lacking and the Red color just looks completely different from the rest of the model. Really not great.

The aft section is basically one big spoiler wing to provide enough downward push to keep the car on the track and has a lot of overhang, pretty much completely hiding the exhausts and rear lights. They can really only be seen from a very low position.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Aft ViewI also have a problem with the two white winglets. On the real vehicle those are attached on thin struts emanating from the red areas and form kind of an airflow tunnel/ channel. I’m full aware that this would be near impossible to re-create properly with LEGO in this scale, but having transparent grip bars doesn’t sell the illusion, either, even more so since there are still white clip pieces underneath. So instead of trying to cheat it would have been more consequent to make those grip elements also White and just call it what it is. In its current form it just looks floaty and not in a good way – as if the two tiles for the wings don’t really belong there.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), CockpitRacing cockpits, especially on cars not derived from serial automobiles and built entirely custom from scratch, are always a sparse affair and this is no different. Through the tinted glass and the large covered areas you wouldn’t see much while it’s closed, anyway. Again, though, due to the type of windshield element they went for, the proportions aren’t necessarily exact. You can definitely see the driver inside on real photos sit in the front section before the painted areas, not deeply buried in the rear part.

Concluding Thoughts

This set is quite a bit of a mixed bag. the shortcomings of what you can do with LEGO definitely show here and the finished article doesn’t look particularly realistic. Within the Speed Champions series it’s still rather unique, however, so the inaccuracies won’t deter collectors one way or the other. For me the building process was rather insightful and educational, but if you just want a quick model for your showcase, this could try your patience due to the many small parts and slow progression.

The finished model is acceptable and represents the original well enough from a distance, but once you delve into the details it becomes a bit unsatisfying. A wrong cockpit shape and the quality issues with the prints all leave their mark. The latter is even noticeable on the 1 x 1 plates with the Ferrari logo on one of the sides. Some of them look rather munched. It’s good that LEGO at least had the smarts to include all Red 1 x 1 plates in this set as printed ones (to avoid confusion, apparently) and you can pick out the ones with the best printing.

Overall this is perhaps not for everyone and you have to know what you’re getting into. This is neither the most realistic model nor the most relaxing build in this series and your enjoyment will really depend on how you can get over these sometimes not so small annoyances.

Double V – LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (76910)

I still mostly suck at distinguishing even the most basic cars and I certainly don’t go out of my way to keep up with motor sports news, either, but occasionally I find myself getting reeled in when zapping through TV channels and so I had a “I know that guy (car)!” moment when LEGO announced the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (76910) set earlier that year because just a while ago I indeed had stumbled upon some such races’ live broadcasts. Could have been Le Mans, could have been something else. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter beyond the fact that I always have the Speed Champion sets on my list as an affordable way to get my LEGO fix and enjoy their clever building techniques. Let’s see what this double entry in the series holds for us.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Box

Contents and Pricing

While this doesn’t always hold true, the typical reasoning of such a dual set would have to be that it represents just two standalone sets packed into a single box. Luckily, this formula works here and at 40 Euro suggested retail price indeed you get two of what would otherwise be 20 Euro each. The part count matches likewise. Based on an average 250 to 270 pieces in most sets that would have to be around 540-ish and the actual 592 in the package feel almost generous. You have to make concession to the fact that there’s an awful lot of 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 elements, though.

Since the set is freely available you can bet on some discounts and typically should be able to buy this around the 30 Euro mark. Occasionally you may get it for even less. I’ve already seen it go for 27 Euro. Interestingly, and I only realized this now, single sets tend to be discounted even more, often down to 12 or 13 Euro from their original 20 Euro. LEGO pricing is really weird and gets more confusing the more you think about it! In any case, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this set is not anything out of the ordinary in that regard and thus a “safe” purchase, should you feel so inclined.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Overview

The Valkyrie

The Valkyrie is another of those over-designed, over-powered hypercars and the racing version takes this craziness even further. That being a fact of life, I can’t avoid repeating what I said abut the Elva and Evija even if it bores people: LEGO bricks are not necessarily the best medium to render these complex curves and sharp edges and that shows again here. At least until the day they come out with more specialized elements this will always be an apparent shortcoming, as much as they may try to work around it with clever building techniques that use existing elements with different orientations to disguise these issues. A very obvious candidate is the ridge at the top represented with a dual hinge construction where some curved tiles and plates with large radii would be needed. Too bad they don’t exist (yet)!

That said, the building techniques used are still quite impressive. A good chunk of your time (and pieces) is spent building a custom very long chassis, as this is really a very long-stretched vehicle. In turn it therefore looks narrower when viewed in isolation. If you will, it feels more like the older 6 stud wide Speed Champions if you were to scale them up proportionally to the new 8 stud format. Build directions change a lot with the main premise being that you essentially assemble some sort of core using SNOT techniques onto which a relatively thin top and bottom “plate” tacked on. This is at times rather confusing and things only fall into place in the last third of the construction process when you begin to understand why you used some bricks with sideway studs early in the build.

Parts usage is similarly innovative with a standout example being the red propeller blade used for the air divide/ ridge. Aside from this piece there’s a few recolors of existing elements like the pointed 2 x 4 plates in Lime Green. The new 2 x 3 wedge slopes mentioned in the Evija review also make an appearance again and this time not just the ones with with the printed-on headlights. There’s a second, plain set used on the sides in the aft section. As far as printed pieces go, in addition to these slopes there’s the main windscreen with the Valkyrie branding and some custom hub caps for the wheels. The latter should also prove popular as yet another type of grating or fan blade element for custom builds.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Valkyrie, Aft ViewAs usual I haven’t applied any stickers, but I think the model looks okay without them. Most of these only have minor labeling that would not be missed. At least this particular version does not have any extra sponsor logos and such and thus even the real thing looks rather plain, but also elegant.

The cockpit does not have too many details, but is an adequate representation for what you can see through the tinted glass. Removing the canopy also further exposes the way the sides are constructed and in my personal opinion it’s simply better with the glass on top.

The Vantage

The Vantage is apparently based around a more traditional off-the-production-line car design, though I guess in the high-price segment of Aston Martin this doesn’t really mean that much. In these circles there’s usually only a few tiers between “absolutely crazy” and “slightly less crazy”, if you get my meaning. At prices around 130000 Euro and a gigazillion customization options even the regular model is anything but your daily work commute vehicle.

The racing version takes this even further with its additional spoilers and the huge air flow intakes/ outlets on the front hood. On the model those look like deep trenches whereas in actuality they are a bit flatter and more structured. I feel that LEGO could have better represented this with some simple 1 x 2 curved slopes in Dark Bluish Grey and Black instead of the complex and convoluted construction based on flat tiles they chose. One can’t help but think that those steep cheese slopes would cause terrible vortices and slow down the car massively. It is really counter to what they are supposed to do and how I understand these things are meant to work.

The rest of the model is a mundane “been there, done that” affair with many of the techniques being overly familiar from other models like the Toyota GR Supra and the Ferrari F8. Nothing wrong with that, just not too exciting, either. In light of that you can also imagine that this is built with more conventional techniques as it naturally doesn’t need to do anything fancy.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Vantage, Aft View

Quite some pieces go into representing the continuous strip lighting in the aft section. It’s a laudable effort, but since it still ends up being way too thick it seems like a bit of a waste. Ironically this is one of those things where I think a sticker on a simpler solid surface would have worked better. I have similar sentiments about the grille and the weird usage of spike/ horn elements for the outline. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for keeping elements unspoiled by stickers (or for that matter prints even) to keep them universally reusable and add them to my collection, but sometimes this can’t be avoided and would be advantageous in the interest of more elegant building as is the case here.

The cockpit is again a very barebones representation. I’d argue that in fact it is even a bit too simple, as judging from images it looks quite dense. Perhaps a few more details on the headrests and console would have helped to make this more convincing.

Concluding Thoughts

This double pack ain’t bad, but once more proves a point: The switch to 8 stud wide construction has gotten the Speed Champions designers in a bit of a bind. The larger format has allowed them to add ever more details, but at the same time exposes the limitations to that process because LEGO just does not have enough of the “right” elements to implement some of those details. Unlike in the 6 stud era you simply cannot pass off some simplifications as intentional abstractions.

I also feel that the designers are a victim of their own ambition and perhaps tend to pick the wrong subjects. Fancy “dream cars” may be easily marketable, but when built from LEGO elements ultimately will always come up short and not look as “real” even next to a cheap 5 Euro die-cast model or e.g. to a COBI car where they invested in some custom parts. I don’t think I’m even asking the impossible as small things would go a long way. For instance am I the only one thinking that this wedge piece should long have had a nicely curved and rounded pendant, given how regularly it is used in Speed Champions?

These ponderings aside, this package is mostly okay. The Valkyrie doesn’t really click, but the Vantage is an adequate representation of the real thing within the confines of brick building. If you don’t care for looks and just want to spend some quality time exploring interesting building techniques then absolutely, just go for it! Especially if you get this for a reduced price there’s some fun to be had and there are many worse LEGO sets to spend your money on.

Very Green – LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907)

I’m still anything but a car fanatic, but no matter what, I thoroughly enjoy the LEGO Speed Champions series and always look forward to the new releases around this time of the year. This year is no different and for a particular reason the line-up got me even more excited than usual. More on that later. For now let’s see what the Lotus Evija (76907) is all about.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Box

Contents and Pricing

Speed Champions sets are like sweets – if you’re not a car aficionado, you could probably do well without them, but they make for a wonderful snack of LEGO on their own merits. They’re affordable enough, relatively quick to build, yet interesting and in a way always rewarding because you end up with something recognizable. Throw in the occasional new/ exclusive piece and some very educational building techniques and there is little reason to pass on these sets unless you really couldn’t be bothered.

At 247 pieces this adheres quite well to the average parts count in this series in the usual mix of several larger elements for the cockpit, wheel wells and so on, but also a ton of small bits. Also an established standard at this point is the single minifigure in a racing/ mechanic suit matching the look & feel of the car (or for that matter the manufacturer’s official branding and design). Is any of that worth 20 Euro MSRP?

Like so often I don’t necessarily agree, but it’s not that bad, either, given that there are two pretty sizeable parts printed with multiple colors plus the ones for the headlights and the minifigure also being printed head to toe. that alone raises production cost and could be worth an extra buck. That said, the typical retail price will of course be around 15 Euro after discounts and with that there’s barely any excuse left not to buy this set.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Overview

The Model

The model is structurally more complex than its outsides let you think. A good chunk of the first steps in the instructions is actually spent extending the rear end of the chassis piece with some rather complex bracket and SNOT techniques. I’m always game for learning new tricks, but trust me, this one is pretty wild with multiple direction changes. It basically only begins to make sense toward the end once you understand how stuff aligns again for plugging on the outer pieces. Admittedly even I found myself thinking several times that it might have been simpler had they just designed a new custom piece to same effect.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Front Left View

Inspecting the car’s rear end once again reveals the biggest shortcoming these sets have: The limitations of the LEGO system do not allow to capture the complex curvatures of these hyper cars’ bodies. That is, of course, until they might create new parts for that one day. I already pointed that out when I reviewed the McLaren Elva (76901). In this case this is most apparent by the rear wheel wells being cut off perfectly perpendicularly and lacking any of the transitional zones, minor as those curved blends would be on this particular vehicle. Similarly, the gigantic air intake just doesn’t look right.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Aft Left View

The faux exit apertures and rear lights aren’t half bad, but inevitably suffer from the same lack of rounding plus LEGO are clearly cheating here, exploiting that due to the dark colors and the “black hole” effect it would be heard to gauge the actual depth. Within reason this is absolutely fine, though. Unlike competitors such as Mega or COBI, LEGO simply doesn’t create one-off unique parts for a set and we have to live with that, as much as we may wish otherwise. At least they found a creative use for the snowboard piece and after years of it being in Lime Green in Friends sets it sure doesn’t hurt to have one more color option.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Aft Right View

A big point of contention and heated debate is the curvature of the canopy piece and by extension thus the curvature of the yellow trim line and how it may be dictated by technical limitations of the printing process and LEGO‘s internal guidelines. The inevitable truth is that the shape is pretty much completely wrong in the first place and would have required a new mold that then may have been flat and rounded enough, that the line could have been printed continuously from the top direction instead of using three separate stamps. However, even then it would have ended up too high on the model, which is something anyone needs to consider here. Ultimately perhaps the problem is not really the line or the canopy shape, but rather the color scheme chosen by the designers…

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Front Right View

The color scheme is also disadvantageous in that many the details are hard to see because they’re being gobbled up by the dark surroundings. With my shoddy camera and limited photographic equipment I can barely make it visible because there’s no good way to get light into all the crevices. The front view also reveals the new 2 x 3 wedge slopes with the headlights printed on. This is a completely new piece for 2022 and used in several of the Speed Champion sets. It’s reminiscent of some of the larger and steeper curved slopes you find in Mega and COBI sets and from here on should really make it easier to get nice smooth shapes.

Ironically I kind of resent that they are printed, as of course I would have loved to add them to my collection as regular pieces for custom builds. It’s also rather odd that LEGO printed those two large pieces, where sticker application would have been much easier, but at the same time there are several 1 x 2 slopes where you are supposed to apply some rather finicky small sticker bits. The logic here is hard to follow, but I guess that’s ultimately one of those “Can’t have it both ways!” situations where there just isn’t a perfect solution for everyone.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Front View

Ironically I kind of resent that they are printed, as of course I would have loved to add them to my collection as regular pieces for custom builds. It’s also rather odd that LEGO printed those two large pieces, where sticker application would have been much easier, but at the same time there are several 1 x 2 slopes where you are supposed to apply some rather finicky small sticker bits. The logic here is hard to follow, but I guess that’s ultimately one of those “Can’t have it both ways!” situations where there just isn’t a perfect solution for everyone.

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Top View

LEGO Speed Champions, Lotus Evija (76907), Cockpit InteriorThe cockpit, like so often, is yet another very dark “black hole”, but given that it barely can seen through the tinted glass, anyway, sufficient.

Concluding Thoughts

The Speed Champions cars have gotten quite sophisticated overall, but with this one I’m a bit torn. Once more I find that if it wasn’t spelled out on the packaging, you’d have a hard time recognizing which car this is supposed to be. In this case the problem is two-fold: Not only does LEGO simply still not have enough specific elements to render the complex curvatures, but I also find the color less than ideal. I get that they wanted to honor the typical Lotus British Racing Green, but it’s not the best color here. Interestingly enough if you look it up, you can find many more versions with light grey or yellow bodies, which I think would have immensely helped.

Outside that this is still a nice set that’s a good way of killing an hour of time on a relaxed evening and if you genuinely collect them all, it will not look too shabby next to other such cars. On the other hand the limitations are very apparent and next to e.g. the Ferrari F8 Tributo (76895) the use of the same cockpit piece would be a tad too obvious for comfort. LEGO need to keep investing in new molds and pieces to make the cars more distinctive from each other.

Double the C – LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903)

I’m certainly not a completist when it comes to the Speed Champions set, but they continue to offer interesting build experiences, often unique parts and a rewarding result even if you are not a car aficionado per se such as is the case with me. So that’s why we’ll have a look at the LEGO Speed Champions Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), and yes that’s quite a mouthful. I’ll therefore keep referring to the cars in abbreviated form in this article.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Box

Contents and Pricing

As I wrote in my most recent Speed Champions review, I’m rather fond of the single-pack editions for their good value-to-price ratio. The dual packs are another matter with them consisting of two sub-types, one being the equally cost-efficient regular version and the other some sort of ill-conceived “premium” package where you’re mostly paying for the licensed name such as the Lamborghini two pack. Thankfully this one here is in the first category where two models have been packed together for convenience and ease of distribution, not to milk the costumer, despite being an officially licensed GM product. It even has a fancy extra sticker with a holographic silver strip and a QR code on the box for verification.

This being a “goodness x 2” offering, the price is exactly in line with what you would pay for two single packages. At 40 Euro this starts out as very reasonable and even the discounts follow that logic with this set being widely available at around 30 Euro from many vendors. I got mine for 27 Euro on one of those evening flash sales on Amazon you cannot plan for and that you would just miss if you don’t happen to browse their pages or your favorite price guide exactly at those times. That really is a very satisfactory price and one cannot complain even a tiny bit about it for 512 pieces.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Overview

The Minifigures

The minifigures for Speed Champions are usually not worth writing something specifically about, but the grumpy C8.R driver made me giggle, so I had to include an image here. Who knows what technical issue ruined his day?

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Minifigures

Sticker Conundrum

I’m generally not great on stickers and even less so when they are not used sensibly. This is the case here, in particular for the classic 1968 Corvette for which the transparent sheet on the left is meant. I’m particularly irked by the two large tiles with the flag symbol because aside from the nonsense of having to paper over a large tile with an equally large sticker these two tiny car logos clearly would look better printed on directly and, which also is sort of a point, would have given the model a bit more of a “collectible” aura. The even larger sheet for the C8.R is more tolerable, with the only real cardinal sin being that they once again expect you to represent the headlights with two stickers split across two elements, but of course the fact remains that there should simply generally be more printed parts in these sets.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Stickers

C8.R Race Car

The C8.R Corvette could be most recently seen in the 2021 Le Mans 24h race, though it had to give up only a few hours in due to technical difficulties. So my memory is still somewhat fresh and while I was aware of some of the flaws in the model beforehand, now these shortcomings and omissions feel even more painful.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front Left View

The first thing that immediately springs to the eye is the car not being wide enough in the rear. Yes, this lady has a fat booty. This is not helped by the aft upper air intake being to flat, either. The LEGO model makes you believe that at best it is a small slit, but in actuality it’s quite bulged out. This is also an area where I feel the stickers won’t help to create the illusion, either. It really is a situation where the designers would have needed to add that half stud or even a full one in extra width on each side.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Aft Left View

Since doing so likely would have involved quite some jumper-based construction to transition between odd and even numbered stud layouts it potentially might also have resulted in a better representation of the fastback.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Aft Right View

The lower rear section with the exhaust pipe and the reinforced underside of the chassis looks quite odd in that it appears to stick out and stands off the main car body way too much, but according to images one can find on the Internet is pretty accurate. I guess it’s one of those aerodynamics things you really have to be a nerd about to fully appreciate the details.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front Right View

The other critical detail they unfortunately got pretty much wrong is of course the pointed shark nose hood. It’s very distinct and impossible to miss, but totally absent here. Now the thing is that this may be yet another case where LEGO would have had to invent/ design a new piece because basically they do not have anything close to “a 15 degree angle with a bit of rounding”, but given that this is a scenario that actually comes up regularly not just with cars but also for instance aircraft and their wing leading edges it might have been worth to put in the resources. I bet such a piece would be quite popular for all sorts of MOCs if only it existed.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front View

The cockpit is a very sparse affair, but then so it is on the real thing and once you add the tinted glass piece even less can be seen of the interior, so this is sufficient.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Detail Cockpit

Classic 1968 Corvette

The 1968 Corvette has become an icon and a classic in its own right and has long deserved its due, but I feel that this model more or less completely fails to re-create the magic. For its time the original had quite some complex curves and in my opinion the designers have been largely unsuccessful translating them into miniature form. On first sight you can kind of get away if you squint your eyes a bit, but once you delve into the details, you begin to realize more and more how wrong some things are.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Front Left View

Naturally, the thing that stands out the most is the completely wrong windshield. it has the wrong inclination, no curvature, not the typical tapering toward the roof and to cap it of (literally) LEGO did a very lazy job here by slapping on two 2 x 6 tiles with not a bit of corner rounding. The back window is also not great with the real point being that since they already use a 1 x 4 transparent brick as a structural element, the ramps could likely have been much better represented with this wedge plate mounted vertically.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Aft Left View

By now we all have gotten used to the sad reality the LEGO never (or no longer anymore, to be precise) does real chrome on their pieces, rarely ever metallic silver and even only for some elements Pearl Silver, and without endlessly debating the whys and hows I can accept that, but with this model I felt that hot needle in my head stinging me again with one tiny details: Yes, the rear lights really, really, really could have used that small ring of chrome to make them stand out from the rest of the car. Unlike my more specific gripes with other parts this should have been a no-brainer.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Aft Right View

On that note – and not trying to bore anyone – someone on Facebook showed a picture with custom chrome wheel hubs and it looked pretty rad, regardless. Just sayin’! 😉 The printed dishes are perfectly acceptable, though the probably should concave, not convex, i.e. mounted the other way around, to further the illusion of depth.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Front Right View

The cockpit interior is again full Black and while that may be correct and true to the original, I wish they had gone with a brighter color as you can see on some restored vintage cars with custom colors. Some Tan or Dark Tan for the covers and fake seats would have gone a long way to make this look a bit more friendly.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Detail Cockpit

Concluding Thoughts

Both car models are serviceable, but regrettably not very accurate representations of their real counterparts. Especially the 1968 Corvette leaves a lot to be desired with many tiny flaws adding up and spoiling the look of the whole model. The C8.R fares slightly better, but overall ends up feeling very generic and too similar to other super cars in the series. It just as well could be a Ferrari, McLaren or even just a souped-up Audi or whatever you prefer. You would only be able to guess what it is supposed to be based on the stickers or when the differences become more apparent in a full line-up next to other Speed Champion models.

On a broader level they are just fine if you’re not obsessing too much about the details. It just feels to me that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. Had they gotten it right the 1968 Corvette alone would have compelled many people to buy the set and they could have re-issued it in a different color in two or three years and sold it just as often. In the current form people will be more hesitant and they’ll likely need to give it a major work-over should they want to bring it out again in the future.

As a way of killing some time and learning a few interesting building techniques I got something out of it and of course in particular the Dark Red pieces will come in handy one day. Many of them are new for this year, but not exclusive for this set, as we are kind of living in “The Year of Dark Red” with many pieces having been recolored in this shade for some Star Wars and Super Heroes sets already. For the right price there’s nothing wrong with that, but serious car fanatics will probably feel let down by this set and the lack of ultimate realism.

Blue and Yellow – LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902) and Toyota GR Supra (76901)

I’ve had a few really bad days this week with my chronic illness having drained all my energy and to top it off one of my cooling fans in my computer decided to quit, so I didn’t really get much done and this weeks review is a bit late. For this article I decided to combine two sets from the Speed Champions line, the McLaren Elva (76902) and the Toyota GR Supra (76901) to keep things a bit more efficient. After all, these models are for obvious reasons always somewhat similar and there’s no point in turning this into lengthy descriptions of every little detail.

Contents and Pricing

The Speed Champion sets, at least the ones with only a single car, usually offer some pretty decent value for your money. I didn’t exactly regret the switch to the wider eight stud format like many others, but of course the price hike associated with that move still had an impact and made these sets a little more expensive.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Box

That notwithstanding, 263 (McLaren) and 299 (Toyota) pieces for 20 Euro is still an excellent value-to-price ratio in the LEGO universe. Once you figure in the discounts from most major retailers, which push the price to a rather stable 15 Euro or thereabouts, this ratio becomes even better. Of course the mileage still varies depending on what parts you get and how large they are, but overall I have very little qualms with that. If all LEGO stuff was priced that reasonably, we’d live in a better world and could enjoy our hobby more stress-free.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Box

Arguably the economics are a bit worse for the Elva since it doesn’t have a glass cockpit part and a lower number of elements, but that should only be a minor consideration.

McLaren Elva

The McLaren Elva is a super car taken to the extreme and as someone who hasn’t a particular obsession about cars to begin with, this one has me baffled a lot. At the end of the day all of these vehicles are over-designed in the “design for design’s sake” sense as if to prove something, but even by these standards this one is a whole other level. Outside the eternal wank contest of the super-rich you’d probably have quite a WTF? moment if this were a regular car you can buy at your auto dealer simply because it looks so usual. You would likely get tired of it once the novelty wears off.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Overview

As you may have concluded already, personally I do not think that this is a particularly pretty car, but it’s in an odd way still interesting if only to prove a point. With regards to LEGO the challenge immediately becomes how well you could express the complex surface structure and that is what got me curious.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Polybag Comparison

Interestingly, there are in fact two models available, with the small polybag already having been available since February of this year. For the photo I actually had to rebuild it, as I’d already sorted the pieces into my parts collection. On its own merits this small model is pretty okay since it has a reasonable number of parts and provides enough complexity, so I can always recommend you get it, if you want to present both versions in your showcase.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Front Left View

The model is distinctly split into three segments when it comes to how well the details from the real thing have been translated into miniature form – front, middle/ cockpit and the rear. they all have various degrees success in that department. My personal favorite is the frontmost area with the complex cooling intakes/ lip, which are nicely represented using a good number of curved 1 x 2 wedge slopes.

It only loses its appeal once it transitions into the center sections because LEGO did not have nor did not produce a new wheel well with a nicely curved top and then it transitions into the angled side walls, which unfortunately are much too straight and don’t even come close to the faux aerodynamic profiling of the original.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Aft Left View

The rear end is somewhere between the two other section in terms of realism with the overall shape and stand-out details being recognizable, but the overall shape simply being too straight. The latter is insofar disappointing, as this section already uses a sideway building technique where a whole block of pieces is mounted in a ninety degree angle, which should have made it relatively easy to sneak in a few curved slopes, be it just to create the illusion.

This area also contains the single, most valuable “new” part on the whole model – the minifigure candle in Pearl Silver, used here as the exhaust pipes. This should prove popular for all sorts of piping, rails, gun barrels and so on in custom builds. The Dark Pearl Grey armor plate used in the middle between the humps as the engine cover is not new as a part, having appeared first in the large 1989 Batmobile (76139), but it’s a first for me and I’m always glad if I can add such “realistic”ally machine parts to my collection.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Aft Right View

The humps themselves are an element where I’m a bit torn. Apparently they are way too angular to pass as the genuine article and my prevailing feeling is that this would have required a different approach like building them up from more gently curved smaller slope and bricks. However, I’m also pretty sure that this would require some major re-engineering of the whole aft section and a lot of experimentation. It would be a major undertaking. Since I cannot offer a simple, better solution I’m therefore giving it a pass for now, but I sure would be interested to see an alternative approach one day.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Front Right View

The cockpit is a reasonable rendition of the original, given that it goes for a reduced design similar to old open racing cars from the 1930s. That is of course within the given “normal” luxuries in that class of cars like everything being covered in expensive leather. To that effect we even get some printed curved slopes mimicking the white inlay patterns the seats apparently have. I would have preferred them not to be blue, though. Using Medium Nougat or Dark Tan would have provided some contrast and added interest just as it would have disguised the lack of opacity on the white areas. Sadly this seems to become more and more of a theme with LEGO and they really need to fix it.

LEGO Speed Champions, McLaren Elva (76902), Cockpit Detail

Toyota GR Supra

Moving on to more mundane territory, we have the Toyota GR Supra, though of course that in itself is not exactly true. Versions of car are being used in serious racing series, so it’s in and of itself not your mom’s everyday car which she takes you to school with.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Overview

The appeal for me is more or less defined by the color and the weighty appearance, not so much the car’s design as such. Yes, this is my OCD about wanting to have as many color options in my parts portfolio as possible kicking in and I just don’t have any yellow wheel wells yet. 🙂 We are also getting the 2 x 2 triangular tile in Yellow for the first time here, which is something I certainly don’t mind, either.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Front Left View

As far as I could determine from photos, the overall proportions are just fine, but as usual the devil is in the details. The original is much, much, much more rounded. not as crazy as the Elva, but certainly distinctly enough that compared to that this model feels like a square block. At the risk of repeating myself, but this is one more example where I would have expected more curved slopes and wedges to be used in several places. again, it would take time to figure this out, but I really think it should have been possible.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Aft Left View

The rear section doesn’t look anything like the original, not even in the “Close your eyes and imagine it!” sense. I mean, as stated I’m a moron when it comes to the finer points of cars, but even I can see that the actual shapes are dramatically different and the model does not have the “droopy sad face” appearance of the real thing.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Aft Right View

One thing this model has going for it are the interesting building techniques. There is a number of moments where during the build I found myself surprised by how some things were used in a way I never even considered before. At least from that standpoint there is something to learn here. However, cool stuff never comes entirely free and there is a cost attached to such wild kriss-kross upside-down and sideway building in all directions.

That is the fact that as a result some gaps are wider than they would be with more conventional techniques. This is first and foremost owing to some of the brackets used in the process ending up with free-swinging ends or blocks attached to sideway studs not being locked in place with other elements, in turn causing some push & pull on the tiles used to cover everything. It’s not crazy or anything, but certainly noticeable in some places.

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Front Right View

Admittedly, the front got me riled up a bit. The illusion painting of the lower air intake/ spoiler is okay, though the struts appear way too thin and are not angled. However, I completely lost it when it came to the headlights. You are supposed to place three separate tiny bits of sticker on the individual slopes on each side and even then it wouldn’t look correct, because on the real car it’s a long continuous slit. Now I don’t use stickers as you well know, but even if I did , this would have me screaming at the wall. It is just plain and simple stupid. By all means those elements should be printed or this section designed differently so users only have to put up with a single sticker on separate slopes or tiles!

LEGO Speed Champions, Toyota GR Supra (76901), Front View

The interior of the cockpit uses more illusion painting and is apparently meant to ideally be only viewed through the glass piece and/ or with minifigures in place. This actually works, but I still wish this was a bit more realistic and believable and didn’t rely so much on the “black cavern” illusion.

No Tires, but Wheels?!

One thing that has caused quite a bit of controversy and caused a stir in the LEGO community are the new wheels. They are no longer constructed from separate tires and wheel hubs, but are a solid single plastic piece. Whether you like it or not is of course your own preference, but personally I like this move. It makes a lot of sense for something that is supposed to be a display model and eliminates this uncertainty of the synthetic rubber having weird interactions with the plastic (and causing stains on your furniture) as it ages and degrades. You know, when it starts to “sweat” and smear, things can really get ugly. Now the worst that can happen is that the wheels crumble just like the rest of the model after ten years or so.

Naturally, this won’t be used for every model as clearly there are enough cars out there that have wheel hubs in all sorts of colors and different tires that may not be possible to represent with this method even if dual-molding is used, but it is absolutely serviceable for a lot of these cars, even more so since black hubs appear to be sort of a trend currently. My only peeve is that the included decoration spokes (also a new mold) are also completely black and do not have a hint of silver on them. It would have been ace had they those small chrome edges like on the originals.

Concluding Thoughts

The Speed Champion sets always offer good value and building fun on a reasonable budget. However, it feels like they do not seem to be that important to LEGO‘s overall strategy and revenue and thus do not get the attention they would probably need. This is most notably felt in the fact that the designers have to make do with many existing parts and don’t appear to have that much pull to request new custom parts. That however is the crux of it: Many of those models would benefit from a bunch of those small wedge/ pancake pieces like they are available in Mega Construx sets to better represent the complex shapes and curvature of contemporary cars.

As it is, it feels to me like despite their best efforts and some pretty creative building techniques the designers have reached a hard ceiling on what they can do with current parts and it really shows with these two models. The inefficient rendition of the Toyota‘s headlights by ways of segmented stickers is a prime example for this. A single printed slope from Mega could have elegantly replaced this somewhat hacky solution and looked ten times better. The same goes for the humps on the McLaren and its curved posterior.

Regardless of those limitations, the models still look good enough from three feet away and the originals they are based on are recognizable. I also thoroughly enjoyed the building process and had some “Aha!” moments due to the clever construction techniques used. At the same time, however, I’m also teed off by LEGO‘s laziness. It seems just weird that a series aimed at collectors does not put in the effort and resources for printed parts or for that matter a more user-friendly design that avoids some of the issues. So for me it remains a mixed bag. Car aficionados may feel differently, of course.

Explorer-ing… Cars – LEGO Explorer Magazine, August 2021

As I’ve probably already written a hundred times I’m not that obsessed when it comes to cars, bikes and other motorized vehicles, but oddly enough I do watch the occasional race on TV. Summer is of course racing season, so it’s not the worst idea that the latest LEGO Explorer magazine deals with some of that subject matter.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Cover

Of course as usual the topic is tackled way too broadly and generically for my taste with everything from actual racing cars to super sports cars to electric vehicles thrown into the mix. Perhaps a bit too higgledy-piggledy for its own good and I maintain my position that a narrower focus in each issue would help. The future of cars could be worth its own edition as could racing cars and then there’s still enough room left to include the fancy cars from Speed Champions.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Info Page

There’s some additional info pages with a few tidbits such as the speed records depicted here, though I feel that kids cannot really relate to the numbers. A proper diagram translating everything to relative speeds like you find it in more scientifically-minded literature would probably have helped.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Info Page

There’s a small coloring page based on the Lamborghini Siàn, which of course LEGO have in their portfolio as a 400 Euro Technic model, so it’s not hard to see where this is coming from. Not sure, though, whether coloring a plan view is that attractive. A proper perspective drawing shouldn’t have been too difficult to create, or should it?!

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Coloring Page

The road-based game map offers some potential for creative play outside the original rules, so it’s regrettable that it isn’t actually a separate oversize poster.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Road Game

The actual poster presents some specialty machines, including the super expensive LEGO model of the Liebherr excavator, but is ultimately not much to write home about. You know, that old “I’ve seen this stock photo a million times.” thing. They really should put in more work to create their own photos and artwork.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Poster

The buildable extra is kind of okay, but at the same time also a bit lame. You know what it’s supposed to represent – a Formula 1 or Indycar car – but it’s way too minimalist to really look good. Mostly it’s simply too flat and I can’t really understand why they didn’t use e.g. this 1 x 1 curved slope for the dorsal spine’s air intake at least, among other pieces they could have chosen to better represent the curved shapes of such a vehicle. 

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2021, Extra

Overall this is a somewhat lackluster issue of this particular mag. It doesn’t enthuse you and “just exists”. The editors seem to not quite have known what to focus on and what to emphasize, so this feels like a bit of everything thrown in and ending up as an indistinguishable blob of something. Let’s hope that the next editions will be better again…