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.

Blue Jet or what? – LEGO Creator 3in1, Supersonic Jet (31126)

I used to do a lot of plastic scale modeling in my youth and while I eventually gave up the hobby in favor of other things, I retained that interest in (military) aviation and try to keep up with latest developments as well as discovering new pieces of info about older aircraft types, their development and operational use. That’s also of course one of the reasons why I love it when LEGO come out of the woods and release sets that at least somewhat resemble contemporary fighter jets, even if disguised as something else. It’s been a while since they had such a model in their range, but now here we are, talking about another one after almost two and a half years by ways of the simply titled Supersonic Jet (31126)

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set officially comes with 215 pieces and is supposed to retail for 20 Euro which is within the normal range of what you would expect for a Creator 3in1 set. Here it could be considered a good deal already based on the fact that the package contains several rather sizable parts such as the four Orange fins and the large wedge plates used for the wings. On top of that you get a good number of the triangle tiles along with other notable Dark Blue pieces plus even bits for a stand and overall the model is reasonably large. This gets even better once you consider the discounts out there in the wild and you can’t go wrong buying it for the 14 Euro that now have pretty much become the standard price. This is really good value, even if admittedly a few things could have been done differently.

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), Takeoff, Front Right View

The Model

Much has been made of the shape of the plane and which exact type it is meant to represent, but that’s a discussion that can be had better elsewhere and even then it’s slightly pointless. Given how similar modern combat jets have become in appearance simply due to identical mission requirements resulting in nearly the same technical solutions, this could indeed be an endless, yet unproductive debate. From an old F-16 to an Eurofighter to modern stealth types like the F-22 you can see anything here if only you wanted to and squint your eyes hard enough, yet you’ll never be able to pin it on an exact model simply because LEGO don’t want you to and keep the illusion alive of not doing actual military stuff.

That being the case here, it’s also the single biggest issue I have with this set: The color combination is just a bit weird. Usually Dark Blue elements are very desirable as they can be used nicely for many custom builds, but here things just don’t click in combination of Orange and White. The model feels drab and ultimately the color scheme poorly designed. Things just don’t “pop”. Now of course LEGO never would give us a plain Light Bluish Grey/ Dark Bluish Grey/ White combo, cool as it would have looked here, but at least using some different colors would have helped a lot. Using for instance Coral instead of the plain Orange would have made things more vibrant and lively. Likewise, using Bright Light Orange for the fuselage while retaining the other colors would have looked better. there’s a number of ways this could have turned out, but I feel the option they went with is not the best choice.

The assembly is pretty straightforward with the fuselage being built around a central core of a few long Technic bricks and layers of plates onto which a slew of tiles and curved slopes are shimmed over. On the sides this is apparently done with brackets, but this follows the recent trend of not covering every gap with a stud, so a few areas will only mutually stabilize once everything is complete. I can see why they are doing it this way to minimize stress on some of the angled areas and to keep the walls of the air intake as thin as possible, but occasionally it feels odd and really only begins to make sense when a certain step in the building process is finished. On that note, another serious oddity is the nose cone based on a square roof slope piece. While it contributes to the stealthy appearance and is simply plugged on in one of the final steps, I really would have preferred a more elaborate construction e.g. based on a few of these wedge pieces.

The landing gear is serviceable in that it’s robust enough to hold the model, but due to the thick Technic beams used still feels rather inelegant. In the end I’d gladly have sacrificed stability in favor of a slicker construction using the wheel elements from City airplanes, bars and minifigure android arms, especially if you leave the model perched on its stand and there are no forces on the struts. Another such thing that bugs me is the lack of wheel well covers. For the sake of argument those wouldn’t even have needed to be functional with hinges. Simple slot-in replacements like some pre-built blocks that could be plugged into the pin holes instead of the gear elements would have been fine. Even if they’d gotten in the way of the ratcheted hinge construction for the wings (you can actually make them droop down with anhedral), this would have been better than staring into those somewhat crude openings.

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), StandAs a bit of a novelty this set contains an actual stand for the plane so it can be displayed in an airborne position. It’s the simplest possible solution using a few Technic connectors and a large dish, but it works and looks acceptable if you’re not looking too closely. Somehow I think using the new tail piece would have looked awesome and much more dynamic, though.


Alternate models – Are they worth it?

As you can see from the absence of some photos I haven’t actually built the alternate models, but allow me to share my thoughts, regardless. One of my reservations that also factors in here is of course the color scheme. It’s acceptable for the helicopter, but a Dark Blue racing catamaran? I don’t think so, for the simple reason that this would just not provide enough contrast for these ocean racers and the ship kind of disappear against the water. Also, judging from the promotional photos and the instructions the build process is very similar and I’d probably be bored out of my skull repeating nearly the same steps as I did on the jet.

The helo on the other hand would be just fine in this regard, but it’s a tiny build by comparison and doesn’t use a major chunk of the pieces. I feel that this would have been better relegated to its own little set and instead a more complex build be included in this one. In light of these things there would apparently also be little motivation to buy a second or third package to build all models – that is, unless you really also want the leftover parts for your other projects.

Concluding Thoughts

This is an odd set that unfortunately wastes its potential with a few rather dumb decisions. The color scheme is a bit of a turn-off and in fact this isn’t helped by the atrocious package design with its all too apparent fake stadium in a very unattractive toxic green. On the shelf this looks very unappealing. The jet plane itself could be interesting, but is apparently falling short in a few areas where fixes would have been easy to implement. The consolation here is the very acceptable pricing for this set, though it’s not enough to warrant multiple purchases, at least in my opinion, since the alternate models don’t hold up. Perhaps it’s really one of those sets where you would emphasize the play aspect and at least that seems possible, given how sturdy the builds are…

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.

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…

Green Goblin Speeder – LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434)

For someone who doesn’t know much about cars I sure do write a lot about this type of sets here on my blog, so here we go again with the Supernatural Race Car (70434) from this year’s summer wave of Hidden Side sets.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Box

In my view Hidden Side as a series has more or less tanked and is doomed to be cancelled/ not extended pretty soon. The reasons for this are glaringly obvious, but suffice it to say that the lack of advancement in the world-building and a lot of pretty lackluster sets haven’t helped. It’s still being sold with massive discounts left and right, which of course is nice for me, but speaks volumes about how little consumer adoption and demand there may be. So I’m mostly enjoying it while it lasts and I’m raisin-picking the sets I think will benefit me, or more specifically my parts stock, the most.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Overview

Choosing this particular model was primarily driven by the Dark Green parts and I also thought the the faux white-wall tires looked kind of cool, with another contributing factor being that oddly enough I never even had the narrower rim type used for the front wheels in the first place, regardless in which color. There are some other, less visible useful details, but more on that later. Unusually for me I also liked the minifigures, well, some of them, which is unfortunately yet another point LEGO don’t seem to understand and exploit to their advantage.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Figures

Specifically I liked the leftmost character called Vaughn Geist, an all too apparent word play on van Geist. It’s color scheme with the different brown tones and the overall apparel style would wonderfully fit into a Steampunk inspired setting once you replace the head, a quality shared by several of the “ghost” figures across the Hidden Side sets.

The helmet of the Shadow Hunter in the middle will please knights fans, no doubt, as it was last used in some Nexo Knights sets. Similarly, the Uruk-hai sword has only recently seen a renaissance in Ninjago and as a Knights of Ren sword in Star Wars, so it’s definitely a nice addition. If nothing else, it could mean that prices on Bricklink will drop and you can complete your old Lord of the Rings sets more cost-efficiently.

Jack is pretty much his old self, but at least they gave him a new screen design for the smartphone tile.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front Left View

The main model itself draws inspiration from an American Hot Rod/ custom car not quite unlike my own humble attempt. It’s designed as one of those compressed, very low suspension type of cars hugging the race track. It manages to convey the idea well enough, but falls short in execution. I’m particularly disappointed that not more effort was put in in actually covering the rear section.

The thing is that I know such cars with their innards exposed exist to show off that expensive carbon fiber undercarriage for instance, it just doesn’t look convincing here. You guessed it – LEGO are essentially screwing themselves by leaving all those grey and brown bits exposed, making for a rather unattractive posterior. If at least they had matched up the colors…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Left View

The rear section also falls short in terms of construction in what I consider a critical area. The wheels are supposed to double as some kind of anti-gravity hover pads as seen in some science fiction movies and thus are attached on a hinge mechanism. So far, so good. Where things fall apart, however, is the way it’s implemented. Instead of using a proper double-beam suspension it’s built in a way that the stoppers of the axles on which the wheels are affixed simply butt against the car’s body.

In the front this isn’t as critical because there’s a pretend drive shaft poking out of the motor and it fits perfectly, but in the aft it makes me go *grmpf*. You could argue that “Whatever works, works!” and clearly kids won’t mind, but I see trouble. In the long run the areas where the two parts are in contact will show a white circle/ dot on the green shield due to the  microfractures from the pressure and eventually the pieces may crack completely or at least fall off because they have lost their clutch power. Point in case: It’s only clever as a quick, immediate solution, but the designer didn’t consider the repercussions for later.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Right View

As usual the set ties in with the Hidden Side Augmented Reality (AR) game on mobile devices and to that effect features a bunch of colored markers that trigger the various ghost and Gloom interactions. The selector wheel on the back is commonplace and exists in the cylindrical form shown here or its flat, disc-shaped pendant on pretty much every model, but in addition there’s a Magenta marker on the inside of the roof. there’s also additional Medium Azure markers on the sides.

These got me excited a bit. As you well know I never use stickers on my models and in the before times this is exactly how LEGO would have done it – a sticker wrapped around a round 2 x 2 brick. This would have sort of worked, of course, but here it would also have been somewhat critical because there’s not much room. The edges of the sticker might have gotten snagged on the edge of the car body, peeling it off in the long run.

That’s why instead we get a new part, which is what you already thought it would be – yes, a 2 x 2 round brick cut in half. It solves the issue perfectly and personally I’m hoping LEGO will include this part in many more sets from here on. It solves a ton of problems and opens up new design options not just for rotating parts, but also protruding faux “columns” on buildings and the like that just need to blend in smoothly. It’s literally one of those “This piece should have existed for forever already!” cases where you wonder why it took them so long…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Game Markers

The rest of the car is very ordinary in every way. It’s built around a double Technic brick center beam, with most of the other parts being plugged on using SNOT techniques and conventional stacking without any sophisticated tricks. The overall slender style doesn’t really allow much more than that, anyway. There’s just not enough space.

A final small little highlight is hidden in the guns on the hood. They are constructed from standard double-barrel blasters and extended in length with Black binocular pieces. Why is that even worth a mention you wonder? Well, those pieces surprisingly haven’t been done in Black like forever. I hardly couldn’t believe it myself at first, knowing that I have tons of the min Dark Bluish Grey and Orange from various Friends, City and Star Wars sets, but yes, the mighty Bricklink says it has now been almost ten years since last they were used and LEGO have only re-introduced them late last year. Go, figure!

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front View

Overall this is an okay model for what it is and it had some positive surprises. However, it isn’t anything you’d miss if you didn’t buy it. It will work just fine as a play set for the intended age range of kids if you don’t mind the shortcomings that will eventually break it. It’s definitely not a collectible, though. Some major work would be required to improve the details and make them withstand the degradation that comes with time like the “white dot” issue I mentioned.

As most of the time, I had my sights set on the parts for use later and I might actually buy a second set at some point to get a complete set of four identical white tires and use the pieces for other projects (including the revelation of now owning one more large green tile modified in addition to the one from the A-Wing (75248)) . Still, there’s no rush and I’m waiting until prices drop further. 24 Euro isn’t that terribly expensive (MSRP 30 Euro), but I feel the value isn’t really there. This by all means would be a 20 Euro set in my world.

Saturday Triple

I’ve distracted myself with way too much other stuff this week, so I didn’t get around to catching you up on the latest LEGO magazines and thus I’m rolling three of them into this single article.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2020, Cover

The June issue of the City mag this time is themed around the new racing/ car workshop sets from this year’s spring releases and consequently therefore we are getting a small kart as buildable parts. It’s nothing too special, but at least it uses the same base plate as they did in the failed Friends kart racing series, so building your little vehicle is super simple and at the same time super robust. The minifigure is also nice in that it’s plain and generic enough to fit many scenarios. Even the red helmet is a welcome change from the usual, as lately I seem to have only come across black and white ones in most sets.

The aforementioned figure is also featured on one of the posters and this, too, benefits from the somewhat unspecific, unbranded nature. If you will, it’s not as obtrusive as some other figures that are plastered all over with advertising, be that made up or real. The comics seem to now have fully transitioned to the newer, more dynamic style in all magazines, so it’s pretty acceptable and, which is a bonus, can also almost be followed without reading the speech bubbles.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, June 2020, Cover

The Friends magazine is giving me a lot of grief, not just because they reduced its publishing frequency to only every two months. It’s just done so poorly from the lackluster comic to the ugly CG figures. The only reason I still buy it are indeed the extra buildable pieces. With the puppy training theme being the latest weird trend in the commercial sets it was inevitable that it would show up here one day as well. The good thing about it is that this way I’m getting a white little doggy without ever having to buy one of those sets, as indeed Bello with the grey dotted eye patch is completely new print variant of this molding.

The rest is really not worth mentioning, though at least it seems they have adjusted their target demographic’s age a little and the activities and some other things at least make sense in that context.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, June 2020, Cover

Finally there’s Hidden Side. The graphical fidelity of the series still impresses me and shows that a lot of labor was poured into it, the actual story and content not so much. At least the J.B. figure is pretty decent and they even were smart enough to include the ghost-hunting gun. That’s cool because it’s based on the newer 1×1 pistol piece, which due to its compact size and strategically placed studs opens up lots of possibilities to build custom weapons, household appliances etc. or even integrate is as a brick/ bracket of sorts into regular builds.

The poster with the different ghosts would actually be okay if it wasn’t so overstuffed, but Jack? SRSLY? Isn’t it bad enough that we’re getting yet another boring figure of him in the next issue? I’m sorry, but I’m literally facepalming myself over this…

Racing Frog – Rocket Rally Car (31074)

Odd as it may sound, but sometimes there’s this lull where I just can’t seem to find something LEGO that would make for a nice diversion after having exhausted other options. That is of course something within my budget, given that many more expensive sets are out of reach for me, anyway. Therefore the Rocket Rally Car (31074) was kind of a filler in an order of three smaller sets.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Box

Even though in this case it wasn’t on top of my list, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have bought it in the long run eventually. I have this odd thing going where I basically still want as many different parts in as many different colors as possible just in case I might ever need them for a custom build. This model has a few of them and the rest of the pieces also appeared useful, so I knew regardless of the sets own merits I’d get some value out of it.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Left Side View

Let me cut to the most important point right away: the color choices. Say what you will, but this is perhaps not the most attractive color scheme they could have come up with. In my view it’s some sort of bastardized Mia-themed vehicle as you would find it in the Friends series (minus the orange bits). That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing when viewed from the other side, as currently there isn’t such a vehicle in that series and this presents an easy option to expand the play value, but for a Creator 3in1 model it’s perhaps not ideal.

This can be spun in a million ways, of course, but something is off. Just like replacing the Lime Green with another color like Red would have worked, using indeed Orange in place of the Dark Azure pieces would have been an option. Personally this reminds me of photo editing work where you have accidentally inverted a single color channel and therefore the complementary colors appear.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Front View

The build turned out more elaborate than the marketing photos and other materials suggested and for me that’s always a good thing, be it just to extend the enjoyment of building by another five minutes. It’s nothing too complex or challenging, but you have to pay attention and keep track of things to not maneuver yourself into a snag. Keeping those brain cells stimulated is always a good thing in my opinion.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Front View with open Doors and extended Engine

The set builds into a reasonably robust model and offers a good selection of movable/ playable features. The doors are built from multiple plates and hinges and are actually quite large, so access to the interior through them is easy and unlike with other models there is no need to remove the roof. In fact the set offers no specific contingencies for this, so removing the top would drag along other items and damage the model. Using the doors is way to go.

The air scoop on the front can be pushed out using a simple mechanism hidden underneath the front bumper or pulled out manually. Unfortunately it never is fully flush with the rest of the hood, so it always looks kinda odd and not aerodynamically optimized as it likely would be on the real thing. I think if I were to build this again I’d simply forego the insert and cover the hole with some parts from the spares box.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Aft View

The rear comes with a fully openable trunk and in its basic form this offers a ton of stowage space. Should you decide to get this set as an ancillary model for some Friends fun, you could stuff a lot of things in there. One of the alternate uses is to tilt down the jet engine at the top and “hide” it inside, which again opens up some play scenarios like a transforming super hero/ secret agent vehicle or in more ordinary terms the engine just being tucked away for safety during transport.

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Aft View with open Trunk

Interestingly, while I’m still critical of the selection of color, the Dark Azure parts such as the spoiler wings and the spoked wheel caps are rather unique and more or less exclusive for this set. I have no idea yet what I’m going to do with them, but I’m sure they’ll be handy one day. You could likely even just hang them as decorations on a wall in a Mia-themed house indeed. 🙂

LEGO Creator, Rocket Rally Car (31074), Aft View with Jet Engine inside

In its entirety this turned out a better experience than I had anticipated. The model comes together nicely and due to its play features would be an adequate choice for kids. It’s not worth the 20 Euro MSRP, but in most places you can get it for 15 Euro or lower and that checks out, given the size of the assembled model and perceived volume of stuff. I haven’t built the secondary models, but if I were to guess the Jeep would be quite similar structurally, just with a different outward appearance. the little quad doesn’t seem worth it at all, though, and sure wouldn’t be a reason to get this set.

Stubby Flyer – Race Plane (31094)

I’ve been a (military) aviation buff all my life, so one would think I latch on to every LEGO model that is a halfway decent rendition of an aircraft, but not so fast. Indeed the Race Plane (31094) from the Creator 3in1 line wasn’t even on my radar until an unexpected opportunity changed that.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Box

Said opportunity came when I was browsing eBay searching for something else and they were offering a 10 Euro voucher for every purchase above 20 Euro within a specific (very short) time frame. I wasn’t planning on buying any LEGO stuff that day, but then I figured “What the heck.” and did it, anyway. The real trick of course would be to find a suitable set that would meet the minimum purchase value to be entitled for the voucher, yet not be overly expensive to make it worthwhile.

A quick search turned up this set being sold at 27 Euro with the original MSRP being 30 Euro and given that shipping was free, anyway, the math worked out quite favorably and I took the plunge. At 17 Euro effectively you couldn’t ask for a better price. Typically you can find this set for around 21 Euro, but given the bulk for once I would say that even paying 25 Euro would be fair. In fact, depending on your inclinations even the full price could be considered okay as this set really feels massive.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Overview

In typical 3in1 fashion the bulk of the parts goes into the plane itself, but this set has at least a pilot figure and two racing pylons. The latter feel a bit out of place in that in order to set up a real racing circuit you would simply need a lot more, ideally with different color coding as it’s used to indicate where the plane needs to take specific turns and loops or fly at different heights as in real aerial racing. It also stands to note that the cones aren’t used in any of the secondary builds for this set. I’m not complaining to have them, but it feels a bit inconsequential and redundant in either direction.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Left View

The plane itself is based on the old school premise of racing planes derived from old wartime planes like the P-47 Thunderbolt and/ or classic designs like the Gee Bee Racer that ultimately also drew a lot of inspiration from military planes of the 1930’s and on. As such the model represents a quite wild mix of different ideas, borrowing bits here and there. In addition to the already mentioned examples of course the one thing that stands out is the shape of the wings, very apparently based on the F4U Corsair‘s unique inverted gull wing design.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Right View

The main fuselage is built a round a pretty massive core made up of different types of bricks and plates, including ones with pin holes to which later the wings will be attached. This provides a pretty robust basis for the rest of the parts. The aft part of the cockpit is constructed from stacked wedges of the integrally molded symmetrical type. This also provides a lot of stability. Personally, though, I would have preferred separate pieces using sideways construction methods in the interest of better re-usability of the parts for later projects.

The vertical rudder could be a bit of a weak spot do to it being put together from slope bricks without much interlocking/ overlap and also being fixed to the body using 2 x 1 jumper plates. Mind you, it doesn’t fall off under normal conditions, but you have to handle it with care. There is also no moving parts, though i feel that would have been easy enough to do using some hinges and building the part from perpendicular plates plugged to the fuselage with pins or such. The blocky appearance is also a reminder that LEGO seriously need more thin slopes and narrow curved bricks to allow for smooth aerodynamic edges.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Top View

To me personally the wings feel a bit short, as a Corsair has quite an impressive wingspan. Inserting one more row of 2 x wide slopes/ bricks at the wing root and the same on the outer part might have improved this. I’m fully aware that wings on race planes are often clipped to increase maneuverability, but I can’t help but feel that they are simply not large enough to provide enough lift. I also think the “depth” (front to back width) would need to be increased on a real plane, no matter what. in relation to the rest of the aircraft the proportions fit, though, and look just fine.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Folded Wings

Like on many naval airplanes the wings can be folded up. I don’t think this is necessarily an intended thing, however, more a side effect of using the ratcheted hinge plates to create the angled attachment points in the first place. The downside to this is also that there are no stoppers on the underside, so the wings can actually have negative inclination, which not only looks odd, but just wouldn’t work on the real plane. Given that the wings are connected to the fuselage using Technic axles and connectors and the wheels are also attached this way this seems like an oversight. It shouldn’t have been that difficult to add a “stopper” pin or whatever somewhere to prevent pushing the hinges into negative angles.

The motor section is perhaps the weakest part. Not so much for how it’s done, but once again how illogical and inconsistently it is done. It’s like the designers had a ton of ideas and then couldn’t decide what kind of motor to emulate, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it. Or they just don’t understand how this stuff works. In any case, for this reason this section feels massively overstuffed and a good chunk of it could probably have been left out.

For instance you wouldn’t want a carburetor intake/ air scoop to obstruct your view. Doing so might also have offered a chance to simply add proper fairings and access hatches for this area, possibly also allowing an alternate build without the interior engine parts and just a smooth surface. The same goes for the coiling, which I would have preferred to be build from curved slopes around a square core, similar to how you build Brickheadz.

LEGO Creator, Race Plane (31094), Front View

Finally I also think they could have done better on the propeller. In terms of length and width the small Technic rotor blades would have been a perfect fit here and I’m sure they could have produced them in black with yellow tips plus a new four- or five-fingered axle hub to hold them. This would incidentally be quite useful, anyway, not just for this set, so totally worth the investment in my view.

All my niggles aside (which are simply due to being involved in the subject so much) this is a very nice set. It hits all the right beats and most importantly is fun. It’s not super simplistic to build, but also not too complicated, so assembling it is enjoyable and a good way to idle away an evening. It’s also a very stable and massive model that can withstand a bit of mistreatment by children without falling apart at every turn. I was quite surprised how much I actually like this set, never having seriously considered it beforehand. I might even build the Alpha Jet like third alternative model one day just for fun. I definitely can recommend this.

No checkered Flag – The (failed) Friends Kart Racing Series

Something that has been on my mind for a while is that I always wanted to do an article on what I consider the LEGO Friends failed kart racing series. I know, these are strong and bold words, but before digging into the details, allow me to elaborate on why I think this sub-theme has bombed – strictly limited to what I can determine from my own observations as an adult here in Germany.

To that effect I have packed the reviews of the Service & Care Truck (41348), Drifting Diner (41349) and Creative Tuning Shop (41351) into one article to make it easier to follow my arguments and draw your own comparisons. I will also share my thoughts on the remaining two sets based on studying the digital building instructions, photos and having seen them (and in part played with them) in stores.

The Reasons

As with any such thing you have to consider both the economic side as well as the actual contents and quality of the sets because they are intrinsically linked. Detractors will of course be quick to point out that a lot of that is subjective and I’m not going to deny that, but with a bit of common sense it should not be too hard to follow my arguments. Let me begin with the business stuff.

The sets don’t appear to sell well at all and as far as I can tell never really have ever since they were released last year. There are a few strong indicators for that:

  • Prices for these sets slumped immediately after release.
  • The sets are still sold on permanent relatively heavy discounts.
  • At this point several online stores and retailers already do no longer even list them, despite their being part of the current catalog still.
  • Whenever I’m out and about in stationary stores, sets seem to recognizably sit on the shelves for a long time, i.e. you can find out individual boxes based on damage marks you already saw a few weeks ago.

All of that can be seen as a sign that if it weren’t for the continuously ongoing promotions and low prices those sets, they likely would sell even worse. The counter thesis to prove this even further would be that even something as popular mundane LEGO City sets sell at higher average prices due to stable demand.

Since a basic rule of economic science is that demand drives prices, yet it seems the general public doesn’t really care for this series, the pertinent question naturally has to be what could be wrong with the design and contents of the sets that makes them unappealing. There are a few common themes to that as well.

  • Despite discounts, the sets often feel like you may not get your money’s worth. A lot of the pieces are smaller standard parts that don’t justifiably contribute to that perceived volume for money thing.
  • The designs appear hugely inconsistent. Aside from some shared standardized stuff the whole thing doesn’t feel like a proper series at all. It’s like literally every set was designed by a different person, completely ignoring what their peers did.
  • Construction wise, a lot of the builds feel unsophisticated and flimsy. In addition to posing structural problems while handling the models this also impacts play value. It just doesn’t make sense how some elements have been put together.
  • The sets lack internal logic as in “That’s not how this stuff works/ should work in the real world.”

On top of all that one could add the more general dislike of Friends prevalent in certain crowds, too, naturally. Middle-aged men with no kids around just can’t get get behind the crazy colors and re teed off, even if they may appreciate the underlying overall concept. Which brings us to a point…

The short version of summarizing the kart racing theme would be: It’s a neat idea, but it has been done as part of the wrong product line. That is all the flaws I already pointed out notwithstanding, of course. Unfortunately, a lot of the good stuff is hidden in details whose ingenuity you only realize when actually building. It also stands to note that personally I appreciate how at least they were trying something fresh. It’s just that they were way too often inconsequential to go through with their ideas and also likely were too constrained by budget and marketability considerations. Before I lose myself in even more pondering, let’s delve into the actual contents.

The Karts

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Left View LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Kart Left View
LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A Left View LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart B Left View

One of the better parts across all the sets are the actual carts themselves – strictly speaking in design terms. If you were to purchase all the sets, you’d have a full eight of those little vehicles. As should be evident from the images, the basic construction is always similar with variations of colors and elements used thrown in to add individual distinctiveness. The colored elements are plugged onto black chassis plates that already have pins attached and also include the vertical studs onto which the bumpers go. This allows for an extremely flat, yet very sturdy construction. Except for the protruding parts, most of which are attached using clips, this should make the models very safe and prevent them from falling apart too easily even if kids throw them around like crazy.

A major shortcoming are the steering handles in the sense that no matter how you bend your mini dolls they remain out of reach. There is simply no position where they fit perfectly into the hands without the figures looking like they have a broken spine. This may seem like a non-issue, but here’s the thing: The karts have no real driver’s seats, either and in fact it’s just a white curved slope, so without anything to hold on, they just flip-flop around loosely and will of course fall off easily. It’s hard to fathom how nobody seems to have noticed this during testing, even more so since by their nature mini dolls have no stud holes on their legs/ buttocks that would allow them to be affixed this way.

Service & Care Truck (41348)

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Box

I got this set as a gift from my beloved brother who picked it up spontaneously during his grocery shopping. It’s a well-meant humorous stab at my LEGO obsession that has become sort of an insider gag in my family. The set was – once again – on discount during a weekly promotion and you can get it for as cheap as 13 Euro, which given that the next lower tier of LEGO sets is the 10 Euro range makes this actually a good proposition in terms of what you get for your money. On the other hand I wouldn’t necessarily consider it for its full price of 20 Euro. It’s a bit too scant for that.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Overview

The truck on first sight seems simplistic, but well-executed nonetheless. It’s apparently kind of based on a low-rider pick-up truck mixed with design elements found on many cars from the 1960s, in particular the protruding snout/ motor hood. It’s a welcome deviation from the more conventional trucks found e.g. in the City series that are typically based on more modern designs.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Left View

While it looks okay, the set is not without issues and little annoyances. due to the large side openings the cockpit at first glance seems quite accessible, but actually getting your mini dolls seated inside is another matter entirely. It’s basically the same issue as with the karts: How do you get a small rounded bum to rest on a smooth surface? The figure tend to topple over and then you spend your time fiddling around.

Removing the roof is also not always a good option. Ironically, by using the grey plate as an intermediate, the clutch power becomes too strong. That’s good for stabilizing the whole thing, but slaps you in the face once you need to remove the piece. It tends to drag either the windshield or the back along due to them being made up of large parts, too, that are not fixated any further on the chassis. It’s certainly not ideal.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Right View

The roll-on ramp is a functional feature, yet it doesn’t exactly make sense due to the absence of a winch. At that steep an angle you could neither push a kart onto the platform nor would it be able to get up there under its own power. This is a strange design decision, even more so since likely in reality you would lift the vehicles using a small crane or a forklift onto regular trucks of this class with removable side boards.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck with lowered Ramp

What totally rubbed me the wrong way with this set is the poor construction of the chassis especially in the aft section and the hinges for the platform. If you’re not careful it’s way too easy to break off the clips when lowering the ramp or causing gaps in the stack of plates forming the beam when you push down the flatbed again. This is certainly not ideal.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Bottom View

While it’s by far not the worst of the lot, the little flaws in this set pile up and make me go *grmpf*. It’s one of those cases where the set easily could have been a lot more elaborate and better and not squandered its good premise. Had they targeted the 30 Euro range and included more parts, they could have achieved this and perhaps even succeeded to the point of making it relevant for people who don’t typically buy Friends sets (assuming they also used a little less crazy colors and omitted the pink parts). The image of the kart is for reference, so you know which set it belongs to.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Kart Right View

Creative Tuning Shop (41351)

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Box

Where do I even begin with this one? It’s full of lovely little ideas, yet a total mess in terms of execution.

Let me be clear: I got this set strictly for parts. I have a project I’m working on where I’m potentially going to need a bunch of large transparent panels, so I got it into my head to kill two problems with one stone, so to speak. Rather than buying separate parts on Bricklink I wanted to use the opportunity to also get another set for potential reviews on this very blog. The question you may immediately ask is whether the economics add up, and yes, they do.

This set is perhaps the most stand-out example for the almost ridiculous discounts you get with this series. All I had to do is wait for the right moment and then snatched it up for just shy above 20 Euro. Mind you, the MSRP is 40 Euro. This translates to something like 47 percent off, or in simpler terms half the original asking price. That being the case, it’s easy to see that even the large panels will reach a price level that is near equal to what you would have to pay on Bricklink, anyway, with the other parts then becoming kind of a welcome bonus on top.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Overview

The biggest issue with this set is literally “easy to see through”, i.e. this being a glass palace with the transparent items simply having been plugged together without any additional structures in-between. While this type of construction might certainly be possible using modern types of sandwiched glass, it’s probably not used that widely due to the associated cost (I would imagine). Regardless, even then there would still have to be some extra load-bearing columns or beams somewhere IMO.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Front Left View

Worse still is the fact that this is just a facade in the most negative sense. I would even argue that if the curved panels wouldn’t require a certain depth, they would have made it just six studs deep instead of eight. The problem here of course is that this is supposed to be some kind of show room/ VIP area/ driver’s recreational zone with a small customization workshop, but completely feels like you wouldn’t actually want to visit it. In other words: It feels cheap and as if the designers couldn’t settle on one subject.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Right Left View

If you get my drift: A square show room with no roof – fine. A twelve studs deep show room with a celebrity center on the second floor – be my guest. A fully decked out workshop – absolutely. All of the above as a half-assed mishmash – not so much. I really feel there’s at least two separate sets to be had here and splicing them out would have allowed for much better execution of the theme.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Back View

As far as those interesting details I keep mentioning go, the signage (the wrench and spray can) is pretty cool and the sliding garage door is not half bad, either. If you adapt the concept using more mainstream colors this could possibly even look nice on the latest Corner Garage (10264) Modular Building. The corrugated panels in Light Aqua could be used for a small back alley shed, a garden house or even a large special purpose dumpster. Interestingly enough, this set also includes the 1 x 1 yellow Post it! tile, which oddly enough aside from the Old Fishing Store (21310) always only appears in the weirdest Friends sets. Go, figure!

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A Left View LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart B Left View

This particular set comes with two karts – one matching the main color scheme for Emma and an alternative one for the male protagonist, Dean. As a side build there is a repair ramp that actually can be elevated and lowered with the turn of a knob. This boosts the play value notably, though it’s not really the set’s saving grace.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A on Service Ramp

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A with Service Ramp

Tying into the customization workshop theme there are a bunch of extra parts that you could swap out on your carts. In my personal opinion it’s kind of superfluous because why would you even want to do that? Given the smallness of the bits and bobs it would be hugely disruptive to the flow of whatever play scenario your kids are involved and ultimately parts would get lost in the long run – either the ones you rip off the kart or those on the bar. Somehow it doesn’t make much sense even though I’m happy to have those extra parts.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart Replacement Parts

Overall this set is quite a disappointment on its own merits. However, admittedly it did work for me as a parts source and no matter how shoddy the set is, I still learned a trick or two in building it. If you consider buying the complete kart racing series, perhaps this could and should be your lowest priority item. I’d always consider it the most dispensable as it really brings nothing to the table that couldn’t be had by buying other sets.

Drifting Diner (41349)

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Box

The Drifting Diner is easily the best model in the whole series. It’s not extraordinary or special in any way, but its generic nature plays to its strengths. It could just as well be a burger stand in your little non-Friends city and with a few modifications and color swaps would fit a lot of themes. Of course that applies to many of the restaurants/ diners we have seen over the years. The overall level of innovation to be found here is pretty low, but then again there’s only so many ways to skin a cat.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Overview

The side builds are well intended, but not really in any way meaningful or essential. The video screen is more or less just a glorified bookend/ stand for a mobile phone, but without such a device at hand is pretty useless. Even if you put the sticker on the large grey slope the appeal is low. Perhaps it would have been better to build this as a billboard advertising the restaurant rather than – again – muddying the waters by mixing the idea of an open air cinema with that of the diner.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Details LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Video Screen

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart with FlipperThe color scheme is based on Andrea, which is my least favorite of all the girls. In particular the extensive use of Magenta somehow always ruins these sets, as it’s a very “heavy” color that tends to overwhelm everything. Especially on a small build like the kart this stands out even more.


LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Left View LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Aft View

The building follows the pattern of a ninety degree corner built on a 16 x 16 plate with the interior being therefore entirely open and accessible. The burger signage feels a bit too large for a model of this size. The front would have to be wider and taller to really accommodate this monster and ideally it would be offset from the roof by placing it on a protruding platform or some sort of truss at an angle. In fact I think one of the main reasons it feels so heavy is the perfectly perpendicular alignment. Perhaps then even the flags and decorative elements left and right would have made more sense?

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Exterior Left View

Inherently due to the support columns being built from inverted slopes you have to be careful during construction and the model will be rather unstable. Only when you insert the window panels and cover their edges withe plates will this stiffen up. The same could be said for the checkered wall made from 1 x 1 bricks. To say some delicate handling may be required somehow seems redundant.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Exterior Right View

As usual, the interior is rather sparse and just hits all the stereotypical beat you’ve come to expect – a coffee machine, a grill/ stove and some seating. I really wish they’d make these buildings larger and outfitted them with genuine separate kitchen areas and full height walls. At least the kid’s seat based on a small car piece is something original this time around.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Interior

One thing that bugged me about this set is its “noisyness”. The intense colors are quite distracting and get annoying after a while. I would have preferred some parts in more soothing colors like the Bright Light Orange roof bits being conventional Blue or Dark Blue. I also think that the White and Light Aqua parts on the columns could have been made more distinguishable by adding a separation line in a similar dark color.

Once more the original price of around 30 Euro seems unjustified, but you typically can get this set for around 20 Euro. I got mine for even less around 17 Euro, again strictly based on the idea that I would be using the parts for something else later. Whether that’s worth it to you is entirely your decision.

The Rest of the Lot

Finally let’s have a few words about The Big Race Day (41352) and the Spinning Brushes Car Wash (41350). When the series was new last year the former was put up in some places as a showcase model together with the service truck. I looked at it and decided that it would not be worth a second thought.

Having looked at the building instructions and marketing photos again for this article has reaffirmed this view. It simply feels too much like an add-on set that isn’t essential. The start tower is tiny and I don’t think anyone needs an arch for the finish line when you can simply draw it on with chalk, pencil or mark it with sticky tape.

The car wash is a set I might consider still buying yet if the price drops just a little more to what I would be willing to pay. This isn’t meant to say it’s particularly good or that I’d endorse it, but for my way of thinking it makes sense due to some parts it contains that are not that widely used elsewhere. Could make sense.

I got a chance to play with the set a bit when it was propped up in the play area of a toy store way back then. Unfortunately actually playing with it doesn’t work that well. As you may already have guessed, trying to get the kart through the washing mechanism without it getting jammed is pretty hit & miss. Even minor misalignment can block the toothed gear mechanism or get the vehicle stuck in the rotation brushes because the mechanism doesn’t move out of the way.


As I wrote in the introductory paragraph already, my biggest issue with this series is that it tries to be more than it can deliver. Many of the ideas behind it are barely fleshed out, others are only executed with a minimum of effort resulting in those huge differences in appearance and quality of the sets. Ironically some of them would be halfway decent if you took them out of the context of kart racing and just sold them as bog standard Friends fare sans the vehicles and extras. It’s this forcing them into this sub-theme that doesn’t work at all…