No Starch Press recently sent me a copy of one of their latest LEGO books, Amazing Vehicles, to review. It retails for $20 USD, though you can currently nab it over at Amazon for $15. Written by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, it’s a giant instruction manual in book form for building ten different vehicles. This is Volume 1, and the second volume is slated for release next month.
I’ve never been much interested in any of the unofficial build-it-yourself books, regardless of subject matter, because I always thought that if I’m going to build something that isn’t a set, I want to build my own model that I can claim. Additionally, I’m not much of a vehicle builder.
Nevertheless, since I wanted to give the book a proper review, I sat down to build one of the models. I chose to build number 9, the Street Rod. The book uses the same master set of parts for all of the vehicles, which are laid out on one of the first pages. If you’re just building a single model, though, like I was, you won’t need all of the pieces, and I found it annoying that each model didn’t have a page showing what parts are needed for it.
Instead, I gathered all of the parts for it the slow way, by manually going through each instruction step and finding the necessary pieces in my collection. While a lot of the parts are pretty common, unless you buy a lot of creator sets, chances are you won’t have all of the necessary pieces in the right colors. The book is quick to encourage builders to find substitutes, though. I found all but one red curved slope 2x4x2/3, which I substituted with a 1×4 tile and some cheese slopes (it goes on the rear bumper).
The book is high quality, printed on heavy paper, and the instructions are crisp and clear.
The black pieces (notoriously hard to make out) were even easy to see. I did find the difference between white and tan to be frustratingly hard to see, and honestly I’m not even sure why the models need any tan: the entire book only calls for 3 pieces in tan, and they are mostly used in hidden places.
So I began building the car, and it started off pretty much the way you would expect a Creator-type car to start: some long plates for the base that you build up from. Immediately, though, I was surprised to find that the plates are actually facing upside down, and the entire car chassis is built studs-down. The direction reverses part-way up, and the hood and trunk are studs up.
The engine area was filled with a nifty bit of Studs Not On Top (SNOT) work, and some clever half-stud offsetting. The final model is a snappy looking little roadster, similar in size to the 150-200 piece official Creator vehicles. It’s definitely a lot larger than minifig scale, being 8 studs wide, although I don’t think minifigs would look terribly out of place in it (although, sadly, there’s no legroom for them). I was very impressed with the overall build quality, and I hope the rest of the vehicles in the book hold up to this standard. Seasoned LEGO builders who are used to working with SNOT techniques won’t find anything new here, but for someone who is just getting into using more advanced building techniques, there’s a lot to learn here. This book would have been a goldmine if I’d had it when I was a teenage builder.