Amazing Vehicles LEGO Build-It Book [Review]

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.

Street RodI’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).


Instruction-ifiedThe 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.

Street Rod, built from pure SNOT.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.Street Rod

8 comments on “Amazing Vehicles LEGO Build-It Book [Review]

  1. LegoMasterBuilder

    I have been waiting for a long time for your review about this book, but I am honestly totally disappointed being so superficial. I’m not even sure the reviewer understood the whole point of this book.

    For the rest of you guys reading this just visit:
    at the bottom you will find quite a few reviews, which provides many more interesting information about the book content.


  2. Keith Goldman

    ^I think you should read the review again, I don’t find it superficial at all. After reading it, I was left with the impression that the book is a nicely crafted set of instructions detailing how to build 10 different vehicles given a set of parts. So when you say “I’m not even sure the reviewer understood the point of this book”, I’m both confused and interested to see what you think the point of the book is….other than making money of course.

    I’m not sure comparing this article to the “reviews” on the bottom of the page you linked to. Do you really think Chris’ effort was less interesting or informational than this gem?

    “Once again, No Starch Press has offered LEGO enthusiasts a great book full of extra fun for both kids and adults.”

    I understand you may not have enjoyed this product review, but I wish you would be more specific in your complaint.

  3. Chris Post author

    I appreciate your opinion, LegoMasterBuilder, but I don’t follow you. It is a book with instructions for building LEGO models. I followed the instructions and built a LEGO model, and then provided my opinion of the product and the process, and was fairly impressed with the result. You made the critique that I was too superficial. Could you explain in what areas you would have liked me to elaborate more? I’ll be doing more of these reviews in the future, so I’m always looking for ways to improve and provide reviews that are relevant to our readers.

  4. Josh

    @LegoMasterBuilder – So I went and read all of the reviews to which you linked. For the most part they were very similar. Chris included all the same information they did except he never mentioned that the pieces they used are from the same set and he didn’t list all ten of the builds for which they include directions. Is that what you mean by “the point”? If so, I think its minor but to each his own. Also Chris was one of the few to actually build a model from the book.

    Lastly, I need to say that there are many kinds of reviews. One style is not inherently better than another. I really don’t understand how you can be as disappointed as you say you are.

  5. boekelbrick

    Maybe LegoMasterBuilder wanted to say that the whole point of the book is about using lego set 5867. If you own that set, all parts are allready available to you whitout gathering them in a slow way. Thats also why there are tan parts used!

    Kind regards.

  6. Chris Post author

    Boekelbrick: That’s a good observation. But since that set is from 2010, and I haven’t seen it in stores since the book was released, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the people building stuff from this book won’t own that set, even if they buy as much LEGO as I do. You are correct, though, in that being the explanation for the tan pieces, although my main point in even bringing them up was that they are hard to differentiate in the instructions.

  7. LegoMasterBuilder

    I am just under the impression the reviewer did not spend enough time reading the text pages in the book. (yes, there are also text pages)
    In there one can understand that the whole point of this book is learning to be creative and think out of the box, not just build based on instructions.
    This is a huge thing in my view, mostly nowadays that kids are asking to get a new set everyday. This book teaches how much fun a single and inexpensive set can generate!
    In a sense this is similar to a Creator set: one group of parts, many models (20 models including the second book!)
    Same as for creator sets there are no single bill of materials, but one common for all the models. So I don’t see the point of being annoyed here, LEGO has done this for ages.
    Quote:”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.”
    Again, the needed parts are based on LEGO model 5867, it was not made up: all explained at the beginning of the book.
    There is no mention of the theory pages about basic and advanced building techniques, an important bonus that stimulates creativity.
    Last but not least the graphics in this book is clearly above average, the pictures are in fact computer generated, which -as far as I know- is a first in the world of unofficial Lego books and is IMHO remarkable. Nothing mentioned in the review.

    Please understand, I’m not trying to give anybody a hard time, I just bought this book for my son and got very excited about it. Since I am a big fan of your site I was waiting for the review and I felt it did not make justice to the real value of it: that’s all.

    On the good side I have to admit that not many reviewers have actually built a model, so 2 thumbs up for that, which in my opinion is need to really understand the genius behind them.

    Cheers & thanks

  8. Chris Post author

    LegoMasterBuilder: Thank you for your thoughtful follow-up. You do have valid criticism that I did not spend enough time reading the text, and I will definitely take that into consideration for future reviews.

    Regarding the parts list for individual models, I stand by what I said. Many builders will not own the set the book is based on, and so will be finding parts the same way I did. I know how digital modeling programs work, and I know it will have been a trivial amount of effort to include an additional page at the beginning of each model with a specific parts list. Perhaps it was cut for cost reasons, but as an end user, I don’t need to worry about how a decision was made, only that it was made. I think LEGO ought to do the same thing, honestly.

    The same goes for the instructions themselves: I did make mention that I thought the instructions were very good–easily as good as LEGO’s official ones, I think. That does not preclude room for improvement, though, and as a reviewer, it is my job to point out areas products can be improved, even if they are already excellent.

    Regarding the techniques explored in the book, I believe that I covered that several times, and especially in my final paragraph. I didn’t see anything that was new to me, nor likely to other experienced builders, but I think many people would find the techniques explored in it quite beneficial.

    I’m sorry I didn’t mention the fact that the images are computer generated. Frankly, I didn’t feel that was important to mention. Good, crisp images (whether photographed or rendered) are the minimum that I expect from a published book, and I don’t see what difference it makes to the consumer that they were rendered.

    And don’t worry, I welcome any thoughtful criticisms that you or any of our other readers may have. I’m always looking for ways to improved my future reviews. I appreciate you taking the time to expand on your original comment.

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