The history of aviation is littered with failed attempts at building an aicraft that can fly like a jet but take-off and land like a helicopter. One of the few successful exceptions is the British Harrier ‘jump jet’, recreated by Carl Greatrix (Bricktrix)
Key to the jet’s ability to take-off vertically is that its thrust can be vectored by rotating the four engine exhaust nozzles vertically down. These are present on the model, of course, and it is finished in Carl’s typical style, with finely crafted lines, a few custom working lighting elements and expert sticker work to recreate the camouflage pattern. The only thing missing, really, is that it can’t actually fly.
In recent years, LEGO set design has been going from strength to strength. However, as far as I am concerned, some of the sets I had as a child are really hard to beat. Build techniques have obviously moved on and new parts have been introduced, but particularly city sets from the late seventies and early eighties were design marvels. They may have been fairly simple and built using primary colours, but they also had lots of character.
We haven’t featured models by Are Heiseldal (L@go) very often, but in recent years he has been steadily building his own updated interpretations of some of these classic sets from his (and my) childhood, of which I am going to share a few favourites. LEGO set 675 “Snack bar” was released in 1979.
I never actually owned the oddly-named set 6694 “Car with Camper”, but remember poring over the 1984 catalogue to work out how to build the caravan. Are’s updated version seems to offer somewhat more privacy to the occupants.
Finally, the latest model that he has uploaded is a modern reinterpretation of set 6689 “Post Station”.
These models may not be spectacular in terms of build techniques, but I love them. There is enough of the original in them to ensure that a single glance is enough to trigger nostalgia. Furthermore, like the originals, if you look closely you’ll see that they are chock full of clever features. If you too get a warm and fuzzy feeling about these, I suggest you check out Are’s flickr album with more of his updated classics.
Most of the scientists I know love LEGO and, as shown by LEGO’s own research institute set, scientist can actually be a suitable subject for a nice set. Steen Dupont, Benjamin Price and Vladimir Blagoderov are not paleontologists, astronomers or chemists (nor are they female), but they are scientists, who work for the Natural History Museum in London, and who actually use LEGO in their research. In their latest paper, titled The customizable LEGO® Pinned Insect Manipulator, they present an unusual and innovative solution to the problem of how to study insect specimens without damaging the delicate wings and other appendages.
Among their advantages are that they are modular, cheap and easy to construct. The article contains one of the funniest sentences that I’ve ever read in a research paper: “The authors welcome correspondence on ideas for the next generation of IMps, and although the current models are easy to assemble the authors are happy to assist if no children can be sourced locally.”
Via Science. Thanks to Tim Gould for bringing it to our attention.
No, there is no spelling error; it’s the deliberate result of me, a Dutchman, trying to mimic Jeremy Clarkson impersonating a Dutch person speaking English. I know that this is perhaps confusing, but bear with me. It was prompted by the great Donkervoort built by Vinny Turbo.
Donkervoort is a small Dutch manufacturer of sport cars inspired by the classic Lotus Seven, and I’m pretty sure that if Top Gear were to review one, there would be lots of tire smoke and Clarkson would try to speak in a mock Dutch accent. The overall look of the model is somewhat reminiscent of the great Caterhams built by Carl Greatrix, but at a smaller scale.
The style of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian lends itself well to being reproduced in LEGO, but the mesmerizing new video by Cheesy Bricks takes this to another level.
[WARNING: contains classical music]
Thanks to Martin Long for bringing this to my attention, via The Brickish Association.
Friends of mine in the US used to own a Japanese minivan and it was reliable, comfortable and great for road trips, but about as exciting as wet noodles. When I think of Japanese cars in general, the first ones that spring to mind are tiny little boxes on wheels that seem more suitable for a shopping trolley and the second ones are competent but boring sedans. However, this impression isn’t fair at all, as shown by the Datsun Z240 by LegoMarat.
Z-cars are exciting. The 240Z had the looks of a classic long-bonneted sports car, but without the dodgy electrics that plagued similar endeavours from England. The roof on the model looks a bit too flat to me and the wheel arches are a bit awkward, but the model has presence. This is helped by its dark blue colour and the nicely curved flanks.
It doesn’t just look good; it too has some very clever engineering inside. It drives, powered by two Power Functions motors and using a servo motor for the steering. These are controlled via a nifty third-party Bluetooth controller, called an SBrick, which is specifically designed to interface with Lego Power Functions. It allows the user to operate them via an app on their smart-phone or via the internet. Its development was funded via a kickstarter campaign that Nannan reported on in July last year. You could be forgiven for thinking that this too must be Japanese, but it was actually designed in Hungary.
We tend to focus on LEGO system on this blog, in part because most of us are not really into the aesthetics of Technic models. However, as the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider by Jeroen Ottens shows, sometimes a clever combination of curved Technic panels and soft axles can be a really effective way of capturing the shape of a voluptuous car body.
The Italian tricolore striping also adds to the model’s visual appeal.
A lot of people start their builds by fiddling around with a few pieces until they find an interesting-looking combination. This then becomes the starting point for a cool new mecha or spaceship. That’s not how I do things. For most of my models, I start by planning, followed by a lot of procrastination and getting side-tracked into building other (easier) things and then some more planning, lather, rinse, repeat. Once I start putting parts together things move quickly, but the planning process can take several weeks or, in the case of Airwolf, as long as two years.
In the eighties, starting with Knight Rider, there were several shows that featured some sort of hi-tech vehicle as a central plot device or even as a character. Both Blue Thunder and Airwolf featured helicopters, but Airwolf was definitely the better show. It had one of the best theme-tunes in the history of television and, though they now appear terribly dated, the plots were a bit darker and more interesting than in most of the other shows, often dealing with espionage and the Cold War. Furthermore, the helicopter itself was based on the super-sleek Bell 222 and was armed to the teeth, with retractable guns and a ventral missile launcher.
The reason why the process took so long is that I don’t start building until I have convinced myself that I can build the model to a suitably high standard, which in this case meant building that sleek shape and those cool retractable weapons. What finally sealed the deal was finishing Blue Thunder, the realisation that I could replicate the shape using various new curved parts and by hinging the cockpit windows, as well as a video I saw of the missile launcher retracting on an RC model.
Considering all the rubbish TV shows I used to love as a child, I was undoubtedly very good at suspending my disbelief. However, even as a child I knew Dinobots make no sense whatsoever.
I can understand that, for a robot of alien origin on Earth, the ability to turn yourself into a car and blend into a crowd might make some sort of sense. However, disguising yourself as a 15 ft. tall metallic dinosaur does not strike me as a particularly sensible way to become inconspicuous. I am also sure that their personalities irked me.
Still, that does not mean Dinobots cannot be exceedingly cool as LEGO models, as shown by the tiny but fully transformable versions of Grimlock and Sludge built by Chief Supreme. I like the use of minifig headgear for the robots’ heads in particular. Dinobots may be stupid, but these are definitely clever.
If you are millionaire and think a Porsche is just a bit too ordinary for you, perhaps the Ruf CTR3 is just the thing you are looking for. Ruf is a German car manufacturer that specialises in building supercars using mostly Porsche parts. Supercar builder/super car builder Firas Abu-Jaber used to be featured on this blog on a regular basis, until real life took over for a bit. However, he has recently resurfaced and, judging from his spectacular version of Ruf’s current model, is back to his old form.
One of the outstanding features of Firas’ models is how every LEGO element seems to fit in place as though it was designed with just that use in mind. On this one, I particularly like the angled door and flared side panel just behind it, to give the car a bit of a coke-bottle shape. It looks completely natural and comparable to a die-cast model.