About Ralph

Ralph Savelsberg, also known as Mad physicist, is an actual physicist, but he's not all that mad. He has been building with LEGO ever since he could first put two bricks together. He primarily builds scale models of cars and aircraft. You can find most of Ralph's stuff on his flickr pages.

Posts by Ralph

Arjan’s ocean-going tug looks ready to tow anything

Arjan Oudekotte (Konajra) does not post new models all that often, but given the size of most of them, that is understandable and they are always well worth the wait. His latest model is the largest ship he has built to date, with a length of 196 cm (or roughly 6’5 for those of you who prefer antiquated measurement systems) and built out of roughly 32000 elements.

Smit Zwarte Zee

The ship in question is a Dutch ocean-going tug called the Zwarte Zee (Black Sea). The ship was launched in 1962 and until 1984 served with the famous company Smit International, known around the world for large maritime salvage operations. As usual with Arjan’s ships, it is highly detailed and has a beautifully sculpted hull (in dark red, no less). I had the pleasure of seeing this behemoth with my own two eyes last Sunday, but if you want to take in all of it, I encourage you to take a look at Arjan’s album on flickr.

Sydag’s ultimate Grumman prop fighter

During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.

F8F-2 Navy Reserve in Hangar

Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.

Lego plus Pulp Fiction equals awesome

I really don’t care whether movie critics consider Pulp Fiction to be one of the defining movies of the New-noir genre, whether it is a prime example of post-modernist film or whether it is empty-headed camp.

Pulp FIction

I think it was a hugely entertaining movie and this black-and-white mosaic of Jules and Vincent by Joris Blok is awesome. Full stop.

Gotta catch ‘em all with Combee

Like many guys born in the seventies and eighties, as a child, I spent many Saturday mornings watching cartoons on TV. I used to watch classics such as Transformers, M.A.S.K. and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and build them out of LEGO. By the time Pokémon came along, I had lost interest in cartoons (other than Ren & Stimpy). Pokémon struck me as an obvious ploy to get children to spend their pocket money on what were obviously rubbish toys. Gotta catch ‘em all, right? Not at all like the cartoons I used to watch.

Ash & Pikachu

I have, of course, come to realise that my favourite cartoons were as much about selling toys as Pokémon, but I still think that much of the TV series was a bit rubbish. That said, I also realise that, to many people, Ash & Pikachu are no less iconic than Scott Tracker and T-Bob, or (dare I say it) Bumblebee and Spike Witwicky. This and the quality of the models, means that I cannot overlook these great figures built by Combee!. Pikachu looks particularly cute.

Thanks to Niels Huyzer, who suggested this to me several weeks ago.

Lego Ideas Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Review

Generally, I am not particularly interested in sets and LEGO CUUSOO/ LEGO Ideas does not do much for me personally, but I have to admit that I was stoked when I found out that the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 by Brent Waller passed the design review and that LEGO were going to turn it into a set. I’ve been a big fan of the movie ever since I first saw it as a child. It is imminently quotable and still funny, thirty years after it was released and the car is a moviestar in its own right.

Lego ECTO-1 review

I think that the earlier Cuusoo Back to the Future DeLorean looked a bit disappointing compared to the design originally submitted to CUUSOO. Pictures of the Ecto-1 set looked pretty good, however, and I was eager to have a look at the model in real life. Last week, while on a trip, I came across the set in a toy store in Germany (for €49.90 ) and decided to buy it.

The Vehicle
The real car used for the movie was a customised 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance conversion. The 59 Cadillac is an icon of excess, known for its enormous aircraft-inspired tailfins and its ornate front, with a lot of chrome and double headlights.

Front left view

Brent’s original represented this look quite well and, as his own comparison picture shows, not much was lost when his design (on the left) was turned into the set (on the right). The car in the set is a bit less smooth, but it is also a bit smaller. This is a good thing in my book, but more about that later. Ecto-1 is a popular subject and a lot of builders have built their own examples. On most, including Brent’s original, the windscreen is too steep. On the set, however, the angle is just about spot on, but it does look a bit too tall. I built my own larger scale version last year and spent a lot of time poring over photographs of details of all the equipment and lights mounted on the roof. The set’s version is impressively faithful to the original.

Lego ECTO-1 review

The roof of the model can be easily removed, revealing an interior large enough to seat three of the figures (in tandem) and one or two proton packs in the back. The sides of the body are mostly built using SNOT techniques, which keeps the tailfins nicely thin. The side windows are angled slightly, using a clever technique involving clips and bars. The set designers have done an excellent job.

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Beaufort bomber from down under

It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.

RAAF Beaufort

Beaufort break down

So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.

Pancakes can fly

In the thirties, before WW2, many aircraft were biplanes, powered by propellers and built using wood and canvas seemingly held together with bits of string. Not long after the war, all-metal jet- and rocket-powered planes were flying near the speed of sound. These rapid developments did not happen without a lot of experimentation. Some of those experiments produced decidedly odd-looking aircraft. Lino Martins (Lino M) is mostly known for building slightly wacky cars, but he has now built one of those wacky experimental aircraft instead.

Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake"

The aircraft in question is the Vought V-173, popularly known as the Flying Pancake. It was built to test the viability of building a fighter aircraft using a low-aspect wing. This was expected to deliver relatively low aerodynamic drag, but with good low-speed handling. The concept worked, but the fighter that it was to lead to, known as the XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack (I kid you not), was overtaken (literally) by more modern jet aircraft. The idea may not have been a success, but as far as I am concerned, Lino’s model is.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s 007 with Little Nellie

James Bond is well known for his often slightly wacky gadgets. The gyrocopter used in You only Live Twice, recreated in minifig scale by Brian Williams (BMW_Indy), is a prime example. This odd little contraption was nicknamed Little Nellie and in the flying scenes in the movie, it was piloted by its designer, Ken Wallis, who was a former RAF WW2 bomber pilot turned inventor. He died last year, aged 97, and was tinkering with and flying gyrocopters until shortly before his death.

Little Nellie - Overview

Brian’s model uses a fair few BrickArms parts, which may upset LEGO purists, but in my opinion they are a great addition to the model. It just wouldn’t look complete without its rocket pods. The model is also complemented by some really nice custom stickers.