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

3...2...1...Launch!

In little more than a week, I’ll be joining more than a dozen other members of the Brickish Association at Brighton Modelworld in the UK. This is a show for scale models of just about any kind imaginable. In the last years it has seen an ever-growing contingent of LEGO builders displaying their models to a discerning audience. Brighton is a wonderful town and the show is always huge fun. Expect a report in due time. At Brighton, among other things, we’ll be displaying a collection of rockets and missiles, including the whopping minifig scale rocket from Tintin built by Ian Greig (bluemoose). This idea prompted me to have a go at a few of the military models that have been on my to-do-list for months.

Patriot missile TEL

The first is a Patriot missile Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL), as used by the Dutch military. Patriot is an American surface-to-air missile system intended against aircraft and ballistic missiles. A single system consists of a number of trucks with a radar, command post, generator and communications equipment, coupled to a number of launchers. In the Dutch military, these launchers are mounted on trailers pulled by DAF YAZ-2300 tractor units. Dutch, American and German Patriot units are currently deployed to Southern Turkey, to defend against Syrian ballistic missiles.

Shahab-2 ballistic missile TEL (9)

My second model is a ballistic missile on its TEL. The (in)famous R-17 Elbrus, better known as the Scud, was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was widely exported to Soviet allies, including several Warsaw-pact countries as well as various counties in the Middle East, such as Syria, Libya and Iraq. Scud missiles also found their way to North Korea, which developed its own versions and in turn exported those to Iran. My model represents an Iranian missile, known locally as the Shahab-2, on its Russian-built MAZ-543 TEL.

Ballistic missile defense is a fascinating high-tech and high-stakes business. A typical short-range ballistic missile, such as the Scud, travels through the upper reaches of the atmosphere and plummets down towards its target at about five times the speed of sound. To intercept it far enough from its target, the interceptor missile travels at a similar speed. The intercept has also been described as hitting a bullet with a bullet.

The models were interesting to build, because they have lots of details and things that hinge, but also because of their camouflage. Camouflage is designed to break up the contours of an object and to allow it to blend into the background. The colours tend to be arranged in patches. Randomly throwing bits with different colours together doesn’t give you the right look. I tend to use the following guidelines:
1) the border between colours should ideally never be a straight line of more than 3 or 4 studs long before it changes direction.
2) once a border has changed direction once, it should change direction again quickly
Of course, this gets progressively more difficult as the number of colours in the scheme increases and as you move to smaller scales. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t finally gotten my hands on decent numbers of small dark green plates.

And the winners of the 75th LUGnuts challenge are

About four weeks ago, I announced the 75th build challenge organised by LUGNuts, the online group for LEGO car nuts. There normally are no prizes for the challenges, but because this was our 75th we decided to add a little extra incentive. Members could build a car, obviously, but with other members assigning the car in question. The builders of the winning cars get prizes, but also the members who suggested them. The judges had a hard time choosing, but after I tallied up all the votes, we reached a conclusion. Without further ado, here are the winners of the 75th LUGnuts challenge. The comments below the images, written in italic script, are by Lino Martins ( Lino M), who, for lack of a better word, serves as LUGNuts’ ringleader.

In first place:
1967 Ford Mustang GT500
Pēteris Sproģis shows us all how its done with his stunning1967 Ford GT500. He could have stopped at just building the car, but he sets the scene and tells a story with an entire diorama of a Mustang car pulling a Mustang horse.

In second place:
Lamborghini Egoista
What happens when Lamborghini turns 50 and has a midlife crisis? The Egoista, as built by Curtis D. Collins (curtydc). Trophy brides half your age will forgive a guy’s pot belly and comb-over if he owned this baby. But you can’t take her with you as its only a one-seater. Awesome job, Curty!

In third place:
Ford RS200, LUGnuts 75th challenge.
Lego Junkie. lives up to his name with his totally awesome Ford RS-200. (…) Good show, Junkie. May you never seek recovery for your addiction.

The winning cars were assigned by Raphael Granas (r a p h y ), Rolands Kirpis (Rolic) and Dylan Denton (/>ylan/>.), respectively.

We post contest announcements on TBB fairly regularly, but I realise that we don’t actually always show the outcome. If it is this good, however, that’s a big omission. Congratulations guys!

New shoes for old tanks

Remember the Brickmania track links kickstarter project? It reached its funding goal and the first models that use these tracks are now appearing online.

B/V-88 "Athena" Trackmania

These fine examples, an M4 Sherman and two different versions of the Stuart light tank, were built by LegoUli. These already were some of the best examples of minifig-scale US WW2 tanks out there and built in old dark grey to boot. This is a difficult colour to use, because all kinds of handy parts builders have become used to, such as cheese slopes, were never made in this particular shade. It is probably the closest match to the colour of the real vehicles, though. The old track shoes were a bit narrow, but thanks to the new track links, this has now been rectified.

Back in the thirties, racecars were beautiful

Yesterday, the Scuderia Ferrari racing team announced their new car for the 2014 Formula One season and it is hideous. It looks like a fat bloke sat on its nose. Of course, what looks right and what is right in terms of aerodynamics doesn’t necessarily match up. What also doesn’t help are stringent rules aimed at keeping the speed of the car down. There used to be a time when things were different though. Back in 1933, the shape of a racecar wasn’t yet determined using wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics. There were also far fewer restrictions. Ferrari didn’t yet produce their own cars, but raced cars such as the Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza, recreated by bobalexander!. This car won the 1933 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, with drivers Tazio Nuvolari and Raymond Sommer.

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza (1933 spec)-Scuderia Ferrari

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza (1933 spec)-Scuderia Ferrari

Just look at the fenders and the boat tail. I’m all the more impressed with this model because it was built in dark red. The number of different parts available in this colour is on the increase, but it is still a lot harder to work with than, say, regular red. The end result is truly gorgeous.

Friday Night Fights (Round 32)

We’re reaching for the skies tonight, with two models that on the one hand are very similar, but on the other could hardly be more different. Both represent a Liebherr LTM 11200 9.1, which is currently the world’s largest mobile crane.

In the red corner we find the heavyweight contestant: a 1/15.5-scale model by Huib van der Hart (liftingbricks). I blogged this last year, when it was still a work in progress. Its size imposed daunting technical challenges and, at the time, it couldn’t yet be erected. Now it can, however, and it is so big it’s intimidating.

Project Lego liebherr ltm 11200 9.1

In the blue corner, we find a minifig scale version by Maksymilian Majchrzak (MAKS). This is his largest model to date and at 2 kg and with a height of 70 cm, when fully extended, it’s not exactly tiny. In this competition, however, it’s the bantamweight. Despite its much smaller scale though, it looks very much like the real deal, is highly detailed and has many working functions.

Liebherr LTM 11200-9.1 (3)

In last week’s dragontastic installment, Stormbringer’s Skrill Showdown narrowly beat Jonas’ Smaug the Stupendous, with a final score of 8 to 7. It’s up to you this week, dear reader, to decide whether size matters.

Seventy-five LUGNuts challenges, can you believe it?

More than six years ago, Lino Martins (Lino M) and Nathan Proudlove (Proudlove) started a flickr group for LEGO car lovers called LUGNuts. Over the years they’ve managed to draw in many of the best-known car builders in the online LEGO community. They’ve also enlisted the help of Tim Inman (Rabidnovaracer), Peter Blackert (Lego911) and myself as moderators. I’m pretty sure that many LEGO-related flickr groups fizzle in far less than six years, but LUGNuts is still going strong. The vast majority of cars blogged here are built by LUGNuts members (and not just because I look at the group’s photo pool for things to blog). The group is kept interesting by the monthly LUGNuts challenges. For these, members build something according to a particular theme, which is usually thought out by Lino. He also gives the challenges a snazzy name. We usually don’t pick winners and there are no prizes; the fun is all about participating, being creative and building a vehicle that you perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily build. Here are the challenges and some of the vehicles built for them last year.

Freakin' Balls-Out Sweet 75th LUGNUts Challenge Extravaganza!

  1. ‘Mad Motor Skills’: Harley Davidson by Bricksonwheels
  2. ‘Toyota Tacoma Time’: Toyota Tacoma by Rolic
  3. ‘Behind the iron curtain’: Fiat 125P Kombi by Raphy
  4. ‘May the Force be with you’: Naboo carfighter by NKubate
  5. ‘A Baker’s dozen’: Claas Harvester by Lego911
  6. ‘Summer of 69′: Mustang GT350 by Aaden H
  7. ‘Redo and redemption’: VW Dragbus by Lino M
  8. ‘Super 70′s Sensation!’: Unimog by Nolnet
  9. ‘LUGNuts Sixth Anniversary ‘: Green Goblin truck by Rabidnovaracer
  10. ‘Take it to the next level’: Brütal Legend Deuce by Proudlove
  11. ‘Diorama-rama’: Hamm road roller by Mad physicist
  12. ‘Freakin’ Balls-Out Sweet 75th LUGNuts Challenge Extravaganza!’: ?

We’re now running the 75th challenge, can you believe it? Lino has imaginatively called it the Freakin’ Balls-Out Sweet LUGNuts 75th Challenge Extravaganza!. This one is special. Every participant builds a car assigned to them by one of the other members and there are prizes for the best three builds (judged by the admins/ moderators). To add some extra fun, there are also prizes for the best three suggestions. If you’re into LEGO cars and ever wanted to build for a LUGNuts challenge, now would be the time to do it! The challenge runs until the end of the month.

The Copperhead concept is one crazy crotch rocket

The Copperhead concept motorcycle by Lino Martins (Lino M) looks as though it is getting ready to kill. Lino himself call it his first steampunk creation, but I’m not so sure I agree. Yes, he has used copper and rust-coloured elements in the build, but it looks too futuristic and at the same time too plausible to be steampunk in my book.

Copperhead Steampunk Bike

I’m reminded of something else entirely. I used to watch the American Chopper TV-show, before I got fed up with all the drama, but I admire the artistry in the way they shaped metal to follow the particular theme of their builds. To me the Copperhead looks like the end result of American Chopper paying tribute to H.R. Giger.

DAF Dakar racer

Today is the start of this year’s Dakar rally. This off-road race, for trucks, cars and motorbikes used to run from Paris to Dakar in Senegal, but because of worsening security in Northern Africa is nowadays held in South-America. Back in 1985, a Dutch team led by Jan de Rooy finished second in the truck category. They raced a much modified DAF 3300 known as The Bull, recreated by Nanko Klein Paste (nkle). The model has a Technic chassis and is remote-controlled using Power Functions, to participate in Truck Trial competitions organised by Lowlug.

DAF 3300 by nkle on flickr

I don’t think I’m particularly prone to nationalism, except when it comes to my choice of beer and the sort of trucks I like. Forget your Scanias, Volvos or Kenworths; to me DAF trucks are king of the road. DAF has its home base in Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands, where I lived for more than ten years. I used to see trucks operated by De Rooy Transport haul DAF cabs through town on a regular basis.

Laurel and Hardy’s Tin Lizzy

Happy new year! As some of you may have noticed, we seem to be enjoying a bit of a holiday break at TBB and are not posting much of anything. I spent my holidays with relatives, a few hundred kilometers away from my LEGO.

Laurel and Hardy Ford Model T (2)

I wasn’t building, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about what to build. I realised that I could combine two existing ideas into one. In the last few months, I’ve been building a collection of vehicles from movies and TV shows and I’ve been wanting to build a Ford Model T, also known as Tin Lizzie, for several years, but I never got around to actually building one. Fords Model T were used in many different early Hollywood classics, but I mostly associate them with Laurel and Hardy. As a child, I loved their movies.

Classic Kenworth cab over

I am pretty sure that when most of you think about a large American truck, you imagine it being ornately decorated and having a long nose that sticks out in front of the cab. The type of truck with a flat front, known as a cab over, isn’t very common in the United States (with the exception of light trucks used in cities). In the seventies and eighties things were different, however. Many American truck manufacturers used to build cab over trucks, with the Kenworth K100 Aerodyne, represented by this great model by Maciej Drwięga, being a popular type.

Kenworth K100C VIT Aerodyne

Maciej is in the process of revamping many of his builds and this one isn’t brand new, but well worth having a closer look at. It has a detailed chassis and engine. The dark red colour and the striping give it an eighties look and it looks the part of a work truck. It does have the bells and whistles that you’d expect on an American truck, but without being overly flashy. I also like seeing some exposed studs on the top.