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

The Mirage IV was a beautiful jet with a sinister purpose

In the sixties, under president Charles De Gaulle, France started to follow a fiercely independent foreign policy that included reliance on its own nuclear deterrence force, often known as the Force de Frappe. Nowadays, its core is formed by a small number of submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, but from 1964 to 1996 France also operated Mirage IV medium-range supersonic bombers armed with nuclear weapons. It took Dutch builder Kenneth Vaessen about a month to build his 1/36 scale model of this relatively little-known Cold-War jet.

Dassault Mirage IV-P - 1

In the logic typical of the era, these bombers were intended to deter a Soviet nuclear attack on France, by being able to destroy Soviet cities in retaliation. Few sane people would like to think about this sinister mission for long, but you’ve got to admit that the jet looks beautiful. With its tall undercarriage, sharply angled delta wing, and long and slender forward fuselage, it completely follows the unofficial rule in aeronautical design stating that, if it looks right, it flies right. The excellent model has a retractable undercarriage, opening cockpit canopies and working airbrakes and is built in a realistic two-tone camouflage scheme.

LUGNuts contest winners: a lot of class and a touch of gas [News]

In early February we announced that LUGNuts, which is the online group for LEGO car lovers, was celebrating its 100th monthly challenge by organising a car building contest. Prizes were sponsored by TBB, among others. The cars to be built were randomly assigned to the contestants from a list compiled by LUGNuts admin Lino Martins. He has announced the winners to the group’s members and it is my pleasure to present them here to you.

In first place: Firas Abu-Jaber with the very classy Rolls Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Playboy Roadster.

Rolls Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Playboy Roadster

Thanks to a certain magazine, its name may not sound particularly classy nowadays, but it’s a beautiful car that is well built and very well presented. If you think you’ve seen it before, this may very well be because it was featured in a post by Elspeth little more than a week ago.

The entry that won the second prize is a bit gassy rather than classy: “El Laxante” by Andy Baumgart (D-Town Cracka). His assignment was to build a Chevrolet El Camino, which he brought to another level by putting it on tracks, among other things. It’s crazy, over the top and in real life would probably be smelly and very loud, but it’s fantastic.

'El Laxante' - '74 Chevy El Camino SS

Showing a degree of prescience, Elspeth’s earlier post also included the 3rd prize winner: Martien Nijdam (Pino) with his rendition of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. It’s another classy classic car.

Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

These winners were decided by combining top five lists of each of the five group admins and moderators.
The contest got an impressive 77 eligible entries and there were a lot of great models to chose from.

Other entries that were on several of the judges’ lists, but that didn’t quite gain enough points to end up among the prize winners, were the Volksrods by _Tiler, the Chrysler Town and Country woody by Velocites and the studly Ford F100 by TechnicNick. On behalf of TBB and LUGNuts, I’d like to congratulate the winners and thank everybody who participated for making this the best LUGNuts challenge to date.

Dale’s RV from The Walking Dead in LEGO

The notion of zombies walking the earth strikes me as completely ridiculous and I never got into the whole ApocaLEGO theme either, but yet, somehow, I am completely hooked on The Walking Dead. I first saw an episode about two years ago and since have binge-watched the first four seasons and am camped in front of the TV for every new episode. I can’t really explain why. Perhaps it’s because some of the characters are so unsympathetic that the thought of a half-rotted zombie tearing their guts out is something to look forward to. Nobody seems safe, however, and whenever the more likeable characters are killed off, such as Dale Horvath in the 2nd season, I feel pretty much gutted myself (pun intended). A lot of fan-built LEGO models based on The Walking Dead are focussed on customized minifigures, but I wanted to have a vehicle from the show as part of my movie car collection. My choice: Dale’s Winnebago Chieftain RV.

Dale's RV from The Walking Dead

Click through to learn more about this LEGO Walking Dead RV

The first of the Century Fighters

During the nineteen-fifties, rapid advances in aeronautical engineering meant that the top speed of fighter aircraft shot up from below supersonic to more than twice the speed of sound. For the U.S. Air Force, this huge increase in performance coincided with the introduction of a now almost legendary range of fighter aircraft, starting with the F-100 Super Sabre and ending with the F-106 Delta Dart, also known as the Century Fighters. Over the years I have built both an F-105 Thunderchief and a Delta Dart. Just after Brickfair Virginia 2013, a number of military builders including myself visited the National Air & Space Museum Udvar Hazy Center near Dulles Airport and, after seeing the museum’s Super Sabre, I wanted one, badly.

F-100D Super Sabre

The trouble was, this is not particularly easy. I didn’t just want any old Super Sabre; I wanted one in Vietnam war era camouflage much like the one in the museum. I find the best match for the camouflage colours is dark tan, dark green (or Earth green, as LEGO calls it) and old dark grey, and the parts palette in all of these colours is limited. The jet also doesn’t have a particularly easy shape, with a slightly odd oval intake and curved fuselage sides. Then I got a bit side-tracked, building movie cars for a couple of years. However, after a lot of procrastination and head-scratching, it is finally done. The model represents an F-100D that served as a fighter-bomber aircraft with 184th Fighter Squadron, the ‘Flying Razorbacks’, of the Arkansas Air National Guard, late in the type’s operational career.

LUGNuts 100th challenge

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the last eight years, LUGNuts is the Flickr group for LEGO car enthusiasts, founded by Lino Martins and Nathan Proudlove, with Tim Inman, the impossibly prolific Peter Blackert and yours truly serving as moderators. Ever since it was founded, the group has organised a monthly build challenge centred on a particular type of car or car-related sub culture. Normally these challenges are just for the fun of it and they’ve inspired many cars blogged here on TBB. This month is extra special, however, because it’s the 100th challenge!

LUGNuts 100th Challenge…100 Ways To Win

To mark this occasion we’ve turned the challenge into a competition, with whoppers of prizes. The third place winner gets the Technic 42050 Drag Racer, second place gets the Technic 42039 24 Hours LeMans Race Car and for the first place winner, we pull out all the stops with the Technic 42030 Remote-Controlled Volvo L350F Wheel Loader. These prizes are sponsored by The Brothers Brick, one of the biggest Bricklink stores in the US, Constructibles, and the LUGNuts Admins and moderators. Furthermore, the three winners will also receive autographed editions of The Art of LEGO Scale Modeling, courtesy of Dennis Glaasker, Dennis Bosman, and No Starch Press. Thanks to Dennis Glaasker and his equally creative daughter Stacey for making the poster.

To compete, join the discussion, pick a number, get assigned one of the individual challenges from our top-secret list of wacky cool cars and start building.

It needs suspension work and shocks, brakes, brake pads, lining ...

Back in 2013, quite a while before the LEGO Cuusoo/Ideas Ecto-1 was unveiled, I built my own version of this movie classic. For many LEGO builders, including yours truly, a model is never quite finished. I am happy with it when I build it, but if the model is still around a few years later, my fingers sometimes start to itch to make a few improvements. LEGO keep making new and useful parts and I may pick up a few new tricks along the way. My Ecto-1 looked as though it could do with a bit of work.

Ecto-1 revamped

This turned out to be pretty extensive. The roof, some of the interior equipment and the rear end are mostly unchanged, but everything else is new. I was never too happy that the sides of the car from the Ideas set had a nicer shape than those on my model, but using cheese slopes and various brackets, I was able to make them much more rounded. This meant rebuilding the chassis and fitting new door handles and involved a lot of tinkering to ensure that the red from the fins continues along the bottom of the windows. The front was completely overhauled, with new 1×2 curved slopes used for the edge of the hood and a completely rebuilt radiator, with new jumper plates, that allow a stud to be stuck in the middle from below, used for the half-stud offsets. The windows have been partially tinted and I’ve even fitted new hubcaps.

Ecto-1 revamped

Good to go for another few years!

Pretty in pink

Pink as a car colour is usually seen as either for girls or just as plain wrong. In the fifties, however, when bright colours were all the rage for American cars, pink was often a factory option. It’s particularly associated with Cadillacs, with Elvis Presley having owned several in that colour and Bruce Springsteen penning a song called Pink Cadillac. My latest model is a 1956 Ford, however.

Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner

I’ve been collecting bright pink parts for a while now, for a different project, but this weekend decided to use some of it for the fantastically named 1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner. It’s full of fifties chic: it has a two-tone paint job, a glass panorama roof over the front seats and a so-called continental kit on the back, with a spare wheel and extended bumper. Building in pink added to the fun, as this involved a fair bit of improvisation to account for the still limited parts palette.

Most popular LEGO models featured on TBB in 2015 [News]

Time for another list; the top ten of fan-built models, based on how popular they were on TBB’s Facebook page and right here on Brothers-Brick.com. We may write about news and set-reviews, but the custom creations from builders around the world are the bread and butter of this blog. If you are sick to death of Star Wars, it’s best for you to ignore this list, as it is rather heavy on models based on the movie franchise. In fact, perhaps you are better off ignoring this blog altogether for the next few weeks, as I suspect there will be many more Star Wars models to come.

  1. Fan spends a year building 7,500-piece Millennium Falcon from the Force AwakensMillennium Falcon (Starwars VII)

    It happens to be the newest model in our Top Ten, but the Millenium Falcon from The Force Awakens built by flickr user marshal banana shot to the top of the list even faster than it could make the Kessel run. It ticks multiple boxes: it’s from Star Wars, large, immaculately detailed and has working lights to boot. It was also nicely photographed and came out just after the movie. Well played Mr. Banana, well played. Look for an interview with the builder in the new year.

For more of the list, click through

The best LEGO sets reviewed on TBB in 2015 [News]

The end of the year is only a few days away, which means it’s time for a few end-of-year best-of lists. In 2015 LEGO released almost 800 sets ranging from small polybags to the massive 2996 part SHIELD helicarrier. We’ve done our best to review the more interesting ones. This is our top ten most popular set reviews of 2015.

  1. Exclusive review of LEGO Ideas Wall•E set designed by Angus MacLane
    When Wall•E hit the big screen in 2008, it stole the hearts of cinema-goers. If movie critics had hearts, theirs would have been stolen too. Angus MacLane was Directing Animator for the movie and his LEGO version of the little robot is one of the LEGO Ideas sets released in 2015.

    21303 Wall•E (Review)

    We had one of these sets before it hit the stores. Andrew’s exclusive review can be summed-up in just a few words: It’s awesome. You loved it as well, as it’s our most popular review.

Click through to see the rest of the list!

Star Wars vehicles with a few twists

I am not quite old enough to have seen the first Star Wars movie in the cinema and remember it, have yet to see the latest instalment and, if I had to choose would prefer Star Trek (before J.J. Abrams ruined it), but I too jump on a bandwagon every once in a while. I’ve had a Landspeeder in my collection of movie vehicles for more than a year now and last weekend decided to add a Speeder Bike.

Star Wars vehicles and figures

“Where are the twists?” you may wonder. Well, Andrew has been virtually twisting my arm to blog them, to show that the contributors to this blog are builders (and to avoid an embarrassing repeat of the “Optimus Prime fiasco” when everybody and his uncle got around to blogging one of my models before I did). The more interesting twist, however, is their scale. At a first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that these are not that much different from LEGO’s own sets and, in terms of size, they indeed aren’t. Yet, I build my vehicles to a scale of 1/22, which is intended for brick-built figures roughly twice the size of minifigs. I particularly enjoyed building the Scout Trooper for the Speeder Bike. Looking into the specs and pictures of the props taken on the set, it turns out that they really are quite small; a Landspeeder should not be the size of Ecto-1, but more that of Mr. Bean’s Mini and a Scout Trooper on a Speeder Bike really should look like somebody riding a legless horse.

Reaching higher with Beat Felber

Since mid-October I have had a pretty crazy time at work, very much at the expense of my blogging and pretty much everything else. I have built a few things, but I told my fellow contributors that I would only write something if it knocked my socks off. Well, consider me barefoot. The culprit is Swiss builder Beat Felber and his AR-1200M Mobile Crane. Tadano is a Japanese manufacturer of cranes and the model carries a Japanese livery, of the Showa Co., Ltd. of Kobe. This already makes it a bit more interesting than your average Liebherr. Furthermore, as you would expect from a builder who goes by the name Engineering with ABS, his model is full of working features.

Tadano AR-1200M Mobile Crane 05

It uses Power functions for the drive, for steering on all five axles and to extend the stabilisers on both sides, with pneumatics used to raise and lower the struts. The crane boom can be raised, slewed and extended using Power Functions and, of course, the winches are remote-controlled. It also has working lights. The boom reaches a height of 2.15 m (more than 7 ft.) and can be extended even further by adding a separate jib. This is not the tallest crane we’ve ever blogged, but size is not everything. It is gorgeous.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

As you probably know, today, the 21st of October 2015, is the day that the DeLorean Time Machine from the 1985 blockbuster Back To the Future travelled to.

2015 Delorean Time Machine Front

Back in 1985, the makers of the movie imagined a rather cool-looking future in which we’d have flying cars, self-drying clothing, hovering skateboards and lots of fax machines, among other things. The hoverboard may be on its way, but fashion fortunately went in another direction and there are no flying cars either or at least none that work reliably. Instead we have smart-phones and social media.

Flying Delorean Time Machine from Back to the Future

We also have LEGO parts that I certainly couldn’t have imagined back in the eighties, as well as lots of different third-party accessories. Brian Williams (BMW Indy) has put some of these to very good use on his version of the Time Machine, with parts with a matte metal finish as well as lots of LED lighting and “glow” wire. He first posted pictures of this beauty a few months ago, but now seemed a particularly fitting day to bring it to your attention.