Tag Archives: Brickmania

Build your own Antarctic LC-130 Hercules designed by Ralph Savelsberg with a kit from Brickmania [News]

Did you see the LEGO LC-130 Hercules we sent to Antartica at the end of last year? Did you want your own rocket-powered ski-plane? Over the last couple of months, TBB’s own Ralph Savelsberg worked with Dan Siskind and his team at Brickmania to turn Ralph’s model of this iconic aircraft into a custom LEGO kit you can buy.

LEGO LC-130 Hercules by Ralph Savelsberg by Brickmania

Ralph is awesome, Brickmania is awesome, science is awesome, airplanes are awesome — we couldn’t be happier that one of our team’s designs is being turned into a Brickmania kit!

Learn more about this unique LEGO kit

More LEGO Black Friday & Small Business Saturday 2016 sales & deals [News]

If you’d prefer to support smaller LEGO-focused businesses rather than just gorging on massive LEGO discounts on Amazon.com, there are plenty of other ways you can begin your holiday LEGO shopping.

Our friends at Brickmania have been hard at work designing and releasing a bunch of really cool custom kits, including Dan Siskind’s excellent new Mark V tank from World War I (micro-review: I’ve built it and I love it!). All World War I kits are on sale throughout the month of November, and shipping is free now through the end of Monday the 28th.

Mark V (2016 version)

The mischievous elves at Citizen Brick have just released a number of cool minifig sets, which all make it quite easy to reach the $75 threshold and score this cool tin of Xmas swag.

Citizen Brick holiday tin

See more custom LEGO sales & deals

Stunning scale model of Mi-24 attack helicopter

Daniel Siskind, creator of many advanced military scale models, has revealed his latest Mi-24 helicopter. Just look at this beauty!

Mi-24 Hind

There are so many awesome features of this helicopter, but the best of all is its perfectly balanced design. No matter which part you’re examining, every single piece, slope, or tile was meticulously chosen and placed. Canopies of rather peculiar shape work perfectly for the Mi-24’s cockpits, while a smooth row of tan and dark-green slopes along the body of the helicopter is aesthetically pleasing. Of course, the presentation wouldn’t be complete without a close-up shot of the rocket launchers — a perfect use of the most common of LEGO parts.

Mi-24 Hind

And yes, this particular LEGO model — unlike nearly everything else we feature here on The Brothers Brick — is available for sale, from Brickmania (at least until it sells out).

Brickmania M3A1 Scout Car custom LEGO kit [Review]

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve reviewed the custom LEGO kits designed by Dan Siskind of Brickmania. Back in 2013, I reviewed the Dodge WC54 Ambulance, and writing those reviews really got me started in building World War II models seriously. In the meantime, Dan and his team have continued to release new custom kits, on a near-weekly cadence. One of Dan’s recent Brickmania releases is the M3A1 Scout Car, produced by the White Motor Company between 1940 and 1944. The vehicle served throughout WW2, and its basic design served as the basis of the iconic M3 Half-track.

Brickmania M3A1 Scout Car

Like some of the custom kits I reviewed back in 2013, the M3A1 Scout Car is a WW2 vehicle I also built back in 2014, so I’ll be comparing Dan’s version with my own.

Click through to read the full review

Brickmania Black Friday / Small Business Saturday sales [News]

Another great LEGO-centered small business we love to support here at TBB is Brickmania, led by talented designer and all-around great guy Dan Siskind.

Dan and his team in Minneapolis have posted daily deals all week this week, leading up to the massively discounted Fokker Dr.1 — The iconic Red Baron’s tri-plane from from World War I. It’s discounted from $195 to $95 starting at midnight tonight.

Brickmania Fokker Dr.1 custom kit

Brickmania has been releasing a new custom kit at the rate of about one a week for months now, and I’ve been eyeing this gorgeous M3A1 Scout Car for the last few weeks.

Brickmania M3A1 Scout Car custom kit

Like other BrickArms resellers (including Citizen Brick and GI Brick), Brickmania is also a great place to stock up on the types of custom accessories that LEGO will likely never produce.

Brickmania releases custom Red Baron Fokker Dr. 1 set!

Brickmania has just released a new version of the iconic World War I tri-plane flown by Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, The Red Baron. The Fokker Dr. 1 kit includes special MG08 “Spandau” machine guns, hand-injected in the Brickarms studios, as well as a custom printed minifig of the baron himself.

Brickmania Track Links roll into production [Review]

Last May, Dan Siskind of Brickmania launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a new kind of track elements designed to work with LEGO. Early this year, my backer reward package arrived, and I’ve been building (and rebuilding) furiously ever since.

M4 Sherman medium tanks

My new M4A1 Sherman with a dozer attachment is typical of the engineering vehicles used during the invasion of Normandy, with deep wading snorkels that enabled the tank to be dropped off farther from shore and drive mostly underwater on the sea floor. (I think Dan’s design for his early-production M4 Sherman turret can’t be improved, so I replicated his turret design while adding my own gun barrel for consistency with the rest of my tanks.) Both the M4A3 on the left and the dozer tank use two-wide Track Links, while the M4A3E2 Sherman “Jumbo” on the right uses official three-wide LEGO tracks.

In order to switch the M4A3 with the short 75mm gun barrel from its existing three-wide LEGO track to Track Links, I had to rebuild the suspension. As a result, I don’t think this version — possibly my last — shares more than a few bricks with my original attempt at a Sherman that I first posted nearly four years ago.

LEGO currently produces three types of elements that builders use as tank treads, and all of them are hard to get in any significant quantity (and thus fairly expensive). For those of us who build historical or real-world LEGO models, each of these also has unique problems:

  • One-wide Technic chain link: The open chain links don’t look a whole lot like actual tank treads.
  • Three-wide Technic tread: The best official LEGO option for many tanks, but three studs wide is one stud too many for most American tanks of World War II.
  • Five-wide tread with Technic pin holes: Far too huge for anything most minifig-scale applications.

The most significant gap in available parts is the lack of any official two-wide track. Using two parallel sets of Technic chain link (as I did on my M7 Priest) is cost-prohibitive at best, and doesn’t look all that great. From a historical standpoint, German and Russian tank designers realized that relatively narrow track would just sink in mud, miring and thus disabling the tank. As WWII veteran Belton Cooper described in Death Traps, American tank designers didn’t get that memo. To build historically accurate American tanks, LEGO military modelers need something other than the official LEGO options.

The two-wide Track Links tracks work beautifully on American medium tanks like the M3 Lee/Grant, M4 Sherman, and all the tracked vehicles based on their chassis (such as the M7 Priest and most WWII tank destroyers). Dan himself has been replacing the existing track on many of his vehicles with Track Links, including this beautifully camouflage-patterned M3 Grant and M10 tank destroyer.

M10 Tank Destroyer

Just like regular LEGO track, Track Links clip together with small pins on each side, and they work well with a variety of LEGO gears. Both the single-wide and double-wide Track Links wrap around the gears better than LEGO tracks or chain links, and they roll just as well. Here’s my M3A1 Stuart light tank sporting the single-wide Track Links.

M3A1 Stuart tank (1)

On a related note, you’ll notice that many military builders have begun using the new BrickArms M2HB .50 caliber machine gun. I still like my own brick-built .50 cal, but it’s also nice to have an absolutely accurate option that’s consistent with the BrickArms .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine gun.

M8 Scott howitzer motor carriage (1)

In addition to Track Links and a .50 cal, my M8 Scott 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (with a gun that elevates/depresses and an ammunition trailer) includes several other custom elements:

  • Brickmania armored division minifig
  • BrickArms shells
  • Citizen Brick diamond plate tiles

Will Chapman gave away several prototype M2HBs at BrickCon, and now the production version is available from resellers like Brickmania and G.I. Brick. One difference between the initial prototype and the final production version is that the ammunition canister is a bit looser. It won’t fall out, but it does have a tendency to flop around a bit. Based on the high quality we’ve come to expect from BrickArms over the years, I’m confident that a bit of retooling will address this minor issue soon.

Brickmania Track Links are available in three colors — black, steel, and reddish brown (great for mud/rust) — on Brickmania.com, along with the new BrickArms M2HB.

I’ll also be posting reviews of several Brickmania kits that include Track Links over the next week or two, so check back here for more.

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.

Brickmania Track Links gets funded, adds stretch goals [News]

With only seven updates to supporters and a lack of constant coverage from certain quarters (I’m looking at you, TBB — oh wait, that’s us), the Brickmania Track Links Kickstarter project has hit its funding goals, enabling Dan Siskind to add stretch goals for the remaining funding period between now and June 8th, this coming Saturday.

Available add-ons include these custom-printed minifigs:

Brickmania custom minifigs

…while the stretch goals include alternate colors (below), T-shirts for everyone, and more:

Brickmania Track Links alternate colors

Brickmania Track Links T-shirts

Brickmania instructions on thumb drive

I’ve already supported this project on behalf of TBB, and I’m looking forward to trying out the custom tracks on all my recent armor and sharing the results when the finished product arrives later this summer.

But if you’re hearing about this for the first time, you still have a few more days to get your pledges in.

Brickmania M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle [Review]

Wrapping up our current batch of Brickmania custom LEGO kits, today I’ll be reviewing the M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle.


There wasn’t anything I wanted to compare and contrast, nor do I want to reveal any secrets by posting a breakdown photo, so I’m using Dan Siskind’s own photos, which are excellent and accurate.

The M113 armored personnel carrier has been in service for more than 50 years, serving through the Vietnam War and Gulf War before being phased out in frontline US service by the Bradley. Alongside the Huey, the M113 is one of the more iconic vehicles of the Vietnam era.

To be honest, I’m more than a little conflicted about the rise of Vietnam-era LEGO models in recent years. I’m probably better-informed about the Vietnam War than I am even about World War II — I’ve read Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History, Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, and more. Sure, I’ve watched all the usual movies about the war and its aftermath, but it’s been documentaries like National Geographic’s Inside the Vietnam War that have brought home the true horror and complexity of a war that still feels unresolved.

Nevertheless, Dan Siskind was kind enough to send along a copy of his M113 ACAV together with the World War II kits I reviewed previously, suggesting that it might be interesting to review something more modern. I agree, and I can certainly appreciate an excellent LEGO model even if — maybe especially if — the subject matter isn’t one I’d normally choose to recreate in LEGO myself.

Like all of the Brickmania kits I’ve reviewed so far, the M113 is full of functionality. All the hatches open, and the rear door even has a smaller hatch built into it that opens separately. Inside, there’s room enough to seat 10 minifigs.


Brickmania sells two versions of the M113 — a basic M113 APC and a “limited edition” ACAV (armored cavalry) version that I’m reviewing today. To my taste, the basic APC kit reminds me a bit of a plain square box — which, to be fair, accurately reflects the source material. So I was glad Dan sent the ACAV version. (By the way, the “plain” M113 APC is discounted on Brickmania.com as of May 14 by $15, down to $130.)

In addition to the base APC, the ACAV version of Dan’s kit has additional features and accessories, including a pair of BrickArms M60 machine guns, Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun, lots of brick-built armor for the guns, and four unique minifigs. The ACAV version costs $255.00, or $110 more than the non-sale price of the “plain” version. As a point of comparison, custom minifigs alone usually cost about $20 each, and the more-expensive kit includes four of them.

The minifigs are notable for a couple of reasons. First, they’re all wearing custom flak jackets created by MMCB Capes, and two of the figs sport BrickArms M1 pot helmets custom-printed in camouflage by Citizen Brick. Second, one of the minifigs is African-American.

M113 ACAV Soldier

The actual kit doesn’t come with these two BrickArms guns, but this photo of the prototype Brickmania M113 is good for illustration purposes.

Thanks to racist recruiting practices, even by the time segregation of the United States military ended shortly after World War II, African-Americans were severely under-represented in the armed forces. But by the Vietnam War, African-Americans — who made up 11% of the US population at the time — constituted nearly 13% of those who served during the war (racism having taken a different turn in the intervening 20 years). It often baffles me that LEGO military builders fail to reflect the true diversity of American service personnel, so Dan’s choice to include an African-American soldier in his M113 kit is notable for its inclusivity.

Setting aside geopolitics and socioeconomics and getting back to the build, though, Dan’s design includes some subtle or surprising techniques for such a boxy shape at the end. Like the M2A4 Light Tank I reviewed a couple weeks ago, the suspension incorporates half-stud-offset techniques to get the road wheels’ spacing right. There are even a couple of brick-stressing combinations that you wouldn’t see in an official LEGO set. For example, a section built from angled plates on the APC’s front pressed the first row of sloped bricks up until I built the final row of slopes on top. But in the end, the model is very sturdy and playable.

M113 APC / ACAVIt’s obvious that Dan designed the Brickmania M113 with playability in mind. The top of the APC pops off cleanly for straightforward access to the interior.

One very minor complaint is that I had to pull a couple of random bricks from my own collection in order to elevate the driver minifig up through the front hatch. (You can see the driver’s station on the floor of the APC in the photo on the right, behind the levers.)

If you had no LEGO bricks at all yourself before getting this custom kit, you might be frustrated by the inability to make the driver appear as he does on the box, but for anybody with a spare 2×3 brick, this is no big deal. Still, I thought it was a little odd that the separate packet of ACAV extras didn’t include a brick or two to build a seat for the driver (who isn’t included in the “plain” APC version).

Overall, this was another Brickmania kit that provides an excellent balance of scale, detail, functionality, and sturdiness. Even though the source material isn’t from a historical era in which I’ll be doing much building myself anytime soon, I can heartily recommend the custom kit itself. And besides, every minifig militia needs an APC or two in its motor pool for the next inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Brickmania Track Links Kickstarter project brings realistic tracks to LEGO modeling

As I’ve noted in my recent reviews of Brickmania custom LEGO kits, making tracks look realistic can be challenging — LEGO’s own tracks are generally too wide, and using Technic chains is either too narrow or incredibly parts-intensive. Enter Brickmania’s new Kickstarter project — Brickmania Track Links: Custom Add-On for the LEGO System.

Brickmania Track Links: Custom Add-On for the LEGO System

Here’s the announcement video:

Like train wheels from Big Ben Bricks, this project fulfills a need that LEGO is unlikely to meet any time soon — why create more-realistic track molds when the current ones will do? I’ll be supporting this worthy project on behalf of The Brothers Brick.

Brickmania M2A4 Light Tank (USMC) [Review]

After reviewing the Brickmania M4 Sherman and WC54 Ambulance custom LEGO kits last week, I’m going in a bit of a different direction by reviewing something I haven’t managed to build myself — the M2A4 Light Tank in United States Marine Corps livery.

For comparison, here’s Dan Siskind’s M2A4 Light Tank next to the M4 Sherman I reviewed last week, with a Citizen Brick Marine for scale:

Brickmania M2A4 & M4 Sherman tanks

The M2 Light Tank was produced in limited numbers in the years leading up to World War II — only 375 left the assembly line — and they only saw combat on Guadalcanal, with the US Marines. Nevertheless, the tank was an important evolutionary step along the way to the subsequent M3 “Stuart” (photo below) and M5 light tanks. (The M2 Light Tank never entered British/Commonwealth service during WW2, and thus didn’t get a nickname like the Stuart, Lee, Sherman, Chaffee, and so on. It was only later that the US military formally adopted the British convention for naming US tanks after American generals.)

M3-Stuart-Fort-Knox-1For me, though, I love the M2/M3/M5 tanks because they’re so small. Modern main battle tanks like the M1 Abrams or Challenger 2 are like battleships on land, with low profiles that give them a distinctly sinister look. We drove past Fort Lewis on our way from Seattle to Portland recently, and I pointed out an M2/M3/M5 sitting on a plinth near the highway to my wife. “Oh, what a tiny tank! It’s adorable!” she exclaimed.

My sentiments exactly. Yes, the M2 and its immediate descendants were machines of death and destruction no less so than a Merkava or Leopard, but they are just a teensy bit more twee. (The adorably tiny light tank has also influenced popular culture, in games like Advance Wars and movies like Tank Girl.)

So, the M2 Light Tank would seem like a perfect fit with LEGO. I tried building an M3 Stuart a couple years ago, but I failed miserably (though I still have my tablescraps in a little plastic bag). Thankfully, Dan Siskind has managed to fit nearly every detail of the M2 into his custom LEGO kit, at a scale that fits neatly on my 1/35th schematics for the M2 Light Tank in World War II AFV Plans: American Armored Fighting Vehicles. (Still slightly too tall, but I give LEGO tanks a pass for that at this point.)

The Brickmania M2 Light Tank includes a rotating turret with a gun that can move up and down, proper bogies and road wheels, a BrickArms M1919 machine gun, nicely angled glacis armor plating at the front, and even rear engine doors that open and close.

The single-chain tracks work very well for a smaller tank like this, and enable Dan to keep the tank’s height manageable without losing too much detail. The suspension is interesting because Dan has built the first layer of the tank’s body using 1x plates rather than a larger plate, allowing him to attach 2×2 plates with Technic pin holes to the underside using their hollow studs. This creates a half-stud offset that gives the road wheels the correct spacing — definitely something I would never have thought to do.

The angled antenna gives the tank a jaunty look, and deserves a brief discussion on its own. Internally, Dan achieves the angled antenna by inserting a clip/claw into a 1×2 brick with a Technic pin (and then clipping on a telescope for the antenna to attach to). The clip inside the 1×2 brick’s Technic pin is, of course, an “illegal” connection. Apparently, there are actually two different molds for the 1×2 brick element — one with a fairly open Technic pin, and another with much thicker walls on the pin, preventing you from fitting anything inside the pin. Because BrickLink doesn’t distinguish between these two very different parts and Dan sources all the parts for his kits on the secondary market (like all adult builders and purveyors of custom kits), my kit happened to include a brick that wouldn’t accept the clip piece.

I contacted Dan about my problem, we identified the cause, and he promptly shipped out a “service pack” with the correct part. I bring up this minor issue in my review for two reasons. First, I just think it’s really interesting what kinds of challenges a custom kit maker has in assembling their kits in quantity. Second, I was impressed by Dan’s customer service. And it’s not just because he knew I was reviewing his kits for TBB — it’s something I experienced years back when I picked up a couple older kits to review (though my actual review was extremely brief), and when I’ve bought smaller items through his store over the years. Like Will Chapman of BrickArms, Dan is just a plain good guy, and it’s clear that that comes through in his interactions with fellow builders and with customers.

At 473 LEGO elements, this is a surprisingly substantial set for such a small tank — the completed model has a nice heft to it worthy of the name “tank.” It’s also sturdy enough for play, and fits nicely in my hand compared to larger models. If tanks could be swooshed, the Brickmania M2A4 is definitely swooshable. (What’s the non-flying equivalent of “swooshable”? “Zoomable?”) At $150, the price is comparable to other custom kits on the market.

Overall, Dan’s M2A4 may just be my favorite Brickmania kit yet. Going small can be substantially harder than going big, and Dan has pulled it off wonderfully. Ultimately, though, my positive experience with the Brickmania M2A4 Light Tank was influenced as much by great problem-solving and customer service as by the excellent design of the model itself.