Martin Redfern tells us how Wacky Races and LEGO collided [Interview]

British builder Martin Redfern (redfern1950s on Flickr) recently caught our attention with his recreation of one of the cars from the old cartoon Wacky Races. Once we saw he was creating more cars from the show, we got in touch and interviewed him in preparation for the inevitable completion of the starting grid. With all 11 cars and all their drivers completed, learn how they were made and why Martin made them.

The Brothers Brick: Who is “redfern1950s” and what does he spend most of his time doing?

Martin: Firstly, I should explain the “1950s” part of my Flickr name: I live in a 1950s time warp, and spend a lot of time searching for collectibles and memorabilia from this colourful decade. I am  a self-taught artist with a passion for ancient historical sites, mainly ruined castles. I spent many years cycling around the UK visiting these cool places, taking photographs, then drawing them once I was back home. I still visit them when I can, but in a car these days.

Wacky Races " The Mean Machine "

When I’m not searching for collectibles or the weather is not up to a castle visit, I spend as many hours as possible building with LEGO, sometimes into the early hours (I find it hard to sleep when I am building).

TBB: Why did you choose Wacky Races and what pushed you to make every car and character from the show?

Martin: Last year, something really good happened. I had been buying LEGO online, off this one eBay seller for a while. Then for some reason I thought I should send this seller a link to my Flickr account, so he could see where his LEGO ended up (I had never done that before!). Well, out of all the people, he (another Martin) turned out to be the ambassador for a LEGO club based in the East of France (not too far from the Swiss border) called “LUG EST”. On seeing my work, I was invited to exhibit at a LEGO expo organized by LUG EST in Devecey last October.

Wacky Races " the crimson haybaler "

I had never been to a proper LEGO event, and have never displayed my work. It was a fantastic experience (would have been even better if I spoke French). But whilst looking at all the brilliant builds on display there, I came across some builds by a guy called Sam (Pistash on Flickr). His builds were very colourful, and left a lasting impression.

Up to this point most of my builds had always been based around black, brown and pearl gold; it was time for a change. Wacky Races had always been my number 1 classic cartoon, and in the back of my mind I had always wanted to build the Army Surplus Special. But I never had enough LEGO to build it. Turned out I had most of it, with just a few compromises in the build.

Wacky Races " army surplus special "

I never did intend to build all 11 cars though! But soon after it was published on Flickr, it got blogged by the LEGO Car Blog. The guys there then kindly urged me to carry on and make the rest. I do like a challenge, and for me this was a huge challenge, knowing my LEGO stocks where limited and that each one would have to be built with compromises.

Also, I should mention, the fact that these builds have been blogged by yourselves, Tommy at BrickNerd, and the guys at the LEGO Car Blog, all helped in pushing me to build all of them. Thank you. And there were a handful of followers who also wanted to see more.

TBB: Who’ve chosen a strange scale that uses brick-built characters to go with the cars. How did you arrive at this style and scale?

Martin: Originally I did intend on using minifigures on the Army Surplus Special, But during the build I realised they would have been too small to use. I’m glad in a way, I think I achieved more by building my own. The limited pieces I have determined the scale and style.

TBB: Looking at the finished lineup, which is your personal favourite car and which is your least favourite? Same question goes with the drivers.

Martin: My personal favourite car would have to be the Bullet Proof Bomb, followed very very closely by the Mean Machine.

Wacky Races " The Bullet-Proof Bomb " aka " The Roaring Plenty "

My least favourite car is a hard one to answer. I would have to say the Compact Pussycat. It’s not that I don’t like the car, it’s more to do with the colour (it could be better if more pink shapes were available).

Wacky Races " The Compact Pussycat "

My personal favourite character has got to be Muttley, but I do really like Sergeant Blast too. My least favourite would have to be Lil Gruesome. Again, limited pieces forced his design.

TBB: What’s your single favourite technique used on the cars, or clever parts usage? Ours has to be the wand pieces being used to simulate “seeing stars“.

Martin: I’m going to have to agree with your good selves; I burst out laughing to myself when I added those stars, which I nearly didn’t use! But this is followed closely by the bats on the Creepy Coupe. I had originally ordered some official LEGO bats, but on receiving them decided to stick with my own. I’m really glad I did.

Wacky Races " The creepy coupe "

But I must add, its the unseen piece which should take the glory. The half pin connector (part 4274). I use loads of them. They have to be my favourite LEGO element.

TBB: On average, how long did each car and driver take you to build?

Martin: Given the LEGO, building one of these could take any thing from a couple of hours (Boulder Mobile) to all day, then usually followed by a day or so refining. I don’t like to put a build down, so sometimes carry on through the night until it is completed.

Wacky Races " The Boulder Mobile "

All of my builds are worked out in my head. I’m very old school in what I do, no computers and no drawings. The only drawings I have ever done concerning LEGO were when I was a child. I would draw my own instructions, which I wish I still had. And, like the many others out there, I have always wanted to work at LEGO, and still do. Do they need an old school builder? I could start tomorrow! My build style has never changed since childhood, things have just got smoother :-)

TBB: What has the LEGO community’s response to the builds been?

Martin: I can only count the Flickr community for now. which has been brilliant. I have a lot of fantastic LEGO builders following my Flickr stream and their comments have been really really good. I can’t thank every one enough. It looks like these could be the best things I have ever built.

Wacky Races " The Convert-A-Car "

TBB: Can we expect you to build any of the planes from the related show Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines? If not, what can we expect next instead?

Martin: I loved watching Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, and did think about building them too. But when I was building the Convert-A-Car, I came a cross a guy who had previously created a really good series of minifigure scaled Wacky Races builds on LEGO Ideas, and had also added a build from the Flying Machines, which is brilliant and very similar to how I would have done it. I am not saying no, I might one day…

I’m not sure what is next. I have been so focused on building these cars. I do have tons of ideas at the moment, such as another period racing car or something from the Gerry Anderson stable. Then there is my passion for all things 1950’s, classic sci-fi, etc. Watch this space :-)

Wacky Races " The Arkansas Chuggabug "

Wacky Races " The Buzz Wagon "

Wacky Races " The Turbo Terrific "