The T-47 airspeeder, adapted for cold weather use on Hoth, is the most memorable Rebel vehicle introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, and has been a staple of the LEGO Star Wars theme. Commonly called the Snowspeeder, this hardy little two-man craft first appeared in LEGO form in 1999, with more than a dozen variations since across a variety of scales. The latest iteration is also the largest, and the Ultimate Collector’s Series 75144 Snowspeeder packs a massive 1,703 pieces. As we announced last month, it costs $199.99 USD and is set to premiere on May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day).
Like other recent UCS sets, the Snowspeeder includes a stand, information placard, and two minifigure pilots. The displayed ship comes in at 16 inches long, 12″ wide, and 9″ tall (41 x 30 x 23 cm).
Let’s see how the Snowspeeder stacks up.
The box is appropriately large for a $200 set, and includes lots of callout images on the back showing various features.
The box has little wasted space inside, stuffed full with 13 numbered bags, a loose oversized plate and tile, and a sealed bag holding the hefty instruction book and stickers.
The instruction book is softbound, but the wide pages allow it to lay open easily.
At 299 pages long, there’s more than enough room for some extensive background info, as is traditional with UCS sets. In addition to the basic facts about the source material and model, there are interviews with the model designer, graphic designer, and art director.
The sizable sticker sheet covered in the model’s 31 stickers.
Diving into the 462-step build, we start with a sturdy Technic frame surrounding the 2×2 hole that serves as the mounting point for the stand. This is rock solid, created with a Plate, Modified 4 x 4 with 2 x 2 Cutout (element 64799) stacked with box-shaped Technic beams. The hole is just aft of the rear gunner, giving the mounted model a great aggressive positioning. This portion also includes the first of many fins, cleverly created with minifigure hose nozzles with triangular flags attached. These fins surround the lower landing gear on the snowspeeder’s bottom.
There are a few steps where I spotted two elements being used instead of a single larger one; in one instance, I noted two 1×3 plates laid end to end, even though a 1×6 plate in the same color had been used a few steps before. While it’s theoretically possible there could be exigent circumstances for this, a cynic might observe that tweaking just a few parts to push the model over that 1,700-piece total could have favorable marketing implications.
By the end of the second bag, the cockpit is beginning to take shape, incorporating Mixel ball joints along the edges to hold the lower halves of the wings.
In bag 3 are found some of the only printed elements in the set: three 2×2 slopes printed with a new generic control panel. One is placed in the pilot’s console, while the gunner receives the other two. The only other printed elements in the set are the minifigures and the classic light grey 1×2 tiles with a Star Wars computer pattern, introduced way back in the original X-Wing set in 1999.
Additionally, the pilot receives a pair of 1×2 slopes stickered with unique computer screens. Handles on either side of the seat are created with submachine gun elements pointed barrel down, while a pair of binoculars makes other details.
The mechanism for the moving harpoon gun is integrated early in the build. It’s a simple design, consisting of a solid axle with gears for a 90° turn to the harpoon mount. The second grey 8-tooth gear that’s sandwiched between the yellow and dark tan plates simply adds friction to the system.
To mesh the angled windows and roof, the upper housing for the canopy incorporates some nifty techniques which are a bit unorthodox to see in an official model. There’s no wiggle room in the design, and everything slots together with a satisfying certainty once aligned properly, becoming firmly locked into place.
Moving forward, we build the complex angles on the nose. The simple solution to constructing panels with compound angles? Use Mixel ball joints. When initially attached, the panels wobble freely, but once the wings are attached they become solidly stationary. Here we also see a few of the many minifigure ice skate elements, which are used extensively on the underside for great little radiator details. All told, the snowspeeder uses 20 of the ice skates.
Here’s that fin technique from bag 1 again, adding detail deep within the wings. While not strictly necessary, it’s details like this that help set a UCS model apart as a higher quality build. The finished detail is barely visible if you look in just the right spot between the upper and lower wing halves, but you’d likely never notice if it weren’t there.
By the end of bag 6, the T-47 is really taking shape, and the minifigures, placard, and stand are in place. The massive informational sticker is applied across a single 8×16 tile. I first had the nerve-wracking experience of applying an enormous info-plaque sticker back in 2000 when I purchased the UCS TIE Interceptor (7181). In that set, the sticker was applied across a series of 1×8 tiles. I’m disappointed, however, to note that although the intervening 17 years have brought improvements to nearly ever other facet of UCS builds, we’re still relegated to carefully applying a postcard-sized sticker with a do-or-fail single attempt requiring rock-steady hands.
The lower wing halves connect to the body with the Mixel ball joints we saw earlier and are held in place with a single rubber band on each side.
Each wing is, naturally, a huge swatch of stacked plates. Each of the two wings are identically mirrored (save for a single element added to the right wing), but the build doesn’t feel overly repetitive.
As we move on to the engines, I came across an annoying error. The intake vent stickers which decorate the wing elements on the engine fronts are the wrong size for the piece. The angles don’t match the part, so either you can tilt the sticker to get it all on the piece, or you can align it properly and have it overhang slightly. Interestingly, the instruction manual seems to show this disparity, as the sticker depicted in the manual doesn’t match the element angles either.
The iconic rear cooling fins are made with stacked 4×4 tiles, and have various details nestled among them, including a number of vehicle bumper elements. Here you can also see one of the flat silver 1×2 rails (element 32028). They’ve previously appeared in 3 other sets in 2016, but you’ll get 18 here.
And of course, there’s the new windscreen. 6×8 studs at the bottom, it slopes to 6 studs at the top, matching the classic 1x2x3 slopes. It’s almost a shame to apply the requisite 5 stickers to it.
The 2x10x3 side windows (element 24607) will also be new to many builders. They’re a redesign of the old 3x10x3 windscreen (element 2694), making them a stud shallower. The updated element first began appearing last year in the 10242 Mini Cooper (although that set has been available for years, the set number for the updated version remains the same). It’s also appeared in the 10252 Volkswagen Beetle.
At last, the finished model. The ship looks the part well. There’s no denying that this is a spitting image of the Incom T-47 Snowspeeder. Although it’s subtle, the laser barrels gently angle in, moving just a few studs over the length of the barrel. It’s not immediately obvious, but it’s a fantastic detail.
The front targeting sensors are made with a series of grille tiles, while the homing sensors are stickers.
The cooling fins look terrific. They’re constructed as two sub-assemblies, with each attaching via a pair of Technic pins. Here you can also see the lower air brakes on either side of the cooling fins.
While the underside is naturally less detailed, there’s still plenty of little details.
The front landing gear is a tiny retractable skid, attached with a click hinge. The rear gear is a pair of double-inverted grey slopes, visible at the bottom the image. With the front gear extended, the snowspeeder can sit neatly on a flat surface, with full clearance all the way around.
The airbrake flaps can be lowered manually, and the piston elements extend and retract along with them.
The underside of the front gives another view of the Mixel ball joints being used for the complex angling.
There’s a bit of greebling around the forward laser activator mounts and beneath the upper airbrake flaps.
The upper airbrake flaps are raised and lowered manually by turning the engine nacelles.
Oddly, I kept expecting a cheese slope to be placed on the engine housing to finish the slopes. It’s missing on both the inner and outer sides of the housing, and seems a glaring oversight. The outer one is missing intentionally, because it would interfere with the flap opening mechanism, but there’s no similar issues the inner one. Fortunately, this is easily fixable. I suggest fishing out a pair of white cheese slopes and correcting this, as I did in the image below.
The new, wide canopy provides plenty of visibility for targeting Imperial walkers. Now if only we had a UCS AT-AT set….
The canopy swings up, giving access to both seats. The strong click hinge holds the canopy’s weight well, allowing it to stay open at any of the three intermediate steps between closed and fully vertical.
The sole non-mirrored element on the wings, seen with an orange sticker here, is also surprisingly inaccurate. That slope is a small vent, but the model lacks a sticker on the vertical front of that slope showing the intake vent. I could think of several brick-built solutions that would work here as well.
Moving the joystick on the harpoon targeting computer moves the harpoon gun back and forth. The targeting computer is an inverted 2×2 tile with a sticker.
The harpoon gun uses a series of Technic pins and other small bits, including two minifigure roller skates.
The stand is simple and very sturdy, made of Technic beams. The vertical portion can adjust to two positions, one with the model perfectly level, and the other with it canted toward the stand’s front. The snowspeeder can balance on the stand facing any of the cardinal directions. If you prefer to display your snowspeeder with the stand reversed (say, to point the ship out and up), you can do that too, by turning the display stand around and attaching the placard to the other side, where attachment points are provided. The plates holding the minifigures would have to be adjusted as well, but that should be a trivial alteration.
As LEGO has done since the 2011 Super Star Destroyer (10221), minifigures are included even though the model is a different scale. Two Rebel figures in orange flightsuits are the offer here, and are simply named Rebel Snowspeeder Pilot and Gunner on the box. I can identify Zev Senesca in the pearl dark grey helmet, but I’m unsure which character the gunner represents. Perhaps a more knowledgeable reader can name him in the comments. Regardless, there’s very little new here. The figures are identical except for the helmets, and the torso, legs, and double-sided head have all appeared in other sets. The arms gain a new print to help make these characters unique, and while it’s cool, I can’t help but feel that LEGO cheaped out. That a $200 Ultimate Collector’s Series set doesn’t even have unique — let alone new — heads for the pilots is more than a bit disappointing.
Zev’s pearl dark grey helmet looks great, though. The arm printing is nice, but why these exclusive minifigures are forced to share a head is a mystery.
Conclusion & recommendation
Comparisons to 2003’s 10129 Rebel Snowspeeder are inevitable. While the old model was remarkably accurate, especially compared to other Star Wars models of the time, the new Snowspeeder is undeniably even more accurate. The canopy is perhaps the biggest change; with the addition of the new canopy element, the shaping is spot on. While the nose on the old craft was made of stacked slopes, the finished effect worked well. It’s hard to say the new nose design isn’t better, but by how much is matter up for argument. If you already own the 2003 version, this new design isn’t likely to tempt you as much.
But before you get out your pitchforks to storm Billund for rehashing old material, remember that it’s been 14 years since that first UCS snowspeeder. Just because you were collecting LEGO back in 2003 doesn’t mean everyone was, and there’s an entire generation of LEGO fans who’ve never had a chance to purchase a UCS snowspeeder for a reasonable price. As we noted in our announcement, just a few months ago the 2003 version was selling for around $900 used, or nearly two grand for a sealed copy. At a mere 10% of that price, many fans are happy to finally have a chance to acquire this iconic vehicle. The release of the new snowspeeder is naturally dropping the bottom out of the original version’s market rapidly, which is bad news for resellers, but great news for fans who just want cool LEGO models of their favorite Star Wars ships.
And make no mistake: this is a very cool model. Like many of the best Star Wars vehicles, the snowspeeder is entrenched in an industrial aesthetic. But what it lacks in smooth curves and flowing lines it makes up for in rugged utility and aggressive demeanor. The price may cause some to hesitate, and it’s a fair criticism to note that the price is higher than average, ringing in at $0.117 per piece, approximately 17% more expensive than the “average” price-per-piece for LEGO sets. However, as any grade-school mathematician can tell you, having an average usually implies some things are below average and some are above. There have always been sets that exceed the 10-cents-per-piece expectation, and as long as they’re solid sets, we tend to forgive them. At $199 for a 1,703-piece set that builds a killer model, this one definitely counts as a solid set.
Plus, it’s the best Rebel vehicle from The Empire Strikes Back, which is the best Star Wars movie. And who doesn’t want that?
The LEGO Star Wars 75144 UCS Snowspeeder will be available May 4 for $199.99 USD.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick a copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.