Motoring through the ages with Peter Blackert

When LEGO car builders come to mind, Peter Blackert is probably one of the most prolific. Over the past few years, Peter has churned out dozens of high-quality LEGO cars, and it isn’t unusual to see him share four or five new builds in a given week. Peter is well-qualified to be making brick-built cars because he works as an engineer for Ford Motor Company. Last year also witnessed the publication of his book, How to Build Brick Cars. Peter renders his digital models using POV-Ray, and his portfolio of LEGO cars is rich and diverse, consisting of a wide range of makes spanning over 100 years of production. Having looked through his models, we have decided to pick a car for each decade spanning the early 1900s through the 1960s. They look nice individually but, when grouped together, they help tell a story of the motor industry.

1900s – Curved Dash Oldsmobile:

At the turn of the Century, automotive design was still heavily influenced by horse-drawn transportation. This period also represented a mechanical gold rush, with tons of individuals and organizations attempting to make their mark on the industry. One of the most important contributions to the industry during this period was the assembly line, which allowed for cost-cutting mass production. Credit for this development is often given to Henry Ford and the Model T, but the Curved Dash Oldsmobile was America’s first mass production car. Peter’s version of the Curved Dash looks faithful to the original and looks wonderful with its top up or down.

Curved Dash Oldsmobile 1901-1907

1910s – Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost:

By the time the teens rolled around, motor vehicles were still largely carriage-like while developing their own identity at the same time. When it comes to luxury cars from this period, the Silver Ghost is considered one of the most iconic. The Silver Ghost line had a long run, with production spanning 1906 through 1926. Peter’s Silver Ghost is a fabulous 1914 boattail model, a name which is derived from the boat-like sculpting of the rear section of the body. I’m partial to this model’s combination of dark green and dark orange (representing woodgrain), as well as fun little details like the serpent-shaped horn.

Rolls-Royce 1914 Silver Ghost Boattail Skiff by Schebera

1920s – Packard Twin-Six 3-35 Town Car:

In the 1920s, cars began looking less like carriages thanks to a greater use of curves. Back then, the Packard Motor Company was one of America’s premier luxury car manufacturers, often winding up in the hands of politicians, movie stars, and socialites. Peter’s Town Car is representative of the 1922 model year and packs a lot of character. I’m really digging the red and white disc wheels, and the mechanical droid arms as landau irons look spot-on.

Packard Twin-Six 3-35 Town Car (1922)

1930s – Chrysler Airflow:

The stock market crash of 1929 gave way to a lengthy economic depression, causing the untimely death of a large majority of auto manufacturers. Despite these circumstances, the major remaining players in the automotive industry were looking forward, and the 1930s was the decade that introduced the concept of streamlining in motor vehicle design. In particular, the Chrysler Airflow (1934-1937) was one of the more drastic examples of streamlining from this period, with its heavily rounded grille and teardrop shaped body. To advertise the body’s strength, Chrysler produced a quirky video showing a 1934 Chrysler Airflow pushed over a cliff and driven away. I don’t know if I would want to try that with Peter Blackert’s LEGO Airflow, but it looks pretty sharp. The use of 2x1x2/3 slopes with slots tilted at subtle angles works amazingly well for the curved grille.

Chrysler Airflow Imperial Eight CV Coupe - 1935

1940s – Porsche 356:

Production of automobiles was halted throughout the duration of World War II so that car makers could engage in manufacture to support the war effort. In the first few years after the war, the return to normalcy was slow and American manufacturers were making vehicles that were largely repackaged variants of their prewar offerings. In Europe, the road to recovery proved even more daunting but the emphasis on rebuilding would help war-torn countries like Germany and Austria. It was within this context that Porsche released its first production car in 1948, the 356. Before the war, Ferdinand Porsche built his fame on developing the Volkswagen Beetle and drew inspiration from this car when designing the 356. Peter’s rendering of the famous Austrian sports car consists of elegant curves, and the use of metallic silver minifig barbell weights as headlights is inspired.

Porsche 356 Speedster

1950s – Chevrolet Corvette:

In the U.S., the 1950s signaled a drastic departure from the previous decade. This was the age of chrome and fins, a reflection of America’s entrance into the jet age. Chevrolet’s Corvette was unveiled in 1953 as a part of General Motors’ Motorama exhibit and commercially sold as a 1953 model later in the year. On a technicality, the Corvette may not have been America’s first modern sports car but it was arguably America’s first wildly successful sports car. Peter Blackert’s LEGO model sports a white body with red interior upholstery, which was the only available exterior/interior color combination for 1953. It is every bit as stunning as the original.

General Motors - Motorama 1953 Corvette

1960s – Imperial Crown Convertible:

Fins began to taper off in the 1960s, while luxury cars looked larger than life. Chrysler’s answer to the luxury car market was the Imperial, which was designed to compete against elite automotive heavyweights, Cadillac and Lincoln. Peter chose to model the elusive 1964 Imperial Crown Convertible, making sure to build the 413 cu in V8 engine under the hood. The LEGO Imperial looks every bit as massive as the original and elegant in red. It even features the iconic split grille.

Imperial 1964 Crown Convertible

5 comments on “Motoring through the ages with Peter Blackert

  1. Matt Hocker Post author

    @Jürgen Lerch
    Porsche had relocated from Stuttgart, Germany to Austria in 1944, and Austria was where the 356 was born. Porsche cars may be rooted in Germany today, but an Austrian is technically in its family tree. ;-)

  2. Purple Dave

    @Jürgen Lerch:
    Oh, wow. You got me curious, so I did a little digging, and it’s…messy. So, in 1931, Dad formed the first Porsche company with the financial backing of Son-In-Law and (in a massive twist of irony) Jewish businessman Adolf Rosenberger. After the latter was arrested for “racial crimes” (i.e. being Jewish), released at the urging of Dad, and basically forced into exile from Germany, the family pretty much got deep in bed with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (aka Nazis) and the SS. This was when Dad designed what would become the Beetle for Hitler. During the war, they designed tanks for the Nazis, and while Dad managed the first Volkswagen plant, Son moved much of the Porsche company to Austria to avoid Allied bombing. After the war, Dad, Son, and Son-In-Law were all arrested for war crimes and basically held for ransom. Son was released after 6 months because they could only afford to pay for one release. Being barred from returning to Germany by the Allied Occupation forces, Son moved the rest of the Porsche company to Austria and designed the first car to be released under the Porsche brand (the 356) which began production in Gmünd, Austria. In 1949, Son moved the original company back to Germany, secured (i.e. ransomed) the release of Dad and Son-In-Law, and along with Daughter formed another Porsche company in Austria.

    There are a bunch of Porsche companies throughout the years, but only three of them are really important to this bit of history. Porsche SE is a holding company that’s owned by the two main families (Dad and Son-In-Law…who married Daughter), and owns Volkswagen AG. Volkswagen AG is a manufacturing company, which in turn owns Porsche AG and Porsche Holding. Porsche AG is a manufacturing company, which, along with Porsche SE hails back to the original that was founded in 1931. Porsche Holding draws from the second Porsche company founded by Son and Daughter in 1949, and handles the dealership end of the business. There are others, but from what I can tell, most were either formed early on and absorbed into one of these three Porsche companies, or they were formed after these four people had all died.

    Oh, and nearly every male born into this family seems to be named Ferdinand. The few that aren’t all seem to be the younger brothers of one that is.

    Whew. I think I’ve got that all straight…

  3. Purple Dave

    You also got me curious, so I had to look up what the first American sports car actually was. From your “technicality” comment, I assume you mean the Nash-Healey, which was made overseas for an American company using an American-made drivetrain. But this guy claims it was the Crosley Hot Shot, which was made in the US by a largely forgotten independent company:

    And the Porsche company has more than one Austrian in its family tree, because while both Dad and Son were born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Son’s birthplace is now part of modern Austria. Dad’s is in what’s now the Czech Republic, and I guess they aren’t super proud of that, because they had a museum display dedicated to, “Yay, we’re the birthplace of the guy who founded the Porsche company!” and they modified it to include all of his Nazi history. Flew like a lead brick with Porsche, who took back all the cars they’d loaned to the original display.

  4. Matt Hocker Post author

    @Purple Dave:
    You are correct. I read up on both of those before completing the write-up. Nash-Healey is kind of an oddball, since it represented a partnership between an American and British (and later on, Italian) company. I kind of consider it the “dual citizenship” of sports cars as opposed to just American. The Hot Shot is an interesting candidate for first modern American sports car, and Hemmings is generally a pretty reputable source.

    On a side note, the British MG is sometimes called “the car that America loved first.”

    Personally, I consider Speedsters to be the prewar equivalent of sports cars (like this Kissel).

    As long as there have been cars, there have been people who want to drive them fast and in style.

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