LEGO Star Wars before the first LEGO Star Wars sets [Feature]

It’s hard to believe twenty years have passed since the release of the first official LEGO Star Wars sets. Unofficially, children and adults alike have been building Star Wars-themed models since the first film hit theaters in 1977. While many of these custom builds have been lost to history, some photographs of Star Wars models made their way into LEGO Club magazines like the UK’s Bricks ‘n Pieces and North America’s LEGO Mania Magazine. One of the earliest models I was able to find was this AT-AT walker from The Empire Strikes Back (1980). That movie was only two years old in 1982, which is when twelve year old Philip Dodge had his model featured in the Summer 1982 issue of Bricks ‘n Pieces. While the photography might not have aged well, his AT-AT looks amazing for having been built during the 1980s.

The X-Wing is the Rebel Alliance’s most iconic starfighter, which is probably why eight-year-old Alastair Stark built one for the Summer 1984 issue of Bricks ‘n Pieces. Alastair’s version sports the livery of LEGO’s Classic Space sets, which undoubtedly served for the basis of many early Star Wars builds. You can almost see a little bit of the Cosmic Cruiser in the cockpit but, unlike that particular set, the wings are hinged so they can open and close.

Black can be one of the most challenging colors to photograph, which certainly appears to have been the case with this 1990 photograph from the Autumn issue of Bricks ‘n Pieces. However, it’s clear enough to see eight year old Craig Davis’ Darth Vader figure. Vader’s cape appears to consist of 10x6x11 panels from LEGO’s Blacktron I Message Intercept Base. It seems especially fitting, considering Blacktron represented the emergence of the “Dark Side” in LEGO’s space theme. Craig gets additional bonus points from me for using the 32×32 crater baseplate.

Jumping ahead to 1996, the July-August issue of the LEGO Mania Magazine featured this AT-AT walker built by Aaron Badis (9), Matthew Gantt (9), and Eric Badis (12). Like the AT-AT from the beginning of this article, this model looks particularly impressive for the time, considering light gray parts were not as abundant as they are today. Several parts were likely sourced from castle and space sets, with a few here-and-there from the town theme. There might even be a little bit of the Metroliner train in there!

Skipping ahead to 1998, LEGO Star Wars sets were one year away from release. This unique-looking X-Wing built by twelve year old Matthew Fetke appeared in the May-June issue of LEGO Mania Magazine, and you might be wondering why it looks so wild. As it turns out, 1998 was the year LEGO introduced its UFO space sub-theme and this starfighter incorporates a lot of UFO theme parts. Inspiration for the model was likely found in the bi-level wings that appeared in many UFO sets. To a child, they look like a natural fit for an X-Wing.

Were any of our readers building LEGO Star Wars models before 1999? If so, we’d love to hear more about your creations and see any pictures you might have taken!

11 comments on “LEGO Star Wars before the first LEGO Star Wars sets [Feature]

  1. John Madsen

    Here are some more pre-1999 Star Wars MOCs for your enjoyment:

    An A-wing by Jerac, ca. 1995 –

    An A-wing by Veynom, ca. 1995 –

    A variety of models by Brian Tobin, ca. 1984 –

    An X-wing by Dan Nelson, ca. 1994 –

    An X-wing by Derrick Ginter, ca. 1984 –

    The Star Wars line was launched when I was just getting into Lego as a kid, so I didn’t build any Star Wars MOCs before 1999, but between 1999 and 2004 I built a series of A-wing, X-wing, and Y-wing MOCs using only the basic bricks and slopes I’d had prior to getting any Star Wars sets. I wanted a bigger fleet, but I didn’t want to tear down my Star Wars sets, so that’s what I had to do. I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s a rough Studio recreation of the first A-wing and second A-wing. I haven’t bothered to try to recreate the others from memory in Studio.

  2. Blockhead

    Ben Fleskes’ MIllennium Falcon –

    Technically it shouldn’t really qualify as the version of the Falcon in question was constructed after the release of the first LEGO Star Wars sets but given that Ben started building Falcons back in the 70’s, that there had been various iterations before the final version and that aside from the Minifigs (and possibly a few control panel tiles), all the other parts used in construction are not specific to Star Wars, I for one thing it should get a pass.

    It’s getting on for almost twenty years old now and it’s been about that long since the first time I saw it… back when the internet was a penny a minute and you couldn’t use the phone at the same time as being online. Not only is it my earliest memory of using the internet, it’s also the furthest back I can go to pinpoint my obsession with LEGO Millennium Falcons and possibly the Millennium Falcon itself.

    The thing I really love about Ben’s Falcon is that it has an innocence about it that has been lost as LEGO’s range of bricks and design sensibilities have moved on. It’s far from accurate in oh so many ways but it looks like it would have been an absolute blast to have played with back when I was a kid.

  3. Dan

    Not sure the year, (late 90s probably?) there was a Tydirium Shuttle with “instructions” that consisted of 3 steps: 1) big pile (collect the pieces) 2) assemble pieces 3) finished model. Would love if someone remembered the URL (roboplanet something? lego purists? I’ll be has it somewhere..)

  4. Murdocke

    Wanting to build something as the re-released trilogy was coming out, this was my Falcon made of mostly-Classic Space Lego in 1997:

    As I recall, it was interesting to figure out, as it wasn’t as easy to come by as much reference material over the web back then. It was also before I had a larger collection (thus all the mixed-up colours), but I was still happy to come out with something (I think) still recognizable from what I had to work with.

    I also kept it together for a long time, settling into my “dark age” until almost 20 years later… now happily out of it… :)

  5. Dan

    @Mladen, That’s the one! And apparently they did a Millennium Falcon I’d forgotten about!

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