Lately I’ve been on a bit of a building spree. The Cold War collaboration for BrickFair Virginia, for which I have already built the SS-20 Saber and Gryphon GLCM transporter erector launchers, has given me lots of ideas and motivation. So far I have focussed on Cold War doomsday weapons that never saw use in anger. The actual armed conflicts that took place during the Cold War, although certainly brutal, fortunately were fought using conventional weapons. One of these was the Korean War.
In 1950, when Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, the US and a number of allies came to South Korea’s aid. At the time, the first jet aircraft were already in service. However, propeller-driven aircraft still had a role to play. Most US Navy aircraft carriers still had several squadrons of Vought F4U Corsairs on board.
This WW2 design may have seemed like an anachronism, but the veteran warbird could carry more weapons and spend more time overhead than faster jet fighters. They were the workhorse of US Naval aviation.
WWI-era aircraft generally don’t receive as much attention from LEGO builders as their modern (or futuristic) descendents. Wesley makes a worthy attempt to redress the balance with this wonderful Fokker Eindecker, an early German fighter plane, one of the most advanced aircraft of its day. The model is nicely put-together, with some great angles in the undercarriage struts, a well-shaped fuselage, and good use of string which always adds a classic vintage aircraft feel. But it’s the photography which really sets this creation apart — the addition of a couple of simple background elements makes for an effective backdrop, and the low camera angle is a great choice. It’s nice to see Wesley yet again present a LEGO aircraft model in something different from the standard three-quarter view high-angle “flying” shot.
Be sure to check out Wesley’s other fantastic WWI aircraft we’ve highlighted.
At the moment I am building models from the Cold War for a collaboration with my friends at BrickFair Virginia. I already presented my Soviet SS-20 “Saber” about a week ago. That missile platform was seen as a direct threat to Western Europe. Whilst I was buying parts for that, I was already planning to build one of the weapons systems that NATO fielded in Europe: the BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). Or, more precisely, the vehicle used to transport and launch them.
It consisted of a large German-built MAN truck that pulled a semi-trailer with the launcher. This housed up to four cruise missiles in a box that was elevated to an angle of 45 degrees before launch. I built the vehicle to a scale of 1/43, making it roughly 53 studs long. Building its four-tone camouflage scheme (with dark green, dark tan, tan and black) was a challenge, especially on such a small vehicle.
A little more than forty years ago, with the Cold War still in full swing, the Soviet Union introduced a new ballistic missile: the RSD-10 “Pioneer”. NATO code-named it the SS-20 “Saber”. It had a range of 500-5500 km and carried three nuclear warheads, each of which was roughly ten times as powerful as the bomb used against Hiroshima. It seemed purpose-built to threaten Western Europe. The missile’s short flight time, of roughly 15 minutes, left very little warning. Furthermore, it was mobile, which made it even harder to counter. A large six-axle MAZ-547 transporter erector launcher carried the missile, housed inside a large cannister, to dispersed launch sites.
My diorama shows the launcher at a snow-covered launch site, with the missile cannister raised upright for launch. On the model it is almost solid, so there is no actual missile inside, but you can just see the tips of the three warheads. Unlike most of my models, it is minifig-scaled (I picked 1/43) and built mostly without visible studs. I built it for a Cold War themed collaborative build for BrickFair Virginia, in the coming August.
No stranger to building wonderful and totally imaginative aircraft, Jon Hall brings us a gull-wing fighter plane that looks like a cross between a Corsair from World War II and a Star Wars TIE fighter. Like so many of his other aerial creations, Jon’s latest flyer – dubbed the AR-31 “Swordfish” – is exquisitely designed and presented. From the inverted gull wings and functional-looking pontoons to the bright color scheme and exposed engine components, this torpedo-armed seaplane has so much to love.
The wings and twin boom give the aircraft an undeniably sleek look, despite the bulbous fuselage. This plane and others by the builder are reminiscent of the Second World War and even interwar periods. Back then, aircraft designers went wild with all types of unique and downright crazy prototypes (see the French Breguet 410 or the USSR’s weird but intrepid Zveno Project). Jon’s planes, however, are completely and 100 percent original. In fact, one of his nicest touches is also developing the world in which they exist. It’s a fun addition that always leaves me wanting more.
These backstories and cinematic photos help bring these awesome creations to life. When it comes to this style of building – called “Sky-Fi” in the LEGO community – Jon is no doubt an ace. Check out many other great creations on his Flickr.
The story of the Trojan horse is one of the most well known in ancient Hellenic lore. In the classical version, following a fruitless and decade-long siege of the city of Troy, the Greeks constructed a gigantic wooden horse in which they had hidden their finest warriors. The Greeks feigned defeat, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night, the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war. It was a brilliant coup, though historians have argued its veracity ever since. Regardless of whether or not the Trojan horse actually existed, Martin Harris wonderfully brings the story to life in LEGO form with his depiction of that fateful gift-giving moment.
One has to admire the simple but imposing Trojan walls and gate, which stood up to 10 years of determined Greek attacks (the angled walls are a great touch, though a bit more landscaping around the bottom edge would help break up the abrupt edges). The Trojans lined up along the battlements and the Greeks laboriously pushing the horse depict the sheer scale of this creation. Continue reading
The battlefield just became deadlier with this highly capable armored platform by master mecha builder, Moko. When it comes to an attention to detail, the builder has spared no expense. Moko’s piloted mecha is named after the wolf Fenrir of Norse mythology, and it looks ready to dish out some serious pain. Form and function are expertly fused together in a mech that not only takes down enemies, but looks good doing it.
There are plenty of crafty techniques, such as using an old school Bionicle head for the visor and printed elements as the rifle’s forearm. (Those pieces are from last year’s Mack Anthem set.) The design also allows for some intimidating poses.
Just like its ferocious namesake, this heavily armed and armored warrior is unlikely to allow itself to be easily restrained.
For decades, the Long Island-based Grumman Corporation was the US Navy’s primary aircraft supplier. They built a range of now-famous aircraft, including the Wildcat, Avenger, Hellcat, Cougar and, of course, the Tomcat. Starting in the early seventies, they also built the EA-6B Prowler; a four-seat electronic warfare aircraft for jamming enemy air defenses. I’ve had a model of one of these since 2007. In recent days I rebuilt it using new parts and techniques. Thanks to curved slopes and a lot more sideways building, I’ve been able to improve the shape.
Prowlers entered US Navy service in 1971 and, after a career of more than 40 years, the US Marines have only just retired their last examples. Their longevity is a testament to the quality of the design. Because its products were famously well engineered, Grumman was also known as the “Iron Works”. Their aircraft, however, aren’t exactly famous for their elegant looks. Even the Tomcat, arguably one of the prettiest fighters ever to grace an aircraft carrier’s deck and certainly one of the company’s prettier products, looks quite ungainly from some angles. Also known as the “flying drumstick”, the Prowler is no exception. It has a fairly large front end, which houses two separate cockpits, each with side-by-side seating for two crewmen. The large “football” on top of the vertical fin contains jamming equipment, as do wing-mounted pods. The wings fold up for use aboard aircraft carriers. For air-to-air refuelling, it has an oddly-cranked probe just in front of the windscreen. It all makes sense, but it’s not pretty. I think “purposeful” is more appropriate.
It’s done! Building my Transforming Bumblebee distracted me for a bit. However, I actually completed my Pave Low helicopter before the Beetle. In parts one and two of this series I explained how this sort of model has gotten a lot more complicated. Thanks to newer parts and techniques, the simple solutions I would have been happy with ten years ago just don’t hack it anymore. In this third and final part, I finally unveil the finished article.
Click here to continue reading…
Progress on my Pave Low helicopter has been slow. In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I am using new parts and techniques to build an up-to-date version of the model I built ten years ago. In this second part of a short series, I’ll explain one of the difficulties I ran into. I plan my models such that actually building them is usually a fairly straightforward process. I used my old model as a template and had an idea of how to do most of the other things in my head. As a result much of the model so far indeed came together quite easily.
Note the words “usually”, “most” and “much” in those last three sentences. The tail on my old model was quite narrow and I wanted the new one to be wider, using curved slopes and bricks. However, the fin is tilted aft at a roughly 45 degree angle, with a horizontal fin on top of it. I only had a loose idea of how to this. Actually building it took about eight frustrating hours of tinkering and trial-and-error. The diagonal part is attached to the tail boom using clips and plates with bars. The horizontal fin uses a similar attachment. A major problem was positioning all of this at the proper angle. I wanted as few visible gaps as possible and the tail should also be reasonably sturdy. This was asking rather a lot. The result is an improvement over the old one, but I’m still not completely happy.
A few months ago, I wrote three articles on how I built the E-1 Tracer aircraft model. I haven’t built much in the intervening months, but recently I have started on a new project: an MH-53M Pave Low helicopter. This is a somewhat different cup of tea. It’s not a fixed-wing aircraft and I am not starting from scratch. Instead, I am starting with an old model that I built ten years ago.
This means that there is a lot less planning involved. The proportions of the old model were pretty much spot-on, but there are many parts and techniques that didn’t exist or weren’t possible ten years ago. As a result, the old model looked, well, old.
In this and subsequent articles, I’ll go into how I am building this new version and how newer parts and techniques change how I approach the design.
When you need to get somewhere fast in Metal Gear Solid V, you can always count on Pequod, the callsign for the Solid Snake’s chopper transport. Seen here in its sea-grey color-scheme, the fictional UTH-66 Blackfoot is a huge helicopter that draws heavily on real-world inspiration, and nowhere have we seen a better LEGO version than this one by Marius Herrmann. He’s has made sculpting the compound curves of the accurate minifigure-scale cockpit look easy.
Outfitted with multiple weapons and a long refueling probe, this LEGO chopper is one of the best pieces of realistic military machinery we’ve seen recently.