You start out by building the body of the ship (including the mechanism for raising the wings into the landing position and lowering them into the flight position) and then construct the floor of the cockpit. This part of the build is great and proceeds almost too quickly - admittedly some Technic elements, but mainly proper bricks and plates. Then you build the enormous tail using a combination of technic beams and regular LEGO (which is a bit tedious, to be honest) after which you finish up the cockpit, and then build and attach the wings. Finally it's a case of adding a few details such as the laser and blaster cannons at the front before finishing off by constructing the huge stand which allows the ship to be displayed with the wings either up or down.
The mechanism for raising and lowering the wings works pretty well and is reasonably robust - 2 LEGO cranks fit into a couple of holes beneath the engines, and by rotating the cranks the wings slowly rise or fall. Then, once the wings are in the desired position, you can remove the cranks so as not to spoil the aesthetics.
I do love the beautiful, sleek cockpit with the huge windscreen (last seen used as a skylight in Set 10211 Grand Emporium). The cockpit drops open to reveal sufficient seating for 4 minifigs - Vader, Luke, an Imperial Guard and an Imperial Pilot. There's even somewhere for Vader and Luke to store their lightsabers. The set also includes a 5th minifig - a stormtrooper - but there's unfortunately nowhere for him to sit in the shuttle. So presumably his job is to guard the shuttle after it's landed, but he doesn't actually get to ride in it.....
The model looks pretty sleek and spectacular perched on its stand I reckon. A number of non-AFOLs have inspected it and all seem pretty impressed. The set comes with an alternative stand only a few studs high upon which the ship can squat when the wings are raised in the landing position; one of the downsides of this smaller stand is however that there's nowhere to attach the plaque (below), which does fit nicely on the taller stand.
The verdict ? It's sleek, elegant and it looks like it's supposed to. It's certainly a big step up from the 4 other versions of the Imperial Shuttle that I've got (Set 7166 is shown built below; the others are still sealed in their boxes & polybags) although it's admittedly significantly more expensive at £239.99 for 2503 pieces.
|Set 7166 Imperial Shuttle (2001)|
|Set 4494 Imperial Shuttle (2004)|
|Set 20016 Imperial Shuttle (2010)|
|Set 7264 Imperial Inspection (2005)|
Overall, it's not cheap but I think it's worth the money if you enjoy building and displaying big models, especially if like me you also happen to love the design of the ship itself. It was a no brainer for me from the moment it was announced, and I've had no regrets !