Monday, 19 August 2013

Spoiled for Choice

It seems to me that one consequence of LEGO's stellar market performance over the past few years has been an explosion of new books addressing pretty much every LEGO-related niche you can imagine. Sure, for as long as I can remember there's been a steady trickle of rudimentary fluff aimed at LEGO's target demographic of 5 to 9 year-old boys, but my perception is that as LEGO has grown in popularity there's definitely been more for the older LEGO fan to get their teeth into. As an example, I'm currently reading Brick by Brick which is unashamedly for grown-ups and chronicles the rise, fall and rise of the LEGO company - review to follow on Gimme LEGO in due course - and I previously read and reviewed Sariel's Technic Builder's Guide which was excellent (although certainly not for the faint-hearted). No Starch Press, who published the Technic book, have a number of other LEGO-related releases in the pipeline over the next few months, all of which seem to be AFOL-friendly to at least some extent. The first of these, Amazing Vehicles, dropped into my letter box a week or two back.

Amazing Vehicles is the work of Nathanael Kuipers, formerly a product developer for the LEGO company and the designer of a number of Technic Sets including 8261 Rally Truck and 8292 Cherry Picker, and Mattia Zamboni, a 3D computer graphic artist. The book features ten sets of building instructions for a variety of vehicles, graded according to building difficulty, and all buildable from a common parts palette. Conveniently, all the parts needed to build the models can be found in one relatively inexpensive set - Set 5867 Super Speedster (below) - although the downside is that the set is retired and hasn't been available at retail for some time now.

When I was a boy, I can remember owning a number of books which were filled to bursting with building instructions; they were a source of constant wonderment and I used them so much that they literally disintegrated over time. Wonderful though they were, however, I don't remember the quality of the designs being quite up to the high standard of those filling the pages of Amazing Vehicles - as you can see from the summary of designs below (click to enlarge) they're really rather good.... So good, in fact, that I was moved to try and build some of them.

Unfortunately, my best laid plans were seemingly thwarted, or at least postponed, by the realisation that my copy of the Super Speedster set was buried at the bottom of a cupboard and thus temporarily inaccessible. My young son was not so easily discouraged, however; having taken a keen interest in the book from the moment it arrived, he was adamant that he was going to build model number 6 Historic Racer using parts from his own sets, and I was to be his parts monkey. It was soon evident that my boy didn't have the necessary parts to build the model in the 'correct' colours, however, so we were looking at a BOLOCs scenario. My models haven't been BOLOCs since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but needs must, so I dutifully started to dig out the necessary parts from a large pile of semi-deconstructed sets including Set 6860 The Batcavea couple of Dino sets and Set 9473 The Mines of Moria, amongst others.

Once I'd located the pieces that were needed, construction proceeded at a reasonable pace; the building instructions are nicely realised, clearly printed and generally easy to follow, although because the build utilises some advanced building techniques (including extensive use of SNOT), I had to step in and help out on a few occasions. Eventually we were done, and you can see the finished result below (click pictures to enlarge).

Although I'm not sure that the riot of random colours does the model any favours, it was an interesting build, and as you can hopefully see, the actual design is pretty decent. It's a tad fragile and won't stand up to extended robust play, but I suppose that when it falls apart we'll then have the perfect excuse to attempt some of the other models....

If I'm being honest, of all the LEGO-related books slated for release over the upcoming months, this was one that I wasn't particularly excited about. Turns out that I was pleasantly surprised, however. The book is nicely printed and feels like a quality product, the models showcased are of a uniformly good standard, the building instructions are generally easy to follow, and the premise of basing a book of building instructions on the parts available from just one small, fairly inexpensive set is I think an excellent one. If there's a downside it's that the set concerned is no longer available at retail, but unless this book creates a massive buzz and drives aftermarket prices of the Super Speedster up to ridiculous levels, it should still be possible to pick up the set from a reseller at a pretty low cost; as things currently stand you can pick up the set for as little as £15 plus shipping in Europe and $35 in the USA via Bricklink, and you'll probably be able to find it for less on eBay if you're patient. Failing that, if you already have some of the necessary parts then you can pick up the rest via Bricklink (the Super Speedster parts inventory can be found here).

In summary, if you like the look of the models featured within the book then I reckon it's well worth picking up a copy of Amazing Vehicles, particularly if you already have the super Speedsters set. The book has an MRSP of £13.99 / $19.95 which seems a tad expensive to me, although it'll no doubt be available at a discount from Amazon et al before long (links are provided below if you wish to order). I note that there's also a second volume of the book available featuring 10 more designs, all of which can again be built from the Super Speedster parts palette; having enjoyed the first book it's pretty likely that I'll check that one out too.

Thanks to No Starch Press for sending me a copy of Amazing Vehicles to review.



  1. There's something nice about seeing models like that - I've not done that sort of building since I was a kid and had a limited set of bricks. It's sort of retro and I approve.

  2. The threat of BOLOCs! Horrors. What a great motivator. Using its powers for good...