Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Ultimate ?

LEGO have played pretty fast and loose with the "Utimate" tag over the years; we've had Star Wars Ultimate Collector series sets, an Ultimate Collectors Edition Batmobile, an Ultimate Accessory Set and even an Ultimate Jewelry Collection (and no, I'm not kidding....) to name just a few. And as of May 2011 we now have some further additions to the "Ultimate" family - three Ultimate Build Cars 2 sets - Lightning McQueen, Mater and Francesco.

I have to admit that I wasn't sure about the Ultimate Build Lightning McQueen set, really from the very first moment I spied the publicity shots. My eyes were immediately drawn to the high windscreen and angular roofline which just looked wrong to me. The proportions overall just didn't look right. Still, I'd already been proven spectacularly wrong with my first impressions of the Cars theme as a whole - I had to eat a whole bowl of humble pie when I got my hands on Set 8200 Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen and Set 8210 Classic Mater and found I loved them. I therefore wondered whether I would be wrong on the Ultimate Build Lightning set as well, so I splashed the cash, and opened the box....

The chunky box contained 2 poly bags of parts, instructions and a sticker sheet; each poly bag also contained at least 1 smaller poly bag filled with smaller parts. The sticker sheet was really something to behold (click pics to enlarge) :

HOW many stickers....?
A total of 22 stickers were crammed onto the backing sheet. Twenty two ! I have to admit that the prospect of having to neatly apply all that lot was not appealing at all. Still, at least a few of the parts were printed, specifically Lightning's 'eyes' and 'mouth'. Also, despite the prodigious number of stickers, none of them were STAMPs - it's looking like LEGO have really got the message about how much we hate stickers which simultaneously cover multiple pieces. Also, the stickers were helpfully numbered so as to avoid confusion during application

The instruction booklet (above) is unremarkable; perhaps smaller and thicker than I would have expected, but certainly clear, colourful and easy to follow. There's a full parts inventory near the back, various advertisements for other Cars 2 sets and the LEGO club, and a ghastly child shouting "WIN!" on the back cover which seems to have something to do with completing an online survery.

Time to start building. Bag one contains the parts for Guido and about half of Lightning McQueen himself. The first task is to construct Guido, who's a member of Lightning's pit crew, and a pleasure it is too. He may only be made up of 28 pieces, but Guido's predominantly Medium Blue and Light Aqua colour scheme is a delight. Light Aqua is a brand new colour, appearing for the first time in the 2011 Cars sets. Very nice, too, and likely to be very rare, so enjoy it while you can. His eyes and mouth are printed - no stickers on Guido, although to be fair he is carrying a flag which is bigger than he is and it does have a huge sticker on it.....

Once Guido is built it's time to embark upon the construction of Lightning himself. The remains of bag 1 form Lightning's chassis, and the contents of bag 2 finish the job. Some interesting parts, including 4 pearl gold rims which partially obscure the white wheel hubs. It would have been lovely to have proper shiny chrome rims, but I wasn't holding my breath and thus wasn't disappointed. You can see the finished build below.

So overall impressions ? Well, I think Lightning looks better 'in the flesh' than in the publicity shots, but reservations about his proportions remain undiminished. I really don't like the roofline which slopes downwards far too steeply for my taste. Also, the front of the roof peeks over the top of the windscreen which just looks plain untidy to me. I suspect it wouldn't be too hard to mod the roof so that it doesn't sit up quite as far, but I haven't attempted to do this yet.

What else ? Well, the stickers are indeed a pain to apply, but you knew I'd say that.... One thing I didn't expect to be doing is complaining about the printed parts, however, but I'm going to have to. My joy at being spared a few extra stickers quickly turned to consternation when I discovered that the printing on the two tiles which form the windscreen and also represent Lightning's eyes doesn't match up very well, as you can probably see in the picture below.

On the plus side, Lightning's solidly built and doesn't fall apart easily, so he's undoubtedly suitable for play - my son certainly thinks so, anyway.... And despite all my complaints, I'm looking at Lightning right now sitting on my desk and I can't help but like him despite his faults; maybe it's just the bright colours or my fondness for the source material that does it, but I certainly don't regret my purchase. And then there's Guido, who for me is probably the highlight of the set - I love the colours, the printed parts, and his cheeky grin.

Cheeky Chappie !
So in summary, Ultimate Build Lightning McQueen is actually a pretty long way from being Ultimate anything very much really.... That having been said, he does have a certain rough charm, and Guido is great. I think the set is expensive at the UK RRP of £25.99, but at the time of writing if you're in the UK then it's heavily discounted at Amazon and you can pick it up 38% off the RRP at £15.99 which is far more reasonable.

Not a must have, then, but not too bad if you can see past the gripes.....

Little and Large

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