Thursday, 3 May 2012

Blast from the Past : Set 695 Racing Car

As if I don't wallow self-indulgently enough on this blog already, I figured it was about time I kicked off another series of occasional postings, this time focusing on some of the sets of my youth.... OK, so there's an obvious overlap with some of my "Favourite Set" postings, such as this one and this one, but nobody said this blogging thing had to be an exact science, right ?

Anyway, I'm going to start off with one of the sets I have the fondest memories of, Set 695 Racing Car. Known as Set 491 Formula 1 Racer in the U.S., this little beauty was released in 1976 in the U.K. and 1977 in the U.S.. It contains 67 pieces, and I have absolutely no clue how much it cost. Around 65 pence, maybe. Or maybe not - no idea.

A while back I was able to dredge up most of the original parts to the actual set I owned when I was a kid, and I also managed to find a dog-eared copy of the original instructions tucked away in an old suitcase in the loft. I am however on an ongoing quest to try and track down boxed versions of some of my favourite childhood sets, and managed to pick up the set complete with (slightly battered) box from eBay last year.

You can see some shots of the less-than-perfect box below (click to enlarge). Many set boxes of this size (and smaller) from the 1970's had a major design flaw - in order to open them you had no choice but to interfere with the picture of the model on the front, and it would never quite come back together again when you tried to close the box.... That having been said, whenever I see set boxes in this style I am literally engulfed by waves of nostalgia. There's really no messing about here - you get a basic image of the model on the front of the box, a graphical representation of the model on all four sides of the box, and a couple of alternative views of the model on the back, none of which are encumbered by anything so frivolous as a flash background or other nonsense...

The instructions are typical of the day - a concertina arangement which folds down into an area not much bigger than the size of a postage stamp....

Unfolding the instruction leaflet reveals just seven building steps, a far cry from the hand-holding we get these days - no part call-outs or one-piece-per-step on view here. Even so, it's a straightforward build all the same.

The reverse of the building instructions features a delicious walk down memory lane for the oldies among us - advertisements for eleven 1970's sets including a couple of bona fide classics such as Set 370 Police Headquarters which is another of my childhood favourites

The parts palette is mostly unremarkable, although there are a few noteworthy parts (below) such as the old gray tap with yellow base, the yellow 1 x 1 round brick with solid stud (LEGO changed to using open studs for this element in the early 1980's), the milky-white technic axle (last seen in 1977) and the yellow modified 2 x 2 plate with helicopter tail rotor holder. There's nothing that can't be sourced from Bricklink or elsewhere for pennies, however, meaning that it'd be very inexpensive to collect together the parts and build one of these models for yourself if you felt so inclined.

A few enjoyable minutes later and you can see the finished model below (click to enlarge) - 67 pieces of childhood ecstasy. Not quite big enough to fit a minifigure, but not far short, and you can't imagine just how exotic this sleek Formula 1 machine seemed when my age was in single digits. I love the use of the taps; not quite sure what they're supposed to be, but regardless they still look great next to that mean 8-cylinder engine, as do the twin exhausts cunningly disguised as helicopter rotor holders which you can see peeking out from beneath the rear wing....

In some ways this set feels like a bit of an oddity, with a scale larger than most of the simple LEGO vehicles of my childhood but significantly smaller than the impressive hobby sets such as the 1926 Renault (below) released in 1975.

I picked up my boxed example from eBay last year for a little over £15 including postage. Most of the parts are cheap as chips if you want to source the parts to build your own, but if you're on the lookout for one with a box and don't have the patience to wait for one to turn up on eBay you can buy one right now on Bricklink - at the time of writing prices for a used, boxed example start at around £16 plus postage, although if you want a new, sealed example you're looking at upwards of £80 all in. 

Tight squeeze ? Time to diet...

A classic set - I love it !


  1. The police station was my first Lego set too, loved those early Mini Figs

  2. It makes me happy in a way that's difficult to explain with words to see the Collectifig driver in the late-70s racer. Sort of a genre-bending thing, but in LEGO form...

    1. ^ Absolutely - I know exactly what you mean !