Thursday, 4 October 2012


I suspect that some if not all AFOLs who buy more sets than they have time to build have some sort of mental 'build queue' of sets. Set 10220 Volkswagen T1 Camper Van has seemingly been near the top of mine ever since I bought the set soon after its release last year, but it's never quite reached the front of the queue. I thought the model looked great in the pre-release publicity pictures, and it's looked great when I've seen it at various events and in LEGO brand stores. Problem is, something always seems to come up just as I'm contemplating diving in.

But not any longer. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge in the right direction, and for me that little nudge was the 2012 Great Western LEGO Show, also known as STEAM to the faithful. This annual event showcases LEGO models built by members of the UK LEGO user group the Brickish Association, and some of you may have read the reports that I wrote for the 2011 and 2010 shows on here. As part of this year's show, Brickish Association member Robert Clarkson is organising a collaborative celebration of the VW Camper Van complete with LEGO versions in a variety of colours, and he was looking for someone to build the official red LEGO version. This provided me with the perfect excuse to finally get cracking on the set, so I signed up and have spent the last few evenings making good on my promise.

The box (above - click to enlarge) is HEAVY. Having become accustomed to a diet of licensed sets whose boxes often seem to contain more air than LEGO, it's a shock to encounter a box which is literally jam-packed with pieces, so much so that it even seems to bulge a little at the sides. Also unusually for a UK set, the generous 1,332 piece count can be found on the front of the box, alongside a huge picture of the completed model superimposed upon a suitably rural backdrop. The length of the finished model - 30 cm / 11.8 inches - is also printed on the front of the box. The back of the box (below) shows the van parked up with doors and windows open, plus some close-ups of the van's interior.

Cutting the seals releases 15 bags of parts, some containing smaller bags of parts. Unusually, the bags aren't numbered, and the build is consequently not divided into sub-assemblies each with their own bags, which makes a change. The box also contains two instruction booklets and two small sticker sheets, all carefully packaged in a plastic bag with a stiff cardboard insert to keep them flat and delightfully pristine. The instruction booklets are A4-sized, and each runs to around 80 pages; their front covers feature the same image as the front of the box  In addition to the building instructions, one of the booklets contains an inventory of parts spread over 2 pages, and there are also a few adverts, predominantly for LEGO Exclusives such as Set 10219 Maersk Train and Set 10214 Tower Bridge.

A few of the more interesting parts can be seen in the picture above. Pride of place goes to the tall tan window frame and the trans yellow modified 1 x 1 plate with tooth, both of which are unique to this set, while a number of other parts, including the metallic silver dishes which form the hubcaps, the pearl gold faucet and the red arches and facet bricks, are only available in a few sets. Certainly a nice selection of parts overall, and if you're on the lookout for white curved bricks, both studded and studless, this is your set..... Not shown is the fabric used for the van's pop-up roof section and the curtains, both of which are exclusive to this set

Construction commences with the van's chassis and engine (pictures below - as ever, click to enlarge). You get an early indication of the care and attention to detail lavished on this set while constructing the engine, which comes complete with hoses, metallic elements and a fan belt. I also love the elegant, clean lines of the front and rear bumpers (or fenders, for those in the U.S....)

The bodywork at the back of the van then starts to take shape, including rear lights, the registration plate and a hinged panel to provide access to the engine. The seats go in next, complete with the ability to recline, and the rear passenger seat even cleverly folds down into a bed as you can see in the picture below. I'm not sure about the gaudy claret and blue colour scheme, though - clearly an aquired taste....  After the seats come a variety of internal furnishings, fixtures and fittings including a sink with a golden faucet, some tan shelving and a plant in a pot.

Next the driver's cab starts to take shape, and a gear stick and pedals drop into place. A pair of doors to the passenger compartment are installed at this point, as is a fold-down table complete with a goblet of what looks like creme de menthe....yuk. I love the inclusion of the lava lamp at the back - very sixties, and a lovely little detail !

Now that the lower half of the van is complete it's time to start installing some windows. Each window in the passenger compartment comes complete with curtains - no expense spared ! More internal fixtures and fittings are then installed, most notably a mirror consisting of a shiny silver sticker applied to a pane of glass and placed inside a tall tan window. It's also time to put up a picture of a surf scene in the passenger compartment; the surf board features the letters "J H" which I suspect may be the initials of the designer. The driver's cab gets a pair of doors at this stage and also a steering wheel - left hand drive, unfortunately for us Brits, but understandable I guess.

The next step is to install the rest of the windows, including the rear window and the windscreen. This involves some tricky sticker action, of which more later. Once this is done, completion of the upper half of the van is a relatively quick and straightforward affair. The roof goes on next, and construction of the pop-up mid-section is more involved and time-consuming than it looks. Once the roof is on, all that's left to do is to build the two-tone front section of the van, where a pair of black hoses are employed to emphasise the interface between the red and white sections, and the wheels which feature rather nice metallic silver hubcaps. And then we're done !

In terms of moving parts, the model has opening doors to the driver's cab and passenger compartment. There's also an opening tail-gate and, as previously mentioned, an access panel on the rear of the vehicle which lifts up to reveal the engine. The coolest moving part is however the beautifully designed pop-up roof section This lifts up just like the real thing, and it works perfectly as well as looking great. The sides of this elevated roof section are made up of a ribon of orange fabric which neatly and invisibly concertinas down when the roof section is lowered - an extremely elegant and impressive bit of design.

In summary, building the camper van was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Probably my most enjoyable build of 2012, in fact. So far, anyway. And not only was the build thoroughly enjoyable, but the finished model is superb in my opinion. OK, so I'm no expert when it comes to VW camper vans, but the designers look to have captured the overall proportions and feel of the vehicle extremely well. There are also a multitude of lovely touches both big and small - the elegantly-realised engine, for instance, and the splendid internal fixtures and fittings, not to mention the superb pop-up roof section. Furthermore, the model employs a ton of ingenious building techniques to keep things interesting right to the end.

My only complaint is the blasted stickers. Yes, I know I'm always going on about stickers, but they were genuinely a total pain in the backside to apply on this occasion. The worst offenders were the (transparent) stickers which are supposed to be applied to the (transparent) front and rear windows. It's extremely hard to do this neatly - you really can't see if they're lined up straight or not until they're actually stuck to the glass, and if you do need to peel them off in order to reapply them (which I did, more than once) it gives the affected window(s) an ugly, cloudy appearance. Bloody infuriating. Also irritating, though marginally less so, is the need to apply the VW sticker to a round tile. Again, I found it very hard to apply this so that it was (1) central and (2) straight. Honestly, in a set of this size and price, is it really too much to ask that these parts are printed rather than stickered. Really ? If LEGO can manage to provide a handful of printed parts in a £4.99 Cars set, it's impossible for me to fathom why they'd take short-cuts on a big, beautiful set like the Camper Van. Ridiculous.

Anyway, stickers apart I think this set is a minor masterpiece and I wholeheartedly recommend it. And if that wasn't enough to convince you, at £79.99 / $119.99 for 1332 pieces it's also pretty good value for money. The set is a LEGO exclusive in most countries, which means that availability is somewhat limited; in the UK you can buy it online from LEGO shop@home or in person at a LEGO brand store, and you'll get double VIP points in October so it's the perfect time to buy !

I'll be carefully packing up the completed camper van tomorrow and taking it along to the Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon, UK. There, as mentioned earlier, it'll be on display at STEAM alongside more than ten other variants in a variety of different colours. STEAM promises to be an excellent show this year - bigger than ever, and with an enormous number of excellent LEGO creations to see, not to mention a pop-up LEGO brand store so you can pick up your own VW camper van set while you're there; having attended STEAM for the past few years I can personally vouch for the quality of the displays. I hope you can make it to the show, and if you see a guy with DrDaveWatford on his exhibitor badge then please come over and say hello !


  1. Great review Dr Dave, it's a great set and fun build. Great photos by the way. I like the black background, is that all post processing or do you have some sort of light tent that enables you to do that. I am no photographer :)

  2. HI Jeff, glad you like the review !

    I'm no David Bailey either I'm afraid - there's more than a little trial and error involved in me getting reasonable pictures unfortunately. I photograph against a black background (except when I'm taking pics of a selection of loose pieces in which case it's a sheet of white A4 !) so no need for extensive post-processing in that regard. No light tent or fancy kit involved either, just my wife's little Ixus and an old tripod if necessary.... I do clean up the pics if required, e.g. if they're a bit dark or need cropping, but that's about the limit of my photoshopping abilities.

  3. Nice review Dave. I loved building this set, even though the roof is a bit fiddly. I have to agree that your photos are great too and far better than mine. Have a look -


  4. Kevin5/10/12

    Hi Dave - It's nice to hear (er... read) your thoughts on this wonderful set. I agree about the windsheild and VW stickers, but I think the set would look just fine without the windsheild sticker. Not so much on the VW one, of course.

    While I love the red/white color scheme of the original, I have always wanted to change the red to a medium blue to match the VW van that an old friend used to drive. Unfortunately they don't make most of the necessary parts in medium blue, or any blue for that matter. I look forward to seeing some photos from STEAM with the various colors that other builders have used.

    Another cool thing about this set is that it is (almost) to scale with the Lego minifig LED keychains. I took a Darth Vader and two Stormtrooper LED keychains, removed the loop and chain, and now have them set up in a little diorama showing Vader on a much needed camping vacation, taking some time off from hunting Rebels.


  5. Anonymous8/10/12

    hmm, why can't I pull the trigger on this. In stock in my local John Lewis a few miles down the road? check. Tonnes of John Lewis vouchers in my draw that my work send me every month. check. Do I really want it...not sure...

    Good review though.

  6. It's an awesome set! It absolutly looks fantastic! I love how silk and smooth it looks. The inside of it is awesome! Just by looking at the pictures, you can see the quality in this set! It's just the stickers that are annoying.