Monday 25 November 2013

Who Ya Gonna Call ?

Having recently finished up and publicly displayed my reproduction of cavegod's massive 6,200+ piece UCS AT-AT, I figured it was about time I got to work on a MOC of my own. I did initially think about cracking on with my LEGO City layout, but given that there's still some sorting out to do in my LEGO room before I can comfortably work on it, I decided instead to tide myself over with a new, shorter project while I freed up the necessary space. The question, then, was what to build, and it didn't take me long to come up with an answer. Having recently been impressed by some of the Ghostbusters-inspired MOCs on Cuusoo, and also having coincidentally initiated my youngster in the delights of the first Ghostbusters movie, I thought I'd have a go at designing and building the iconic Ghostbusters ECTO 1 Cadillac and headquarters building.

Perhaps surprisingly, I felt more daunted by the prospect of building the Cadillac than the Ghostbusters HQ. Buildings are often well suited to being translated into LEGO form given their angular morphology, and the Ghostbusters HQ is no exception. Cars, however, with all their vehicle-specific characteristic features and subtle curves and contours, are a totally different story. Builders such Ralph Savelsberg a.k.a. Mad Physicist have spent years taking LEGO vehicle design to a different level, while I hadn't meaningfully MOC'ed a car since I was a kid. I decided to face my fears and start with the Cadillac.....

Image from
One of the concerns I had was that I'd agonise endlessly about every little detail of the model and end up never getting the thing done at all. I therefore made a conscious decision up front to fight my natural instinct to get everything perfect and instead just try to capture the essence of the subject matter and not obsess too much about getting every little detail included and accurate. I figured that once the thing was built I could tinker with it to my heart's content if desired, but the primary objective was just to get something built and "good enough".

My first job was to track down some half-decent photographs of ECTO 1; this proved harder than expected. While an internet search yielded an enormous number of images, most of them appeared to be die-cast models of the vehicle, LEGO renditions of highly variable quality, or horrific attempts to turn real-life respectable family saloons into ECTO 1 with just a lick of paint and a few decals.... I had initially hoped to find some reasonable quality movie stills, but these seemed to be few and far between. Eventually, I stumbled across a useful posting by speederice on containing a ton of useful ECTO 1-related information and some usable photographs including the one above which I could use as a reference. Without any further ado I powered up LDD and got stuck in. When designing a new MOC, some people prefer to just dive in and experiment with real pieces, but I find that the almost infinite choice of elements available via LDD, compared with my limited selection of loose LEGO, means I can just get on with the design process without wasting lots of time searching for parts.

I spent a few hours on LDD over a couple of consecutive evenings designing and refining, and you can see a couple of LDD screengrabs of what I came up with below (click pics to enlarge). I predictably struggled with aspects of the design; while the passenger compartment and roof look pretty good to me, the front isn't quite right - it looks too narrow. Also, there's supposed to be a pair of headlights on each side rather than just the one, and the blue hose is supposed to insert lower into the bodywork. Even so, I felt that the design captured the essence of the vehicle sufficiently well and was "good enough" to be going on with. From a technical perspective, incidentally, I couldn't figure out how to detach the control sticks from their hemispherical bases on LDD; if anyone knows how to do this then please let me know.

The next job was sourcing the 310 parts needed to build the Cadillac; Superkalle has written an application called LDD Manager which can, amongst other things, take an LDD file and export a list of the constituent parts into an Excel spreadsheet which can in turn be imported into Bricklink as a wanted list. It only runs on PC, however, so as a Mac user I had to resort to a more cumbersome approach, namely using LDD to generate an html building guide, the last page of which contains a parts listing. I printed out the parts listing and systematically went through it, digging out those elements I already owned from my loose LEGO stash, and adding those I didn't to a Bricklink wanted list. During the process of trial and error that ensued, it became evident that a few of the elements would be best sourced direct from LEGO, be it their Pick a Brick (PaB) or their Bricks and Pieces (B&P) services. The remaining elements were eventually sourced from a bunch of diferent Bricklink stores and the aforementioned LEGO services and gradually arrived over the next 1-2 weeks. You can see a picture below of the 310 parts (click to enlarge) - doesn't seem to be a great deal to show for all that hassle....

Once the parts had been sourced it was time to boot up LDD once again and enter building guide mode in order to generate a building guide from the Cadillac's LDD file. For the uninitiated, this is an automated process available from the LDD menu at the click of a button, and in the case of a relatively small model like the Cadillac it only takes a few moments. The resulting guide differs from the html building guide described earlier in that it's possible to rotate and zoom the images on the screen at every step, thus allowing the builder to look at the build from multiple angles; this can be especially handy if it's a complex build. The building guide for the Cadillac consisted of a total of 145 building steps, and you can see a selection of the steps below (click to enlarge).

With the building guide up on the screen it was finally time to get building with real bricks. Having previously extolled the virtues of LDD, I do have to admit that one disadvantage of using it is that I sometimes end up virtual building with it in quite ridiculous ways, doing things that I wouldn't dream of doing if I was building out of real bricks. Unknowingly using seven elements where just one would do, for instance. I merrily go along adding more and more bricks to my designs, quite oblivious to all the brick-stacking crimes that I'm committing until I come to actually trying to translate the design into real bricks, and it's only then that the extent of the bizarre building techniques becomes evident. It can make for some unstable builds, not to mention higher-than-necessary part counts. Thankfully, notwithstanding a few idiosyncratic brick combinations, the build was fairly quick and reasonably sensible on this occasion, and the finished model held together OK; you can see a couple of pictures below (click to enlarge).

So nearly there, but something's missing.... Regular readers will be well aware that I'm no fan of stickers, but I knew from the moment I started to design the Cadillac that it just wouldn't look right without the Ghostbusters logo plastered onto it. Given this, there was only one place to turn; Caroline and Nick Savage, a.k.a., have quickly made a name for themselves as designers and purveyors of excellent custom minifigs, but they also have the necessary equipment to produce custom stickers. Having sourced the Ghostbusters logo from the internet and e-mailed it to them, they were able to make me some perfectly-proportioned stickers for my Cadillac. An advantage of their stickers over those produced by LEGO is that you can wet the part that you want to stick them on to and slide the stickers around on a thin film of water until you're happy with the position, at which point you dab the stickers dry and they stick fast. It took a matter of moments to apply the necessary stickers to the Cadillac, and you can see some views of the finished vehicle below.

In an ideal world I would have loved to have ended up with a faithful reproduction of the Cadillac, but it was never really on the cards; as I stated up front, the objective was to capture the essence of the subject matter, and I think I've done that at least. I'm very happy with the passenger compartment and roof rack containing all the ghostbusting equipment. Less satisfactory is the fact that the rear wheels are more hidden than I'd like, the front is too narrow, and there are supposed to be two headlights on each side rather than one. Also, the blue hose is supposed to insert into the bodywork below the red stripe, not in the middle of it. There's certainly room for improvement, then, and I may yet do some more tweaking at some point, but all that having been said, it's "good enough" for now, and I'm delighted to even be able to say that given my initial misgivings.

Next up : Ghostbusters HQ. Stay tuned....

                                                                                                       Ghostbusters HQ -->


  1. Sweet ride Doc, just call it an ambulance for me a couple times, as that's what it was, in a style that was common in the US in the 70s. The Ghostbuster's HQ is actually a FDNY firehouse still in use here in Manhattan, (Ladder 8 on N. Moore St in Tribeca) if you haven't seen it yet you need to go by next time you come across the pond. I LUG NY member Cody C3BRIX Wells ( ) had his Ghostbusters MOCs in the Rockefeller Center Lego Store earlier this year which was hugely popular

    1. Thanks for the info and link to Cody's Ghostbusters MOC, Murph - much appreciated !

      I did a bit of research on the Ghostbusters HQ building in preparation for my next blog posting and definitely intend to visit when I'm next over - has to be done. I was disappointed to discover a 2011 article stating that it was threatened with closure, however; hopefully it survived and will still be a functioning firehouse when I eventually visit.