Previously on the Rambling Brick…
After obtaining set 40220 London Bus as part of the shop.LEGO.com promotion in November, the Rambling Brick was duly impressed, and put all of the stickers onto the set. But there was a bonus sticker sheet in the set that featured Lester, the LEGO Minifigure Mascot for the New Flagship LEGO Store in Leicester Square. This led to a tenuous link between Tim Brooke Taylor, Monty Python and the store’s opening week giveaways. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia, he started imagining that he was back in 1976…
NOW read on….
An unhealthy fix of nostalgia.
As I looked at the 40220, and considered it’s design, it reminded me of all of many vehicle sets from the mid-nineteen seventies. The vast majority of LEGO Vehicles were four studs wide: whether a police car, an excavator, a bus or container lorry.
Here is an example of a bus from 1976 – set 696. It embraces the impressionist movement, conveying the idea of a bus, but without many of the features that make up a traditional bus such as side walls, or a complete roof.
Somewhere along the way, LEGO has moved from being a simple construction toy to becoming a serious modelling tool, moving from impressionism to a degree of realism unanticipated in the the past. The recent London bus 40220 is a great example of this.
Meanwhile, back in 1976, 7 year old me has just started to get excited about LEGO. Forty seven year old me begins to wonder: What would 40220 look like had it been produced in the 70’s? After all, it is only 4 studs wide like the rest of the vehicles from that era.
Part of this is because of the parts palette available: Mudguards or wheel arches weren’t released until 1978, as were normal mini figures. Curved bricks were also unavailable, and neither were 2×4 tiles. That’s okay though: virtually all models on this era relished the idea of being covered in studs. The bracket used in 40220 for the front grill was not released until the 21st century. The only bricks with studs on the side were the 1×1 window pieces. Ehrling/headlamp/washing machine bricks as we know them were not produced until 1980. Single studs (round plates, 1×1 stud) were also not available until 1980. Tan and grey or indeed bluish grey were not yet colours and grille plates were still some years away. And wheels… This size of wheel was always red, with a smooth black tyre, and available as single or double wheel configurations. It was attached to the bottom of a modified 2×2 brick, with a metal axle passing through it. None of those plastic, clip on wheels here!
I made the trip out to my parent’s house where the childhood LEGO is kept. Here I was able to find a preprinted 1×4 brick with headlamps and grill, as well as some of the old wheels. So, foresaking the slopes and tiles, I set about constructing the 1976 version of the current Lego Creator London Bus. The size of the brick attached to the wheels became the main determinant of the structure of the chassis of the bus – having the wheels based on bricks rather than plates limited the ‘wiggle room’ for structure below the floor line.
Aiming to minimise the piece count, I used 1 x 4 bricks to cross the bus and provide strength. I used black bricks and a plate to fill in the doorway. Without them there was no structure between the stairwell and the rear wheel. The simplifying bonus if this era is the printed headlight and grille brick, mainly in 1×4 , but also available as a 1×4 version. The placement of the grille used at the front of the bus is in keeping with several sets from the time.
Back in 1976, tan plates were still some way off into the future. I substituted white instead. As an alternative to the curved brick as double cheese slope of the source model, I opted just to use a shorter plate on top of the roof, to imply the slope. A protominifig statue and a faded 70’s filter completes the effect:
Of course, having a spare sticker sheet as alluded to previously, allow this to be the bus that gets brought out on special occasions… perhaps to the opening of a new LEGO Store?
I am not entirely happy with the final appearance for the back of the bus. I feel like it should have a little more detail. This may be my 47, not 7 year old speaking however. This level of detail that would not be routinely included in a build from this era. The simplest refashioning: may have been to use 2 1×1 window bricks in red, on either side of a white 1×2 brick, tripling the piece count for this part of the build. And I don’t have any in my collection. Seven year me is pleased.
There is no doubt that contemporary LEGO model design provides a much more realistic model than techniques used forty years ago. At the same time, accepting the palette limitations of the time reduces the necessary piece count significantly.
For me, this build was inspired by the use of the four stud wide footprint for 40220. This width was widely used for vehicles of any type in the mid 1970’s: before attempts were made to create ‘minifig scale.’ Revisiting the palette and style of sets from this era produces a simpler design, but at the same time was deeply satisfying. I hope you have enjoyed this journey. Seven year old me certainly did.