The second part of the story, in which I descend to the depths of paranoia, receive mysterious documents in the refrigerated section of the local supermarket and discover some sets that seem to have surreptitiously slipped into their 30th year with a nod from the designers of LEGO City. Is this planned? An Easter egg for collectors? A covert celebration? Or merely the product of an overactive imagination?
Since I published my first article about covert celebrations in the 2018 LEGO City sets, I have been on edge. Shadows flickering in my peripheral vision. Mysterious figures in the local shopping strip, there one minute, gone the next. Facial features indistinct, not staying still long enough for me to recognise them. I am feeling anxious: worried that I am being followed, with unknown intentions.
In case anything happens, I thought I should share my story, so you will know where it started.
A couple of months ago I was shopping in our local supermarket – picking up some extra food for the next week. Brickvention was just few days away and I was taking a break from preparing my build. Perhaps I was running a little behind. Perhaps it was a lot. I can’t recall anymore. It was a period of frantic activity, and I was prone to being distracted from non-LEGO building tasks.
And then the envelope appeared. Dropped into the child seat of my shopping trolley at the local supermarket while I was getting some yoghurt out of the fridge, I never saw who left it. Before I realised what was happening, a person wearing a black hoodie quickly disappeared down aisle 12, not to be seen again.
It was strange: a yellow envelope, addressed to ‘Rambling Brick’ in the style of a 1970’s television cop show ransom letter: with letters cut out from an old newspaper. I unfolded the envelope, and the word ‘Coincidence?’ appeared.
I have received external leads for blog posts in the past: private messages on Facebook, unencrypted emails, even the occasional press release. But this was the first time I had received anything using good old fashioned newspaper and glue technology. I mean, who even buys newspapers these days? Surely printing something through a laser printer would ensure a significant level of anonymity!
Somewhat rashly, I opened the envelope. Fortunately, there was only a small Instamatic photograph to be found inside. The picture was spectacularly out of focus, but appeared to be a LEGO catalog with an indistinct circle around three of the sets. There were four numbers glued onto the bottom edge of the picture: 1988.
I completed my shopping and took the envelope and photo home, and left them beside the computer until about a week after Brickvention. Post expo malaise was setting in, and I was looking for something to write about. I picked up the photo and gave it another look: suspecting someone was being a little unsubtle, I went to the library section of Brickset.com, and started looking at catalogs from 1988: 30 years ago. Eventually I found the page that matched the photo: page 16 of the European catalog. Someone was being unnecessarily obscure. And there I saw it: the three sets in question: 6357,6675 and 6590. The helicopter transporter truck; a 4×4 with ludicrously sized wheels and a car and camper/caravan.
Now, I entered my LEGO Dark Ages around 1984, and yet these sets all seemed strangely familiar. And then I recalled looking at my recently obtained print catalogue for 2018, and there on the Great Vehicles page they were: 60183 Heavy Cargo Transport; 60180 Monster Truck and 60182 Pickup and Caravan. Now, 30 years had resulted in these sets putting on a bit of weight and expanding around the middle – just like me – but, unlike myself, they look fantastic. They certainly have a greater level of detail than the older sets seemed to have. I set about tracking down the helicopter and trailer set through Bricklink. While I was waiting for it to arrive, I scoured the other ’10 year’ anniversary catalogs: 2018; 1998; 1978, 1968… to see if I could find any catchups for the other sets on this page. Last week we looked at the Speed record car, and compared it to the Land Jet 7 from 1998. What of the tractor, jet plane and helicopter? I am still investigating those and barring major setbacks hope to report back on those soon.
Now any seasoned observer of the LEGO City line will tell you that there are recurring elements in the models:
Certainly there have been plenty of helicopter carriers over the years: Who doesn’t love a ludicrously sized LEGO truck? And Articulated trucks, carrying helicopters – how could you go wrong? Certainly this isn’t the first we have seen: While 6357 may have been the first truck- helicopter set to be released, there have been many in between, in Town/City:, starting with 6357 in 1988, 6336 in 1995, 6328 in 1998, and 60049 in 2014 . But it has not been limited to the Town/City lines- there was 5590, one of the Model Team sets in 1990 Finally, creator have seen a number of helicopter transports: 5765, in 2010 and 31043 in 2014. Set from 2010. Certainly it is a repeating motif, but 1988 is when we first saw the truck carrying a helicopter in a LEGO Set, and there appears to be a bit of a call out to the old set with the colour scheme used this year. And so, in 2018 we celebrate 30 years since it’s initial release. This can’t be a coincidence, when taken in conjunction with the other sets from ’88 that crop up here.
My phone keeps ringing in the evening, not my mobile/cell phone. The landline. Nobody calls us on the land line. I pick it up. A stranger’s muffled voice. “The cost is too great, you should change your plan.” I hung up. Perhaps I’m onto something. Is there a covert celebration with these sets? And why do they want me to change my plan? Now, I couldn’t be completely sure that it wasn’t just someone wanting me to change my electricity provider, the vote on the phone was not sounding too sinister. But what if I am right?
Thinking of Helicopters: there are not one but two Helicopters appearing in the 1978 catalog- 40 years ago. Both featuring a Red Cross. One is almost minifig scale, but having its origins in 1977, the figures are ‘protominifigs’- limbless, faceless characters.
The other is much smaller: only a few bricks high, with a single sticker covering three bricks. What? Either could be a contender for being represented by this year’s Emergency Helicopter- although the Red Cross have become a bit more possessive of their trademark in recent years, so now the Star of Life is used instead.
There was a real helicopter circling our house last night. At least it sounded like that. I couldn’t see it, and could barely hear it, but I could sense the beat of it’s rotors. The bats flying out from the Yarra Bend colony fill the sky, obscuring the view as they head out in search of fruit to feed on. I’ve never been so grateful for living on their flight path.
I continue to dig through past catalogs.
While Air Show jets were common place a year or two ago, they seem to have been thin on the ground in LEGO Town or City before then. Certainly there are close to 100 sets tagged with ‘Jet Aircraft’ in the Brickset database. And the only one that seems to be hitting a ’10/20/30/40 year anniversary this year is 6582 Daredevil Flight Squad from 1998’s Extreme Team series. However, this is probably unlikely. Perhaps there is nothing going on here…
It’s now 1:30 in the morning, as I sit in my office typing. I hear a rustle followed by footsteps outside. A car door slams and the engine starts. Have they found me?
The tractor featured this year is uncharacteristically destructive tearing down trees. Clearing the forests. Odd. In the wake of the recent announcement of commencing the use of ethanol derived from sustainably sourced sugar cane for polyethylene elements, I’d have thought clearing of old growth forests was not something that we would be reminded of.
That said, it’s colour scheme is reminiscent of the Technic Claas Tractor from 2016. The first LEGO Tractor set was 316, released in 1963, but released in USA in 1968: 50 years ago
But tractors have been a frequent feature of LEGO Town, with the first, 625, appearing in 1978, albeit with a front scoop. Similar design, except in blue, was released as 6504 in 1988 (there’s that year again) There are very few design cues to from this earlier model being used in this year’s model. It’s called a tractor. It’s a different scale, a different colour, and a different shape. Otherwise identical I am sure.
Perhaps I am just clutching at straws? Perhaps there is no connection or covert celebration going on. Perhaps someone influential in the design team is turning 30 years old this year? Or perhaps celebrating 30 years on the team? But what about the picture on the back of the pickup truck and caravan set: it looks like a reworking of the 1988 catalog doesn’t it? If you turn your head on its side, rotate the box, squint a bit and view the whole lot in a mirror. The resemblance is uncanny.
It’s now 5:30 in the morning. I’ve not been sleeping well. Tossing and turning. Every creak of the House a scream, a door slams outside. I can’t stay here any longer. I’ve got to go: I pack my bags tell my wife that I love her and run out the door. There’s a cab waiting. It takes me to the airport. Perhaps I will be able to hide out for a few days. I mean, Adelaide’s a big town isn’t it?
Certainly the Convention Centre sounds like it will be a large, public space: lots of witnesses. I should be safe there…
The Rambling Brick is off to Adelaide for Brick-a-laide, part of the Kids Giant Day Out. If you are in town on Good Friday or Easter Saturday, come along and see some of the great models that LEGO fans have put together.
When I return, I will compare the helicopter transporter of 1988 and 2018 and search for other Easter Eggs to be found in this year’s great vehicles range. Until then,
Post script… I’m doing OK. Most if this is a work of speculative fiction. Apart from the bit about the LEGO sets. That bit’s real.