Just as Minifigures (Happy fortieth birthday for last weekend folks) bring life to a LEGO® Town layout, so do vehicles. Sorry for the use of a dodgy segue there. And the only thing better than a LEGO set with a vehicle to build, is a LEGO set with two vehicles to build!
This year, as I have previously discussed, we are seeing some interesting parallels between the LEGO city sets, and sets that are 20, 30 and 40 years old. I have also seen a particularly strong set of coincidences between the Town range of 1988 and that of today, and I would like to explore this further today.
Today I would especially like to look at the helicopter transporter truck. Just why a highly manoeuvrable flying vehicle needs a truck to take it from Point A to Point B, unless it has broken down, and managed to land in a somewhat controlled fashion without dismembering all on board, in such a circumstance, I am not entirely sure. However, I am going to jump past that flaw in logic to examine this special class of set, which not only celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, but also has its tenth representation in a LEGO Set.[Errata: thanks to Serang who pointed out a small Technic version in 8433 Cool movers, making this the eleventh version.]While primarily a Town/City style of set, this sort of set has also manifested in Model Team, Creator and even Jack Stone forms. Some might consider the 5590 Model Team version from 1990 to be the ultimate form of this type of construction, with large scale construction and functionality. Today I would like to look at the original Truck/Helicopter Combination from 1988: 6357 Stunt ‘Copter ‘N’Truck and Compare it with the current offering, 60183 Heavy Cargo Transport.
Released in 1983, 6357 has 177 pieces and 2 minifigures. It retailed for $17, but is, unsurprisingly, no longer readily available through standard retail channels. I obtained mine through a Brick Link seller in the Netherlands. The set came in a couple of zip lock bags, and appeared to be well loved, as any set of this era should have been!
The instructions come on a single sheet of paper, with the instructions for building the truck on one side, and the helicopter on the other. Construction was simple, and completed in around 10 minutes. There are no stickers to apply.
There are a few elements that made their debut around this time, and 1988 saw the introduction of the new helicopter blade element, as well as the peg on a tile for it to connect to. This year also saw the introduction of the new railing element 2486 ‘Bar 1x8x2’.
LEGO Elements are constantly under development: the company is always searching for more efficient ways to make elements: to ensure they are strong and robust enough to withstand a child’s play, enhance safety and ease of play, and improve the efficiency of raw material usage while retaining functionality.
A number of elements appearing in this set have undergone subtle modifications subsequent to this set’s release, and some are just not part of the current parts palette any longer. And I haven’t even started to look at the removal of light gray from the palette, to be replaced by medium stone gray/light blueish gray in around 2004-2005.
I particularly likes the detail of the front of the truck, incorporating the headlights, as well as the use of the grille and the use of red Ehrling bricks to support the fender. The size of the vehicle almost prevents the use of stickers, and the level of detail is remarkable despite this. Plates with Clip ring are also used to represent the fuels tanks underneath the cabin of the truck. The roof of the cabin lifts up. The trailer is attached to the truck using a peg on tile, through a hole in a technic plate.
The helicopter is a simple construction, and features a strong red and yellow stripes along the length of the fuselage. A 1×3 slope is used for the tail plane, rather than a dedicated part.
Today: Heavy Cargo Transport
Fast forward 30 years to 2018. This year’s offering 60103 Heavy Cargo Transport has 315 pieces, and retails for $au44.99/$US29.99. Rather than being an articulated lorry, this truck pulls the trailer. Compared to the four stud wide 6357, the body is 6 studs wide, plus a little extra for the mudguards, wheels and wing mirrors.
Other than the minifigure torsos which are both new for this set, there are no new, 2018 elements in this set.
Most of the ‘newish’ elements appear to be new holds or element IDs on existing pieces, perhaps with subtle alterations. However the 2×3 tile was only introduced in 2016, and the cockpit design in 2017. The walkie talkie has also recently (2017) been represented with a new firmer plastic. The hand rail element has only appeared in 3 other sets. The 1x2x1 brick with studs on the side, and the inverse bow are relatively new, and the 1x2x1 panel had its corners rounded off in 2016.
The build covers 2 manuals: the truck has 56 steps in book one, while the trailer and are just as labour intensive. There are 12 stickers in total to apply, and some of them can be tricky to apply squarely.
The front grille of the truck is essentially a built up panel applied to a SNOT element. The helicopter incorporates a little SNOT work, while the landing skids are a sturdy single part, but perhaps a brick built solution might be more elegant.
The truck and trailer are predominently black, with red and yellow trim elements providing a shout out to the late 1980’s sets with their colour schemes – including the 6357.
A barrel of unknown contents, with Octan colouring is also provided for the helicopter to carry by its chain.
Both sets come with two mini figures: a capped truck driver, and helmeted pilot. The older figures come from an era where a character’s gender could not be readily distinguished from facial features alone (in fact this was introduced with the Pirates figures, soon after this set was released).The figures in the older set feature the same torso, which has featured in 15 sets overall.
The torsos in the new set are new for 2018, with fantastically details back prints. The legs of both figures are unprinted. The driver in the new set has been given feminine features, and the cap element includes hair in a ponytail. The new pilot has stubble. The helmets are the same for the old and new figures, and both have visors
Side by Side
Both the 6357 and 60183 are great examples of set design of their relative eras, even though they look a little when placed side by side. It becomes apparent that the proportions of the older model are a little strange, compared to what we might see in real life.
In fact, the older model looked quite good to me until I put it side by side with this year’s model: the four stud wide construction just doesn’t allow an appropriate level of detail to be deomonstrated, although the from of the truck looks quite realistic, even if not really minifigure scale. I appreciate the improved proportions of the newer truck, and appreciate the use of a colour scheme that reminds us of the older set.
The helicopters follow quite different designs, with significantly more construction involved in the newer model. The chain allows for carrying a load. However, I am disappointed that a sticker is used to establish the diagonal line in front of the grille on the side of the helicopter. A SNOT technique with cheese slopes could have been VERY interesting here. Then again, it is a set aimed at 5-12 year olds…
These are two examples of the differences in LEGO City/town sets with thirty years in between. The most obvious differences over this time are the details shown in the mini figures, and the relative scale of the vehicles, with the vehicles getting considerably larger with time. As you can see, the new truck is much longer than the original set:
Bot sets have their charm, and emphases on different building techniques, most obviously at the from end of the truck. The helicopter transport truck has been a feature over this period of time, for reasons I cannot understand. I have never seen a helicopter on the back of a truck in real life… But you get a truck and a helicopter: two of the mainstay vehicles for your LEGO City layout. One for the roads and one for the sky or the roof tops. As the tenth representation of this iconic LEGO transportation combination, 60183 does not disappoint, and its colour scheme recalls the original set seen in 1988. I give both sets three point five arbitrary praise units out of five. I do feel however that the newer set is a little overpriced in Australia, and the box that it comes in is oversized, perhaps returning to the days where too much air is being shipped with the LEGO bricks.
Is this part of a covert celebration for the original set’s 30th Anniversary? Is it part of a larger celebration for the 40th birthday of the minifigure and LEGO Town? Am I chasing rainbows and non existent imaginings? Why not leave your thoughts below, and subscribe for further updates from the Rambling Brick.
Until Next time,