Dreaming of a summer caravanning holiday, our comparison of LEGO TOWN and LEGO City continues. Has there been an ongoing covert celebration, with Town sets from twenty, thirty and forty years ago being reimagined in 2018? Comparing 1988’s Car and Caravan with 2018’s Pickup and Caravan, we also ask “Why, after 30 years, does a family vehicle towing a caravan still seat only one minifigure?” We also discover where LEGO Children come from…and wonder where other characters have gone…
We have asked the question “Is this a covert celebration of the 40th anniversary of the minifigure, and LEGO town?” An official answer has not been forthcoming. But this won’t stop me from ongoing speculation, with no grounding in reality.
Today I would like to look at another set with a parallel set from thirty years ago: Pickup and Caravan 60182 – from the 2018 LEGO City Great Vehicles sub theme; and Vacation Camper 9590 from LEGO Town in 1988. So what do these sets have in common? Two adults, a caravan and a vehicle to tow it behind. The vehicle in question has only one seat, in both instances. The differences are far greater…
Let’s take a closer look at both sets:
Vacation Camper 6590 from 1988 is a great example of a typical Town vehicles of the era: four studs wide, wheels that click on and off the axle as well as a ball and socket trailer hitch, which would occasionally sacrifice itself in the name of rough play. Every horizontal surface is covered in studs. As the set was released during my dark ages, and no longer readily available, I picked up a second hand set, without instructions or box through Bricklink.com. I downloaded the instructions through peeron.com
The palette is almost exclusively in red, white and blue. The blue car is nine studs long, and only seats one minifigure. The roof is hinged and also features a sunroof. Studs are exposed, facing upwards at every opportunity. There are a number of obsolete elements featured in the set, and they can be seen pictured. The caravan has four wheels, and is 13 studs long. Opening the caravan up along a hinge on the roof reveals the interior, including a table, and a tap. There is room for a minifigure in either side of the table. The exact nature of doorway that we might imagine the minifigures would use is uncertain, as they can only go in and out through the opened roof. The set includes two minifigures, but none of their parts are especially unique to this set. As an accessory, a grey suitcase is also present. It was a quick build, taking no more than 10 minutes, and then it was ready for a quick and easy play.
The current set, 60182 Pickup and Caravan differs significantly from its thirty year old antecedent. While also featuring white and red with blue trim there are the additions of a grey stripe on the caravan, and a tan stripe along the side of the pickup truck. The body of the pickup is 16 studs long and six studs wide, with a little overhang afforded to the mudguards and tyres on each side. It measures six bricks high. It is a good example of how many vehicles now have a predominantly studs free appearance, compared with 1988, when studs on top were standard.
The cabin roof is easily detached, for placing the figure behind the central steering wheel. The use of bricks and plates rather than panels or doors on the side of the cabin prevent you from placing two minifigures in the cabin at a time, without a bit of modification. Given the difference in size of the truck in comparison to the car in the earlier set, I would have expected some more seating built in. I suppose the other two figures in the set can ride in the back of truck, screaming at the top of their lungs as they cruise the back roads in search of the perfect place to park for the night. While this might reflect society’s current trend for larger cars to be carrying fewer people, is this in line with the LEGO Group’s move toward promoting sustainability?
The caravan attaches to the pickup through a swivel point in the rear tray. Being wider and longer than the caravan in 6590, this caravan features a few more details than the earlier version, including seats, with the chance to walk around them. We have running water, and a larger table, as you might expect. There is a door on the left hand side of the truck, although the main access comes from opening up the caravan, on the ‘right side’ – virtually the entire side opens up to reveal the spacious interior. The caravan is also six studs wide, and a massive twenty five studs long.
The three mini figures also come with a variety of accessories to enhance play value on the caravan holiday: a net, bright yellowish orange crab and an orange fish, a camera and a camp stove: an odd addition given the presence of a cooktop inside the caravan. Perhaps not so odd if you want to keep the cooking smells outside.
Losing Our Sense of Proportion
I find the size of this set a little odd compared with other city sets released this year: While not only massive compared with the 1988 Vacation Camper, it is also relatively large compared to others in the Great Vehicles range this year: specifically the Emergency Helicopter, and 60183 Heavy Transport Truck: The Pickup truck is the same width as the truck featured in and is only slightly shorter than prime mover. The caravan is only about five studs shorter than the trailer used for transporting the helicopter. I appreciate that the grey nomads of today may travel with massive caravans, but this is less common with young families. Both the truck and pickup feature detailed, 2×6 stud grilles, and interestingly enough room to only sit one driver, with not quite enough room for a passenger.
Now, don’t get me wrong: while I find the difference in scale to be an interesting feature of the set design, I do recognise that it would be impossible to build all LEGO City Vehicles to either a realistic or identical scale, without pricing the product out of the reach of many people today. It is, in fact one of the delightful quirks of set design, and has been a ‘feature’ now for many years.
The figures used here provide a great contrast in the level of detail shown in ‘regular townsfolk’ between 1988 and today.
The older figures feature bold stripes, as well as simple smiley faces. We see the older cap design, and the third hair design ever sported by a minifigure, after the original pigtails and ‘standard male hair’.
Looking at the minifigures in the newer set, we have a man, woman and child. The man has a black beard and black, combed hair. He wears a red and black checkered shirt. I can almost feel the flannelette. The lady has a lavender printed blouse, and wavy dark orange hair. Printing on the back adds an extra piece of detail. They have a familiar feel. I’m sure it will come to me shortly.
The child has a vest like jacket on, with lots of pockets to fill up with fish and crabs as well as carrying a spare handkerchief and losing a bag of mixed sweets. His dark tan/sand yellow cap is the same worn by forest police and explorers of the Jungle and Volcanoes.
And now I remember where I have seen the man and woman before: It was in 60134 Fun in the Park City People Pack. There is no doubt that we have the same man and woman on the cover of that set as we have in this set. Back then, however, they were carrying a baby. So…I think this child must be that baby, having grown a couple of years. How does a LEGO Year relate to a ‘real world year?’ Is it anything like dog years? Is this child really just two years old? I suspect he is probably intended to be a little older. I find the prospect of characters from LEGO City sets growing up, and developing over years to be exciting. Especially since, the stories are being left for us (and the children playing with these sets) to write. Are there more clues about the extended family of these minifigures to be ascertained? How far will this mystery take us?
I really enjoyed putting both of these sets together: The impressionistic design of classic town sets from the 1980’s is always appealing, as is the classic understatement of the construction. Being able to put the set together in just a couple of minutes left me pining for the days where construction of a simple set could be completed by heart. This, I feel, made pulling a set apart to free build much more appealing than once you have invested an hour or more building a set, where the instructions will make rebuilding the initial model as lot more time consuming. That said, the new Pickup with Caravan is a very satisfying build: the pickup, while I feel is a little oversized, and provided with inadequate seating it has a good level of detail: the front grill is great, and the rear detail has not been skimped on. The caravan is spacious and is fully featured: I appreciate the fact that it contains most of the furnishings you could hope for in a caravan.
I give the 6590 Vacation camper 4/5 arbitrary praise units: the simplicity, and function score highly, the grill detail is terrific and the figures fill me with nostalgia. It demonstrates all that was great about late 1980’s Town sets.
The 60182 Pickup and Caravan is great to play with, and is a generously sized model. While $44.99 seems like a high price for a car and caravan set, its 344 parts are put to good used, and you get a solid toy to play with. There are a few issues I have with the truck: particularly its relative size, as well as the fact that over 30 years, a LEGO car still only seats one passenger without modification. Because of these drawbacks, it only scores 3.5/5 Arbitrary Praise Units.
Both of these sets remind me of the early days of minifigure role play, and the LEGO Town’s original road trippers: Bill and Mary, featured in the 6000 Ideas book. I wonder whatever happened to them? I guess they must be around 60 years old by now (or even older in ‘LEGO Years’ (presuming early 20’s in 1980). Do they have a connection to the family from 60182? From 6590? Perhaps it is time to investigate this.
Until next time,
Note: 60182 Pickup Truck and Caravan was provided by the AFOL Engagement Team at The LEGO Group for review purposes. Provision of material does not guarantee a positive review.