In Search of La Dolce Vita, with Pasta, Wine and Some Very Bad Photoshop [Review: Nuova FIAT 500]

In which a global pandemic interferes with the Italian holiday plans of my wife and I. So we take a virtual trip, with the aid of a LEGO® Creator Expert Fiat 500 and some very bad Photoshopping.

In a COVID-19 free parallel Universe, my wife and I are currently flying from Rome to Singapore. We have been away for two weeks, arriving in Milan, visiting Cinque Terre, and Venice along the way. Probably catching up with some friends in the Italian AFOL Community as well. After a few days in Rome, we are on our way home, well rested: our first holiday away together for 4 years or so.

Of course, we do not live in that universe. But we were planning to be in Italy this month: Ann and I booked our tickets last November, back when our world was a vastly different place.

Subsequently, the world has been dramatically changed by the effects of the coronavirus. COVID 19 was just starting to reach epidemic proportions in northern Italy the week that the Creator Expert 10271 Fiat 500 set was announced. The launch event at the Fiat factory was reduced to a live stream. Since then, much of the world has been in varying degrees of lockdown, and we are starting to come out the other side. So, while we are not able to travel from Australia to Italy, I thought we might take a virtual trip in search of La Dolce Vita – the sweet life – by constructing the Creator Expert 10271 Fiat 500, an icon of Italian design; and some bad photoshop involving our planned destinations. Along the way, I might have a bowl of pasta…

So, pour yourself a short black coffee, find a seat in the sun and read on…

I was delighted when this set arrived, sent by the AFOL engagement team at the LEGO Group. It is in a similar sized box to the other cars and creator expert sets of recent years, and features a large shot of the completed model, in front of the Colusseum. On the reverse side, there is a picture of the rear aspect of the vehicle, as well as several pictures illustrating several different working features of the model.

Inside the box, there is an instruction manual, bundled up with a sticker sheet and piece of fabric. The parts are all gathered together in nine bags – numbered 1-3!

Looking at all of the bags, there is one thing that you can’t help but notice: the sheer number of Bright light yellow elements present in the set. this colour was first introduced in 2005, but was limited to Belville, Clickits and Duplo ranges initially. With the exception of a few tiles, the majority of ‘system elements’ available over the next few years were minifigure headgear. There was a 4×12 brick in Bellville set 5963 Princess and the Pea – the only appearance of this element. We did not see another system scale BRICK in this colour until 2013, in Heartlake High!

There are 406 bright light yellow elements in this set, comprising 55 different design IDs. Of these, 40 are new this year. This set has provided a great opportunity to expand the available palette in this colour.

The instructions are worth a mention; the book provides a brief history of FIAT, over the past 120 years, as well as the 500, specifically. We also have a few notes from the designer. Somewhat fittingly, the notes are also written in Italian. I used the LEGO® Building instructions App to assist in building the model. This model only features a PDF copy of the instructions online, and does not feature. ‘Instructions Plus’.

Bag One: Milan

Visiting the Milan Cathedral

We were planning to land in Milan, stay a couple of nights, visit Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and head on a train down to the picturesque Cinque Terre. After returning to Milan to collect our rental car, we would make our way to Verona for an overnight stay, before heading north east. The car was quite possibly small, uncomfortable, but full of character. Some assembly would be required…

Gateway to Cinque Terre
Hopefully, we can visit Cinque Terre for real one day.

Bag number one sees us build the car’s chassis, as well as the rear of the body. There were a few really neat aspects of this part to the build. Previously, when I had built cars, I have had issues with the bumper bar potentially falling off. this build incorporates a 2×3 tile with clips, which folds down and attaches to the chassis

After building the engine, we satart work on the body of the car. Now, one of the classic aspects of the shape of the Fiat 500 is the tapering of the body towards the front and back. Now, triangular shapes can be difficult to create with LEGO bricks, and this is where we see some inspired use of curved elements such as the round 1×1 brick, and the 2×1 rounded plate. The small gap within the square space provides room for the angle of the outer bricks to converge.

As we build up the rear wall of the engine compartment, we see an interesting example of SNOT work. When using a normal brick with a stud on the side, the lateral stud is close to the top of the brick. This build places a headlamp brick on its side, placing the stud closer to the bottom of the brick :it also nicely demonstrates that the body of the headlamp brick is 2 plates thick:

We finish off by adding some details to the cabin: the gear stick and hand brake.

Bag Two: Venice

From Verona, we were to head towards Venice, via the old university town of Bologna. On arrival in Venice, we were hoping to stay in an apartment looking over the Grand Canal. But it was probably just going to be an out of the way bed and breakfast. We were looking forward to visit the Bridge of Sighs, and to taking a gondola ride. Then after a couple of days, we would head on to Rome.

We start off building up the rear body of the car, and follow up by moving into the dark red and white rear seat.

Then we move onto the front seats, followed by the dashboard. The dashboard is built up on a couple of 2×2 with central plates/ 1×2 with vertical tubes. Introduced in Minecraft sets last year, this plate shows us that a plate 2 studs wide is the same width as 5 plates. there is a remarkable amount of detail open the dashboard: some through the use of a sticker, but a handle with stud provides for the indicator controls on the stem. There is a printed speedometer, as well as a printed ‘FIAT’ tile that sits on the steering wheel.

After the dashboard and steering wheel is installed, we buildup the doors on both sides. A telephone handset is used as the door handle, and an antenna is used as the window winders. An ice skate is attached at the rear end of the door, to operate the door latch (OK – there is technically no latch mechanism included in this build, but you take my meaning).

As we finish the second bag, we can see that we have the front of the car body, as well as the roof and windows of the car’s cabin. Add some wheels and headlamps, and we’d be done. But first…

Bag 3: Rome

The final leg our stay was never going to be complete without visit to the Colosseum. But first we had to drive through some very pleasant countryside to get there. We were overwhelmed by the sense of tradition and history over the last few days of our trip. It seems like we have hardly been away.

We start the third bag by building up a layer of curves towards the front end of the car. This will be used to aid in the tapering of the fron end of the vehicle. Next we craft the front bumper, as well as the front fascia of the trunk. Unicorn horns lie adjacent to another printed 1×1 round tile, to make up the bonnet decoration. this whole sub assembly is held in place using the side panels, angled in using a similar technique seen to that at the rear.

We add the headlights, and the bonnet, which includes a number of curved and angled elements.

Next we build up the windows of the car. In the rear, is a 4×2 2/3 curved brick (trans clear) which fits perfectly under a half arch. There is a stack of transparent plates in front of that, and then the black door pillars. These curved elements are new in trans clear this year: we first saw them in the Old Trafford stadium build, also in Creator Expert.

Another transparent element that debuted in Old Trafford is the 1x10x4 windscreen element: this element is made somewhat more challenging by the need to place stickers up either side of it.

From here, we build the FIAT’s iconic roof, with a folding cloth element that allows us to have a functioning sunroof.

And now it is all in adding the details. We have a choice of registration plates to put on the car: TO F01965 is probably the most appropriate: the car is the Nuova 500 F, released in 1965. ‘TO’ on the plate refers to the province of Turin, where the FIAT factory is. FIAT – is in fact an acronyn: Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. The Italian car, made in Turin…

Other options for the plates include the set number: PN 10271 – Pierre Normandin was the principle designer for this set. Another alternate is DK 10271 -a set of Danish plates.

After adding the spare tyre to the trunk of the car, there is barely any room left for luggage, and so it was traditional for a traveller’s suitcase to be strapped onto the back of the car. There are a few stickers on the suitcase, which in turn include a number of destination stickers on the suitcase, and this car has been well travelled, having been to destinations including: Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden, France, Denmark.

And then it was time for dinner.

Having completed the Fiat build, it was time for dinner before embarking on the final challenging steps…

Finally we put together a three legged easel, with a work in progress, as well as a palette. Just the thing for taking a on a picturesque drive through rural Italy, in case you get overwhelmed by the need to indulge in a little Impressionism in plein air.

Original image: Francesco Spreafico
Original image: Francesco Spreafico

Indeed, the main picture on the easel takes us to park just outside the colosseum

I seem to have drifted towards testing the Fiat out with a random Belville figure from the family horde. He is a little undersized compared to the overall height of the car, on the outside. However, the figure fits fairly comfortably within the car itself.

Overall, I really enjoyed putting this set together. There is so much that it evokes: the classic lines, a sense of nostalgia, some interesting building techniques and just soooo much bright light yellow.

As a way to help pass some time on an otherwise non-existent overseas trip, I found the build a lot of fun. Again, Ann and I got to spend some time together – as always her knolling is way and beyond what I can achieve.

It would have been great to spend some time travelling to a part of the world that we had never visited before, but the pandemic has certainly curtailed a lot of travel for the time being! In the mean time, there is no doubt that having the Fiat 500, an icon of mid 20th Century Italian design, adds a lot to the atmosphere to even the most simple of meals.

I give the 10271 FIAT Nuova 500 four point five arbitrary praise units out of five(4.5/5). It is certainly worthy of the Creator Expert Label, for however long it persists following the introduction of the the new 18+ label. The final build captures the feel of La Dolce Vita and almost left me feeling as if I had gone on holiday. Looking back at the pictures, it feels like it was yesterday. When it should have been.

The 10271 Fiat 500 has 960 parts, and is now available (when in stock) from LEGO branded retail channels for AU $139.99 -US $89.99 –CA $129.99 –DE €79.99 –UK £74.99 – FR €84.99 – DK 749DKK.

What do you think? Will this set take a place on your shelf next to other Creator Expert cars, or will it be left behind? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play Well!

This set was provided by the AFOL Engagement Team of the LEGO Group, for review purposes. All opinions are, however, my own.

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