3660 LEGO Fabuland Fisherman’s Wharf [Retro Review]

If you have been following the Rambling Brick for a while, you might know I have a penchant for nostalgia. If you have seen my Instagram stories looking at market finds, perhaps it becomes more obvious that 80s and 90s LEGO fascinates me now more than it did at the time. Perhaps I am seeking something more than a nostalgia fuelled dopamine kick: also looking for a feeling of relaxed contemplation while living in an increasingly complicated world. During that period of LEGO History, the typical LEGO sets maintained a degree of simplicity while still being able to produce some substantial models with relatively few elements.

When LEGO Fabuland was released, I was already outside its target demographic. The range started to arrive in Australia around 1979-1980, by which stage I was already over 10 years old, a little in excess of the 4+ kids, transitioning from DUPLO to SYSTEM Bricks. It wasn’t for me then. But what about now? Something about it still intrigues me today. Is it the weird anthropomorphised figures? The simplicity of the set design? The use of storytelling in the instructions? The thought of characters of all types, colours and appearances all getting along, together. Except for Clyde Crocodile – he always seems to be portrayed as a bit of a delinquent.

The Auction

And so, last weekend, I was a bit excited when I saw a few Fabuland lots at an auction held locally. One really caught my eye: it contained 3660 Fisherman’s Wharf (complete, used); 3671 Airport (Possibly Mint/sealed ) and 3673 Paddle Steamer (incomplete) there were a couple of other lots of interest, including some magnificently vintage sets and bulk lots of loose Fabuland elements.

THE auction was held online, with some casual bidding – expressions of interest, and a little casual banter opening a week beforehand. But on Saturday morning, the event went live, running through the 160+ lots. Some went quickly – early bidding had served its purpose.. On some of the more desirable lots, competition was fierce, and the determination of many others exceeded my own. But I was the successful bidder on the lot containing the sets listed. Now I need to do a bit of assessment on the Paddle Steamer, as well as agonize a little over opening the 3671: I can see through the lid that the plastic internal bag is still sealed, although one of the seals appears to have been either broken or worn over the last 38 years. This might make a future decision much simpler: time shall tell. What did I pay?

More than I wanted to, and probably less than it was worth, At the end of the day, I was content.

3660: Fisherman’s Wharf

But today, I thought I would focus on 3660:Fisherman’s Wharf. We have Edward the Elephant in his raincoat, sitting on the wharf outside his cottage, ready to go fishing. This is, in my mind, one of the definitive scenes in Fabuland: It might be wet and windy, but that should not deter you from having a fun time.

The box has one of those great flip top lids, revealing the contents within. The front demonstrates Edward standing on the jetty, boat tied up, shed in the background. I love the Fabuland background – pencil drawn and coloured landscape with light clouds. Admittedly, the greenish yellow sky is a little weird. The lid on my copy has suffered a scratch at the hands of Father Time, but I thought I would leave the blemish intact, rather than subject it to unholy photoshopping. The back of the box shows some alternative builds, while the edge shows some images of Edward dreaming of going fishing, gathering his rod and oars, and then heading to the boat. The inside fold shows a child playing with the set, as well as another alternate build with the door/wall modules. We will visit one of these alternatives later in the article

The set has 25 pieces – some elements geared towards rapidly constructing a building, and others geared towards life as minifigure/Fabuland figure accessories. I was delighted to see both the instruction manual and the sticker sheet are both present, and in fantastic condition.

There is something about hand drawn graphics!

The stickers are designed to be attached on the edges of the walls, as well as over the junction of the two front roof elements, and their underlying plate for the address label. Who does that? Stickers across multiple elements were relatively common in this era, but thankfully have been consigned to the darkest corners of the company’s history. There is something about the art style here that reminds me of colouring books as both a child: hand drawn and imperfect, rather than meticulously egineered to the nth degree, as the plastic elements are.

Here are pieces: initially in place in their box, and then laid out by the Knoller -in-chief. Two wall elements on the left, while the door, and some cleverly stacked roof elements are located in the centre. On the right is the rowboat, oars fishing rod and Edward. The cover of this area has been damaged slightly over the years, but still holds the figure in place. The plastic sits within a cardboard box, containing the instructions and the 16×16 baseplate.

Let’s take a look at the instruction book:

Fabuland pioneered the idea of storytelling within the instruction manuals: we are presented with a picture book showing Edward putting together his cottage, with the three panels – two with windows, one with a door, putting together the wharf with minimal elements, finally setting up the garden, with its table and blue teacup. I just can’t see Edward as a coffee drinker.

I have to admit, the hand-drawn art style is immensely appealing, and again has me waxing nostalgically for a more analog, slower paced world.

The book also shows how he can turn the cabin into a helicopter, albeit without spinning rotors.

Edward in action

Edward has a yellow torso and arms with black legs. He is wearing a yellow sou’wester. His printed eyes are the same as seen on most Fabuland figures up to the end of 1985, with a large and small white marking representing the reflection on his eyes.

Edwards accessories include a brown fishing rod, as well as oars. There is a ring at the end of the oars, designed for minifigure or Fabuland figures to be able to grasp them. As I previously mentioned, there is a blue cup, as well as a table and single chair. You will see that I did not necessarily get the elements as tightly bound as I could. They were very new and firm, and perhaps rubber mallet would be necessary to get a snug fit. However, as I was looking to put the set away, I did not feel firm attachment was necessary on this occaisional.

There is a small boat element featuring rowlocks, as well as a small groove at the back, which allows one of the oars to be used as a rudder, should you add a sail, or to skull the boat along silently – just the thing to sneak up on fish.

The build itself is quick and simple. And with the limited parts available we have at least 4 places for Edward to be: in his boat, on the wharf, enjoying his tea, or inside the cabin.

Back of the box build

I have been excited recently by some of the original, off-the-wall ideas that exist for the DREAMZzz sets as an alternate build. However, none of them made me laugh as hard as the alternate build here, where most of the elements present in this set are turned into a helicopter!

This back-of-the-box build really demonstrates that necessity is the mother of invention. I find myself looking at this model and wondering if this was, in part, the inspiration for the Flying Time Vessels seen in the Time Cruisers theme, ten years later.

Whether or not 3660 was the source of inspiration here, I cannot be certain. There is no doubt, however, that the Fisherman’s Wharf is a lovely set, with Edward happily engaging in solitary activity can be a useful lesson to us all.

In conclusion

I am excited to have come across a copy of this set in such fine condition. I am glad I already have a more beaten-up version of the figure in my collection: I must admit, I have returned the set to the box and will keep it in storage for a little while. In the meantime, I am glad to have had it out, in order to ‘assess its quality’ and indulge in a little childish swooshing.

I wonder now if part of the satisfaction and joy that I find in this set is the way that it portrays Edward at his lakeside retreat, gone fishing (or is it waiting). Mobile phone away and messing around in boats. Completely comfortable to kick back for the weekend, and totally prepared what the weather might bring. An idyllic situation in the 80’s. Even more so these days. And then he could rebuild the entire cabin into a helicopter and return home at the end of his break.

Was this set part of your collection? Is it now? Leave your stories in the comments below.

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Play Well!

Thanks for reading: If you like, take a minute to see how the build went for me…

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