Conspiracy or Coincidence III: Helicopters- from Red Cross to the Star of Life [626/6626 vs 60179]

In which I look at a couple of helicopters, with 40 years between their release dates, consider what happens when a humanitarian organisation reclaims its trade mark and contemplate the special place that helicopters have in the world of LEGO® Vehicles…IMG_9819As has been previously discussed, this is a year for celebrations at the LEGO Group. We have seen sixty years of the LEGO Brick, forty years of the minifigure (celebrated with the release of the series 18 Collectable Minifigures), and twenty years of Mindstorms.

Great vehicles:

While we have the recurrent police theme (even with the new mountain setting), some , miners, as well as last year’s fantastic jungle theme still on the shelves, we also have the ‘Great Vehicles’ sub theme. Now, I recognise that there is a limit to just how many different vehicles might be presented in LEGO Set form over the years. This year however, we seem to have a number of sets that give more than a passing nod to sets that were released twenty, thirty and forty years ago.

IMG_1069IMG_0338Here at the Rambling Brick, we would far rather believe in a conspiracy than a coincidence, and so I would like to believe that these might be a covert celebration of sets celebrating their decennial anniversaries this year. In recent months we have discussed the JetCar and the Helicopter Transport Truck. Today, I would like to compare some  helicopters- specifically the Red Cross Helicopter from 1978 and this year’s Emergency Helicopter. While the Helicopter from 1978 may not be as obvious counterpart to today’s set, compared to the the helicopter carrier and speed record car, there are a number of interesting comparisons between then and now that I would like to make today.

First, let us start with the change in the markings used… Continue reading

Forty years of minifigures: some of the changes are on the inside.

In which I explore the ever evolving structure of the basic minifigure over the past 40 years and realise that there are a remarkable number of variations on the seemingly ‘normal’ elements, that many of us take for granted. There may be some obsessive measurements taken.

The LEGO® Minfigure turned forty years old this month. You may have heard about it.  You might have purchased a celebratory Collectable Minifigure.  Or seventeen. During the course of following up on some classic sets from both my own, and other people’s childhoods, I have come across signs of possible deliberate reimagining of some classic sets in the City range.  While looking at these sets, I have found myself looking at minifigures from different eras. Much to my surprise, the differences between this figures are significantly more than skin deep.

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In this picture, there are 4 different head molds, four separate torso molds and four different leg molds. Who would have guessed?

While discussing these things with one of my suppliers, she pulled out her box of minifgure heads, pointed to some old smileys and asked ‘What do you think of this?’  If I didn’t know better, I would have said that some of these heads seemed a little more square than others. Now, BrickBunny has been around the traps a bit longer than I have, so I am not surprised that she knows about these things.

Intrigued, I returned home, full of investigational vigour, and got out my trusty loaned Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 macro lens, and realising the need to go further with attention to detail, attached the extension tube for life size conversion.  We were going in close. Really close.

Time to Get A Head

Continue reading

I just need a bit of Space [Down the retro rabbit hole, with Set 918]

There is no doubt that Space exploration captures our imaginations. It can be real or imagined – the hours I spent as a kid poring over the ‘S’ issue of the Encyclopaedia of Nature and Science. Indeed LEGO® has had a reasonable amount of success with space exploration oriented sets, both based on the real world works of NASA, and in the realm of speculative works – particularly when Space, along with Castle and Town became one of the founding LEGO minifigure themes. The ongoing success of LEGO Ideas submissions based on real world space exploration is also testament to its enduring appeal.

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LEGO Worlds has let me build that space base I couldn’t build in 1979

A couple of months ago, I started to play LEGO Worlds: the not so new video game, on the Nintendo Switch.  One of the things that really taught my imagination was the Classic Space Down Loadable Content. It brought back memories of my childhood: playing with the neighbour who had all the cool sets: he had the 497 Galaxy Explorer.  I had the 885 Space Scooter and the 886 Space Buggy. We even drilled holes in his landing pad plate to accommodate LEDs.  It looked great until we melted a great big hole in it with the soldering iron.

But playing LEGO Worlds made me start to covet some of those sets that I had never had the opportunity to have as a child.  It is one thing to fly them around on a video game screen, but quite another to hold it in your hands and say ‘voosh.’ I found a copy of 918 One Man Space Ship on eBay.  I probably paid more than I should have. The trans yellow plate on the roof was cracked along one edge. But the rest was intact, along with the original instructions.

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Oldschool instructions: more pieces per step BUT easier to scan back over previous steps to see what you missed, without flicking through lots of pages

I had been trying to work out what I liked about the old instructions compared to the contemporary design. It isn’t the opportunity to miss five of the twelve elements placed in a given step. It isn’t the suggested layout distracting you the whole way as you see as you continue to build. It is the lack of page turning. Modern instructions are simple and unambiguous. But page turn heavy. I suspect this build might have had up to 50 pages. Every time I let go of the book, it would attempt to close. If things aren’t quite right here, it is easy to scan back over the last 8 steps to see what went wrong, rather than go back page by page, discovering you had a couple of pages stuck together and missed the critical element. On the third reading. I’m glad I have sorted that out with myself. It gives me a level of inner peace.

Assembling it involved 86 pieces of pure joy.  The gray was a little different to that which we are now used to. The construction techniques are relatively simple. but this is an extremely swooshable ship.  From the tilting roof on the cabin, to the aft storage compartment, construction was simple, and rapid. The red spaceman just sat and smiled. (For the record, 4.5 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise Units)

I ran around the living room with it, swooshing it from side to side, an idiot grin spreading from cheek to cheek. I was amazed at how much joy this simple set provided me with.  And I decided to take a couple of pictures. Not many, but I wanted to capture the spirit of ’79.  So I considered the old product shots on the box: black back drop with starfield, and perhaps a tan surface.  The full space base was going to be impractical to reconstruct. Today, I have a few other things that need to get done.

So I took some black card, and punched holes in it.  I placed it inside my lightbox, so that the light shone through the perforations like starlight.  A little fill in light, and the vision was complete. No Photoshop, no compositing. Old school physical effects. OK, perhaps I used photoshop to darken the blacks, to disguise the pedestal. I hope you like it.

It still feels as if it is missing something however, for that extra level of realism

Time to think about that.

Until next time,

Play Well.

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Whatever happened to the 2 x 4 Brick? Minecraft: The Ice Spikes 21131

The humble 2×4 brick.

If any element over the years has been used to represent the concept of the LEGO® system of play, this is it.IMG_5070

One of the original elements in the LEGO brick parts palette, it is the first piece that springs to mind when many of us think of LEGO® Bricks.  The favourite element of many large scale builders, if you have enough of them, you can build almost anything!  It is one of those pieces that brings memories flooding back to those of us raised on basic sets back in the early to mid 1970’s.  Before the advent of the minifigure, this brick was the cornerstone of LEGO construction, being a significant component of the Basic/ Universal Construction Sets that were commonly played with in this era. IMG_5066While allowing an incredibly versatile method of construction, there is no doubt that that they contributed significantly to the chunky aesthetic that is associated with LEGO® design and construction in my childhood. When your parents say “In my day, it was just bricks,” this is what they are talking about.  Continue reading

Massive Minecraft Mountain Cave 21137 Announced…

There I was wondering where I was going to Ramble Next in my LEGO® Journey. I had a copy of the LEGO Minecraft set 31131 ‘The Ice Spikes’ in one hand, and the 31065 Creator Park Street Town house sitting on my desk, and the 10703 Classic Creative Builder Box waiting to be unboxed.

Why? You may well ask.  As regular readers may know, I frequently wax nostalgic, recalling the halcyon days of LEGO® sets in the mid 1970’s: The Basic Sets ushered in an era of blocky building styles, with a limited colour palette.8-3  Basic Set #8 in particular springs to mind.  When looking through the old box art, I found this one reminded me in part of something I had seen a little more recently.  With 700 pieces in 7 colors, (including green and transparent clear), this was how many growing up at the time remember what building with LEGO bricks was like.  A few sloped bricks, but not many.  Overall,  it reminiscent of 3D 8-bit graphics, but from an era before 8 bit graphics were even considered.  Then mini figures came along, and nothing was quite the same again.

The spirit of these Basic Sets lives on in many themes: Creator would be where you go to build a house or other model based on everyday life, but those sets are particularly model driven.  Classic sets such as the Creative Building Box provide the elements for free building, but the colour palette is a little broader, with over 35 different colours appearing in the set.

And then there is Minecraft.  Originally an open world, sandbox sale game on multiple gaming and computer platforms, Minecraft was originally ported to LEGO® set form as an Cuusoo set in 2012 in microscale.  Now, twenty two sets and 5 years later, this is a theme in its own right. Capturing a variety of environments, with a relatively limited color palette, and a very blocky construction style, I could almost feel myself flashing back to childhood merely by looking at these sets.  And they actively encourage rearranging the set in different forms, but with less strict instructions than rearranging creator sets.

So there I was… getting ready to look at the a comparison between 3 sets with approximately 500 pieces each…and this arrives in my inbox:

THE PRESS RELEASE: 21137 The Mountain Cave

Ages 12+.  2,863 pieces.
US $249.99 – CA $299.99 – DE 249.99€ – UK £259.99 – DK 2099.00 DKK
*Euro pricing varies by country.  Please visit shop.LEGO.com for regional pricing.

Experience the Mountain Cave!

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Build and experience the Mountain Cave, featuring an amazing minecart track with an integrated redstone‑powered minecart elevator, and an array of other features and functions, including TNT blasting, rotating spider‑spawner, charged Creeper™ explosion and a lava burst. Position the light brick to illuminate the rotating spider-spawner, wall of redstone, jack o’lantern, first-night shelter, furnace, lava or the torch above the cave entrance. Enjoy hands‑on Minecraft™ adventures featuring your favorite characters and objects with this easy-to-reconfigure, modular LEGO® Minecraft set designed for young fans of the highly successful sandbox video game. Includes Steve and Alex minifigures, plus 13 mobs including a charged Creeper™.
● Includes 2 minifigures: Steve and Alex, plus a cave spider, wolf, baby wolf, slime, 2 small slimes, 2 bats, zombie, enderman, skeleton, sheep and a charged Creeper™.


● Features a minecart track with an integrated redstone-powered minecart elevator; 2 minecarts; first-night shelter with bed, crafting table and torch; a mountaintop shelter with bed, torch and furnace; plus a light brick, trees, waterfall, lava and extra torches.


● Open up the model to access the detailed interior and remodel with easy-to-connect modular sections.
● Remove the diamond ore elements and activate the lava burst function.
● Activate the revolving cave-spider spawner.


● Trigger the charged Creeper™ explosion function.
● Jump aboard the minecart and race around the track, and travel to the mountaintop aboard the redstone powered minecart elevator.
● Blast through the mountain with the TNT to extend the rail track.
● Position the light brick to illuminate the rotating spider-spawner, wall of redstone, jack o’lantern, first-night-shelter, furnace, lava or the torch above the cave entrance.
● Enjoy easy access to the detailed interior.
● Put on your golden armor, grab your diamond sword and shield, and prepare for battle!
● Weapons include a sword and a bow.
● Accessory elements include a Minecraft™ clock, spider eyes, signs, map, golden armor, shield, TNT and 8 ore style elements, including diamond, lapis lazuli, emerald, redstone, golden, iron and 2 coal ores.
● Easy-to-reconfigure, modular design—choose from 3 different model configurations.
● Set your imagination free—rebuild the set for more LEGO® Minecraft™ creations!
● Measures over 12” (31cm) high, 20” (53cm) wide and 11” (29cm) deep.

Available for sale directly through LEGO® beginningJuly 1, 2017 via shop.LEGO.com, LEGO® Stores.  VIP Access will be available from 15 June.

So, this brings back so many ideas of how 6 year old me would have built with LEGO bricks, if I had the bricks.  A lot of LEGO as a kid is never nearly as much as ‘quite a bit of a LEGO collection’ as an adult.

I’ll get back to comparing those sets i mentioned soon. But what do you think of the Mountain Cave?  It’s huge! I wonder what I will cost when it arrives in Australia? Last year’s Village 21128 with 1600 pieces retails for $AUD350.  With 2800 pieces, it may be edging closer to $500 or more.[thanks to Dean: Australian RRP will be $AUD399.99]  Do you like the look of it? Or do you think its a few too many light blueish grey bricks out of 2800 odd elements?

Write your thoughts in the comments below.

Play Well

Carousel 10257 Coming Soon: Reimagining an Investor’s Classic.

boxes.pngAround eight years ago, shortly after I emerged from my Dark Ages, I visited LEGOLAND 10257_Front_02_1California with my family. The Aussie Dollar was running at 90US¢ to A$1: the best exchange rate in years.  We got to the store.  What followed is a bit embarrassing, but suffice to say it included  Cafe Corner and the Grand Carousel 10196.  Despite currency fluctuations, the pricing model used meant we could afford these 2 sets, and some more, as well as some luggage to transport them home, and still come out in front.  Unfortunately, this involved unboxing these sets prior to returning home.  Once the box is broken, you might as well build them, don’t you think? If I knew then what I know now, I would have also picked up a Millennium falcon UCS, and transported them home in fur-lined gold plated shipping container instead.  Aah: hindsight. It gives me 20-20 vision.

The Grand Carousel had a huge footprint with a 48 square, green baseplate. It had an interesting 16 sided construction and rotation was afforded by a spring-loaded wheel turning the outside – just like the real carousel’s that would tour country Victoria going to annual town fairs.  Not only did it rotate, but the horses bounced up and down as well.  And then there was the sound brick ,providing the joyous sounds of a Calliope, and invoking a nightmare flashback in any kid scared by carnival clowns.  This set has appreciated significantly over theirs, with new sticker sheets selling for more than $70 on Brick link, and the sound brick for more than $200!

fairground past.pngIn more recent years, the Lego Creator Expert team have been producing exceptional sets based on Fairground rides, providing a challenging building experience and great play and display features. In 2014, we saw the release of the Fairground Mixer 10244, followed up by the Ferris wheel 10247 in 2015. Last year it was the Friends turn, with a whole sub theme.  The Amusement park Roller Coaster41130 was a highlight for many here! Builders have not been content with with merely adding motion to this to these rides. Lighting has also become popular, with some spectacular third party lighting kits now available especially for them. But I didn’t stop writing this post for the purpose of becoming over whelmed with nostalgia, continuing to chart my descent from a regular human being into an Adult Fan of LEGO, but rather to present the announcement of the latest fairground set, at Play-Time in New York today.

The press release: more pictures and discussion follow . Continue reading

Retro Reconstruction – 852 Helicopter 1978

LEGO Alive!

So, last week I wrote about my memories of my introduction to LEGO Technic, which was way back in 1978. Over the recent Easter weekend, I had the chance to visit my childhood LEGO collection.  I found some Technical set instructions in the mix: 8860-Car Chassis, and 856Bulldozer.  But not for my original helicopter.  Then I found the sheet you see here: preserved after 40 years.  Not the instructions for the Helicopter, but for the B-Model airplane. I turned them over, and on the flip side were blueprints for the helicopter, at a 1:1 scale.IMG_5385

Now, we ended up owning a fairly broad collection of LEGO for the 70’s-80’s: lots of regular bricks, ancient wheels and parts from 3 significant technical sets (as well as some supplementary sets).  I thought to myself: there is a high probability of locating enough parts to put the helicopter together. Perhaps not colour perfect, but structurally so.

And so I set to work…

Continue reading