60389: Custom Car Garage [Hands-On review]

Continuing our coverage of the 2022 LEGO City Lineup, today, I wanted to take a look at the 60389 Custom Car Garage. This is a great variation on the ‘Multiple Cars and Garage’ sets seen in LEGO Town and City lines over the years.

The first Garage and Tow-truck in the Minifigure era was 6363 Auto Repair Shop in1980: however, there were no cars requiring repair. In 1985, the scene took off, when a small garage and three go-kart-like vehicles (along with a tow/transport truck) came packaged on 32x32stud baseplate. The office off to the side of the garage allowed kids to get right into role-playing the shadier side of the auto crash repair business than might be considered normal. The cars seeking repair were go-karts, and could be customised in a variety of permutations very readily.

The 6561 Hot Rod Club of 1994 brought us a collection of car enthusiasts, as well as some fancy-looking wheels, including a rather spiffing chromed-up vehicle. I would consider this set to be the prototype for the set we are looking at today. While the bodies of the cars were 4 studs wide, the rear wheels extended their width to around 7-8 studs.

A custom garage for 6stud wide cars didn’t eventuate until the LEGO Factory 10200 Custom Car Garage in 2008. This set gave us three cars, with exchangeable engines, to say plenty of inspiration for your own vehicles.

Up to this time, these car workshops have been somewhat sheltered, with a roof to prevent all but the smallest of hands from getting in to arrange the garage exactly as you might like, and so we see a different format with 60389 Custom Car garage: with a workshop focussing on performance vehicles, this set is a little more open plan: imagine the walls and roof yourself, but the set provides the furnishing along with 4 minifigures and 2 cars, with a selection of interchangeable front and back ends, as well as a variety of engines that can be substituted in and out. All this in 509 pieces.

The set is priced at $79.99AUD, €49.99 £44.99 USD59.99 CAD79.99. So, what does it offer? Is it a poor man’s Fast and the Furious? Or does it offer something more?

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Slushy Van 60384 Hands-On Review/ Febrovery Creative Prompt

It’s been a couple of years since we have seen a food van in LEGO city: we had -Pizza in 2017; Ice cream in 2020 and now, in 2023 we are getting a Slushy Van. (There was also the highly disguised ice-cream van in 2022, but it was really a criminal front)

The set is aimed at builders aged 5 and up, has 193 and is priced at 32.99AUD/19.99USD/£17.99 and 24.99CAD. How does it shape up? (Special thanks to the LEGO Group for sending this set over for review. All opinions are my own.)

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40639 Bird’s Nest – Hands On Review

As I write this, I am almost a week down the track from Brickvention, our local AFOL Networking event. As such, I am still in recovery mode. It remains High summer here: hot days, short nights, with grass drying out and the fire season approaching. But in the northern hemisphere, the days are slowly lengthening, the snow starting to melt, and thoughts are turning to the approaching spring, with new life: plants growing back, and migratory birds returning and setting up home in new nests, with eggs getting laid. And easter is coming, with its festival of coloured eggs, too. As such, I was delighted to see the first images of 40639 Birds’ Nest. I was delighted when I received a preview copy to review.

At 19.99AUD, it is a fairly inexpensive set, but is it the thing to put on display in your living room? Read on to find out.

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The Otterly Adorable Otter Battle Pack [60394 ATV and Otter Habitat- Hands-on Review]

It’s now 2023, and new LEGO City releases are starting to appear on the shelves. One of the smallest sets that has me most excited is 60394 Otter Habitat. At only $16 AUD RRP, it brings us a great new animal mould – the Otter. Following up from last year’s squirrels, kittens and a host of other farm animals this set comes with a Minifigure, ATV, frog, fish and a small landscaped area. To say nothing of two otters!

I found these in our local LCS on January 2, and was seriously tempted to purchase 20 of them in order to obtain the 40580 Blacktron Cruiser as a Gift With Purchase. I will neither confirm nor deny whether I bought more than two. Let us take a look.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Making Great Waves in 2023

It’s New Year’s Day where I am currently sitting*. The sun is shining. It is around 30º C (86ºF to those in other parts of the world). Last year was a hectic year: we had been locked down for large parts of 2020 and 2021, and it felt like half of society was trying to make up the missed time socialising and getting work done, while the other half was trying to keep out of harm’s way. [*I might have taken an extra day to edit this]

Ultimately, it is time to kick my feet up and relax. As good fortune would have it, The lovely people at the LEGO Group have sent me a copy of the latest LEGO Art Set: Hokusai The Great Wave. Based on Hokusai’s woodcut ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa,’ the set promised me “the chance to immerse [myself] into the relaxing project of recreating the iconic Great Wave, captured in a LEGO Art set. This set offers so many ways that fans can unwind and find their flow. Not just immersing themselves into the building process, but also getting into the artwork and how that is composed.”

So, did it deliver? Running from Christmas to New Year’s Eve is often a mental challenge: so many last-minute things to do. If there was one thing I needed, it was a chance to relax.

And More importantly, will I feel happy to nail it to the wall afterwards?

Let’s take a look at the set:

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40575 Year of the Rabbit [Hands-On Review]

One thing that I have seen evolve over the almost seven years that I have been writing the RamblingBrick is the evolution of the Chinese Zodiac gift with purchase sets. These annual animal builds are now on their ninth iteration, and I have been fortunate to be sent a copy of the 40575 Year Of The Rabbit for review by the LEGO Group. The Lunar New Year begins on January 22nd. Let’s take a closer look…

As with previous sets in this series, the box has a flip-top lid, handy for storing the model, along with the instruction manual for a rainy day. Or at least next year’s review season. The box demonstrates that this envelope is for the traditional gifts of money given to children at this time of year in Asian cultures. there is also a ‘To / From’ box on the front of the box, demonstrating that it is intended to be given as a gift.

The front of the envelope shows a picture of the completed model, embossed with 2023 in gold lettering. The background colouring fades from yellow to red – traditional colours used in decoration at this time of year. On the reverse, the red-yellow colouring continues, with some blossoms lightly printed on the background. There is also a red 2×2 brick printed just below the envelope slot, giving the feeling that it is sealing the envelope. The principal feature on this side of the envelope, however, is a gold-embossed image of the model itself.

With all sets produced by the Extended Line, there are no new elements or recolours. A couple of parts did catch my eye, however, as I had not seen too many of them before including the 2×2 plate in warm gold. The only printed element, the 2×2 round tile 6060734 has been featured in multiple sets in this series. As you can see, this set has an emphasis on black and white elements – consistent with the colouring of the rabbit. the green, red and gold elements are incorporated into the base of the set.

The build starts off with the rabbit’s haunches, with the feet using a rounded plate and tile to have a smooth shape. A number of SNOT Bricks (studs not on top – here they are on the side) allow for some curved slopes to capture the shape of the rabbit, while some 1×1 ‘cheese’ slopes are added to give the appearance of ruffled fur. A really clever combination of regular slopes, curved slopes and SNOTwork gives the hind legs a really nice shape. The top of the torso is essentially smoothed off with tiles, with a 2×2 turntable allowing the limited possibility for this model. a2x2 Droid head (similar to R5-D4), with a round stud on top make up the tail.

Moving forward: we see a different technique to build up SNOT of the back of the head: Alternating regular 1×1 bricks with 2x2x2/3 plates with 2 studs on the side. This results in the correct placement of studs so that a plate can be placed along the back. More conventional 1x2x2 2/3 bricks with 4 studs on the side make up the side of the head and a mixture of techniques are used to place studs on the front of the face. I really love the combination of tiles used to achieve the shape of the rabbit’s nose and midface.

The ears incorporate curved slopes, along with inverse cirved slopes and tiles to achieve a nice smooth shape, while they then click into clips on the top of the head.

The 8 stud wide circular base is healed together with a few plates, while red and gold elements and some foliage are added to give the Spring Festival Vibe. I am impressed at how , every year, the designers are able to bring something different, that still seems to be part of the same range with these bases.

The final build very much looks the part of a Chinese Zodiac model, but compared to earlier models in the line, it appears that some aesthetic changes have taken place. With 202 pieces, it has the highest part count of any Chinese Zodiac animal to date, but this allows greater versatility with regard to the shaping of the model.

I really like the look of this model – here it is, along with previous models in the series. The combination of smooth, rounded curves along with the more angular slopes gives this rabbit its cartoonish, organic look. There are a few exposed studs here, not as many with some sets, but certainly more than with the year of the dog.

I suspect that was ‘peak studless,’ and the presence of a few studs on the model reminds us that this is indeed a LEGO model! If you love Brick-built animals, you will love this. If you are collecting the Chinese Zodiac animals, it’s a no-brainer.

This set will be offered as a Gift with Purchase in the period leading up to Chinese New Year – January 15-25th 2023 – in associate with purchases of $85USD/€85/£80. Australian ‘buy-in price’ is yet to be revealed. It is good to see these sets having a much wider distribution than they did in years gone past, when both the country and retailer availability were relatively restricted.

In a time of year where there are many new sets being released, I suspect it will be fairly easy to reach the threshold with new year purchases. But remember that it is coming, so you don’t spend all your money at the front end of the month. Traditionally, January has been a pretty good time of the year for Gifts with purchase, and given the range of new sets being introduced, I think it will be pretty easy to reach the threshold to receive this set.

Just as in 2022, we saw the release of the 31129 Majestic Tiger Creator 3in1 set in January. In 2023, we will see the release of the 31133 White Rabbit, to say nothing of the new Spring Festival sets [Affiliate links].

I wonder if we may well see a Creator Dragon to follow in January 2024 (you heard it here first).

Are you collecting these Chinese Zodiac Animal sets? What do you think about this one? Leave youy comments below, and until next time…

Play Well!

This set was provided by the LEGO group for Review Purposes. All opinions are my own.

And it all packs away nicely … ready for next year when I am going to need a bigger box!

Monkie Kid on a Budget: 80040 Monkie Kid’s Combi Mech/ 80041 Mei’s Dragon Flyer [Hands On review]

One of the criticisms offered to the early waves of Monkie Kid sets is the relatively high prices, compared with other playsets, for what is essentially an in-house IP. The sets themselves have not been bad value, more tending towards the higher end of the spectrum, with the initial wave featuring no sets for less than $50AUD. As such, I was quite excited to see that there were a couple of playsets in the upcoming 2023 wave with sets retailing for the much more palatable 32.99AUD. That’s right: Not one, but two!

80040 Monkie Kid’s Combi Mech and 80041 Mei’s Dragon Jet. Both sets are great standalone sets, but they also have the capacity to join together to form a larger vehicle: in part serving to introduce the target market to the idea of mixing and merging LEGO sets together.

Both Mei and Monkie Kid have fairly distinctive colour blocking in all of their sets: MK’s are red, gold, teal, and yellow, while Mei’s vehicles are almost all white, lime green, teal, bright green and lime green (which a touch of vibrant Yellow.) The near exclusive use of these colours, with the exception with grey and black elements for joints and hinges leaves me thinking back to the space themes of the 80’s and 90s, where themes were defined by a specific palette, although in this case, we have parallel streams representing different characters.

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80045 Monkie King Ultra Mech [Rambling Review]

For a theme steeped in classical Chinese mythology, Monkie Kid continues to bring us some of the LEGO Group’s best homegrown Science Fiction type content: mechs, flyers and drivers, along with more organic elements, including animals and landscapes. The latest wave is no exception. Now entering its fourth year/season we see a refresh of the original 80012 Monkie King Warrior Mech. Manifested through sheer willpower by MK, it makes sense that as he develops his powers, the mech will become upgraded. I initially started thinking about this set as MK Ultra… and then I was reminded about the use of this designation for the CIA’s experiments into mind control in the ’60s and ’70s.

I was excited when the opportunity to take a pre-release look at this set came along, and I appreciate the LEGO Group sending it over for an early review.

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2022 Advent Calendar Minifigure Review

**WARNING: This Post Contains Some Spoilers for the LEGO® Star Wars Advent Calendar. While the Minifigures present are revealed on the box, the box doesn’t show you the faces behind the masks.**

I was a little torn when I was offered the LEGO® Star Wars Advent Calendar to Review back in August. I mean, was I going to hold on to it until December, by which stage the set would be sold out (and so the review would benefit nobody)? Or open it up and spoil it all, months in advance? Not that the images on LEGO.com work to keep the contents a secret.

And so, prompted in part by the existence of this article on Medium.com, bemoaning the relative at the relative absence of female minifigures in the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendars, I was promoted to open mine, to see if there were any surprises to be found inside. I’ll reveal my discovery later.

As it is also the VIP Weekend (2x VIP Points at LEGO.com), and with Black Friday Sales next weekend, it might just be the time to pick up that Calendar you were wondering about, before you need to start opening those doors on a daily basis.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the calendar experience, so I didn’t open up the doors. I just removed the recyclable tray from the box and picked out the bags containing minifigures. I can’t even remember where they came from: I just picked them all out and closed the box again. I’m sure this won’t cause any real problems…

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Retro Review: 6034 Black Monarch’s Ghost [and who were they, anyway?]

We recently took a look at aspects of the Classic Castle theme, in the LEGOLAND era. Now, in the Rambling Brick household, there is actually a distressing paucity of Castle sets from any era: By the time that the Castle Era was getting under way, with the arrival of the Crusaders and Black Falcons in 1984, I was well on my way to descending into my Dark Ages,

As such, virtually all Castle sets that I own are purchases I have made in recent years.

Today, we are going to take a look at a small set from 1990, 6034 Black Monarch’s Ghost. This set is one of two sets from 1990 that featured the new ghost minifigure. It’s a small set, with only 43 pieces, and features a number of aspects that make it a truly classic Castle set.

I may well get distracted, trying to reconcile the identity of the ghost, with the name of the set.

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