I haven’t worked out how to monetise PetrolBlog, but LEGO is almost certainly an acceptable form of payment. So when Caterham asked if they could send a LEGO Caterham 620R to PBHQ, I could hardly say no.
Shock horror: I wasn’t much of a LEGO fan when I was young. Back then, I preferred the ‘realism’ of a Matchbox or Corgi model car, building endless traffic jams running along the length of the hallway and into the living room. I also found Subbuteo more enjoyable, even if I was regularly beaten by my perfect cousin.
Truth is, I’ve discovered the joys of LEGO through my children. My house is filled with creations of all shapes and sizes: some finished, some in a state of disrepair. I share the anticipation of opening a LEGO box for the first time. The excitement is building, as an ad man once said.
There are only a few occasions when I wish Ole Kirk Christiansen hadn't stumbled across one of the world’s greatest toys. And that’s when I stumble across an errant brick as I make my way – shoeless – across the living room carpet. The pain is up there with the cramp you only seem to get at three in the morning.
The other times: when I can’t for the life of me find a missing piece during a build project, or when I glance at the price of one my children’s most-wanted sets. LEGO can be an expensive hobby.
Not that the Caterham 620R is particularly expensive. At £74.99, it’s significantly cheaper than the £259.99 LEGO is asking for the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Admittedly, the Porka is a more complex LEGO Technic set, but when complete it looks like something that might appear on the ‘Wrecked Exotics’ website.
The Caterham 620R, on the other hand, looks superb. It’s as though the original Lotus Seven was designed with a Danish plastic brick company in mind. LEGO should consider creating a set paying tribute to The Prisoner, complete with miniature Patrick McGoohan and floating white balls.
I set aside a couple of hours to build the LEGO Caterham. This was my first mistake. Time to yourself is a rare commodity when you’re a father of young children, but I found myself with a bit of ‘me time’ just before Christmas. Optimistically, I reckoned I could complete the build in no time at all.
Two hours to myself. Enough time to build a Caterham? pic.twitter.com/lDpVYETWbd
— Gavin Big-Surname (@MajorGav) December 23, 2016
As it turned out, the project ran across four consecutive evenings. But what’s the hurry? Building a LEGO set, following the instructions, and watching it piece together is proper escapism.
My second mistake was building it on the floor. I’m pretty sure LEGO recommends building its sets on a table, no doubt in an attempt to avoid mislaid pieces and to make the build a little easier. But at my age, getting up from the floor is a painful business. Cue lots of groaning and aching limbs.
I could mention something about this LEGO Caterham being the most fun I’ve had on a carpet since… well, I won’t go there.
Seriously, it’s a terrific set, and I’m not just saying this because I received the gift as a kind of early Christmas present. I’ve seen more than enough LEGO sets to be able to sort the good ones from the bad, and this is definitely one of the better ones.
Compare and contrast with that suspect Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the weird looking Ferrari F40. The DeLorean is also a bit weak, but I have a lot of time for the Ghostbusters Ecto-1.
The Caterham is built using 770 pieces, including a replica 620R engine and gear stick. Highlights, for me at least, include the three pedals, removable engine cover, petrol filler cap, the superb front wheel-arches and the headlights.
It’s not perfect. The removable nose cone feels a bit flimsy, the dashboard and door mirror section is a bit loose and it would have been nice for it to include a few moving parts. If the steering was attached to the wheels, for example. But I guess that’s the balance between keeping something affordable and retaining a level of authenticity.
I’d also say that the steering wheel is fitted too close to the dashboard, which only serves to obscure the three dials positioned behind. Oh, and it’s a shame that all the decals were pre-applied. It is nice to fit stickers as the finishing touch.
But really, this is nitpicking. Once complete, the LEGO Caterham is something you’d happily position alongside more traditional car models. Indeed, it has been sat on my office desk for two months. It’s that good. LEGO even includes a set of axle stands, so you can remove the wheels like a mechanic. Behind, you'll find a set of ventilated brake discs.
— Gavin Big-Surname (@MajorGav) December 23, 2016
Hats off to LEGO, and in particular to designer Henrik Andersen, who took an idea submitted via the LEGO Ideas platform and created a masterpiece. It was Carl Greatrix who came up with the original idea, before Andersen worked on five or six versions before the model was complete. Gents, I wish I had a similar talent.
Thanks to Caterham and LEGO for sending a set to PetrolBlog for review. I can now say that I’ve built a Caterham, and I didn’t have to resort to spanners and swear words.