Review: 3451 Sopwith Camel

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Introduced to the front line of the First World War in July 1917, the Sopwith Camel F.1 is probably the most well-known biplane fighter in history. Over 5,700 Camels were produced, the majority in service with the Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the Royal Air Force, and were responsible for 1,294 victories – more than any other fighter in World War I. It was powered by a 130 horsepower Clerget Rotary engine, and fitted with two Vickers machine guns; these were coupled to a synchronisation gear to allow firing through the propeller arc. This machinery, fitted to the upper surface between engine and cockpit, gives rise to the distinctive ‘hump’ that inspired the biplane’s name.

Review: 3451 Sopwith Camel

It is unusual to see a warplane rendered in Lego. Lego’s version of the Camel was the first of a series of three aircraft ‘sculptures’ released at the start of the decade. Its natural enemy – the 10024 Red Baron – followed a year later; in 2003, released to celebrate the centenary of powered flight, came the 10124 Wright Flyer. As a sculpture set aimed primarily at adults, we can expect detail and accuracy; read on to see how well the set compares to the real thing.


Official picture courtesy of Bricklink.

In this official picture, you get a nice idea of the overall set. Note the slackness in the strings between the wings on this model - we'll look at the strings in more detail during the review.

Set Information

Name: Sopwith Camel

Number: 3451

Theme: Sculptures

Year: 2001 - 2003

Pieces: 577

Minifigures: 0

Price: Originally GB £39.99 | US $50. You can buy a boxed secondhand set for around £60.

Links Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron

The Box


The relatively sparse box features the set against a blue sky with a few clouds. Whoever put this set together did a better job than on the Brickset picture: the strings are taut. Unusually for the time, the piece count is featured; this set is recommended for ages 12 and up. Measuring W380 x H285 x D70 mm, it is identical in size (and design) to that of the Red Baron. I'm not so keen on the choice of font - it looks a little too futuristic for a historic set.

The back:


Just imagine ...

... they'd spent more time on the box art. Just three views of the set here, against badly photoshopped 'clouds'. They might have added some close-ups of the little details.



Surprisingly, the instructions artwork is totally different to the box, and in my view much nicer. Each page features the drawn model against a faint photograph of the real thing, and some schematics of the plane with dimensions and features. I also prefer the 'stencil' font to that used on the box, and the colour scheme is more military. I bought this in 2003; I wonder if the set was originally released with a box to match the instructions, which was then changed to match the Baron; however, I haven't been able to find any evidence of this.


This page demonstrates one of the problems with the instructions: yes, colour differentiation causes problems again, this time between old grey and dark grey, shown here on the engine block. However, there aren't many places where parts can get confused.

Note the schematics visible behind the drawing:


This is a lovely touch. The same is present on all right-hand pages. The dimensions are: Height 8ft 6 ins; Length 18ft 9 ins; Span 28ft. That's the real plane, not the model!

The left hand pages feature a plan view schematic, and the Camel's vital statistics:


The statistics are:

Wing Area: 231.09 square ft.

Empty weight: 929 lbs

Max. weight: 1.453 lbs

Engine power: 130 hp

Maximum speed: 115 mph at 6.500 ft.

Service ceiling: 19.000 ft.

Endurance: 2 hours 30 minutes

Anyone for a game of Top Trumps :grin: ? toptrumps_310.png

The Sticker Sheet


At face value, this is a delightfully colourful decal sheet. Mine has withstood the passage of time rather well. The large RAF roundels have been split in two to allow easier placement over the large flat wing tiles. The tail sticker features the set number cunningly disguised as the aircraft designation; the large '1' and smaller 'c' will be explained later, along with one of the major gripes with this set.

Click the picture above for a high-resolution version; or head to PICSL for a scan of the decal sheet.

The Parts


Looking first at the larger parts, we see a very colourful selection, with old brown, old dark grey, tan and red forming the main colour scheme. The set is a hive of rare and unique parts (mainly the brown ones):

30357 3x3 plate with corner round

30503 4x4 plate without corner

3705 Technic axle 4L

3707 Technic axle 8L (one other set)

32293 Technic steering link 9L (one other set)

x136 Technic wishbone suspension arm (one other set)

6205 6x16 Tile with studs on three sides

6180 4x6 Tile with studs on three sides

6179 4x4 tile with studs on edge

3933 & 3934 Wing pieces


Among the smaller parts are a number of technic pins, which is only to be expected for such an intricate set. Note again the variety of colours, particularly among the 2x1 plates (bottom left). Note also the strings with studs at either end: these may be familiar to many as the Luke-danglers from the recent Star Wars AT-AT sets; here you get to see them fulfilling their intended purpose.

'Old brown' was replaced in 2004; presumably to allow for the two shades of 'Brown' and 'Dark Brown'. Here is the original colour (left) compared to its successor (this piece from the Sandcrawler).


The newer colour isn't much lighter than the old, but it is significantly redder.

The Build

For a set aimed at AFOLs, you might expect the build to be interesting and technically challenging, perhaps requiring a degree of patience. On the whole, however, this set is fun to build: the process is smooth with minimal repetition, though some areas are tricky and the instructions aren't always easy to follow.

We start with the engine block. At its core is a 4x6 technic frame; under this sit some half-pins and ball joints. The position of the ball joints is important, as we shall see. At the front are two stud pins in 1x1 axle-hole bricks that will help hold the engine cowling; nowadays of course they would have used these.


The second picture shows the core of the rotary engine - a nice use of megaphones! The core is a little fiddly to build - you have to ensure the axle holes line up.

The engine core is mounted via a technic axle onto the block, and the Camel's 'hump' is built up. The shot from the back (left) demonstrates the 1x4 bricks with groove that form the mechanism for attaching the rear of the plane.


The second shot, from the front, shows the finished 'hump' with the machine guns mounted, and the two forward struts that attach the top wing.

Next up, we attach the undercarriage, and here things get a little tricky. Two wishbone pieces fix the axle to the aforementioned half-pins, and a steering arm forms a brace between the grey ball joints on the axle mounts and the black ones on the engine block. Pushing the steering arms onto the pins takes care and patience.


The process is repeated at the front. There isn't much room between the wishbone struts and the steering arms; mounting the second steering arm is a headache! The finished undercarriage is remarkably sturdy.

The wheels themselves are formed neatly from a steering wheel and a radar dish, giving an authentic look of a solid wheel. There is a little gap between the wheel rim and the dish; you can remove one of the two 1x1 round plates that separate them, but then the studs don't marry properly - probably an 'illegal' technique.

Finally, lots of little radar dishes form the cylinders, and the cowling and propeller are added.


True to real rotary engines, the whole engine spins on the crackshaft; though if you haven't taken care in the construction the cylinders have a tendency to snag on the cowling.

Now we move onto the tail. Firstly, the base is built upwards. This is mainly brick on brick:


At the front, you can see the two black 1x8 plates with rail that will slide into the grooves on the engine block, and the bricks with pins that will attach it securely. The unsightly red cylinders will be well hidden in the final model; they are there to support the top of the fuselage. The base of the cockpit is also taking shape: the seat is made from two brown window pieces attached via jumper plates; the joystick is one of these: 2880.png

The tan technic beams - attached at the moment only via string - get in the way a little. It's best to stick them temporarily onto the nascent wings.

The tail itself consists of two walls of dark grey that taper with hinges in a manner reminiscent if the UCS (and later System) X-Wing's nose. We start with the rear:


There's a little anomaly here: the white and dark grey 2x2 bricks with pins each attach to a blue 1x2 technic brick. I can see no structural advantage to this over using three simple 2x2 bricks in white, blue, and dark grey.

Here we see the tapering walls. Note the strings that simulate the control cables for the elevators, and the jumper plates that will attach the tail fin.


On the underside, plates are used to 'step' the walls upwards toward the rear. A 2x2 plate with towball is all that the rear of this taildragger plane will rest on when on the ground - we're before the days of tail wheels.

The tail is attached to the base, and finally the plane starts to take shape:


The 'roof' of the fuselage is built from a few roof tiles and supported by long bricks; these will sit atop the red cylinders visible in the picture above.


The two dark grey roof tiles are attached at there bases by only one stud, but are held in place from above by plates. You don't notice this potential weakness on the finished set.

We're getting there. The lower wings are completed, and the outboard wing struts are added, so finally the cables are stretched:


You can see a 'ring' of brown around the cockpit that is meant to represent the padded cockpit rim. It might have been better done in black.

Now we build the tail fin, and parts of the centre wing struts. The tail is nicely shaped; look at the rear: this is one of the few sets I've seen where a 2x1x1 curved brick is placed inside a 3x2x1 curved brick - showing how well these pieces are designed. The fin would look nicer with the stickers applied; more on that story later.


The grey jumper plates on the wing struts are necessary for attaching the top wing - they sit at a slight offset.

When first put into position, the cables from these struts are slack:


This is solved by placing the black studded end of the sting one stud further back on the technic beam. In this shot you can also see the minor greebling at the front of the cockpit - binoculars and grille tiles.

The top wing is a bilayer of plates, with centre cut-out authentic to the real thing.


You'll get to see the top later. Lastly, the engine block is slid onto the plates with rails, and the forward struts marry up to the centre supports. What is not clear from the instructions is exactly where to attach these centre supports on the top wing; it can take a bit of fiddling around to get it right, so long as the outboard supports are attached first.

The Complete Set


And there we have it, the greatest fighter biplane rendered in Lego. Looks good, doesn't she? I like the use of mostly-tile plates to give the wings a smooth finish (and allow the placement of decals).

From the front, we can see the genius of design that produces the accurate-looking wing cables, and how, unlike in the hastily built Bricklink picture we saw at the start, I have made them taut (mostly because I've built it correctly. If you have time on your hands, compare my version to the Bricklink version to spot the error.)


There is however a deficiency in the design. Notice how the lower wings are parallel to the upper. Now compare to this picture of the real plane:


The real Camel's lower wing has a pronounced dihedral - upward angle between the wings. This might have been quite easy to recreate, and is certainly moddable.

Notice also that the aluminium engine cowling is enclosed, unlike Lego's fence-piece version, and there are no cross-braces to the undercarriage (though in Lego these are necessary for rigidity). Apart from these points, Lego's version is a pretty accurate representation, if perhaps a little longer:


Here you can see the Camel dragging its tail, and you get a nice view of the tailplane. Sadly, despite the cables, and unlike her 'rival' the Red Baron, she doesn't have working rudder or elevators (or ailerons, for that matter). The tailfin is nicely shaped, and looks great with decals applied.

From the side, the forward-slanting wing struts are apparent. You might notice the grey footplate in the side of the fuselage, another accurate detail.


The large and smaller white panels on the side look a little incongruous without the decals, but they are accurate, as we shall see.

A closer look at the cockpit, shows it to be a little cramped, at least in comparison to the Red Baron's.


It's nice to see an instrument panel, but this one would be more at home in a sports car!

There's not much to say about the underside - it's a little flat:


The bottom of the fuselage looks 'open', but the effect is hardly noticeable, even if you plan to 'display' one of these by hanging from the ceiling. You might notice that the rear cables of mine aren't quite taut; it is possible to correct this by moving the rear end in and back by half a stud.

A close-up of the undercarriage:


The brown struts look so like wood, and the design so realistic, that it's almost a pity there aren't the crossed bracing struts on the real plane. This is a masterpiece; exactly the same technique is used on the Baron.

Here's the Baron herself for comparison:


Actually, this isn't the best shot for comparison - the taller Baron overshadows the longer, sleeker Camel and it doesn't really do her justice.

Camel Stamps

There's a good reason why I haven't applied the decals to my Camel. Look again at Bricklink's badly built example:


This is one of the major drawbacks to this set. Take a look at the tail fin, the '1', the 'c' and the roundel on the side of the fuselage. These are all STickers Across Multiple Pieces - apply them, and you can never break the set without destroying the stickers. If you check out the Eurobricks Glossary, you'll see that this very set is the epitome, the archvillain, the very definition of STAMPs! Ok, I'm exaggerating (and it's worth noting that the wing roundels are not STAMPs, being separated over the two plates), but it's such a shame that having to cover many pieces will deter many from applying them, as I'm sure you'll agree they look fantastic. I hope that one day Lego will produce waterslide transfer decals - like you find in Airfix and Revell model kits - which are thin enough to allow brick separation after the decals have been applied.

The following picture, of Canadian fighter ace Major William George Barker's Camel, shows how the decal designer got it right:


This may well be the reference model the designer used. The markings match those of No. 28 Squadron; the '1' is the plane's designation (later replaced with a letter), and the 'C' means that this plane was the flight commander. While we're at it, you can again compare the general shape of the model: the tail, while not perfect, is pretty good; the colour scheme is as good as can be done - the brownish tint of 'old' dark grey is pretty close to the camouflage green of the real plane (I'll ignore the red engine block; some Camels were painted red and white chequers); even the footplate is authentic. Great job Lego!



This is an unusual set in many ways. Firstly, it is clearly aimed at adults; in 2001 we were right at the beginning of the AFOL era with very few sets before this having been targeted solely at the adult market (the SW UCS X-Wing and Tie Interceptor spring to mind). Secondly, whilst Lego have produced an uncountable number of aircraft based on their own designs, this - and the two that followed - are to my knowledge the only 'scupltures' of aircraft that have been produced. (Ok, so there's the Boeing Dreamliner, but that's a Licensed set).

Perhaps the most intriguing point is that the Sopwith Camel is, and always has been, a military aircraft. Traditionally, Lego have shied away from all things military, at least where real vehicles are involved; fighting is ok in mediaeval, Star Wars or Indiana Jones sets (and for the last, Russians are ok but not Nazis :wacko: ), but heaven forbid they produce anything that might remind people of a real war. Perhaps the First World War is far enough ago to be safe? After all, this is no different in principle to a Lego rendition of a Spitfire or Messerschmitt (and how I'd love to see that!).

Whatever you feel about the philosophy, I do hope you'll agree that this is a fine set. Sure, there are design inaccuracies, and the STAMPs problem is a major flaw, but the overall impression is instantly recognisable as the finest fighter biplane.

Design: 9 Superbly rendered in Lego, the fighter is as true to the original design as possible, even without the impressive decals. I've docked a point for the lack of dihedral on the lower wing, which could have been fixed; short of producing waterslide transfer decals, I don't see how the STAMPs problem could be overcome. The undercarriage design is superb :wub: .

Build: 10 It's interesting, with minimal repetition; though fiddly in parts, I'd consider this merely challenging as befits an adult-orientated set. The final result is very rewarding.

Parts: 9 There's a good selection of parts, in many colours; if you're after rare parts in Old Brown then this is the set for you.

Playability: 8 This is a set meant for display. Nevertheless, it is very swooshable, and the landing gear enable you to re-enact a few dodgy rookie-pilot take-offs and landings! If you have the Baron, a bedroom dogfight awaits!

Price: 10 Even at today's secondhand prices, the Camel represents good value. The 577 pieces are mostly quite large, and often rare; I'm sure in a price-to-weight analysis it won't be found wanting. If it were still available for £40, it would be a no-brainer.

Overall: 92%. I give it 10/10. This is a superb, and underrated, AFOL set that should appeal to any fans of aircraft. If you come across a copy in reasonable condition, buy it - you won't be disappointed.

I hope you enjoyed the review. As ever, comments and criticisms are most welcome :sweet:


References: for statistics and general information

History in Illustration at for WG Barker and 28 Sqn

Sopwith Camel on Wikipedia

My Brickshelf Folder, with high-resolution images

Now you've read this, head over to the read the Red Baron review - including a chance to vote for your favourite of the two sets:

10024_title2_200.png The Red Baron

Edited by WhiteFang

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Awesome! This is so detailed! And the price is pretty good too :thumbup:

Edited by prateek

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Well done on this brilliant review, thank you for showcasing one of my favorite Lego sets of all time! :thumbup:

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Thanks for the review, also very nice pics :thumbup:

I have both of these sets but the Sopwith came in a black and white box with no colour.

my problem is that the decals or very brittle and are starting to flake witch is really annoying.

I see that you did not apply them which is probably best!

but besides that they are great sets and i'm glad that lego made them although they are very much a war them. *oh2*

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Thanks, Rufus - superb review and interesting commentary to go with it.

I think the aircraft in the Indiana Jones "Fight on the Flying Wing" set is modelled on a real military plane, but it obviously lacks the degree of detail of the Camel or the Red Baron.

Pricing-wise, you can pick this set up from eBay without breaking the bank, so I may just do that one of these days....


Dr. D.

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Lovely review as usual Rufus! :thumbup: I didn't even know this set existed so thanks for sharing this. This set has a lot of useful brown parts alright. The whole set looks good, it really captures the overall classic look of the Camel. And those decals look really painful in the eyes when applied, so it's good thing you didn't bother to apply them.

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Another excellent review from you 'Rufus', cool build, but yeah the stickers issue is a problem I 'C' ! :wink:

I'm a conformist! ! :sweet:

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Thanks for an outstanding review onse more Rufus!!

This is the set I own myself of these two. I really enjoyed building it and having it displayed for a long time.

Now it is sorted in parts with the rest of the collection.

I never applyed my stickers either for the same reason that you mentioned.

But now when I do not have this built anymore, and seeing the fine refference pictures you provided

(which I never looked up when I had mine built) I can clearly see some easy changes and MOD´s that could

have been done to this plane to make it look even better.

Onse again, thanks a lot!

p.s off to read the other review :wink:

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Awesome Review. Superb photos.

I still have this one misb that i bought around 1 year ago and had the opportunity, and I believe these are extraordinary. More to come please :classic:

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Nice review. I also own this one.

And yes indeed I put the stickers on it and I am still regretting it because I had to take it apart beause of lack of space and to destroy the stickers.

and that was moving into a new house.

The same goes for the Red Barron.

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I own all three sets in the series (Sopwith Camel, Red Baron Tri-Plane & 1903 Wright Flyer).

They are all fun to build and neat display pieces.

The 1903 Wright Flyer was the set that brought me out of the Dark Ages and returned me to LEGO.

I rarely apply stickers to my sets and didn't for either the Sopwith or Tri-Plane.

I've toyed with the idea of copying the sticker sheet onto a full page Label sheet using a scanner and my color laser printer then spraying the sheet with clear polyurethane so get the shiny finish so I can apply good copies of the stickers for display.

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Great review this is a great set and fun its to spin the prop around.

Did the card come with the newer sets or did you make it. I know the box isnewer as mine was black and white.

Thanks for the review.

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I love this set! I had it on display for years and years because it's just perfect...



Now this isn't a normal complaint about stickers suck, should be printed, these are bad stickers. You have them on and then they peal up and crack and half the sticker if gone and the other half is still stuck the piece. It's a disaster. I still have some pieces I can't get the broken stickers off of.

So if anyone can find this amazing set buy it and just don't put the stickers on, or maybe cut a piece of paper and stick it in the center of the sticker so only the outside sticks, that way you can at least take the set off.

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I got this set used a few months ago, stickers applied and partially built. I actually removed the stickers and they all came off fine, so there's hope for those who hate them. I stored them on a shiny piece of cardboard (a comic book backing board, to be precise) and they're able to be removed and reapplied if I want to rebuild the set, though the parts have been sorted into "general populace".

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Just a gorgeous set. Looks great on display. I would pick this up if it wasn't so expensive now. :/

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When this set came out, I begged my parents for it. Sadly, I didn't get it, and upon seeing this review, I really wish I had. Excellent review, though! And I agree: if Lego ever decides to make a Spitfire, I won't hesitate to buy one.

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Thanks Rufus for sharing with us on such a detailed and uncommon review. I never knew much about Sculptures and mainly because I am still in my dark age. I can see this is one of the few early LEGO sets that are meant to target at the growing AFOLs market. Very nice looking vintage WW1 aircraft and I am glad you choose not to apply the stickers. I have learned quite a lot of new stuff in this informative review. :sweet:

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I love this set and I think this story does it justice.

Fun Story: Six years ago I dismantled this set for parts and build a basic piano for a pretty girl who was studying piano at university. Five years later I married her. I still joke with her that a big part of it was so that I could keep my Sopwith Camel parts in the family. :-)

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What a beautiful set. TLC needs to keep coming out with historical models like this (and at such a nice price, too!) A series of cars and planes would be amazing, and it would probably lure in some model fans, too.

Unfortunately, I was too young at the time to care about a model like this. :blush:

I love this set and I think this story does it justice.

Fun Story: Six years ago I dismantled this set for parts and build a basic piano for a pretty girl who was studying piano at university. Five years later I married her. I still joke with her that a big part of it was so that I could keep my Sopwith Camel parts in the family. :-)

Great story. Any chance you could take pictures? That must've been one heck of a great piano model. :grin:

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I recently got this set MISB, but the box is completely black and white like the picture on peeron . Was this box also sold like this or was it inside the blue box or rather part of a set like K10124-1 or K3451-1?

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The only insight I can provide is that black and white pics on boxes used to mean it was a re-released set by TLG. At least thats how it was with my Metroliner and Club Car, among other sets, originally released 1991, re-released 2001, around the time this Sopwith came out. Although I do not believe that this re-release status ever applied to this set, I can't give any specifics on why it was available with two different boxes during it run :classic:

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Well well... sometime it's good to read the comments on bricklink. It says

The box for this set was produced in two versions: a color version used for sets sold in retail stores, and a black and white version used for the sets sold directly by the LEGO Company.

Mystery solved...

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