Rufus

Classic Space Restoration Project

156 posts in this topic

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Introduction

A cut my LEGO teeth on Classic Space. Unfortunately, that has caused irrevocable damage to many of the bricks. :laugh: One of the very first sets I owned was the timeless classic 497/928 Galaxy Explorer, widely held to be one of the best LEGO sets of all time, and it propelled me into a love affair with Classic Space that far outlasted the shelf-life of the range.

As I got older, I started to take more care of my LEGO, and many of my later Space sets are still in pretty good condition. You can see examples of two of the sets in my reviews: 6930 Mission Control Centre (Space Supply Station) and 6928 Mercury Crawler (Uranium Search Vehicle). However, the earlier sets didn't fare so well, and now - thirty years later - it's time to see if I can rejuvenate them. I've already had some success with my 375 Yellow Castle; I hope I can achieve a similar result here, but these sets were played with a great deal more and also spent a long time built and exposed to attic dust.

Overview

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Here's a small selection of my Classic Space collection, rescued from the attic in roughly the state you see here. From this angle, things don't look too bad, apart from the muck, but it doesn't bear up so well to closer inspection.

I had in mind that I'd start with 928. Let's take a closer look:

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The ship itself looks complete, and both baseplates are present, including three of the four spacemen. The little base that comes with the set has long since gone.

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The printed parts are all there, but the Classic Space logo has lost some of its gold. As you can see, the exposed parts are filthy, and some are discoloured, including what looks like rust on the 2x2 cone. :wacko: Many of the parts are chewed and battered.

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There's more filth on the front, and the modified plate with prongs is chewed. Unfortunately, the printed slope is quite badly scratched, and the detail on the lovely planet logo has long since gone (it should look like the logo on the banner above). You can also see here how some of the wedge plates are more discoloured than others.

Neither is the ship truly complete:

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Round on the left side, the grey door is missing, and has been replaced with a blue one. Examples of battered and ill-fitting parts abound here.

Some parts are broken:

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The centre grey tail here has snapped; I had clearly tried to disguise the fact. :blush: The other side has the same problem.

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The underside doesn't look too bad, but the nearside landing bad is bent. Also, the long 6x24 plate in the centre should actually be two 2x12 plates.

The two dudes I found inside the cruiser don't look too bad at all:

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I doubt these are the original figures! The gold logo is a little faded on each, which looks a lot worse on the white dude because it isn't hidden by the white background to the print. It's hard to get hold of pristine space figures; these may have to do.

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The third guy isn't looking so good: he's quite badly discoloured, with a broken helmet. It's a shame, as his logo is in quite good condition; however, whilst I can get the white looking much better, I can't do that without further damaging the logo.

Goals

What I aim to do here is get the sets looking as good as possible, within certain constraints.

  • I will accept a small loss of quality in some of the prints; I'll try to replace badly faded prints but it is tricky to get hold of some of these printed parts in mint condition.
  • I will try to use 80s bricks where possible. It isn't always easy to tell; for the old grey colour, you know that the parts are at least 8 years old; some later plates can be distinguished by a difference in the mold.
  • Where I still have the box, I'll give it a good clean and try to spruce it up; where I don't have the box - for the larger sets - I'll try to get hold of one. :look:
  • For parts where there were mold differences back then, I will try to use the original mold designs. For example, in the case of the part 'Plate, Modified 1 x 1 with Clip Light', I will use the original 'thin ring' parts rather than the later 'thick ring'; however, where mold differences occurred in different releases of the set, I won't be so fussy (for example, I'll accept any form of the modified plate with handles (Bricklink ID 3839, so long as the colour is right).

I reserve the right to modify my own conditions if it proves too difficult otherwise!

Wish me luck! I'll be updating this thread periodically as I (hopefully) make progress.

Rufus

Contents


Chapter One: 928 Galaxy Explorer

Chapter Two: 924 Space Cruiser/Transporter

Interlude:

Chapter Three: 918 One Man Space Ship

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Good luck Rufus, I can't wait to see how your project unfolds; particularly seeing how well you restored the Yellow Castle!

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Good luck Rufus, you started a very ambitious project :thumbup: :thumbup:

I expect to see the continue of this project :classic: :classic:

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This is a worthy project Rufus, and I look forward to your updates! This is the flagship set of early Classic Space, and there aren't enough of them to go around! It looks like some bits are in sad shape, but I'm sure that you can work some magic and breathe new life into this fabulous ship -- not to mention the smaller sets I see in the first picture! :cry_happy:

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I'm really looking forward to this, Rufus. Good luck with the project. Maybe it will inspire me to restore my Classic Space. By the way, that attic grime looks familiar! :look:

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Good luck with the project Rufus, as many other people here, I too will monitor it with great interest!

375 was nicely done, lets hope this one will be too! :thumbup:

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Hey,

cool.

I rebuild all classic space I had 2 years ago (now broken down again, haha). Was pretty cool actually.

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I love the classic space theme. Good luck! Looking forward to see the updates!

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Holy wow! There’s some serious battle damage on those old ships. :cry_happy::sweet:

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Best of luck with your project, Rufus! Classic Space was one of my favorites of the LEGO sets that I owned. I believe I had the 6970 Beta-1 Command Base - I just loved the crater base plate! :laugh: I'm sure my mom still has what's left of it, but seeing that her attic is like something out of the Hoarders TV show, I'm not sure I will see it any time soon. :blush:

Keep us updated!

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Good luck. You might need some gold paint for those stickers and the figs.

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After getting sets out of the attic after 25 years or so of storage I can appreciate how much dirt gets ingrained onto them even if you have wrapped them carefully and put them in boxes. I wonder where it all comes from.

I wish you well in your quest, I am not sure I would have the patience to distinguish between modern an old brick types as long as they were the same shape and colour, but that is all good if you can do it. For my own ships I don't think I had as many chewed bits as what you have, one or two, but my parents were quite hot on me not chewing my LEGO when I was younger and the threat of a smacked megablocks was enough to stop most of it.

Anyway, best of luck, look forwards to seeing some now and then photos later on.

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Thanks everyone for your early replies and optimism! I hope it's not misplaced. :look:

This is a worthy project Rufus, and I look forward to your updates! This is the flagship set of early Classic Space, and there aren't enough of them to go around! It looks like some bits are in sad shape, but I'm sure that you can work some magic and breathe new life into this fabulous ship -- not to mention the smaller sets I see in the first picture! :cry_happy:

Thanks Foog! It's in bad shape indeed. I'll get to the smaller sets before too long, if all goes well with 928. Perhaps I should have started small? :blush:

Holy wow! There’s some serious battle damage on those old ships. :cry_happy::sweet:

Battle damage indeed! If I get chance I'll show some of the worst atrocities my teeth inflicted on these poor innocent bricks. :cry_sad:

Best of luck with your project, Rufus! Classic Space was one of my favorites of the LEGO sets that I owned. I believe I had the 6970 Beta-1 Command Base - I just loved the crater base plate! :laugh: I'm sure my mom still has what's left of it, but seeing that her attic is like something out of the Hoarders TV show, I'm not sure I will see it any time soon. :blush:

Dig it out! There may be some treasures in there (and some valuable parts in 6970 :wink: )

Good luck. You might need some gold paint for those stickers and the figs.

Thanks! I'm going to try to replace the gold printed bricks where possible; I considered using decals for the slopes, but it won't be quite the same. I need them to be authentic! :laugh:

By the way, that attic grime looks familiar! :look:

After getting sets out of the attic after 25 years or so of storage I can appreciate how much dirt gets ingrained onto them even if you have wrapped them carefully and put them in boxes. I wonder where it all comes from.

Absolutely! My sets were left on 'display' in the attic for a long time, so the grime is particularly intense. Then there's the problem of extremes of temperature up there.

I wish you well in your quest, I am not sure I would have the patience to distinguish between modern an old brick types as long as they were the same shape and colour, but that is all good if you can do it.

For some parts, it's quite easy to tell - I'll post some comparison pictures at some point.

Coming soon - A closer look at the parts :look:

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Takes me back to childhood. When classic space came out it was so awesome. I would take my Galaxy Explorer over to my friends place and he had a bunch of stuff. All I have left are a few of the original figs. You should consider yourself fortunate you still have the sets. I bet you can clean them up pretty good.

:thumbup:

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Dig it out! There may be some treasures in there (and some valuable parts in 6970 :wink: )

I just sent her an email. As bad as her garage space is, she generally knows where things are, somehow.

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I'm also looking forward to seeing how this project goes... I really enjoy a good restoration project, whether it be old cars, old phones (one of my other hobbies) or old LEGO sets. :grin:

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Part One: 928 Galaxy Explorer


Known by the rather less grandiose title 'Space Cruiser' in the UK, the 497/928 Galaxy Explorer was the flagship of the early Classic Space range, and remains to this day one of the favourite LEGO sets amongst AFOLs. It was the first large Space set I owned - I remember getting it for my birthday or Christmas when I must have been about 6; I can remember vividly my brother building it for me initially. It must have been broken up and reassembled countless times, and was taken to and from friends' houses, probably dangling from the handlebars of my bike in a plastic bag; it has clearly also been attacked by both my kiddie and my nascent adult teeth along the way.

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As you can see from the introduction pictures, it has acquired a thick coat of grime from many years stored in an attic, along with losing certain vital parts along the way. Now let's take it apart and see what we'll have to deal with.

The Plan of Action

Here's a rough plan of how to tackle this. Unlike the Yellow Castle, I no longer have the box for this set, so I'm going to leave the box till later, if I can find a decent example to replace mine. I'll start with the parts inventory, cleaning, and replacing worn or missing parts.

  • Part Inventory (this post)
  • Cleaning the Bricks
  • Ordering Replacements
  • Box, Instructions and Minifigures
  • Rebuilding the set!

1.1 Part Inventory

Let's start with the baseplates:

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Aside from the grime, these are looking pretty good. I've no way of knowing whether the crater plate is the one which came with this set as I have several; from the looks of the colour difference, I'd say probably not. The landing pad plate, however, is the original: you can tell by the pattern of dashed yellow lines. The version which came with 6980 Galaxy Commander has yellow lines at all entrances:

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Picture from Bricklink

... whereas 928's has the single pair of yellow dashes as you see in the picture. There is a third variety, here, which came in some versions of 928, but I don't have that one.

Taking the Cruiser apart, I made four piles of pieces. The first was of bricks to be discarded, because they don't belong to the set, or are too damaged to be usable:

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A couple of the yellow and black 1x3 plates were missing, and had been replaced with 1x2s and 1x1s. Two of the grey tails were broken; a third snapped as I took it apart (I was careful, honest!). The grey cone here is rather too chewed and discoloured (a closer inspection of the other one, which has mysteriously disappeared from the photos, reveals a similar problem); this presents a difficulty as the original cones had a solid stud and are now rather rare. The grey landing pad here is the bent one which I pointed out in the introduction.

Next were parts which are either a little chewed, discoloured, or slightly bent, but possibly salvageable:

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I'll give these a good clean and see how they go. The 2x4-2x4 grey hinge in the centre is quite badly chewed, but this will be a difficult part to replace, and may have to do. The five 4-wide cones are each slightly bent; again, these originals (without axle hole) are quite hard to come by nowadays. The three blue tails here are in good condition except slightly discoloured.

I should be able to replace most of the blue bricks from my own collection; rather surprisingly, I may have some trouble with the 2x4s - these 1980s bricks can be distinguished from modern bricks as they have a thicker wall and no cross-supports, and a little tricky to find in good condition.

Not also the 1-wide plates: 80s bricks have large, solid knubs between the anti-studs on the underside.

Next come the bricks that are in good condition ... mostly:

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Some of the wedge plates are discoloured; they'll get a good soaking in a variety of reagents to see if I can rejuvenate the colour. I've included here the 6x24 plate, which doesn't belong to the set, but I have found only one of the original 6x12 plates. The two wheel axle parts are in good nick, but the axles are a little rusty; I can live with that.

Finally come the 'special' parts:

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The computer slopes are in good condition, and the 1x4 blue 'grille' bricks are okay; the Classic Space logo bricks have lost all their gold. :sad: We've already seen the badly scratched printed slope. Of the trans-yellow parts, the bricks and plates are a little scratched, but reasonable; the slopes have quite a few nicks and may have to be replaced. The large 8-wide radar dish is broken, and will definitely need replacing. :sceptic:

And we mustn't forget the antenna:

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Apart from the broken spoke - the bane of this part - it has escaped the worst of my younger self's abuse. But it will have to be replaced.

I have a number of bricks and plates in good condition from my own collection to replace many of these; from a preliminary count, here's what I'll need to order:

1 grey antenna

1 grey 8-wide radar dish

1 grey 2x2x2 support ('landing pad')

3 grey tails

2 blue 1x4 swivel hinges

Up to 3 3x6 33-degree trans-yellow slopes

1 Classic Space logo blue slope*

4 Classic Space logo blue 1x2 bricks

2 grey 2x2x2 cones with solid stud

1 grey door, 1x3 left

Possibly
5 grey 4x4x2 cones without axle hole

Possibly
1 grey 2x4 hinge plate

Up to 7 1x3 yellow plates (depending on how well they clean up)

Up to 3 1x3 black plates

* I considered using a decal to spruce up the logo of the printed slope; as there's no gold on this, it might be possible, but it wouldn't be authentic. I'll try to get a good quality replacement part instead.

I will quite happily use modern parts to replace the missing or broken trans-red and trans-green plates and round bricks: aside from a slight difference in the shape of the hole in the stud - a change which occurred during the Classic Space era - they are pretty much the same. Likewise with the missing or damaged blue tiles. However, I'll try to replace other bricks and plates with 80's equivalents where I can.

In all honesty, it's a bit depressing so far. :sad: But things will get better! :sweet: Thanks for sticking with me. In the next installment, I'll show the some of the results (positive and negative) of my cleaning exploits, and show you my progress in replacing the missing parts.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen it before, check out this amazing Neo-Classic Space version of 497/928 by Legoloverman on Flickr: :wub_drool:

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This is not mine!!!! I wish it were. :cry_happy:

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Wonderful thread! I have to take some time to read ist completely. But the pictures are already looking great. Good luck!

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Good luck restoring some of those parts! I have done a similar thing myself a few times with various Classic space and Futuron sets, the finished result makes it all worthwhile. I actually stockpiled lots of mint printed space parts for future restoration projects, you never know when they'll come in handy!

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Part One: 928 Galaxy Explorer


1.2 Cleaning the Bricks

Ok, let's get these parts cleaned up! First up, the baseplates:

Before:

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There's a lot of surface grit and grime on both plates. I gave the flat landing pad a good soak in biological washing powder; for the crater plate I used Baby Wipes. I believe I have Rick to thank for this tip. :wub:

And here's the result:

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They're looking much better now. There is some discolouration on the landing pad plate; I don't think I can do very much about that, and it isn't too noticeable. So far, so good.

Now the grey plates:

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I'm not using my usual lighting set-up here, so there's a bit of flare at the top left. But you can see that the plates are looking reasonably good. There is s till some colour variation, most obvious on the 2x8 plates in the centre, and common on old grey parts. As most of these plates will not be visible on the finished model, I'm not too concerned. You may notice I've acquired the missing 6x12 plate, too. :sweet: One of the 4x12 plates is a little chewed in the corner, but again I think I'll get away with that.

Now the wedge plates:

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These are important, as they'll be very visible. They've cleaned up nicely, but the top left centre plate is a distinctly different colour to its neighbours. That will have to be fixed, or replaced. Some of the 45-degree plates are a little damamged, too.

I did attempt to fix the dicolouration of these plates, by a long soak in domestic hypochlorite solution. It wasn't entirely successful:

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On the left is the discoloured plate from the previous picture; the two on the right have been 'treated'. It has fixed the colour problem nicely; but has revealed some nasty whiteness on the plate on the right. The treated 3x4 slope is a horrendous result. :sick:

The other grey parts have come along quite nicely:

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I'm probably going to have to stick with the 2x4-2x4 hinge, despite it being in quite poor condition. :sceptic: I've managed to get hold of some replacement grey tails (from an ebay job-lot), and one grey 2-wide cone; three of the 4-wide grey cones (centre-bottom) have little dents but may have to do for now. I'll see if I can get some better ones (there are two on the way, but I'll need three more).

Here's an overview of the blue parts:

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As you can see, many of the bricks are quite scratched. I have found replacements for some of those; what isn't so obvious is that there is some colour variability, which will make the finished model look like a patchwork if I'm not careful. :sceptic: It's most obvious in the 1x4 plates; I'll have to see if I can find others with a better colour-match; but I might have to resort to using newer bricks for some of them (particularly the 2x4s).

Otherwise, most of the yellow plates are too battered to use (see a close-up here); the blue tiles are also quite beaten-up, but I have no qualms about using newish replacements as the design hasn't changed much.

The tails, brackets and inverted slopes look okay at first glance:

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Again, there is colour variation, most noticeable in the tails. One of them, I've just noticed, has a bent foot (second from the left, front row). The slopes look good, but unfortunately the 2x2s are a little faded when compared to the better bricks. The two swivel hinges are in good condition; two more are on order.

I managed to find, in my original collection, four 1x2 slopes in excellent condtion:

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And they are original bricks, without the bottom tube! :excited:

The larger blue plates - four 4x6s and one 4x8 - were quite discoloured. I tried soaking them in hypochlorite, which removed the discolouration but they are now quite faded. They weren't in great condition, anyway.

Of the 'special' parts, the trans-yellow bricks and slopes are quite badly scratched up:

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It's really difficult to get hold of good quality ones; these may have to do. These printed bricks aren't too bad; you can see the imperfections clearly in this picture, which makes them look worse than they are!

Now the Classic Space Logo parts were in pretty bad shape, and will have to be replaced. Luckily, I've managed to get hold of some:

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On the left are my originals; on the right are the replacements. One of the gold logo bricks isn't quite so good, but these are hard to get hold of: for every four you order, you'll be lucky to get one in good quality, and unfortunately sellers aren't always so honest about the quality. :hmpf_bad:

1.3 Replacement Parts

Some replacements have already started to arrive:

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Tracking down an intact antenna took a little work. The spokes seem to be really fragile, and what happened to my original seems to be a common fate.

As usual, I've ordered a vast excess of some parts: :laugh:

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The trans-yellow slopes, top right, aren't really any better than my originals. The other trans parts, top left, are new and from my own collection.

Replacement parts so far:

  • 1 Light grey 6x12 plate :thumbup:
  • 4 blue 4x6 plates :thumbup:
  • 1 blue 4x8 plate :thumbup:
  • 3 blue 1x3 plates :thumbup:
  • 1 blue 3x6 33 degree Classic Space Logo slope :thumbup:
  • 4 blue 1x2 Classic Space Logo bricks :thumbup:
  • 1 light grey 8-wide radar dish :thumbup:
  • All trans-red and trans-green parts (new) :thumbup:
  • 7 blue 1x2 tiles :thumbup:
  • 2 blue 1x1 tiles :thumbup:
  • 1 light grey 3x4 33-degree slope :thumbup:
  • 2 light grey 2-wide cones :thumbup:
  • 5 light grey 4-wide cones (2 arrived)
  • 1 light grey antenna with side spokes :thumbup:
  • 2 blue 1x2-1x2 swivel hinge bricks
  • 4 light grey 1x2 plates with handles :thumbup:

I've also acquired a number of 4x8 and 4x4 wedge plates as I'm not convinced my originals are of good enough quality.

We're making some progress! Thanks for reading. :classic: Next up: the box! :look:

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It looks really good and it's good to see that someone restores a classic set. Keep up the good work :)

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Here's the lost post from the EB downtime:

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Part One: 928 Galaxy Explorer


1.4 Box, Instructions and Minifigures

The Box

A scout around on Bricklink allowed me to find this original Galaxy Explorer box, in good condition and for a reasonable sum. Unfortunately, it's the American 497 version, but you can't have everything. :sad: I have to thank EB member jamzee for the pointer on this one!

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It's a little battered at the corners, but in remarkably good condition, with no major creases or tears. There's a sticker mark in the bottom right corner, but it's hardly noticeable. Compared to the European version, the obvious differences are a slight rim of white around the edge (the Euro version's picture goes all the way to the sides) and the addition of a little text: 'Space System' under the LEGOLAND banner; '325 Interlocking Pieces' in the bottom right, and the age guideline under the LEGO logo. The diorama of the ship streaking low over the moonbase is simply gorgeous. :wub:

The box rear is, I believe, identical to the European 928 version:

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Alternative builds abound! I particularly like the three-cabined version at the top left.

The 1980s were the hayday for beautifully excessive LEGO packaging. The lid lifts, revealing the contents, which are, at the moment ...

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... nothing! The underside of the lid reveals some more alternative builds, along with a few shots of the set's features. Nowadays, I'm sure there'd be more focus on these features. Oh, and we musn't forget the obligatory 'bad hairstyle' picture! :laugh:

The Instructions

These are my original instructions. They are a little battered and creased, but far better than many you'll find for sets of this age:

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They're still attached to the staples, for one thing. In common to most instructions from this era, we get right down to business on the front page ...

... but, in contrast to most early sets, this one comes with part call-outs:

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I think this was the first non-technic set to include them. Shown here is my favourite part of the build - the two big blue doors at the back.

On the rear is a lovely diorama of most of the original Classic Space sets - I think, of the larger ones, only 924 is missing.

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918's pilot appears to be about to 'abandon ship'! :look:

The Minifigures

After rummaging around in my own collection, I managed to find about four loose white figures in reasonable condition, and have supplemented them with some orders.

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Like Classic Space Logo bricks, it's really hard to get whiteys with a pristine logo. Of these, numbers 3, 4, 5 and 7 are the best; 4 has discoloured arms and 3 has a sticker on the reverse of his torso. I've selected 4 and 5 for the Galaxy Explorer.

I have a good number of red figures in adequate condition. Here are the two I found with the sets in the first place (one was hanging out in 918):

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You can tell which figures are my originals ...

... because at some point, I numbered them all!

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My early custom decals leave a lot to be desired!

Here are the final figures, lined up and ready to go:

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As you can see, the right-most whitey is a little discoloured; it's worse in the photo then real life. The other whitey has had his discoloured arms replaced, and looks great! :wub:

We're nearly ready for the big reveal, but I'm still waiting for a couple of Bricklink orders.

Next up: Building the Set!

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what a great project! :classic:

good to see you're finally dealing with men's stuff, instead of the kid's toys, like city, or star wars, or friends! welcome to the elite Lego fans, buddy! :laugh: ok... i just had to say that... :laugh:

i think you could buy old gray parts, like the wedges, plates, in (fairly) new conditiion. the older ISD is a great parts source for that, i guess...

what most of all strikes me, is the good condition of the white helmets. Most of mine are worn out, broken or damaged in whatever way

the trans yellow parts look fairly good as well, as far as I can see.

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Looking really good. What an awesome project.

I was really hoping you were going to find a place to re-print those logos. If only so I could have some of my old pieces done there too. But the techniques you are using for cleaning I will definitely be, ummmm, not stealing....replicating. Thanks for doing this project.

I also find it funny you numbered your guy as I did the same thing back in the day...and every number had a name and backstory.

-Tohst - Lots of tragedy in the lives of my explorers. Sometimes when you lose everything it provides the impetus to go find something entirely new

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