Lego City has taken an interesting turn lately, with a profusion of civilian sets to give the Fire and Police departments something to protect. Amongst this year's offerings is this interesting interpretation of modern life, featuring a rich businessman and his lady friend enjoying the high life by taking a ride on a helicopter taxi and sipping champagne in a stretched limousine. It's an original idea; let's take a close look and see how it stands up to inspection.
3222 Helicopter and Limousine
Official Lego.com picture
Name: Helicopter & Limousine
Price: UK £17.99 | US $29.99 | Can $39.99 | EUR 24.99 - 34.95 | AUS 49.99 | DKK 299.00
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Whether you’re a movie star, a famous executive or any other V.I.P., there’s no better way to travel than by taking your very own stretch limousine to your very own private helicopter for an exclusive and luxurious flight to exotic destinations around the world! Features removable limo roof and spinning helicopter blades. Includes driver, pilot and 2 passengers.
- Includes helicopter and limousine plus 4 minifigures!
- Take off the limo roof, put the driver at the wheel, seat the V.I.P.’s, then drive away in style!
- Spin the helicopter’s rotating blades and take off!
In line with all City sets from the last few years, the box features a display of the set against a suitably 'city' background, in this case a nice silhouette of an airport-ish scene. Some nice Photoshopping enables the figures to walk out of the scene onto the traditional blue surround.
The back is a little busy:
The many panels show off the modular construction, and some of the play features: the removable roof of both helicopter and limo, and the opening doors of the latter. Some of this year's Airport sets are advertised, and it's a pilot who gets to annoy us with his Hey! on this box. There's no respite from the thumb-tab opening with this set.
The top surface has a nice display of the four figures, replete with accessories - mostly drinking apparatus, but it's always nice to get a briefcase.
We'll take a closer look at the figs in due course.
The box is quite big, measuring W 380 x H 257 x D 67 mm, but is reasonably well-filled.
There are three numbered bags, each containing a smaller bag of fiddly bits, two instruction manuals, and a sticker sheet.
Manual 1 builds the limo, and comes with a separate picture of the same on the front:
Notice the sloppily constructed model - with poorly connected studs - just behind the front wheel.
The steps are simple, with only a few parts per set, and the absent piece call-outs aren't missed.
As you can see, it's taken 22 steps to put about 40 pieces of Lego together. Colour differentiation is no problem, with black and white being the only prominent colours in this section.
Manual 2 is about twice the height of the first; but as the heli is two-thirds of the set that isn't a surprise.
Notice the little trans-clear round plate on the nose-wheel: more on that story later.
A random page of manual 2...
... shows yet again the simplicity of the build, helped along by the big chunky airplane pieces. Blue, white and dark bluish-grey are the theme colours; although there is also a little black in there, the intuitive build ensures no tricky colour issues.
As I've already mentioned, the first bag builds the limo, and out spills an array of black and white pieces that will be all too familiar to anyone who has built a 4-wide Lego car recently. Note the two chassis pieces, which will be connected together to form the wheel base, and the two SNOT pieces which are commonly used on the front and rear ends of these little cars.
The three round trans-yellow inverted bumps kept me guessing, and we'll discover their surprising use soon. Otherwise, the only pieces of interest are the and the fig torsos, and a printed tile that I presume is supposed to be a TV, but looks like a PC with an error message to me.
Bags 2 & 3
The helicopter parts selection is dominated by the big pointless airplane parts, but there are some useful long plates, and a decent number of the lovely grille tiles in dark bluish grey.
Three brown chairs are always welcome. Notice the blue square window pieces: the last time I built a Lego plane - 6368, in 1985 - I seem to remember the windows fitted flush, but these are flat and therefore recessed in the frames.
Decal Sticker Sheet
It's hard to argue against the use of stickers in this set. The tail fin of the helicopter is rather plain without them; in addition, the blue/grey/white triangles help to continue the colour scheme of the bricks quite nicely.
The picture is a link to a very high resolution picture.
Now we come to one of the highlights of this set. Four figures are included: a sour-looking pilot, a smug sunglasses-toting chauffeur, a businessman and his female companion.
The businessman and the girl remind me of the 7639 camper couple - perhaps this is what they look like at work rather than on holiday? Businessman also resembles the guy from the 8402 Sports Car - I think he even shares the same torso, although in 8402 he's obviously taken his specs off to enjoy the open-top driving experience. Or maybe he sometimes wears contact lenses.
There's nothing exciting to see from the back: no printing, and the bare backs of the capped dudes' heads are starting to look very dated.
Let's have a closer look at the pilot, and the girl:
Pilot-dude is clearly very grumpy about something. What's up with him? He has such a nice uniform! Maybe he's not so keen on the orange sunglasses.
The babe is another matter. Her hair is possibly the best hairstyle Lego have created, even if it's a little ubiquitous these days, and she certainly looks like she's enjoying herself. Maybe it's the effect of champagne in the back of a limo. I love that torso , but my worries that she looks a little like an air hostess seem to have been realised: 3182 Airport Her torso also appears in the new Public Transportation set, and the TRU truck. Too much of a good thing?
The Build - Limousine
Bag 1 builds the limousine. As you can see, it is constructed from two car bases stuck together lengthways, with some 8x1 plates with ridges to form the footboards at the side.
The monotony of black and white is broken intermittently by a splash of colour, but this doesn't detract from the overall design. The blacked-in window effect is created simply by using opaque black pieces rather than even darker transparent ones; this has a nice authentic look but makes the interior a little dark. It looks like doors have returned to stay; TLC does listen to us occasionally!
The front and rear are similar in construction to the 2005 7235 Police Car and 2009's 8402 Sports Car, using a special piece to avoid an unsightly gap in front of the mudguards.
The roof is strengthened by a trans-yellow inverted bump. Perhaps this represents an interior light, to make up for the blacked-in windows?
Build - Helicopter
As might be expected, a number of Big Pointless Pieces are employed here, but the build is reasonably entertaining nonetheless.
I love the smooth outlines of the undercarriage outriggers, and the attention to detail on the lights is super: red for port, green for starboard. There are two storage cupboards at the rear; a useful touch, but it means that the potential space in the rear BPP is wasted. There could have been a little washroom in there!
More BPPs are employed in forming the cockpit and the rear roof:
The cockpit pieces fits reasonably securely, but the mould doesn't sit quite flush with the base, on mine at least.
Thus far, the heli resembles a Playmobil toy!
The red block is necessary for strength; it's not visible on the completed set.
Jumper plates are used to create a nice spine on the tail:
Lego have economised here, using 2x4 tiles rather than a whole series of twelve jumper plates. The result is sufficiently secure.
The engines are attached using a similar SNOT-technique to those of Luke's Landspeeder 8092:
The rotor blades are simple but nicely shaped.
When attached, the blades spin freely and smoothly:
No Photoshop blur required here! Just spin and snap!
Finally, the wheels are attached; and we have an unsurprising pile of leftovers:
In my set, some of the tyres had Lego markings stamped, and some were plain. And no, I didn't just reverse them - the one on the right is plain on both sides.
Looking first at the Limo, in this high shot it looks smart. The lines are smooth, and the blacked-in windows realistic.
The use of a 4x4 tile with four studs for the bonnet is interesting - you might expect a bonnet-part like the two used in the roof, but the windscreen would then not attach securely. The downside is that the front looks a little square; though this effect is reduced by the headlight cheese slopes.
Personally, I think the Limo should have been six studs wide - it's a little too narrow as it is, and there is the usual problem of the protruding wheels at this scale. But the 6 vs 4 argument will rage on and on...
From the side, its length is very apparent:
The black stripe along the bottom is nice, and complements the black of the windows.
The length of the vehicle allows for interesting depth of field shots:
The chauffeur is very proud of his ride. It hardly needs a driver - a vehicle this long, and with those tyres, is nigh-on impossible to steer.
Let's have a look inside:
The driver sits quite comfortably in his isolated cabin, whilst Mr Business and his 'assistant' enjoy a glass of bubbly in the privacy of the rear. You can see that the space behind him is a useful storage area for luggage.
Some flashes of colour are visible on the underside:
I'm not sure what the trans-yellow bumps are doing here; they probably help to prevent the car breaking in two if excessive force is used to attach the roof, but it looks a little like the limo has been 'pimped', with underside lighting and probably a powerful subwoofer somewhere!
Let's now turn to the Heli. From the side, she's quite a sleek beast; she doesn't suffer too much from the use of BPPs, not looking too 'juniorised'.
The white stripes along the side end a little abruptly at the front; this would be corrected by the decals, if I'd applied them.
The underside is quite plain; the 4x12 plate makes the outriggers seem a little blocky, but they add to the strength.
Note that I haven't at this point placed the little trans-clear round plate onto the nosewheel - a step that appeared to be missing from the instructions.
The BPPs give a smooth appearance to front and rear:
I love the second shot - it looks quite dramatic.
There's plenty of room inside for the passengers to sit in comfort:
The pilot continues to scowl unhappily. Maybe he would rather be ferrying Alan Sugar around, or perhaps ...
... he's unhappy because the helicopter has no doors. You have to remove the roof to get the figures in and out.
You can see the nosewheel light in place now. It's a good rendering of a commercial passenger heli.
As to what sort of helicopter this is: I doubt it's based on one particular design, but it resembles something between a Sikorsky S76 and a Bell 430, the latter (I think) pictured below:
Even the colour scheme is similar!
Finally, we can look at the whole ensemble:
Mr Business has my vote for being the richest man in Studsville. Even if he doesn't own the helicopter - it does proclaim itself to be an 'air taxi', at least if you put the stickers on - he must be loaded to be able to afford helicopter and limousine rides, a small entourage of flunkies, and the attentions of a beautiful woman. Lucky get.
A last look at the whole set - here's the title shot without the Photoshoppery:
Conclusion & Scores
This attractive little set represents a refreshing change from the whordes of Police and Fire sets that have hitherto been the mainstay of the City range; it's also interesting to see a very 'modern' idea of social hierarchy represented in a Lego set: the kings of today are the wealthy entrepreneurs, not the nobility of yesteryear. For this to be a feature of a kids' toy is remarkable, although I suspect these nuances will be lost on most kids, who even now are dispatching their police and fire services to the aid of a crashed helicopter and a rolled limo.
The set itself is well designed, and has some nice play features; four figures in a £ set is a bonus, but the ubiquity of these figures is a slight let-down. Personally, I'd rather have seen a six-wide limo, or something a little shorter; this one really is too long.
Design: 8 The concept is what gets the points here. The helicopter is nicely realised, and resembles a real commercial aircraft, but has nothing ground-breaking to set it apart; the design is similar to the contemporaneous fire helicopter set, but could do with some doors. As I've already stated, I think the limo would be better as six studs wide; this one really is too narrow.
Build: 7 It's fun to build, but there are no innovative techniques or 'wow' moments. The build is simplified by the Big Pointless Pieces, making it look more realistic (and undoubtedly easier for kids) but they do detract from an adult's enjoyment.
Figures: 8 Four figures in an £18 set is a bonus, but the ubiquity of these figures is a slight let-down. It's a real shame they've flooded the market with that air-hostess girl - she's a hottie and would otherwise be quite sought-after.
Parts: 6 Take away the airplane parts, and you're left with a humdrum collection of pieces, in common colours; not much to recommend really.
Playability: 8 You've got a swooshable chopper (actually, it's more fun to push around) with a roomy featureful interior, a limo that can zoom along the carpet, if only in straight lines, and four figures to enjoy. It doesn't integrate too well into the average Town layout, unless you have an Airport or other open space, but I'm sure the Grand Emporium could be modified to have a helipad on the roof!
Overall: 8/10 It's a lovely concept set, if a little average in the execution, but great value and fun. Perhaps not a set to rush out and buy, but you'll enjoy it if you do.
Thanks for reading! Comments and criticisms welcome as ever.
Brickshelf folder, with high resolution pictures
Even limousines have to be crash-tested:
Check out this great shot by Chris McVeigh: