Theme: Hobby Sets
Set name: Harley-Davidson 1000cc
Set Number: 394
Price (new): 260-280 $, 185-200 Euro
Price (used): 14-175 $, 10-125 Euro
Year of release: 1976
Links: Peeron, Bricklink and Brickset
Looking at the release date of this set makes me remember the good old times when LEGO sets stayed in production and could be found in stores for long years. Yes, I hear you younger FOLs say this meant we had less variety at the time, but at least we did not have to go on a frenzy to get them all in just 1 or 2 years before they disappeared (to re-appear on the secondary market at crazy prices).
Anyway, I also realise this set is older than me by 5 years (at least the first boxes of this set). I think my parents bought it when I was something like 1/2 year old, or even before, as my Father really liked the Hobby Set line and took any chance to get one, you know, for the kids, when they’ll be old enough to play with them…
I am really happy my Father did it, too. As a matter of fact, this has always been one of my favourite non-minifigure scale sets. I know younger eyes will look on it and wonder how we could love and enjoy a model like this, so blocky and rough. Just remember this was the best TLG designers could do with the bricks available at the time.
Enough about memories; let’s start with the review!
The front of the box (here cut and folded to save space) shows the Harley Davidson 1000cc in all its glory upon a nice town landscape. I really appreciate how TLG box designers used a real life photo of the model in a real life environment to give this Hobby Set a better background. Moreover, the landscape does not distract the eye, even with its lights, since the focus is strongly set on the motorbike itself.
Back (and sides)
The back of the box shows the model on a more neutral background and from another angle. We can see the stickers in place (take a good look at them here, because I did not apply them).
The right side we also see a pic of the set from the front, and one with a child playing with it. In this latter shot, the model rests upon a nice black box with a Harley Davidson sign on it. I frankly do not remember if this was some sort of tray or smaller box within the LEGO one or if it is meant for publicity only.
Another thing we can notice on the right-most side of the box is a white band, right below the LEGO logo, sporting the sign ‘Designed for experienced LEGO builders’ in various languages.
All in all, a really well done and professional job.
This set includes a number of parts in mainly Black, White and Light Grey. Some Blue and Yellow add nice touches of colour to the total. The parts’ selection is not mind-blowing, as most of the pieces had been in production, in these same colours for years.
Anyway, I’d like to focus on a couple of details:
The Milky White Technic axles as well as the Red Technic Bush Old 2 are among my favourite parts. The bushes, in particular, are quite useful to build more sturdy looking tubes than what can be achieved with the newer and slimmer ones.
It would seem that the tile pieces appeared in the ‘without grove’ version as a standard and in the ‘with grove’ version as alternates (see Bricklink inventory). Notice, though that the box (above) and instructions’ (below) pictures all show the ‘with grove’ variety.
As said, there are no re-coloured parts in this set.
The few new molds used in this set are: Black and White Slope, Inverted 45 2 x 2 Old Type with Round Bottom Tube, Black Technic, Brick 1 x 2 with Hole Type II and Red Hinge Plate 2 x 4 with Articulated Joint – Male and Female.
The most interesting piece from this lot, as many of you will have noticed is the Technic, Brick 1 x 2 with Hole Type II. This kind of technic brick was use during 1976 and 1977 only. It would seem TLG tried a new design variant, which did not meet success and was later replaced with the standard bricks again. Nonetheless, I’m sure that people who own these bricks like them for the unusual design and the possibilities they offer into adding details to their creations.
Cover – As usual, the instructions are not organised in the form of a booklet, but they consist of a folded double printed sheet. The ‘cover’ shows again the same shot as the front of the box, with bigger LEGO logo and set number and without the other additional information.
‘Back cover’ – Here we see the full name of the set: Harley-Davidson FLH 1200. This makes me wonder: why is this set known as 394 Harley Davidson 1000cc when it is indeed a 1200cc?
Anyway, what really makes me love this page is the list of stats below the photo, and in particular these two lines: H.P. (?)/(not given). This calls for just one question: why did Harley-Davidson not release this info? My opinion is that since this is a motorbike built for the Police, they did not have permission to share the specifications on the motor, which was probably customised either by Harley-Davidson upon request or by the Police themselves.
‘Random page’ – As expected, no call-outs here, but the build is pretty straight forward and does not need them (apart for one passage we’ll see later). The colours are easy to tell apart (in the end there is no Dark Grey in this set that could be confused with Black).
Again, notice how the instructions include the ‘with grove’ tiles and not the older ones. Maybe this was changed during the long time this set stayed in production?
The ‘last page’ shows other four models included in the Hobby Set line. Unfortunately, I own only one of them: the 396 Thatcher Perkins Locomotive. Indeed, I would have liked to have them all!
The handle bars look a bit too squared to me, but it’s just a minor feature, and the overall shape is still good in my opinion.
Notice the red hinge plate, which will be almost totally hidden in the finished model (see below), and the blue tiles which work as indicators.
The first steps, used to build the front wheel and windshield are really easy, until you get to the wheel. In facts, the instructions do not show clearly all the pieces needed for it, and I found myself with a ‘floating’ wheel for the absence of one of the Red Technic Bush Old 2 on one side (the one not visible on the instructions, of course). Not a big deal, but something that could have been done better.
Motor and seat
The second part of the build includes the motor, seat and ‘saddle bags’. The technique used for the motor, or better the radiator, is very clever. To get the ridged feel, TLG designers used 4 Light Grey plates stuck one on the other but not completely in contact. This way, the studs, while keeping the plates in position, keep them raised from one another at the same time.
The Yellow round bricks add some details and colour touches to this predominantly Light Grey parts of the vehicle. The use of the Engine, Smooth Small, 1 x 2 Side Plates for the exhaust pipes, while quite clever, still looks a bit strange to me. I’m mostly used to see them in airplanes, helicopters and spaceships.
‘Saddle-bags’, a simple build for one of the iconic parts of this motorcycle.
Here you see them in place, as well as get a look at the finished seat. I like how LEGO designers managed to make its shape with just a few quite big bricks.
The ‘saddle bags’ are a really nice touch, and they work perfectly when compared to the original.
This is the rear wheel. As said before, only when you get to this passage in the instruction you get a real understanding of how the front wheel is supposed to be mounted as well.
Careful readers will notice how this is not one of the original wheels in this set. The original ones were mounted using the Technic, Gear Expert Builder 9 Tooth. Unfortunately, I could only find one of them in my collection, an it’s used as the front wheel.
By adding the rear wheel (which is shown from a better angle in the instructions), we complete the model. Notice how the two technic bricks supporting the wheel are held in position by two 2x1 plates. I think this was a bad case of ‘building by compartments’ mentality: if TLG designers had considered this a bit more, they would have used 2 4x1 plates instead of 4 2x1. On the other hand, this is not the worst case I have seen in a LEGO set, and they keep up the tradition nowadays too.
And here it is our fancy Police Harley-Davidson! Indeed, the front looks blocky and quite horrible to our eyes, but again, it was almost the best that could be done at the time. I only wish they had made it a little less bulky, even though this build is clearly thought to give better stability to the wheel.
The Blue tiles work nicely to emphasise the indicators, the slightly unsightly red plate is normally covered by the plate sticker and the windshield, albeit being hard to see through, is nicely shaped.
The back side is less detailed than the front, but shows the red light and antenna which are typical of the Police motorbikes from this period. How many times have we seen this angle in the chase scenes from TV shows like “CHiPs”?
All in all, this model looks pretty sturdy (apart for the antenna, which falls off all too easily) and detailed, especially considering the limited variety of parts available and used at the time. They even got so far to put a 2x2 tile as kick-stand to display it without fear of it falling on the sides!
What I never understood about this set is what scale it is meant to be. I mean, it is clearly not minifig-scale, and it could not be technic-fig-scale (those came later). But it is not even Miniland scale! Moreover, the only other model with the same scale is the other Hobby Set motorbike, as the cars have a scale of their own and the Thatcher uses still another one!
Overall, this is a great set for collectors of old models and motorbike fans, or both. It does not sport a huge variety of bricks, but was a good choice at the time, and even if the result is matter-of-fact blocky when compared to the original, it implements some good solutions to minimise the LEGO brick appearance and maximise the similarity as much as possible.
Design & Colour scheme – 9/10 (The design is as accurate as possible, apart for the front mudguard maybe, and the colours are completely in line for a Police vehicle. The solutions and details included in this set justify the ‘Expert builders’ label and add to the appearance, and, why not, playability of the model.)
Parts - 8/10 (Not a huge selection, and very few new molds. Nonetheless, a good source of Black and White standard parts for MOCs and one of the few sources for the extra rare Technic, Brick 1 x 2 with Hole Type II pieces.)
Playability - 9/10 (A sturdy model which can take some serious play and swoosh-ing without falling apart. The easily detachable antenna and the lack of an appropriate scale interaction with most other models make it lose one point, though.)
Build - 7/10 (Pretty straight forward, with few nice solutions and an already mentioned slightly obscure passage in the instructions.)
Price - 5/10 (Like most older models, especially the Hobby Set and Model Team ones, this set can be found at reasonable prices only rarely. Most of the times, people are asked shameful prices for such a smallish set.)
Overall: 8/10 Very good.
As always, questions, comments, and pic requests welcome!
Edited by WhiteFang, 17 April 2011 - 06:19 PM.