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Review: Technic 8485 Control Center II

review 8485 Technic

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#1 mostlytechnic

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 01:52 AM

Lego 8485 Technic Control Center II

This large Technic set cost a fortune when it came out in the mid 90s, but it was a beast. With 3 motors and a massive programmable control box, it was the equivalent of a Mindstorms set. Even the RCX was still a few years away, so this was top of the line electronics in Legoland. Instructions are included for 3 models - a hovercraft, a helicopter, and a dinosaur. I'd be terribly remiss not to mention here the excellent writeup Blakbird already did in his Technicopedia here. He has excellent renderings of all the mechanisms so you can clearly see how everything works. Definitely go check his page out - but after you read mine here of course!

Name: Technic Control Center II
Set Number: 8485
Pieces: 1079
Price: $219 originally
Minifigs: 0
Theme: Technic
Year of Release: 1995
Links: Bricklink Peeron Brickset


Building the Hovercraft, 1
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Building the Hovercraft, 1 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The hovercraft begins like most old Technic vehicles, with a beam and plate frame. There's a bevel gear on one of the axles, and a pair of power cables have been installed. We'll see later what these all do...


Building the Hovercraft, 2
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Building the Hovercraft, 2 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A lot gets added pretty quickly. The shape of the vehicle is now obvious. Wheels are installed (with those red belts connected to one of them to provide power). A pair of motors sit on those power cables from the beginning, with the other ends of the cables stuck down next to the motors for later connection to the rest of the system.


Building the Hovercraft, 3
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Building the Hovercraft, 3 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The upper layers of the craft are taking form as well. There's a sporty yellow stripe to give a little color to the black vehicle. A driver seat is up front (but no figure is included in the set, even though it's close to Technic fig size). We can now see the second motor's purpose - it drives that black belt on the outside, which then drives the worm gear in the gearbox at the back. That gear then rotates a single wheel below to provide steering. Also note here the normal build method of the older studded Technic - bricks and plates are stacked, and then beams are added vertically to hold it all together. It's a very strong building technique, but can be annoying since you have to alternate layers of bricks and plates to get the thickness right.


Building the Hovercraft, Finished
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Building the Hovercraft, Finished by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The completed hovercraft. The long wires are used to make a wired remote from the control box to the craft. They run through some axles at the top center to keep you from pulling them off. It's a decent idea, but the cables still aren't near long enough to actually use this way. Granted, I'm a 6'3" adult, but I'd have to pretty much crawl to drive it on the floor. A couple flex cables are used at the back to "shroud" the "fan", but otherwise there's no rare parts in this vehicle. From the control box, the red A and B buttons provide forward and reverse (driving just one of the front wheels so that no differential is needed) and the yellow W and E steer the rear wheel.


Building the Hovercraft, The Rear
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Building the Hovercraft, the Rear by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Here's a closer look at the back of the hovercraft. A few axles and various joiners make the frame for the flex cables to attach. The fan is driven from an axle connected to the front motor so it spins when the vehicle moves.


The Hovercraft's Underbelly
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The Hovercraft's Underbelly by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A look at the underside of the hovercraft - you can see the drive of the front wheel near the center of the photo. The 24 tooth gear behind the bevel gear transfers motion upward to an axle running along the top of the craft to spin the fan at the back. Looking near the top of the photo, you can see the steering wheel. It has a pretty wide range of motion, so this craft turns pretty sharply for its size.


The Hovercraft's Spares
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The Hovercraft's Spares by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

There are a TON of leftover parts on this build. It's obvious that the other models were the main design and the hovercraft was just a 3rd build tossed in. That's a gallon bag there, full of parts.


Building the Helicopter, 1
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Building the Helicopter, 1 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The helicopter starts right off with a motor. This will eventually be the cockpit here, and that motor (double-geared down with the red belts and then down again via the worm gear in the gearbox) will tilt the copter side to side.


Building the Helicopter, 2
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Building the Helicopter, 2 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Ah, now it's starting to actually look like something. It's a pretty good sized chopper too. The key interesting bit here is the black frame in the center (where the cargo or passengers would be in a real helicopter like this). Right now that's attached to the motor in the cockpit which tilts it side to side. Later a front to back tilt mechanism will be installed into that frame to make a nice gimbal setup.


Building the Helicopter, 3
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Building the Helicopter, 3 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Again, we get a yellow stripe to keep this mostly black set from getting TOO boring. The second motor has been installed now, where the engine would usually be in a copter of this style. That one will eventually spin the main and tail rotors. There's some very interesting angles formed to make the tail of this helicopter. It doesn't appear to be right for quite a while, and then suddenly it pops into shape.


Building the Helicopter, 4
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Building the Helicopter, 4 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Almost done. The wheels are stationary, and the gear at the front of the turbine under the main rotor is just decoration. But you can see the axle running to the tail rotor and how a lot of hinge plates have made for a nice shape to the helicopter.


Building the Helicopter, 5
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Building the Helicopter, 5 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Here's the rest of the gimbal. This block mounts inside the frame in the cargo hold. The axle will go down into the support structure and connect to a motor below. That rotation will work all the way up through this gearbox to tilt the chopper forwards and back (the axle through the 24 tooth gear will support the whole weight of the helicopter).


Building the Helicopter, 6
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Building the Helicopter, 6 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A look at the mechanisms. The gimbal is fully assembled now, and you can see the electrical connections on the underside of the helicopter. Eventually long cords will connect to those and provide power to the two motors inside the copter. The pin holes in the light grey base of the gimbal will connect to the support structure that's yet to be built. Lego also had to cheat a bit and put a couple gears on the outside of the helicopter since there's not room inside for them. The drive system here: There's a motor in the cockpit. It has a small bush on it, connected to the large pulley via the red belt. That drives the bevel gears, which turn the two gears on the ouside of the chopper. That then drives the worm gear and then the 24 tooth gear in the gearbox, which finaly tilts the black frame of the gimbal side to side.


Building the Helicopter, 7
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Building the Helicopter, 7 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The base for the helicopter is fairly massive. You can see the abundance of Technic beams used already, and it's just getting started. The whole light grey section pivots up (except for the two light grey vertical beams at the right end with pins sticking out). There's a motor tucked into the right end of the light grey section as well - that drives the vertical axle coming up and then into the helicopter eventually. They did a nice job here of making a reliable system - there's a set of slopes on the black base that ensure the grey portion is centered when it comes down each time.


Building the Helicopter, 8
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Building the Helicopter, 8 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The motor, closeup. This is obviously now raised into the air. The motor drives the vertical axle via two sets of pulleys and belts, gearing the rotation down significantly.


Building the Helicopter, 9
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Building the Helicopter, 9 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A platform on the left has been added - in a moment the huge control panel will be mounted here. There's tiles on the beams since the control panel strangely has no holes on the bottom for studs.


Building the Helicopter, 10
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Building the Helicopter, 10 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

This is how the unit raises - when you push the left platform down, the motor on the right rises. Thanks to the interesting geometry Lego used, you get more height on the right than you lower the left.


Building the Helicopter, 11
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Building the Helicopter, 11 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Now the brains are installed. There's beams on the top and sides to hold it in place (and it's pretty darn solid, since there's studs on the top of the control panel). All three outputs are used, with wires running to the three motors. Well, just one motor so far, plus two cables that WILL be attached to the motors in the helicopter. You can also see here the very rare white coil that bundles the wires together. With multiple long wires like this, that's a very handy part. A pain to put on, though.


Building the Helicopter, 12
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Building the Helicopter, 12 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Finally some color! This large platform is light grey beams with lots of red plates on top. There's not enough plates though to make it solid, so this will have to do. Good thing the helicopter can't move horizontally though, since landing on those skinny sections would be mighty tricky!


Building the Helicopter, 13
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Building the Helicopter, 13 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The platform mounts to those lonely grey vertical beams. It's only held on by a couple pins, but it's sturdy enough since it doesn't really have to support anything. The lift mechanism will hold all the actual weight.


Building the Helicopter, Finished
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Building the Helicopter, 14 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Finally done! The helicopter itself mounts onto the lift mechanism, and the wires connect to the two 9v connectors on the bottom of the chopper. Now it's a fully functional model. One of the best features is how the lift mechanism is stable at any position. It's pretty well balanced between the copter and the control panel, plus all the pivot points in the lift mechanism are friction pins.


Building the Dinosaur, 1

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Building the Dinosaur, 1 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Like most builds, this one starts off looking NOTHING like the end result. We start with a motor in the center and a gearbox on the right. Quite the lengthy chain of gearing down here - a small bush to large pulley (white rubber band), across an axle to another small bush and down to large pulley (red band). That axle runs under the gearbox to a small gear and up to the 24 tooth on the right. That drives the worm gear and then another 24 tooth gear.  The large platform on the left, well... looks about the right size for the control panel, right?


Building the Dinosaur, 2
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Building the Dinosaur, 2 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Yep, that's the control panel. The assorted beams hold it in place VERY securely. Vertical axles now come off the gearbox to the right. Pressing the red buttons on the panel raise and lower them. There's small stubs that block the liftarms from rotating too far, and since the drive is coming via rubber bands, they'll slip when the arms are blocked.


Building the Dinosaur, 3
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Building the Dinosaur, 3 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

With the stand done for now, it's time to start the dinosaur itself. This unit has an obvious motor up front and there's gearbox buried inside at the rear, but they're not connected. The rear gearbox drives that double-pulley on the side (and a matching one on the opposite side). And somehow, I suspect those axle connectors hanging down to the sides of the motor will eventually connect to the vertical axles from the stand. The spacing is right at least...


Building the Dinosaur, 3b
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Building the Dinosaur, 3b by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Here's the same unit from above. Note that the pulleys on each side have the frictionless pins opposite each other. Seems like a good way to drive reciprocating motion like legs or arms or something. And there's strangely a big hole up the middle.


Building the Dinosaur, 4
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Building the Dinosaur, 4 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Now more of the internals are coming together. The front motor drives (or at least it will shortly, when another rubber band is added) the worm gear on the side. There's lots of pins on the sides ready for the vertical reinforcing beams to be added as well.


Building the Dinosaur, 4b
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Building the Dinosaur, 4b by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The back - the motor goes through a couple stages to drive the pulleys on the sides.


Building the Dinosaur, 5
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Building the Dinosaur, 5 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

There are so many pivot points here it's crazy. So much flexibility, this has to be the tail.


Building the Dinosaur, 6
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Building the Dinosaur, 6 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

The dino is starting to take shape. The tail is attached to the back of the motor unit, and several flex cables link it together. There's one up the top center for support, and a pair on the sides that hook to the pulleys to make the tail sway back and forth.


Building the Dinosaur, 7
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Building the Dinosaur, 7 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A lot of black beams have been added. Too bad the slope bricks at the back of the body have stickers on them... with all the pieces in this set you'd think they could have avoided reusing stickered pieces like this. On the technical side, there's more pulleys added up front and additional flex cables on the sides. These flex cables route through the dark grey tubes so they can bend but stay in place.


Building the Dinosaur, 8
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Building the Dinosaur, 8 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

It's almost alive... there's cute little T-Rex arms with "claws" connected to the side pulleys so they move. A short flex cable hooks to the back of the neck for support, while being connected to a cam in the center of the body so it pulls.


Building the Dinosaur, 9

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Building the Dinosaur, 9 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A head. And yes, I realize I mounted the lower jaw upside down. It'll be fixed for the next image, I promise. Didn't seem worth taking the set partially back apart to remake this photo though. So, the side flex cables hook to the balls on the sides of the steering arm to rock the head side to side. Another flex cable hooks to the back of the head to hold it up and make it open and close as it moves.


Building the Dinosaur, 10

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Building the Dinosaur, 10 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Nearly done. The hole in the center (remember that, from many steps ago?) goes onto the stand and there's a single axle through the body for support. The vertical axles do connect to the body, and the power from the body motors hooks to the control panel. The whole thing is pretty well balanced on that pivot axle, so it's easy for those vertical axles to tilt the whole body up and down.


Building the Dinosaur, 11

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Building the Dinosaur, 11 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

A leg. With so many pivots and angles and beams it'd take an engineering degree to design.


Building the Dinosaur, 12
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Building the Dinosaur, 12 by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

Two of those legs, mirror images of each other, attach to the body and the base. They look great, even though they don't actually support any weight. It's a great way to hide the light grey support stand though.


The Complete Beast
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The Complete Beast by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

From the front, the dino looks properly menacing with the teeth and eyes.


The Rare Pieces
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The rare pieces by mostlytechnic, on Flickr

So, this is a prime example of Lego being financially unsound back in the day. This big red plate - there's 4 f them in the set (well, 2 left and 2 right). This wing-like piece was only in this set and one other, years later, in red. It came in black/white/grey at the same time, so the only reason it was used in red for this set was to make the helicopter platform stand out. Why not use simpler, common red pieces instead? Second piece is a cute white coil. It is used to bundle wires together. It only came in this set, the earlier 8082 Multi-Control set, and a handful of educational sets. It's a great part, but not necessary. Finally, this steering part on the right. It's used in the neck of the dinosaur, but a similar effect could have been done with axle connectors and liftarms, just not as neatly. This was the ONLY set to ever include it in black, and it only ever appeared in white in a late 80s Technic car. There's also 5 flex cables in the set that only appear in this model.


The Video

A set like this demands video. This is not a static model like many Lego designs - this is motorized and programmable and moving. I made a separate video for each model, so you can see what you want easier. The hovercraft - cool idea and mechanically well done, but not nearly as impressive as the other two. Plus I just can't get over the short cable length. The helicopter - awesome! There's clever design here with having some of the motors inside the chopper and one in the base. The balance and friction pins let it stay wherever you put it vertically, and the motion is just cool. It's a nice design aesthetically and very playable. The dinosaur - in my opinion, the star of the show. It might not be as playable as the helicopter, but the motion is just so unique and well done. It's impressive to see a toy like Lego, rigid and bricklike and normally used to make simple mechanical machines, be so fluid and natural in its motion. The use of flex cables is vital to making this work and it's done brilliantly. (Note though in the video that my set is second hand and old. It was obviously left built as a dino for a long time, since the flex cables have a permanent bend to them. This makes the tail movement not as smooth as it should be.) This is hands-down the version I'll keep on display - though I'd love to have a second set to have the helicopter on display as well! Hm, I wonder if I get just a control box, build my own stand, and mount the Sopwith Camel on it and motorize it... that'd make a sweet combo too!





(all videos can be seen full 1080p HD on YouTube)


The Conclusion:
GET THIS SET if you love Technic. It's such a change from the trucks and construction equipment that we're used to. The build style is so different (for you youngsters who only know the studless era of Technic) and the designs are expertly done. I actually though skipped one whole feature of this set - the programability! That control box can save and replay "programs" of button presses, so you can automate your creations. It really was the precursor to the RCX and NXT systems, although there's no logic in the controller. It simply records your button presses (including timing) and plays them back. Two sequences can be remembered at a time. Frankly, the main use I'd see for that in this set is for display. If I was going to have the dino or helicopter out on display, I'd definitely record a nice set of movements so I could play them back with a quick button press for visitors.

The Ratings

Value: 10/10 - It was an expensive set in its day, and it's expensive now. However, you get the control box, 3 motors, tons of Technic bricks, and great designs.

Design: 10/10 - The design is outstanding. All 3 models are visually spot-on. I personally love this era of Technic where models weren't trying to look cosmetically perfect with lots of panels. It's still instantly recognizable and lets you see the internals. The mechanisms are brilliantly executed and make great use of the part selection AND the control panel.

Playability: 9.5/10 - I wanted to give another 10, but those short wires on the hovercraft still bug me. Since no one will play with that model for more than a few minutes before building the other two though, I only took off half a point.

Parts: 9/10 - There's tons of bricks and plates, a bundle of electronics, flex cables, and more. However, it's mostly black and grey, so not visually terribly interesting.

Overall: 10/10 - The helicopter and dinosaur are simply awesome, some of the best designs ever to come from Lego. I'm glad I spent the money to get this set!

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#2 Alasdair Ryan

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 02:41 AM

Wonderful review as always. :sweet:
I don't own the set but i do have the controller,its handy if you want to control models at a show that need power.

View Postmostlytechnic, on 09 November 2012 - 01:52 AM, said:


This large Technic set cost a fortune when it came out in the mind 90s,

Ah the mind 90s what great years they were........ :look:

Edited by Alasdair Ryan, 09 November 2012 - 02:42 AM.

Posted Image

Updated 02/08/12
Posted Image

#3 mostlytechnic

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:27 AM

Thanks, fixed the typo. Yes, the controller would be great for keeping something running since this version of it has a jack for an AC adapter and you can lock the red buttons on. And you could probably use the programming to make the other buttons seem to stay on as well.

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Survived to the conclusion as a winning Council musician / decorator Melanie Detruccio in TrumpetKing's CMF Mafia

Poisoned (and lost) as townie Molly Tennant, saloon dancer in Tamamono's Silver City Mafia

Won (but night-killed near the end) as the townie The Talking Animal in Zepher's Mafia Mafia

Survived till the end (but still lost) as townie Mary Jane the Jock in Aperture Academy


#4 Andy D

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:30 AM

Very interesting set.  Very good review.  Looks like there is one NIB in the USA for $600, and numerous used and complete in Europe for around $200.

I never knew anything like this existed, so I learned something today, thanks for doing this.

Andy D
Less spending, more building is my plan for 2012!
Get organized and build more is my plan for 2013!
Just build more is my plan for 2014! (Good luck with that!)
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#5 Tadej

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 12:05 PM

I love these older sets with the motor driving a rubber belt, I wish newer sets would have something like this or at least a chain drive.

#6 mostlytechnic

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 12:44 PM

Yep, the rubber bands are a great way to transfer power. They can slip if you need (like on the helicopter when it's tilted all the way one direction, there's no damage to the motor since the rubber bands just slip) and you can use multiple if you need it to not slip as easily (see the hovercraft, where there's a pair of red bands driving the wheel).

The drawback is they're often very tricky to get on in these complicated builds (I had to get out long tweezers on this set since I've got big hands) and they stretch over time. Most of the bands I used here were new, pulled from other sets, since the original ones were worthless at this point.

Mostlytechnic's Bazaar post | Mostlytechnic's Bricklink store



Survived to the conclusion as a winning Council musician / decorator Melanie Detruccio in TrumpetKing's CMF Mafia

Poisoned (and lost) as townie Molly Tennant, saloon dancer in Tamamono's Silver City Mafia

Won (but night-killed near the end) as the townie The Talking Animal in Zepher's Mafia Mafia

Survived till the end (but still lost) as townie Mary Jane the Jock in Aperture Academy


#7 nychase

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 04:18 PM

View PostAndy D, on 09 November 2012 - 03:30 AM, said:

Very interesting set.  Very good review.  Looks like there is one NIB in the USA for $600, and numerous used and complete in Europe for around $200.

I never knew anything like this existed, so I learned something today, thanks for doing this.

Andy D

I could add one to the USA inventory if you were interested....
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#8 Holodoc

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 04:36 PM

Wonderful review for a wonderful set!

I had the chance to buy one a couple of years ago. It was used and only the helicopter was included, so I don't have the flex cables and can't build the Dino. :cry_sad:
But the set is worth buying it just for the control center itself.

Thank you so much for reviewing it!
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#9 Tadej

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:55 AM

You know what the problem is with belts, they pull on the axle and increase friction where the axle goes through the hole, so they tend to wear off axles faster, but that is not very noticeable.

#10 gti180

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 01:35 PM

wish I had this set, my brother had it when I was a kid

#11 SheepEater

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 07:58 PM

Nice review. This is one my fav sets from the 90s.
Here is 8094's plotter built with 8485 parts, and modded with a 3rd motor to lift&lower the pen. I remember having to add quite a few more gears (8t mostly) as the 8485 didn't have enough.



8094 robotic arm made with 8485 + about 100 more parts
http://www.brickshel...ry.cgi?f=301207

8094 crane made with 8485 + about 100 more parts
http://www.brickshel...ery.cgi?f=98193

#12 Lost_In_Noise

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 09:23 AM

Excellent review and very good pics. Its short and efficient, just as a good review should be. I'm looking forward to gettin this set myself:D
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#13 Tadej

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 12:48 AM

I would like to add that the pictures are very high quality and the bricks are very clean especially for a set of this age.



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