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There was a lot of anticipation over Nathanael Kuipers' new supercar called "Predator", and I got the chance to build it over this past weekend. There is a lot of contrast between this car and his earlier "Concept Car". The previous effort was minimalist in design, intended to be used as a sturdy platform for customization. With that in mind, it had a fairly basic body and a very modular construction. The Predator, on the other hand, is fully developed with all the functions and attention to detail that you'd expect to see in a supercar. Another point of comparison is the instructions. The Concept Car instructions were made to intentionally mimic real LEGO instructions in every way, right down to the blue background, the rotation arrows, and the huge number of steps. They looked amazing, but they took years to create. The Predator instructions are what you'd more traditionally expect from a MOC. They are less excruciatingly detailed, but I still had no trouble at all following them.
Interestingly, there are some similarities with the new 42039 Le Mans racer which I assume Nathanael knew nothing about when he was designing this car. Besides the dominant white color, which is in itself unusual, they share wheel hubs, the new gearbox parts, and gull wing doors. Even the parts used to actuate the doors have an interesting similarity which will be discussed later.
Speaking of the gearbox, this is the most unique part of this new car. The 6-position gearbox has 5 forward speeds with reverse, in a shifting arrangement used by Crowkillers to match real cars. This particular gearbox uses the new clutch parts, but also arranges them in a very unique vertical style. This takes up less space and allows more room in the cabin so the seats don't have to be so far apart. The shifting is done remotely using a lever between the seats which connects to the rear vertical gearbox via a clever mechanical interconnect.
The suspension is also worthy of note because it uses realistic caster and kingpin inclination. You can actually tell the difference when pushing the car because the front wheels tend to straighten themselves out.
Rounding out the mechanical features are a pair of gull-wing doors actuated by a smooth system of worm gears on the rear quarter panel.
Let's start with a look at the parts. By my count, this model has 1797 parts which is actually not that many compared to some of the other supercars out there. This is certainly not due to a lack of features. This efficiency of parts usage is one of the hallmarks of the model. Parts of note are the rear wheel hubs, varied suspension arms, panels, and the large number of frames.
In these first two images you can see the heavy usage of 5x7 frames which contributes to the overall rigidity of the model. This is most sturdy supercar I own and can easily be picked up with one hand from nearly any direction.
The first mechanical part of the build is the gearbox. You can see the three parallel vertical gear stacks with the new red clutch gears and driving ring. One small issue I had with the build is that the center 24 tooth spur gear which you can see at the top of the image is adjacent to a 3L pin with stop bush. The teeth of the gear can scrub against the bush causing a lot of friction. The fit is very close, so if you just flex the two assemblies apart a bit, the friction goes away. I had to continually come back to this detail during my build to keep things running smoothly.
Next up is the rear suspension. This is a simple double wishbone type with long arms (7L). You can see a rear diffuser tucked between the arms. The suspension is built as a module and then tucked in behind the gearbox.
After adding a few more frames for support, the V-8 engine is installed. This is a mid-engine arrangement with the engine behind the seats. The shift lever is also observed at this time, although it is not connected to anything yet.
The next thing to build is the front suspension and steering assembly. The first image shows the rigid box which will house everything. The shocks are mounted in an unusual lateral configuration, but they do not use pushrods. The second pair of images show the caster angle and kingpin inclination. The model manages to achieve this while still using standard control arms.
The hub is built from one of the new hubs parts introduced in 42000, but it is NOT the steered hub part. Instead the traditional rear hub part is used and built up into a complex assembly which will mate with the angled control arms. It is quite a complex arrangement. Where else have I seen a complex built-up hub? Hmmm. Oh, I remember. It reminds me of the front hub from the 8674 Ferrari, also designed by Nathanael.
Now the front suspension is integrated into the model. The front and rear chassis are very stiff at this point, but the middle portion which is notched for the seats is a significant soft point. Next the dash and steering wheel are installed.
Time to start looking at the shifting system. The first image shows the shift gate as seen from the bottom (the whole dark gray assembly slides front to back with the shift lever). This is the system used to ensure you can't select two gears at the same time. The gray towballs slip into pockets in the 1x1 corner panels (the towballs move side to side with the shift lever). The end of the red axle you see in the middle is the bottom of the shift lever. It pushes the carriage back and forth.
The second image shows part of the linkage which connects the sliding carriage under the passenger floor to the shift driver in the rear.
The following image makes the shift mechanism much easier to understand. The orange lever is the shift lever. It is located between the seats and used to shift gears. It pivots on the longitudinal orange axle. Movement side to side makes the vertical orange connector in the rear contact the green carriage. The green carriage slides side to side and pushed the red shifter to align with one of the three vertical blue gear stacks. Movement of the lever front to back slides the yellow carriage. This carriage slides on axles fixed to the body. As it moves front to back, to rotates the linkage on the transverse axle. Finally, the yellow cranks in the rear lift the red shifter up and down to engage the driving rings. The pockets in the yellow carriage lock into the yellow towballs, allowing only 6 possible positions. The fact that the new driving rings require only one click to engage makes it very easy to tell whether or not a gear has been engaged. The mechanism is a little bit fiddly since you have to be sure that the lever is fully left or right (or center) before sliding it forward or back. If you try to force it, you'll break off one of the corner panels on the slider.
Now we'll add the windshield and the floorboards.
Now we'll start building the mechanism for the doors. The doors are driven by a crank connected to a worm gear. I am very interested to know why this fairly rare suspension part was used to support the worm gears. It seems like this much more common part would have worked just as well, but the 42039 actually uses the very same part for the same purpose. It seems possible that this part is made from a more rigid plastic and is therefore more suitable.
Now we'll install the doors, the rear bumper, and the rest of the body parts. There are a lot of panels here, but actually quite few flex axles and these sizes have recently become widely available to finding them is not a problem. I especially like the look of the rear end.
I really enjoyed this build, and I like how the car looks and functions. It is distinct in form and function from my many other supercars which is important to me. Nathanael has certainly come a long way from his 2005 effort of making one from the Silver Champion. It seems like a logical progression of his building skills. Is it the best supercar ever? I'm not sure I'm quite comfortable saying that, although off hand I can't think of one that's any better. It is certainly among a small group of the very best, and I'd recommend the build to anyone interested in Technic.