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BOOK REVIEW: How to Build Brick Cars by Peter Blackert

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BOOK REVIEW: How to Build Brick Cars by Peter Blackert

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- Title: "How to Build Brick Cars" / "Detailed LEGO designs for sports cars, race cars, and muscle cars"
- Author: Peter Blackert (lego911)
- ISBN: ISBN0760352658-1
- Year of publication: 2017
- Publisher: Motorbooks, an imprint of The Quatro Group (QuatroKnows.com)
- Number of pages: 192
- Review by: Lasse Deleuran, a computer scientist with experience building scale LEGO models

Hot in the press right now is the first book by Peter Blackert, also known as "lego911" in the LEGO fan community. The book titled "How to Build Brick Cars" and subtitled "Detailed LEGO designs for sports cars, race cars, and muscle cars" is being published by Motorbooks and contains 192 color pages with building instructions for 12 LEGO vehicles (15 if you count variants. A variant can be to have a convertible instead of a hard top version of a car).

Peter Blackert is an expert in building realistically scaled LEGO cars. In his blog he writes that he started building LEGO cars back in 1981 which is before many of us (including myself) were even born! With this book ýou can recreate some of his models and experience how it is to build in his style. The focus of the models is clearly on aesthetics, but there has also been space for including interior details and functions such as opening doors, hoods, and trunks. For the advanced models there are even mechanical details, such as suspension systems and moving piston engines. I would say that the style is very much similar to the LEGO Model Team line, and with realism as we know it from the very large Creator Expert car sets (10242 Mini, 10252 Beetle, etc.)

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The book contains an introduction followed by three sections with building instructions grouped by difficulty. Each section contains the building instructions for three to five cars. For this review I have built one car from each of the first two sections and two from the last.

The instructions for each model are accompanied with a text providing some background information with history and significance of the car behind the model to be built. This text is accompanied by a placard with information such as country of origin, engine stats, and body type. There is also a bill of material (BOM) and most of the cars have a certain body color where the parts in the BOM are highlighted. A list of colored 1x1 bricks indicates which alternate body colors you can build the model in.

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Sample page taken from the preview provided by books.google.com

It is recommended that the reader starts out with one of the Foundation models and I can fully back up this recommendation: The instructions are very compact with some innovative solutions which I have not seen before. I have made some mistakes getting used to this layout and am glad that most of my errors happened with the relatively simple 2CV rather than some of the advanced models! I have some general tips that might help others read the instructions:

- Gather all parts before starting to build. There are some colors, especially when it comes to transparent elements, which are hard to see. This might just be a problem with the PDF-version; I have not seen the printed version yet. With the parts layed out in front of you it will be easier to guess the right colors should you ever be in doubt.

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- If you find yourself having a hard time getting from one step to the next in a sub-assembly, it might be because a new sub-assembly has started. The book uses only a single level for sub-assemblies, which means that, for example, steps 1 and 2 might be for one sub-assembly while steps 3 and 4 show another:

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Subsequent sub-assemblies might then combine former sub-assemblies. If a certain step confuses you, then I recommend looking some steps ahead and see where the sub-assembly is to be used. This has helped me every time I have been in this situation.

- It can be difficult to see individual parts in when black parts are connected to other black parts. It might again just be a problem in the PDF version. I will know for sure once I get my hands on the printed book. When you are in doubt of which black parts to use, I recommend to simply build with what you prefer as long as you make the sub-assemblies as sturdy as possible. This worked for me, so chances are that it also works for you.

 

Now. Let's take a look at the models.

 

Citroën 2CV Charleston

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- 232 parts
- 54 steps on 3 pages
- Building time: 30 minutes
- Body color: Dark red
- 12 possible color combinations suggested.
- Special features: Working front suspension. Opening trunk. Fits 2 minifigs.

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The Citroën 2CV is from the first category, titled "Foundation". This section contains cars in the small scale of 1:28 and seat minifigs.

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It turns out that you can fit a minifig into both the front and rear seat!

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The trunk opens:

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And my favorite feature: The working front suspension based on torsion bars:

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I will let the details of how the suspension is constructed be a surprise for the builders.

 

As you can see, even though this model is categorized under "Foundation", it contains 232 parts and several interesting features.

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While none of the parts are rare, I personally failed to find a non-scratched windscreen in my collection. The instructions, while compact and spanning only 3 pages, were fairly easy to follow. When building you have to remove a couple of 1x1 bricks with one stud on the side in order to attach the headlight bricks for the front grille, but this is hardly a grievance.

The model itself is fairly sturdy. The side windows are easy to push in and the 1x1 plates on the front bumper are easy to push out of alignment. Everything else is sturdy and the front suspension works really well. The building experience was also fun and I like the looks of the model. It is small, but instantly recognizable.

 

Datsun 240Z Coupe

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- 312 parts
- 98 steps on 7 pages
- Building time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Body color: Orange.
- 11 possible color combinations suggested.
- Special features: Uneven width. Opening doors, trunk and hood. Interior and engine details.

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The Datsun 240Z Coupe is in the "Intermediate" category. Models in this category are aimed for 10-12 years old boys and this model is significantly more detailed and larger than the 2CV. Please notice that I have run out of 3x3 plates with cutout in gray, so the front bumper has been colored dark gray in my model. Orange is not a color I use a lot of, so I did not have the eight 2x2 corner plates needed. I tried instead to use 1x2 and 1x1 plates and luckily it turned out that you can indeed substitude these parts.

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In this model everything opens!

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I recommend using 1x2 plates with clip rather than the 1x1 plates with clip for the rear hatch. The 1x1 plates have a tendency to fall off when you open it. The doors can be difficult to close due to the simple hingle mechanism and completely flush body panels. I recommend detaching them rather than forcing them closed when closing the doors.

My favorite detail is how the rear is sculpted with the curved bumper and body panels.

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Peter says that the black stripe on the side is there to allow fancy body colors like orange. If you choose to build the car in a color in which you can get the hinge plate, then you don't have to include the stripe.

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The interior is detailed and there are even windscreen wipers!

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I recommend using 2x2 carpet runners (or plates) behind the seats in order to support them and allow them to be adjusted without breaking.

The inline 6 cylinder engine is nicely detailed and the hood is front hinged like on the real car.

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A cool detail is the placement of the side mirrors on the front - a characteristic of Japanese cars of this vintage. This is the only model in this review that does not come with any kind of working suspension. This is quickly forgiven when you see the many details that have been included instead. This is also the only model to be of odd width; The car is 9 studs wide (not counting fender flares) and is quite sturdy when considering the construction techniques that have to be used when making cars of this size. The fragile elements are mostly concerned moving functions (seats, rear hatch, engine cover). While I am in love with the styling, my better half has pointed out that she doesn't like how the front of the car is mostly studless, while the rear end is anything but studless. It shouldn't be hard to cover most of the studs in the rear with orange 1x1 tiles and transparent tiles if that is what you prefer.

 

2016 Ford GT Le Mans Racer

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- 587 parts
- 111 steps on 8 pages
- Building time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Body colors: American!
- 1 possible color combination available.
- Special features: 4 wheel independent suspension. Moving piston engine powered by the rear wheels. Interior and engine details. Opening doors.

ford_rear.jpg

 

As a huge fan of Le Mans, the Ford GT Le Mans Racer was my first choice when selecting models for this review. It belongs to the "Advanced" category and this designation is no joke. The model is packed with details and even has a moving piston "fake" engine as seen in many Technic models. This is only a 2 cylinder engine (the real car has a V6) but it nicely shows how the MR-layout of the race car works.

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The coloring is taken straight out of Le Mans where Ford reentered in 2016 in order to celebrate its 50 years anniversary... with a win in its class.

My favorite detail on the real car is between the main body and the rear wheel covers. Luckily Peter has recreated this detail on the model. You can see how the main body slopes together toward the rear section when seen from the top:

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The rear wheel wells are connected to the main body through these so-called "flying buttresses"

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This is a detail so important that even LEGO had to include it in their Speed Champions model

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Other details include opening doors. The doors on the real car open up instead of sideways. I do not know why Peter chose to hinge them this way on the model and why there are no side mirrors (both the Datsun and Veyron have side mirrors), but my guess would be for sturdiness - the models are supposed to be accessible for kids to play with.

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Inside there are interior details. This model comes with both a seat for driver and passenger. I believe the real race car only has a single seat and a lot of electronics occupying the other side.

ford_interior.jpg

 

Another nifty detail: Deep front air ducts

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and the engine is also included. I prefer the level of detail paid to the engine in the Datsun, but that engine was also easier to decorate since it did not have any moving parts, and to be fair, the real race car has a very messy engine bay.

ford_engine.jpg

 

You can't see the moving pistons from the outside. You have to look underneath for the action

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With 587 parts this is one of the largest models in this review. The parts are, however, mostly very common

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I only had issues finding the 2x4 brick with cutout for the right door and the 1x1 flat tile for the "blue oval" on the nose

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In my version it is a "blue square".

Other details include the characteristic oversized rear diffuser and wing. Commentators at Le Mans didn't find these rear diffusers pretty, but I disagree.

The rear lights on the real car have hollow centers - a clever aerodynamic detail. Here is an idea for you who like to MOD "official" models: Try to recreate this detail by replacing the rear lights with some that have a hollow center. Trans red 1x1 round bricks would be ideal. They should be turned so the underside faces outwards, but then you would also have to rebuild a significant portion of the rear light assembly. Unfortunately the round 1 x 1 plate with hollow stud doesn't exist in trans dark red yet.

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Overall I like this model. The building experience is fun with many sub-assemblies each having a part of the flat underside. This results in an assembly that progresses nicely as you slowly expand the base of the car.


Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4

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- 593 parts
- 104 steps on 7 pages
- Building time: 1 hour 55 minutes
- Body color: Red
- 12 possible color combinations suggested.
- Special features: 4 wheel independent suspension. Moving piston engine. 4WD. Colored interior. Engine details. Opening doors. Movable rear spoiler.

veyron_rear.jpg

 

This is by far the most challenging build. With 593 parts it is the largest models here, so its designation at the Advanced section is fully deserved

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There is also a trick to it. In STEP 8 you must flip the assembly from STEP 6 so that the gear is placed on the other side

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otherwise the car will be unable to drive. I have notified Peter of this, but it was unfortunately too late for the English language printing of the first edition.

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There are a couple of places where you have to remove parts in order to place sub-assemblies. I supposer this is part of the package when you have 104 building instructions steps compressed into 7 pages. Overall this is a very satisfying building experience: In some steps you have to open the doors in order to place sub-assemblies and in others you get a nice crunchy sound when pushing the sub-assemblies into place.

veyron_side.jpg

 

The final model feels very compact and packed with details. The doors open:

veyron_doors.jpg

 

And the interior is decorated in dark red

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The suspension works with 4 wheel independent suspension and there is 4 wheel drive like in the real Veyron. The engine is a V4 (a similar W16 with moving pistons would be twice as long and at least twice as tall)

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The spoiler is even able to be moved into position so it functions as an air brake:

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Compared to the Ford GT the Veyron is similar, but with the double of everything:
- In the Ford you can open the doors - in the Veyron you can also move the rear spoiler.
- There is a V4 "fake" engine instead of a V2 (although you can't see the moving pistons on the Veyron either).
- 4 wheel drive rather than only rear wheel drive
And on top of that you have a prettier interior due to the dark red accent coloring and the possibility of choosing your own body color. In other words. This is a worthy flagship model of the book.


Summary and conclusion

While I have only built 4 of the 12 (or 15) models of the book, I can already now conclude that it offers a nice variety of builds with not only visually interesting, but also technically impressive LEGO models. I have learned new techniques (such as the drive trains in the advanced models) and I will look forward to give the remaining models a go once I get my hands on the full printed book. It seems like Peter has put a lot of work into each and every model. I am especially impressed with the Datsun; The proportions of every single detail seems to be spot on and it has actually overtaken the Ford GT as my personal favorite.

Who would I recommend this book for? Anyone who wants to learn how to build scale models in the scales represented here. You will learn how to make compact drivetrains, compact suspension geometries, brick built windscreens, and try out different building techniques in order to recreate details in bodyworks of vehicles.

I understand that there are mixed opinions when it comes to brick built windscreens. Not only are these real parts hogs, but many don't like the looks of them either. This is apparent whenever a MOC with this detail is presented here and in other fan forums. If you don't have enough transparent 1x2 plates or cheese slopes, then consider skipping a windscreen altogether. The models have interiors and A-pillars and will look good even without this detail.

Finally I have a tip for before you go out and order parts on Brickowl or Bricklink. Take a look through the instructions and see where the parts are used. Black parts are often used in places where they can't be seen, or where they might as well be gray or dark gray. See if you can spot the places where I have used dark gray parts instead of black in the models here - it will not be easy ;)


Thanks to Jim and the EB team for setting this up and allowing me to get early access to the instructions. And thank you Peter Blackert for giving the LEGO fan community this fine book.

Disclosure: I was given advance preview of the parts lists and building instructions and have been promised a copy of the printed book.

 

Edited by Lasse D
Added pages taken from books.google.com

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Thanks for the wonderful review. Nice quality pics as well. Great job!

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Amazing skill and thought process to produce these small marvels...epic stuff!

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Great review! And a great addition from a very busy builder Peter!

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Lasse, this is a very good review. I enjoy your coverage and your building attempts on some models. You brought the instructions alive by sharing your thoughts and experience. 

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Thanks for the great review! The build models, the good pictures and your expertise really make this review stand out. Although primarily a Technic builder, I will consider this book ...

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Thank you for doing this. Seems like an awesome book!

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I've known Peter for many years. He's an amazingly prolific builder with a style that is not very different from mine. As far as I am concerned, that only makes it more impressive that he was able to adapt his models such that they were suitable for being built using instructions that are compact enough to fit in a book and yet still look good. The Datsun and the Veyron are gorgeous.

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To what extent does the book actually teach "how to build brick cars" rather than merely present examples? I'm asking, because if a title starts with "how to", I expect it to teach me how to. Not just show how the author did it, but how I can do it too. What does he tell about how he approaches a design; how does he come up with the model he came up with, which details to include and which to ignore; how to use blueprints to get to proportions, how to decide on a scale? Etc. Those kinds of questions; are they answered? In short, what does the book offer, besides the instructions?

Edited by Erik Leppen

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On 9/10/2017 at 0:30 AM, Erik Leppen said:

To what extent does the book actually teach "how to build brick cars" rather than merely present examples? I'm asking, because if a title starts with "how to", I expect it to teach me how to. Not just show how the author did it, but how I can do it too. What does he tell about how he approaches a design; how does he come up with the model he came up with, which details to include and which to ignore; how to use blueprints to get to proportions, how to decide on a scale? Etc. Those kinds of questions; are they answered? In short, what does the book offer, besides the instructions?

Hi Erik,

A great question.

We had some very difficult constraints on the book, primarily space (page count). This is something I would have like to include more of. There are some specific references explicit and implicit, with an encouragement to do more research on topics of interest (in real cars). In the end I ran out of space, but hopefully the instructions covering so many cars at different scales, and with design solutions to architect the cars that are dissimilar, it will provide a pretty good basis for people to create there own models.

Many of the systems in the cars are built as modules, and could be built into different cars. A particularly good example is the Plymouth HEMI Cuda, where the engine and front suspension design, and the rear live axle are easily deploy-able in other cars both larger and smaller.

The 'How to' name for the book came from the publisher. My alternative: 'Peter Builds Awesome Lego Cars' was not seen as a the right way to go. :)

I also hoped that the book would help open up opportunities to discuss these and other topics in places such as Eurobricks forums (or Flickr, where most of my stuff resides). I am keen to discuss further.

If there is an opportunity to do a followup title, I'd like to include more methodology in the content.

Peter

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Thank you for great review of interesting book. When I saw picture of all reviewed models together I thought they are built in Legoland style like brick-built sculpture. Then I read review and found out they are much more than simple sculptures. I like Peter's models especially those with less studs. I'm not big fan of windscreens built out of transparent plates and cheese slopes - I would prefer these models without such windscreens.

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On 9/9/2017 at 9:30 AM, Erik Leppen said:

To what extent does the book actually teach "how to build brick cars" rather than merely present examples? I'm asking, because if a title starts with "how to", I expect it to teach me how to. Not just show how the author did it, but how I can do it too. What does he tell about how he approaches a design; how does he come up with the model he came up with, which details to include and which to ignore; how to use blueprints to get to proportions, how to decide on a scale? Etc. Those kinds of questions; are they answered? In short, what does the book offer, besides the instructions?

Hello,
First time poster on this forum so I dont know how much weight my comment has, but anyway...

I just rediscovered Lego and bought my 2 first set this week (Turbo Track Racer and the 911). When I saw the review of this book it caught my interest and it was delivered today from Amazon. 

I was hoping it was more a book like you described, but it really is 200 pages of Building Instructions. There is maybe 15 pages of text, but that is more to tell the history of each car.

The book has a very good layout and the models are interesting, and for USD 20 I am not complaining.

Espen

 

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I just ordered this from Amazon. I am looking forwarding to learning some new building techniques. It is amazing how close the cars are to the lines of the real models. You can preview the first few pages on the Amazon listing. Looks impressive!

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