March 21, 2010
My favorite LEGO Technic set
For me, it is fairly easy to point just one favorite LEGO Technic set of all times. It was the most acclaimed set at the time I returned to building with LEGO bricks in my adult life - the 8421 Mobile Crane.
The 8421 set came with many innovations that were not present in the LEGO Technic world when I was a kid. It was made mostly of liftarms, but used the regular Technic bricks as well. It included new bevel gears in many sizes, some new pneumatic parts, beautiful and realistic wheels and a very interesting electric motor. Unlike the earlier LEGO Technic mobile cranes I remembered from my childhood, it didn't look like a toy - it looked like a model of the real vehicle.
Being one of the largest Technic sets ever, the 8421 offered a unique building experience. I remember spending a couple of days on it, because I enjoyed it too much to hurry. It was an excellent lesson of clever building techniques - e.g. the very robust structure of the main body, the steering system with various gear ratios, the platform making the superstructure stable, the almost seamless integration of the electric motor into the superstructure... When the crane was finally completed, it proved even more amazing that I could have expected. The steering system worked surprisingly smoothly, and it felt very nice to drive the crane on the floor, especially over carpets. The most spectacular element, however, was the telescopic boom - it consisted of three sections, and two of them were extended at the same time. I loved watching them extend and retract, and I did so countless times.
The 8421 has become an almost instant must-have for every advanced builder, and for a number of years I witnessed the craze of 8421s modified by their owners. Some people increased the length of the boom, some stretched the crane's main body by adding an extra axle or two, and there was even a version with a working electromagnet instead the regular hook. For me, it was rewarding enough to install remote drive and steering made with the Power Functions on the crane. It was easy to do thanks to its convenient construction, and I had a lot of fun driving the crane around a room while sitting on a chair.
Not only the 8421 set was great, but it was a superb source of parts too. With nearly 2000 pieces and 8 large wheels, it was a good base for own custom truck. It had everything it needed - the wheels, the V6 piston engine, an electric motor and some pneumatics. For many builders at the time it was an ideal 'starter set'. Moreover, thanks to the model many people became interested in mobile cranes and created their own models. To me, a telescopic mobile crane is one of the most challenging subjects for a LEGO Technic set, and the 8421 remains the best example of it up to date.