NCS is about to be showcased in the new book LEGO® Space: Building the Future, which (just in case you missed it) I published a cool little teaser trailer for yesterday. Although I’m yet to see an actual copy, I'm expecting a science fact/fiction narrative that builds on the disparate stories suggested by those original Classic Space sets, all richly illustrated with the exquisite models of Peter Reid and Tim Goddard - as you can see from this exclusive preview image of a perfectly-formed little shuttle; the LL-290. Click/tap to enlarge.
Peter Reid is big news already this week – his Exo Suit model, which appears in this book, has been selected by LEGO to be the next official CUUSOO model. Of course the LEGO version, due to be adapted by Designer and Mecha master Mark Stafford, will be a different beast… for starters, the non-production parts and the illegal building techniques will need to go… but I’m thrilled for Peter and relieved LEGO have selected Mark to do the official take on it.
Peter lives in Romford with girlfriend (and awesome AFOL) Yvonne Doyle, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to quiz him in person about what classic LEGO elements we can expect to see used in the Space book, plus some of the exciting rarer stuff. Peter produced several cups of tea and some lovely elements from the array that fills pretty much every room in the house, including the loft.
TJ: How did the book come about?
PR: It all started when Tim Goddard was contacted by No Starch Press, who had spotted his section in DK Publishing’s LEGO Ideas Book. They wanted to know if he'd be interested in doing a Space book. At that point, Tim and I had been collaborating for some time, and he asked if I'd be interested in helping him develop it. I have never replied to an email so quickly.
TJ: That sounds quite different to the 'rules' when we worked on The LEGO Play Book for DK.
PR: It was very different, yes. For that we had to conform to current LEGO standards, using only recent parts and building in a way kids could deal with. The company's worst nightmare is a complaint letter saying Little Timmy didn't have the parts for the model in the book, and had a bad building experience. With the Space book, we were able to fully utilise our collections, and not worry about using parts that were discontinued or of mysterious origin.
TJ: What about Little Timmy? What if he has a bad building experience?
PR: Little Timmy is a child. He's not going to be able to cope with next-level building. We made these models to our own standards of excellence. But any kid who likes sci-fi and LEGO will enjoy the Space book. Remember 7777, that gorgeous trains Idea Book from the ‘80s? That had stuff in it that was completely unattainable, yet it just made me love LEGO even more. Gazing at the centrefold of 7777 never did me any harm. Made me into a man.
TJ: Well, now Big Timmy is in the mood for elements, and more tea. Let’s go all Old Elementary with some of your favourite parts you used in the book please Pete. Can you start with some of the real classics?
Getting hold of pristine condition Classic Space guys is a lifelong quest. I've been lucky enough to pick up some really good quality ones over the years. That torso design has stood the test of time, and fills me with nostalgia and enormous wellbeing. Sometimes I think I should get a massive tattoo of the Classic Space symbol on my chest, but it might upset Yvonne.
PR: Once they've been updated to the Neo Classic Space standard, they're my favourite little guys: a 'fleshie' coloured head and modern hair brings them nicely up to date.
Tr. Yellow [TLG]/Trans-Yellow [BL] windscreensIt's the cockpit colour of choice for NCS and Blacktron builders, but does not age well. I have gathered a lot over the years, but use only the very best condition examples on NCS models. There are a few classic Trans-Yellow parts that are basically impossible to get in new condition. The slightest contact with other LEGO pieces makes them scuffed, it seems.
The 33⁰ 3X6 windscreen (seen at the front here) featured in the three spaceships from the first wave of Space sets in 1978/9 and the last set they appeared in was in 1986, so buying sealed ones would be very expensive - and no guarantee the contents weren't badly scratched anyway.
A good source of cool Trans-Yellow parts is 6987 Blacktron Message Intercept Base, which is the only set with the 3X3X6 convex corner (part 2468, seen on the right of the pic). It's a lovely piece, which I've used a few times.
The Trans-Yellow 3X4 panel (part 4215, seen at the rear) is another much-cherished piece also found in Message Intercept Base, as well as others. The 6X4X2 canopy (part 4474, seen at left) is slightly easier to come by, but the chances of finding mint examples diminish as time passes.
Brick 1X2 with Classic Space logocame in three colours.
Old clip light with thin ring
The old grey finger hinges are used extensively in NCS models. There's a lovely family of them out there, and it's a terrible shame they were phased out. I presume Little Timmy complained to LEGO because he broke one. I've used them for years and never broken one.
click hinge family, with its limited degrees of positioning, was a step backwards. I think the LEGOLAND builders were hit hardest by the demise of the finger hinge, as they still use them on Miniland figures.
Electric Light Bulb coverI've been using these domed light bulb covers (part 4773, intended to change the colour of lights in the 9v electric system) as eyes on my robots, like this Blip below, for a very long time. The part survived until 2005 and it’s such a pity it's been replaced with the Barraki eye (part 58176), which looks similar but doesn't do the same job, thanks to the dirty great 3.18 sticking out the bottom. I can't make my Blips with the new ones, not even using Apollo studs, so I'll stick with the vintage ones, thank you very much.
Briefly glimpsed in the Space book is a Trans-Clear light bulb cover, which never appeared in sets. Just think about that for a second... it's a light bulb cover, to change the colour of the light, and yet it's Trans-Clear.
They make excellent test tubes for spacey scientists. There are a few available on Bricklink, and they're not too pricey, considering they don't exist.
Black half bushes
Two of these were in 7019 Viking Fortress against the Fafnir Dragon, a set from 2005. So although that’s much more recent than other prts I've mentioned, it’s the only time they've ever been available. The Fortress was a big set, over 1000 pieces, but there's only two black bushes plus a spare per set - so it's difficult to get them in the quantity I need. Definitely expensive.
This Crusader series mechanoid from the Space book uses four of them. They're such a delicious little detailing piece.
Dark Stone Grey [TLG]/ Dark Bluish Gray [BL] Tool Wheel
This pair of HC series mechanoids are full of pure precious. I can't make any more.
The dark bley tool wheel (part 6246) was only in 7251 Darth Vader Transformation and an obscure Education set of minifigs, 9247 Community Workers. These wheels go for silly money now and LEGO will never include them in a set again, as the tool wheel design has been changed this year.
These guys also use dark bley taps in their arms, which don't exist at all. If I wanted to use dark bley taps in a new model, I'd have to disassemble these two guys, which is unthinkable.
There's something undeniably thrilling about using rare and non-production parts. I'm not talking about just hoarding, say, a big bag of bley Falcon rigging for no reason. I prefer to use the precious things in actual models. They can add a unique touch to a model, and elevate it to the next level of awesomeness. It's not a sustainable way of building, but it's nice once in a while.
White Antennae Whip 8LWe used four White whip antennae on Sputnik before realising they were a non-production part. I've no idea where they came from. But Sputnik is one of the models that has instructions in the book and it would be bad form to put non-existent parts in those, so we had to change them at the last minute. It's a shame, they look really good. But we used two on this Voyager model.
Thanks for this inspiring glimpse into the back catalogue Pete – and the stuff that fell off the back of a truck!
Buy LEGO Space: Building the Future
at Amazon UK