29 July 2019

LEGO® Technic review: 42097 Compact Crawler Crane

Continuing our reviews of this summer's wave of LEGO® Technic sets, today Alexandre Campos and friend return to review 42097 Compact Crawler Crane, available from 1 August 2019.



Cranes have been a frequent presence in LEGO® Technic almost since the beginning, when in 1978 the 855 Mobile Crane was launched. It was also in this set that a very important part that is still a familiar sight to this day appeared: the Connector Peg/Cross Axle (Design ID 6562).

Yet, with all the cranes that have been pouring out during these last 41 years, the Technic team has managed to release one of a type never done before: the spider crane. Or, should we say the 42097 Compact Crawler Crane? Although the "CCC" abbreviation is tempting, "Spider Crane" sounds way cooler, so that's what I'll be calling it throughout this review. And, as you'll see in a while, I suspect I'm not the only one with this opinion.

New parts in 42097 Compact Crawler Crane

Unfortunately, the set doesn't bring any moulds that we haven't seen previously. No Beams 1x3x3 (Design ID 39793), Frames 7X11 (Design ID 39794) or Angled Gear Wheels Z28 (Design ID 46372) yet, sorry.

While there are no new moulds in this set, construction machine builders will be happy to get the Housing 2x15x3m F/Gear Rack in Bright Yellow (Element ID 6259052 | Design ID 18940). This element, together with the Gear Rack 14x2m W/Groove (Design ID 18942), makes building large telescoping racks easier. The set comes with four of these.
There are also a few welcome new colours for existing parts. Our good old friend the dogbone, officially known as Beam I -Frame 3x5 90 Degr. Hole Ø4.85 (Design ID 14720), was traditionally viewed as a structural element and therefore colour-fixed to Medium Stone Grey [TLG]/ Light Bluish Gray [BL]. However, in 2017 it appeared in Bright Red/ Red, and now this set gives us the mould in Bright Yellow/ Yellow. Its Element ID is 6259054, and we can find eight of these here.

Speaking of Bright Yellow, the Spider Crane comes with two other parts in this colour that aren't very common.

The Flat Panel 3X11M (6143847 | 15458) came in small quantities in three other sets (1 in the 42053 Volvo EW160E, 2 in the 42079 the Heavy Duty Forklift, and 2 in the 42081 Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX). In these set we get four of these.



The "macaroni" Design Shape W/ Tube, Crosshole (Element ID 6253294 | Design ID 25214) only appeared in the 42094 Tracked Loader and the 21306 The Beatles Yellow Submarine, and six of those (macaronis, not loaders or submarines) are in this set.

There are other elements, which, although not particularly rare, are useful and/or appear here in generous quantities, considering the not very large size of this set:


  • 4 x Upper Part For Turntable Z28 (4652236 | 99010)
  • 1 x Upper Part For Turntable Z60 (6109283 | 18938)
  • 4 x Lower Part For Turntable Z28 (4652235 | 99009)
  • 1 x Lower Part For Turntable Z60 (6109285 | 18939)
  • 6 x Beam Frame 5X7 Ø 4.85 (4539880 | 64179)
  • 7 x Beam 3M Ø4.85 W. Fork (4558692 | 87408)
  • 27 (!) x Double Conical Wheel Z12 1M (4177431 | 32270)


For a set of this size, there are many System parts included. Most of the plates and tiles will go into building the telescoping boom assembly, while the others will form the accessories and other doodads.

A curious fact is that the all the Beams 1X2 W/Cross and Hole in this set are in Bright Orange/ Orange (6057526 | 74695). Since there’s just three of them here and they're buried within the model in a more functional than aesthetic role, I guess the designer used whatever colour there was a surplus of in the warehouse.

Instructions and stickers

The instructions booklet weighs in at 188 pages. Besides the usual stuff like the instructions themselves, a cross-sell of the other LEGO Technic sets, and the parts inventory, it includes a kind of "user manual": the sequence of steps to deploy the crane and the knobs to do it. And you'll need it for the first few times you play with the model, as it's an involved process. The instructions for the B-model, which appears to be just a variation of the A-model, are absent: you'll have to go online for those.



There are many stickers. Some of them give the set its personality, one (for the control panel) adds important detail and some, well, are just unnecessary. Sure, they provide some realism, but they're more of a nuisance. Soon you'll see what I mean.

Building 42097 Compact Crawler Crane

The build is rather straightforward, starting with the chassis, then the boom, and finally the four stabilisers.

The boom's construction appears similar to that of the "Big Red" 42082 Rough Terrain Crane. This is where almost all the plates and tiles of the set are used.


Also of note is that the stabilisers are built as diagonally identical pairs.



Finished Set


This is a very compact model (no wonder the chosen official name) that surprisingly unfurls into a very large machine, both in area and height. So much that my usual photo backdrop wasn't nearly big enough and I had to use a creased cloth. Sorry for that.



I'm a fan of sci-fi stuff and, with the deploy function, this model looks straight out of the StarCraft computer games. This means instant win for me.

These are the unnecessary stickers I talked about earlier.



I suppose a real-life spider crane also has these, but in the LEGO version they're tiny and one would never notice them unless pointed out. I really feel there was no need to need to have them in the set, but, of course, you're free to leave them out if you want.

By now you've probably noticed that I'm not a fan of LEGO stickers in general. Nonetheless, I have to admit these are the coolest and unusual I've ever seen. When was the last time you saw a spider with a winch in its butt?

The spider sticker, together with this "SC" that I assume stands for "Spider Crane", leads me to believe this was the set's original name before it was changed to the more pedestrian "Compact Crawler Crane". We may never know the reason for this, but I assume it was the same thought process behind the decision back then to never show Blacktron I astronauts with their helmet visors down: test groups concluded that children would be scared of them and scarred for life... oh dear, oh my.



Disappointingly, this set doesn't contain any "proper" sprocket wheels to match the treads: neither Sprocket, ø25,8 (Design ID 57520), nor Sprocket, ø40,7 (57519), nor Sprocket DiA. 55,8, W/ Cross Hole (42529). Instead, it uses Wedge-Belt Wheels Ø24 (4185) and Cone Wheels Z20 Ø4.85 (87407).

I don't understand the reason for this design decision (the Wedge-Belt Wheels have the same diameter as the small "proper" sprockets); it makes the set a lot harder to motorise and lowers its "parts pack" value.

The set has a ginormous number of hand-of-god knobs to actuate its functions, sprinkled all over the model. 17 knobs and one lever in total! Can you spot all 13 knobs in this photo?


"Transforming" the Spider Crane between its "mobile" and "deployed" modes is an involved process, which thankfully the instructions booklet guide you through. First of all, and most importantly, you flip up the control panel, represented by a sticker on a Flat Tile 2X3 (26603), in the rear. How else can the crane operator operate the crane?



Next you rotate out the front stabilisers, then the rear ones. You then lower and extend them. This process is quite a chore, involving three operations per stabiliser (rotate, lower, extend), on four stabilisers, for a grand total of twelve! The process could be easier and more pleasant to watch, even if less realistic, if the rotations of the stabilisers were linked: you turned one knob and all four would move. The chassis has plenty of space for such a mechanism.

I'm baffled as to why this function is here; presumably it exists in the real machine. Before lifting the boom, you slightly shift it forward using the set's only lever.



Finally, you can then raise and extend the boom. The jib is the only manual function in this set (if you don't count the rolling treads): you have to manually unfold it. Here is the whole deploy process. Making transformation noises while watching is left as an exercise for the reader.


Conclusion

This is a love-it-or-hate-it set, depending on what you intend to do with it. If you want it for parts, you’ll like it: it has many unusual and useful elements for its size and in a “regular”, plentiful colour. The lack of sprockets, though, is a disappointment.

You won't like it if, on the other hand, you want it to play with it: you'll have to fiddle with a cluster of controls to operate. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the stabilisers are rather flimsily affixed to the chassis, which makes them unsuitable to support the crane when lifting heavy loads.



On the other other hand, if you just want to build it and have it on display... well... that depends on your tastes. I estimate the ratio of people to find it beautiful versus people to find it ugly to float around the 50/50 mark.

At €89.99/£79.99/$99.99, my gut tells me this is a little overpriced for the amount of stuff and play you get, but nothing absurd. In case you're wondering, the set contains 920 pieces, although I think piece count by itself is a very inaccurate metric for a LEGO set.



In summary: you'll probably like this set for its parts or design, but I'd recommend getting it only if you find it on a discount.

Finally, in case you're still not sure how large the Spider Crane is, here it is together with a set from the Black Panther film for scale.




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3 comments:

  1. Best scale reference ever. You should definitely use that, uh, "Black Panther set" more often in your photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I second the previous comment

    ReplyDelete
  3. Glad to see the yellow macaroni tube is still in use! I've fantasized about ordering a bunch of them to make a life-size model of a big bowl of mac-&-cheese.

    ReplyDelete