18 July 2019

LEGO® Technic review: 42098 Car Transporter (part 2)

Yesterday, Alexandre Campos showed you the interesting parts in upcoming LEGO® Technic set 42098 Car Transporter along with the build process. In this, the second part of his review, he discusses the finished set and gives his verdict. 42098 Car Transporter has 2493 parts and will be available from 1 August 2019 priced €149.99/ £139.99/ US$179.99. 

The finished set is definitely a beast. The colour scheme chosen for the truck looks good and utilitarian, thankfully without any weird colours to make parts gathering for MOC construction harder (42039 24 Hours Race Car, 42050 Drag Racer, 42066 Air Race Jet, and 42069 Extreme Adventure: I'm looking at you all).

The stickers provide nice detail, but they're really not fundamental.








On the other hand, the car has extravagant colours, well-suited to its muscly design. I'm glad that these colours (Dark Azure, Black and Bright Red) also aren't uncommon; especially the former, which has been gaining traction in the last years. Oddly, the front of the car looks very modern while the rear reminds me of automobiles from the 1970s.


Where this set shines, though, is in playability. In my childhood days I had (and most probably still have somewhere), amongst my other die-cast toy cars, both a tanker truck and a car transporter. I had a huge lot more fun with the transporter than the tanker, raising and lowering the ramps and loading and unloading the cars. This set makes me remember a bit those days, with all the stuff that can be done with it. Let's break it down by model.


The car has, just like the 42093 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, hand-of-god steering from the rear and a rear differential driving a small V8 engine. You can see the tiny pistons moving up and down as you swoosh the car around.


The truck also has a rear differential, connected to the second axle, that drives a small V-engine, in this case a V6. To see this V6 engine, there's a crank on the right side of the cabin that tilts it, along with the front part of the upper deck. It's interesting that, with the cabin in the normal position, everything lines up perfectly as though it was fixed. Whenever I tilt the cabin, though, I can't shake the feeling that I'll twist the input axle, due to the strain of lifting all that weight of the cabin and the front part of the upper deck.



The steering is provided by a hand-of-god knob at the top. But what if there's a car loaded in the upper deck, blocking the knob? No problem, there's a secondary steering knob on the side of the cabin for exactly that reason. That's a thoughtful inclusion, and I don't remember seeing any side-mounted steering control before on a LEGO set.



Lowering the upper deck to allow cars to roll on and off of it is performed by a knob on the left side. The action is easy and with both good speed and enough torque, even when lifting a car strapped to it.


But how do the cars on top stay still without falling off? When a car advances over the yellow arms, they lock to its bottom and keep it there. Only when you turn the crank on the right side of the upper deck this simple mechanism releases the car.


The trailer has a few functions, too, all controlled from a cluster of knobs near its front. The first is a fold-down ramp that allows cars to pass between the truck and the trailer. This is a linkage-only mechanism that actuates markedly faster than the others, but holds its position without problems. Who might have problems is the car that goes to or from the truck's lower deck: the border of the ramp is a bit thick for the car's ground clearance to, well, clear.

The rear ramp is also controlled from near the front, and we saw that mechanism earlier in this review. The motion has the ideal speed (not too fast that it drops down, not too slow that we get carpal tunnel syndrome turning the knob to get it to move), and it's very pleasant to watch it unfurl into a long and shallow ramp for cars to easily climb. I just wish it'd drag less on the ground during operation.



The upper deck can be raised and lowered by almost the same mechanism as the one on the truck. It also has the same locking mechanism to prevent a car from falling off.



Finally, there's a bit of an enhanced play pattern. It's no coincidence that the 42093 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 got mentioned so much during this review: it turns out that it was designed to be compatible with the 42098 Car Transporter... or was it the other way around? Regardless, if you have it you can carry it around together with the blue car. I didn't test it, but I wouldn't be surprised if its B-model was also compatible, as well as one or both of the smaller vehicles of this set's B-model. The Car Transporter has capacity for 5 cars, so you have plenty to build to put in there!

This set, however, isn't all positives. It has two flaws that I believe wouldn't have been hard to avoid, and one that would have been a little harder.

The first is the lack of a second differential for the truck's third axle. From looking at the truck from the bottom, it doesn't appear to be difficult to add one and connect it to the other. I understand this is most probably to keep this already large and expensive set within its budget, but, then again, for the money we pay for it we sure could have the amenity.

Also, it is a pity that the truck's rear axles, like on many Technic trucks, don't have double wheels. Then again, I don't think this would be as easy to correct as the second differential. As with the differential, most likely this was a budget decision, as the set as it is already includes 14 wheels and tyres.

What I don't understand is why the mechanisms to raise and lower the upper decks in the truck and the trailer are different. As I said earlier, they're almost the same, with one exception: in the truck the HOG knob turns a Bevel Gear Z20 that meshes with a Conical Wheel Z12 for a 3:5 ratio, whereas in the trailer the knob turns a 12-tooth gear to mesh with another 12-tooth for no reduction. This makes the upper deck in the trailer slower and more tedious to operate, even when using the knobs on both sides, and I didn't notice any advantage offered by the increased torque. I also don't believe replacing a single 12-tooth gear with a 20-tooth would have any impact on the set's final price.


Conclusion

2493 parts isn't that much in modern large Technic sets, but the abundance of large parts and hollow spaces make this an undoubtedly huge (86 cm/ 33" long) set. The 42098 is an example of why, in my opinion, it is wrong to use the part count as a metric to judge sets.

This is undoubtedly an expensive set, clocking in at €149.99/ £139.99/ US$179.99. It has some flaws and requires lots of space to be played with (have you tried manoeuvring an 86 cm-long truck with trailer lately?). But it is huge and imposing, has realistic looks, and, most of all, has heaps of playability. When I first heard that a car transporter was coming to Technic as a large set, I thought "meh", but I'm glad to be wrong.

Oh, and one last thing. Don't forget to check your box: some lucky winners get a free extra model inside!




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5 comments:

  1. I think I'll pick up several of these just to get that extra model.

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  2. The cat in the box, awesome! :-D

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  3. The Other Mike19 Jul 2019, 12:20:00

    Thought they were done with Ninjago Movie models. Didn't expect them to do a Meowthra. Shame the colors aren't accurate.

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  4. Thanks for the in-depth review(s)! Regarding your criticisms/questions:

    1) I agree a second differential would be nice, but there is sucha thing as "6x2" configuration for semi trucks where only one axle is powered. Usually for fuel economy reasons.

    2) Many trucks in the real world run what are called "super single" wheels and tires, and do not have dual wheels on the rear axles any more.

    3) I'm not positive, but it looks like the trailer couldn't use the 20T gear because it would protrude up above teh deck height, and very low-slung cars might hang up on it?

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    1. Hmm, those are good points. Regarding 1) and 2), and while the set turns out realistic as-is, it'd still be cool and not very difficult (not sure about impact on final cost) to implement here. As for 3), I didn't test it, but I think both the included car and the Corvette have enough clearance for a 20T.

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