01 March 2021

LEGO® review: 40450 Amelia Earhart Tribute

A new month means new LEGO® sets are available today! Although if you wait until 6 March (date may vary across countries) and spend US$99 / €99 / £99 you also get the gift-with-purchase 40450 Amelia Earhart Tribute, which Kev Levell reviews for you now. No matter when you buy LEGO, please consider using our affiliate links: UK LEGO Shop | USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop, for other countries 'Change Region'. New Elementary may get a commission. The products in this article were provided for free by LEGO; the author's opinions are not biased by this.

Before Christmas, my little girl was doing a topic at school about Amelia Earhart. In preparing for this review, I asked my resident Earhart expert what she knew about the aviation pioneer. Brace yourself for a little turbulence here, we have apparently learnt that Amelia was “cool”, “had a red airplane” and “flewed it ‘cross the ‘lantic ocean.” Oh, to be seven again!


With that esoteric knowledge in place, come fly with me as we review the upcoming ‘gift with purchase’ (GWP) offering from LEGO®. 

The period between the great wars, particularly in America, is sometimes referred to as the golden age of flight. One of the most enigmatic, well-known and iconic figures of that time was Amelia Earhart.

One aircraft Amelia Earhart is famous for flying was her NR-7952 Red Lockheed Vega 5B.

The Vega 5B was a seven-seat passenger aircraft with a wingspan of 12.5m and a length of 8.4m. Designed by Jack Northrop and Gerald Vultee, the 5B was introduced in 1928. One of the fastest crafts of the era, the Vega had a top speed of 165mph and was highly regarded by contemporary aviators as a craft for racing and setting records in.

It was during 1932 in this aircraft that Amelia set two of her many records. Firstly, in late May her 15hr non-stop transatlantic flight from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, to Derry in Northern Ireland making her the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic - then, secondly in late August her solo non-stop flight across the United States of America from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey was another first for a woman.


For this tribute being released to coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March, LEGO has chosen to depict Amelia with her Vega 5B. 

As you might expect to be the case with a GWP, there are not any new moulds. There is however, one notable exclusive.

Parts in LEGO 40450 Amelia Earhart Tribute

Rare or recoloured


I am sure that bley fans will be pleased to see Equipment Oar Paddle End in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6337380 | 31990) making its debut in their favourite colour. It is the only exclusive part in the set, and there are 2 of them to be found here, although I strongly suspect this element will be featured elsewhere before very long.

There are a very small number of rarer parts too; mostly they are from the plane. I’m unsurprised that there are so few red ones, what with this colour being so prominent in the LEGO colour palette and given the size of the set. However, it’s always nice to see rarer parts making another appearance no matter how many there are.

  • 2x Wedge Curved 16 x 4 Triple in Bright Red/ Red (6287507 | 45301) Appears in 4 sets. Its first appearance was in 2010 in just two sets but was reintroduced after a hiatus of ten years in 80008 Monkie Kid’s Cloud Jet from last year.
  • 4x Plate Special 1 x 2 with Handles on Ends in Red (6286215 | 18649) Appears in only 2 sets from 2020, 71712 Empire Temple of Madness and 21051 Tokyo
  • 4x Tile 2 x 2 Curved, Macaroni in Red (6310198 | 27925) surprisingly, has only been available since last year and is now in 3 other sets.


4x Plate Round Corner 6 x 6 in Black (6137779 | 6003) has appeared in 5 sets since 2016 but the 4 here equal what you will find in 76139 1989 Batmobile.

I have limited my criteria for ‘rarity’ to parts having appeared in five sets or less. If I have missed something, please let us know in the comments below.

The LEGO Amelia Earhart minifigure


Amelia herself is a fantastic minifigure. We’ve seen the flying hat and goggles what feels like countless times now, but they are very much an appropriate choice here, even in these very familiar colours.

Minifig Head in Light Nougat [Hollow Stud] (6338706 | 3626) is a unique new print. It’s an excellent representation too, with an expression reminiscent of one I’ve seen Amelia wearing in so many photos of her.


The new double-sided torso with neckerchief and leather flying jacket (6338710 | 973) is a unique print also and is obviously designed to match Amelia’s iconic runway look.

Legs and Hips in Medium Nougat (6262262 | 970c00) is another part that is only available in 5 other sets.

An alternate hairpiece would have been nice, there might not be an accurate approximation for her characteristic cropped bob, but I’m sure artistic license could have allowed for Minifig Hair Short Wavy with Side Part in Nougat (6234373 | 11256), even if it is a little coiffured and missing an essential windswept quality:


The hand colour could be considered an odd choice but these, I think, are supposed to reference artefacts she left behind, in this case flying gloves that can be seen here along with other ephemera.


Amelia also has a map tile (stickered of course) that shows her flight path from Newfoundland to Derry.

In the box


There are 5 bags of elements, 2 loose elements, a small instruction book and 1 loose sticker sheet.

There is a brief introduction in the instructions but I would encourage further reading to fully acquaint you with this remarkable person.


For some reason, building an airplane seemed to dictate to me that I 'knolled' all the parts.

“Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.”

- Amelia Earhart

The finished model


The striking red Vega 5B is a neat little build using familiar sideways-building methods to produce a reasonably faithful reproduction of the aircraft at the chosen scale. I have to say I admire the economy of parts here to create such convincing forms. At a short distance, I’d suggest this almost appears to be a model kit.

This is actually a deconstruction; it might not revisit each sub-assembly precisely but it does just about show the internal techniques used to create the fuselage. 



The identifying marks and insignia are well reflected. I’d rather have printed pieces, but in what I imagine is a smaller production run, I can see that stickers are a more affordable option. I have to say that for the small number of stickers used here they get a lot of mileage out of them!


I found the black stand to be slightly odd for a number of reasons: Firstly, it is rather large; secondly, although the pillar is a clever construction, I couldn’t help thinking “there must be an easier way to do this!”; and thirdly, that pillar really is quite fragile! Which might not be a problem for anyone simply displaying this, but for my forthright would-be pioneering seven year old aviator, that base was irritating to the extent of being discarded after the second breakage.

Conclusion

Amelia’s disappearance and assumed demise at the age of 39 was tragic. It is amazing to consider her contribution to aviation and her impact upon equality for women in her short but incredible career.


The Vega appears pretty accurate at scale and it's a really nice thing to swoosh about. The cantilevered wings are just stuck on top of the fuselage, which is pretty realistic. Although Amelia is a good figure, for some reason I just don’t feel like this thing hangs together especially well, I like it, but it bothers me too. I asked both my kids (my daughter is 7 and my son is 9) what they liked and didn’t, and mostly, their opinions reflected my own, they liked the plane but wished Amelia could fit in it.  I mostly agree, although I can see many implications of trying to make that possible.

Being brutal: the base feels like a waste of bricks and the plane has a tendency to break off, which might be a good thing if this wasn’t clearly supposed to be a display model. I know I’m reaching for the skies but I can’t help feeling that if they’d had the budget to increase the size of the plane they would have stood a chance of making it big enough to fit a pilot in, but then it would probably fail as a GWP.

This is the second ‘Tribute’ set LEGO has made, preceded by 40410 Charles Dickens Tribute last Christmas. (I have chosen not to include 40291 Creative Personalities that celebrated Hans Christian Andersen, as it was not named as a tribute to him.) I do hope we will see more sets commemorating other inspirational pioneers and worthy historical figures. If nothing else, the set does celebrate Amelia Earhart, I have learnt some inspiring stuff about what a phenomenal person she was.

This set will only be available as a promotional gift with purchase. The promotion starts on 6 March 2021 and continues until 14 March but, from past experience, I know that these GWPs can run out a lot faster than a transatlantic flight! The qualifying purchase is a US$99 / €99 / £99 threshold, and is open across all themes. We’ve all been grounded recently, but if you are splashing out with your air miles, please consider using our affiliate link to complete your redemption: UK LEGO Shop | USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop, for other countries 'Change Region'. New Elementary may get a commission

So, would I recommend you spend a cool hundred of your hard-earned currency to get this set? Heck, no! If you’re buying something else anyway, this is a nice little sweetener. I dread to think what the after-sales value is going to be on the minifigure though, because like her real life counterpart, LEGO Amelia is a pretty high flyer!

READ MORE: New moulds and recolours in LEGO® Monkie Kid 80022 Spider Queen's Arachnoid Base

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4 comments:

  1. Here are a few notes to add about the plane. I was in the "smaller than minifig-scale" camp, just because it clearly does not look like it could possibly fit one minifig, much less seven. Then I did the math. The real plane is 4.6 times as long as the height of a 6' tall person. The model is 4.6 times as long as the height of a bald minifig (excluding the stud). It really is minifig-scale...at least in terms of height. But minifigs with their hands at their sides are more than half as wide as they are tall, which most certainly does not describe Earhart. If you picture a real person shrunk down to the same height, it's probably a bit cramped but certainly possible.

    The major design issues are, of course, the landing gear (there are no wheels in the fairings, and no tailskid), and the windshield/windows. For the scale, the fairings look very accurate, but there's just no way to include a wheel in that design. Unfortunately, even that "convenient" anti-stud isn't any use, as it's slightly oversized, but no so oversized that I've been able to find any wheel-shaped parts that can be jammed up inside. The cockpit windscreen is half the width of the model, but looks like it should be at least 3/4 the width, and maybe even wider. There should be additional panes tucked right under the leading edge of the wing, and there should be a large pane directly overhead (at least two photos of Earhart show that this hinges open, and I get the impression that this is actually how the pilot enters the cockpit). Additionally, there should be windows running down the fuselage for the passengers to see out through (this one seems like it would have been easy enough to fix with the inclusion of two more stickers). I also ran across one photo that suggests she removed the engine cowling at some point, possible to eliminate unnecessary weight in preparation for either her trans-Atlantic or trans-continental flight, but most of the photos do show the cowling still in place.

    People questioned why they were doing an Amelia Earhart set this year. It so happens that January marked the 100th anniversary of her first flying lesson, and this summer will mark the 100th anniversaries of both earning her pilot's license and buying her first plane (not the Vega). She sold the Vega off before attempting to circumnavigate the globe, because she felt she needed a larger plane (certainly it would have been difficult to coordinate with her navigator if he was forced to sit in the main cabin).

    The way the model is being displayed has a real-world basis, but not for this Vega. The real plane is parked in the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum with the wheels on the floor and the tailskid resting on a block so the plane sits closer to level. But there are many so-called "monument planes", where a retired aircraft will be mounted in a similar manner for public viewing. The only thing is, I'm not sure they'd do that with an aircraft in this style. I've only personally witnessed it with modern jet fighters, and wonder if doing so with a plane of this style where the wings are mounted up front and above the cabin would put too much torque on the wings in high winds.

    Anyways, really looking forward to this. Between this and the Vintage Car, they haven't really given us much of a post-Christmas breather.

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    Replies
    1. Regarding the cowling, the NACA cowling increased speed/efficiency of the planes it was applied to by a large percentage, for the Vega it went from 165 to 190 mph top speed. Perhaps the pic you saw was an earlier Vega from before they added the cowl?
      https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4219/Chapter1.html

      I'm 99.9% certain the pilots seat was accessible from the main cabin -take a look at this 360 view and you can see the doorway;
      https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/inside-cockpit-amelia-earharts-vega

      This particular Vega 5B seems to only have one window on each side of the fuselage, the rest were filled in or covered. This photo shows the right side, a few photos earlier shows the left.
      https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruthann/2411165614/in/photostream/

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    2. PS you're spot on about the scale, it's one of the really tricky things with Lego for sure, that and the limits of brick wall thickness. Here's a nice pic of the real Ford GT40 with some guys standing around it.
      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/84/7e/67/847e67df9f1e0aadf6abcae0cfb0d2ce.jpg

      Now compare to the Speed Champions GT40, where the tire comes up to the minifig's sternum!

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    3. @jimmythefly:

      http://justonespark.us/wonder-july-four-twenty-seven/

      Hah! Found it! It's Earhart poking up through the dorsal cockpit hatch of a Lockheed Vega. To your point, it may not be this specific plane, as the distinctive gold trim is also absent, but it says "Lockheed 'Vega'" on the side, and the cockpit windshield design is identical, but there's no cowling.

      And yeah, I'm fully aware of scale issues with minifigs and cars. I've designed a lot of 6-wide vehicles, nearly always with seating for two (excluding, obviously, Pixar Cars cars and the occasional single-seater Batmobile). 6-wide is the bare minimum to pull off side-by-side seating, but unless you want the entire car to look a bit runty, a 4-door sedan can end up being upwards of 20 feet long, based on minifigs being 6 feet tall. Or consider the Ideas Ecto-1, which translates to about 10 feet wide and over 30 feet long! That's an ambulance that looks like a hearse the size of a school bus.

      I've long said that you can either build it to look accurate, or build it to look good, and you have to figure out where in the middle makes you happiest. For me with cars, I've only designed five things that are 8-wide, which are Lightning McQueen, Holley Shiftwell, the cargo box on a straight truck, a semi trailer that still has no cab to tow it, and a vintage Routemaster double-decker bus. But that does raise an interesting possibility. This is scaled to the minifig's height. If someone were to instead scale it to the minifig's width (which is essentially what you're doing when you make a 6-wide car), it might be possible to seat seven minifigs inside of it, and even incorporate the cockpit hatch. And it wouldn't look like a toy on a layout near 6-wide cars.

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