Back in May 2020 during the Fan Media Days, New Elementary contributors Tim Johnson and Francesco Spreafico spoke online to LEGO® Speed Champions Design Manager Specialist, Christopher Leslie Stamp, where he told us everything about the 2021 sets. (Well, almost everything – since then, they added another car to this year's assortment!) And so now, a year later with the sets about to be released on 1 June, we can finally share what he told us! This transcript has been edited for clarity, readability and narrative flow.
|Set images ©2021 The LEGO Group, photograph ©2019 New Elementary|
New Elementary: Hello Chris, what does the 2021 assortment include?
Chris Stamp: First of all, as you guys know we are doing the 8-module wide cars now, we're not looking back to 6, we feel that the upgrade was the right choice. And we're going to have three individual products, the same as last year, and then two of the double packs. And then, also like last year, we'll have another polybag, like we did with the Lamborghini.
Speed Champions set 76900
So, the first car. This is a single car, and this is the first time ever we are teaming with the brand new partner of Koenigsegg – a Swedish brand, they make European automotive cars, the fastest cars in the world. Those are the guys who break all the records and create new records, so this is a supercar... a hypercar, actually. And it is the Koenigsegg Jesko, it's in the white with the lime green.
It's got this very unique spoiler that's like a central connection. We're very happy with this one. In terms of element usage, if I lift up the front slightly... we're using a meat cleaver sideways to get a fin detail.
Speed Champions set 76901
The second car is another brand new partner for us; it’s Toyota. It’s the Supra GR which is Gazoo Racing, so it's also the first time we're ever doing Gazoo Racing in LEGO® Speed Champions. I think it has a very different silhouette, with the longer bonnet, to anything else we've done before. And we've tried to brick-build as much as you can from the back window to the exhaust to the lights, to all of the standard stuff that people come to expect from us so we're really happy about this one as well.
We're looking at this as a continuation of what we did in 2018. Like with the colour of vehicles, we're trying to not repeat ourselves, so the five brands we had last year and the five we have this year are very different and we're really trying to create as much variety as possible with 14 vehicles.
How long does it take to set up those partnerships?
I've always got brands in mind for next year, and as a team we're always thinking of what is coming next, so we're trying to plan with the next two or three years in mind. And then we just have several dialogues throughout the year and we adjust certain cars and the assortment... and if we pull a new one in, another one doesn't make sense any more... and it's a constant ongoing process, but it starts roughly maybe June, July, when you start talking to partners. It's a very fast turnaround time. We normally probably spent about two months on a product from a designing standpoint on the bricks.
Speed Champions set 76902
So we've introduced Koenigsegg and we've introduced Toyota. Now with this next car, it's an existing partner.
We're re-teaming with McLaren, but this is the first time that we're doing a speedster; the McLaren Elva. A speedster is a car with absolutely no windscreen. But what's special about this car from an element standpoint is it's the first time we're actually decorating the interior seats. And this is only achievable now because of the 8-wide and the fact that we can include two minifigures. If it was a convertible with one central drive it would look a bit weird. It's a 2x2 bow, and the 1x1 [D-shaped tile] above it is the headrest.
We've never done it before, so for us that's actually quite a big deal.
Is that something specific for this product or is that something you want to do for all cars going forward?
It is something specific because normally, for example with the deco cockpits like the Koenigsegg, because of the cockpit, we have to decorate it. We have to get those shapes correct. We don't have that with the McLaren. With the 8-wide in general we've tried to up the detail level for the interiors, whether that's a gear stick or some buttons in the centre column or whatever. With this one, because this is so open, we thought “let's decorate the seats”. There's also the computer panel that's decorated. So we're really trying to kind of up that detail level where we can. We also know that we include a lot of stickers in our cars, and we know that getting these little nice things decorated also reduces our stickers as well, so it's just kind of “how do we improve the authenticity and the quality at the same time?”
Speed Champions polybag 30343
It's a micro version of the Elva Speedster. This is what we did last year with the Lamborghini if you remember, and that's why you've got the two versions. The thing about the polybag is we went to 5 modules wide. So, it's the exact same wheelbase but the wheels actually have a gap in between of three modules. So we've been able to increase the authenticity and accuracy from what we did with the Lamborghini. For us, this is definitely the direction we want to take forward with these polybags – to get them as accurate as we can, at that really reduced scale. It's kind of more like a pocket-sized collectible from LEGO Speed Champions, so we're very, very excited by that.
Speed Champions set 76903
How about the sets with two cars, what will we see in 2021?
For our double packs, we have two old partners: we have Chevrolet and Dodge. That's because we didn't have any American brands in our 2020 launch, so this year we put some in there.
The first car is this Chevrolet C8.R Stingray, it’s a Le Mans 24-hour race car. It's pretty much our GT race car this year. It has the decal windscreen, it's got all of the exhaust pipes and all of the spoilers and it's got all of the racing stripes and everything. There are a few unique decorations, for example the front on this one, you can see this tile with the yellow and the grey. That's because we don't put stickers in between elements, you guys know that? So we decorated half of it yellow, so that you can use that tile on both sides of the car. When we're decorating things, wherever possible we try to decorate them so you can use them multiple times in a model, because you don't want to keep putting the same sticker on over and over again. Unless it's something specific like a cockpit or seat... although even the seat we use twice. So that's the first one.
Now the second one: a 1968 Chevrolet C3 Stingray. We've seen a lot of people online ask for classic Stingrays. We've heard them and this is what we're going to deliver. This is the first time ever that we're doing a dark red car in LEGO Speed Champions. From an element standpoint, you're going to get a lot of new colours and stuff. One thing you might notice on the roof is the 2x6 tile. Now technically we didn't create this in LEGO Speed Champions, it was another product line [LEGO Super Mario]. But for us it's perfect, especially for our cockpits because last year you'll remember that we did two 1x6s and decorated them.
Why didn't you just use two stickers for the 1x6s there, rather than the expense of printing?
I saw a lot of people online asking that. The reason we decorated it is because, if you're trying to line up a pattern next to each other, it's just easier to decorate it and then it removes that frustration from the consumer. What this [new 2x6] allows us to do is to cut out all of that stuff – instead of placing two elements you're placing one, if we need to sticker a deco when the deco gets really crazy, that's just going to allow for so much more detail than a lot of little stickers next to each other.
Speed Champions set 76904
And how about the Dodge double pack?
The first car, from an element standpoint: this is the first purple car that we've ever done. So you're gonna get the purple wheel arches, you get a lot of purple elements. We are doing a 1970 Dodge Challenger. We are super happy with this. And it’s the Trans-American version so, we think that's pretty cool.
I'm loving these old cars, why did you choose them over modern cars?
The thing is: we make small cars. And we feel strongly that the size of a LEGO model doesn't equal age. Just because it's a small LEGO model doesn't mean that it's just for kids. And we see that a lot of people buying,collecting and displaying these cars are adults. So why don't we also try to bring out the inner child in them, whether it's a kid who's seven years old, or a 40-year old kid; that's fine. It's all good, there's no age limit on being a fan of cars. So we're trying to include these older cars as well. You could see them throughout the last few years with the Porsche 911 and then the Ferrari F40. So in the double packs you always get kind of an older car and a newer car together, so your dad is gonna be building this one, and you will be building this one, and maybe you'll race each other and say “Okay who can build the fastest?”, you know, trying to kind of start those experiences in the family.
So Speed Champions were perhaps a little bit ahead of the push for adult marketing that's really taking off a lot in 2020?
I think we really tried to get behind that last year, in terms of LEGO Speed Champions. Actually, I would say two years ago. When we did the F40, and also with the 8-wide, one of the big things that myself and my team were pushing was: we're not a play theme, we're a collectible car product line. Even though, with the 8-wide, kids can still play with them and adults can be happier about displaying them. The 6-wide were great but they were a bit ‘caricature’, now they're a lot more accurate. So when you display it, it's going to be a much better representation.
Okay, so what car did you pair with the Challenger?
You won't be able to guess the second one, no matter how many days you try! And from a build experience perspective, this one blew my mind. It is very different to how you think it would be built. I'll give you a look under the hood to show you some new elements that made us build it this way. I worked very closely with him on this. This year we added the speedster and we added the Gazoo Racing as brand-new racing types. This, we've never done in LEGO Speed Champions before, and to some extent it’s new for LEGO, but I'll explain that. It's a Top Fuel dragster. And it’s in scale with the 8-wide cars.
Yes, LEGO has a long history of dragsters – LEGO City, Creator 3-in-1, all of those things – but this is the first IP partnership that we've done with a Top Fuel dragster. And it's the first one that's minifigure-scale and the correct proportions. This would not be achievable if not for two new elements, to be honest: the 2x6 tile is used absolutely everywhere on it – even underneath! – but the thing that's really special is the way that it is built inside, it's built sideways, the yellow and the gray are all stacked vertically and then the whole model is sort of built rotated. [Chris is pointing out Brick Special 1 x 2 x 1 2/3 with Eight Studs on 3 Sides (67329) which, at the time, had not yet been revealed in Super Mario sets.]
So it's the same as the existing SNOT brick but it's got extra studs on the sides?
Exactly. And if we didn't have that element. We could not have done this. It was from another product line and we used it, same as the 2x6 tiles. But we did make two new elements this year for LEGO Speed Champions.
So what would you say is the main focus for the 2021 assortment?
Our focus this year, our big talking points: firstly
obviously the dragster, we've never done a dragster before, but we feel
that it is another 'speed champion'. Then our new partners, Koenigsegg
and Toyota, and the fact that we're doing a speedster for the first
time. How will kids look at a car without a cockpit, for example? That's
a big question mark!
Speed Champions set 76905
[Note: at the time of this interview the remaining set, 76905 Ford GT Heritage Edition and Bronco R was not yet included in the 2021 range so Chris did not discuss, but here is the box art. Helloooo, teal!]
New part moulds in 2021 Speed Champions
Okay: dying to know what the new LEGO Speed Champions elements are for 2021?
From an element standpoint I hope you guys are going to be blown away, fingers crossed. Last year we increased authenticity with the 8-wide evolution. And this year, what we want to focus on is wheels. What we've created is two new elements.
This is a brand new co-moulded wheel, where the tyre is built on it. So it's the exact same size as what your existing wheel is, but it's a lot more 'low profile' tyre, and therefore there’s a bigger metal wheel in the centre. So you can then see the wheels look a lot bigger than they used to in the wheel arches but it still fits the exact same wheel arch. And this [silver wheel with thin rubber tyre], obviously being a low profile, works for supercars, but the way to get it to work for old cars is by doing it in black. So the silver looks bigger, but if it’s black, it looks like the tyre is bigger and therefore the wheel in the middle looks smaller. So it's basically using element design to trick the eye visually, if that makes sense. We're very proud of this.
And so that's co-injected rubber and ABS? Is that a first?
I don't know the exact plastic we chose, I don't know if it's ABS but, yes, and then the rubber is on the outside. We did it on a big Technic wheel [Wheel 57 x 14 with 4 Spokes with 2 Holes and Integral Tire (39367), revealed in 2019 for the delayed LEGO Education SPIKE™ Prime] but we can say this is the first LEGO System wheel.
It's got a connector on the front but that connector is a bit different: it follows the minifigure goblet [part 2343] that we have. This wheel allows us to now attach things like the 2x2 parabolic [Radar Dish, part 4740]. So we've done custom decals for the C3, and the Challenger, and then you can do it.
Can you explain how that goblet connection works in a bit more detail?
You've got your LEGO stud, and normally you would connect around the stud. Where this goes down, this part actually connects around that, if you imagine on a plate. So it's the outside, like you have on the top of a goblet. And you can then connect 2x2 parabolics, or 2x2 [round]
tiles or plates, or BB-8 heads...there are a lot of elements that you
can now connect on to this. From a diversity standpoint, it allows you
so much more creativity; for example, imagine this on a 4+ car and
they've got a 2x2 tile with a star or a smiley face or something
|© New Elementary using Mecabricks software|
And what different things have you attached to this new wheel part in the 2021 LEGO Speed Champions assortment?
The way that we've done the wheel, we've also done a new set of wheel trims, a 5-spoke and a 9-spoke. It's the same as previously where you get two designs, eight in a bag. They just simply click in here, it simply clips around that.
Around the goblet's exterior? [Shown in yellow in the animation above]
Exactly. Maybe we can say it's kind of a newer connector for LEGO? It's definitely an existing connector because we've done it on other things, so it's more of a rare connector, if that makes sense.
Yeah! Hopefully, we'll see more elements using it in future?
Fingers crossed. I know that we'll definitely be using it to our advantage. And obviously over the coming years we'll try to include newer designs for the wheel trims just to expand that collection. You could still use the old wheel trims, but we're aiming to use this one, as the old wheel trim in the new wheel wouldn’t make much sense. This is meant to be a new family, not a not a mix-and-match.
That is everything I have for you guys.
Those are all your new elements? There are fewer than previous years, I seem to remember you're introducing a lot of elements each year?
Usually LEGO Speed Champions introduced two to three new elements. Last year we introduced five, but that was purely because of the 8-wide change.
|The 2020 Speed Champions range, alongside prototypes of the 5 new elements. © 2019 New Elementary|
We introduced two cockpits for variety and the chassis and the wheelbase, and then, in connection with the wheelbase, we had to create a new wheel. So we made a new wheel as well which basically was the same wheel just with the connection flipped, which was the fifth element. The reason we do that is just because of the quality, when we're trying to figure out the connectors and what makes more sense. So, we never know, maybe in the future we will. With every project we always want to do more and more,and we've already got a list the length of my arm! Every time we're building a common element, even simple ones – just a plate with certain cutouts – there is so much we would like, but we need to wait and see.
How has the 8-wide gone down?
I think, overall, very, very positive, the majority of people are very happy. The cars are a lot more accurate. The detail level is just a little higher and the builds are a lot more interesting. What we do see some people commenting, which we knew about previously, is “This doesn't fit into my LEGO City”, or “It doesn't fit on a baseplate.” LEGO Speed Champions has never been connected to a baseplate, that's more of a LEGO City area to some extent, and LEGO Speed Champions has never been LEGO City, it's a different thing. The fact that you can use the two together is great and we still recommend you do that. If anything, we actually recommend that this is an opportunity for you now to to brick-build your own roads as wide as you need to make them. But I think that's one of the main comments we see in terms of people being like, “Oh, I wish they kept the 6-wide because it fits my LEGO City”... I completely hear you. It was just the fact that there were a lot more reasons to do it, than just that one reason not to do it.
And are any sales figures results that you can share with us as to how 2020 has performed?
I don't have any specific numbers, but I do know that compared to previously, we're doing very well with it, we're attracting a lot more fans. For example, previously people would say it was better because we were listening to what people had said. They liked the fact that we were picking these cars but, because they didn't quite look right, they didn't want to display them. So therefore now we're seeing that they look right, those people who were a little bit more reluctant because they felt they were a caricature are now a bit more comfortable buying them. I think it also comes down to what cars we're choosing. For example this year we had the Audi. Because that's very iconic, especially in the older age groups, there were a lot of people really happy that we did that one. So that's very comforting for us.
I guess our last question is: the 8-wide gave you more detail, but is there anything that the new standard has made more difficult for you?
Ohhh, that's a good question. Not a lot of people ask that because not a lot of people think that. I definitely think there are some things that are a challenge anytime you have to build around the minifigure. Trying to build something around a minifigure sounds easy, but when you've got all of our internal quality guidelines, that really kind of limits you in a lot of ways. You've got to build legally. You've got to make things fully connect to each stud. You've got to make the structure, and all the stability. And now we've doubled-up on trying to make it fit around two minifigures! It's... got its moments! And then also, trying to capture certain details. These cars definitely look a lot more accurate, there are a lot more details in there but certain things are still a big challenge because we've also pushed on ourselves that we want to include more detail. And by wanting to include more detail, naturally it gets more challenging and tricky.
You've laid the gauntlet down; I guess people are gonna judge you on it now?
People probably will, but I think we're very strict on ourselves. And I know that some of the designers in our team and myself included, we're really trying to capture every detail. We'll never capture every detail, it's impossible at this scale, but we really strive for it. You can release a product and think “That looks great!”, but you'll still be thinking, “Ah that curve isn't quite right, you know,” so I think we're our own biggest critic. And that's why we're so open, or at least we try to be so open to the fan communities and and the kids' feedback – what they liked and what they didn't like – because we can always make it better. It's just kind of knowing what is relevant to improve and what is okay the way it is.
Thanks so much for your time Chris!
Thanks to Jordan Paxton and the AFOLET team at LEGO for organising this interview.
76900 Koenigsegg Jesko, 76901 Toyota GR Supra, 76902 McLaren Elva, 76903 Chevrolet Corvette C8-R & 1968 Chevrolet Corvette C3, 76904 Mopar Dodge/SRT Top Fuel Dragster & 1970 Dodge Challenger and 76905 Ford GT Heritage Edition and Bronco R are released on 1 June 2021. Consider using our affiliate links whenever you buy from LEGO.com, New Elementary may get a commission: UK LEGO Shop | USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop, for other countries 'Change Region'.
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