17 January 2024

Christopher Hoffmann's Ma.K MOC using 42156 PEUGEOT 9X8 24H Le Mans Hybrid Hypercar

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We invited Christopher Hoffmann to choose a LEGO® set with inspiring new parts to add to his collection and create his own MOC. Today he reveals his work, with a masterclass insight into the creative process, and the elements and techniques he used.

As I thumbed through the catalogue of sets to review, my inspiration was immediate and specific. It was September 2023 and the most wonderful time of the year, Ma.Ktoberfest, was just around the corner. Set 42156 PEUGEOT 9X8 24H Le Mans Hybrid Hypercar, released 4 months prior, beckoned to me with the perfect ingredients for the theme: a range of new Technic panels in dark stone grey.

Products in this article were gifted by The LEGO Group; the author's opinions are their own.
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42156 PEUGEOT 9X8 24H Le Mans Hybrid Hypercar
US$199.99/ £169.99/ 199.99€/ AU$299.99
1775 parts
Released 1 May 2023
Set 42156 on LEGO.com

What happened to Ma.Ktoberfest?

For the uninitiated, Ma.Ktoberfest is (or was) a theme month based on Maschinen Krieger ZbV 3000 (Ma.K), a post-apocalyptic world created by Japanese artist Kow Yokoyama. Ma.K was born from the same WW2-inspired kit-bashing scene as the original Star Wars trilogy and the machines of Hayao Miyazaki, but without the optimism of the former or the whimsy of the latter. 

BrickNerd ran an article by my friend Ted Andes back in 2022 on the rise and fall of the all-but-forgotten theme month, which might serve as a primer to this one. What started with 176 contributions in 2012, the heyday of the sci-fi community on Flickr, petered out to 23 by 2016. I think I saw a grand total of three builds this year. 

The old theme months aren’t really celebrated anymore so much as they are observed, like Flag Day or that thing on your arm that you think might be a mole but you’re not sure. Ted figures that interest slowly faded and the community simply moved onto new themes. And that’s probably true.

But there was a larger shift going on. The sci-fi community isn’t what it once was. Those young hot shot “Spacers” at the time were steadily becoming grown adults with responsibilities (Tromas, for example, mostly builds with his kids now). Meanwhile forum interaction on Flickr was on the decline and Ma.K—and much of sci-fi in general—got lost in translation to the Instagram generation. 

The new rising stars had different interests and sensibilities, leaning more heavily toward characters and fantasy worlds. They grew up in the boom of Harry Potter, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and LEGO® BIONICLE®, not the golden age of sci-fi anime and arcade shoot ‘em ups. Their Star Wars was less about space battles and more about acrobatic fight scenes. 

SHIPtember is going strong on Discord and nnoVVember somehow survived, but greenhorns usually ask what the Vic Viper is from. Space Jam had to spin off from an existing castle contest seemingly out of necessity.

Aside from PR issues though I think the main hurdle to entry is that the Ma.K aesthetic is… demanding. It seems to do everything that LEGO traditionally doesn’t want you to. LEGO presents us with clean grid lines measured in studs and plates. Ma.K tells you to bisect an ellipsoid, cover it in warts, then attach it to another ellipsoid at an impossible angle. It’s hostile to newcomers. 

As Tromas himself put it:

"In general the aesthetic of Maschinen Krieger is about as "un-LEGO" of a style as you can get. It is very curvy, very dirty, and with small, delicate detailing. It is the bulbous curves that are so difficult to pull off."

The open and free system of LEGO becomes recalcitrant and unyielding; Ma.K a test in how well a builder can bend and break it into submission; to try and do calculus armed only with Euclidean geometry. At its worst it can feel like you’re at war with your own model, and in the absence of that founder community and the relegation of the theme to a handful of specialists, it’s a war you’re probably fighting alone. 

My battle lasted for an additional two months after Ma.Ktoberfest ended. Thankfully the Peugeot 9X8 provided me with some much-needed cannon fodder.

Let’s go through it one element at a time.

Useful parts in the LEGO Peugeot 9X8

  • Technic Panel Round Corner 5 x 3 x 2 Left (6422625 | 2438) 
  • Technic Panel Round Corner 5 x 3 x 2 Right (6422627 | 2442)

I say one at a time because these are really the same part. And definitely one at a time because I only used the righthand one.

I had heard a fellow builder complain that these look uncannily “un-LEGO,” but that plays right into our hands for Ma.K. These are the most obvious choice for the theme, being gray and dome-shaped. SPARKART! used all four in the set to form the cockpit for a series of SAFS suits this year, scooping my first idea for them. 

For my effort, I tried incorporating one of them with LEGO System slopes, which as you’ll see will be a running theme.

  • Technic Panel Fairing #9 Medium Triangle Smooth (6426607 | 2395)
  • #10 Medium Triangle Smooth (6426608 | 2403)

These weren’t used in a particularly interesting way in the set itself but beyond adding flair to your existing Technic panels, they offer huge potential for creating bends in curved surfaces at certain depths and angles. 

I’ve implemented a pair on the main body of my walker with a LEGO Bionicle mask opposite and an ingot to fill the gap.

  • Technic Panel Fairing 2 x 3 x 1 (6435030 | 71682)
  • Technic Panel Fairing 2 x 3 x 1 #3 Angled (6426611 | 2457)

Now for the small fairings. I’m a big fan of these because they can give a sharp, machined look to your MOCs at a much more manageable scale than most of the other Technic panels. When combined with the family of 2L curved slopes and some espresso filters (32828) to connect them, they become powerful. 

As I was shaping the front of the head here, Jerac’s A-Wing was making one of its regular flights through my brain.

The panels with perpendicular axle holes can also perform an unexpected trick: the side facing into the curve is closed off just enough that a minifig hand will fit in with a satisfying snap, as if it was meant to. It doesn’t result in a perfect 90° clip connection but it’s close enough, and the spacing is just right for a LEGO® Friends handlebar (98397) to connect two back-to-back. 

This gives an attachment point from behind without added bulk on the side, making the 2 x 3 perfect for the armor plates commonly found on Ma.K Strahl walkers.

There’s a debate to be had about whether to go with the panels here or to create roughly the same shape with humble curved slopes. The panels give a thinner profile but leave an unsightly crease in the middle. The solution risks being overengineered and self-indulgent, but here I am writing an article about my own My Own Creation, so I think we’re long past the point of no return on the latter front. Besides, the armor plates on the actual Ma.K models are so delicate they can snap off if you look at them the wrong way, and I think the Technic panels do a good job of evoking the appropriate level of daintiness. You’ll find the standard curved slope solution lower down by the “heel” (Strahl walkers are inverted digitigrade).

The completed MOC

Though the Ma.K universe is one of the single strongest influences on my work at large, this is the closest I’ve come to tackling a straight replica within it. I started with the standard leg and hip design common to the Gans and Kröte, with the idea that this would be a third medium-class walker between the two. I ended up remixing and restating elements from those walkers and the Luna Gans into a kitbash of sorts while incorporating other shapes until they arrived at a composition I was happy with.

To bring it all back, let’s return to that quote from Tromas for a moment. He continues,

"From my experience the more efficient parts usage you can get the better. If you use too many pieces to try and achieve the shape, the elegant curves will be lost."

I think it’s fair to say this bit is less relevant now. Entire families of new parts have been introduced in the years since that allow for the complex curves of Ma.K to be emulated more easily from scratch, including a slew of LEGO System parts I haven’t covered here.

And yet here I am reporting two months past due for what was supposed to be a timely Ma.Ktoberfest article, after hypocritically lamenting the lack of turnout.

The reality is that new parts never make the work easier. They merely redefine the parameters of what can be done. They mean more options that must be sifted through in pursuit of the finished model, more marble to be removed before the statue can be seen. Nowhere is that truer than in sci-fi; like the old Spacers said, “Every part is a space part.”

READ MORE: Our set review of 42156 Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hybrid Hypercar

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  1. Interesting read, for the two armor plates on the front I thought of a third design. Placing two 98834 spoilers end to end and attaching them with skeleton arms would be a pretty clean design that doesn't overcomplicate things. Imo the exposed axle holes on the panels tend to spoil the illusion that the mech isn't technic. If you really wanted to get creative you could cheese it and substitute 40393 dinosaur feet for the front panels. They'd be the wrong texture but the right general shape.

    1. Honestly I'm not sure if I would have stuck with the technic panels had this not been primarily an exercise in using parts from the set. I've seen those spoilers used for Ma.K armor plates before but I'm personally not a fan of them because they're a bit too angular for the aesthetic—texture is important here. If anything I think the buildable figure shoulder pad (21560) might be a better third option.

    2. 21560 is a good solution, that or 93604 'Wedge 3 x 4 x 2/3 Triple Curved'.

  2. Great stuff! With Ma.K, i always love seeing people use obscure parts like the metal rod and whatever you put on top of it, or the middle element in the foot.

    1. The metal rod would be a train axle. Both the tip of the antenna and the central foot part are from a disassembled light brick.