Vellum Venom Antidote: In Defense of the Lego F40
Sajeev’s hot take on the Lego F40? Unclean! Abomination! We don’t need no studs in our Italian stallions. The blocky limitations of Lego have bricked Pininfarina’s flow, making a supermodel’s curves about as sexy as Samus Aran in her NES bikini.
I just finished putting together this thing and I disagree entirely. Judged as an accurate representation of the breed? Who cares? Here, the medium is the message.
If you’re like me, the F40 and Lego are both part of your early childhood, as is a somewhat nostalgic tug at an over-pixellated graphic representation. Truth be told, I always preferred the 959 in Test Drive II, but while Porsche’s all-wheel-drive supercar was a harbinger of the future, the Ferrari represented something of a last gasp of the dangerous supercar. Never mind that it’s now eclipsed in speed, the F40 still basks in that childhood glow. (The 288 GTO is probably a better connoisseur’s choice, but never mind.)
Lego and Ferrari have come together in the past, thanks to a shared partnership with Shell Oil stretching back a half-century in little Danish Bricks. However, something different is happening here. In the past decade or so, Lego has moved from creative playset to mass-market licensing machine. There is nothing they won’t render in bricks, always assuming there’s a way to trademark it to keep the copycats at bay. The patent on the Lego Brick itself has been dead for several years, so the only thing differentiating the brand is its ability to clamp on to the likes of Simpsons, Minecraft, Lord of the Rings, Batman, Marvel, you-name-it, and car brands are part of the Borg-like assimilation. McLaren, Porsche, and Ferrari are all now available in brick form, reproduced in plastic by a brand whose power now likely eclipses any car maker.
I also own a Kyosho F40, and while parking it next to the Lego representation highlights any number of flaws, you have to admit that the designers that put together the Lego version got a lot right. Of the eight NACA ducts on the car, only two are stickers. The engine is removable, everything opens, and the multi-stepped rear louvered glass isn’t a single piece.
Assembling it is a delight, as there are all sorts of interesting tricks to get details like the slightly-angled flanks to work. It’s also a fairly robust design – fifteen minutes of play in the hands of my near-three-year-old and only the rear wing seems likely to break. If it does break, you can simply put it back together.
So here’s where I think the flaw in Mr. Mehta’s lack of appreciation of the Lego F40 lies: the joy of this thing is not in accuracy, but in interpretation. Building it evokes the muscle memory of making your own models as a kid. You don’t gain appreciation for the works of the Italian designers, but get a glimpse into what the Danish team was trying to do as they struggled to get everything to fit.
Further, and I think this is important, the Lego F40 differs from diecast in that it’s not a static display. The reasons to buy one are in the build and perhaps a brief display, but I have no intention of letting this thing gather dust on a shelf the way my 1:18th scale cars do. Instead, it’ll be smashed to its constituent pieces in a few months, broken apart so that the swiftly-growing next generation can make furniture out of it or whatever.
Like childhood, it’s a fleeting thing. A hundred bucks for a trip in a time machine? Bargain.
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I want to build the Maersk Triple E!
Oh come on, this thing is darn accurate. Did you know that you can even do an engine-out service on it? Then entire V8 comes out!