Saturday, December 31, 2011

TBs TechReview 14 – 9395, Pick-Up Tow Truck

Set reference: 9395
Set name: Pick-Up Tow Truck
Theme: LEGO Technic
Release date: 2012.Jan

Number of parts: 954 (some spare parts added into the box)

Model under review:
Main model
Weight: 780g
Approximate set dimensions:
Length - 36,5cm (14,4")
Width - 15,6cm (6,1")
Height - 13,8cm (5,4")
Approximate box dimensions:
Width - 47,8cm (18,8")
Height - 28,2cm (11,1")
Depth - 7,0cm (2,8")

Stickers: Yes
Building instructions: 3 booklets (56 pages each: 1/3, 2/3, 3/3)
B-model: Truck with Lift (Instructions available online only: 1/3, 2/3, 3/3)

Recommended for ages: 10 - 16
Building difficulty level: Medium
Estimated building time: 2 - 3 hours

Price range: $69,99 (US) / 59,99-74,95€ (EC)
Price per part: 7,3 cents / 6,3-7,9 euro cents

Inventory (Bricklink): Link
Inventory (Peeron): Link
Other user reviews (Brickset): Link

This is the biggest LEGO Technic set among the January releases from 2012 and it brings some news with it.
It is an American style Pick-Up Tow Truck, which features some realistic functions, like: working steering, folding tow lift, working winch, opening doors and a hood that opens to reveal a working piston engine.
Finally it rebuilds into a truck with lift.

The package and contents

As a medium size set, it comes in a lift-up cover LEGO box style with the traditional seals used in this type of box (card perforated side ears and two front-bottom stickers). It does not have however the 2nd level folding cover showing the functions details, exclusive from the large flagship models.
The backside view from the box, shows the the possibility to combine this set with elements from the supplemental 8293, to motorize this set's functions and the alternative B-model (truck with lift).

Besides the four tires included in the model, the box contained ten non-numbered bags. A few larger with main and bigger parts, and some smaller bags ir more common and accessory parts like pins and connectors.

There are three A4 building instructions booklets included with 56 pages each. These are for the main model and the the third book last pages also include instructions to motorize the model with parts from 8293, Motor Set

You will notice that as it is the latest tendency, the Technic beams are represented without the seams on the side.

Some fans have been expressing their concern that this might be a pronounce of a future change in the molding of Technic parts. I believe this unlikely either because of technical reasons related with the molding process, but either because of the extra raw material (ABS) necessary to produce such parts and consequent cost raise. This besides some potential cost decrease on the molds design and maintenance.
It would be also challenging change, if you want to change all parts at once and avoid to have sets shipping with a mix of former and later beam styles...

Find below the page with set parts inventory, which however does not yet reflect the latest mold changes (see next section).

No new parts, or already existing parts in new colors, included in this set!

The parts assortment

9395 brings no new parts or already existing parts in new colors, however some of the parts included were redesigned.

First it was the the "Thin Triangle Liftarm" (formerly 2905, now 99773) as it was reported here at TBs previously. Making a long story short, the change should allow the possibility to use any other parts adjacent to the liftarm axle-holes, where the triangle extended before.

Another redesign happened with the "Technic Engine Cylinder". This however kept the original mold number (2850), for some reason I can't figure out.

The side slits on the cylinder body have been eliminated, but still it is guaranteed the Technic pins once inserted won't get their ends compressed. The required cavity for those, remains assured by some molding element that gets in, from the bottom side and which was offset towards the cylinder center in the latest design.
In my analisys I don't find the reason behind this change, as I can't see how the mold or the plastic injection process might got simplified, the productions cost reduced, savings on raw material or whatsoever. It looks the change was purely for aesthetics reasons and even so they are of doubtful taste. The former slits somehow gave an extra detail to the engine blocks, like it does the heat sinks effect around each cylinder.

Also the part "Axle and Pin Connector Toggle Joint Smooth" (44) which had became very rare, expensive and useful, was re-released with this set for the satisfaction of many Technic builders out there. It was a claim since the release of 8081 (Extreme Cruiser) where fans never understood very well why the same part was used in LBG, instead of black which would fit a lot better.

Guess the first ones to be added at some BrickLink store will go directly into Crowkillers' stock...

Building experience

As for the building itself I believe there is not much to say... Started with the first book of course and after having finished it, there was already something substantial to look at.
The fake engine on top of the steering axle, which is controlled via the HoG in the center. And the functions switch box just before the rear axle.

Proceeding with the second book a lot more, gets added to this model.

The hood and front grill were added, as well as the seats and the function selector, which was smartly located at the side of driver's seat like if it was a real lever.
On the rear side we the tow mechanism start to take form. We can clear see the reel winch and respective drum.
The mechanism to fold/unfold the to fork (still to add), starts taking its form.

Below a more detailed view on the fake engine, the truck front grill / bumper and the head / traffic lights.

It is also time to take a look at the always interesting bottom view. We mainly see the drive shaft connecting the engine to the real axle differential.

Going after some steps through the third book, we came to the end and the model gets finally completed after a few hours.
The fork lifting mechanism is now complete!

A very nice and well designed model, I must say.
The fairings adjacent to the rear mudguards are not built in a very solid way, though!

And finally let's take a look to the hood of this American style tow truck. American trucks are characterized by their long and prominent hoods, and it looks like that after this year 8071 (Bucket Truck), 2012 will be the year of all American Trucks, for the LEGO Technic theme.

Once completing the main model you will rest with a more than usual number of parts. It is not common for a LEGO Technic model to have such amount of spare parts after the main model getting finished. And so it was not the case here, because many of them be used at an optional step ahead.

Yes, as you should have read in the beginning, this model comes prepared for you to add the supplemental 8293 motor set and thus motorize its functions. The last pages of the third instructions book, are dedicated to guide you through the necessary changes.

You need no more than the parts above, from one supplemental 8293 set (battery box, M-motor, clutch gear and small z8 gear).

Below you can see the overall look of the truck after the motorization modification have been applied. The most noticeable difference is the top lights frame replacement by the PF battery box and the protruding PF M-motor on the rear, but this is a topic we will return to, ahead in this post.
From the photo on the right side you can see also the final spare parts, remaining after the application of the motorization steps.

Functionality and playability

As for the functionality this set has two main functions, apart some other minor functions like steering, opening doors, opening hood and the fake engine (if we can call them functions).

The main functions are the winch and the lifting fork which can be raised and lowered. These functions are actuated by a knob (gear) on the truck right side and selectable through the lever next to the driver's seat.

Although it works, I must say I didn't became a fan. The switch box is quite distant from the lever (in the rear bottom side) and movement is transmitted through a shifting beam. This mechanism proved to be a bit unreliable and tends to fail often, while the the lever rests stuck near the middle position and before the driving ring to engage the corresponding 16t gear with clutch.

Bellow a couple of photos from the motorized version showing the lifting fork, respectively retracted and open.

One thing remains to say... the placement of the motor and the way it protrudes from the back of the model, despite functional, looks like an odd fit...

See the several functions in action (both manually or motorized) from the video below, which I've uploaded to my YT account sometime ago.

Sorry, didn't have a vehicle of similar scale at hand, to show you the towing capabilities and ability to carry load (maybe I'll add it here sometime later).
I've also did not applied the supplied stickers to the model in this review, as I'm not sure whether I'll keep this model built, or I'll use its parts.

Either something escaped from my understanding or I don't see the need for the gear brake system used on the winch.
Also it disturbs your play, specially on the motorized version, if you forget to turn it up. I almost always forget it and realize just when the motor stalls under load...


The alternative model proposed for this set, is a Lifting Truck as depicted in the LEGO promotional images shown below. This was however no covered in this review.
This alternative is presented in the form of an European style truck. As for the features it has steering, one winch at the front and an elevation platform to load/unload the payloads. Through a side lever, you can switch among the functions below:
  • Extend / retract the winch cable.
  • Raise / lower the payloads and rotate them in/out to the truck

Final thoughts

As mentioned by Eric Albrecht (Blakbird) in topic at EB, there is small improvement to this model much needed, which is the use of tandem wheels in the rear axle. There is probably no real Tow Truck of this kind without tandem wheels in real life. Likely this was not done by the LEGO Designers to keep the model within the targeted price tag, but it is nothing that you can't achieve with some simple modifications.
Find the details about the solution proposed by Eric, here.

Despite some coments produced accross this review regarding a few fails in this model, this was another set that I much liked to build and enjoyed to play with, while preparing this short review.

It is just another example how misleading the first impressions got from images online, can be!
This was again a set which did not raise that much interest on me, until I have built it. In the end I've enjoyed it, found it pleasant to build and a very nice looking model for display. Basically I think the black/red color combination, resulted very well in this model.

The Ratings

Being a medium sized set (the largest released for the 1H, up to now), expectations must be set accordingly.
With near one thousand parts is has good price per part, however the playability is not exactly top-notch, hence the value for the money rating.
Innovation at an expectable level. Not the first time we get a LEGO Technic tow truck, but not all the new sets can bring a breakthrough.
In terms of design it is a pretty good model, despite some small drawbacks. Although the functionality is very acceptable for a set this size.

   as value for the money
   for innovation
   for set design
   for functionality and playability

Overall rate: Good  

Overall it is a good set worth the money and capable to provide you a nice building and play time, specially for its targeted age group. Playability can be a lot increased if you manage to build another set or MOC of similar scale that you can tow with your 9395.

Leg Godt!


efferman said...

interresting, i have the new cylinder parts in my tow truck, but not the new triangle.
i am agree with your rating.

crowkillers said...

LOL... I already ordered my supply of New Black Toggle joints from Lego... .47 cents each... ;)

TechnicBRICKs said...


So you leave those at BrickLink for someone else. ;D

Erik Leppen said...

I just noticed that the truck has a towing eye at the front (light gray round hole). Nice little detail!

Robotica said...

somehow the model looks too fast build, or a new designer?
the 7 long black beam (under the hood) looks like it is not even in the official LEGO grid, but since it is placed with gray pegs it does work...
I would have expected a far better place for the motor, and also the roll bar on the rear comes of way to easy, that is where we pick the truck when lifting it form the ground.
2 maybe 2.5 bricks for set design...

TechnicBRICKs said...


I also wondered about the use of unofficial grid despite the little difference. Nevertheless it works either with frictionless (gray) or friction (black) pins.

The motor placement is indeed unbelievable... but maybe it was made this way to avoid dismantling a big part of the model to put it in.
Lets see if someone comes with simple design to integrate it in some other way.

The ratings are effectively very subjective. :)

Robotica said...

fix for turning by JunkstyleGio

Nice build !

Ghost Target said...

The wheel chock boom is not compatible with vehicles of a similar size. It is not long enough or wide enough to accommodate the tires. I found that Fire Truck 8289 will work, and the towing boom is capable of lifting the fire truck.

The Build itself is not perfect, but I am happy with it.

Dan Finucane said...

Is there any way to install a motor that operates the drive train or steering?

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