TBs: As we know from experience, weight and balance are crucial when it comes to trial trucks. The battery box is quite big and heavy, which makes it tricky to integrate. What kind of alternatives have been considered for this?
JJ: Well, the current design of the 4X4 Crawler (with the centered servo) does come with one compromise; that the battery box has to be situated on top of the servo. It would have been better if the design would have allowed us to bring the battery box down by 5-6 modules in the model. We did spend some time to make sure that it came as low as possible, and the current design was the best compromise possible.
TBs: What other ideas there were for the mechanics on the chassis? Number and placement of motors, suspension geometry, etc… Can you show us some of those early designs or concepts?
JJ: He - basically all the versions that you can imagine! Don't have anything I can show you today, but you newer know what the future may hold!
TBs: What are your thoughts on the task of designing a tough and reliable structure / mechanism when compared to other, less "abuse-prone" Technic models?
JJ: That was a key target during the development of the 4X4 Crawler. It should be extremely durable and tough - because of the abuse it would be receiving during play. You have to lock everything - and I do mean everything. Both the structural part, the transmission parts, gear wheels and crossaxles and the exterior parts of the model. So use triangle-build ups for your structural elements, make sure to build bearings on both sides of the all gearings, use cross-axles with end/middle stops in the transmission and use a lot of crossblocks to lock in "modules" of the build. Last, we do a lot of testing. The 4X4 Crawler has been through the most challenging test procedure ever, driving randomly for hundreds of hours in our Test Department!
TBs: From a flagship we have come to expect some advanced functions with a lot of gears, the last couple of years. The Crawler seems to break this trend with the motors "almost" directly on the axles. What is your view on this, as a Technic product leaders. What does Authenticity, Funcionlity and Challenging building stand for in LEGO Technic today?
Is the simplicity of models that use new PF components intrinsically related with them being new and their potential usecases not so extensively explored by the LEGO Designers (e.g. it was somehow also the case with 8275 Motorized Bulldozer when it was released).
Yeah… we know you're counting on us to extend the Crawler chassis with new functions, after the actual Technic Challenge…
JJ/NH: We have a very wide age bracket of consumers to cover where we must ensure to deliver a good and interesting LEGO Technic experience. So I agree, you can argue that a model like the 4x4 crawler is for an experiened builder not advanced like the Unimog, but for the kid at 10-11 it might be spot on wheres the Unimog is to complex. Authenticity, functionality and challenging building stands for the same thing as it did when we back in 2005 introduced current Technic concept.
TBs: The majority of LEGO fans agree that the Crawler looks much better with the old "Power Puller" wheels and tyres (22969 / 3229), or some other 3rd party custom wheels, than with the wheels / tyres that come with the product we can buy.
Have you thought to use some larger wheels and tires instead?
NH: Every year we add new elements to our platform and every year we delete elements from our platform. In the end its about having the right balance. And yes the old Power Puller wheels and tyres was deleted some years ago, due to the fact that we didn't used it in sufficient degree across all our vehicles at that time. Whether we get it or someone close to it back again is not in our scope yet, the only thing I can say and promise is that there will be new wheels & tyres in our assortment already in 2013 and again in 2014.
TBs: What was the main concept behind the Crawler's unusual color schema (red chassis, black / white / orange body)?
NH: We wanted to make a mean looking vehicle that stood out compared to what else we had in our assortment, and I think the color combination and stickers together makes a really tough looking vehicle.
TBs: How did you get the idea of making a build contest, for a consumer to become a LEGO Technic Designer?
When did you get it? Still during the Crawler's development?
NH: Well for around a year ago, when we were finalizing the 4x4 Crawler , we sat down and asked our self how we could give a new experience, never seen before to those consumers who loves LEGO Technic for what it is. And to be 100% honest we said to our self this should be seen as a marketing campaign and not an extra business on top of our standard business, and thats the way it has been orchestrated. We then talked about having a building competition where we wanted to credit the winner, beside the honor, with a limited and exclusive production of that model. How cool would it be to see your model being produced as a LEGO set and perhaps with you on the box?
TBs: Which type of expectations and objectives do you have regarding this year's Challenge?
NH: Our expectations is of course high, we hope for many model uploads, but also the users interact in between by voting, commenting and getting inspiration from other models. Since we have never tried anything like this before its hard to put a number on, but I think we have seen many cool models so far. And especially that we have seen high creativity and variety in what has been uploaded. There has been hand drawn images, some builds in LDD, we have seen CGI movies and some have even made suggestion for new elements.
TBs: Hope to see you using the new PF elements into much new sets for the years to come!
But please keep on releasing new PF goodies… and hope you continue to do a great job!
NH: Thanks a lot. We don't see anything in the horizon why we shouldn't continue integrating with the Power Functions Platform. We get a lot of good feedback from consumers saying that having the possibility to integrate this technology gives an added value to the products. And I think its appropriate to say thanks to all you LEGO fans out there - we think you are doing a fantastic and inspiring work. Thanks a lot!
Many thanks for your time and for having accepted to answer our questions!