Friday, March 15, 2013

TBs TechReview 21 - 42002 Hovercraft

Set reference: 42002                                                                                                                                                               
Set name: Hovercraft
Theme: LEGO Technic
Release date: 2013.Jan

Number of parts: 170 (plus a few spares)

LEGO Designer: Alfredo (Alfred Pedersen)

Model under review: Main model and B-model
Weight: 270 g (9.52 oz)
Approximate set dimensions:
Length - 18 cm (7.1")
Width - 8 cm (3.1")
Height - 9 cm (3.5")
Approximate box dimensions:
Length - 26 cm (10.24")
Width - 14 cm (5.51")
Height - 4.6 cm (1.81")

Stickers: Yes
Building instructions: 2 booklets included
Main model (56 pages with 27 major building steps): 1/2
B-model (40 pages with 34 major building steps): 2/2
B-model: Plane

Recommended for ages: 8-14
Building difficulty level: Easy
Estimated building time: 45m - 1,5h

Price range: 20€
Price per part: 11.76 euro cents

Inventory (BrickLink): : Link
Inventory (Peeron): Link (when available)
Other user reviews (Brickset): Link

Along with the 42010 Off-road Racer/42011 Race Car duo (reviewed here), here we have the smallest set for the semester. It represents a black hovercraft, which, judging by the relative size of the seat and the propeller, as well as the stickers, is a small racing vehicle, not one of the large transports (like one of the models for the 4997 Transport Ferry).

Although the colour is a bit subdued for a racing vehicle, it's actually not bad: practically all parts are black, with some greys here and there, and the traditional blue for Technic seats. Unlike other sets (9398, I'm looking at you), there is no colour clash peeking from underneath the exterior elements.

There are plenty of stickers, both big and small. They add a lot of detail, like racing decals, air intakes and exhausts, and the ribs of the skirt in the sides. Although personally I don't like stickers (they reduce a part's "MOCability") and the model would probably still look nice without them, they favourably contribute to the look of the machine.

Despite its small size, it is still larger than the first-semester "entry level" sets of past years. Judging by the rumours, this year sees the smallest set, the 42001 Mini Off-Roader, released on the second semester instead.

Its two functions are linked to the same action. When it is rolled along the floor (perhaps it floats, but it shouldn't do that very well and I don't want to try), wheels hidden underneath spin the rear propeller and make a V2 engine work. The wheels are at the front, while the rear is supported by a pair of plates with rounded bottom. With time and play, these plates will eventually wear down, but I kind of understand the decision behind this arrangement: with traction at the front and freedom to skid at the rear, it's easy to play with the model, making it turn and spin realistically.

Like other models by Alfred (the 8264 Hauler and the 8071 Bucket Truck come to mind), great attention has been given to the general shape. The hovercraft feels solid, its proportions feel right, and the rounded shapes both look good on this kind of vehicle and are a welcome variation to the generally angular models we see made from LEGO parts. The two ribbed hoses at the front, together with the stickered beams at the sides, make for a convincing skirt.

1. The package and contents

When I held the box for the first time, I immediately noticed how heavy it was. Not that it really is that heavy in the absolute sense, but, for the typical weight of a small Technic set, its box is quite small. For example, the 8046 Helicopter, which has a similar ranking among the sets of its year, has a much larger box. I welcome this change, as that means the box takes less space on shelves (both at the shop and at home), and we receive less Billund air.

The front of the box has the typical elements: the LEGO and Technic logos (in case you weren't sure about what it was), a big photo of the model in action, the set reference and recommended age bracket, the "2 models in 1" stamp we've been getting since not long ago, and a detail of the set's functionality.

The top shows the usual 1:1 image for scale: in the case of the 42002, it's the rudder.

The rear is surprisingly bare: it shows again the "2 models in 1" stamp, a picture of the plane B-model, and a smaller picture of the A-model indicating that the parts for one are used to build the other. There are no other images or details, and an inexperienced potential buyer gets no idea about what the B-model does.

As usual for sets of this size, the box is opened by tearing up one of its sides. Inside we find that the box is tightly packed with instruction booklets (unlike larger sets, instructions for both models are included), the DSS, three unnumbered bags with the parts, and a loose rigid hose.

2. The new parts

There are no new parts in this set (or else it wouldn't be featured in the latest TechReverse Challenge), although the Pins 3/4 now come in tan instead of dark bluish grey. I don't understand this change, as Pins 1/2 (the part builders could confuse it with) only come in either light bluish grey or blue.

3. The parts assortment

This being a small set with no new parts for 2013, not much is to be expected. With that in mind, the Wedge Belt Wheels and their tyres aren't very common nowadays. The engine block parts and the numerous panels (6) should appeal to MOCers too. cheese graters are an unusual sight in Technicland and are helpful for adding detail without resorting to stickers.

4. Building experience

When I opened up the instruction booklet, I was greeted with a similar image as Jetro did. And people complained about few parts per step... Now there are even instructions on how to follow the instructions on how to build the model!

Building the model is an enjoyable experience, with no hard or repetitive steps. The hardest part is applying the stickers: aligning them correctly with the large panels is no easy feat. Rather than showing you images of the half-built model, how about showing it building itself? This is the first time I do this, so please forgive me for the general lack of quality.

However, one thing baffles me: the rear assembly for the transmission is held on one side by a 2L axle, while the other by an axle pin with friction... Could the extra axle or axle pin be needed for the B-model? That's the main reason I decided to build and review it along with the A-model.

In the end, after assembling everything and applying all stickers, it's done.

Besides the stickers, the set includes a printed tile for the dashboard. While it is a nice touvh of detail, I'd rather have a yoke there for the pilot to steer the vehicle.

These are the spare parts that were left.

5. Functionality and playability

Like was said at the introduction, pushing the hovercraft along a surface activates its two functions: spinning the propeller and moving the cylinders on the V2 engine.

The wheels connect to a longitudinal axle at the bottom via a 20T bevel gear and a 12T double bevel, which then bring the notion towards the rear. There, another 12T meshes with a 20T above it to bring motion to the cylinders. This 20T connects to a third 12T, which finally drives the propeller. This gives a global ratio of 1:1 for the engine and 1:1.67 for the propeller. The 20T on the wheels is oriented such that, when we push the hovercraft forward, the propeller spins in the correct direction mandated by its pitch (it pushes instead of pulling).

There's also a pseudo-function: the seat is connected to the structure only by an axle, and is free to rotate around it. This makes it able to pivot forward like the front seats in compact cars do, when passengers need to access or leave the back seat. But anyway I believe this is more a side-effect of the model than an intended feature.

6. The B-model

The B-model is a prop plane. Judging by the dimensions of the cockpit, I’d say it’s a sports model. Its function is to move the V2 engine when the propeller as spinned. Unlike the A-model, there’s gearing up from the propeller to the engine, instead of gearing down; I guess airplane propellers spin slower than hovercraft propellers, or maybe their engines run at higher RPM.

The general shape is good for a B-model. I expected the undercarriage to make the engine and propeller work like on the A-model, but admittedly that would certainly be too complex with the available parts.

What I really don’t like about the model is the feeble connection between the engine and the rest of the fuselage. As you can see below, they are connected by a single pin long with friction on each side, then partially supported by two transverse above and below. Even though the wings help reinforce this connection, this is still not enough and the engine assembly tilts slightly forward. The undercarriage has a similar, yet not as noticeable, problem: it attaches to the fuselage way back under the seat, and merely touches the 5L beam above it.

It’s interesting that the instructions explicitly tell you to put stickers in odd places, like where the instrument panel is expected to be located, or above the landing gear. This is because those stickered parts are in more relevant positions on the A-model, and this way we don’t have to take out and put them back on when we disassemble one and assemble the other.

As expected, there are quite a few leftover parts. Remember what I wrote previously, about the strange choice of parts for attaching the A-model’s rear assembly? Here is the photo again, for reference, as well as a "portrait" of the parts.

Notice anything odd? That’s right, the very same 2L axle and axle pin with friction are there, at the “earrings”! So, the hypothesis of the two distinct parts being needed for the B-model goes out the window. Then, why such a weird design decision? A mistake when determining the parts inventory and instructions? The result of coming close to the budget limit and trying to cut on as many corners as possible while maintaining looks and functions? Who knows…

7. Final thoughts

I was pleasantly surprised by this set. While on paper its functions are nothing to launch fireworks for (what else would you be expecting at this price range?), they are well implemented and on a model that is a pleasure to look at and to swoosh around.

I'm still baffled at the part choice for attaching the rear assembly, and I'll be sure to ask the reason for it if I ever get the chance to get in touch with the designer and/or the rest of the Technic team.

The B-model has okay functions (for a B-model), but its flimsiness really doesn't taste like "official LEGO model". I didn't have any regrets when I decided I'd disassemble it and rebuild the A-model instead for the event my LUG will be hosting on April.

Another thing I didn't like much is the amount and size of the stickers. While they add realism, they reduce reusability and young kids might have a hard time placing them correctly.

Finally, while I was building the set, I noticed something not related to the model. You probably know how hard it is to insert thin 1x2 beams on axles and to take them... apparently TLG redesigned slightly that part to be slide more smoothly. However, it introduces some serious backlash, which I don't remember experiencing with "old" versions of the part. While being easier to assemble and disassemble is good, personally I prefer "sticky" parts that won't wobble.

8. The Ratings

Being positioned among the lower ranks of this year's Technic line-up, this set gives expectedly good value for money, its theme is unusual (just look how few Technic watercraft sets there are), and the design is great. The areas where the set is poorer are the B-model and the parts innovation (the most noteworthy parts are the panels and the wheels, plus there are no new parts).

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

Overall rate: Good

Like I wrote in the previous section, this is globally a good set. Kids will like playing with it, and adults will like having it on display. Its compact size and small price also help in making the purchase decision easier.


crowkillers said...

I most definitely do not like the play with those 2L liftarms... Lego probably was getting feedback that they were too difficult to separate from the axle...

TechnicBRICKs said...

Great review Alexandre!

While evaluating the TechREVERSE entries, I also wondered about the decision to use one axle/pin plus on 2L axle, too attach such frame in the rear, but as you wrote, who knows which was the reasoning behind this decision.

As for the 3/4 pins color change I may guess, that most larger Technic sets have a large amount of DBG parts and much less tan ones. This could make it easier to find the 3/4 pins!?

TechnicBRICKs said...

As for the rounded plates bottom, maybe I would have preferred them to use the hubs wrongly guessed by Algirdas in his entry to the TechREVERSE Challenge.

Robotica said...

In more technic models the axle 2, or a axle-pin is used instead of the more logical axle-pin, (or pin). A reason is that sometimes pushing in two pins is considered to hard, and then when one pin(end) is exchanged for an axle it will make it easier to push the sub model in.

TechnicBRICKs said...

This seems a very reasonable explanation!

Pushing two pins simultaneously is indeed not the easiest task. Given this is the entry level set it targets a youngster audience, hence it is understandable this kind of concern and measures from the designers. Specially if it is not attaching a structural element to the model.

Thebicyclestory said...

Great review!

Does the model float??

Halhi141 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allanp said...

Good review, I like the black colour of the model despite it being very common. I think the change to the 1x2x0.5 liftarm was inevitable. Even as an adult engineer and guitarist I sometimes found it tricky for my fingers to to slide an axle through two or more of them. I'm surpised they left it the way it was for so long, I guess they was waiting for the existing mould to wear out.

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