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As you all know by now, I’m a sucker for anything Formula 1 related. When LEGO announced it would be releasing a Technic kit based on: McLaren Racing’s MCL36 2022 F1 CarI was foaming right away.
Because F1 is currently hugely popular thanks to Netflix’s popular Ride to survive series, the set became an instant hit. The first run sold out almost immediately. I’ve even reached out to our local LEGO publicist to see if they might be able to find one for me. Even they struggled to get kits.
On a whim, on a Thursday night on my way home from the office, I popped my head into my local Toyworld. I went through the Technic shelf, although I didn’t expect to see one and sure enough, no luck. When I turned glumly back to the exit, I saw it. Just one LEGO McLaren F1 kit, sitting by the counter with a handful of higher end Technic kits. I must have switched like crazy because I scared the poor woman behind the counter. She wasn’t surprised to learn that the LEGO McLaren kit was in high demand. This had been a special order and the customer never showed up to pick it up. She didn’t want to hold onto stocks when it could make her money, so on the ground it was gone.
I rushed home with my prize lest I be obscured by a crazed LEGO fan chasing the same kit.
How does LEGO get this stuff?
The LEGO McLaren is a brilliant construction. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s the blueprint that’s brilliant. The design of the thing, in collaboration with McLaren’s real-life F1 engineers, is remarkable. Someone actually sat down and thought very carefully about exactly how to build an F1 car from LEGO. The actual build process was alternately smooth and satisfying, then clumsy and frustrating.
The car itself is based on McLaren’s 2022 MCL36 F1 race car, but adopts the team’s livery and livery for 2021. The reason for this is that, at the time of the LEGO kit announcement, McLaren had yet to formally unveil its 2022 colors. F1 teams, like publishers in the video game industry, jealously guard their secrets like dragons protecting treasure. From time to time, that emphasis on secrecy spills out, putting certain connected brand deals in a very inconvenient position. That’s what happened here.
When the build sings and comes together, it’s the kind of LEGO magic that makes you feel like a massive brain genius. The moment I realized that the first phase of the build was laying the foundation for a working mid-engine drivetrain was one of those moments. The LEGO V6 engine punches its yellow pistons in and out as the rear wheels turn the drive shaft. This is the biggest trick of the LEGO McLaren. It gives F1 fans, especially new ones, a much better idea of the machines at work in these cars. I have described these cars to geek friends as something akin to an Evangelion: the paintwork and aerodynamic armor are part of the show. They both disguise and serve the 1000 horsepower monster lurking beneath.
Where the build collapsed for me was when things got a lot trickier. And that was when we got to the suspension. F1 cars don’t have much suspension. They are so-called race cars with open wheels. This is because the wheels are uncovered. They are connected to the chassis by a complex series of wishbones, springs, dampers and a pair of push/pull rods that allow the wheels to turn.
These parts are all mixed together and, when translated into a LEGO construction, require the smallest and most steady hands to complete. The chassis of the LEGO McLaren is divided into two halves: the front and the back. I spent way more time on the suspension part of the build than I care to say, partly because of its complexity, but mostly because of my own misinterpretations of the blueprint. While the LEGO guide is a fantastic resource, there’s a higher level of how much detail it can provide when the builds get as clunky as this.
it took me o’clock to arrange it all. With every move I made, a piece jumped loose. I would take each of the four suspension assemblies apart, rebuild them in my mind, and put them back together incorrectly. i did this numerous times, so many times that I started to get frustrated and had to walk away from the build.
In addition, the LEGO McLaren kit also includes real sponsor stickers that must be applied to the necessary body parts before assembly. For my shaky, over-caffeinated hands, this was almost a bridge too far. I eventually got everything hooked up, but at times it felt like I needed tweezers and a magnifying glass to get them aligned properly.
It took me hours to get through the middle stage of the build. I’ve watched most Netflix series race† Bubba Wallace as I worked through it.
In the wall
And then disaster struck. What LEGO fans fear: I was missing pieces. Two small but unique pieces of the rear wing section were missing. Building had to stop while I waited for LEGO to send me some spare parts. It took them two or three weeks to get from LEGO headquarters in Europe.
Construction resumes. The rear wing began to take shape, the small but important parts merging into each other. We were quickly approaching the final stage of construction. Only a final section of the rear wing remained. And then…
I missed one more piece. Just one. A small McLaren orange piece. I could not believe it. I expressed my frustration on Twitter, expecting to have to file another claim for a missing piece on the same kit. I had never come across a kit that was missing pieces, and this one was missing two different bricks.
I mean, I took that person’s order. I assume this is the Force reaffirming the necessary balance.
It was a good friend of the site and noted LEGO fan Alice Clarke who came to my rescue, having received her own assessment kit at this point. She took pity on me, gave me the part I needed and ordered my own part because she is so amazing.
We had managed to pull our LEGO McLaren F1 car out of a spin in the gravel trap and back onto the track. The final stages of the rear wing were quickly completed and the kit’s large wheels were finally mounted. The finished unit is too big for almost any shelf in my den where I keep most of my geek paraphernalia. It has currently taken up residence on my chest of drawers and is almost too big to even fit in there.
The LEGO McLaren F1 car is beautifully built, although the process shows the limitations of LEGO’s carefully designed instructional system. The complexity will tickle diehard builders, but can sometimes be a bit much for beginners or those first coming to the kit as F1 fans. Created in consultation with McLaren engineers, the design is simply brilliant and kudos to the master builders who conceived it. Just like the sport it is based on, there are times when this build will drive you crazy. But when it’s done and on your shelf, you won’t remember the frustration, just the sweet, sweet taste of victory.
Where can you buy the LEGO McLaren Formula 1
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