So here we are with our second builder profile. Coming mere days after his interview on LAML radio is none other than our resident Mad Physicist, Ralph Savelsberg. His unique style and attention to detail really puts him at the forefront of the lego car (and aircraft) building world.
How might we know you online? (screennames and the like)
I am known as RalphS on brickshelf and various forums and Mad physicist on flickr. I actually wanted to choose Mad Scientist, but sadly that name was already taken.
What is your real name?
How old are you?
I just turned 33 and I'm still building with LEGO bricks!
Where do you live?
I currently live in Southern England, although I was born and raised in The Netherlands (no, I don't do weed).
How long have you been building?
I recently saw a photograph taken when I three years old. I was holding a LEGO Duplo brick in my hand, so I probably started round about then. I also have a picture of myself taken on my fifth birthday holding up a Duplo model of a Windmill. How much more Dutch can you get I wonder? I never stopped building since. I knew it was considered deeply uncool as a teenager, but didn't really care. Whilst in
university I did go through a period during which I didn't buy any LEGO sets, mainly because I really couldn't afford to and because I really didn't have all that much time, but I never stopped building completely.
How long have you been building cars?
In the picture taken when I was three I'm holding a brick in one hand and a toy car in the other. I liked cars even then and was able to recognise and name most brands, so I reckon I started building cars as soon as I figured out how to actually do it. I know for sure that I used to build cars together with a friend of mine when we were both 7 years old.
Do you have a favourite style or scale of vehicle to build?
Lately I have been building quite a few cars scaled for LEGO minifigures, but most of the cars that I build are about twice as large, roughly scale 1/22. I know that's a bit of an odd scale, but the reason for it is quite simple. Lego only makes certain sizes of tyres and this scale allowed me to build both trucks and normal cars using the limited selection available. It's also big enough to allow me to add details and some working features, but not so big that I need a lot parts for each vehicle. For some reason that I have not figured out myself I mainly build American cars, possibly because to me they are a bit more interesting that what I see around me every day. I know some of them are politically incorrect and sometimes even quite ugly, but I love to build them. I like to build American fire engines and commercial trucks in particular, mainly because of their elaborate styling. It's a lot of fun to recreate that in LEGO bricks. I also have a thing for Volkswagens. Through the flickr LUGNuts group I've also been getting into more classic cars and recently I've even built a hot rod.
What other themes do you enjoy building?
I really enjoy building cars and thanks to LUGNuts seem to be spending an ever larger percentage of my time doing that, but I'd consider myself to mainly be a builder of military aircraft. I blame Top Gun. The challenge of building cars and building aircraft models is similar; trying to recreate the curved and gracious shape of the real object with essentially rectangular LEGO bricks. However, compared to most of the cars that I've built, the shapes of my aircraft are a lot more difficult and building planes takeas a lot more planning and effort. Of course that's also because the aircraft tend to be bigger than the cars, even though they're built on a smaller scale (1/36). I went a little bit overboard a few months ago and built a 4ft long B-1B bomber.
After I moved to the UK about two years ago, I joined The Brickish Association, an association for (mainly British) adult LEGO builders. Quite a few of them build fantastic minifigure scale city-themed buildings and other models and because of that I've been getting into city building myself. I'd more-or-less given up on minifigures years ago because of their awkward proportions, but find they add a lot of life to my models. Of course, this is also an excellent excuse for a spot of car building.
If you had to choose a personal best MOC, (my own creation) what would it be?
Overall I’d probably choose the B-1 or one of my other aircraft, but if I stick to cars it would have to be my 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. Building the characteristic shape of the car was an interesting challenge and I have fond memories of the real car, because it's modelled after the one my parents used to have.
How long did it take to build?
Well, the preparation took ages, but the actual build was quick. A few years ago I built a VW Convertible. Building a rough version of that took a few hours but fiddling with the shape of the front end took a few days. The reason why I built the convertible was because I couldn't figure out how to build the roof. More recently, having picked up some more parts and a few new ideas, I decided to have another go at building a regular Beetle. The roof took an hour or two to figure out and since I could copy the rest off the convertible it didn't take more than an hour or three in total. It probably the quickest build on this scale that I’ve ever done.
How many pieces are in it?
I don't keep track of how many parts I use, but it's probably around 450 pieces. Not that many. By comparison, my B-1 uses more than 5000. The LEGO group are now offering their own much larger Volkswagen Beetle model and it's definitely on my wish-list, but I like my own better. A model doesn’t have to be big to be likable.
Did you use instructions?
Ha! Part of me sometimes wishes there were instructions for this sort of thing, but it's all done by me, looking at photographs, often making a drawing, and then fiddling with parts for hours on end.
Do you have any projects on the go?
I always have a long list of future plans. When it comes to cars I'm building something for this months' LUGNuts flickr group challenge. When I read 'Sympathy for the underdog', one car sprang to mind. A car that was so hyped in marketing that it could only disappoint when it finally appeared on the market. Add shoddy quality control, a weird name and oddball styling and you have a car that bombed so badly that its name has become synonymous with failure. It is so uncool that it's cool again. People who know their car history will probably have an idea which car I mean. Others will have to wait a few days. Apart from that I've long had plans for a new fire engine that I never seem to get around to building and of course I'll have to see what challenges Lino and you come up with.