Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lego911 builder profile

I am happy to present to you the most recent of our builder profiles here at LUGNuts. Lego911 joined our ranks in August and has quickly become known as one of the most prolific and talented among us. In the two and a half months he's been with our crew he has entered an astounding 28 miniland scale vehicles in three challenges.

How might we know you online?

I am known on both LUGNUTS and Brickshelf as LEGO911. I have a profile on LEGO FACTORY too, but I can't remember what it is off the top of my head. The material on both is pretty much the same - there is more on brickshelf though, if people wanted to dig through all the folders.

What is your real name?

Peter Blackert

How old are you?

36 - I think? Its difficult to remember sometimes.

Where do you live?

I live in a small city called Geelong. It is about 70 km south-west of Melbourne our second largest city, in Victoria, Australia. The main industry here is manufacturing. I work as an engineer here at the Research and Development Centre for Ford Australia.

How long have you been building?

I have built with Lego since age 2 - Duplo hadn't been released yet. Since about the age of 7, all I wanted for presents for my birthday or for Christmas was Lego (not that I always received it). I had a couple of periods where I built less than others. From about 2001 when I got married, and needed to finish university, along with starting a family, means that I had not been building much. The lego only came inside from the garage again 4 or 5 months ago, hence the activity on LUGNUTS. You could probably only call the 'grey ages' as I still did build, but probably only the same amount as 'normal' people.

How long have you been building cars?

I have built cars of some sort since I was pretty young. I built my first repeatable, recorded car in August 1981. I called it 'Penguin' using the P initial of my first name as a theme. My car company was called 'PP" or Peter Power - but don't tell anyone, its embarrassing. I still remember how to build this car. It was based on the period Nissan Pulsar (possibly called Sentra, Sunny or something else in other places). I have modelled it on LDD, except for the wrong type of wheels. It even included opening doors and boot (trunk). Since then I have built many, many cars (total approximately 25,000). The pace has turned down a lot lately - as my time doesn't really seem to be my own much these days.

The car company is still called PP, though I don't do unique original designs very much at all any more. What I enjoy about the LUGNUTS challenges is that it encourages me to build cars that I would be less likely to otherwise build. I hope that other LUGNUTters feel the same inspiration.

Do you have a favourite style or scale of vehicle to build?

I have only learned recently that the model scale I build to is called 'miniland', after the scale used currently in the LEGOLAND theme parks overseas (I have yet to go to one - though I did hatch a plan for a while, to use a two day layover in Los Angeles to hire a car and drive down to Carlsbad and go - the 8 hours jetlag pretty much shot that one down). The scale equates to about 20.5:1. A touch larger than Ralph's models. I was very excited the first time I saw the Ultimate Lego book, published in 2000 or so.

I have made a couple of adapted models like the cover 1957 Chevrolet. If you search hard enough you can find photos of the other miniland models on brickshelf - there is some crossover with what I build myself.

Miniland is a pretty good scale for cars, as it offers you a pretty good choice of available wheels and tires. Also things like headlights work pretty well. If you want to you can also equip cars with lego piston motors and suspension (though unique installation can burn a lot of build time - though it is worth the challenge every now and then).

Miniland is also a good scale to build in terms of the number of pieces used, enough to build some cars with good detail, but not too big or heavy or piece intensive.

What other themes do you enjoy building?

When I first thought about this, I thought 'I don't build anything else', but then I realised that I did. I have a soft spot for Castle, and have built a few big ones over the years - I also had a pretty big army of knights and cavalry. The main purpose though was to account for the significant amount of Lego that would not be built into cars.

I have also built a couple of 2 metre buildings - though my wife was not amused with crawlers and toddlers around - though they make me think what it would require to build a record hight lego tower. That would be 100 - 150 metres and a kings ransom worth of Lego bricks.

I also went through a couple of Train periods (to drive around the cities overlooked by the castles) inspired by the lego theme train book and lego train sets from the early 1980s. I also had dreams of connecting my whole house with rail and remote controls - again way out of my period (and current) budget.

If you had to choose a personal best MOC, (my own creation) what would it be?

Personal best MOC is a hard one - I have had a grey age for a while, hence no building, and before that was before cheap digital cameras.

So here's a few:

Best MOC Miniland body:

2008 Built Citroen DS. This is a pretty recent build, but in terms of 'change' it incorporated the highest take-up rate of new parts and building techniques, particularly the rear of the car. If you look closely, you can see the first use of classic space 45 degree small wings for the front bumper bar. The complicated thing with this car is that it is so un-alike to other cars I have built. The real car is a bit of an eye-opener also. Feedback for this model also seems to receive some considered admiration.

Citroen DS Later Series

Best MOC Miniland Drivetrain:

BF Falcon V8 and suspension.

This may sound like a bizarre discussion point, but I see my main difference to most competent builders as the ability to install powertrain/drivetrain systems on this scale.

The selected powertrain above is not the most difficult to fit, but incorporates the most robust and functional powertrain set I have developed. The main ingredients are a Vee engine - simulated V8, though with only 4 lego pistons - it is scale correct for the overall engine. The tricky part was to install independent front suspension within the space available, this is by longitudinal torsion bars. The rear suspension is similar in principle, but incorporates the driven rear axle and driveshaft pickup. The innovative part here is the bushes on the axle. Overlapping the fixed centre axle and the outer articulated axles by 1/2 stud each, it acts as a CV (constant velocity joint) with remarkably low loss.

All of that may have made no sense, but if you have a stronger understanding of real cars it will help.


The most difficult overall MOC I ever made was in 1989, at age 17. This was a technic MOC car at about 1:8. The lego used was up to about 1985 technic vintage I set and met the ambitious target to build a car with four wheel drive, four wheel steer, and four wheel fully independent suspension. It also incorporated an old style Lego piston V6, and 3 speed gearbox with reverse. The problem - lego had not come out with the large sophisticated specialised pieces that allow these feature to be built today. The car was somewhat heavy and had some suspension camber issues because of it. And secondly no-one who saw it had any comprehension of how difficult it was to build.

Unfortunately I have no photos.

How long did they take to build?

Citroen DS - this took two builds - one to develop the theme and the second to refine. All up about 8 hours work, though I tend to process the designs in my mind in 3D while walking around or doing other things.

Falcon drivetrain - again, much of this was developed conceptually mentally. To incorporate all the features took about 12 hours in 3 development sessions.

Big technic MOC - probably 20 - 30 hours.

How many pieces are in them?

Most of my miniland scale cars use 250 - 450 parts. It depends on how complex the chassis systems are installed, for instance, the drivetrain system pictured has 50 parts for the rear suspension, and about the same for the engine and front suspension combined. If replaced with simple axles, you could save 80 parts.

The technic MOC probably had 1000 or more. It saved by not having an outer body.

Did you use instructions?

Complex question. I do not have instructions written by someone else, but because I build so many cars, and some are quite complex (it is difficult to remember the 3D plans for the 1000's of cars I have designed - though you would be alarmed at how well I can). I do make my own instructions: simply, since 1982 I have hand drawn 2D plans in side front and rear elevations, including colour for parts (not the general bodywork though). I have about 12 binder folder full (somewhere - maybe at my mum's house).

Since I bought my first CAD (computer aided design) program in the 1990's I modelled some of the more 'complex' cars in 3D cad, designing my own pieces (no studs though). This included complex technic parts as cad 'blocks'. This is similar to the idea that real car makers talk about with regard to 'modularity' where you have a bunch of systems, be they engines, gearboxes, suspension etc, which have known compatible interfaces, which you then connect together to make whatever combination you need for your new car. However, I think it would help if the engineers did actually do this with Lego first, so they knew what they were talking about and did it properly, instead of pretending to do it. (rather cynical - I know)

With the release by Lego of Lego Digital Designer from Lego factory, it has been pretty simple to design my cars in 3D with all (most) of the appropriate design constraints. The limitation being technic parts for powertrain, and an unnecessarily limited palette of parts and colours. I have only been using it for a few months now, but my flickr photostream and brickshelf account would show a healthy catalogue of work in the medium. Another suggestion to Lego would be the ability to insert 'blocks' from other models, then I would be able to install modelled powertrain and chassis systems from already created assemblies.


Do you have any projects on the go?


Apart from the LUGNUTS challenges, I do a number of projects:

1. Update my back catalogue - particularly cars of historical significance or beauty. Currently I am developing 1950 - 1975 Mercedes-Benz models.

2. Powertrain and chassis development. Currently developing I4 transverse front drive installation with suspension and I4 and V6 longitudinal front-mid-engine (aka Citroen DS and SM and various 1980s and 90s large Hondas and 1970s and 80s Renaults)

3. Generally develop my skills and techniques with an eye to building commissioned models at some stage - particularly cars from early than 1980.

And one specifically for you, how long does it take for you to build one of these cars? You're such a prolific builder, pumping them out every day, we're curious about your process.

I guess I could answer this a number of ways:

If I have built the car before, and I have all the parts I need, I can pretty much build a car in an hour or so (remember - I have the instructions)

If it is an original build from the last 30 years or so, I can build a pretty competent model in 2 - 3 hours. It helps that I have a lot of resource material, books, magazines and a good technical knowledge to find information on the internet.

Something harder, like the powertrain/suspension systems, older historical cars or weird things like Citroens take a while longer.

I can design up cars pretty competently on LDD with the same constraints in about the same amount of time + 30% or so.

An interesting challenge would be to set me a list of 30 - 40 cars (and particular models and colours) and see how many I could build in a day or two - though you would need to have me released from work and family obligations to do this.

Anything anyone would particularly like me to model, I am generally open to suggestions.

There you go. A glimpse into the mind of Lego911. Anybody want to take him up on the list of 40 cars to build?


ralph_s said...

A car in three hours? That's very impressive. I build reasonably quickly, but scratch-building a car takes me at least a day and a few days if it's a complicated shape.


Lino said...

Amazing! I don't think I can build a grille in 2 hours never mind a whole car. A LOT of trial and error slows my process...many of my cars features have been redone 5 or 6 times before you see the final result. I guess you can say I stumble through every build until I get it right, but Lego911 seems to skip all of that. His build process is completely outside of my understanding but must be amazing to watch.
You sir, are one of the world's more rare creatures and its an absolute honor to have you within our ranks!