Regular readers will have surmised that, in spite being thirty-seven-years old, I am very much a kid at heart. Often, I am also a kid in practice.
I was blessed to receive two incredible LEGO sets for Christmas: the Imperial Shuttle (#75302) and the Darth Vader Helmet (#75304). These sets are 660+ and 800+ pieces, respectively, and are probably the largest LEGO sets I’ve done. I did have the legendary Black Seas Barracuda (#10040) as a kid, which is nearly 900 pieces, but I never built it—my older brother did.
Both of these builds were deeply satisfying. I was sick with a low-grade fever and a sore throat (but tested negative for The Virus, no worries) the week after Christmas, and was generally enduring some low times besides the sickness, so I had plenty of time to dive into both of these kits—and was eager to do so.
Here, I’ll share some pictures of the builds, and discuss a bit of what it was like constructing them.
The first model I assembled was the Imperial Shuttle. I’d always loved the design of this particular ship, especially with its three-point wings, with the two moveable wings on the sides. It looks so elegant in Return of the Jedi (1983).
The ship is technically a Lambda-class T-4a shuttle, which I think eight-year old Portly knew (thirty-seven-year old Portly had to look it up). The LEGO model does not disappoint, bringing together the amazing wings in a very satisfying and fun build.
It also included three mini-figures: Darth Vader (pictured below without his helmet—a great little detail from LEGO), Luke Skywalker (including the black robot hand), and an Imperial officer pilot.
What really struck me about this build was how careful LEGO engineered it. There were many times I’d be putting something together and be thinking, “Okay, LEGO, where are you going with this,” only to see it all come together with beautiful elegance—much like the ship itself:
The second set was also fun, but began getting a bit tedious as it wore on. The shuttle took probably two hours to build, as I watched an entire movie while putting it together. Vader’s Helmet, however, took me an entire afternoon. Granted, there were some phone calls in there, and a long walk with Murphy, but I’d estimate the total build time was over three hours.
That’s a lot of bang for the buck, to be sure, and it was fun, but after 252 steps—the instruction booklet is as thick as a novella!—I was ready to be done with it. My eyes were weary from looking at some many tiny pieces.
That said, the build was super fun to bring together. Again, LEGO’s ingenious engineering was on full display. On these trophy- or display-style models, LEGO uses lots of colorful bricks for the interior, which helps the builder keep track of where he is in the process. I built this set the day after the shuttle, and could tell I was getting bogged down, as I made more sloppy mistakes and missed piece placements more frequently.
The inside center of the helmet leaves a shaft for a long support beam, to which the inner sides of the helmet attached. That was another really interesting design decision on LEGO’s part, and it worked to add to the structural integrity of the helmet. I would not have thought of that, and would have just build straight up from the bottom—which likely would have resulted in a less stable build.
There were two annoying features of this set: getting the chin strap of Vader’s face mask in place correctly, and putting together lots of tiny pieces. The chin strap was one of those things that had to go in just so, and was an atypical design. It looks great, but it gave me a time attaching it.
The small pieces were just a matter of taking my time and squinting.
There is also some stickering with this set, which I am never good at, and Vader’s nose sticker is still a bit off-center. I just adjusted the piece itself and called it a day—ha!
I did have fun with this set, and I especially liked the look about halfway through. Look for the picture below with the caption “Dashiki Vader—Happy Kwanzaa!” and you’ll see why:
Of the two, I definitely preferred the Imperial Shuttle, which was probably the most satisfying build I’ve ever done. The Helmet was also very cool, especially seeing the parts come together, but it got a bit tedious. I probably should have split the build up over a couple of days, so I could approach the second half fresh. Instead, I felt like I was just trying to get through it so I could be done with it—and that’s not what LEGO is all about!
Got any cool LEGO builds of your own? Do you ever just want to dive into a big box of random pieces? Tell me about your LEGO adventures below—or chastise me for being a grown man who, at least in this area, has not put aside childish things.