It will take you many hours and more than 3,700 pieces of Lego to rebuild the Ferrari Daytona SP3, including gull-wing doors and a working V12 with a functional transmission. It takes Lego about two years, countless sleepless nights and a process that looks suspiciously like developing a real car. TopGear Netherlands spoke to Lego designer Samuel Tacchi about one of the most difficult projects to date. Even before the car was unveiled to the public, they began developing the Lego set under a pseudonym in a secret locked room in headquarters.
The first Technic parts appeared more than 45 years ago and in that time the basic parts have hardly changed. So you could say that Lego now knows what the particles can endure and that they can easily build a model based on this data. Moreover, such a Lego Ferrari with a recommended age of 18 and parents, is hardly played with?
But no, the sets for adult builders are also rigorously developed: ‘This car is mainly for display, but we still have our standards. Everything is tested by robots to simulate the “playing conditions”,’ says Tacchi. The tests performed by these robots are very similar to those performed on real cars.
The robots test building sets for more than 24 hours
‘We have robots, for example, that press the models for more than 24 hours. Everything has to work. Not only the suspension, but also the wheels, tires, engine and gearbox’, adds Tacchi. At Lego, for example, they have a device where a new Lego model has to ride on a carpet for more than 24 hours without breaking down. Then the car shifts into a different gear and the test starts again. Everything must then remain intact.
‘We also put the models in the oven to simulate a display case where the sun is shining. The plastic reacts differently when the sun is on it. We have a joke among the designers where we say to each other “who is going to bake their model today?”. Each model undergoes this test. With new elements, the pieces are first tested individually and then in combination with the model’, says Tacchi. Real cars are also put in these kind of ovens and driven through Death Valley, for example.
Same problems for Lego as with real cars
Specifically for the Ferrari Daytona SP3, the Lego designers encountered obstacles that car builders regularly have to face: converting a coupe to a convertible. If you remove part of the structure, you have to reinforce it elsewhere: ‘The Sian, the Bugatti and the Porsche have a fixed roof, but for this model we are dealing with a targa roof. We had to make a solid backbone for this car, so that when you press on the model, it doesn’t sag.’
Reinforcing the car by adding extra parts. And that in turn takes up space, a problem that automakers will be all too familiar with: ‘We are playing around with space because we have to fit the suspension, working gearbox, piston engine and everything in this fantastic car into a compact package. That was a complex process.’
Will making a Lego model get easier with electric cars?
You notice that developing a Lego model is not that easy yet, but won’t it get a lot easier in the future? A V12 engine and gearbox are missing from electric hypercars – would a car like the all-electric Lotus Evija be easier to turn into a Lego model? ‘Yes and no. There are still moving components in an electric car. And that is our DNA. At Lego Technic we want to show how things work.’
“An electric motor is a little easier to understand when it comes to layout, but there are still gears and moving parts. The electric motor is also running. We will always have trouble with the layout of the car. What we do is work with a small scale but still with the same elements. I can already see some challenges appearing’, he says with a laugh.
How a Lego design differs from a fan design
And just like real cars, there are a lot of quality requirements that the models have to meet. Parts must fit together smoothly and a bit of smuggling is strictly prohibited: ‘All models must be able to be built by anyone. So we have rules that we have to respect as a designer. Lots of rules,’ he emphasizes. ‘A lot of fans [die zelf designs maken] would get frustrated with these rules.’
‘For us, another challenge was to see the organic shapes and the movement [van de lijnen] of the car to do with the elements we have. To do that, we had to create eleven new elements. Four of those were the new rims and tires. It is a new scale that is more authentic compared to real car proportions. we wore [bij de vorige auto’s] the scale from the Porsche rims to the Lamborghini and the Bugatti. With this [Ferrari] we fine-tune the proportions with new wheel and tire sizes.’
We wondered if Lego, like real cars, has room for an aftermarket line. For example, for a new set of rims for existing models: ‘I wish we could do that, especially in this time when everyone is modifying everything. It takes us just as much time as developing a set. For example, if we change the rims on the Bugatti, we start with a blank page, go back in the manual to change everything. Then we change the rims, we change the shock absorbers if necessary. It is an enormously complex process to change one thing in a model.’
Samuel Tacchi wishes the people who are going to assemble the Lego Ferrari good luck, because it would be an extremely challenging set. He advises everyone to take it easy, relax and enjoy the process. From June 1, you can order the Daytona SP3 at Lego.