I have all of the old space LEGO sets (the good stuff anyway), and about two dozen minifigs. Quite a number of pieces went missing over the years (especially minifigs), because I played with the stuff for ten solid years. Yes, alright, I was one of those teenagers who played Dungeons and Dragons and read comic books way too long.
But LEGO has retained a special place in my heart (I haven't played D &D in years and years). Even worse for my LEGO's integrity were the succession of kids who came afterwards (neighbours, friends' siblings, friends of the family, etc) who didn't have my fiddly respect for small plastic things. Dratted children. But LEGO is for kids, so whatcha gonna do.
the setsAll of the images below may b clicked upon for a larger image.
My first set was actually from the old "Lego Town" collection; #357, the firehouse. I've managed to hang on to all of the pieces, somehow (even the antenna!). The rubber tires have gotten weird over the 25+ years they've been with me, but they still work.
Here is the scan of the cover of the instructions, which I still have. I dunno what's more telling, that I kept the LEGO or the instruction manuals for the LEGO...
Apparently, this set came with flags from European nations....
Following the fire hall (a gift from my father), I was given some smaller sets, many of which I had stopped thinking of as individual sets because I didn't retain the instructions. But who needs instructions to make a biplane that has 14 pieces (#430)?
I also came into possession of three of the earliest space sets; the Rocket Launcher, the Space Cruiser (#924 1979), and the Galaxy Explorer (#928, 1979). These sets were larger, containing many more pieces of a greater variety. They were gifts from my parents and grandparents, naturally, as were a couple of bags of mixed, older LEGO pieces my grandfather picked up at a garage set.
The latter 'sets' included some amazing shapes, which I often wound up incorporating into my creations as joints, roofs, or skids. Because of their mix of red, orange, grey, and black, almost everything I made from general pieces looked rusty. I liked that, and it tended to work cos I was building things like Mech Warriors and space craft.
But the real treasures were the early space LEGO sets. This was LEGO from before the Barbie years (I'm quite in favour of the Barbie sets, I can buy these for female children when the need for such a gift arises, and they're a damn set better than the late 80's sets that were all pre-moulded shapes and no bricks). Just look at the sturdy lines and all those fiddly pieces in the set below:
It even has two lunarscape pieces. A very cool design for a seven-year-old who's still humming the theme from Star Wars. I recall being especially fascinated by the awesome lines of the lunar rover. The actual model that had toodled around the moon a decade before held little fascination for me, possibly because it didn't involve Greedo. But the simplicity and cleverness of its design always delighted me. Years later, I'd give serious consideration to becoming an architect. It never happened, but it seems my love for functional design already existed in the late 70's.
I'd probably get hate mail if I said something daft like, "They don't make 'em like that, anymore!" This, the 'Galaxy Explorer', was the largest set I'd ever obtain. It was followed by the similar model below (#928), and the moon base (#926, 1979), which came with another of those great lunarscape bases.
An early outgrowth of the original space series.
a one-man winged vehicle with seating for two, the 'Two Man Scooter' (#891, 1979),
a one-man rocket/winged vehicle (#6842, 1981),
and for a change in pace, a one-man winged vehicle with some hoses and an android (#6872, 1984)
The latter set included a 'minifig' with a radical new colour of space-suit. Gone were the old 'white' and 'red' minifigs. Here was yellow! I have since added to this collection of small craft with another one-man winged vehicle (#6825, 1984)
and, believe it or not, yet another one-man winged rocket vehicle (#6824, 1984).
I also picked up (or was given) a roving science vehicle that featured six pairs of wheels and a funny flexible arm unit like the trunk of an elephant (#6901, no photo). Its paired wheels were at the ends of absurdly long legs. Clearly, the minds behind the space LEGO designs were starting to run out of ideas. The last set was a rocket launcher. Strangely, the rocket was built into the launcher in a fashion that prevented it from actually launching. Again, these designs were less than genius. I haven't seen the instruction sheets for these ones, recently, though I know the science vehicle's sheet is somewhere dumb because I keep running across it in odd spots (like tax papers).
A last oddity was the small one-man runabout craft. These came with some of the other sets—or so I would have sworn under torture—but I can't determine which. They were the flying equivalent to the excellent lunar rover, and represented a moment of perfect LEGO architecture. I'm going to try to dig up an instruction sheet or maybe take a photo. Great little sets.
beyond space LEGO
After the initial space LEGO years, I was given some mechanical LEGO. I have an interesting helicopter model (#8844, 1981)
That featured the first 'holed' pieces that I'd seen. Pieces that could be joined sideways as well as stacked. The helicopter also featured self-propelled rotors that turned when you pushed the thing forward; these were powered by a set of gears and a chain drive. Pretty clever stuff. The rod pieces it came with revolutionised my designs, as well. At the same time, my brother had this one:
There was also a quasi-mechanical set which I think was one of the better ones I ever had—you could make so many things! (#722, 1980)
that I got somewhere along the way. It is designed for the construction of a number of models, rather than one principle model and some alternate designs, as was the norm with LEGO. All in all, that's a lot of LEGO.
In my teens, the LEGO dwindled in usage as new destractions like street hockey, Dungeons and Dragons, and, yes, even school work came to the fore. I'd still occasionally pop by a toy department to see what was new, but LEGO had become an obscenely expensive proposition if I just wanted something to hack around with for a few hours. This is probably how I wound up with so many small winged vehicles.
My desk at home is a cluttered mess of papers, partially-scanned film negatives, CD's drinking vessels, and small LEGO sets. Happily, I've abandoned the dust-collecting stationary castle I'd been constantly rebuilding in my early twenties (as an unemployed student with, as you can probably imagine, no girlfriend), so there is some free space.
My desk at work is almost as bad as my desk at home for lego content. I can count six bits of lego at my work desk, ranging from the one of the little $2 racing cars you get in breathable plastic bags these days (#6400), to a dumptruck/front-end loader set (#6581) to some of the new Star Wars LEGO (and if you think that stuff's good, check out this incredible Star Wars LEGO stuff), like #7101.
All this talk of sets and timelines aside, the real thing that mattered was actually building something with them. I'd integrate my Star Wars and Capsela figures into the small space craft I'd build, and even the odd pet hamster into mazes. I recall an instrument panel that fitted into the slots of the chair at my desk in the bedroom, and a lot of cars, planes, (naturally) TIE fighters.
Probably my most frequent recreation is the Millennium Falcon. I was given the amazing Puzz-3d (non-lego) 3D model for Christmas in '97 by my roomie Eraño, and that got me thinking about the ol' Correlian freighter once again. While the 3D model proved too heavy to support itself over the last two years, my lego models are even less enduring because they are constantly salvaged for more parts. See some of the links below for other people's LEGO Millennium Falcon models.
It's been a couple of years since I wrote the original version of this page, and some things have changed. I've recently moved to Vancouver, and was greeted upon arrival by my brother bearing two heavy plastic bags full of LEGO that he was leaving with me. I still haven't built anything with it—been looking for work (priorities, dang)—but I'm now the proud owner of more technical LEGO and even an 80's castle set. I have also re-assembled my latest incarnation of the Falcon, and intend to take some pics of it to scan for inclusion here. God I'm a geek. I'm even contemplating a much larger model, now.
Designs come and go. Certainly, I'd forgotten all about the Mechwarrior unit (complete with clan insignia—a shield from some small medieaval set). One thing that lasts, though, is the tattoo I got on my arm as a tribute to my favourite toy and my childhood.
the image from which my tattoo was made
Instructions for lego set 357
Instructions for lego set 722.
Instructions for lego set 8845.
Instructions for lego set 8844.
Instructions for lego set 6824.
Instructions for lego set 6825.
Instructions for lego set 6872.
Instructions for lego set 6842.
Instructions for lego set 891.
Instructions for lego set 6861.
Instructions for lego set 926.
Instructions for lego set 924.
Instructions for lego set 928
Instructions for LEGO set 6851.
Instructions for a small lego set: 6400 & 6406.
I've designed some LEGO sets using the LEGO Digital Designer. I've built these pages to share them with the world.