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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Space Police 6895: Spy Trak 1

Every serious space theme benefits from a big terrain vehicle.  For Space Police, that would be Spy Trak 1.  Granted, it's actually not too big, but it makes up for that with burly tyres.

Spy-Trak 1 sits with a slight menacing downward tilt in the nose.  I say slight and I mean it... it's a blink and you'll miss it kind of tilt.

The big plastic tyres were all new in '89.  One of Space Police's contributions to the product line if you will.  And these tyres were a big deal, if not at first, then very quickly after.  The entire Spaceline received the new wheel technology post Space Police, until Rock Raiders upset the status quo in '99. Man, Rock Raiders was a wiggedy space theme... cool, but very different.

The cool new thing was mechanical steering, it was technical, it was agile, it was the hip chassis to build in '89.

The middle chassis sways from side to side, yet the overall view from the top remains straight and looks very cool.  It's extremely fun to mess with, though the steering has a wide turning circle.

Spy Trak 1 shared the steering method with its little Futuron sibling Lunar MPV Vehicle.

The cockpit for Spy-Trak 1 continued the Space Police tradition of the 10 stud long tapered canopy which seemed ubiquitous in trans red for '89.

Lift the window and you'll see very spare controls.  Two levers operate the massive drive by wire steering linkages.

Spy Trak 1's undercarriage seems a tad exposed, to my tastes at least.  It's easy pickings for a Blacktron guy underneath to get at the driver.  Or maybe the opening's bait???

"Ahahaha! Tag, you're it Officer!"

"OMG! myhandslippedI'msosorry! By the way You're Under Arrest."

"Keep your visor up for a few months, and we might let you off early for good behavior."

Black-Tron: "But Officer, how'd the continuity error happen in frames 8 and 9!??"  Officer: "God Knows."

Behind the cockpit we get the theme's first selection of tools.  The set includes a walkie-talkie and a robot arm, (or maybe a flashlight is intended.)  You be the judge.

The steering assembly advertises the vehicle's pedigree, and has loudhailers to scream out its siren wails, allow commands to be barked out over the intercom, etc... The technic method used here combines Classic hinges which were very common in Classic Space and pairs them with a few basic technic bits and slope bricks.  It's a bit ungainly which necessitates some interesting decisions in the design.  I can see why they didn't keep using this method, but at the same time I'm charmed by it's rugged, unfaltering resilience to play.

In a stunning twist of bravado this truck has no firepower of any kind.  It's an insanely peaceful transport considering it is Space Police.  All bark and no bite.  Given its aggressive footprint perhaps the designers were encouraged to not go overboard, so they didn't bother to even sneak in a teensy weensy laser of any kind.  Huh, how bout that?  I suppose it needs backup in hostile territory.  Better have the Peacekeepers provide covering fire in case things get dicey.

Once again the key play feature is the removeable Prison cell.  This harbinger of doom to the Blacktron forces of conformity carries on exactly the same as every instance of the cell.

This means the Space Police theme is extremely similar across the range.  The outlier being Message Decoder,

Needless to say, the theme could be a bit samey as we shall see going forward.  This is cool because it gives the theme a very tight, visceral character, very defined like Black-Tron, but boring, because it lacks that explosion of variety which served Classic Space so well.

With the Prison Cell removed the truck's rear end takes on a flatbed appearance, which works much better here than it did on Galactic Peacekeeper.

The full complement of items in Spy Trak 1 offers a good jumping off point for play with interactive fights between the Policeman and the Blacktron as they play cat and mouse.

Huh... he's gone... wait... HE'S GONE!!!

The tyre's are very much Spy Trak's claim to fame. The tyres would appear again in Black-Tron II: Future Generation, and Untiron.

The Tyre was absent after 1995 except in additional colors.  In 2015 it roared back in black in Bladvic's Rumble Bear LEGO Legends of Chima 70225 Bladvic's Rumble Bear Building Kit
And Agent's Stealth Patrol LEGO Ultra Agents Agent Stealth Patrol Toy

a quick look at its remaining specialty inventory reveals an emphasis toward the steering mechanics.

The Black and Blue 4x6 plates form the central chassis base which swings side to side.  They're ordinary, but absent in the rest of the theme. They give the model a lot of its apparent girth.

The blue clips hold all the tools in this model.  These are fragile, so I tend to be careful with this kind of piece.

This bracket is the truck's cockpit for all intents and purposes.  I used this part a lot as a kid.  It may be a prebuild part, but it's not a rigid design you can build otherwise due to the 5 stud base.

Here's a Classic Space era hinge in blue.  The steering owes much to the side by side swinging motion of these plates.

An 8 stud length technic pin is the steering sway bar to lock front and back respective to the middle.  Its specialized usage makes it integral to the model, but it doesn't get any play in the rest of the lineup.

These are the wrong O-ring plate for Spy Trak 1, but it's what my set was shipped secondhand with, and for once I actually prefer to keep it this way.  The thin o-ring plate is a Classic Space component which was in the process of being replaced by a thicker variant during the golden era.  The different measurements and potential usage are illustrated in Jon Craton's Unofficial Advanced Building Guide.  I only had the thick variant as a kid, so you might say I find the thin rings far more desireable.

The wheelbase is able to turn against the main frame by the rotation of these common blue turntables

The pins connect the wheels to the wheelbase.  They're in old grey.

Two parts make up this hinge.  The steering is imparted to these plate hinges giving the vehicle its distinctive turning pattern.  When I was a kid this was a must have piece... I got my first pair in the middle of Highschool.

The 1x2 technic brick helps to shore up the brick count in this set.  It's part of the rack and pinion design's rigid spine.

The L plate was still a recent addition to the line, having first appeared in '87
The black variant of the technic plate with 1 hole is a common element, but in the Space Police theme, this is less common than the rarer blue variant.
The lack of bricks in the golden age is noticeable, illuminated here by the 1 blue example of this slope in the theme.

These 2 megaphone bricks are a Classic Space staple, which have a decent spread across the golden age, but only landed here in Space Police.  I dig this bit, it's got cool shaping and lots of potential.

The alternates provide intriguing options for the interested builder.  Though I'm not quite sure what to make of the top right unit.

I took the truck down to its components and made a robot.

Don't run, you'll just get tyred.

Welcome to your new home.

Off we go.
What, no amenities, Black-Tron buster activate!!!    ------Eep, eject!

Like much of the Futuron era Spy Trak 1 achieves much of its construction via plates, once things are taken down to their components this mix can become frustrating.  Compounding the issue is the Space Police theme's unchangeable blend of certain same pieces which keep things very similar looking.  Despite the similarities, underneath Spy Trak 1 has a surprising depth of elements which aren't shared with the rest of Space Police  It will be interesting to make some combination models from the theme and see what comes of it.

Final Score: A-
Pros: Big wheels, steering components, Black-Tron figure, lots of in theme unique components
Cons: Repetitive selection of parts, high plate count

Saturday, September 19, 2015

SpacePolice: 6886 Galactic Peacekeeper

It's a monochrome theme it's a monchrome world so be obedient to the law, stick em up and don't argue... 

This is Galactic Peacekeeper, the Crown Vic spaceship of Space Police.  It contains a standard layout, driver up front, prisoner in back.  It is the second smallest Space Police model, and the tiniest example with the, then brand new, 10 stud tapered canopy and the beautiful ergonomic jailcell capsule.  It may be the cheapest finished model to ever provide the 10 stud canopy in a set.

One could be forgiven for thinking this is a big set, but it's actually quite small and compact.  The whole of it clocks in at just over 100 components.

The pilot sits at his controls in an airtight cabin.  We're treated to a Classic Space console unchanged from the first wave of Classic Space.  Nice!

Excuse me while I drool over that prison cell design.  While jails aren't by their nature something to be lauded, TLG really nailed this design out of the park.  It's immediately apparent what this is, the colors are striking and despite the tight build, its pedestal feet, police print, cell lights, and red translucent laser bars give it a heavily detailed and compact design which would have been at home in a late 80's sci fi movie.

The basic concept for the helicopter landing gear over flag poles was shared in another prison transport which appeared a year later.

Dungeon Hunters
If it was good enough for medievals it's good enough for us.

-----Attributed to an unknown Space Police Officer

The prison cell was presented as is within the Lego idea book 260, and it has basically burned itself into my brain as a concept.  However, I didn't know the hooks were back there until I started acquiring the sets two years ago.  I'll elaborate on them shortly.

Of course, nice as a holding cell can be, our Blacktron spaceman has decided to try his luck in that great white nothingness that stretches as far as the edge of the page.

And now, back to the spaceship!

The central fuselage is a tubular chassis with nose canards, obscuring the gaze of those little laser eyes.

Burly shoulders hide the peacekeepers not so peaceful laser cannon wings.  The design is one part cute... and equal parts muscular.


Give me 5 seconds...k?

Incidentally, the jail cell has two different prints for police so it can always be built with the lettering right side up... I realized after wrapping up photography, that this jail cell had 2 of the 2x3 right side pattern panels and resolved that by inspecting the other five jail cells... somehow, the sellers all sent me the proper prints, but some of the jail cells were sporting two rights, or two lefts.  Just something to keep in mind if you're particular about such things.

Game over pal!  Hey!  Where'd he go???

Now, there is one design gripe I have to level at the Peacekeeper, and which I will be frequently fussing over as we see more of these Space Police ships.

It sure looks nice with the jail cell on doesn't it?

But when you open up that back end the rear design just vanishes into nothingness.  The front starts to look unbalanced and the whole sculpted thing of beauty is gone.

While we're on this aesthetics business, check out those slats.  They aren't there for looks, so what gives?

The rear of the cell capsule has elbow pin plates with a 6 mm horizontal reach.   These pins reach just far enough to slide between the top tile and the underside stud with a well fitted grip.

Warning!!!  there's no guarantee the elbow pin plates in your collection can achieve this result as a 5 millimeter length elbow pin plate has been released within the last decade which can't quite reach the distance of a plate... You will stress the pin and possibly break it.  

Of course, if you're engineering whizzes with your bricks, knowing the two options of elbow plate should be useful knowledge for all you exacting builders out there.  How come I found out about it? Well one of my ebay acquired prison cells wouldn't slide on properly... and I went to Peeron's parts database to find out why.  I made the switch with existing parts from my collection where I wouldn't miss the extra millimeter of wiggle room.

Impress your friends with useless knowledge and build the trick to show them why it matters.  Or hide all the long elbow pins and watch their frustration mount as they attempt to copy your amazing construction technique.  Have fun and play well.

All told Galactic Peacekeeper comes with a Ship, jailcell, officer, and Blacktron spaceman.  There are no accessories to be had.  For the period it's an attractive set with enough here to get the storytelling and space pursuits started.  Personally I think it's a great set by the standards of any year.  26 years have passed and I still feel like blogging about it... that's staying power.  What do you think... are my nostalgia goggles filtering out obvious flaws?

We'll be moving on to bigger and 'gooder',-(a verbose explanation would be needed if you incorrectly surmised that I added a grammatical flaw in error... it was intentional, there the joke is ruined if you read this, but if it was Blacktron it would be bigger and badder.), Space Police vehicles in the near future, but I'll say it now, this one is my favorite; Galactic Peacekeeper has the most balanced looks and the least wallet crushing impact for your Space Police construction toy hobby.

Galactic Peacekeeper has an excellent spread of parts.  Notably, these printed bits are unique.

1 Shoulder left print

1 Shoulder right print.  These prefab walls are a big piece of my enthusiasm for older Legoland space sets.  Also, printed elements for the win, I can't stand stickers.

The straight black corner panel will appear in another Space Police set further up the line.

These more prevalent components are unique in theme.

2 black brick 1x1 with studs all around.  This part has gotten so much use in the last ten years that one could be forgiven for thinking it was always common.  But back in my day it was a needle in a haystack bit.  and it's so darn useful.

1 blue hinge plate 1x4.  I'm surprised to see this one here, given the preponderance of blue across the theme.  Clickhinges have replaced these old style hinges for the better in terms of rigidness, and long term wear and tear, but I do miss the streamlined edge and silent gliding motion offered here.

4 1x2 panel black.  I also thought this would show up more.  I'll have to check Black-tron's inventory, but between M-Tron and Space Police there aren't a lot of these.

2 black 3 finger hinge plate.  Yet another surprisingly low use component.  The 2 prong has 3 times the spread across the same 3 themes: Futuron, M:Tron, Space Police.  I'll have to look through Black-Tron's inventory to see if there are any more in black.

11 parts, not bad at all.

Alternate box image via the plastic brick.  Also, holy spumoni... only 9 bucks, I would have loved to get Galactic Peacekeeper for that price.

My own MOC attempts to give Blacktron an appropriately colored vehicle while leaving something for his pursuer to give chase in.  The result is one whale of a tale.  High speed pursuit through the vast ocean of space, don't get caught on the asteroid reef, or this chase will end with a sinking feeling that Blacktron fought the law and the law won.

The other item I built is this winged spacecraft.  It pushed the limits of available parts, and resulted in a decently nice looking ship.

The wings are very 3D, and give some nice contours to the slender tube chassis.

Overall I'm quite pleased with this set, the inclusion of a torch, megaphone, or walkie talkie would have delivered the final winning addition, but as is there's no reason to fault the design.  The components add up to an attractive pile of parts.  For an introduction to Space Police, there's nothing better.

See ya later, The Cure-all Pill

Final Score: A
Pros: Attractive Design, good entry point into the theme, jail cell, attractive specialty part selection
Cons: Lots of plates, no accessories,