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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Futuron 6885: Crater Crawler

Since this website is devoted to old Lego sets, it's high time I visit the ugly truth that hasn't been discussed yet.  Buying old Lego can be frustrating, sometimes you run into that one set that no one seems to be selling, and prices are skyrocketing, and you find one after the sale date ended on Ebay.  You scream, and keep looking, and then, you finally cave and import that item from overseas, and the condition is okay, but not what you would have paid if you had options for better condition sets. Suddenly the set is plentiful, everyone and their mother is selling the set for half of what you paid, and they're in better condition.  Welcome to being a collector, you have just experienced my summer.

If you are intent on buying every set in a long retired theme, you must: expect to pay more, or shop around for a long time, and prepare for disappointment.  On a side note, if you want a collection of Vintage Legoland sets from the 80's for close to retail value, Town is the way to go.  I've seen sealed boxes of Town Legoland sets go for retail more times than I can count.

Here from Austria is 6885 Crater Crawler a.k.a. Saturn Main Base.

Like the previously reviewed 6810 Laser Ranger, Crater Crawler contains one of the three black spacemen, circa '88 and '89.

By my estimation, Crater Crawler is the most collectible of the Futuron landmasters.  It doesn't suffer from Yellow Spaceman fatigue and tired construction courtesy of the previously reviewed 6925 Interplanetary Rover.

Nor is it a prisoner to electrics cost spillover and part shortage as shall be explored in the yet to be reviewed 6770 Lunar Transporter Patroller.

Speaking of tired construction.  Look at those big wheels in the back.  They're special, the only two in Futuron, and boy howdy are they bold and obvious.  Sure, other space themes have them, but they're still cool, and you've probably guessed by now; my childhood was spent desiring but never attaining those big wheels.

Oh you thought I was serious about the tired construction?  Whoops, ironically, I don't think I've ever seen another truck quite as wacky as Crater Crawler; at least from this era at any rate.  It's got fences around the driver for wheel wells, held on by four white megaphones, and a domed canopy with enormous wheel arches that contains a space scooter and droid.  It appears that the whole rig is driven by joystick.

Heck, even the droid is unique.  I think the toymaker was trying to recreate R2D2 with it, what do you think?

It can walk, but leaning back would require some fine tuning of the design.  The rear reveals use of multi sided SNOT cubes; always a pleasure.

The set's scooter is probably Crater Crawler's weakest element; suffering as it does from a lack of interesting features.  The center joystick (yes another one) sits over a flashing red light and thruster rockets pointing upward seem to indicate a forward tilt for short bursts over crags and craters.

It seems peripheral and can be easily compared to the simple futuron cars for sparse details.

In visual regard Interplanetary Rover's scooter far outshines Crater Crawler's.

The model has two moving functions.  The blue dome lifts up, and is studs forward, but it sits atop a construction of wheel arches that are studs backwards.  It allows for some nice visual design cues, and it's just this side of tricky so as to catch my attention.

The other moving feature is the center twist plate, this allows the Crater Crawler to turn left and right.  Due to the light front and heavy rear the motion feels a bit spastic and overly quick when pushed along.  Perhaps the designers chose a joystick as an inside joke about its odd twisting movement?  

At least in steering weight Crater Crawler feels less sure than Interplanetary Rover.  That isn't to say the design is bad, the steering seems a tad quirky as a side effect of the different wheel sizes and short wheelbase.  I quite like this funky just doesn't impress one with its surefooted's weightless and go-kart quick...hardly rolling like the truck it appears to be.

My favorite components in this model are the quarter dome window panes.  

These quarter dome elements first appeared in '88 in this Crater Crawler and that most venerable of space stations: 6987 Message Intercept-Base, the hideout for Futuron's antagonistic foes...BlackTron!

They would appear shortly after in another Futuron set called 6850 Auxilliary Patroller circa 1989, and in 1990, the 9355 Dacta space theme set provided a sizable selection of the trans dark blue quarter domes; 10 in fact!

Despite looking big Crater Crawler only has 98 pieces, owing its size to the 6x10 plate, tyres, wheel wells, and dome for much of its girth.  That's count em, 7 pieces.  Most of the other parts are specialized in some way.  There are only two traditional bricks in the set, both corner bricks, both under the chassis; besides that, it's got the usual high concentration of plates Futuron is fast proving to be privy too.

Additionally Crater Crawler has fences, megaphones, space walls, space chairs, control sticks.  The set comes with a space wrench and a walkie-talkie for our intrepid explorer.  This set is chock full of fun weird stuff.  The heck, what am I gonna build with this???

It's all part of the fun folks.  

But first, what are the pieces that this set brings to Futuron, and does it hide any great secrets?

First up is this dazzling blue forward facing stud brick.  You get 1 in total.  It's part of the robot.  Is it rare, no, but it is one of only 13 blue pieces in Futuron.  Ignoring of course, the blue Spacemen.

Next up we have this five stud brick also in blue, which was rare in the 80's, unused in the 90's, and actually enjoyed a renaissance in the late 00's.  There were thirteen released across 8 sets, and three of those showed up in the 80's.  It's still not particularly common, but there have been more of late than in days long past.

Next we have this control stick and base, a grey and blue combination part.  The grey stick is the second most common color, out of 6 colors, of this particular lever piece, and the blue base is third rarest color variant out of nine colors.  Neither is very rare.  Futuron just has one of each, but hey, we've got us a classic grey part.

Next I have a bit of a conundrum.  You see, there's this set called 9355-1: DACTA Space Theme Set.  It's pretty much a Dacta Futuron set, and it contains this next piece I'm including, but as a Futuron set it's just,  well, Dacta is a classroom brand, and I don't think I want to go into detail about it; at least for now.  Suffice it to say, if like me you choose to ignore the Dacta collection, then this tunnel corner wall can be considered unique to Crater Crawler.  It's the only time this part was used as a wheel well.  You get two in white.  This is the most common color of the part, and it's pretty big.

Our next part is this blue dot, from the droid.  You get one, and it is actually pretty common otherwise.

Then we have one of this ordinary 6x10 plate in white.  Great for spreading a model's footprint out in a jiffy.  It's pretty common outside of Futuron.

Here's another blue piece, a spigot.  Two spigots form the droids legs.  They give it that R2D2 look I mentioned earlier.

Next we have this printed plate in blue, again, just one is included.  It goes on the droid and it is the only printed piece included with a droid in Futuron.  The print is fairly common in Futuron on white tiles.  Blue was available in Classic Space from 1985 and was seen again in Space Police 1 and Town Police.

Finally we come to those two big tyres.  Magnificent aren't they.  They've got gaps in the back as a rubber saving measure, for they are indeed rubber, not plastic.  I only learned that particular detail by looking at one in person.  The part first surfaced in 75'.  It hung around until 03' before disappearing for good.  There is an alternate yellow color, which is especially rare.  For further comparison here is its hub as well, though the hub is plentiful in Futuron.

Before we leave off this tyre, here is the original tyre and hub design.  the Tyre was available from 72' thru 76' and actually there were some sets during the period when the molds changed, that could be had either way.  The gear was available from 70' thru 76'  It was also available in the old gear sets, such as the one seen below. 

3634b / Peeron569 / Peeron (350x339)   Set Picture

Isn't it weird how our toys have changed?  Even today the Danish toymaker is constantly changing the designs of its molds.  I find mold changes to be exceedingly frustrating, but also deeply intriguing.  What stirs with the hearts of Lego employees when they finally retire a mold, is it sadness, or pragmatism?  We grow up with the parts, and then, just when it had engraved its shape in our minds, the winds of change bring an updated version. 

That's enough of my whimsy, I spent far too much of my childhood examining mold changes with a frown, because even then, I cared about what was done with my toys down to the smallest scrap of plastic.

And now, without further ado, here is my alternate.

Asteroid Detection Station

Final Verdict: B+
Pros: Cool Space Walls/Windows, Giant Wheels, Black Spaceman, Loads of extras
Cons: Poor selection of standard pieces

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