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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