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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blacktron: 6941 Battrax

This Size-able rover was the second largest set of Blacktron 1987 and the third largest Blacktron model overall in Generation 1.  I add that qualifier because there were two Blacktron factions

The construction decisions from the designers gave us a racecar spacecar toting a spaceship(-s?) teetering over into excess.  A veritable beast of a buggy too big for its britches.  Not in a bad way mind... it's a cool truck, it just has a few noticeable airy spaces inside.

The rover sports a beautiful front end complete with a small nose spoiler and the triforce of power.

The base model Battrax comes equipped with a Zelda reference.

The Rover has a hinged middle to give it steering, as well as tubular dampeners to prevent catastrophic oversteer... Consequently the truck is restricted by a large turning circle.

The steering build of a technic pin through helicoptor tail rotor plates was a clever design for the period, I would have used This and this.  (Links to Bricklink)  Instead the designers came up with a solution that saved them 2x2 studs of room to reduce the size of the cab... and did nothing with the space savings in the back... they left a massive hole of nothing under the two slopes and between the tool cabinets.  It's a place to hide things if nothing else.  The idea I've been stewing over is a larger verson of that 1999 Snowspeeder's storage box.  Or you could just dump the contents of the latest raid on Futuron in there... it might even fit a Futuron guy, so mod it to be a dungeon on wheels.

It's my understanding that the Lego group has listed the technic beam through the Helicopter plate as 'out of system' due to how the elements interact and their potential to stress.  I fiddled with the bits, to feel the interaction and it offsets slightly.  The helicopter plate opening is not a true circle, and the technic pin rubs the sides at certain points.  The angles achieved are within parameters on Battrax, but if you deploy the technic, just keep in mind that it can't twist as far as you might expect without adverse stress on the elements.  Battrax is the only known set to have deployed the technique.

EDIT (I was just watching one of Jang's videos and saw this technique in use on the 70915 LEGO Batman Movie Two-Face Double Demolition... that alongside all the black and trans yellow continues to inform my underlying presumption that the Batman movie is the Lego groups gift to Blacktron enthusiasts... I'm not taking the bait salesmens.  Good try though.)

The rear unit houses tools in the side storage compartments ahead of the dock and the sizeable V8 engine in the rear.  Or it's a nuclear reactor with fuel rods that keep it cooled?  The hinges give some options for aesthetic.

Side A holds a mallet for hammering out dents from skirmishing and a wrench for tightening loose bolts.

Side B holds a torch for laser battles (or seeing in the dark) and a signal for guidance (a second Blacktron guy would add value to its presence.)

the cockpit has a cavernous open area in front which could hold one of the M-Tron Boxes as is or can be modded to fit a second astronaut.  It looks pretty, but seems incomplete since the empty space does nothing within the set itself to justify its bigness.  It's either a missed opportunity, or an invitation for play options.

The wheels are of the big Classic Space variety, this was the second to last year before the space theme began to demonstrate the hard plastic moon tires that would later dominate the Space series.  I greatly like the newer style, but I am quite elated to have gotten hold of these... they were one of the deeply desired pieces in my childhood.

One of the major struggles in this set stems from tool access... yes, it's very nicely laid out in that storage space, but removal and replacement is an art form... I managed it, but it took a bit of thought... keep in mind I cringe about ripping tools from clip plates, (I broke so many as a kid) not that I ever told you before.  I prefer to slide bits up and out rather than pull... no choice, the flashlight and wrench pull first, and then the signal and hammer have the necessary room to be tipped out.  It's bothersome, but the aesthetic of the storage is pleasing to look at.

The rear of the truck sports a massive rear spoiler and exhaust ports with a quadruple laser backblast... with a secret.

We're in the final lap with Futuron bringin some heat and boy howdy folks, but this race is a real scorcher.  Blacktron just spoiled the race, and the crowd's muffled applause gives way to unsolicited cheering... that's one heckuva bad way to win.

The Rover can dispense its cockpit and spoiler.  Most sets of the period showed alternates on the back of the box, but Blacktron frequently prioritized sharing the toy's play features on the back instead.

The foundation of the truck is a grungy rover which has no controls of its own, but can be fed various cockpits from the other sets.

There are no studs to place a Blacktron man to drive the rover.

superficial shock absorbers are implied for the rear wheels, and the base of the rover is textured by a Technic Brick, perhaps more module connections may be achieved?

The book only show's Invader's cockpit on the chassis.  That's because it doesn't hold most of the other modules very well.  I'll show off the extent of these fun connections in a later post.

The Front Cockpit once stripped of its buggy is a long slender sloping box.  It almost invites the as yet unreleased angled canopy style to grace its extended cockpit double hinged canopy.

The design is such that it must be slightly modded to fit an extra astronaut.  In this build when the brick is a stud, then it's really a dud, we need armrest tiles for our tired limbs lest they fall off from weariness.

The rear unit from the truck turns into a fully realized flying craft with no flight controls because who needs fly by wire when you can spread your mental wings and just believe.

The wings angle can be adjusted to suit the pilot.

This strake of the wing form is particularly bad looking in a lovely kinda sorta, if by bad meaning good; I mean well... yeah!  It's cool.  I like it in solo function this way. I do wish the pilot had proper controls.

Behold, a helpless cockpit is getting its wings.

The cockpit doesn't make much sense alone, but pairs into a fine ship with the rear attachment. together they form a compelling flyer with the swing wings that allow for divebombing through the galaxy like a bat outta hell.

 The wings swing wide for combat mode to unleash hell on the unsuspecting Futuron... fire overhead laser array.  Spoils of war mode activate!

Actually, Futuron totally expects it; else why do so many of their vessels have escape pods?

The particular stew of delectable inedible parts which give this machine its indelible edge are these.

The extender in trans yellow, was the first of its kind, and a mild adjustment to the theme's initial cockpit design.

The Black Window frame of which there were 2 was a limited part in the elements stew.

4 Doors made of black access tools from the hatch, many arrived across only three sets.  There were 14 in all, pretty good for the time, but over the years they're all old, 'tis a crime.

4 black rims, soil scooper adds 2 in white, and Futuron beast modes the white version.  Overall the Black rims are not the most common, could be worse though... could be teal.

4 large rubber technic tyres.  In my opinion this is quite a fantastic tyre, its lack of inclusion in my childhood collection made it too cool... The hard plastic tyres from Space Police on would usurp this part's throne as the largest of space wheels... but to my mind it's still king as my taste for hard plastic on wood floors is not terribly keen, the grip this provides is more to my mind... appealing.

2 yellow grilles, shared with one other set,  This print is more common on white plates, but I can think of a few places where this could be fun, if the thought of classic space esque aquanaut MOCs strike your fancy...

The yellow 1x2 brick comes equipped with a technic peg hole to add on the big wheels.  Speaking of aquanauts... not that we are because we're naut.  ;)  The Chrystal Crawler came with 10 of these and I had the misfortune of owning two Chrystal Crawlers... Verily, I'm quite seasick of this part... It gave me the yellow fever.

Round yellow cylinder brick.  Now this is more like it, you can build a rocket with this or attach it as a hub to the hard plastic tyres, or it's an oil drum, or part of an engine; this part is fantastic.

2x10 yellow plate.  Here's a part which derives no significance beyond the shortage you'll be facing if you get it strictly from the Space theme.

2 corner slope bricks in black join 2 red ones from M:Tron, and two white ones from Futuron.  If Space Police had provided 2 in blue it would have been a key indicator of the times... alas they did not.  But irregardless of that oversight, it's still a key indicator of the times.

The yellow 1x2 tile arrow print seen here appeared in 8 sets, the closest to Space as I understand it would be Neptune Discovery Lab... from Aquanauts, though depending on your point of view for what constitutes a Space set... Rock Raiders HQ and Shuttle Launch Pad may be worth taking a gander at... and for those who need no excuse to expand their monorail track... the airport monorail provided this piece as well.

The steering hinge in Battrax is constructed from the following three parts, as opposed to the two hinge pieces you may have been expecting.  

First up there's the classic Helicopter tail rotor grip plate.  The hole in its front allows for Technic pins and axles to pass through.  4 of these are provided to build a toothed 4 plate high rotating hinge point.  It's overly clever considering the options which could have been employed but for want of those two studs of space in the cabin design.

The single axle provided is a 4 stud length part, there are quite a lot of these from over the years... but I have often considered this one and the 6 stud length to be the optimal sizes for my builds.  They're quite handy in the modern era of mixed system/technic construction methods.

And of course we get some of Blacktron's rare grey components.  In this case 2 of the ubiquitous technic bushings. They have a variety of uses, spacing, clutching an axle behind a technic brick, texture... cannons, generally being awesome as plastic tire grips.

Moving on, here's a 1x6 technic brick in black.  1 is provided to give texture to Battrax's rear base.  It's available in one Futuron set (Interplanetary Rover), and one Space Police set (Mission Commander), so the supply from the golden age of space is actually pretty decent.

Now this is a part I personally think TLG should have delivered in black.  As with 6950 Mobile Rocket Transport

and 6871 Star Patrol Launcher...

Oh well, in this case the grey color adds just a bit more of the grey to Blacktron's bumblebee color scheme.  4 are included to apply the tires to the frame.

The ping pong paddle could be handled by a second Blacktron figure... the missing man in assisting the spaceship driver with launch instructions.  i.e. docking, and jetting from the main body of the truck.  1 is included, and it feels kind of  useless here.  I do wonder what its perceived benefit is when not in conjunction with the vehicle's operation... playing whack-a-mole with the native alien gophers? It's one of the less common color variants for this part, but most of them are space related sets, so you're likely to end up with a handful of them.  Incidentally, this is the only color available in space sets.

If you've collected the Futuron sets, or the Space Police sets you know there's no shortage of this color pennant... but for blacktron these 4 poles are the only ones for the theme, else you'll end up with yellow or trans-red.  It's a very common part which traded the rounded top for a flat edge in more recent sets.  I vastly prefer the curve, (nostalgia) but either way, these have always been excellent parts to have around in any color.

You get 2 of this black 1x10 plate.  This color of the part has the largest spread across the Space theme, but the smallest distribution within the models I've blogged up to now.  It's also well distributed across the entire range of themes and sets.  It's an ok plate, nothing too exciting unless you're looking to gain a lot of stud length fast.

Battrax is kind of an oddity for alternates... the cool ideas are hidden beneath the flap, and the back provides views of the many variations we've pored over up to now.  On a casual inspection I must say, the designers really outdid themselves as I absolutely had to scratch the mental itch and build both of these beautiful ideas.

First up is the robot.  It's a nifty stomping mecha with a super long cannon for maximum laser battery charging capabilities.

The robot would be an excellent spacecraft without the legs... no I didn't remove them, but look at that profile... exceptional.

I am entirely flummoxed about the back.  No... I do not guarantee anything back's 75% guesstimates, 25% of the guessing based on what was visible.  In the end I opted to make something that looked attractive within the whole design.

Here's the bat mobile... I, I mean, a drag racer, yeah... cuz this one's yellow and Batman only works in black, more black, and very berry dark grey, like spoiled jam color, cuz he'd be jamming to some tunes when he builds his bat stuff, which this isn't, totally not a bat thing.  It's just bad to the bone.

Check out the pipes on this rat rod!

Tri-force away Ba-zhoom!

Of course I built one.

I opted to get some of the unused elements involved for this creation, such as that canopy extender, and the container doors/shutters.  This ship has six wings for maximum lift, and a turbo booster which may cause dire steering issues, but will totally work for speedy getaway oomph (warning, may cause catastrophe in an asteroid belt)  No refunds.

The driver accesses the controls through the top hatch.  Why hello there.  taste my laser blaster.  What do you mean there's no taste... it imparts the taste of iron from your liquified insides, which are now melty guts.  Now taste it... dagnabbit, the safety,'s on!

Now let's run around the back to have a look see.  I installed a jumbo tire for its hollow texture to get some exhaust on the rear rocket.
I also used the cab's slight tilt to install angled boosters for more spacey goodness.

And for Zoli, since I figure he may be interested.  I've pressed this hollow wall element down between studs to get more SNOT into the build after running out of SNOT elements. (note the two studs in the ship's hollow back.) There's a 1x2 plate underneath to keep the hollow brick from pressing in and stressing the element's top and thereby the hope is to minimize the possibility of bending the piece, or popping the connection out of place.  This is another 'out of system' or illegal technic.  

This is Battrax, a veritable beast of a buggy to big for its britches, it was the only space set to be solicited for the Lego Legends label in a contest... I voted for it, it lost, we got Black Seas Barracuda, Black Falcon Fortress, and Main Street instead.  Since I didn't have any money at the time I couldn't get any of them... but in the long term I got Battrax anyway.

Final score: B- for 'as is' design, A+ for easy modding options  
The flaws in this model do not negate it's awesomeness, in fact, they stand it in good stead for further consideration from the builder who can expand upon the missed opportunities.  I think very highly of this set, It has several funky design decisions that make it seem overbuilt and underdeveloped, but the core invitation to add to it is open since it's a build-able toy. More than any other space set I've fiddled with, Battrax feels the most like it left the drawing room before the design ink had time to dry.  What we got is one quirky monster truck with a very aesthetically pleasing form.

Pros: Blactron Minifigure, Lots of accessories, uncommon printed elements, unique trans yellow extender, classic space wheels, Multi segmented play feature, easily improved structure.

Cons: Unrefined finished product feels empty in 2 places, 'Out of system' steering technic can damage parts if deployed incorrectly in Moc's, Could have 2 Blacktron men with a slightly redesigned cockpit to fit them. Rear spoiler lacks proper controls for flight mode, rover chassis is not as interactive with the other Blacktron sets as the segmented play feature would imply

Until next time, The Cure-all Pill