It’s time to touch on something that I have not yet talked about on this blog: Vintage SPACE LEGO. Yeah, that’s right: that awesome line of Lego from the late ’70s and ’80s which included a wide range of bat-shit crazy original design spaceships and interplanetary vehicles that blew the mind of this sci-fi-fantasy lovin’ adolescent.
To say I was hooked on Space Lego (that’s what I called it. I’m not sure if that’s the official name, but from here on that’s what we’ll refer to it as) would be a gross understatement. There was a period in the mid ’80s when I lived, ate and shat the stuff. Thankfully, I had very accommodating parents who would often load me up with it at Christmas and birthday times. My Dad even custom built me a table on which I could have a permanent diorama of Space Lego set up in our living room, using up a fair wedge of valuable real estate in the process. From memory the diorama was about three lunar lego panels deep and seven panels wide. The fucker was about the size of a decent couch. Did I feel guilty that people had to walk around it to get to the lavatory? Not for a minute.
Sadly, if any photos of that diorama still exist today, I have long since lost them. But I reckon that thing was set up for a good two or three years before we moved house in 1986. I loved that display I’d built and knew exactly where each and every spaceship and lunar rover had to be positioned and if any of them were moved in my absence, then clearly someone had to pay. My collection had models in it ranging from the late ’70s right up to about 1987. It represented a pretty good snapshot of the diversity of design that Lego had invested in that line. But the one model that I always coveted the most, the one that was the crowning jewel on my Lego moonscape was the awesome galaxy exploring behemoth known as LL-928. Doesn’t that nomenclature just roll off the tongue with scorching bad-assery?
The LL-928 kit was one of the largest in the Space Lego line. The spaceship was a good 35cm long with a cockpit for two mini figures, huge wing-mounted booster rockets and a cavernous rear cargo bay that would split open to allow a lunar buggy to drive inside. The kit came with two lunar base-plates and a control/tracking station sporting a huge radar dish. Four mini figures were also included. Great stuff. It was the piece upon which my entire collection was built around.
As mentioned, we moved house in 1986 and at that time my Space Lego display was uprooted and the individual models separated and stored in various locations in our new house. I remember keeping a few pieces still on display in my bedroom but quite a few of them went into storage boxes.
As I went through my late teens and early twenties my interest in Lego diminished and by then pretty much all my Space stuff was in storage. When I moved out of home in the mid nineties I took some of my Space Lego with me for safe keeping and left the remainder at the family home.
When my wife and I bought our own house several years ago it was a great opportunity for me to do a stocktake of all my vintage toys and decide what to do with them all going forward. I decided to round up all the Space Lego I could find scattered between my rented home and parents place, break it all up, clean it and put it in a big box for storage. At this point LL-928 was still intact and complete. It pained me at the time but I decided to break it apart and chuck all the bits in the box, knowing that although now in pieces, a complete LL-928 would still be with me in some capacity. I decided to see if the instructions for LL-928 were online anywhere. They were so I downloaded them, printed them off and bunged them in the big box along with what was left of my once prized Lego Space collection. The whole lot was then put up into my roofpace and that was it.
Having a couple of young kids has reinvigorated my interest in some of the toy-lines I enjoyed at their age. As they explore and discover great toys like Lego and Hot Wheels, I want to get involved too and its very easy to slip back into play mode and be reminded of why you loved those toys in the first place. Lego, by its nature, is a very tactile toy. You can’t NOT play with it. You’d have to be fairly stone cold when presented with a pile of Lego bricks to not feel the desire to start sticking them together and building something. It draws you in and challenges your creativity, patience and willpower.
This last Christmas I was up in our roofspace getting the tree and decorations down for yet another onslaught of expensive gift purchasing and festive insanity when I spied my box of Space Lego gathering dust. I knew my kids would no doubt score some more Lego on Christmas day and wondered “Why should they have all the fun? Christmas isn’t about kids, dammit. It’s about ME!” So as I gazed upon my Lego box for a few moments a thought came to me: “Fuck it, let’s do this!” I bought the box down into the light of day and decided it was time to perform a resurrection and behold my old LL-928 once more.
I knew straight away that not all the parts for the tracking station were in the box. There was no big-ass radar dish to be seen. I kinda suspected that would be the case, but I knew all the parts for the spaceship were to be found. So it was time to get stuck in.
The first thing I noticed when sifting through the treasure of vintage Lego bricks was that some of them were still a little grubby so I made sure to arm myself with a fistful of wet-wipes so I could clean as I built. Also, some of the pieces, mainly the flat grey ones, felt a lot more brittle than modern Lego. I’m sure this is just a by-product of age so it was clear that a gentle approach was required when pressing together some of those big flat pieces that make up the sub-frame of the spaceship.
It was a bit of a slow start. I must say, those vintage instructions are no where near as clear as the idiot-proof ones Lego produces today. How I managed to build this as a ten year old baffles me.
As each layer of the ship took shape, my enthusiasm would kick up a gear. Little details I’d forgotten about began to emerge.
Before long it was time to place the famous ‘LL928’ bricks on either side of the cockpit. A watershed moment.
And of course the iconic Space Lego logo bricks:
I confess, it took a couple of sessions but I eventually completed the LL-928 Spaceship. It was a proud moment to see it sitting there in all its glory upon my office floor. But before I reveal the finished product there’s a little twist to this story: when I looked upon the freshly constructed spaceship, it struck me that despite looking exactly as it should and missing no pieces, it seemed a little plainer than I remembered. I guess in 2017 we’ve become used to Lego models having somewhat more sophisticated design and detail as compared to their 1980s ancestors. So here I was with a completed starship AND a shit-tonne of extra space bricks that LL-928 had no use for. It was time to change that and add some much needed detail by putting some of those extra bricks to work. Now some vintage Lego purists may label me a heathen, but fuck it, this is Lego. You’re supposed to get creative! I also decided to modify the little lunar buggy that fits into the cargo bay. The original design was too plain.
My objective with the detailing was just to add some extra points of interest and bulk out the fuselage a little more. This kinda thing is utterly subjective and I really like the result. Some may think it blows. Ultimately, it’s Lego and there’s no right or wrong.
So even with all the added detail I still had a mountain of unused space bricks. It was essentially a pile of mixed up, long destroyed Space Lego models. So why not flex some REAL creative muscle and make a few original vehicles? With that in mind I set about doing some proper playing and just losing myself in the fun of raw Lego building: no instructions.
So here’s some vehicles I made from scratch. They say that if you piss into the wind you’re gonna get wet. Some of you may think I’m pissing in the wind with some of these designs, but I dig ’em and I had a hell of a lot of fun making them! So check out some original Tonk Space Lego:
THE TACTICAL ADVANCE RECON STRIKER
Specifically designed as a first response starfighter for battling the invading alien hordes. Also provides escort and recon duties for the LL-928.
MOBILE DEEP SPACE TRACKING STATION & DEATH RAY with ASSAULT BUGGY
This tracking station can be deployed anywhere upon the Lunar surface thanks to it’s detachable Assault Buggy. Capable of tracking all starships within the Human fleet, it can also detect deep space communication signals emanating from the armada of the evil alien hive. The tracking array also contains a 2 billion volt laser Death Ray capable of blowing alien starfighters out of low orbit.
LL-928 GROUND SUPPORT ROVER
Designed as a support and maintenance vehicle for the LL-928 Starship, this heavy duty rover can traverse the Lunar surface with ease and double as battering ram to mow down the attacking alien ground forces.
ADVANCED LUNAR SCOUT ROVER ‘THE GRUB’
This unique articulated rover is used to explore new frontiers upon the Lunar surface and investigate the feasability of future Human outposts. Nick-named ‘The Grub’ due to it’s crawling appearance, it can go where others dare not to. Contains life support equipment for extended missions.
EXPEDITIONARY CREW HEAVY TRANSPORTER with MOBILE LIFE SUPPORT TRAILER
Once the Grub has done the dirty work of seeking out new areas, this Heavy Transporter will wheel in the first waves of workers and troops. Carries enough equipment and supplies to support a small crew for several weeks.
LL-928 SECOND GENERATION ADVANCED TRACKING STATION AND LUNAR DEFENCE POST
After the original LL-928 tracking station was destroyed by an alien bombardment, this new station was built to replace it. With advanced tracking capabilities and enough firepower to defend the surrounding bases, this new station should be impervious to future attacks by the encroaching alien scum.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my rediscovery of the classic Space Lego. Playing with this stuff over the last few weeks has been some of the most fun I’ve had playing with toys in a long time. As adults we too easily forget how to really play, both physically and mentally. I’m really happy I decided to pull that box down from the roofspace. I think I’m going to keep the Lego out for a little while yet.