Lego Unimog U400: What Building The Largest-Ever Technic Truck Is Really Like (Review)
Lego is the Apple of children's toys.
From the brain-achingly thoughtful way its products are designed - even the sound the bricks make as they snap-click together is pitch-perfect - to the fevered loyalty it inspires in its fans, and perhaps even the relatively high cost of its products, Lego pretty much matches Apple blow-for-blow.
The Lego Technic U400 Mercedes Benz Unimog truck is perhaps the finest - or at least most complicated - example of the Lego art form to date.
At more than 2,000 pieces and £154.99 RRP, it's a beast. The largest Technic kit ever released, it boasts a working motor that drives a fully articulated crane and a front-mounted pulley-hook, as well as pendular suspension and massive rubber wheels.
Fully built, it's big, bold and rolls satisfyingly across a carpet or post-apocalyptic wasteland, to taste.
As you might expect, however, building the thing is slightly less fun. Or at least, fun in a different way.
Indeed, if you're a 27-year-old man prepared to spend eight (or more) hours of your life building a Lego Technic truck, as I am, you might be in a relatively small group of people.
Fortunately I didn't have to do it alone.
While my lucky girlfriend is not the world's biggest Lego fan girl, she does at least tolerate my collection of 40+ Lego figures and the permanently built Lego castle on my living room table - and I was as surprised as anyone to find out she wanted to join in the build and help me with the Unimog.
Unfortunately helping each other in a shared endeavour of love wasn't quite what I had in mind.
What I did have in mind was a contest.
Enter the Lego Technic 8070 Supercar. At more than 1,200 pieces and a price of £99.99, it's a slightly less intimidating challenge than the Unimog. But with its own electric motor, suspension and set of four instruction manuals it's still quite a challenge.
I, the experienced Lego builder, would tackle the Unimog. She, the battling novice, would take the Supercar. On the field of Lego Technic battle we would meet, and only one of us would stand victorious.
As you can expect, she was very excited.
It was not long, however, before we realised just how much we had underestimated the task of building these impressive machines.
(Above) Building The Unimog.
Open up the box of the Unimog, for instance, and you are faced with at least ten bags of bits, five instruction manuals (each between 50 and 90 pages long) and lots of very unfamiliar pieces - especially for someone like me who for all my professed Lego fan boy-ism hasn't built anything more complex than a three-part mini fig for several years.
Then there are the side problems. Seating position is an issue. Try sitting on the floor and bending over the bits box and within an hour your legs will totally seize up. Do it at a table and your inevitably restricted view of the pieces slows building to a crawl.
The other problem is that building Lego is also very, very addictive.
What you might think is a thankless struggle is actually a very intricate series of interlocking games, riddles and solutions. Lego knows how to keep you interested. Each collection of ten pieces connects to another, revealing uses for little knobs and switches that on first sight you didn't know existed. Each large piece you connect gives you a very real, and very powerful jolt of tingly pleasure that only completing a crossword puzzle or receiving a tax rebate can really replicate. You don't notice the passing of time.
And therein lies the problem.
Some eight hours later, with each of us drawing the building contest to a close but basically unable to keep our eyes open, we decided to call it a draw.
The next day we picked up the task again, and - refreshed and renewed - completed the task with a satisfied slump on the sofa.
We were proud of our achievements. As I have mentioned, the kits really are quite amazing. True, I am naturally more a fan of Lego's fantasy-based sets, and find placing the king in his completed citadel more inspiring than applying that last Mercedes sticker to a large, and slightly ugly (in an pleasing, industrial way) Unimog truck.
Still, even for me - and also my girlfriend - the sense of genuine intellectual achievement at finishing the Unimog was overwhelming.
Just don't ask us to do it again… for at least twelve months anyway.