Unimog U90

About 3 months ago I purchased a set of four Fischertechnik tires from ebricks.ru. After seeing a review of them by RM8, I reached out to him, and he mailed me a set. After a little time, I finally have something to show with them.

Unimog U90

After playing with a number of ideas, I decided to do another Unimog. It’s easy to motivate myself to build a vehicle I love. This time, I wanted to do the unloved U90 (418) version. It was not a terribly successful version, as many find the hood…not one of the best. But few people have built this version, so I was up for it. I put to to a vote on Eurobricks, and the decision was to build it in green. Off I went.

The scale required a 27 stud wheelbase and a 19 stud width. I built the front and rear axles and tied them together. Through a couple of edits, I finally added the suspension and figured out how to get portal axles into the truck. The Power Functions XL motor was mounted just over and in front of the rear axle driving power to all four wheels. The Servo motor was placed directly ahead of the XL for the front axle steering. I added a four cylinder fake engine over the front axle. The rechargeable battery box was placed over the rear axle.

Unimog U90 Driveline

The suspension is a live axle setup, with four hard shock absorbers at each corner. Each wheel has about 2 studs of travel. Not much for a Unimog, but enough for a 418. At this point I started a draft of the cab, and a draft of the bed. At this point the truck had an identity crisis. Move forward with green or find another option.

Unimog U90 Bed Tilt

Building LEGO Technic with green is not the easiest. The color lacks 1×5 and 1×11 beams. Both of the these parts would be needed for the bed and the cab. I could make some things work for the 1×11 in the hood, but there was no other option (read, inexpensive option) for the 1x5s needed for the bed. I toyed with other colors for the bodywork; orange, white, blue, yellow. None of them had the right pop I was looking for. Other than the orange, but, as other have said, orange has been done too many times. Then it dawned on me, “why not use plates?” I had my solution. With one bricklink order, I was done.

The truck drives well, and is easily controllable. The front portal axle can use a little strengthening, so serious trial abilities are lacking with this truck. Both the bed and the cab can be easily removed. I ran out of space for a ram to elevate the bed, but it can tilt three ways. I was pleased with how the truck turned out. It looks great. The driveline coule use some improvements, so I will make those improvements on the next truck.


Kalmar DCG180-9

After doing a lot of non powered builds, it was time for me to do something motorized. I very much enjoyed doing a forklift a couple of years ago, so it was time for another one.

See the full gallery on Flickr and Brickshelf.

Kalmar 180

The JCB930 that I did a couple of years ago was non-motorized and had some great features. I wanted to build something with all the same features, and since I would need more room for all the electronics, I decided early to model the forklift after the Kalmar mid-sized 180 model. The model would have drive, steering, a two stage lift, and fork tilt. I did not realize how hard this would be. I wanted to keep the  boom clear for visibility, and the forks not more than two studs in front of the wheels to keep integrity of scale.

Kalmar 180 Front

I set the scale and I went to work. After setting the chassis measurements, I went to work on the fork and boom. I knew I wanted to have a two stage boom, and I wanted to keep as much of the boom open as I could. The forks connect through the middle of both the first and second stage booms, and pinch both together. The middle boom is has a gear rack on both sides to lift the forks. This boom has two gears at the top, to route the chain over the top to move the forks. The outer boom is connected to the chassis at the bottom, and two mLA connect to it operate the tilt. After some working, I was able to get the boom to be thin, and just how I wanted.

Kalmar 180 Up

I decided early that I want to keep the motors out of the boom. So I had to route the lifting function out to the forklift body through the bottom pivot. This required routing the lifting axle under the drive differential. The lifting axle then move rearward, and connected up to a PF L motor. On top of the lifting axle was the drive axle. The PF XL motors was mounted transversally on the right side, and drove and axle forward to connect directly to the differential. To give me some additional space at the front, a portal axle was mounted on its side to move the differential rearward. A PF Servo was mounted in the rear, over the steering axle, and drove the steering function. The steering uses some 2×4 liftarms mounted at an angle to allow for a better steering angle. Finally, a PF M was mounted in front of the Servo, under the cabin to drive the tilt function. None of the mechanics were difficult, but the packaging required a number of drafts.

Kalmar 180 Open

The final hurdle was the body work. I spend a lot of time early in my MOCs working on packaging placement, so I do not have many body work problems later in the build. Still, some simple SNOT work was needed on the side sills to fit about the battery box, and the XL motor. Oh, and the wires. The cab was pretty straightforward, but still took a little bit of time. Finally, I had some trouble with the rear engine cover and counterweight. In the end it was a simple design that I settled on, but I tried many designs. Again, this took a lot of time.

It took a long time, but I am pleased with the final product. The functions worked smoothly and consistently. The control that was afforded by the fork functions was great. It could lift three AA battery boxes at a time. The steering was quick, and had a great lock which gave great maneuverability. The XL motor provided adequate power, and moved the forklift well. Finally, the bodywork represented the original Kalmar well. I hope you enjoyed as well.

Until next time, Happy Building.

Kenworth T47

The Kenworth T55 is my favorite Trial Truck I have built. It’s not the best looking, or the most capable, or the most reliable, or even the most popular but it’s the one I keep coming back to. My latest truck is a continuation of the Kenworth series of trial trucks. The T55 would pull a stump, the T47 is quicker, has better steering, and more compliant suspension.


Right from the beginning I knew the truck would have a similar cabin at the T55. It would continue with the four wheel steering, and I added an independent suspension. The dimensions would stay close to the same. From there anything else was fair game. I started with the axles. The new suspensions arms made it a little bit easier to make a good independent design. A CV joint was used at the steering knuckle, which allowed for the steering pivot to be near the wheel. Each wheel had about three studs of travel.

The XL motor was placed on the left of the center line and the rechargeable battery box was placed on the right. A newly acquired Servo Motor was placed rear on the centerline directly in front of the rear axle. I had a little more space left, so I added a simple two speed gearbox. A little more space remained so I added a flat six engine.

T47 Engine

Part of my attraction of the T55 has been it’s coloring, and it’s shape. I wanted to keep the attraction similar, but in a way that would differentiate the trucks. I have been acquiring some green lately, so I thought would be a great color. The cab is basically the same, but now it can tilt so you can work on the engine.

The off road performance was not great on the T55, and the T47 was similar. The independent suspension had too much play at the wheels to be great at steering, and the articulation was not very supple. The truck was great to drive around my house, but when I took it outside it did poorly. The suspension design is better than my last independent set up. There was no slipping of the gears. I think my next design will use the same knuckle, but design a different steering connection. This truck again proves the use of knob wheels rather than a differential for a trial truck. Feel free to make your own, and let me know what improvements you developed.

Happy Building.

Hawker Typhoon MkIb

Two years ago I built the Spitfire MkIIa. It remains one of my more popular builds, and one of which I am still quite proud. It was not my first large plane, though when I completed it, I said it would be my last.

As my father would say, “never say never.”


The full gallery may be seen here.

I learned a lot of great things from the Spitfire. Large scale building is exciting, and challenging in that you have to think about significant structural considerations, placement, and shaping before and while your build.

With this in mind, I wanted to develop what I have learned, but allow myself the ability to take a large scale aircraft to the next level. I wanted to improve the function of the control surfaces, design my own propellor, use four Power Function channels, and use the boatload of Dark Green parts that I had recently acquired. I considered a number of airplanes, including doing the FW-190 again, but I finally settled on the Typhoon. Time to get building.

After some planning, I had my scale. 1/13 was an appropriate size for me to replicate the plane and its functions, while still keeping the plane from getting too large. This scale would also allow for LEGO wheels for the landing gear, and a worker able propellor spinner design. As I learned from the Spitfire, placement of large components needed to be done early, and placed in the MOC to its exact final location. As the structure of the fuselage and wings would be stressed heavily, large components could not get in the way. Once I placed the engine block, the landing gear, the power functions, and the control surfaces, I was able to start putting together the robust structures that would support the final plane. One of the major challenges of this plane was the outset landing gear on the wings. Because they were located 42 studs apart, the wings needed to be strong. But due the the space taken for the control surfaces, and the massive 24 cylinder power pack, the wings still sag a little under load.

The control surfaces were activated with strings with studs on each end. I found this to be a better system than the axle controls for the Spitfire. It kept the controls more smooth, and reduced the amount of play in the controls. The elevator and ailerons were controlled with the joystick, and the rudder was controlled by two foot pedals in the cockpit. The remaining functions were controlled via Power Functions. An XL motor powered the massive 38 stud diameter propellor, as well at the 24 cylinder Napier Sabre engine. A M motor controlled the pitch of the propellor. Another M motor powered the landing gear, and still another  adjusted the flaps. All four motor were mounted in the chin of the aircraft; I had to use that huge chin for something. The two IR receivers were mounted in under the windscreen, and the rechargeable battery was mounted behind the cockpit.

Finally, I had to make sure all the markings were accurate. Again, due the limits of dark green parts, it was not an easy task. I started with wings, and made sure to add invasion stripes, and work my way out to the tips. The roundels were a little different than the Spitfire, but were a little larger. The fuselage took a little work to make sure the panels could be easily removed, but I eventually got there. The fuselage roundel should have a yellow ring around the outside, but the strip is so small, I could not figure out a good way to do it.

The plane worked almost perfectly. The ailerons were a little sticky, but other wise everything else managed to work for an 8 hour shift at Brickworld. The plane was liked enough to be nominated for Best Air Ship. While it did not win, it was validation that the the model was a success.

Happy Building.

Iveco XTR

After a couple of more complex projects it is nice to take a break to do two simpler projects. When I need a little bit of a design rest, I do a trial truck, and usually a fictional one, so I can build as I please.

The full gallery can be found here, and free instructions can be found here.

Iveco XTR

After building a number of trial trucks, I have found some features I like to have on my trucks. Note, these features may be prioritized differently if I was participating in a Truck Trial race. These features I like are linked suspension, PF XL motor for drive, tall clearance, and a center mounted battery box. As I was making this truck for my own pleasure, I forced myself to include all of these features.

I usually start a truck with the axles, and the Iveco was no different. I created the axle with a portal axle build around my favorite piece for both the front and the rear. I also added the space to fit both a differential, or knob wheels for the final drive (though the pictures only show the latter). This would allow me to switch the traction of the truck, and allow for a minor gearing change. While the changeover takes a little bit of time, it’s a nice feature and the gives the truck some versatility. I placed the steering motor directly on the front axle with allowed the middle of the truck to be simplified vastly. In the center of the truck is the battery box mounted longitudinally, and a Power Functions XL motor in the rear. This keeps the heaviest components of the truck in the center and low.

The linked suspension is a setup developed by other that connect two pendualar axles together. Each left side has a linkage that connects the two left wheels together, and the right wheels have the same. This keeps the wheels planted as the pressure from the terrain is balanced across all four wheels. When one wheel has to go up to follow the terrain, the rest of the wheels adjust. It is simple, effective, and keeps the truck a little more planted than a suspension utilizing shock absorbers. Otherwise the truck bounces a little during an obstical.

As you can see in the video, the battery box is getting a little tired, and the snow as a little mushy, but the setup worked well. The truck stayed planted, and it was nice to have two final axle options. It is a simple design that does not require too many hard to find parts, so if you need a good little afternoon project, give the Iveco XTR a build, and tell me what you think.

OK, off to some more complicated builds. Check The Queue. There is some fun stuff coming. Until then, happy building.

Bedford MWD

I have said it before, but my favorite things to build are Trial Trucks.  The combination of the driveline construction, forces on the truck, diversity of body style, and various propulsion systems offered by LEGO combine for a great building experience.  Because of this, I usually am building a Trial Truck, or have one built at all times.  But for some reason, this truck seemed to sit for a long time unfinished.  I struggle with deciding if a truck will be a model of something, or something fictional.  This decision is often made too late in the construction process.  After toying with a Daimler Scout body, I decided I needed to finish this project and the Bedford MWD body was chosen.

The full gallery may be seen here.


After some some experience with various designs, I decided to construct a truck around a simple locking differential idea I had recently designed.  Because I would need an extra IR Receiver for the locking function, I decided a simple two speed gearbox (1:6 and 1:10) could use the other IR channel.  I placed all the controls in the middle of the chassis.  The driveline and the steering axle would run through the middle.  On the left side was the Battery Box and the motor for the gear change, and on the right side was the XL drive motor, the gear box, and the motor for the locking differential mechanism.  The steering motor would hang out the back of the chassis over the rear pendular suspension unit.  Both axle were connected by my favorite linked suspension system.


Each axle took a little bit of work.  I selected a simple design for the locking differential.  Basically, it is a 24 tooth differential placed directly next to a 24 tooth gear.  A pair of sliding 12 tooth double bevel gears slide back and forth one stud to connect only with the differential, or with both the differential and the neighboring gear locking out the differential.  After toying with some old flex cable, and some pneumatics, I figured I was making it too complicated.  I added a small pivot with a Small Technic Steering Arm, and connected it to a 9L link.  This way both axles could be connected, the suspension and lock could keep operating unaffected by each other, and it all could be controlled by a mini Linear Actuator.

Initial tests were positive, so I then decided to figure out a body for the design.  I worked for too long on a Daimler Scout body.  I had the structure made, but the paneling was just not happening.  After sitting on the project for 5 months, I decided it was time to make something new.  The Bedford design worked well, and helped my get excited again in the project.

Now, once I got outside to drive the truck a glaring problem occurred.  The bevel connection in each axle that transmits the longitudinal drive forces to transversal drive forces kept slipping.  You can hear it in the video.  Because of this, it did not matter if it had locking differentials, or if it had a two speed gearbox, or if it had working suspension.  Anything could stop it.  I though about reworking the axles, but then, I have been working on this for 11 months, it was time to be done.  I’ll use the locking mechanism again.  That worked great.

Thanks for reading.

CAT 573C Feller

LEGO takes up space.  We all know this, and yet we still seem to try to cram as many working functions into a MOC as we can.  Sometimes it works out well.  Sometimes we have to scrap a few functions.  Other times, the functions are so dense you really cannot believe you got it to work.  This is the story of my wheeled feller.

The full Gallery may be found here. Instructions may be purchased for $5 USD.  Buy Now Button

CAT 573c Feller

I have been thinking about making a feller for about two years now.  It is a project I have never seen done before, with the exception of two tracked fellers (OK, and my other one).  Over this time, I have been planning, acquiring parts, and making plans, and over the last four months I have been building.  Nothing I have made has been so complicated or so dense.  There is no space left.

As I always do, I stared with the dimensions of the vehicle.  The schematics for the CAT 573C were easily available, so I stared with the chassis.  I knew space would be an issues, so the driveline had to be simple and compact.  The Power Functions XL motor would be geared down 3:1 and mounted just behind the rear axle.  A drive shaft would move through the steering pivot to the front axle.  The rear axle would have simple pendular suspension.  The steering would be completed by two linear actuators placed on either side of the pivot with a PF M motor on top.  Simple enough.

From here, things got complicated quickly.  The MOC would have four remaining functions.  The feller saw, the grapple arms, the feller tilt, and the feller lift.  Since trees are rather heavy, fellers are designed with as many of the system mechanics behind the rear axle.  As such, all of the functions I would add would need to be in the rear, as the front would not have any space.  I quickly learned this would not work.

Eventually, I found what would fit.  The IR Receivers would make up the rear bumper, and the battery box would be directly over them, off to the left.  Two PF Ms would be on the right and would drive two mini Linear Actuators.  These would move two pneumatic valves. These pneumatics would move the lift function and the grapple arms function.  An air tank would supply the pressure from a pneumatic pump placed on the driveline.  Another PF M would be placed over the front axle to give the feller head the tilt functions (it should be noted, 7 designs, and five weeks were spent on this feature alone).  The final PF M was in the feller head, and would drive the feller saw.

After packing, repacking, and packing again, all the features we set.  Then all the cabling and hosing were placed.  No easy task, as I was running out of space, and 25 or so hoses, and 10 cables take up a lot of room.  I added some comfort features to the cable, including a (half) chair and a roll cage.  And so Mr. Technic could get in, a little step.  Then a lot of paneling for the rear, including some access doors on the rear, and the model was done.  Here it is in action.

As you can see in the video, the MOC worked well, but some of the functions did not work as clean as I would have liked.  The drive and steering were fine, with an easy drivability.  There was a lot of mass in the back, so sometimes the torque from the drive motor would cause the back to tip.  The saw worked well enough, and for the most part so did the tilt, but the pneumatic lift struggled.  It was a little overloaded because the saw unit was too heavy.  The grapple arm worked well, but for both pneumatic rams were hard to control.  As always with LEGO pneumatics, they too often are off or on.

Until the next MOC, happy building.

Talon Track

Every once and a while I see something so creative I have to build something like it.  I happened with my HH-65.  It happened with my Zil 132.  And to some extent it happened with my Spitfire.  But when I saw the Urban Buggy from Chrismo, I though I have to make something like it.  It was such a fresh and creative design.  It had such great lines, a perfect stance, and a unique driveline setup.  But while imitation and outright plagiarism are the most sincere forms of flattery, I thought something of my own design would be a better contribution to the LEGO community.  I present my Talon Track Car.

You may find the full gallery here, and the instructions here.

I designed this car to be fast and stable, just like a track car.  I started with a drivetrain that would be reliable and effective.  A PF XL for drive, and a PF M for the steering.  I placed the PF M in the front mounted directly on the suspension unit, with a return to center spring in the middle of the mount.  The system is set up differently than in my Rumble Bee, but uses the same return part.  Each suspension arm would have a single shock absorber.  Directly behind the steering motor was the XL for the drive.  It was geared up with a 20z/12z ratio, with the driveshaft connecting directly to the 20z gear that turned the differential.  The rear suspension used an independent setup that was developed a long time ago for my Red Car Bigger (great name, huh).  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  The suspension was planted.  I placed the rechargeable battery box and the IR receiver behind the rear axle.

The car was quick, and didn’t have any problems, but faster would have been cool.  The return to center system worked well, especially for the quickness of the car, and the quickness of the steering.  It was easy to control.  The car was robust, and crashed well.  So go ahead and build your own.  Enjoy.

Mack Marble 5T

I confess.  I took the bait, and started on the 2012 You Design It, We Build It before the final rules had been confirmed.  I should know better.  After all my schooling, you would think I have a good idea about how to follow directions.  The first direction is, wait for directions.  But, with all LEGO building, I enjoy what I am creating, and so even after the rules and directions have been given, I still want to contribute to the LEGO community.  So, my next MOC is another Trial Truck, built with the intention of being easy to play with, easy to build, and tough enough to handle child play.  All with instructions, so you can build one.

See Instruction Page

I built this model based on what I thought could be improved on set 9398.  While this new set was a great step forward for the LEGO company, I felt there where a couple of changes that should be made to make the model a better off-roader.  Because I was working with the assumption that this would be something LEGO would produce, I gave myself a couple of constraints.  First, the model had to be less than, or equal to, the cost of 9398.  Second, the model had to have improved off-roading skills.  Third, the model had to have easy playablity, so the drivetrain had to be reliable, the battery should be easy removable, and it should be easy to drive.

I started the frame before the axles.  I placed the battery box directly over the driveshaft.  An XL motor was place behind the BB and three 16z gears above the driveshaft.  One 16z gear went up to the fake motor shaft.  The driveshaft would connect front and rear to the two axles through the new ball joints from 8110.

I then built the two axles, starting with the rear.  To keep the speed of the Mack similar to the 9398, I would gear down the XL motor to about 1:4.  The driveshaft came out of the ball joints and connected to the differential.  I chose two 12z/20z gear sets as the final reduction.  This would keep the driveline a little stronger, and help keep various axles from working their way out of the gears, much like the design of the 9398.  The final gearing was 1:3.89.  It’s not a stump puller, but it could still move up most hills.

The front axle was a little more tricky.  Basically, it had a similar setup, with a PF M motor placed on in it to work the steering.  This was by design.  To keep the driveline reliable, and limit the failure of steering, I kept the steering part of the axle, rather then having components placed in the chassis, and then connected via a shaft to the front axle.  The steering is a little quick for my liking, but it works flawlessly.  To understand more about the axles, check out the instructions.

Through a little trial and error, I connected the suspension, and tweaked it so it would function in a way that was robust, and allow for great movement.  I am still not pleased with how it turned out aesthetically  but it functioned without problems, it supported the model well, and allowed for sufficient articulation, so I left it.

I then added a simple body, a basic rear bed, and added some engine components such as exhaust,  intake, and a simple turbocharger behind the fake motor.  When I was done, I noticed the cab looked a little like an old Unimog.  This seems to be a theme with me, as I love the look of the Unimog.  On the other hand, I do not like the look of too many cabover truck designs, as such, many of my trucks have the slight setback cabover design that is very similar to the Unimog.  My T55 is like this, and this is why I have built so many Unimogs.

The model worked well.  the suspension and stability was perfect.  The truck was stable, and did not roll over, all while being able to handle various terrains.  The gearing was sufficient and would be great for a playing child.  It was easy to change out the 12z/20z gears in the portal axles to a 8z/24z setup which made the truck a little more strong.

It would be a great model for many LEGO fans due to cost, reliability  stability, and playability.  So I have posted instructions for people to enjoy the model as well.  I think it would have been a great LEGO set, then the rules were released.

Next time I’ll wait for the rules.  Thanks for reading.

Full gallery is here.

International FTTS

It has been a little quiet in Thirdwiggville for the last month.  I have been working on a project that is taking a lot of time and resources, so my posts have slowed, even though my building has not.  But just wait, it’s going to be awesome.

Last summer I wanted to do another Trial Truck that would utilized some features I have never used before.  I wanted something complicated to see how it would work.  I wanted a model that would use four wheels steering, independent suspension, and have a simple two speed gearbox while being low to the ground.  After spending some time at the Chicago Autoshow, I saw a FTTS concept, so I thought this would be a great vehicle to model for this next truck.

This model would be built around an independent suspension.  After seeing it used so effectively in a truck by ATRX, I wanted to give it a try.  Each of the four wheels would use a simple double a-arm set-up with a wheel mount attached at the outside.  The wheel mount would house the portal axle and connect the steering linkage.  After a couple of different designs, I also decided the wheel mount would also connect the the shock absorbers.  This was a little unorthodox, as most independent designs mount the shock absorbers directly from the frame to the a-arms.  I did this for two reasons.  First, the model would be heavy, and I could not get the support I needed when the shocks were connected to the a-arms.  Second, and most importantly, I noticed too much suspension flex when the shocks were mounted to the a-arms.  The force applied to the wheel would go up the wheel, to the wheel mount, through the pivot, halfway down the lower a-arm to the shock.  LEGO is relatively stiff, but all these steps complied too much flex.  I would not have it.  I mounted the shocks on the wheel mount, and created a simple MacPherson strut set-up.  This worked well, as it allowed for full steering movement, long suspension travel, and adequate support of the truck.

The front and rear suspension axles both had a PF-M motor driving the steering.  Each were on independent PF channels connected to a single 8878 Battery Box to allow for individual steering, crab steering, and to solve steering drift commonly problematic with four wheels steering vehicles.  Both axles were connected with dual drive shafts running the length of the truck.  One drive shaft would then connect through a simple two speed gearbox to the PF-XL motor.  The final gearing was 1:6.2 and 1:10 for the truck.  This gave the truck sufficient top speed, with an effective crawler gear.  The Battery Box used for the drive motor and the gear shift motor was placed directly behind the front suspension, and in front of the drive motor.  This placement was perfect for stability.  It helped give great traction to the front wheels, kept the center of mass low and to the center with a slight forward bias.

I then finalized the model with a simple removable body built on a Technic frame.  While the hood was little high, and the rear body a little too short, it looked pretty close to the rear FTTS.  Fans seems to like the look, as it is still one of my more popular model.  See the full gallery here and the Work in Progress gallery here.

The model was a lot of fun to drive, and due to its squat design, it was very well planted.  The truck did not want to role over.  I think it could have used a little more suspension travel, and having four wheel steering was crucial to give it some maneuverability that was lost due to the suspension design.  The gearbox was flawless.  The truck did have some trouble skipping gears at the portal axle.  It seemed to happen when a single wheel was over-stressed as the driveshaft could have used stronger bracing in each suspension unit.  This placed a lot of strain on the particular wheel.  So would I do the independent suspension again.  Maybe, but it would need some strengthening and redesign.  Maybe it’s time for another truck like this.

Thanks for reading.  Something big is coming.