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.

Rumble Bee


It has been six years since I bought my F1 Wheels and Tires.  I bought four, and I paid a lot for them.  To date, I have used them once in my Red Sedan; and only two of the four that I own.  For some reason, I decided I needed to use them again and I wanted to do a small little project.  I was recently reminded about a childhood video game P.O.D. racing, and thought the car I was designing would fit right into the game.

The car is a simple design; a drive motor, a steering motor, a battery box, and a receiver.  I knew I was going to design a three wheel car.  I wanted to have the rear wheel driven by a PF XL, and a single PF M with a simple return to center system for the steering.  After a couple of designs, I decided to place the PF XL motor in the hub of the single rear wheel.  I tried a couple of designs to gear the motor up for a little more speed, all with various locations in the car.  Nothing worked as well as I wanted.  The speed was sufficent, and placing the motor in the hub allowed for a super short wheelbase.

Because the PF XL was place in the rear, I had a lot of space for the rest of the Power Functions equipment.  I placed the battery box directly in front of the rear wheel right at the bottom of the car.  The front steering axle was place next in front of the battery box.  The car had a short wheelbase of only 18 studs.  On top of the battery box, I placed the PF IR reciever and the PF M motor which was for the steering.  The steering motor passed an axle straight through a Spring Loaded Connector to move a 3L liftarm which connected to the steering rack with a 6L steering link.

I added a simple body using the orange panels from 8110.  Keeping with to story of P.O.D. I wanted to keep an agressive stance and look to the car.

The car ran well, and was plenty quick.  The steering was sharp and the car was well planted on the road.  I had a good time with the design.  Now I need to come up with another use for my F1 wheels.

The full gallery may be found here, and instructions here.

Freightliner M2


For some reason, I often find myself building two trial trucks at the same time.  While I was building my ZIL 132, I also wanted to try something with floating axles.  The model would use 6 wheels, a 3 speed transmission, and fully suspended live axles.  I also wanted to model the Freightliner M2 Business Class truck as closely as I could.

The model started as my trucks usually do; with the axles.  The second and third axles would be identical, and would be connected with a simple pulley wheel universal joint between the two.  To keep the speed through the universal joints high, and the torque low, I used as 12z/20z gearing after the universal joints, then the knob wheels to rotate the axis, then the normal 8z/24z gearing on the portal axles to finalize the drive.  This also allowed me to keep fewer knob wheels as the second axle had the drive shaft from the transmission pass uninterrupted to the rear wheels.  The final drive ratio for the two rear axles were 1:5.

The front axle was a little more work.  I wanted to have the steering motor mounted on the axle so I would not need to have a steering shaft connect to the front axle.  This proved too difficult, as it would raise the PF XL motor that I was going to use for the drive to high on the truck.  I decided it would be better to mount the steering motor on the frame and connect to the front axle via a CV joint.  Once I made this decision, the front axle became easier.  I used a 1:3 gearing on the portal axles, a knob wheel, and then a drive shaft back to the transmission.  The steering axle would exit just above the drive shaft on the axle to move to the right for the steering motor.

The frame was pretty simple.  Once I had the transmission placed, and the axles spaced, it was simple to place the suspension components, and the shock absorbers.  Each axle had two steering links mounted vertically which connected to a 3×5 liftarm which would activate a shock absorber; very much like Lyyar’s design.  Each axle had a steering arm to keep the axle from swaying laterally.  Finally, all three axles had a number of 9L links to keep the various movements maintained.

The transmission was going to be placed behind the PF XL motor which was under the hood.  The changeover mechanissm would be placed in the center of the truck with the changeover motors mounted longitudinally, on both sides of the truck.  The PF XL motor was place directly above the first axle, and was mounted on a moving frame that was moved by the changeover.  This allowed a moving frame to work its way through the three gears.  The ratios were 1.25:1, 1:1.25, and 1:2.  This allowed for final ratios of 1:4, 1:6.25, and 1:10, which was more than capable for most terrain.  The drive and steering Battery Box was mounted over the second and third axles, and the gearbox 8878 battery box was just behind the changeover in a little box on the bed of the truck.

Finally, like always, a simple body was mounted.  I had a little trouble getting the look I wanted on the front of the hood, as the suspension components kept getting in the way.  I added a bed, covered the changeover and motors, and a couple more details and everything was finished.

The model was not my best driving truck, as six axles do not want to always work together.  The suspensions was supple, and I was getting no drive or steering input on the suspension.  The truck worked well over various terrain, but struggled on some on step obstacles.  The transmission mounting worked well at changing gears, but gears did not have a strong support, and I found they liked to skip at times.  I liked how the suspension worked, but I do not think it brought enough of a valued to use this system again.  It had moderate improvement on dealing with terrain, but it placed a lot of stress on a number of parts, such as the frame, the axles, the driveshafts, and the universal joints.  The next truck will use a pendular set up again.

The full gallery may be found here.

Zil 132


A couple of months ago I was struck by a new design by Waler.  It was refreshing to see a well made Trial Truck based on something a little different.  I wanted to make a model of my own.  Thanks to him for the inspiration, and for the great ideas on the cab and the fenders.

From the beginning I knew this truck was not going to be a serious off road contender, but I wanted to redesign the whole drivetrain.  I decided to go with a pendular suspension for the first and second axle and a trailing live axle for the third axle.  All three axles would have a differential and a a set of portal axles.  The first and the third axle would also have steering linked together.  As is often the case with my trucks, I had the pendular axles held by a turntable with the steering function passed through the turntable by use of a differential.  The second axle was held by a turntable in the front, and the steering differential passed through to provide steering to the final axle.  The drive function powered all three axles and would connect to the transmission and motor in between the first and second axle.

The third axle was a suspended live axle that had a trailing setup created with the new 8110 pieces.  This would allow for rotational and vertical articulation while connecting the drive shaft and giving space to the steering function above.  The steering shaft would allow for movement via a CV joint.  The Power Functions M steering motor was placed in the rear, and used a simple 1:9 reduction.

A Power Functions XL was used for the drive funtion and was placed between the front two seats.  The motor was mounted on a sliding assembly for the gearbox function, much like the design pioneered by ATRX.  I used my three speed changeover design to move the motor through three gears, for a final ration of 1:7.5, 1:4.7, and 1:3.  The gearshift worked perfectly.  While the drivetrain was a little complicated, the gearing was rather simple.  The battery boxes were place above the second axle side by side.  This kept the weight centered, and as low as I could get it.

Finally I added a cabin and a cargo area.  The cabin was straight from Waler’s design, as was much of the fender area.  I used technic panels to create the cargo area, which also gave me a space to place the two IR receivers.  This also hid the two battery boxes, and the wiring, and generally cleaned up the truck.  I created two small doors in the top to assist with picking up the ZIL.  I was done.

Over mostly level ground the ZIL was one of my better designs.  The differentials and steering worked flawlessly to make the ZIL drive easily.  The gearbox worked well and eased the drivetrain over slight irregularities.  But once the  pavement turned to dirt the ZIL struggled a little more.  It was not designed to have too much suspension travel, and this showed.  It struggled on some of the bigger bumps, as the tires would scrape the wheel-wells.  Overall, I was pleased with the design, and was happy with the way it turned out.  It looked great, it was fun to build, and it was a blast to drive.

The full gallery can be viewed here.  Also, a big thank you to The Lego Car Blog for posting this model on their blog.

Mercedes Benz Axor Refuse


I am a big fan of garbage trucks.  For some reason I find the combination of a smaller truck,with many features all with a complicated compaction device is a great basis for a complicated LEGO Technic model.  Plus, trucks are fun.

The hardest part was going to be the rear compaction device, so that is where I started.  I decided to use a Geesink Norba design as it would give me the largest opening for the trash in the rear because the mechanicals would be on the bottom on and the top of the opening.  13 studs wide is not much space.  In addition, this would allow me to have the rear hopper pivot up to let the trash out when it was full.  I would need to have three functions going though the pivoting hopper.  One at the pivot, and two connecting at the base when the hopper was closed.

The dumpster lift would be driven through a knob gear when the hopper was closed on the bottom.  The compation device would be operated with a gear on the bottom and a mini linear actuator on the top.  This mini linear actuator would also function as the opener for the rear compactor.  All the motors would be housed on the bottom, with one motor placed next to thebattery box.  The extractor would be operated by another mini linear actuator using a scissors mechanism to move the ejector plate.

The chassis was constructed with a PF XL in front of the steering axle.  The motor would power both the drive, and the extractor changed by a changeover.  The steering motor is placed on the right of the truck.  On the left, another PF M motor powers both the dumpster lift and the lower hopper compaction device.  All power came from a 8878 rechargeable battery box, through two PF IR receivers, and powered four motors: One XL for drive and the extraction plate, one M for steering, one M for the dumpster lift and lower compaction, and one M for upper extraction and hopper opening.

The model worked well, particularly steering and the drive.  However the extraction and the hopper opening was a little less reliable.  The hopper was too heavy for a single mini linear actuator, and the compaction device was not stiff enough.  It happened to get caught on some of the internal edges on the inside of the hopper.  The next garbage truck will need to be built a little more sturdy.

The full gallery may be seen here.

Kenworth T55


Traction.  It’s all about traction when designing a trial truck.  Because of this, many builders have tried a number of different solutions in designing their own trucks: differentials, gearboxes, various numbers of wheels, various gears ratios, countless suspension designs, and on and on.  So why would it be any different for my trucks?  Every truck I make is a reaction to some set of problems I have encountered with a previous truck.  This is my current solution.

The full gallery is here. Instructions are here.

The Kenworth T55 started as a proof of concept, and turned into a design of a fictional truck.  I wanted to somehow see if there was a way to use differentials in a successful trial truck.  For this to work, two things had to be accomplished.  First, there had to be a way to keep the tires from spinning uncontrollably when they lost contact with the ground.  And second, the torque going through the differential had to be low enough that it would not shred the gears inside the differential when the truck encountered an obstacle.   Could I make axles that had a limited slip differential while having all of the gear reduction at the hub?

Enter turntables.  I have seen some ideas before, most sigificantly from Borec, including this truck, so I went to work.  I designed a mount for the wheels and tires, and placed the universal joint as close the wheels as I could.  Then I used a limited slip differentail design, and sent the driveshaft back to the body.  A simple steering design was used, and the two fuctions passed through the common design of using a differental body through a turntable.

The chassis was designed to keep the weight low, both is mass and location.  As is common, I used the Power Functions XL motor for drive, and I decided to use the 8878 Battery box as it was significally lighter than the other design.  In addition, I would have a drive shaft and a steering shaft running the length of the truck, so the motor and power pack needed to set on both sided of the truck.  Also, because I used the turntables, the drive shaft was very high.  This gave great ground clearance, but I needed to keep the heavy components low.  By having both large components on the side, I was able to keep a short wheelbase of 30 studs, and keep the mass centered and low.  The driveline was complete.

Ever since my GMC 2500, I have held to the belief that a linked suspension is the most efective setup for four wheel trial trucks.  The design keeps all four wheels firmly planned, and does not have the wobbling feel of many pendular suspension designs.  But as is often the case, I ran out of room to place a link rod between the two wheels so I opted with useing the rubber connectors to keep the axles level.    I added a body, and a steering motor, wired everything together, and I was done.

So how did it work.  As you can see in the video, the suspension was effected by the steering and drive shafts.  This further confirms my thoughts on the linked suspension.  Second, the turntables did not really add much.  They added a lot of friction to the driveline, and though they kept the differentials safe because of the tall final gear they did not really isolate the forces on the differential as much as I would have liked.  Third, the limited slip differentials worked well, but still allowed for too much wheel slip.  I ended up replacing the rear with a locked axle, which seemed to work well.  So, for the next truck, bring back the linked suspension, and find a better differential solution.  Maybe then I can find some more traction.

GMC 2500


This trial truck vehicle was my first modern truck.  It was the first time I used a number of verious developments in the new truck, including studless frame and body, functional portal axles, power functions, and the new 94.8 tires.  I built this truck with function in mind first.  Because of this the truck ended up looking like a GMC HD, rather than being designed after it.

I started the build with the axles, and then filled in the driveline.  I place the battery box behind the rear axle to keep the majority of the weight low and in the rear.  I linked the front and rear axles so the suspension would work together to add to the stability of the truck.  This also keeps the truck from tipping as an independent setup would have.  Gearing was 5:1, with 3:1 portal axles.  The truck was powerful, light, stable, and quick enough.

With so much focus on the stability, the truck could have used a little more traction.

All pictures can be found here.