Since its inception, the LEGO Creator Expert line has come to be recognized by its advanced building techniques and great value. However, as statistics teaches us, in every group there are bound to be outliers. Enter 10268 Vestas Wind Turbine, a set that sticks out from the crowd in every sense. A re-rerelease of set 4999 from 2008, which only saw limited release to Danish energy company Vestas’ employees, the new set has 826 pieces and is priced at $199.99. It will be available beginning on Black Friday (Nov. 23).
The box and contents
The set comes in a large box in the less common vertical orientation, as befits the tall, gangly structure of a modern windmill. The box is, in fact, the same size as the that of the 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V, despite that set containing more than twice the pieces. Immediately, this set turns back the hands of time, as the twelve bags inside aren’t numbered. Get ready to spread everything out and hunt for pieces. This is a product of the set’s origins in 2008, when only some sets were pre-sorted into ordered bags. Besides the bags, there’s also a baseplate and the instruction manual. The classic green baseplate has become scarce in the intervening years as LEGO has switched to bright green for the individually sold baseplates and has moved away from the part altogether for the majority of other sets, opting instead for regular plates.
The 147-page manual begins with a hefty segment introductory segment, which includes the history of Vestas, one of the earliest (and now one of the largest) players in the wind energy sector, and a short primer on wind energy and how wind turbines work. The booklet also emphasizes the LEGO Group’s “Planet Promise,” which among other things includes commitments to make 90% of its packaging recyclable and sustainably sourced and to reducing its average box sizes, which have decreased 14% since 2014.
First up is the van, which is actually a pretty large vehicle (though it still only seats one — the other technician is going to have to hitch a ride). The van loses its blue stripe from the 2008 iteration. The van’s design can be neatly summed up as “adequate.” A tiny bit of SNOT-work is used for the grille, and the rest of the build is quite straightforward but works and looks good enough for the purpose. There’s a small sliding mechanism to hold the welding rack in the van’s back.
This time around, the van’s side panels are printed, unlike the original set’s stickers. In fact, there are no stickers in this set at all, and only a small handful of printed elements.
As you begin the main build, you’ll get hit with another dose of nostalgia, though this one is old even by 2008 standards. The simple construction feels very much like a product of the 1980s, and the classic-style parts such as the white picket fence and 1x4x3 window frame help with that assessment.
Here at TBB, with new and innovative sets, we’re fond of saying that even experienced builders will learn a thing or two. With the house and hill portion of this set, the opposite is true. Even novice builders won’t learn anything. The set even goes so far as to commit the fingernail-aggravating sin of stacking grey 1×4 plates directly on top of one another for no good reason (alternative solutions exist even with the part diversity already used in the set). There are small trenches which mostly (but not entirely) hide the Power Functions wires running to the porch lights from external view. Here you can also see the modest interior of the home, which includes a bed and a kitchen complete with range, oven, sink, and a lamp.
Next up comes the mountain, which employs four green BURPs, a color exclusive to the two editions of this model. Currently they’re running a little more than $8 a piece on Bricklink, and given the rerelease’s selling price that’s unlikely to change significantly.
The base of the tower is one of the main points of departure from the original set’s design. It’s been strengthened, now utilizing five bracket 2x2x2 elements sandwiching Technic bricks to affix the tower to the baseplate. This creates a shockingly sturdy connection, and I had no difficulty carrying the entire set around by grasping the tower, even once the battery box was full. The space on the right of the tower inside the mountain will house the battery box.
Finally, we’re ready for the tower itself. Made of nine segments of the 8-stud-long fuel tank top and bottoms connected by Technic pins, the tower is a simple yet robust structure. The fuel tank piece joins the list of elements pulled out of mothballs for this set, as it last appeared in a set way back in 2013. The Power Functions wires run up a small hollow in the middle.
Once the two halves of the tower are clamshelled together, the tower is capped with a large geared turntable. Due to the wire running up the middle, the finished wind turbine is limited to about 340° of rotation, with a physical catch to keep it from spinning further before binding the wire.
The nacelle at the tower’s top is essentially a large gearbox, housing the Power Functions M motor, geared down for torque on the giant blades. It’s a rudimentary construction, consisting of a simple Technic box with plates for cladding. The extra wiring to the motor is just stuffed into the void above the motor.
The three identical blades are enormous. Here the two technicians are inspecting one of the blades before installation. The simple plate construction houses a few Technic bricks at the hubward end, where they attach to the generator shaft.
The finished model
The size of this build is a little hard to grasp until you see it in person. Unlike most things in the LEGO universe, this Wind Turbine feels properly scaled. If we go with the oft-used metric of one stud equals one foot, then to a LEGO minifigure the blade’s outer circumference tops out at a whopping 127 feet high.
However, that’s actually less than half the height of the average wind turbine, which isn’t so much an indictment of the set as it is a testament to just how staggeringly huge real wind turbines are. The set’s height is still enough to earn it the silver trophy in the tallest set category, just barely edging out the Saturn V, but falling about two inches shy of 2007’s 10181 Eiffel Tower.
The home and mountain at the base of the tower are rudimentary at best, lagging behind contemporary sets even when it was first released in 2008. There’s a small mailbox and a bit of patio furniture, but the home is bound to get drafty with its open back, an especially egregious oversight for a house in an area windy enough to support wind energy!
And speaking of open backs, don’t look behind the mountain unless you want a Truman-Show-esque surprise. Pulling the yellow lever powers the system on. The small door on the back of the tower is much like the mountain: a thin facade that opens to nothing. That technician is really just killing time, as there’s nothing to work on here.
The wind turbine itself doesn’t suffer nearly as much from the simplistic building methods seen in the base, and is really a rather good model. It’s incredibly sturdy and looks the part well. Thanks to a clever bit of LEGO geometry with the Technic pins that hold the blades in place, the blade pitch can be adjusted by removing and re-attaching each blade at a new angle.
Of course, the set is also motorized. The power simultaneously activates the lights and blades. It’s a cool bit of visual shorthand showing the full cycle of wind energy from the turbine source to the powered home. We’ll forgive the irony of the whole thing being battery powered, as that’s an unavoidable consequence at this scale.
With the power on, the porch lights shine brightly, and base feels firmly planted even with the huge blades spinning.
The van includes a welding rig and tools, which is on a rack that slides into the cargo bay.
The set has received a few updates since the initial release, and I’ve already noted the differences in the van and the tower’s anchoring system. Other updates include the flowers sprinkled about, which now use the new stem element atop a 2×2 tile with center stud. Given that the old stem element hasn’t appeared in any 2018 sets, it’s a safe bet that it’s been permanently retired. The door has also been swapped out for a newer style. The trees are the same, except in one key way that LEGO is keen to highlight. The large spruce tree elements employ LEGO’s new plant-derived plastic formula, and this is the first regular retail set marketed as featuring parts using it. (This summer’s gift-with-purchase set 40320 Plants from Plants was the very first set with the new elements.) The set’s packaging designers have gone out of their way to emphasize that two of the set’s 826 pieces are plant-derived, with a callout on the front and back of the box, and page dedicated to it in the instruction manual, and another callout in the instructions when the elements are placed on the set.
Just like the original, the set includes three minifigures, though this time around they’re properly decked out with printing–the original set employed three plain white torsos, with Vestas stickers for the technicians. The apples-and-spots pattern on the lady’s shirt aren’t new, but both Vestas employees are exclusive to this set. They’re definitely an upgrade from the original set of figures, but they still won’t be winning any awards for best minifigure design. In fact, they feel more like custom-printed minifigure tchotchkes printed for a trade show than they do like the detailed minifigures we’ve come to expect of LEGO.
Conclusion and recommendation
The wind turbine looks great, and there’s no denying it. It’s a solid bit of construction and it towers over anything you put it near, just as it should. The lackluster design of the home that accompanies it, however, brings the whole model down a notch. Generally, when fans call for a set’s re-release, we want the exact same kit as the original, down to the smallest details–perhaps a packaging update to satisfy collectors who revel in their sealed box versions of the original, but certainly not a design change to the model itself. However, this is a case where a redesign was sorely needed. And the new model has already been redesigned in a half-dozen small ways; why not take an extra step and properly fix it?
However, the real sinker here is the price. At $199.99 USD for 826 pieces, there’s no soft way to say it: the set is grossly overpriced. There’s a theory that when LEGO assigns a price point to a set, it judges not on the number of pieces in the set, but rather on the weight of its plastic. There’s merit to that theory; after all, you can’t expect a 1,000-piece City cargo ship with large hull elements to cost the same as a 1,000-piece Creator bucket. And the Vestas Wind Turbine includes far more than the average number of large elements, reasonably bumping up the price. However, the set’s weight falls significantly shy of every other comparably priced set we evaluated (we looked at every other Creator Expert set in the range of $160-$200, as well as a handful of sets from other themes, including Star Wars). So then, perhaps the answer lies with the Power Functions. But, with the exception of the cheap extension cables, the Power Functions elements are available in 8293 Power Functions Motor Set for just $30.
It’s likely that this set’s price is the result of a perfect storm of factors: large elements, Power Functions, and a licensed product. But in the end, that means that customers end up with a product at a price point that feels outlandish. Because the design has deep low points and only a few highs, it’s difficult to recommend paying the full retail cost, no matter how cool the turbine looks from a distance looming over your new, renewably powered LEGO City.
10268 Vestas Wind Turbine includes 826 pieces, 3 minifigs, and a dog. The set is available November 23 from the LEGO Shop (USD 199.99 | CDN 249.99 | GBP 159.99).
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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