Home » The Painstaking Course of Behind LEGO’s Most Widespread Automotive Units

The Painstaking Course of Behind LEGO’s Most Widespread Automotive Units

Photograph credit score: LEGO

Chris Stamp is the design supervisor for LEGO’s Pace Champions sequence, vehicles that need to feel and appear like the true factor, despite the fact that they’re made out of about 300 bricks. Stamp sat down with us for a narrative within the Handmade Challenge of the journal, however the full interview held a lot greater than we may slot in print, so please take pleasure in this behind-the-scenes look into the world of LEGO vehicles.

The beneath interview has been edited for size and readability.

Street & Observe: While you begin a brand new set, how does the method work? What’s the very first thing you take a look at, after which how does it progress to develop into the completed deal?

Photo credit: LEGO

Photograph credit score: LEGO

Chris Stamp: So usually, the way in which it really works is we do not get given assignments. LEGO, being an enormous firm, we form of work as impartial small tasks. Small corporations, mainly. On Pace Champions, what occurs is I map out the technique for a number of years, after which I take a look at, “Okay, I wish to get X variety of merchandise.” However we most likely will not get that so I make methods and backup plans.

Then I work on what are the fitting automobiles. Principally, what I do is put collectively an assortment taking a look at new automobiles. I’ve a whole lot of shut contacts within the automotive business that I have been in a position to construct up over time. I believe so far, we have labored with 22 totally different companions.

I am already conscious of automobiles popping out in 2025, ’26; despite the fact that proper now they may simply be a clay mannequin in a manufacturing unit or a design studio, we have constructed such robust connections that they are very open with us and we’re very open with them. And we prefer to assume long run.

I take a look at all companions like that as a result of one of many issues I’ve tried to push as properly is that I do not need to choose favorites. I need to deal with Ferrari the very same method I need to deal with Porsche and the very same method I deal with Pagani. As a result of I have been in so many conferences over time the place you will discuss to at least one automotive accomplice and you may say, “Oh, I actually need to work on this product.” And so they’ll flip round and say, “Okay, what number of is that this different firm getting?” So I attempted to chop all that out and say, “Look, I do know it is a aggressive automotive business. We do not need that. We need to deal with everyone equally. We need to give everyone one product. We need to give everyone the most effective car that we will.”

On the similar time, I have been making an attempt to push, the previous couple of years, how do you get novelty into only a assortment of vehicles? As a result of lots of people will take a look at it as only a LEGO automotive, they usually will not take a look at the model or the construct or the IP or the proportions or the accuracy, and all these issues. As a result of we’re additionally speaking about youngsters who’re possibly a bit bit much less of a petrolhead. That is why I used to be pushing novelty by way of IP companions.

However then additionally trying into new varieties of automobiles, which permits us to attraction to casuals from a visible perspective. So if you happen to do a LMP automotive or a Can-Am, the silhouette may be very totally different in comparison with simply doing one other supercar or hypercar. So I attempt to search for these little tips the place, “Okay. An informal won’t know the model, however what are they going to be taking note of?”

Principally, all these totally different elements go into my define for the technique of which is the fitting car to select on the time. Then we get into the automobiles themselves. I am very privileged in my position that I see a whole lot of cool vehicles and I get to see them up shut, full-scale, and all that form of stuff. However that is solely half of it as a result of it could be very straightforward for us to say, “Yep, I just like the automotive. Let’s do it. We’ll simply construct it. It would not matter the way it appears. We’ll simply put some stickers on it and put a Ferrari brand on it. And it is a pile of purple bricks with a Ferrari brand.” We do not need to do this. With Pace Champions, our aim, and I believe we have seen this loads with our shopper suggestions in the previous couple of launches is that accuracy is our focus.

It is by no means going to be a die-cast. It is nonetheless going to be LEGO, however the extra correct we will make that, in order that if you happen to do take away the stickers, you may nonetheless inform which car it’s or which car it is making an attempt to symbolize. In order that’s one thing that we have actually tried, we’d by no means settle for a car that we could not do justice. That is one of many issues I spend a whole lot of time speaking with totally different corporations about: “I like this car however we won’t do it justice. So I might slightly that we possibly put it aside until subsequent yr when possibly we will create some new parts to make it attainable.” Or it may simply not fall within the assortment. I would really like quite a lot of various kinds of automobiles, Can-Am, LMP, Prime Gas Dragster, System 1.

I would not essentially need two F1 vehicles on the similar time from two IP companions, as a result of for us, the construct expertise, the truth that it is not a die-cast can be essential, and I would not need to promote you guys the identical factor twice and the one distinction is the colour and the IP stickers. The construct expertise for us is essential.

When all of that’s mentioned and carried out, we do have the usual inside loops the place you intend it to the bosses and say, “Do you belief what we’re saying proper now?” More often than not, as a result of the bosses aren’t petrolheads, they have not gone into the quantity of analysis and element that now we have. They belief us. They know that we have carried out the leg work.

Then I can temporary the crew of designers and say, “Okay, that is the car I need you to work on. These are the important thing particulars on this car that you need to seize.” I am in a really fortunate place as a result of I additionally get to design in addition to lead the crew. I at all times take one or two of the automobiles. That permits me to maintain updated if we make new items or new constructing methods, so I can form of lead by way of instance.

After which collectively, I’ve obtained mainly a really open coverage in our crew. Some tasks have a form of, “That is your mannequin to work on.” So you are taking possession, and also you run with it. On our crew, I do not do this. I mentioned the exact opposite. I mentioned, “This is not your mannequin. That is our mannequin. Similar to the mannequin I am engaged on is not mine. It is our mannequin. So that you be happy to return to me with any criticisms you may have concerning the work I am doing. And I need to know. As a result of I need to make this the most effective I can. And the one method I could make this the most effective is that if I put all of my concepts into it and you place your whole concepts into it, and we actually attempt to method it as a design crew slightly than people.”

That is obtained professionals and cons as a result of, being designers, we’re very emotional and we do get linked to our infants. Nonetheless, as a result of we have a returning crew yearly, we have been in a position to get used to that mindset and take away the self-attachment to a sure extent, which is nice. We are able to all work in parallel to the identical targets. It most likely sounds detailed, however it’s a really simplified model of our course of.

R&T: It is nice that you just take the ego out of it. It is everyone considering collectively.

CS: I have been on the crew because it began again in 2015. And when it began, I used to be simply the designer. I had a lead, after which I did all the merchandise for the venture. After which after some time, I went off. I did a few different tasks. I got here again, and I used to be in command of the crew. Once I got here again in command of the crew, we went from being six-wide, what we name six modules-wide in LEGO. In order that’s each time you’ve got obtained a bit LEGO circle on the highest of a bit. We name that one module. We was six-wide, however the proportions weren’t right. The proportions have been fully off. The vehicles regarded very skinny and lengthy.

If we simply concentrate on accuracy and proper the proportions, you are going to see much more optimistic suggestions from the buyer as a result of the customers are so keen about this space — not simply youngsters, however dads who have been youngsters as soon as. That they had posters on their bed room partitions after they have been youngsters. Everyone finds automobiles interesting not less than at one stage of their lives. Placing accuracy initially, that was my aim. And round that, I added, being OCD, I put 50 methods collectively. So methods about the way in which we current our sticker sheets as a result of we at all times have a whole lot of stickers. And one of many methods that I had, an unwritten rule within the crew was, “Go away your ego on the door.”

It would not matter if I’m the most important fan of Mercedes on the planet or if I hate Mercedes. If Mercedes is the fitting car to have within the assortment, it’ll be within the assortment. It has been a little bit of a problem to get individuals internally to grasp that. As a result of everyone’s at all times so passionate that they put their very own opinions could also be as saying it is a truth. In order that’s one thing that we have tried to push out.

I do what we name a petrolhead huddle yearly the place I get a whole lot of the petrolheads from our design group. There’s 300 guys. I take 10 petrolheads, and I get them to make an inventory of what automobiles they like and what’s cool. And in the event that they’ve heard any rumors and stuff. Each single one at all times writes the automotive they’re driving. Although we’re in Denmark, so vehicles are tremendous costly right here in order that they’re at all times not the most effective vehicles, they at all times write, “Let’s do my automotive.” So yeah, I attempted to get the fellows to depart that. Let’s name that plan B.

R&T: So, lots of people asking to make a Nissan Micra?

CS: Yeah. Precisely. It is humorous.

R&T: When a set is commissioned, what is the trial and error course of? What number of totally different iterations of that mannequin do you undergo?

CS: We do a number of extra loops than most tasks. Like me and my right-hand man, Søren [Dyrhøj], we have been doing this collectively for about 5 years, and one of the simplest ways to explain us is that we’re simply two cussed grumpy guys. It is as a result of we’re so keen about it, that we’re actually anal concerning the particulars. LEGO has the saying that “The perfect is not adequate.” We day in and day trip imagine that, which is a ache within the butt if you’re making an attempt to do one thing in an Excel spreadsheet timeline. However we undoubtedly reside by that. For instance, after I did the Ferrari 512 M, I believe there have been about 64 variations.

Photo credit: LEGO

Photograph credit score: LEGO

Quite a lot of fashions undergo a number of iterations, however we’d have 20 variations only for how we construct the entrance, after which 20 variations for the way you construct the again. After which, can they mix? Do they not mix? How does the transitions work? Luckily, we work digitally in addition to bodily. And generally it is faster to discover iterations digitally as a result of most of that is copy-paste and a bit little bit of tweaking. However we do masses, and I’ve obtained a cabinet within the design space. There’s 50 variations of a Countach, for instance.

The primary ones are very, very crude as a result of we at all times have to get that first one constructed. After which, that simply will get the ball rolling. The primary one’s by no means nice. The primary one’s simply form of, “Okay, what are the proportions? Does it look proper?” Simply to get you linked with the car as a result of we do not know each car. I imply there’s some that we’re tremendous keen about. Countach, we have been tremendous keen about. We tried to do this for a number of years and we may by no means get it proper. The Mercedes Mission ONE, that is a automotive that we tried to do for 3 years. After which Mercedes saved suspending, which was a profit as a result of it gave us extra time to discover. However we find yourself with so many iterations. Different automobiles, we’d do 15 iterations and that could be all it wants.

It additionally comes right down to the designers. Some can say, “Okay, that is adequate. No one’s going to note if that little element just isn’t proper.” I do know that, for instance, me and my right-hand man on the crew, we by no means say, “That is adequate.” We usually time-out within the course of slightly than hand over with per week to go. So there’s not a proper or fallacious strategy to do it. Everyone’s obtained their very own course of.

R&T: As an instance you are constructing the Countach, and also you see that it could actually profit from a sure curved small piece. If it would not exist, is there a course of to create the piece? Do you mock one thing up after which fee it, after which, that delays the venture a yr?

CS: Yearly we make new items. Pace Champions is likely one of the tasks with the least new items. We’re slowly getting increasingly. There are specific parts once we’re constructing these totally different automobiles, yearly the identical issues and challenges come up that now we have to seek out methods to construct our method out of. And there is sure issues that even in right this moment’s portfolio, there’s tons of and tons of of items, however that does not essentially cowl each attainable state of affairs. So there may be sure gaps within the portfolio that we’ll doodle little concepts. For instance, once we have been doing the Aston Martin Valkyrie, I noticed the automotive, I like the automotive.

Photo credit: LEGO

Photograph credit score: LEGO

And one of many causes I knew it could be difficult, however there have been two issues that is nice about that, as a result of we’re a returning crew yearly, it retains us motivated. For those who do a supercar yearly, a number of particulars could be totally different, however the majority’s going to be the identical. So that you lose a bit little bit of engagement. In order that’s one more reason for selecting totally different car varieties. It’s also to maintain the inner motivation of the crew as a result of then yearly you are discovering fully new challenges you need to overcome.

It additionally permits us to push the boundaries. The Valkyrie did that. Folks in my crew have been like, “We will not construct that.” And I used to be the exact opposite. As a result of I mentioned, “That is what makes it thrilling. Proper now, you do not assume we will construct that. I am unable to wait so that you can present me the way to construct that.” However the one method that we may do it was we wanted a brand new windscreen, which we knew from day one. We would want a brand new windscreen.

Now the problem inside that’s that we’re a LEGO system. All of our items work collectively, they usually all are fastened scales and sizes and dimensions as a result of a bit from 50 years in the past has to work with a bit from right this moment.

Once we are doing that, we won’t simply create mainly a die-cast copy of the windshield. We’d like it to suit into the LEGO system. So it’s going to at all times be a caricature of the windshield as a result of that windshield must be reusable on merchandise for the following 50 years.

All the weather that we have created, 9 occasions out of 10, we tried to assume very holistically, not only for Pace Champions, however for the entire LEGO portfolio. However what we have tried to do is yearly sort out extra of a goal group for our automobiles. So in 2020, the main focus was scale. So we made bigger chassis and issues like this to get the proportions right. 2021, we centered on the size of the wheels to make these extra correct to the brand new scale of the automobiles.

In 2022, we mentioned headlights. So one of many largest issues we talked about internally is that not everyone likes putting stickers. So we wished all of our headlights or taillights to be both brick constructed or adorned. Now in an effort to do this, we wanted to make new headlight items. And so they must be left and proper due to the character of the automobiles, that we may beautify and print fully otherwise to seize the numerous totally different shapes of headlight on the automobiles however would mainly be one design. So it could be one ingredient design that you may repeat on 50, 60 totally different automobiles, or you might use it with out ornament on a Ninjago Dragon or on a Mario mannequin or one thing. I’ve even seen them on the most recent Buzz Lightyear merchandise.

It is designed for us to work on a number of of our automobiles, however we design it in a method the place it may be used on many, many alternative product strains and play themes and all these issues. And that is mainly the way in which that I’ve usually approached options is yearly let’s sort out a significant space that is going to learn all of our merchandise. After which, one or two particular parts.

R&T: The Valkyrie is fascinating, as a result of there’s one thing with that set that might lend itself extra to one of many excessive Technic builds. One thing that has hundreds of items, whereas you are doing about 300-ish items per mannequin.

CS: For the car, it is round that 300 mark. Some go barely over. The benefit of Pace Champions is it is a fastened scale. We at all times base it across the character, so now we have to have a set scale.

R&T: I assume, if you discuss concerning the particulars, you say that on sure fashions, there’s sure particulars that have to come out. What are the issues that you’re a enormous stickler about to ensure that the crew will get proper in order that you recognize that automotive appears just like the precise automotive that is popping out?

CS: I at all times spotlight one element in each automotive. For instance, we did the Nissan GT-R NISMO, and the taillights, it needs to be the taillights. Whether it is, for instance, a Dodge Charger, I might say it is the mouth, the metallic body across the mouth. I do not say, “Each automotive you want to nail the headlights. Each automotive you want to nail the aspect profile.”

Photo credit: LEGO

Photograph credit score: LEGO

I am most likely the most important ache within the bottom to my design crew as a result of the place most individuals would spotlight one or two particulars, and I at all times do, I simply give an inventory of every thing. I write down two or three key factors, however I actually sit down one-to-one and for this reason I’ve this open coverage as a result of the designers can come to my desk as properly.

And we simply actually take a look at the automotive and we have reference photographs and we usually get a die-cast mannequin from the totally different companions or if it is a model new automotive that it is too early for die-cast to exist, we get 3D CAD. We’re tremendous essential. We’re our personal worst nightmare. We’re extra essential on ourselves than anyone might be on-line.

I’ve at all times mentioned that I discover criticism rather more useful than individuals simply complimenting. As a result of we can not enhance if individuals say, “Yeah, that is nice. Subsequent.” However if you happen to inform me, “Oh. Yeah, I prefer it. However this half wasn’t proper.” Nice. Then you definitely give me precisely what I have to work on the following time.

We are able to additionally do cheats. So there’s a whole lot of occasions the place we’ll get the size of a car and the scale. We’ll make it the precise scale, however it appears bizarre in LEGO type in comparison with the true factor. So generally we’d make the car barely shorter than it ought to be simply to make it look extra correct within the LEGO type. So there’s little areas we will break the foundations of authenticity, however 9 occasions out of 10, it is at all times about assembly the authenticity.

Saying all of that, that is simply our inside course of. We additionally work very carefully with our IP companions. I actually prefer to have a weekly dialog going and get as a lot suggestions from these guys, invite them to go to us. Typically they’ll throw full spanners within the works that we do not perceive.

A very good instance of that might be the Mercedes Mission ONE. We labored on it for a very long time, and we have been like, “It is not excellent, however that is fairly good.” After which they noticed it, they usually have been like, “Yeah, it ought to be longer.” And we have been like, “Crap.” Their suggestions is as useful as anyone in our design crew so we made it one module longer. They most popular it. We have been identical to, “We most popular it one quick.” Nevertheless it all ties again to leaving our private opinion and egos on the door.

As a result of the way in which I say it to all of the companions we’re lucky to work with is, “That is their child.” They’ve labored years on the Mission ONE or a Valkyrie or a, I do not know, a Koenigsegg Jesko. They’ve refined each element. We’re simply babysitting for a bit bit. So for us to say, “No, we all know higher than you guys.” That is not an possibility on the desk.

R&T: Proper now, how far out are you working?

Photo credit: LEGO

Photograph credit score: LEGO

CS: I’ve a three-year plan. So usually, I might’ve deliberate out until ’25, ’26. I did (our second half 2022 merchandise) each the James Bond DB5 Aston Martin and The Quick and the Livid Dodge Charger myself. That is one thing that I’ve been pushing and driving for 3 years to get greenlit internally.

I mainly mapped out a complete 10 yr technique. So I used to be considering 10 years forward as a result of we have been making an attempt to get that off the bottom internally. There’s a whole lot of loops to undergo. Proper now we have simply completed our ’23 first half-year merchandise.

R&T: What do you drive? I do know you mentioned you are in Denmark, so it’s extremely costly to have a automotive there.

CS: I’ve an Opel Corsa. It relies upon the place you are situated as a result of I am going from England. So we name them Vauxhall Corsas. After which, apparently, after I got here to Denmark, I discovered that’s not a European factor.

R&T: The taxes are so excessive and every thing’s so costly in Denmark that it is smart to have a Corsa.

CS: The largest problem, or not problem, the most important embarrassing factor is, my cousins and my pals and everyone again in England, all of them drive Audis and Mercedes and BMWs. And I am driving an Opel Corsa, the identical kind of factor I drove after I was like 17, 18. And I am identical to, “Sooner or later I will be an grownup and purchase an actual grownup automotive.” That is my dream.

R&T: Yeah. I imply at some point for all of us. Earlier than you labored at LEGO, have been you a house builder? Have been you creating and dealing on a mannequin?

CS: Our design crew may be very numerous. We have got guys who by no means designed something of their lives, no design schooling. They’re simply die-hard, what they name AFOL, so the Grownup Fan of LEGO. In order that they do a whole lot of that house constructing otherwise you see these guys on LEGO Masters and stuff.

I am from a unique group. I am from the fellows who’ve truly been skilled to design. I’ve obtained a level and I went by way of college with industrial design. Once I was provided the job of designing at LEGO, I most likely had a wierd response as a result of I did not notice individuals designed LEGO. I simply by no means considered it. I used to be younger and naive and I simply thought like, “Oh yeah, somebody has to obviously design that.” I by no means thought concerning the idea. And that is fairly frequent for lots of men the place if you go to design faculty, you get instructed about designing chairs and tables or automobiles or day-to-day merchandise. You do not actually discuss designing toys a lot. In order that was fairly a enjoyable discovery.

R&T: You get to work with one thing that makes individuals completely happy on a regular basis. It looks as if a dream.

CS: Completely. I imply, the primary time I labored with McLaren was like 2014. That was earlier than we launched any product. That was once we have been going to go to them and meet the and all of us obtained picked up from the airport in a McLaren with a chauffeur as a result of we won’t drive them they usually’re solely two-seaters. And I keep in mind I used to be like, “Wow, I am 23 years outdated. I am getting picked up by chauffeur within the prime quality McLaren from the airport to go to a enterprise assembly at their headquarters.”

And most of my pals have been simply out of college, have been both on the lookout for jobs or possibly working in a grocery store or one thing whereas they have been making use of. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to finish up the place I’m and to work with a few of these superb manufacturers.

I by no means attempt to neglect that some individuals dream about these vehicles and at some point getting to go to Lamborghini or Ferrari and stuff. So after I get these alternatives, I strive to not neglect them as a result of what may develop into a routine for me, possibly go to them annually or each two years or so, someone on the market, sat there ready, dreaming to at some point get the prospect. We have to maintain our ft on the bottom a bit in the case of that. That is what we attempt to do on our crew.

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