Thursday, 13 August 2015

G15 - The little build!

After a slow July recovering from Skegness and collecting together new models we are back with a whole host of new sets to talk about. The first of which is the G15 Meccanoid. Little brother of the larger 'Kids-Size' version this is the first of the new generation Meccano Maker System 'Tech' sets to become available here in the UK. Released in very limited numbers through Argos stores, initially to coincide with their autumn/winter catalogue, and should become more readily available over the next few weeks, and of course leading up to Christmas. Already tipped to be among the top ten must have toys this Christmas, it is already outstripping demand.

There are shades of the clever marketing that made Meccano a household name for decades in the middle of the last century. Frank Hornby (the inventor of Meccano) teased his prospective users (the kids) with pictures of huge models on small boxes. That 'impossible dream' was instilled into the boys of the time. In those days the toys were unashamedly  marketed to gender. Toy domestic appliances and dolls to the girls and construction sets, trains and cars to the boys.

Today's marketing has to comply with all sorts of rules and regulations that Hornby was not restricted by. To get the toy world excited by launching all the publicity around a larger version that won all sorts of awards as I have mentioned here in the past, to get the attention of kids and parents alike really worked. The master stroke, and brilliant bit of marketing, was to announce a smaller set, a few weeks later, to blow the parents defence of "Its a fantastic toy but it is a lot of money"  Straight out of the water with an almost half price version. Brilliant!

At an initial price if £169.99 it is now 'affordable' and is a real contender as a Christmas gift. Initial supply was very short but I have just checked the Argos website this morning and it is in stock and available for collection at all my local Argos stores after 4:00PM today. That probably means it is 'in stock' at central distribution and can be delivered to the local store for collection this afternoon. However it works, it does mean that it is available. Okay, I know It is all right for me, I live in London and I have heard of some fellow enthusiasts having to travel miles to obtain one, but if you will live in far flung places with stunning scenery and a more relaxed way of life, like Scotland, you can't have it all!

Packed with parts... So keen was Sue to get on that we forgot to photograph the
open box This is a picture of our good friend's G15 box (Photo: Chris Instone)

Meccanoid G15 is supplied in a suitcase-style box that has a cardboard,segmented liner and is pretty much stuffed full. All the parts are packed in plastic bags and are well protected. A plastic bag contains the instruction manual and various other pieces of paper warning you not to eat him or strangle any children under three years of age with the cables. I know this is all there to comply with the toy trade legislation, but some of it is a bit over the top to say the least and is more about the manufactures (I am referring to all toy manufactures here) having to cover themselves against litigation claims. Don't get me wrong, I agree there should be some warnings but pages of it are surely non-productive. Again I am not having a go at the manufactures here, they are just complying with the latest mad-cap theory imposed upon them by the legislators.

The build

I am not going to go through the build stage by stage as I am sure that will be all over the internet soon and there is no point in repeating it here just to fill space. What I will do is point out any problems, or to quote a good friend of ours and prolific Vlogger on the YouTube, 'issues' we had with the build. Sue decided to build G15 on the kitchen table using only the tools provided and a pair of scissors to make opening the plastic bags easier.

Kitchen table build... What's for supper dear?
The first thing we encountered was that the four short pivot bolts that are used to hold each servo shroud around the servo do not have the threads fully formed making them stiff to tighten. This is a shame as it becomes apparent in the early stages of construction and could put some builders off. It is easy to rectify by just running the bolt through a nut held in the centre hole of the spanner. It is not much but just enough to be a problem. Meccano are aware of this problem and it will be rectified in future production.

One of the servos all wrapped up in a nice Meccano-friendly parts
The build is fairly quick and it does not take long to have a good 'lump' of him built. The larger parts and single bolt and locator construction makes it much simpler to assemble. This is the first time that Meccano have designed a speedy construction method that, not only works but, is completely back-compatible with all that has gone before. As high-tech as this set is it still retains the DNA of all that has gone before; 5/32 BSW threads and half inch hole spacing albeit  on a ¼ matrix making it compatible with the newer parts as well as the X-Series parts of the 1930s. The servos are wrapped up in Meccano-friendly mountings making them easily interfaced with the other parts of the G15 as well as as being totally compatible with classic Meccano if and when required in the future.

Stop it... That tickles!
The instructions can be a little confusing in places but that may be more to do with acclimatising to the new parts and methods. The hand orientation caught us out. I am not sure how the hands were intended to be but we have fitted them so they look right to us. Other than that he goes together very easily.

Now he is built we will spend a day or so working out how he works and we will be taking him and his big brother to Blists Hill at the weekend. We will report back next week and show you the finished model, complete with feet!


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Back to reality...

From the time we left here last Wednesday, to go to SkegEx 15, to the time we arrived back on Monday evening we just did not stop. It is one big merry-go-round from packing the van, setting up, manning the stand and being parts of the social life in the evenings, sleeping and back on the stand. The interest in the new product range and packaging was manic. The really nice thing about the weekend, and what made it so rewarding, was that without exception, everybody was being complimentary about the packing and the new models.

G15 KS was a hit with the selfie brigade!
Meccanoid stole the show but the new Thunderbird 2 was also a big hit. It makes such a change to stand there and agree with the comments, something that has not happened before. We usually find ourselves trying to justify what is in front of us. I have been emphasising that Meccano in the real word is a toy. It is only going to be successful if it can become a must-have brand with the kids and the parents alike. Again, for the first time in decade the kids were excited, not only with Meccanoid (which everybody loves - even my 88 year old Mum is taken with him!) but with the classic sets. I am sure this is because they can relate to the models. What's more, it is not just the boys. The girls like a lots of the classic sets too.

On the Friday evening Sue and I were asked to talk about flowers, Meccano and the new product range, after the official SkegEx 15 dinner, held in The Vine Hotel, Skegness. Tim managed to make a reasonable recording under far from perfect conditions and here are the highlights for those who are interested. Sue started it off with a short talk about Meccano, flowers and a gold medal. Sue's video is only five minutes.

I then took up the baton and did my bit.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not shy about getting up there and saying my piece, but I can tell you I have not felt so nervous about addressing a crowd for years - you can tell by the Umms and Errs and the fact that most of the talking is done with my arms! I was not aware I did that! Anyway I hope this short video is informative and not too long - at just a shade over 10 minutes.

Before we set off for Skegness, we had started to talk about the new sets. We had got as far as the Space Quest set see HERE. The next two to be put under the spotlight will be the Desert Adventure 20 model set and the Mountain Rally 25 model set. Both these sets make up well and include some new parts - we particularly like the new tyres!  Below are a couple of publicity shots of the two box-art models. Keep coming back and checking, lots more to add over the rest of this week and next.

Desert Adventure - The tyres look good!
Mountain Rally - Nice profile and new parts!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sun, Sand and Meccano!

Final update and videos!

It's that time of year again! Time to get out the knotted handkerchief, pick up the bucket and spade and head for the Seaside! Yes, this weekend, anyone passionate about Meccano will want to be in Skegness for the premier international Meccano event of the year - SkegEx 15!

To see the alternative side to this huge event, click on the image above. We will be blogging live from the show before, during and after the doors open. There will be plenty of images of the goings on, the people and the drama. We will show you all sorts of things related to the show that the usual internet coverage ignores. Yes we will show you the odd model that catches our eye, but there will be dozens of people posting model pictures on line and we will link to any of those as and when we discover them.

So stay tuned and come back to the live page throughout the event to keep up with what is happening. You can also join in with your ideas and requests by making a comment below.

Oh, I nearly forgot, I suspect our tame (at least I hope so) Meccanoid, Frank, the G15 KS is bound to make an appearance at some point in the proceedings....

Can I drive?

...NO! You can't drive  - Get out of there and tuck your battery pack in!


Monday, 29 June 2015

Space Quest 15 model set

I was tempted to start this post with a countdown, but I have used that recently...

Nice solid looking model
The first of the new autumn releases to get the once over is the new Space Quest15 model set. This set introduces three new parts to the system including the latest in a long line of nut-less fixings. Don't throw your hands up in horror, this one actually works and it is not used exclusively, rather as an additional part when it can prove to be useful.

New set, new box!
The most obvious new part is the new plastic moulded nose-cone. This has plenty of fixing holes and in addition it has 'nut retainers' moulded into the interior. This means parts can be fixed to it without having to get a spanner inside to hold the nuts.

Nose cone - I think we might see more of this piece...
The second new part is the plastic, flanged plate. This is a versatile new part that I think will be a mainstay of the future system. I know there will be people who will always dismiss plastic parts but hopefully parts like this will change your mind. The parts are designed to fit together neatly or be used individually. in this model they make the back of the launch tower.

I was not too keen on these bits but they are growing on me
The third new part is probably the most contentious, mainly because of the attempts to produce such a part in the past. This push in fixing is small simple and very effective it has taken a lot of work to get this just right. It will hold with just enough force to stop it falling out but is easy to remove. It is ideal for blind fixings as used here to secure the nose-cone to the body of the rocket. They also have another use, as you will see when we get around to talking about the Mountain Rally set.
The new plastic pins work surprisingly well
These are some of the first of the truly new parts to be designed and introduced by the Spin Master's design team and it is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into them. For years Meccano have been trying to make the system 'simpler' by doing away with nuts and bolts, or just the nuts, as they tried with the Xtreme sets of a few years ago.  The new push-in pins have been introduced for a purpose and are intended to complement the existing fixings, not replace them.

This, and the other new models to follow, are so new we have not had time to build anything other than the box-art model. But I am sure we will be finding some alternative models to build with the parts in the near future! That aside, the model builds very easily and quickly from the instructions and, as far as I could see, there were no mistakes or anomalies in the assembly sequence of this model.

Ready for blast off!
The model is good and solid when finished. Plenty of play-value is included, the tower retracts by way of a hinge and the nose cone is easily separated from the rocket, by removing the aforementioned pins. This is a nice set with a good selection of classic and new parts. If you like white Meccano, there are a few bits here to stock up your collection and if, like us, it is the zinc you crave, you will not be disappointed.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

The last Evolution...

Ralph has already looked at the orange 4 x 4 Off-roader HERE. That set has now been re-boxed so the only thing add here is a picture of the up-to-date packaging.
The new box for the Canyon Crawler
In a quirk of branding, a remote control car was also released under the Evolution banner. This has also been re boxed and will be reissued in the new style packaging. Again the two sets are identical. All the radio control sets that have gone before, with maybe the exception of the Rabbids Police Car,  have been fairly complicated to build. In the past the body has been formed by bending and forcing flexible plates into all sorts of extreme positions. None of that with this set.

New and old boxes for the same model
The buggy style car is simple and minimalist  making it fairly easy to assemble once it is realised that the art is to lightly tighten all the bolts until it is time to assemble the 'body' with the chassis. Once the two are fixed together all the other joints in the body can be tightened.

Easy and quick to build - Tick!
There were no problems with the instructions other than the rear spoiler in the kit is supplied and listed in the parts list finished in zinc. The box art shows the spoiler in red. This means the sticker supplied to decorate it allows zinc finish to show through where it should be red. The other niggle is the sticker itself is not cut correctly meaning that the bolt holes used  to secure it to the car are partially obscured. The result of this is that the spoiler has to be removed before the sticker can be applied and the holes cleared to allow the bolts to be refitted.

The spoiler blade should have been red!
That aside this is a super little toy, intended for the kids, that can be built with a minimum of fuss. I am sure a lot of the older cars just never got built. I feel sure that most of these will. This is not a set that has any appeal to us builders. There are few parts of any great use that cannot be acquired from other sets more cheaply. Personally, although not of great parts value, this is perfect for the toy market. Any reasonably competent youngster would be able to build this car and there is nothing critical about the build, nothing to foul the wheels if the build is not just right and nothing that looks wrong if it is not perfectly aligned.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

New 5 and 10 model sets

It is all moving too fast for me!

The repackaged 3 model set 
Back in January we reported on the new 3 model Multimodels set - See HERE. This was the first of the new sets to incorporate the redesigned tools. Shortly after that The new 5 and 10 model sets appeared along with the two new Evolution sets, the radio control car and the orange 4 x 4. We did get around to publishing our thoughts on the 4 x 4 (HERE)  before life got in the way and we took a short break.

Well, what a time to sit on our hands! Now Meccano have rolled out the new packaging for not only the new models but all the earlier releases have been repackaged and will appear in the shops with the new models due to be released over the next few months. Although these are essentially the same models they are now manufactured in China and have newly designed manuals with new corporate design front covers to fit in with the Meccano Maker System image.

Chinese bolt on the left, French bolt on the right
The only obvious difference I have noticed so far, is the black parts in the original Air Force (10 model set) are now gloss and not matt. Incidentally, it is easy to tell the difference between the French and Chinese production set by the type of bolts used.  The Chinese production models are supplied with the flat-top bolts and the French produced models have a slightly domed look to the head. Both bolts are cheese-head in profile. We prefer the Chinese pattern and try to use those in preference.  From a cosmetic viewpoint, it looks so much better to use bolts of similar style, especially on smaller models. Now, you may think we are stark raving bonkers, but we separate the different styles when we are sorting out stock of standard length bolts. We have not bothered to separate out the longer bolts as they are easier to sort during a build as they are not usually used in the same quantities - we are not that nuts!

To save repartition, we will talk about the new re-issued sets and where it applies we will show the earlier packaging so you know what to look out for. I suspect the old packing will be around for a while yet.

Construction Crew - 5 Model Set

The 5 model set is the first one to look at. Originally issued in the Multimodels range earlier in the year, it is about to be reissued in the new packing as the Construction Crew set. The box art of both boxes carries imagery of the loading shovel. This nice little model looks the part even if the 'shovel' does not lift. One of the four other models is a dumper truck. This model is a revamp of the M&S special edition set for Christmas 2010, see HERE. The original model has a special part formed to represent the tipping body. The current model has the tipper body made up from standard parts.

Old and new design of packaging - same set.
The models we have made up have gone together easily from the instructions, which are clear and concise. For a small set it offers plenty of play value and encouragement to buy more than one set. The themed sets idea is harping back to a time in the 1960s when the black/yellow/silver, progressive numbered sets, were each given a theme and an appropriate name. The No.3 set was given the name Highway Vehicles and I always liked that set (in all its reincarnations) as it made vehicles that were recognisable at the time. Today the models that could be made with that old set and, the others of the period, look very dated. The new construction set follows a similar idea and all the models are recognisable today as the sort of thing you will see while out and about in the normal course of events.

The box art model looks the part.
It is amazing what box-art can do for a model. The original box really did not inspire me to build this model as, to me, it looked rather simplistic. However, the same model photographed from a lower angle and dropped into a realistic background transforms  look and appeal of the model greatly.

The new Chunky dumper truck from the Construction crew
The tipper truck makes up very easily and has plenty of play value with a tipping body and it's chunky wheels. here again, old meets new with the modern reversible wheel centres used in the recent Evolution sets being married up with the existing tyres originally designed to fit the 1 inch pulleys, metal or plastic. 

The 2010 Christmas offering from M&S
The small tipper originally appeared back in 2010 as an M&S branded, limited edition. That model had a new bent part that was used to represent the tipper body. That part has not been used since and to this day, that short-lived little set remains the only source.   The new model with its redesigned tipper body and larger chunky wheels looks more like the big heavy dump trucks used in open cast mines, than the road legal, American-esque  design of the M&S variant. The wheel hubs can be reversed to give that deep inset hub so often seen on the rear axle(s) of heavy vehicles, used the other way around, they give the opposite look, often seen on the front wheels. The small gripper collars, that so often caused problems in the past, have plenty of axle length to grip on making them far less likely to work loose and although not the prefect solution they do grip a lot better on these round axles.

Going up!
Now if there is one thing Sue would dread, it was if we had need to use an elevated platform. In our previous working life we could find ourselves faced with having to use one to access an out of reach area that needed signing. She hates them and I can understand that as they do wobble a bit even at low levels. So I thought it only fair that I tackled the model that can be made with this set.

A very simple little model that although it does not work, due to the lack of nyloc-type nuts in this set, it is instantly recognisable as to what it is. It goes together well and providing the wheels are fitted to the axles the correct way around, it runs freely. One side of the wheel hub's rim protrudes past the tyre and this side has to bear on the sides of the vehicle to prevent the rubber tyre binding.

Flight Adventure - 10 Model Set

The third of the earlier releases to be re boxed for the relaunch. The set first appeared with a rather smart looking fighter jet adorning the front of the box. On the new box, the fighter is still evident in the background but the main image is that of a futuristic stealth bomber or flying wing.

Change of box art model, but still the same set
The jet makes up to a really solid model that uses all the parts in the box. There are no new parts in this set but again the use of older parts in conjunction with modern parts is evident. The triangular flat plates have made a comeback after a long absence from the range. The use of the small Driving Dog, designed to be used to prevent wheels and plastic mini strips from rotating on tri-axles, as the cowl of a jet engine is perfect at this scale.

I bet you didn't see that one coming!
The black colouring and the angular parts help make the stealth bomber instantly recognisable and maybe one of the reasons for changing the box art for the new packaging. The model uses fewer parts than the jet fighter but goes together easily with little effort. The finished model is soild and although not modelled on any particular prototype captures the essence of the prototype.


Friday, 26 June 2015

Boxing clever...

Sometimes, when there is so much innovation going on around a new product, or in this case the rebirth of a brand, it is very easy to miss the less glamorous tweaks and improvements. Yes, we all want to see the new and exciting stuff, new models, the introduction of new parts and the improvement of supply, but all this can fall down at the end of the day with something as simple as the box it is presented in.

Old and new box designs - not just the graphics...
The visual impact of the new design is one thing, as good as it is, it can only work correctly if the box itself is engineered properly and fit for purpose. The boxes that have been used in recent times have come under a lot of criticism for not being very suitable as storage for the parts after opening. Some of the older thin card boxes had brown cardboard inserts that were full of slots and gaps for parts to get lost in. In more recent times the awful rip open boxes were a little better but just looked awful and were not at all secure with the front 'flap' being too narrow to be effective at holding parts in, or closing the box.  The act of ripping the tear-strip off feels like an act of vandalism and it seldom comes away cleanly. 

Ripping the old box open
The new boxes have a very much nicer way of opening. The flap that was glued down with a tear-strip is now one solid piece and reshaped so that it will tuck in neatly secure the box, once the clear tape that holds it closed is cut. The new boxes appear to be cut from similar material to that used for the old ones but the creases are made deeper to allow the top to lay flat when closed. This will minimise the risk of small parts 'leaking' from the closed box. Inside the new boxes the corners are joined in such a way to prevent small parts getting lost behind them. Whoever designed these boxes has really thought about their projected life as a storage box for the set.

The old box (on the right) gapes open and looks tatty. Not so for the new box
When open the new box looks as if it can be reused as it has suffered no damage whatsoever. The old box looks like it is only fit for the bin. The new box, on the other hand, not only looks in much better condition, but the front facing panel, that will be exposed when the flap is tucked in, can be used to label the contents as it is unprinted white card - smart move!

The new box looks as if it will be more useful than the old
Well done Meccano! We have been disappointed with the old boxes for a long time. Although this is not a return to the days of segmented boxes, this really is a big step in the right direction.


G15 KS is here!

Jet lagged and grumpy, Meccanoid G15 KS has arrived, partially dismantled and in need of some power he is looking rather forlorn surrounded in packing material. Ten minutes on the bench and he is up and running, with a bit of a shock - He has an English Accent for the UK market! He is also sporting the final release colours. You may have noticed that in the various pictures and videos we have shown, he appears dressed in different colours. This, I am assured, is the production colour scheme.

This is the G15 KS as he will appear here in the UK
This is the first non-retouched photograph that I have been able to publish as this one is of the Meccanoid we received yesterday. I can see why all the press photographs have been so highly airbrushed! We have set him going and tried out the basics without any eternal input. He has a fair sized repertoire of pre loaded programming including some of the worst jokes you have ever heard! I am sure the kids will love them. If you don't laugh, he gets upset saying thing like "Oh well, try another"  or "I guarantee you will laugh at this one" If you do laugh he joins in with the excitement.

At 4ft tall he is impressive and really is KS (Kid-Size). Once we have had a chance to get to know him a bit better we will show you some more. If you want to see him in person, he will be making a three-day appearance at SkegEx 15 next weekend, 3rd-5th July. More details and our live SkegEx 15 bolg can be found HERE.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015



Thunderbirds are GO!

One of the best kept secrets of the year can now be revealed. Meccano have a new licensed product and this time everybody will recognise the name. No obscure animals or computer game heroes. Thunderbirds must have been one of the most popular children's programmes to emerge fron the Gerry Anderson studio. As a kid I remember watching it and trying to spot parts from Airfix kits that had been used to build the models and scenery. So here is a first look at the box for Thunderbird 2 along with the Mole, one of International Rescue's most famous duo's. Even I have not got my hands on a set of parts yet but the box landed on the doorstep earlier today along with a lot of other new models that I will show you over the next few days.

Several prototypes were built of this model in its various reincarnations that have appeared over the years. The final model design was subject to the licensor's final approval and this is it. Trying to keep this sort of thing quiet is a real nightmare. Somehow, apart from a couple of press photographs that promoted a few awkward questions, the lid was kept on this one. One of the prototypes was smuggled in to the London Toy Fair and kept under lock and key only being shown to selective retail buyers. Now for the first time I have been given permission to post these pictures of the box.

Click on either picture to enlarge
I will give you more information as I get it but for now, take a look at the pictures and be happy that Meccano have been able to secure a household name that mums and dads, as well as children, will recognise...


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

SkegEx 15 Live!

It is that time of year again. The whole Meccano world is gearing up to the biggest event on the show calendar. Meccano nuts from all around the world will be converging on the Embassy Theatre, Grand Parade, Skegness for the annual show organised by the North Midlands Meccano Guild (NMMG). Sue and I, along with the unpaid 'hired' help, will attempt to bring you all the latest news as it happens. We will be reporting on all aspects of the show from behind the scenes as well as bringing you pictures of the models that catch our eye. The aim is to show you the bits you don't usually see, and some of the more light-hearted moments. Nobody will be safe from the lens so if you see one of us coming you will have two choices - smile or run!

It is all meant to be a bit of fun and we had no complaints last year, If you say don't use that picture or "don't photograph me"  we won't. But don't complain afterwards if everybody else gets on the blog and you miss out!

A version of the banner above will be posted in the right-hand column of the website and blog (so if you are reading this on a smartphone or tablet, switch to 'web view') and it will act as the update link. You can just bookmark the page that is displayed HERE, where you will find a holding page until the live coverage starts. All this is subject to getting a suitable connection during the day and last year that did prove  problematic. A year on we have eight times the capacity to connect via the mobile phone network so, assuming we can find a signal, we can use that. If all else fails we have a good connection at our B&B and we will post the updates then.

Wish us luck!

Ralph and Sue.