May 29, 2022

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Comfortable Vehicle

LEGO Creator Expert 10300 Back to the Future Time Machine – Well, it’s about time. [Review] – The Brothers Brick

LEGO Creator Expert 10300 Back to the Future Time Machine – Well, it’s about time. [Review] – The Brothers Brick

Oh, we’ve seen LEGO Back to the Future time machines before. Beyond numerous excellent fan versions, there have been two official sets: 2013’s CUUSOO 21103 Back to the Future and 2017’s Dimensions 71201: Back to the Future Level Pack. But really, neither of those sets were terribly accurate takes on this iconic movie vehicle. Now, after years of rumors, false leaks, and empty hopes, LEGO has announced Creator Expert 10300: Back to the Future Time Machine. This 1872 piece set will be available April 1st for US $169.99 | CAN $219.99 | UK £149.99. Will the third time be the charm? Or will we have to hope someone goes back in time yet again to try and fix things?

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.


Unboxing the parts, instructions and sticker sheets

This set comes in a large thumb-punch box with Adult Collector style packaging. The black background and minimal logos work well to highlight the set, and the added lightning bolt effects add a bit of marketing sizzle. A grey greeble strip along the bottom has the mandated “18+” age range, another marketing ploy. There’s nothing in this set a much younger builder couldn’t handle, but they want to try and make this set appeal to the older demographics.

The back of the box shows off the DeLorean as it was seen at the end of the first movie, and throughout the Back to the Future Part II film. Inset shots that show off the light-up Flux Capacitor, hover board and Plutonium box accessories, and the opening gull-wing doors. Also spotlighted are the vehicles Identification Plaque, and two exclusive minifigures. A small technical diagram in the lower left has the set’s dimensions: 11 cm/4″ x 35.5 cm/15.5″

In the upper right is a teaser that this set can be built in three modes – matching the look from each of the three films. Don’t worry, we’ll be looking at all three versions in this review.

While one short-side of the box has the Back to the Future logo and a shot of the car from the back, the other side is strangely blank. You’d think they’d want the box to have shelf-appeal from all sides, and the lack of any logos caught me by surprise.

Inside the box are thirteen numbered part bags, spanning 11 construction steps.

There’s also an unnumbered bag that has the windshield and tires, and a final bag containing the instruction manual and sticker sheets.

The two sticker sheets are moderately sized, and full of movie-accurate details. If you look, though, you’ll notice that the word “DeLorean” doesn’t appear anywhere – the vehicle is just referred to as “Time Machine”. Maybe there were some legal issues in finding a way to use the name.

The 300 page, perfect-bound instruction manual has a rear shot of the LEGO car on the front cover. The composition matches a common publicity still, and it’s a tribute to the look of this model that the image is nearly identical.  The back cover has a shot of the LEGO version of the license plate spinning on the road, matching the scene from the first film.

The manual follows the Adult Collector blueprint, starting with a few pages giving some background on the set and theme, and a short interview with the set’s LEGO designer, Sven Franic. Once the instructions start, the black background for the pages is replaced with a dark grey, making assembly easier to follow. There are a few fun bits of trivia scattered throughout the build, too.


The parts

In attempt to finally match the DeLorean’s shaping, LEGO has produced two new molds for this set. The first is a new trapezoidal windscreen in transparent-clear, and the second is a new 2×4 sloped triangular roof tile. There are also a number of new colors for existing parts, like these black 22L Zip-line hoses.

The red friction pins and teal 1×4 Technic liftarms are new colors for 2022. The 1×1 modified plates in sand green are new with this set. The 1×5 plates in medium nougat have only appeared twice before, in the Chinese New Year 80108 Lunar New Year Traditions and the Ideas 21327 Typewriter.

The minifigure accessory shepherd’s staff is new in black. The magenta modified bricks had previously been exclusive to the Creator 3119 Ferris Wheel, and the new 2-plate high 1×1 bricks are a new part for 2022, appearing for the third time here in medium nougat.

For printed tiles, we get a couple of technical displays, and a unique DMC logo for the front grille. The printing on my copy of this part was kind of sloppy, and arrived with some scratches. Hopefully this was just a minor production glitch and other sets will have a better looking piece.

 


The shared build

This is a three-in-one build, but there’s a common core build that is shared across all three versions. It starts out with a Technic frame that provides a pretty solid base. This is quickly expanded with a mostly mirrored build with a bit of color coding in the plates to help keep things in the correct front/back orientation.

A large Technic switch is accessible on the underside of the car. This will be used to move the tires from the “drive” to “fly” position much later on.

The floorboards are built up next. There’s also a nice bit of complex SNOT building near the wheel wells that integrates closely with a large arch brick.

The front and rear wheels will need to rotate in unusual ways, so they get some gearing that you won’t see in other similarly-scaled LEGO vehicles.

One the wheel supports are in place, the bodywork expands outward for the hood and rear engine areas. The sides of the car start to get a light grey skin made of various tiles.

On the underside, the chassis is propped up by four 1×2 transparent clear bricks. These will be part of the display features later on. Up top, the hinge for the hood is put into place.

The front bumper has row of transparent light-blue plate covered by ink-silver sloped brick and tile. Dark grey tile covers to top edge.

The sides of the hood make use of the new 2×4 inclined triangle roof slope bricks. This new element does an amazing job of matching the DeLorean’s unique shaping. It’ll be interesting to see how this piece is utilized in future kits.

The headlights are locked in place with dark grey tile. The taillights get a similar treatment, with a big gap that will eventually hold the builder’s choice of license plate.

The crucial flux capacitor makes use of a minifigure grappling hook to replicate the necessary shapes. A clear sticker recalls the movie’s graphics, and the printed instrument tiles add a nice technical touch to the completed module.

The assembled capacitor joins some additional controls in the center of the DeLorean’s cabin. The gear shift that incorporates a minifigure microphone for a knob is another fun detail.

The dashboard is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot of stickers here – an understandable cost-cutting measure as these parts aren’t easily visible in the completed module. The downside is that the sticker that goes on the 1×4 panel is very difficult to apply, and making sure the date displays are nicely aligned is pretty tough. Sadly, it seems like earlier versions of this set might have had a different solution, as the official LEGO press release refers to “printed dashboard dates”. Maybe the marketing folks got things confused with the CUUSOO 21103 Back to the Future version that did have a unique printed date tile.

On the plus side, that difficult to align panel decal is almost completely hidden behind the steering wheel. The overall look for the dashboard is a great match for the movie prop.

Another key new mold for this set is the new trapezoidal front windscreen. It’s a great part, and arrived scratch-free in our review copy.

In the engine area, a small push-lever activates the light brick that sits behind the flux capacitor.

Further aft, Doc Brown’s futuristic modifications start to arrive. The sand green unicorn horns are a fun bit of greebling.

The gull wing doors have a clever design that incorporates ball joints to create thin lines for the window framing.

Both doors can be opened, but the design here isn’t quite as perfect as these shots make it look. More on that in a bit.

The rear sides of the car snap into place with three hinged bricks. This technique holds things together quite well, and there’s a good bit of tactile feedback when you’re snapping the panels into place.

The 22L hoses are threaded along the edge of the car. The thin cable looks good, and ends up threaded through the bodywork in a satisfyingly integrated way.

At this point, two accessories are built – the plutonium box from the first film, and Marty’s hover board from Part II. Both rely heavily on stickers to give them their look. Since this vehicle doesn’t clearly match any current LEGO minifigure scale, the “play value” of the hoverboard is somewhat limited, but it’s still a fun inclusion.

Both items fit securely into the storage space under the DeLorean’s hood.

This completes the build shared by all three versions of the DeLorean. At this point we’re still waiting on wheels and the time machine’s power source, but the vehicle’s iconic shape is already evident.

Now you’re presented with a choice – which movie is your favorite? The pile of parts here is shared between the three versions, so swapping between them isn’t quite as easy as it might be. Some disassembly will be required when changing the look.


Back to the Future Part I

Even if linear time is seen as kind of a joke in these films, we’ll build the three versions in order of their movie appearances. The “classic” time machine starts off with finishing the hood with a smooth upper surface. This leaves some extra studs exposed on the underside, but whatever. They look like they should be there anyway.

The OUTATIME license plate is a sticker on a clear window pane. The pane snaps into a window frame that is snapped into the rear of the car.

The final steps are putting the time machine’s fusion reactor in place, and building the conductive pole that plays a key role in the third act. The pole is removable, thankfully, letting you leave it off if you don’t want it as part of your display.

The completed model looks really good to me. The car’s shape is spot on, and the exposed studs are minimal. It’s nice to be reminded that this is a LEGO model, but it’s extra cool when you might not realize that until you look at it closely.

The light up feature for the flux capacitor is easily visible through the front windshield. The light is bright and noticeable, and having it as press-to-activate play feature means you’re not in danger of accidentally leaving it on to drain the battery.


The pile of parts left over invites you to go back to the future. I have a feeling most builders will make this version of the car first, even if they plan on displaying one of the later versions long-term. If that matches what you’re thinking, keep reading. You might want to hold off on putting that license plate in if you’re not going to leave it in place.


Back to the Future Part II

There are really only a few changes between the look of the DeLorean between part one and part two of the trilogy. Those changes are enough to make it clear of where on the time machine’s personal timeline you’re at, though. One of tell-tale signs is the license plate. The 1980’s California OUTATIME plate is replaced with a bar-code version from 2015.

If you’ve started out making the part one version, you’re in for a bit of rough un-building when you want to swap out the plate. You have to take most of the back end of the car apart, and pop the window out to switch it. It’s a fairly involved process, but I’m glad the designer went with this approach over a stickered tile. It might have been easier to swap out, but the scale of the plate with this method is very accurate. And, for a display piece, I think the accuracy has to win out over the very rare instance that you’d want to change the look.

The other change is upgrading the fusion reactor. “Mr. Fusion” is ready to provide all the energy you need. There are logo stickers on either side of the assembly, so you don’t have to decide which angle to prioritize.

The lid of Mr. Fusion opens up to reveal the banana and soda can that Doc uses to power the time machine in the film. Is it an Easter egg or just amazing attention to detail? You make the call.

Earlier in the build, I mentioned that the gull-wing doors have a bit of a problem. You can see that in action here – while they open up just fine, there isn’t enough friction to counterbalance the weight of the doors, and they’ll drop closed when you release them. It’s a shame, as having the doors stay open would add some more display possibilities.

One feature that works perfectly is the switch to prove that where we’re going, we don’t need roads. The action is firm and satisfying to play with, and the wheels stay firmly locked in either position.

The transparent 1×2 bricks can be moved to the edges of the inner chassis to add just a bit of height.  When you want to drive around, the bricks can be stored along the inside edge next to those grey Technic beams.

As you can see, the single brick of height is enough to create a convincing “floating” illusion, while still hiding the trick from casual view.

The only minor nit is the exposed mechanism for the wheel alignment. The white rubber bands and yellow Technic bushing draw the eye in unfortunate ways.

Still, this version of the DeLorean ends up with high marks on movie-accuracy. This is the look that I’ll be keeping assembled for my display shelf.

The part assortment left after the conversion to Part II is slightly smaller than we had at the end of part one. It is worth noting again that some parts were moved/re-used between the looks. A modular “snap in these assemblies” approach might have been a nice perk, but would have added parts and cost for a very low return on functionality.


Back to the Future Part III

In Back to the Future Part III, the DeLorean has a pretty rough time. More than just cosmetic changes, this take reveals a more more last-ditch approach to time travel. The flight-mode wheels have been swapped out with new (for 1955) whitewalls. As a nice treat to the builder, the red hubcaps are attached with both orange and brushed-silver 1×1 round plate. Greedy builders can just swap out those shiny plates for whatever they have plenty of, as they’re not visible in the finished model.

The construction of hood slightly modified from the other versions, in that the strip of studs seen on the inside is flipped to provide an attachment point for the 1955 box-o-circuitry. This is a nice little box of greebles, and while the two-plate high “straps” are maybe a touch thick, it’s a necessary trade off for the nice curves.

I don’t know too many folks who prefer Part III to the other installments. (I’m one of them, but that’s mainly for Doc’s train at the end.) Still, they’re out there. And this final version of the DeLorean is sure to make them smile.

Again, the car looks great from just about every angle. Kudos to the design team.

The pile of spare parts is much smaller at the end of this build, mainly due to that circuitry box. My copy had an extra black shepherd’s staff, a nice little treat.


Back to the earlier LEGO versions

As we mentioned at the beginning, LEGO has released two versions of Doc’s time machine in the past: The 2013 CUUSOO 21103 Back to the Future and 2017’s Dimensions 71201: Back to the Future Level Pack. But did you know the Creator Expert version was teased waaaaaay back in 2008’s 10187 VW Beetle? On page 46 of the instructions, an early concept is shown as part of the lineup of other vehicles.

The 2013 version (center below) is…not a favorite of mine. In fact, I passed on it entirely when it came out. But I had enough parts on hand to build a copy from LEGO’s archived online instructions. The stair-step hood and other changes really downgraded the original fan model. The 2017 Dimensions mini is cute, but there were a lot of necessary compromises that had to be made to shrink the car to that scale. But both served as stepping stones to get us to the glorious model we can enjoy today.

The 2013 DeLorean was also a 3:1 kit that let you showcase the car’s different eras. But…yeah. I think I’ll stick with the 2022 model.


Playing well with others

How well does the Time Machine display next to some other recent LEGO Creator Expert-scaled pop culture vehicles? Well, it’s clearly smaller than the 76139 Batmobile.

And, despite having the same steering wheel and hubcaps, it’s still a puny next to the 10274 Ecto-1.

It is, however, pretty close in scale to the recent Technic 42127 Batmobile. Now there’s a drag race I’d like to see.

I mentioned earlier that the DeLorean wasn’t to scale with any of the current LEGO minifigure offerings. Well, if you’re willing to go back in time, the classic Technic figures are a really close match. Here you can see Marty rescuing a Doc who’s clearly had some troubles in the far future.


The minifigures

The Creator Expert vehicle sets usually have an exclusive minifigure or two to tempt the collectors who focus mainly on the characters. This set is no different, with an exclusive version of both Doc and Marty to add your army of plastic homunculi. They also get a display stand with the standard “sticker of fun facts” display for the Time Machine.

Marty’s head has had 14 previous appearances, representing everyone from Steve Rogers to Han Solo. His dual-sided torso and printed legs are new designs.

Doc Brown comes in his snazzy yellow future suit from the end of the first movie. He has an all new dual sided face and torso, and new printed legs.

Frustrations will run high for the minifigure collectors who just wanted a good looking time machine scaled for play. Maybe we’ll see another take on that idea someday.


Conclusion and recommendation

Well, this was sure a long time coming, wasn’t it? But at long last I think LEGO have released a truly impressive take on the Back to the Future time machine. All three of the variant builds look good, the action features are pretty solid, and you get two exclusive figures to taunt your friends with. There are a couple minor downsides (the fact the doors won’t stay in a raised position chief among them)  but I don’t think they’re enough to upset many. For $170 US, the price for the 1872 parts puts the set’s ratio at just about 9 cents/per, which is fair considering the new molds, new recolors and exclusive minifigures. The build is fun and engaging, and provided you only build one model, hassle-free. The look for all three versions is excellent, and I know people who are already considering picking up multiple copies so they can display them all together. Personally, one set will be enough for me, but it’s not a set that I’ll be taking apart for spare parts any time soon. Maybe I’ll get a second copy so I can build something of my own with that new windshield. Hrm. Something to think about.


Creator Expert 10300: Back to the Future Time Machine will be available April 1st for US $169.99 | CAN $219.99 | UK £149.99. It may also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

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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