Alastair Clements
Group editor

See other Blog articles filed in ‘Me and my caravan’ written by Alastair Clements
   
Visitors to October 2015's NEC show were wowed by a full-size Lego caravan, and now Alastair Clements meets Ed Diment, director of the firm that built it

It's not often that you get a list of rules before you enter a caravan, rules such as ‘DO NOT move the caravan via the handles, they have absolutely no structural integrity’, or ‘NEVER lean on the table, it WILL break’, and ‘Never put more than an inch of water in the bottom of the sink if you choose to put the plug in, unless you like getting wet’.

Of course, this is no ordinary caravan. Even for a company that has already created a life- size woolly mammoth and a 12m Christmas tree out of Lego, the idea of building a 1:1- scale tourer from scratch using tiny plastic bricks represented quite a tall order. Yet it was a mission that the expert builders at Bright Bricks embraced enthusiastically, as director Ed Diment recalls.

“Paul Mauerhoff of the National Caravan Council got in touch to ask us if it was possible to build a Lego caravan,” says Ed. “We said ‘absolutely’ and then Paul got in touch with Guinness World Records to see what we would need to do to set a new record.”

Bright Bricks was the obvious choice to make the caravan a reality in time for the Motorhome & Caravan Show 2015 at the NEC, because the firm of professional Lego builders has an impressive portfolio of creations – not to mention around 15 million bricks in its store! – and the classic T@B 320 ‘teardrop’ was chosen as the subject.

“We went for the T@B partly for the size, but also the appearance. We wanted a van that would look good in Lego, and we chose a colour scheme of silver and sand-green, which is quite rare. We couldn’t use special pieces and colours – only what was currently available in the range. The build took just over two months, with anything from six to 10 people working on it at any time, meaning a total of 1000-1200 man-hours.

"We started with a genuine Al-Ko chassis shipped in from Germany – the same one as the real caravan – then we screwed on plywood boards that we could stand on, before building the Lego onto that. The body and interior were built largely freehand, without computer- aided design. The manufacturer sent engineering drawings of the real van so we could scale them up and work out the sizes we would need. We didn’t have the real thing to compare it with until we got to the Motorhome & Caravan Show. It was a nervous moment when we put them together for the first time!”

Stuck-on Lego

They needn’t have worried – the T@B and its Lego twin were nearly indistinguishable from a few paces away, and the previous record (of 20,000 bricks) was smashed by the 1200kg Lego T@B: "In the end we used 215,158 bricks, which are glued together; when you get to models of this size, you can’t leave them unglued due to Health and Safety concerns.

"Just working out that number was a technical challenge in itself: we placed an order with Lego for all of the parts that we thought we would need [some 400,000 bricks!]. Then, when we had built the van, we weighed every element, used a counter to work out exactly how many parts were left and subtracted that from the total as originally delivered."

There were other challenges during the project, as Diment explains: "In terms of the build itself, the windows were tricky, as was getting the shape of the teardrop right without the real van there to compare it to.

"But the biggest challenge was definitely making the build comply with Guinness World Records – and we had inspectors coming in to check our progress to ensure that we were playing by the rules. In order to be recognised for the Lego caravan record it would have to be movable, have electric lighting and running water, plus seating, a bed, cupboards and a fridge – in fact, all of the features you would have in a normal caravan. As a result, the table telescopes down and you can turn the sofa cushions (which are made of Lego) into a bed – exactly as in a real T@B 320. Everything looks the same as it does in the original. The lights all shine through tinted transparent Lego bricks and the sink even has running water, powered by a small electric pump in the cupboard underneath."

Beans on toast

Diment is rightly very proud of the result: "It’s one of the biggest models we’ve made, but it’s also one of the first that you can actually get inside, so it’s highly interactive, like a giant doll’s house.

"When they see it, people tend to love the Lego beans on toast, or little details, such as the gas burner effect on the stove – made from little blue pieces that Lego intended to be used as water. But my favourite thing is the table bed: you really can actually convert it into a bed and lie on it without destroying it!"

After its debut, the caravan starred at BRICK 2015, the Lego show at the NEC during autumn half-term. The Lego caravan also returns to the NEC in Birmingham from 23-28 February 2016 for the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show.

What about when it has finished being a show queen?

"It would be nice if it ended up at Legoland one day, so people can enjoy it, " says Diment. "Either that, or I’ll just take it on holiday!"

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