“I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself”

When I was younger, LEGO was my favourite toy. I had several sets, of which I didn’t really understand the monetary value (some of that older stuff goes for crazy prices nowadays – my bank account hates my younger self’s ignorance), but which I often took great enjoyment from.

I didn’t have a lot of money for bigger sets, so instead, I would get smaller things like Jedi Starfighters, Clone Trooper Packs, the occasional separatist vehicle. Star Wars stuff, mainly. You understand.

After I stopped playing with LEGO, I still kept an eye on the companies out-put, in part because watching the development was fascinating…

…and in part because, as a film fan, LEGO sets can be a good source of movie news, due to the fact they usually debut before the movie and have been designed by people who have been able to see concept art and the like.

Then, on my twenty-something birthday, my girlfriend unknowingly pushed me back into the hobby. She had seen my interest in the company, and bought me Darth Maul’s Sith Infiltrator, from The Phantom Menace. To this day, it is perhaps the most fun of all the builds I’ve done, and a great starting point for reembracing LEGO as a hobby.

But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

No, today, we’re talking about the ultimate vehicle for a LEGO Star Wars fan. The Millennium Falcon.

Now, despite the extra twenty or so years of life that I’ve lived through since my LEGO playing days, my financial situation isn’t much better. In fact, if you consider that I had no money when I was a kid, now, with debts and overdrafts and such, I actually am less financially well off than I was. But my quality of life is better, I’d say. People always harp on about how they miss being a student or a kid and having the freedom of not having to deal with bills and such.

To which I say, bollocks to that. When I was a kid, I never had the freedom to buy my own Millennium Falcon (and numerous other things you can’t do as a child), which I did in 2017.

credit: Andree Wallin

The Millennium Falcon famously first appeared as the ship of smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca in the classic Star Wars. However, my passion for LEGO collecting (I say collecting, more just buying the odd set when my wallet allows, which is… infrequently) was in part reignited not only by my girlfriend (something she now no doubt regrets) but also the return of Star Wars to the big screen. The ship, of course, made its big comeback in The Force Awakens, where it was found by our protagonists Rey and Finn, before being stolen back by its famous aforementioned Captains.

There have been many Millennium Falcons created in LEGO form since the LEGO Star Wars lines creation (sixteen, in fact, in various shapes and sizes). The one I happened to acquire was The Force Awakens system-scale version, which I purchased off eBay for about £60 (RRP £139.99 ) from someone who actually worked on the movie, no less!

At the time, I was a university graduate working as a cleaner. There’s nothing wrong with being a cleaner of course, but let’s just say I didn’t feel like I was at my highest point. So I bought this Falcon, and I dove into building it. I put on the Original Trilogy and started popping those pieces together, and was in love with the end result.

I placed it on my shelf, and that was that.

But the more I would look at it, the more something felt off about it. Was it the gaps in the hull? The shape of the mandibles? The angle of the cockpit? The patchy colour-scheme? I wasn’t sure. But as months went by, it started to feel like something was wrong with it.

This was hammered down by the release of LEGO’s second Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon, which was, frankly, gorgeous:

Perfectly shaped, incredibly detailed. The biggest LEGO set ever created. In comparison, my now dinky-seeming 75105 seemed rather lame. Seeing how perfectly LEGO had rendered this iconic vehicle compounded all my personal grievances with my own model.

Unfortunately, this newer, bigger variant retails at £650; a price it still hasn’t really dropped from in any meaningful way. And considering I couldn’t afford the one I had at full price, there was no way I was buying the 75192 at any point in the foreseeable future.

The years went by, and I dreamt of the UCS. Was it at all feasable to spend that much money on LEGO? I would occassionally skim through LEGO discussion boards by this point, occupied by what the community calls Adult Fans Of LEGO. Many of these AFOLs would speak casually about how they had bought the Falcon the moment it came out, and how they would eagerly await the next wave of sets, complain about various nitpicks, before purchasing the entire wave for several hundreds of pounds.

Truly, the amount people spend on this product is astounding.

Still, the prospect of me ever owning it seemed impossible. Fortunately, to coincide with the release of The Rise of Skywalker, LEGO released another Millennium Falcon, once again system-scale (by which I mean play-set sized) which fixed many of the issues with the one I possessed. The mandibles were correctly proportioned, the gaps were gone. The cockpit was in the right place. It was slightly shorter, but overall, it was definitely a step in the right direction.

As usual, I didn’t have enough money to buy it then and then (well, for once I think I did, but I was being sensible) but obviously Christmas and my Birthday were right around the corner, and perhaps I would be a little more liquid by the time those had been and gone.

On one hand, it did seem ridiculous to buy something I essentially already owned (but then again, don’t iPhone fanatics do that on the regular? I don’t know, I’m not an Apple man) but another part of me had pondered the possibility of combining the new set with my old one to create something slightly larger in scale, but not as unwieldly as the Ultimate Collector version.

I had seen this new release on Force Friday, when one of my work friends who makes a pilgrimage to Liverpool every Force Friday to check out the new merchandise invited me along. Similarly passionate about LEGO, the LEGO store was also on his list of places to go. We checked out the new items, and I lovingly stared at the encased UCS while he went to make some purchases.

I had made up my mind. After I had purchased any and all Christmas gifts and Birthday presents (my girlfriend has the same birthday as I do, I don’t mean I’m buying myself a heap of presents) I would go for it.

But alas, five days into being twenty six and I am poorer than usual.

My job, in an effort to be nice, pays us early in December, just before Christmas, so we have time to do last minute Christmas shopping. So we get a paid a normal months wage (which for me, was rather subpar this time around) that needs to last us an extra two weeks more than usual.

(this isn’t neccessarily relevant to the post, but they put out another Falcon between the UCS and the Rise variant)

But on the flipside, I’m days away from the best paycheck I’ve ever had in my life, so its swings and roundabouts really.

But I digress. I had a few days off after my Birthday, and with very little money and no real plans, I dug out my old 2015 Falcon. If I couldn’t make the new one, I would turn the old one into the best version I could. I’d tried this once before, but then I knocked it off the shelf and it shattered into hundreds of pieces.

This time, I would do things differently.

Laying out all the pieces (plus some extras that I had acquired over the years) on a clear table, I got to work. While my girlfriend was off at work, I would tinker with my Falcon, building it mostly as per the instructions, but making little changes that would pay off down the line.

I had studied other people’s alterations online, and taken each bit of inspiration into consideration as I worked (with all the Star Wars movies featuring Han Solo on in the background, of course – starting with Solo).

I amended the cockpit, attatching it from a different angle so it could sit further back.

I inverted the manibles, so the holes in them looked cleaner and less clunky.

I added new pieces to the hull, filling the gaps and giving it a fuller look.

And finally, I went to town with little greebles that both served to make it more UCS-accurate and also give it a better-defined shape.

Is it perfect? Of course not. And it’s still not comparable to the UCS version. But it’s an ongoing project (I plan to fit a proper window under the gun turrent, for one), and I’m pleased to say in my opinion it looks a hell of a lot better than the original model’s design.

In short, some may think it looks like ‘a piece of junk’, but at least I know ‘I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself!’

She won’t make point five past lightspeed though, she’s still just a LEGO set.

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