LEGO Mac’s Jet Air Car (Joe 90)

Recently looking at my collection of Anderson LEGO vehicles, I realised that I now had a model of something from every Supermarionation series except Four Feather Falls and Joe 90. The options for both series were rather limited, and whilst I do have ambitions to build a LEGO Western town one day, Joe 90 seemed to be the more sensible route to go down right now for my next project. I basically had two starring vehicles to choose from, Professor McClaine’s car, or Sam Loover’s car. On the basis that Sam’s car is, to all intents and purposes, just a car, I had no alternative but to attempt to design and build one of the most bizarre vehicles the Andersons and Derek Meddings ever conceived: the unnamed Jet Air Car which Joe and his father use to travel the globe on dangerous missions for W.I.N.

To be quite frank, it’s not my favourite vehicle in the Anderson catalogue. In my eyes, the design is unusual but not particularly distinctive. Much like Mac himself, it’s there for function rather than style. That being said, I was excited by the challenge. The car’s ability to operate on the road and in the air was something that I assumed at the outset would be easy to work into the LEGO version. I set to work on my MOC in the Studio 2.0 design software.

I selected dark green for the base colour of the car, allowing myself access to a wide range of LEGO parts while just about capturing the look of the original screen-used model. I then had to decide on an approximate size for the overall model which was basically dictated by one aspect – there was only one windscreen piece which was even vaguely the right shape and that therefore determined the scale for everything else. Unfortunately it made the MOC not-quite-minifigure-sized so there was no opportunity to create a Joe and Mac to sit inside.

The design process was tough. The car is a bizarre shape which doesn’t easily lend itself to the LEGO system. My original plan was to build in a technic-based mechanism to operate the folding wings and wheels. That plan was rendered impossible by the size of the chassis dictated by the windscreen/cabin. In the series, the front wheels are mounted on telescopic axles so that they can be stowed away during flight. On my model, I decided to have the front wheels fold away into a cavity under the driver’s cabin. Meanwhile, the wings were each attached to 2×2 turntable pieces so that they could swing in and out. Most challenging of all was finding a way to achieve both the shape of the car’s rounded rear, and to build in a simple way for the rear wheels to fold up and down during take-off and landing. In the end, a technic axle was threaded through a series of 4×4 round plates, and the wheel assemblies attached at either end.

Additional design touches included the jet engine itself mounted in the middle of the car, and the extending fins which fold down for flight mode. The completed design was impressive. I wasn’t entirely happy with the vehicle’s ground clearance, but the pivoting front wheels did not allow for anything higher. I went ahead and ordered the parts from BrickLink, and within a week I had everything I needed to start assembly.

Alas, I was unprepared for just how fragile the finished model turned out to be. The cavity left for the front wheels to be stowed during flight severely weakened the overall structure of the car. Although the design software can indicate structural weaknesses in MOCs, this is the sort of thing which really isn’t obvious until one is building in the real world with bricks in hand. I managed to make it work with a few minor alterations and some removable plates added to the model while the front wheels are on the ground.

Despite the model’s structural shortcomings, and making it by far one of my flimsiest MOCs, I have to say I’m at least proud of how the car looks. The proportions are slightly off because of the windscreen, but I think I have captured all of the original model’s details accurately. The transition from ground to flight mode works well and the MOC looks great when displayed in either configuration – display being the key word because I cannot emphasise enough how carefully it needs to be handled!

And with the Jet Air Car, I have now designed and built a vehicle in LEGO from every Supermarionation series (except Four Feather Falls – but maybe that will be next)! It may not have been my most successful build, but that’s the great thing about LEGO – all I have to do is buy some more pieces and fix up the bits I don’t like. And regardless, it looks great next to the rest of my collection!

Big thanks to Julian for sharing photos of his own Jet Air Car MOC which helped me out a great deal. You can see Julian’s motorized Tracy Island and other Anderson LEGO MOCs featured on Beyond The Brick here!

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