Find out how LEGO Masters Brickmaster and Technic Designer Milan Reindl worked on a passion project to bring the new Ford GT to the sophisticated LEGO theme that’s all about impressive vehicles…
The Ford GT, also known as the GT40, has a long and famous history dating back to the 1960s. After failing to negotiate a collaboration with Ferrari, the Ford Motor Company initiated a plan to design a sports car that could successfully compete in major road races, especially the endurance race of Le Mans in northern France.
However, there was a catch. The Ford GT had to be designed and manufactured within 10 months in order to be ready to compete at Le Mans in 1964. Even with the tenacity and engineering skills of the Ford Motor Company designers, that initial Ford GT didn’t even last 12 hours into the race (which runs for a full 24 hours). Yet the car wasn’t shelved away as a failure, and after fine tuning the aerodynamics and updating the engine, the Ford GT won Le Mans two years later in 1966, beating the Ferraris and cementing itself in sports car history.
After holding the title at Le Mans for another two years, the Ford GT was shelved for decades, only revived in 2005 with the goal of outperforming Ferrari. It’s a rivalry that has endured, and each version of the GT has only improved the performance of the car. With the LEGO Group focusing on modern sports cars, the release of the Ford GT 2022 last year proved the perfect opportunity for the Technic team to bring this record-breaker into the theme’s portfolio.
For LEGO Technic Designer Milan Reindl, being given the opportunity to recreate the Ford GT as an official set was a dream that’s been on his bucket list since starting with the company 11 years ago. ‘The Ford GT Mark IV from 1967 is in my opinion the most beautiful and elegant car that I’ve ever seen. I have a very strong personal connection to Ford GTs in general… not that I’ve ever owned a Ford!’
Milan’s love of the sports car is obvious, as he enthusiastically explains some of the key facts about the latest model that only a true car aficionado would know. ‘The engineering and design that went into it is just incredible. [The Ford Motor Company] specifically wanted a car that is road legal, fast, and that is aerodynamically efficient by creating a teardrop shaped cockpit.’
It’s actually this cockpit that defined the scale for 42154 2022 Ford GT. Previous supercar entries into this range have been either at 1:16 or 1:15 scale, but 42154 is an even bigger 1:12. ‘I had tried to get it to fit with the other, smaller scale Technic supercars, but it simply didn’t work with the Ford GT line,’ explains Milan.
Of course, with a different scale there were other challenges as not all of the Technic panel elements worked correctly. ‘We knew that at some point we would need new elements coming, because we didn’t have certain things for this scale. And building the car without them would be almost impossible,’ he says, proudly showing off the unique wheel arches that were custom made for 42152.
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‘We experimented with just a single new element for both the front and the rear [wheels], but it didn’t work. If you look at the Ford GT from the side, the rear wheel arch sits slightly higher than the front one, and to compensate for that offset we had to create something that at least creates that as an optical illusion. So, one wheel arch has rounded edges, while the other is totally square.’
The unique elements didn’t stop there, as Milan set himself another challenge for 42154 2022 Ford GT – to design independent suspension at the front and rear. For that to be possible, the team had to create a new joint piece for the specific width of the model, allowing the rear suspension to smoothly travel up and down even at this scale. ‘Without this piece we would either have had no suspension or not a realistic copy of the suspension,’ adds Milan. It’s a testament to his careful attention to detail and the lengths the Technic team will go to ensure that each model is as accurate to the source material as possible.
This was helped by a close collaboration with the Ford Motor Company. Car designs are copyrighted to their respective manufacturers, so each LEGO car model has to be licensed and approved before it hits shelves. Having already produced different Ford cars previously, including 42138 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Milan was able to easily communicate during each stage of the design process.
‘Our collaboration has been very good,’ he says. ‘Whenever we needed feedback, or more references, or anything, we got it almost always next day.’ This included schematics and photographic references of the GT 2022, though Milan did get to see the car in person after the model was finalised. ‘I got to see the car but it was way too late! It was when we were shooting some press release videos.’
During this collaboration, the Ford Motor Company only had one main request for the design –for the model to be dark blue. ‘We were discussing the development and different colour options,’ continues Milan, ‘I started with a white prototype simply because we have so many panels in that colour, and new element options come out of the 3D printer in white as well. As a silhouette study it was good enough.’
42154 Ford GT 2022 is a celebration of the history of the car, so good enough wasn’t going to cut it. ‘For us it wasn’t that feasible because we didn’t have many dark blue panels in the shapes we needed. We went through several iterations that were possible from the fairly limited colour palette of the Ford GT,’ adds Milan. Officially Ford GTs only come in eight different colours, unless they are given a custom paint job, and blue is certainly the most iconic. It also emulates the famous Blue Oval badge of the company. ‘They were always coming back like a boomerang,’ laughs Milan about the company’s dogged determination to have the LEGO Group recolour the Technic panels in the set. ‘Eventually we agreed and just went for it. We colour changed over 30 elements into dark blue.’
While the colour may have been a continuous debate, the Ford Motor Company were willing to compromise on other aspects of the model, understanding the limitations of the LEGO Technic system. The Ford GT 2022 is a very curvaceous car, with a lot of concave shapes used to improve its aerodynamics. Trying to recreate those shapes in the harsher angles of Technic elements was far more difficult. One of the most challenging parts of 42154 though was recreating the signature butterfly doors. ‘I think it took about four designers working on the same thing at the same time. We came up with something that was halfway there, and even the final version of the doors is not quite perfect. They don’t open up as far as they should and they don’t rotate as far to the side,’ Milan explains, referencing how the door mechanism on the actual car can rotate fully upwards.
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42154 Ford GT 2022 is a balance between functionality and aesthetics, something that was at the forefront throughout the design process. ‘I like combining both together. The inner mechanisms influence everything that comes after and how well it can be wrapped by the exterior elements. I’m always trying to maintain functionality as well as the looks of the car,’ says Milan. It is a tough balance to strike in this supercar, with its two suspension systems, moving spoiler wing, and visibly working engine, which required a lot of trial and error.
‘I’m more of a physical designer because the programs that we use are quite advanced but they can’t tell you whether something is going to bend when the model is steered or what will happen if you apply pressure to the roof, or if the structure is rigid enough to withstand the play of children,’ explains Milan. Even with most Technic fans probably not expecting these models to be played with, they still have to undergo the same rigorous testing of any product within the LEGO portfolio. ‘I recently had to get rid of 18 fully-built prototypes, and I kept another two,’ adds Milan rather sheepishly.
When the Ford GT 2022 was announced, the car was described as being the pinnacle of decades of innovation, honouring its history as the only American car to ever win at Le Mans. And its LEGO Technic iteration is no different, combining the techniques that the Technic team have perfected over the years with some creative new pieces. While 42154 Ford GT 2022 is about capturing the essence of the car, it is still a LEGO model, and Milan sums it up perfectly: ‘It’s about finding a balance. We are not making die-cast scale models, we are making toys for people of all ages.’