(previous part, next part)
I owed you the next part of the Big Technic Car story for a long time. Here it comes.
The line of flagships was simple and logical from the beginning (1977) right until 1999: a single flagship, the throne was always taken by one of the the four cars introduced in the previous part. They were the largest Technic models and since they followed one after another there was no competition amongst them.
1999 marked the start of changes with the introduction of 8448 "Super Street Sensation". This set broke the tradition in several ways. For the first time the bodywork was made of studless bricks, with the chassis was made of old-style bricks but well hidden. The two types of Lego bricks divide Technic fans since then. The car also started a new trend by focusing on the looks and not only packing features. Unlike the all-wheel drive in its predecessor its V8 engine "drove" the rear wheels only. This was also the first car since the original 956 carrying its engine in the front. The number of gears in the gearbox has increased to 5+1, making it a match for most road cars.
Another first, it was possible to build multiple bodyworks onto the same chassis. As a sports car, it could be built with "gullwing" doors opening upwards or as a "coupe-convertible" with folding roof. As an alternative it could also have an American style hot rod chassis. The doors were opened with pneumatically damped springs.
The lineup has changed fundamentally when a secondflagship, the 8458 "Silver Champion" race car was added. The Silver Champion is in fact a McLaren Mercedes Formula-1 car but it did not carry an official badge at that time. The car emphasises the break with traditions even more: it has less moving parts but a more realistic bodywork including front and rear spoilers. Like all Formula-1 cars at that time, it has a V10 engine and double wishbone suspension on all 4 wheels. It has a differential and steering but no gearbox - its technical content is below the level of the 8865 introduced more than 10 years earlier (not counting the number of cylinders and the bodywork that can be opened).
The diversity was increased even more with the introduction of the 8466 "4x4 Off Roader" set in 2001. If two flagships were not enough now there was a third one. Its size was no match for the other models but in working features it was: besides a V8 engine and the gearbox from 8448 it had an all wheel drive and doors opening upwards. Like the "Street Sensation" the chassis is made of bricks and the exterior from studless elements.
The next set in 8461 "Williams F1 Racer" from 2002. It is basically the rebranded version of 8458: along a blue-white livery and some new parts the biggest change happened in the name: it was an official "Formula-1" licensed product and ran as part of the "Racers" series. The building instructions had about 80% commonality with its predecessor.
The last set is not really a super car, the 8435 "4WD" introduced in 2004. It is nevertheless worthwhile to mention because it sports many working features that would had made it a super car several years earlier. Contrary to its name it had a rear wheel drive with a V6 engine in the front and working differential in the rear. The front wheels had a functional steering as well as an independent suspension. The rear did not have springs at all but the bridge could be bent relative to the body so it made a real off-road impression. This is the first model that did not have any studded bricks at all, consisting of 763 parts altogether. For comparison, the flagship from 1977 contained 590 parts!
Stay tuned for the next episode!