This set is probably the closest we’ll get to some sets based off the first movie. Luckily, locations in Radiator Springs haven’t changed much if at all between the two movies, and Flo’s V8 Cafe is no exception. I wish the same could be said between the movie setting and the set.
The number one reason anyone would get this set is for the bevy of Cars minicars you get. In addition to the Mater you can get in 8201 Classic Mater and Lightning McQueen from 8200 Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen, you also get Fillmore, Sally, Sarge, and Flo.
Fillmore is the best minicar from the set. The new curvy sloped plates used for his nose, roof and back end are perfectly suited for the VW microbus at such a small scale. He’s rendered in light aqua and you get a nice selection of parts. The road print bricks used for his side panels are identical which feels like a lazy solution brought on by economics; no doubt it was cheaper to reuse the same printed brick than print a whole new one. Still, considering how vastly different the graphics from the two sides actually are, it’s not a very good solution.
There isn’t much to say about Sally. She’s such a simple design that LEGO would have had to try really hard to mess her up. She’s just as cute as her on-screen counterpart.
Sarge is probably my least favorite of the bunch. The way his eyes, roof, and back of the ‘head’ are constructed just doesn’t seem right. The angles of the slopes and inverted windscreen are too sharp. And the roof? I have no idea why the roof is the way it is. After watching the turntable video, I can see the dilemma the designers faced as there is a slight angle, but I don’t feel like they were angled enough to warrant the usage of the slope elements. His saving grace is that he’s rendered in sand green and dark tan.
Flo, overall, looks great, especially from the front. She starts to get a bit choppy at the back end but considering the shape that had to be achieved, the designers did a pretty good job with the available parts. The wedge plates do most of the work to achieve the look of the fins. The worst parts of Flo are the 1×3 yellow tiles with light aqua printing used to represent the side graphic. These should have been light aqua tiles with yellow printing so that they blend in better with the rest of Flo’s light aqua goodness.
I kinda went overboard with the pictures of the cafe building, but there was some neat design elements to it. I think the designers did an okay job capturing the art deco style of the building.
Flo’s V8 Cafe comes with three structures: the main cafe building, a gas pump, and a car wash. Do you remember that one scene where Lightning McQueen peels out of Flo’s and slaloms around some cones? Yeah, me neither. But the designers saw fit to integrate a plunger launcher into the cafe building along with a couple of traffic cones. As the video demonstrates, the launcher works well enough but seems a bit superfluous.
The gas pump is small and has a strange speed bump in the lane. This is a prime example of how the set could have benefitted from a small baseplate to anchor everything down. Instead, the speed bump is used to hold everything together. Also, the size of the gas pump structure can only be described as anorexic compared to how big and imposing the actual structure really is. The same could be said about the main cafe building as well.
And the car wash? Why is there even a car wash? Flo’s didn’t even have a car wash. Flo’s V8 Cafe is supposed to resemble a carhop drive in restaurant and in the movie there’s just two rows of pumps, not a pump and a car wash. It just angers me that such a fundamental change was made for the set. I suppose the car wash, like the plunger launcher, was put in to increase the set’s play value but it’s unnecessary and inconsistent with the films. The other lame thing about the car wash besides existing in this set is that not all the cars fit through easily. You’ll have to finagle the two independent wash arms to have them roll over some of the cars, making the car wash less of a play feature and more of a chore.
What I liked: The minicars. The buildings are okay but I was ready to toss them into the parts bin. The minicar characters are the real stars of the set and they do not disappoint in the least. Even though there is a sticker sheet, all of the graphic elements on the minicars themselves are printed. My personal favorite printed elements are from Sarge: the 2×2 tile with the star and the 1×2 tile with the grille pattern.
What I didn’t: The gas pump and car wash are just stupid. The roofs aren’t attached to the base so lifting them up to move them around turns into an exercise of patience since inevitably you’ll want to grab the roof to do just that. I can’t think of any logical reason why they were designed that way. Perhaps it was so that it would be easier to get a minicar through a pump or in and out of the wash but honestly the reason really doesn’t matter. They’re just piles of junk.
And where’s Ramone? Or Sheriff for that matter? Honestly, I think removing Lightning and/or Mater and including a Ramone and/or Sheriff would have been a smarter move. Lightning McQueen is everywhere and he’s not even the main character of Cars 2. Both he and Mater are available singly in cheap, affordable sets. I doubt including them here made the set any more appealing than if they didn’t. Lastly, since we know the majority of sets coming out for the first half of the year, I can only hope that there will some exclusives that may include a Ramone minicar. But I’m not holding my breath and this will most likely be yet another hugely missed opportunity.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of LEGO Cars, you’d be remiss to not pick up this set, but try to get it on sale as the actual setting that the set is named after is a complete joke. If it weren’t for the excellent cast of characters, there’d be little reason for me to recommend this set. Fillmore, Sally, Sarge, and Flo do not show up anywhere else so you don’t really have a choice if you’re looking to get all the minicars.
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