29 March 2018

REVIEW: UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car

Got wood?

We do enjoy building stuff, like LEGO sets, MEGA Construx stuff, and other random toys that you have to assemble yourself. However, none of those sets were made of wood, and wood isn't something we typically find ourselves interacting with all that much. That changed the day the UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car wooden model set arrived. Read on...

UGears, a new one on us until recently, produce model sets made from laser-cut sheets of plywood. You pop the parts out and assemble them into the model, without a lick of glue in sight: everything wedges together with the aid of a pack of cocktail stick-like rods. The set we were sent to try was one depicting a vintage racing car, the U-9. Here's the impressive looking finished product:

Full disclosure: unlike a LEGO set, we couldn't say we found the process of assembling the car enjoyable. Forcing the wooden parts together requires quite a bit of strength, and we often found our hands were getting sore. There was also the occasional splinter incident from a broken rod. That said, once completed, you have to agree that the model is impressive... and it works, too.

The internal, piston-pumping engine (which took us about two damn hours to assemble alone) actually works, with two rows of pistons moving in and out as the car is pushed along. The effect is great, and although getting there was a lot of effort, it offers a superb amount of realism.

The secret of the movement lays in the many cogs that go into the machine. We have to say that the quality of laser-cut parts was great, with nothing malformed or difficult to pop out of the sheets of plywood. The instructions recommend you sand, and also wax, certain parts. We heartily recommend you take that advice, especially around the cogs to aid movement.

The gears and cogs are all connected together to change how the car works. There are forward, backwards and neutral modes, working steering, and an elastic band-powered crank shaft. There is also a little cubby hole that opens for the driver's gloves.

Rubber bands are also cleverly used to give the wheels tyres, and to create suspension at the front. The wheels were actually very satisfying to make - if repetitive - and we like the lasered on writing.

Another band is used to turn this detailed gear, which doesn't actually achieve anything other than looking cool. Look closely and you'll see all the small and awkward parts (there's 384 altogether), most of which are pinned by those cocktail sticks. Following an included template, you have snap or cut the sticks to the right lengths, and often we were a little confused as to what length was needed.

We do love the cockpit, though. Nice details on the dashboard, and a seat made from curving a finely cut flexible piece of plywood.

And seriously, look at this thing. UGears have nailed the shape of a classic racing car, yet also managed to pack it with so many working parts and realistic details. Once completed it does feel somewhat delicate, especially around the steering wheel, but you can push it along (making the appropriate racing car sounds, of course) and watch the gears turn.

UGears recommend this model kit for anyone over the age of 14, and we'd say that was about right. The instructions were helpful, but at times slightly confusing, and the force required to push some of the parts together would exclude smaller, less capable hands. Still, as a kit for a parent and child to tackle together, it would be fun. It might be something of a task to assemble, but the finished UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car is worth the effort.


Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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