Home » Watch Me Build A Strange VW Beetle Model Kit That Can Only Exist Because Lego’s Patents Expired

Watch Me Build A Strange VW Beetle Model Kit That Can Only Exist Because Lego’s Patents Expired

Vwbeetlekit Top

I’ve always been someone who likes to build things with my hands (tongues just don’t cut it) but I’ve never really built that many car model kits. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s not like the things I did end up building were more significant in any way, but I think maybe I just didn’t have the patience for all the glue and sprues and ewes that model kits involve. Well, happily, our social media entity Peter sent me a fun, quick model kit of a car with a lot of personal significance to me: a yellow VW Beetle. What makes this kit, made by Airfix, interesting is that it uses a sort of hybrid Lego/conventional model kit approach that’s not like anything I’ve ever seen. So, I got my kid, Otto, to lend some hands and help/impair me in making it, all captured on video for your considerable enjoyment. What a world, right?

To understand what I mean by the Lego/model hybrid, take a look at these pieces:


See what I mean? Airfix is using Lego tech as a means of fastening, while simultaneously designing parts just to hide their secret Legosity. This is all possible because Lego’s patents for their interlocking brick system expired a number of years ago, meaning that anyone can make bricks that are compatible with the Lego System, and strange mutants like this model kit are the result.

Want to see how easy it makes it to build a model? Of course you do! And, there’s Beetle fun facts in this video, as well as a determination of what year this Beetle likely is intended to be:

Look at that! It’s so easy! So quick! Even with a kid whose idea of “helping” is loose, at best!

The amount it doesn’t look like Lego when it’s built is impressive, too. Just compare this to Lego’s two previous attempts to make a Beetle model:

Lego Airfix Bugcomp

While the pure Lego Beetles definitely have their own idiosyncratic charm, if you’re going for visual accuracy, the Airfix hybrid approach clearly has a huge advantage. I gotta say I really like the pixellated look of Lego’s first Beetle kit on the left, though, because I appreciate a good struggle.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy watching my hands manipulate bits of plastic!




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19 Responses

  1. Along with the locking system actually used on Lego they developed and patented like a dozen other ways of locking them so others couldn’t make compatible systems.

  2. Oh man, memories. My three brothers and I all built model cars back in the ’70s—Revell and AMT kits, mostly. The eldest brother was the craftsman of the bunch and really took them to the next level with detailed paint work, customization, even using thread to simulate some of the wiring in the engine bay.

    As for the rest of us, we would enjoy our sloppy creations for a little while until our juvenile appetite for destruction took over. Vise. Baseball bat (self-pitch). It was its own kind of creativity…

  3. “yeah, that was the ’80’s. No one cared.”

    Flashback to riding down the highway at 65 mph sliding around the bed of dad’s ’77 Chevy truck. Yep… checks out.

  4. The first Lego Beetle looks like the Minecraft variant. I often considered by the less blocky current version, but never did.

    I enjoyed building plastic model kits in my youth as well. I distinctly remember modifying a Ford Econoline kit with and Estes rocket engine and sending it down the golf course fairway at incredible speed. Sadly it only enjoyed one run because the chute ejection charge immolated the remnants. Buckaroo Banzai would have been proud.

  5. takes half the fun out of model building, the glue, kidding that stuff when I was a kid was nasty, after an hour gluing my spidey sense would be tingling

    1. My Dad used to ask me if that was actually what I was doing in my room’s toluene-drenched atmosphere: building models? He must have worried that I’d taken to huffing glue — all the signs were there!

  6. I think Lego had a policy no matter what kit you buy the parts are usable with other Lego kits and pieces. So you need those almost Logo like shapes on top and bottom.

    1. this is still true, but that doesn’t mean that the studs or holes have to be on whatever the piece is, or even a certain shape, only that if you used it for something else it would still fit.

  7. Can Otto be in every Autopian video? I want him to review RV sleeping compartments for Mercedes, and serve as navigator when Uncle David decides to overland his ZJ.

  8. I was struck by how advanced is Otto (relative to his Dad) regarding the video presentation aspect of the build: carefully positioning the parts for clear shots, giving “thumbs up”, etc. I also note how thoroughly indoctrinated he is into Beetle-mania — I guess that’s unavoidable, growing up in Torch’s place.

    Next up for Airfix: a Meyer’s Manx conversion kit!

  9. I got a couple of these for my boys for Christmas and we had a lot of fun putting them together. While I gave them a lot of help on the initial build (7 and 5 year old) they have managed to break them and put them back together themselves since then.
    I also received a couple of Lego car kits which I had fun putting together but I wish they would have gone a little more of a middle ground between the Airfix mode of large panels that are accurate but involve little building and the Lego that had more building involved but didn’t look great at the end. Something made entirely out of standard bricks would have had a charming clumsiness that I would appreciate but it wasn’t that either. They clearly made a number of pieces specifically for the kit but stopped short of making it actually look good that could have been achieved with even a few more of those kind of pieces.

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