1993 Lexus LS400 / Lego Technic Supercar . .
Where have I been for so long and what have I been doing? This is the answer!
Presenting the Lexus LS400 - a fully featured, fully functional vehicle.
I first had the idea in mid 2010 and I started to build very rough interior MOCs.
The working chassis was completed in January 2012 and I have been slowly completing the body and the finer details. I still have things to add now in June 2012, but it's high time I put it on MOCpages!
It has been built entirely from Lego parts that existed in 1996 at the latest (with a few minor exceptions). I estimate that I used about 4000+ pieces in this build.
Its length is 73 studs and its width is 28. I studied the blueprints for the 1993 Lexus LS400 and used its dimensions to calculate ratios for converting its real-world dimensions into Lego stud dimensions (length, width, height, door length and position). I used the same approach for calculating the wheelbase.
It has full technic functionality (working steering, four-wheel independent suspension, working drive-train, automatic transmission and many others).
It has a full electric light system with on-board battery boxes and the option of connecting an external power supply.
I have tried to include as many features that the real vehicle has and not include any that it doesn't. This creation has some unique features that are world firsts!
My vision was to create a large-scale vehicle that accurately resembled the Lexus LS400 inside and out, as well as having as many of the features possessed by the real car. It had to have a huge list of features and great technical prowess, whilst having solid construction, perfectly smooth operation and easy access to everything.
Now, for the list of features!
Working V8 engine with rear-wheel drive, radiator cooling fans, 40-tooth flywheel and identical 40-tooth harmonic balancer for a smooth moving engine unit.
It has a super-smooth drivetrain with careful selection of gear types and positions. The drivetrain features a rear differential, universal joint and a synchronous automatic transmission. The automatic transmission has three positions; Reverse, Neutral and Drive. It features realistic gearing so that (assuming the motor is driving the rear wheels) when in Drive, the rear wheels rotate clockwise and rapidly, when in Neutral, the rear wheels are not driven at all and when in Reverse, the rear wheels rotate anticlockwise and slowly (as is the case for real vehicles). The selected position of the transmission is indicated with a switched light; (On for Drive, Off for Neutral and Blinking for Reverse).
It has a full 9V electric lighting system including: 3 lights per headlight, 3 per rear light cluster, 2-light brick in the high-mounted brake light, 2 lights in the 'disappearing' instrument cluster, 1 behind the dashboard, 1 inside the glove box and 1 in the selected gear indicator. The dials and artwork for the instrument cluster are completely invisible until the light is switched on.
It features a motorised tilt and telescope steering column (just like the real LS400).
Power for everything comes from either the 3 on-board battery boxes (1 9V PP3 box for the gear indicator, 1 9V PP3 box for the motorised tilt and telescope steering column and 1 6X AA 9V box for all other lights) or an external power supply can be connected.
It features rack and pinion steering (operated by the wheel inside the cabin) with a realistic lock to lock ratio due to some more painstaking gear selection! The steering works on Ackerman's principle whereby the wheel on the inside of the turn turns to a larger extent than the wheel on the outside of the turn to prevent skidding and allow for better cornering.
Independent front suspension features with double-wishbone configuration and dual 6.5L shock absorbers on each wheel. The shock absorbers are always under slight compression to limit each wheel's vertical travel so that they do not rub against anything regardless of their steering position.
It also has an independent rear air suspension system utilising old style pneumatic pump cylinders (part number 4701c01) with two-position adjustable damping rate for Sport mode and Normal mode. The adjustable damping rate's mode is selected with a pneumatic switch located inside the cabin.
Other features include opening and closing doors (all four), bonnet, boot, centre console, glove box with light and a flip-down rear arm rest with cup holders.
The front seats are three-way adjustable with tilt back and forth, slide backwards and forwards and adjustable head rests. The rear seats have adjustable headrests. All adjustments are acheived by rotating toothed half bushes on the sides of each seat.
The interior is extensively detailled and features a multitude of angles and studs connected in several directions. I have designed the interior to resemble the real LS400's interior very closely in terms of shape, proportions and layout. I have spent many hours studying photos of the LS400's interior taken from various angles.
There are no gaps anywhere in the interior (apart from the necessary ones on the door ends), so no stray external light enters the cabin from underneath or the sides.
It has a nine-speaker stereo with rotatable volume knob, transparent neon-green displays for the air conditioner and stereo, front and rear air duct grilles, chrome door handles, front and rear cup holders, rear cigarette lighter, transparent red door lights, 12 button patterned slope bricks on doors for window and seat position memory controls and on the extremes of the dash they act as air conditioner outlet ducts.
It has a fully detailled engine bay featuring a coolant tank and hoses, radiator, relay / fuse box with a removable cover, battery with connectors, air cleaner compartment and air intake.
The wing mirrors are adjustable, as is the rear vision mirror inside the cabin and the sun visors flip down.
Other features include: water jet headlight cleaners, air intake grille along the base of the windscreen, front and rear bumpers with side mouldings, slope bricks to acheive aerodynamic bodywork, including inverted slopes on side skirts and around all bumpers. For a further aerodynamic improvement, it has bonnet, boot and roof plate details, aerodynamically shaped pillars with the front and rear pillars having fairings where they meet the body and it has a rear spoiler. Also featured are dual exhaust outlets, colour-coded door handles, half stud inset rear registration plate holder, half stud outset front grille, 8L whip antenna for radio and an easy-to-lift underside (because it's quite heavy)!
The rear light clusters required a bit of tinkering to get them just right. The real LS400 has very stylish and sophisticated looking rear lights, so I had to put in a good effort here! The arrangement of the slope bricks under the rear and side bumpers underwent a few changes as the build neared completion, but I'm happy with how they look now.
The design of the rear spoiler and the opening parts of the boot changed many times. Those little 30 degree slope tiles are modern parts, but they are an easy way to jazz-up your creation and they fit-in well with older-style parts, too.
The 45 degree slope bricks that span the length of the car create a strong line and give the car a solid and substantial look.
I had built a rough version of the opening doors for one side that was basically the same as the final version in terms of spacings and the half-stud offset of the central pillar for smaller (half-stud) gaps at each door's end. It was tricky getting the gaps as small as possible while keeping the armrests on the insides running the full length of each door.
The lengths of the front and rear doors are actually different; the front doors have a length of 14 studs, while the rear doors are just 10. However, with the 3-long, half-stud offset central pillars attached to the rear doors and the half stud gaps at the end of each door, the rear doors appear to have the same 14 stud length as the front doors, especially when shut. It didn't look right with the doors at any other length (open or closed), so I think it was a good compromise. The longer front doors also allow access to the seat adjustment controls regardless of where the seats are positioned.
Here is the engine bay.I designed it to resemble the real LS400's engine bay. From left to right: the air cleaner housing, air intake pathway, mighty 4-litre V8, cooling system hose, battery with terminals, fuse/relay box (with cover on) and the coolant tank with hose emerging.
I placed 40-tooth gears at each end of the engine (as a flywheel and harmonic balancer) to achieve smooth rotation. The real LS400 has a very smooth and quiet engine with a separate sub-chassis to minimise the transmission of vibrations to the vehicle chassis, so I built a sub-chassis to resemble the real thing. To my surprise, the separate sub-chassis resulted in smoother operation in the Lego world, too! It also provided the engine with great structural strength, so other means of attaching it in place were not necessary, making the whole engine very easy to remove.
Here is the fuse/relay box with its 2X4 cover plate removed. I had to include some pretty colours and artwork somewhere!
The 2X4 cover plate is held in place by a single 1X1 plate, allowing it to swing towards the coolant tank and then be easily removed.
The Lexus LS400 is a long but sleek car with a very low drag coefficient. In other words, it is very aerodynamic. As a result, I used hundreds of slope bricks and raised plates to create an aerodynamic and sleek appearance.
I didn't want any gaps around the headlights or front grille, so the face is fairly flat. The grille sits half a stud proud of the headlights' level, the front bumper wraps around the sides and the water jets are sleek looking, so there are a few things in place to improve its frontal appearance.
I'm very happy with the rear of the car. I had this part worked-out from an early stage (late 2010), with only minor changes to the light clusters and plate heights. I always thought the inset number plate was a nice touch and it makes the real vehicle's rear look pretty nice.
Note the rear wheel pushing up due to the uneven surface. The air suspension control was set to the softer 'Normal' mode here, rather than the stiffer 'Sport' mode.
This angle also shows-off the interior angles as well as the exterior bodywork.
When I look at it from this angle, I'm glad that I decided to lengthen the rear parcel shelf to 6 studs rather than 4. It meets with the rear pillars neatly.
In this photo, all lights are off, but they still catch the light beautifully, in particular the transparent neon green dashboard displays.
It looks slightly sinister and a little bit menacng from this angle, with its shiny, highly reflective exterior and mysterious black interior!
I removed the roof for the following photos, allowing the interior to be seen.
There are five seats, all identical, and a strong 6-wide central area that spans the entire length of the cabin. I am very happy with the interior. Again, this was one of the first areas I focussed on, and I had quite a few things to build around (or allow for in the future) such as the motorised steering column, transmission and its tunnel and the vehicle's wheelbase (which dictated the cabin length).
Symmetry was a strong theme with the interior, as was choosing the right parts to acheive similar angles to the real vehicle. I used many more tiles than I thought, but its hard to imagine the seats without them!
The bonnet has a raised area 12 wide X 13 long with 3X3 wing plates to add a bit of detail to an otherwise boring collection of base plates. It also has an air-conditioner air intake (grille tiles) along the base of the windscreen.
This is where all the action is! You can see: adjustable wing mirrors, opening bonnet, 'disappearing' illuminated instrument cluster, illuminated dash board, opening doors, opening glove box with in-built light, motorised tilt/telescope steering column, working steering wheel, automatic synchronous transmission with Reverse-Neutral-Drive configuration and indicator light, 3-way adjustable seats, opening centre console and 2-position (Sport and Normal) adjustable air suspension control.
My first MOC of the interior wasn't vastly different to the end creation, although I had not built the transmission or air suspension in the early stages and I had no idea how long the cabin would end up being. The biggest challenges were fitting the transmission, motorised steering column and the air suspension control lever. They all just fit - one plate higher or lower for any of them and they wouldn't fit.
Under that hump in the floor is the tail-shaft, just like the real thing. It is accessable by removing the plates on top of the slope bricks. The rear seats are identical to the front seats, but do have only the adjustable headrest controls (because rear seats don't tilt or slide anyway). The flip-down rear armrest folds neatly back up, making it hard to know that its even there! It is offset by half a stud at its base (2X1 jumper plates are very handy parts to have). The rear parcel shelf looks good with a length of 6 studs and it allowed the speakers (dual tiles), subwoofer (central) and high-mounted brake light to be placed perfectly.
The boot opens with a pair of two and three finger hinges, just the same as the bonnet. The boot also has 3X3 wing plate decals, which serve to continue the shape of the rear windscreen. On the real vehicle, the rear windscreen atually curves further out in the middle, so the wing plates help to recreate that effect.
The rear spoiler looks simple enough, but it made me scratch my head for a while! It had to look sleek and sporty, but allow the boot to be opened easily. My original design was based around a boot that was one plate higher than the final version, so its spoiler design had to be scrapped. In the end, I think this spoiler design looks better than the erroneous original.
This is inside the boot. The 6XAA battery pack is closest to being above the rear wheels, as it is the heaviest. The two 9V packs are stacked on top of each other. The lower is constantly on to power the steering column and the upper pack is switchable to power the selected gear indicator light. The steering column's switch is located to the far right, with adjustments made by rotating the small balloon tyre in the directions indicated by the arrows. There was just enough space to fit everything in.
Here is the boot with all battery boxes removed. It is complete and without any gaps. Eight electric wires had to be tamed for this photo! This was a good place to hide the motorised steering column's up/down switch.
This photos shows the motorised adjustable tilt/telescope steering column all the way down and all the way up. It can also be set to anywhere in-between. The steering wheel works at any position. The switch is in the boot, as shown in the previous photos.
LS400 cruising at night with its lights shining bright!
The headlights and rear light clusters all use three lights each, but the headlights shine more brightly because they have unfiltered, direct light output.
All lights glowing brightly! Notice how soon after the rear bumper the red light beams begin. I imagined the light would require a longer distance before it reached the ground, seeing as they are fairly high.
The headlights glow very brightly with three lights in each. The beams turned out to be perfect, starting just a few centimetres forward of the front bumper and continuing on for some distance. I was concerned that the headlight water jets (30 degree 1X1 slope tiles) would block some of the light and cast shadows, but they made no difference at all! I added these toward the final stages of the build and I'm glad i tried them because they add to the list of luxury features.
The lights shine brightly and evenly when viewed from the sides, too. The tubes in the 45 degree transparent clear slope bricks help to conduct the light.
This is how I made the sides of the headlights with standard transparent clear 45 degree slope bricks (transparent clear inverted slope bricks don't exist). A technic half pin was inserted short-end first into the slope brick's tube and the long end of the pin went through a technic plate's hole, which was covered by a black 45 degree slope brick.
The headlights have a fairly solid, singular beam of light emerging from them, rather than three separate points of light, which is exactly what I wanted.
This is one of my favourite photos. I used the bluescreen on my old television in an otherwise pitch-black room to replicate the early morning blue light of dawn.
The lights have realistic levels of brightness inside and out, thanks mainly to the use of thin paper linings where appropriate.
The high mounted brake light uses a 1X6 transparent red brick (a rare but great part) lined with thin paper and illuminated by a 1X4 dual light brick. I lined the transparent red brick with thin paper so the light is distributed evenly across the entire width of the brick. It works well and it's a nice, luxurious feature!
The LS400's rear light clusters are sleek, wide and elegant, so I had to put in a special effort to make them look nice on my vehicle. They are lined with thin paper for two purposes: to promote even distribution of light from all angles and to prevent direct light escaping from the small gaps at the ends of the slope bricks on the light clusters' sides.
The thin paper linings definitely improved how the rear lights looked without them. It even transmits the light evenly to the sides of the rear light clusters.
This is a shot of inside the boot. The glowing part is a 2X1 transparent black brick that acts as an interior light for the boot. It obtains its light from the high-mounted brake light's dual light brick, hence the slightly red colouration.
The interior was one of the most important parts of this build. It had to look very grand and luxurious, as well as posessing many functions and resembling the real LS400's interior as closely as possible.
The dash board lights glow brightly and evenly, thanks to a thin paper lining behind the dash. The transparent neon green plates really leap out, even with external light sources.
Here's the instrument cluster glowing brightly! It is a 'disappearing' instrument cluster as it is completely invisible when power is removed. It has two lights behind it to illuminate the whole display evenly. The printed paper behind has a black background with non-printed segments that allow light to pass through. I coloured some of the segments with pencils - ink of any description will block the light! There is a gap along the bottom to allow light to directly illuminate the two transparent red tiles for the 3D effect of the real LS400's display. This feature has also been designed to resemble the real car - it has a similar layout of gauges and indicator lights as well as a similar colour scheme.
Peering-in to view the 'disappearing' instrument cluster. This one is fancier than the one in my Rally7 Land Cruiser. The LS400's display has a black background and coloured segments, as well as two 1X2 transparent red tiles under the transparent black 1X4 display brick. This was to replicate the 3D effect of the real LS400's instrument cluster. Also, from extreme angles, thin laser-like beams of bright red light can be seen. It is a quirk of the real car that I thought worthwhile including here!
Here is a nice low-angle shot of the interior as seen from the passenger's side. The glove box closes seamlessly and often goes unnoticed. This was an idea I had half thought about, but I decided to elaborate and develop an opening glove box as the front of the cabin neared completion (because such a feature would be almost impossible to retro-fit to a completed interior).
I went all-out and decided to include a separate light to illuminate the interior of the glove box as well. It took a lot of tinkering and even more patience, but I eventually worked it out.
What I ended-up with was one of the nicest features of this luxury car's interior and what could be a world first.
Top view of the front cabin. The dashboard and gear indicator lights are on.
The light inside the transmission is filtered through a 2X1 transparent clear plate, then a 1X1 transparent dark blue plate and finally a transparent green tile. The transparent dark blue plate corrects the yellowish light to a more white shade before it passes through the transparent green tile. The result is an emerald green, almost aqua light. Using only transparent green filters resulted in a very yellowish shade of green light. I had the space to include the extra filter, so I did!
This underside view of the partially constructed automatic transmission shows the blue-green colour of the light filter with natural light passing through.
This is what the driver sees! The 3D effect of the instrument cluster can be seen in this photo, with the red lights in the foreground and the gauges in the background. The tiles used in the central part sit one plate below the side tiles, so items placed there will not slide off the edges.
Peering in from through the passenger-side windscreen. The doors have just the right amount of woodgrain. the six-studs-wide central part is on exactly the same level as the centre rear seat, greatly contributing to the neat and consistent styling of the interior. The twin cup holders fit-in nicely in front of the opening storage compartment.
The storage compartment with its lid open to reveal the air-suspension adjustment switch. This is a pneumatic switch with two settings: Sport mode for a stiffer, more responsive air suspension system and Normal mode for a softer and more comfortable ride.
The air suspension is in Sport mode in the photo. The lever can be pushed back to select the Normal mode. It took some fancy work with 1X1 tiles, 1X1 headlight bricks and 2X1 jumper tiles to fill-in the gaps around the pneumatic switch and its tubes!
The three-way adjustable seats are compact, almost completely sealed and in keeping with the vehicle's styling. I designed the rack and pinion tracking system to be as well hidden from sight as possible, while maintaining a decent amount of travel. All three adjustments are made via the three half bushes on the sides of the seat. The top control adjusts the height of the headrest, the middle control adjusts the tilt of the backrest and the lower control adjusts the slide back and forth.
In this photo, the seat is as far forward as it can go, so the rack gear (on the floor) is currently at its most conspicuous - the further back the seats go, the less it can be seen! The headrest is down and the seat is tilted as far forward as it can go.
In this photo, the seat has been slid back some of the way. It has a travel of approximately 2.5 studs, which works nicely for this vehicle.
The seat has been tilted back as far as it can go. It tilts back until it is touching the rear seats. I specially chose two and three finger hinges that had the strongest holding power. Some hinges hold more tightly than others. But, careful selection has allowed the seats to hold their tilt position regardless of where that may be!
The headrest is fully extended in this photo. This, like the other two controls is infinitely adjustable. It can be set to any height and it will hold that headrest height, even if the seat is slid and tilted in the meantime! The system works with a cam and gravity - nothing particularly amazing, but it sure works well!
The nicely detailled front passenger door features the in/out slope brick configuration that is consistently on the same level throughout the cabin.
Notice the 1X1 and 1X4 tiles mountd with studs-not-on-top technique on the door's end to fill the half stud gap as much as possible, without hindering the operation of the door. The doors were one of the first things I worked on. They had to feel substantial and establish the 'tank'-like feel of the car. They even have a nice dull 'thud' sound when closed!
A closeup shot of the front passenger door. The storage bin can be seen running along the lower portion of the door, as well as the speaker (1X1 tile) and finishing details to the right of the speaker (using a 1X1 plate, tile and 30 degree slope tile). The transparent red 'door unlocked' indicator snib can be clearly seen behind the chrome grille tile.
Only minor changes in height occured since the first door MOC I knocked-together. The door detailling was one of the few things I was very sure about right from the start.
The rear passenger-side door open. The detailling I put into all four doors was designed to recreate the luxurious and solid feel of the doors on the real LS400. They all have a thickness of three studs, with slope bricks on both their exteriors and interiors. They all have a brown 'woodgrain' trim and chrome handles with transparent red 'unlocked' indicators on the snibs. They all have storage bins along the bottoms, speakers, buttons and their slope bricks are all on the same level and have similar styling. The rear doors also have transparent red lights to warn other motorists that the doors are open at night. All four doors have tiles mounted on the door ends to block the half stud gap as much as possible, whilst retaining their ability to open and close.
The three-stud-wide central pillars have slope bricks that follow the same curves as the doors, to continue the theme along the entire length of the cabin.
A shot from the rear passenger-side seat. You can see the rear hinge of the centre console, the two air-conditioner air outlets, the round cigarette lighter and the hump in the floor, under which is the upper universal joint of the tailshaft. Like the real LS400, the centre rear seat is slightly higher than the other two rear seats.
I used new parts for almost everything in the LS400. Everything that can be easily seen was built with new parts, including the interior and all bodywork. The need to use new parts or very good condition parts slowed-down the build considerably. Inspecting every part as you go can be a pain, but it's worth it if you plan on keeping the creation for a while!
This is a very familiar sight to me! I must have spent hours staring at the LS400 from its sides, then comparing with the blueprints. The ratios I calculated for its proportions say that for a width of 28 studs, a length of 73 studs is as close to the true proportions as possible. Now, when I look at its sides, I frown slightly less than I did before...
The rear lights really help to convey the Lexus look. The rear was another part of the build I was fairly sure about right from the beginning.
The front does not contain any particularly fancy parts, but the use of many slope bricks and increasing plate heights both contribute to the aerodynamic Lexus look. I'm happy with the width of the roof, its raised plates and the hinge plates used in the pillars on the sides of the windscreen.
-------------------- Let's Get Technical! --------------------
The underside in all its glory!
The following underside photos are best viewed when you click to enlarge them.
The chassis is very strong with extensive use of reinforcing beams, plates and cross-pinned beams. You can see the many 45 degree inverted slope bricks that run along the entire underside perimeter. The electric system's wires are routed neatly along the side channels and disappear up under the rear passenger seats, where they run along under the rear parcel shelf and exit from two small (one plate high X one plate wide) holes that lead into the boot. There is a tunnel behind the holes to effectively seal the boot, at least from light. They connect to the battery boxes and control switches in the boot.
Also visible is the pneumatic air suspension's tube running from the switch in the cabin, emerging from a technic plate and following the same path as the electric wires (under the rear seats) before passing through a technic beam's hole (to keep it away from moving parts) and connecting to a 'T' piece, splitting it into two tubes to feed each of the pneumatic pumps.
I tried to make the chassis as symmetrical as possible.
The areas immediately above and below where the wishbones for the front suspension connect are very strong in order to withstand the forces generated by the weight of the vehicle on the front suspension. When I first build a rough version of the front steering and suspension, it was always coming apart. I think having the shock absorbers continually under slight compression might increase the forces. And, limiting the vertical travel means that they reach maximum compression sooner. Good reinforcement is a must!
Any wires trapped under plates are held by single plates only, making them easier to access. Some of the electric wires in my Rally7 Land Cruiser and Snow Plough creations would be very difficult to remove, requiring extensive dismantling.
From this angle, you can see the air channels running along each side. These aren't quite as pronounced on the real vehicle, but they're still there!
The easy-to-lift underside that I mentioned is shown here. The bricks and beams are built-up around the electric plates and wires, transmission and all moving parts. This prevents any accidental contact and the width of the built-up central area (12 studs wide) fits nicely in your hands. I really don't want to drop this one...
Here's where the action is! You can see the transmission, with its partially free-standing 6 studs wide area where the first five gears are connected. It is easyily dismantled, with easy access to the switch and changeover catch, should re-alignment ever be needed. The shaft running from the motor to the transmission is also viewable and fairly easy to access.
I used lots of 2X4,6,8 and 10 bricks instead of technic beams, as bricks are lighter (and cheaper to buy).
Originally, I used a 6X10 plate for the underside of the rear suspension, but I revised it to dual 4X6 plates for easier removal, having had to remove the 6X10 plate a few times to re-attach the 12-tooth bevel gears inside the differential. These can almost be replaced through the 2X6 gap now, but at least it's easier to remove the two 4X6 plates.
On the far right you can see two electric wires connected together. This is the external power input with external power currently connected. In the future, I'll put a plate here so the external power supply wire can be disconnected more easily.
This photo shows how the easy-to-lift central area sits eight plates higher than its surroundings to protect the transmission and electrical elements.
The input shaft of the transmission finishes with a 24-tooth gear, which meshes with an identical 24-tooth idler gear and finally with the 40-tooth flywheel of the engine.
The automatic transmission from underneath. From this angle, Ape Fight (one of the best builders on MOCpages) may recognise his design. I began by making the very same gearbox as the one in his Rat Rod, then I added a few more bells and whistles! My transmission has two extra 16-tooth gears to gain extra height (but this does not effect the gearing ratios or performance), a switched 'selected gear' light and my input shaft (from motor into transmission) exits the transmission from one of the extra 16-tooth idler gears I included.
I examined automatic transmissions from all over the web and developed a few of my own, but overall, Ape Fight's auto transmission was the best for this application.
The 16-tooth gear meshing with the 24-tooth gear is the one of the extra idler gears I included. The red changeover catch is connected to the switch that controls whether the gear indicator lamp is on, off or blinking for drive, neutral and reverse, respectively.
The other extra 16-tooth idler gear can be seen here, in line with the red changeover catch.
I designed the gearbox to be compact, strong and easy to access and dismantle if necessary. I thought that the pole switch and changeover catch may become mis-aligned after some use, but I haven't had any problems with them so far.
This is a photo looking up under the front passenger-side wheel arch. Two wires connect to the 2X8 electric plate - one runs back to the battery box and the other runs across to the other (driver-side) headlight array.
I used half bushes on the wishbones rather than full bushes, to acheive a tighter steering angle.
The vertical, cross-pinned beams help to add strength to the steering and suspension system and stop it from disintegrating!
The grey technic plate near the electric plate is connected to the battery's positive terminal. It doesn't go anywhere in particular, but at least it's near an electric element!
You can also see the front of the engine. It has a 40-tooth harmonic balancer (to match the 40-tooth flywheel for super-smooth rotation), dual three-blade cooling fans and a nice little 14-tooth gear for good measure.
This is the engine-less engine bay, revealing the steering mechanism and front independent suspension. Note the gearing-down of the steering.
The following photos show the LS400 in the early stages of construction.
The fully-built interior. The only thing that changed since then and now was the positioning of the front seats - they have since been moved forward by one stud.
Here is an early stage (around December 2011). I had figured-out the basics of how I wanted the front, rear and sides to look. I had also built the interior including the seats. I even had most of the mechanical features built - the automatic transmission with gear indicator light, air suspension, front suspension and steering.
The only problem I faced was connecting everything together. It was only one problem, but unfortunately quite a large one...
It Lives! I tinkered around with bricks and plates for several hours, measuring and comparing heights until everything was lined-up and fully functional. At this stage, it was very flimsy, but this temporary chassis was enough to show how it could work. I wasn't even remotely concerned about the wheelbase or vehicle body height at this stage, all that mattered was that everything worked!
I didn't have the tail shaft installed at this stage. I thought that gears directly driving the engine would be smoother than universal joints on all sorts of angles, but with the height differences between the transmission output axle and the rear wheels' input axle, the only way to connect them was with a series of gears akin to what you might find inside Big Ben. It was all too complicated and getting away from how it's done in a real car, so I gave-in and tried two universal joints and a tail-shaft axle. It worked so well from the start and I never looked back!
Here, the rear differential and its connecting gears can be seen. The newly added upper universal joint and tailshaft can just be seen through the removed plate on the central floor hump. the pneumatic air suspension's hose carefully makes its way through the gap. The hose is threaded through the holes of technic beams and plates, keeping it well away from any moving parts and sharp edges. At this stage, all basic mechanical functions had been refined and completed.
Over the course of a few consecutive days in January 2012 (mid-summer in Australia with 40+ degrees celsius temperatures) I just went for it and I came up with this fully-functional chassis.
This photo was taken in January or February 2012. At this stage, I was relieved that it all came together and I had a working chassis to fit the body and interior.
For stress-minimisation purposes, I highly recommend that you begin a large-scale build with the chassis. I was staying up until after midnight sometimes because I had to know if things were going to work - I would not rest until I knew the facts!
I was so glad when I reached this stage because I knew that the LS400 would soon become a reality!
This picture shows the LS400 with a length of 73 studs, the length that I finally decided to use. I was testing various lengths at this stage. I narrowed it down to 71 or 73 studs. 73 was the closest to the true ratio of length-to-width, but 71 looked good, too. I had a bit more of a think about the roof and its pillars and I also decided to lengthen the rear parcel shelf from 4 long to 6. Then it was an easy choice: 73!
This is the engine bay as the vehicle neared completion (March or April 2012). It looks so bare! I wasn't in a hurry to complete the detailling of the engine bay, in case I had any more concerns with the steering. The red micro-motor can be seen here. This drives the adjustable tilt/telescope steering column. It is a belt-driven mechanism so if the motor is powered even after full tilt has been reached, the belt will slip, which is much better than gears grinding and breaking!
The micro-motor drives a half bush that has a worm gear on the same axle. The worm gear meshes with a 16-tooth gear sharing its axle with a 14-tooth gear that meshes with another 14-tooth gear (at a right angle) that shares its axle with a perpendicular technic axle joiner (part 6536) through which the steering column axle passes. As the motor is powered, the perpendicular technic axle joiner tilts the steering column.
Before I built the boot: You can see the two pneumatic pumps in action here, springs slightly compressed by the wheels on this surface. They look like they might scrub on those 33 degree inverted slope bricks, but they definitely don't!
Note also the plates and bricks around the sides of the rear seats. These are all in place to prevent the ingress of light from the underside of the car. I did not want any gaps in the cabin, especially not holes in the floor or around the rear seats. It took quite a lot of trial and error (some methods were fine until I tried to close the doors!) but it does the job nicely now.
-------------------- Seats --------------------
This photo shows one of the front seats slid all the way forward, then back. I have removed the seat to reveal the mechanism - a simple rack and pinion setup for a travel length of about 2.5 studs. A four-stud length axle is held by a technic brick (with axle holder) under the front of the seat and it passes through a fixed 2X1 technic beam, which acts to hold the axle and stabilise the seat. The sliding mechanism is very smooth and easy to operate.
This four-in-one photo shows the seat at various tilts. Tilting is acheived by two pairs of two and three finger hinges. I deliberately selected hinge combinations with strong holding abilities, so the seats can hold any position. The centre half bush does not rotate, but is fixed to the seat's backrest, providing a good pivot point for tilting the seat back and forth.
The seats in the real LS400 are technological marvels - all functions are electronic and actuated by silent motors. There are no rotary-style controls, but these seats didn't have room for micro motors, switches, wires, etc.
The driver's seat with the rear cover removed. I used a 4X6 plate with studs only on its edges so the headrests can still be adjusted. As can be seen, the headrests are lifted up and down by a cam mechanism with a four stud axle and six half bushes. Half bushes were used because full bushes have a non-smooth end (for attaching to plates) that caught on the full bushes of the headrest's axles.
They hold their position regardless of where they are set to, despite being held only by gravity. They even hold their positions if the seats are slid and tilted.
The photos show the headrest fully up, then holding its partially lowered level, then all the way down. The headrests have a travel length of one stud.
Below the headrest cam mechanism is a good old-fashioned technic connector. This is attached to an axle and the external half bush that is used to tilt the seats back and forth.
All of the mechanisms included in the seats have just enough room to still function. These are the most highly functional seats I have created. I'm not sure if 3-way adjustable seats are a first, but they're the first I've built!
This is a good angle, showing all of the mechanisms up close.
I had the seats worked-out for quite some time. I had to build the rest of the car to put them in. But, a year later and they have found a home!
-------------------- Pneumatic Air Susupension System --------------------
This is the hugely complex air suspension system.
I have seen other air suspension systems, but all have used pneumatic cylinders hooked-up to compressors, rather than a simple pneumatic pump and pneumatic switch. Compressor designs use power, so wires need to be routed to and from the susupension setup. Unless you involve a bulky air tank as well, you need to power-up your compressor each time you wish to change the suspension setting. Also, compressor designs with pneumatic cylinders are prone to being unbalanced.
With my simple design, the air-damped pneumatic pump is also sprung like a traditional shock absorber and it has two clear-cut settings, which are always consistent and they can be switched between as often as you like without the use of power. Essentially, pneumatic pumps (connected with a T connector and hooked-up to a pneumatic switch) can be used in your suspension setup in exactly the same way as an ordinary shock absorber. When the switch is in the central position, the valve is closed and the air is trapped inside the pump and hoses, creating a relatively stiff suspension. When the switch is in either of the angled positions, the valve is opened and the air is allowed to escape, resulting in a softer suspension. Air is also allowed back into the pumps in the soft setting, so the pumps still give good shock-absorbing performance (they don't collapse).
For the heavy LS400, the change is subtle but still quite noticeable. When this system is used in lighter vehicles, the difference between the soft and hard settings becomes even more noticeable. For super light-weight builds, the hard setting may be too hard. For the LS400, this air suspension setup works quite well.
I think this is a world first method for a Lego air suspension system!
This is the final design for the air suspension system. It was very tricky to shrink the system down to a total width of 28 studs without excessively raising the height of the pneumatic pumps. The travel of the suspension is just about perfect for the LS400. There is no rubbing and no excessive angles for the universal joints.
At this stage, I had only one yellow pneumatic pump, but it gave me enough of an idea about how the suspension would behave.
------------------ Automatic Transmission with Selected Gear Indicator ------------------
I built a separate automatic transmisssion with white beams for easier viewing. Its mechanism is identical to the one built into the LS400.
Note the coloured plates - I used colours to clearly show the mounting heights for each axle and moving part.
The axle with the wheel is the output shaft, which goes to the rear wheels. The axle with the 3-blade rotor is the input shaft, and is connected to the engine.
Everything is very tightly packed.
The light has just enough room to fit in without touching any moving parts, in particular the driving ring.
The light looks very nice, but let's remove it for a second and have a look inside at the workings!
Remember, real cars' engines turn the input shaft (3-blade rotor end of gearbox), the gearbox selects the gear, then the output shaft (wheel end of gearbox) turns and rotates the rear wheels.
But, in the Lego world, the reverse occurs - the rear wheels are turned, power comes into the gearbox via its output shaft, the gearbox selects the gear, power is then transmitted from the gearbox's input shaft to rotate the engine.
I have geared this transmission in the same way as a real car, assuming that the engine turns the rear wheels. However, when I push the LS400 along, so the rear wheels are driving the motor, changing gears only alters the speed and rotational direction of the engine. In drive, the engine rotates slowly. In reverse, the engine rotates more rapidly and in the opposite direction. When neutral is selected, the engine does not rotate at all, but the rear wheels can still freely rotate.
More details can be found on my Automatic Transmission with Selected Gear Indicator Light page available: http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/328281
Here are a few more pictures taken in natural light:
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