Hundreds of instruction books for old LEGO sets
May 29, 2007 5:45 PM   Subscribe

The Brickfactory. Hundreds of instruction booklets for LEGO kits, organized by year, theme, number and name. If you're like me, just seeing the covers of some of these old kits will make you teary-eyed. (#268, the 1979 Family Room kit did it for me.)
posted by Lucinda (65 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
#483, the Alpha-1 Rocket Base. I can't recall what I had for breakfast today, but I can remember every last crater and stud of that baseplate. Best toy ever. Thanks; great find!
posted by phooky at 5:56 PM on May 29, 2007

Oh lordy, I guess the craving never really went away, but now I'm really feeling it.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 5:57 PM on May 29, 2007

I still have the original pirate ship at my mother's house. You're my new hero.
posted by IronLizard at 5:58 PM on May 29, 2007

It's right here.
posted by IronLizard at 6:00 PM on May 29, 2007

Well, that didn't work.
posted by IronLizard at 6:00 PM on May 29, 2007

This is it.
posted by IronLizard at 6:01 PM on May 29, 2007

I think that Legos are the reason I really had kids, so that I could justify buying more as an adult.
posted by davejay at 6:05 PM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

We never had Legos when I was a kid. (sob) My parents thought they were too expensive and wouldn't buy them.

We had Tinkertoys, and we had clay and blocks. My sister had a Barbie doll. But no Legos.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2007

This is awesome, thanks for the find.
posted by retronic at 6:11 PM on May 29, 2007

Oh, Galaxy Explorer, how fondly I remember thee...
posted by kaseijin at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2007

Wow. I'm pretty sure I had this one.. We weren't into the kits so much as the general block sets. We had this orange crate full of cut down milk cartons to sort out the different size/color bricks. I'm pretty sure we had the town board too. Fuck I'm old, but the kits for making a specific thing just seem to be counter to the creative point of Legos...
posted by Eekacat at 6:19 PM on May 29, 2007

Holy cats, I had a bunch of these.

The important thing, of course, was once you finished building what you were supposed to build, you could add the legos to your GIANT EVIL ROBOT that was as big as your younger brother.

Good times, good times.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2007

This post deserves to be in the sidebar. Great post!
posted by KokuRyu at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2007

Oh man, the space empires me and two of my best friends built. A highly modified M-Tron Vector Dector was the coolest of my ships. The first LEGO set I ever got was a Space Police Message Decoder. I donno if my cousins have pulled it apart by now or if my parents have given it away. But it still had all its parts when I left for college five years ago.

Erg...well, I might as well plunge in and say I had a lot of the smaller sets from Blacktron, Futuron (the Auxiliary Patroller and Strategic Pursuer where my favorites), Exploriens, and Ufo. But these were supplementary vehicles to my super cool space base and unique creations.

However, my two other Lego Head best friends outclassed me in their own distinct ways. T's limited Lego resources was no hindrance to incredible imagination he expressed in building; fully articulated limbs, hidden compartments, incredibly detailed models were the expression of his Lego genius.

B, on the other hand, had seemingly limitless Lego resources with which he could pull together crushing armies with vast arrays of Lego laser arrays and missile pods. His collection bristled with Lego wealth.

Each had a flagship of their own, their unique fighter jet in which they invested much energy into creating break away escape pods or separating fighting wings.

It makes me wish I could visit that time again and engage in some Lego battles, flying around our ships and arguing who got who in our imaginary battles. Sometimes things would get tense... You cannot imagine things that would make you too powerful. That single light disc on the side of your ship could not be a world destroyer. Nor was it safe to imagine your ship to have too realistic constraints, or you would definitely lose. Arguments might've been common if we were people who took things too seriously, but inevitably we grow tired of Legos and go outside to hit each other with sticks, or go play video games, or get some kool-aid.
posted by Mister Cheese at 6:29 PM on May 29, 2007

I bet you can pinpoint my age by the fact that my first Legos were 542 (Street Crew) and 554 (Fuel Pumper).

I'm actually surprised by how many of the early space ones I had. Pretty much every one in the 400s. And then a couple of years ago I bought 7468 (Saturn V Moon Mission). Some things never change.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 PM on May 29, 2007

I had a bunch of these things when I was a kid. I played with them way later than it was "cool" to do so. I remember thinking I was too old and putting them in a bucket in my Mom's basement where they sat for the last 20 years.

Last week I was back in my hometown visitng my Mom with my 2 little kids (3 & 5). I can't begin to tell you how cool it was to bring out that bucket of legos and play with my offspring. To kinda echo what phooky said, I don't remember much about the present, but I remember those bricks.
posted by bobbarnesmn at 6:47 PM on May 29, 2007

This is wonderful, thanks!... I don't remember having kits, but my step-sister and I had tons and tons of Lego blocks and bases, including some that we confiscated from my step-brother when he "outgrew" them (but, really, do you ever "outgrow" Legos?) We used them to make houses and furniture for our Barbies lol... Both of my kids have loved Legos too, and my son (age 14) still plays with them on a regular basis... They are ageless and timeless.
posted by amyms at 6:50 PM on May 29, 2007

I wish Lego hadn't gone all prefab. The Anubis Chamber? WTF? I think I see one Lego in that.

I have become old and cantankerous: give me the creative purity of the Deluxe Lego Brick Box. Also throw in the baseplates and one of those house sets for the awesome windows and doors.

And then I may never move again.
posted by Tehanu at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2007

Pure awesomeness. Thanks.
posted by taliaferro at 7:07 PM on May 29, 2007

This is really, really, really awesome.

The only problem I see is where to get the unique, oddball parts that some of those old sets used. The landing gear on the bottom of the Galaxy Explorer, for example... do they still make those weird things?
posted by 40 Watt at 7:07 PM on May 29, 2007

I think the Galaxy Explorer may have been the single greatest thing of all my childhood.
posted by bjrubble at 7:12 PM on May 29, 2007

I... I... gotta go to Target real quick.
posted by boo_radley at 7:14 PM on May 29, 2007

I had big crate of general legos. The only specialized kit I had was this one. Awesome.
posted by brundlefly at 7:17 PM on May 29, 2007

No Konzentrationslager?

But seriously, this architectural toy site occupied me for a long time.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:29 PM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Tehanu writes "give me the creative purity of the Deluxe Lego Brick Box"

Yeah, that's the one I had, but none of the specialized kits. I had Legos back in the '70s, and IIRC the sets with bricks and no unique parts were much more prevalent back then. You can make anything (sort of) with block Legos, but you can only make one thing with the pre-designed sets.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:31 PM on May 29, 2007

I think the Galaxy Explorer may have been the single greatest thing of all my childhood.

I would agree with you, except I also had the very large Space:1999 Eagle. The Galaxy Explorer might have radiated awesomeness, but... EAGLE.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 PM on May 29, 2007

anybody like me got the raw deal with the Sears version, Brix Blox? Then again, I didn't feel that stunted, but still.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2007

My childhood favorites – Galaxy Explorer and Alpha-1 Rocket Base – seem to have been far from unique. (I liked them better before they sold out.)

The otherwise fantastic site BrotherCaine linked doesn't seem to have listed my other childhood favorite building set, Girder and Panel, but wouldn't you know it, Google tells me there is an active Girder and Panel collecting community.

This is a great nostalgia trip – thanks.
posted by RogerB at 7:38 PM on May 29, 2007

(I botched the re-link to the great architectural toy site that BrotherCaine posted, but it's still worth linking twice.)
posted by RogerB at 7:42 PM on May 29, 2007

Ah, man, looking through the later sets makes me realize one of the reasons why I don't like Legos anymore. Like some others upthread have mentioned, a lot of the specialized sets nowadays are more like superspecialized like the Anubis Chamber Tehanu mentions.

I think the prime of Lego was somewhere in between the very basic brick sets and the earlier specialized sets like Futuron and the early Pirate and Castle and Town stuff. You could mix pretty well across those different themes if you had some creativity. Now adays you've got stuff like Harry Potter and Batman. Waaaay too specific for my tastes. The cool thing about the early specialized stuff like Futuron is that you could build alternate designs that actually looked like it just wasn't some random reconfiguration of parts; supplementing with pieces outside of the sets was what made it awesome. Looking back at the clean lines of Futuron and hells, even the early Police force stuff and I really appreciate the creativity they allowed for.

Now... now there are lego people with anime hair styles. I shudder. SHUDDER.
posted by Mister Cheese at 7:44 PM on May 29, 2007

I bought the Galaxy Explorer on my family's second trip to Hilton Head.

I saved up for a full year from the previous trip knowing I was gonna spend my money at that cool toy store that had all the Lego kits I'd never seen in my hometown

posted by Mick at 7:50 PM on May 29, 2007

Ditto on the Galaxy Explorer. Made a nice mother ship or bringer of Death From Above to my Surface Explorer #6880.

Raise you hand if the Galaxy Explorer was in the form shown on the box when you first got it and never assumed that form ever again. I would always figure out a way to make a more magnificent weapon's compliment every time I reassembled it.

I think the airport was the only one I rarely modded, my grandparents help me put it together the first time. After my Galaxy Explorer would execute countless bombing runs on it, I could reassemble it blindfolded in under 2 minutes.

Question did anyone ever attempt the 'alt' assemblies on the box or just scoff at the photos and think, 'that's the best you guys could come up with?'

Love the manuals... but dude needs to learn php, frames and javascript generated html pages makes linking a pain.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:52 PM on May 29, 2007

Very cool link. According to something in a book I read, the themed highly specific place sets are in response to the fact that apparently kids of today will only build the things on the box, and want them to be connected to existing brands. To me, Legos were always about possibility, though I never had many legos (If I did, mom and day, I would have maybe got that engineering degree).
posted by drezdn at 7:54 PM on May 29, 2007

apparently kids of today will only build the things on the box

Damn kids! When I was your age, they didn't have all this Bionicle stuff or Star Wars Legos! You had SPACE LEGOS, damn it, and they were LEGOS IN SPACE. You wanted more plot than that, you made it up yourself.

Now get the hell off my lawn and leave me along with my Robot Command Center.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:13 PM on May 29, 2007

Seriously, though, the fact that kids of today will only build the things on the box is just about the saddest fucking thing I've heard in months. I'm honestly starting to thing that the kids of today are beyond saving.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:15 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ah, Legos...I was one of those who would build the model exactly the way it looked on the box because that was the way it said to build it, dammit! My brother, on the other hand, would never quite get his looking the way they were supposed to look, but still had just as much fun.

The first Lego set I had was the 1980's version of the fire station. After that, I moved on to the Space line (those were fun!) and really enjoyed the Space Police line. Had other sets too, such as the Airport (destroyed several times by aforementioned younger brother, but always rebuilt) and tons of the smaller sets.

The legos eventually ended up in a big box in the garage, where they sat for years and years until Mom took them to school and let her kindergardners play with them. Introducing a new generation to the fun of Legos...that's cool with me :)
posted by zbaco at 8:17 PM on May 29, 2007

I'm glad everyone's liked the link so far! I found it after spending the evening playing with my son and the bin of Legos I started to accumulate about twenty five years ago, and wondering if perchance someone had the assembly pamphlets online. I certainly wasn't expecting this treasure trove.

(I'm proud to say that he has disassembled his Star Wars and SpongeBob kits and now just uses the parts to make his own spaceships and boats and houses.)
posted by Lucinda at 8:19 PM on May 29, 2007

To me, Legos were always about possibility

Yes! The possibility to make a house... and then to take it apart to make a boat... and then to add some wheels to make a sweet amphibious vehicle.

Every amphibious Lego vehicle requires a super secret trap door for emergency escapes. Done. And some emergency supplies. Done. Those clear tubey things? Jars or flashlights or tiny bottles of booze. They cover all the bases.

Instructions and branding be damned. Kids, when the instructions from Kit A don't call for helicopter blades, and Kit B is sadly lacking in wheels (less than 6) you know what to do. Everything needs helicopter blades and lots of wheels. It's a law. The Lego Law of Make It More Awesome.
posted by Tehanu at 8:35 PM on May 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Seriously, though, the fact that kids of today will only build the things on the box is just about the saddest fucking thing I've heard in months. I'm honestly starting to thing that the kids of today are beyond saving.

Fear not, that's not true of the kids I know... My son and his friends have always built things of their own creation.
posted by amyms at 8:40 PM on May 29, 2007

Holy crap. I can't believe the love for the Galaxy Explorer.

Most awesome kit ever. I didn't get that one until I was 10 though :( I had many of the smaller sets up until that point.

Space Lego ruled!

/ member of the Lego club, I think it was called Master Builder or something

// still has the newsletters tucked away somewhere in his parents' basement

/// mom wants me to put that stuff in my basement

//// but that doesn't leave any weird stuff from my childhood for the grandkids to discover :-)
posted by C.Batt at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2007

You had the Galaxy Explorer? You had the fucking GALAXY EXPLORER?

Holy shit, man. I'm coming over to play at your house.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:16 PM on May 29, 2007

My first? The Sonar Transmitting Cruiser...

A Lego Space History on Wikipedia, including the new Mars Mission series for a new generation.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:06 PM on May 29, 2007

perhaps I am showing my relative youth here, but I do remember being enthralled by MegaBloks (some lego substitute) when they produced a bunch of huge sets for building a battleship, the USS Kitty hawk, and a Space Shuttle. This was right around the time Lego was going hyper specialized in their kits, and the fact that I could buy a 1000 piece megabloks set for the same price as a 200 piece lego set, and probably get more than 5 times the fun out of the thing, made for some wonderful times.

Lego still featured majorly in my childhood however, and I have every intention of saving the 3 huge tubs that I have in the attic for my children. No 600 dollar, 5 piece Harry Potter and the Quest for more Money sets for them, just vast quantities of 2x4 grey bricks.
posted by grandsham at 10:08 PM on May 29, 2007

I had the Galaxy Explorer! And, I'm pretty sure, the Space Command Center. When I was like 10 maybe I won a Lego-building contest with a "pirahna" I built. The gift certificate was $50 and I think it mostly covered the two big sets. That was a very happy day.

The next year I was all excited when the astronauts in the yellow suits came out.
posted by furiousthought at 10:23 PM on May 29, 2007

I stopped playing Legos long after I was supposed to. In retrospect, I should have kept the hobby. When I saw some of the prefab kits they started selling about ten years ago, I was disappointed too. They leave too little room for creativity.

Now that my son is old enough to start playing with Lego, I've brought out the old box and bought him a few of the new sets. I've been happy to discover that a lot of the new bricks are AWESOME. Not the prefab stuff you get if you buy the Harry Potter or Spiderman lines, but the generic stuff you get from the Creator lines. And looking through my old bricks, I was surprised to realize how many of the old bricks are pretty specialized and can't be used for much else. As long as they're making sets like the Creator line, the old Lego systems we know and love lives on.
posted by Loudmax at 10:49 PM on May 29, 2007

As one of six kids, we would get the bigger sets for shared christmas presents. I think my now 25-y-o ex is still jealous that our family had the real pirate ship.

This post is making me plan ways I can transport our gigantic communal lego pot to Brisbane from its sad existence wasting away under my little sisters bed in Melbourne.
posted by jacalata at 11:19 PM on May 29, 2007

hmm. ok, were we the only ones with a box full of generic pieces, and none of the pricey little kits that came after?

*chases kids off lawn. pockets their lego*
posted by dreamsign at 12:25 AM on May 30, 2007

This is 100 flavours of awsome! I won't get ANY work done today...
posted by dowcrag at 1:06 AM on May 30, 2007

Wow - this is incredible; some amazing memories are popping back! I didn't realise how many of the space sets I had, and I can now pinpoint the year that I had my tonsils taken out, as I got the "Cosmic Cruiser" as a get-well present :)

I remember drawing up the detailed plans for some of the alternative creations that I came up with, and submitted them to Lego, but never heard anything back from them :(
posted by Chunder at 1:39 AM on May 30, 2007

You would think somebody that worked at Lego would have a collection of drawings like that.
posted by furiousthought at 2:33 AM on May 30, 2007

dude! i also drew up plans and sent them to lego! but i actually got a form letter saying they didn't take submissions. whatever, being like 11 years old and getting a letter written on official lego stationary was awesome enough.

This is quite possibly the best single-link metafilter post ever. I can't believe how nostalgic this gets me. No, I can believe it, legos ruled my world back in the day, I'm just super psyched for this!

Thank you Lucinda!!!!!
posted by garethspor at 3:49 AM on May 30, 2007

Yellow space men - leaders
White space men - pilots
Red space men - engineers

Alot of the cooler Space lego models incorporated Technical lego parts, which seemed like natural transition.
posted by asok at 4:02 AM on May 30, 2007

No creature could have bare feet in my house due to my Lego obsession. Of course, it didn't help that I almost exclusively collected Blacktron sets and our carpets were dark.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:39 AM on May 30, 2007

Zack would have loved this site.

If he hadn't sold his body for a box of 1x1 gray pieces
posted by drezdn at 6:21 AM on May 30, 2007

There was a kid down the street I played with. We would put together armored Lego cars, get at opposite ends of his kitchen, and launch them at each other across the linoleum. CRASH! Repeat until one can't be rolled anymore, leaving the victor to wobble out of the arena.

Our vehicles evolved towards being covered with roof wedge pieces on all surfaces, and lots of little wheels on the bottom.

I had a bunch of the space sets, and fondly remember
#6929, the Starfleet Voyager. I'd always build what was on the box, play with that for a few days, and then into the parts pile it went for more individual creations.

The great thing about these instructions is that they were unclear - you had to figure out things by visualizing the model and rotating it in your head.

Great post!
posted by bitmage at 6:24 AM on May 30, 2007

Great find!
When I got old enough that it was no longer cool to PLAY with Legos, I started using them for school projects instead. Problem solved.
posted by solotoro at 6:31 AM on May 30, 2007

The Imperial Star Destroyer, #10030 on this page. The manual is two hundred and twenty eight pages. Ye gods.

I think I need one.
posted by bitmage at 7:02 AM on May 30, 2007

the fact that kids of today will only build the things on the box is just about the saddest fucking thing I've heard in months.

I wouldn't worry about it -- it's a "fact," not a fact. I see plenty of free-style building going on with little kids.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:17 AM on May 30, 2007

My son turned five a month ago. Last Christmas he got his first set of "big boy legos" and for his birthday he wanted a lego-themed party. It seems kids these days require theme parties. Anyway...

The day before his party I bequeathed to him the 10,000 or so Legos I'd been saving for the past 25 years, consisting of mostly 1970s generic sets and first and second generation early space and town sets. Also thrown in were a few sets I bought in the mid-90s once I discovered I was a grown-up with some disposable income and there was an adult lego community on the internet. I felt like Obi Wan giving Luke his father's light saber. It was one of those special moments I'd been looking forward to for a long time. If I wasn't his hero before, I sure am now. Who needs love, compassion, and mentorship when you've got a giant box of Lego in the attic?

Sadly, I never had the Galaxy Explorer. If I ever see one on eBay I'll probably mortgage my house to buy it. I did have the Alpha-one Rocket Base though.

There was a kid down the street I played with. We would put together armored Lego cars, get at opposite ends of his kitchen, and launch them at each other across the linoleum. CRASH! Repeat until one can't be rolled anymore, leaving the victor to wobble out of the arena.

Did you grow up down the street from me? That's the reason I'll never be able to recreate my older sets. A lot of my bricks are broken or lost because of the numerous demolition derbies my brothers and I had. We eventually got pretty good at building bomb proof cars. We had elaborate rules that your car had to contain a minifig and if he got ejected, or if the car could no longer roll, you lost. We eventually expanded to "cable car wars", which were demolition derbies using "cable cars", basically lego vehicles suspended on ziplines, combining two of our favorite lego activities.

Man, Legos were the shit. I always wondered if I'd be competent in team sports if I didn't get into legos. 99% of my childhood was spent indoors using my legos.
posted by bondcliff at 7:17 AM on May 30, 2007

Sweet, sweet nostalgia. I was never allowed to have action figures or anything of the sort as a kid, but that was totally mollified by the fact that I was the envy of every Lego fan I knew. We had nigh onto a full wing of the house devoted to those things, after my parents discovered it was easier to just allocate dedicated space for them than it was to wear shoes at all times. My obsession with elaborate buildings, and my momentary fixation with urban planning (brought on by a marathon session of SimCity, IIRC) overlapped for a bit, and that Lego town must have been 300 square feet of grey-plate-based urban sprawl, complete with mass transit system and highway overpasses.

Since my mother was OCD, all the tiles were meticulously sorted by shape, color, and function; I could never understand the added difficulty inherent to my friends' big ol' bins of undifferentiated Lego, until a retrospective moment years alter when i realized that Mom must have spent as much time differentiating 2x1 grey flat bricks from 2x1 full-height bricks as I did laying plastic light rail.

Awesome. Now I have to go dig those things out of storage and see about an impromptu Star Destroyer.
posted by Mayor West at 10:40 AM on May 30, 2007

i also drew up plans and sent them to lego! but i actually got a form letter saying they didn't take submissions.

They do now.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2007

ebay auction for a complete Alpha-1 rocket base, including box and manual, $51. Not very much at all, really.

Damn, if you had a source of old lego, that would be a hell of a great job :P Build kit, take picture, sell on ebay. And again. :)
posted by Chuckles at 12:33 PM on May 30, 2007

I have a burning desire to build a desk out of legos.

As soon as I move my business out of my house and into an office, it will be done. Oh yes, it will be done!
posted by Mick at 2:29 PM on May 30, 2007

Mick, I expect to see a photo of that linked from your profile someday.

Also, I'm extremely jealous of the people who had Lego-creation tourneys. Why didn't you live next door to me?
posted by Tehanu at 7:09 PM on May 30, 2007

That original google server, again.
posted by asok at 4:01 AM on May 31, 2007

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