LIKE a growing number of Gen X fellas, Andrea Lattanzio is an AFOL; an Adult Fan Of Lego.
AFOLs come in many shapes and sizes; some collect original kits, focussing on sets or themes they had (or never had) as a kid. But some, like Andrea, level-up and create unique works of art; each one special and storied. Andrea’s return to Lego occurred in his mid-20s with a series of 1:13-scale Scania and Volvo cab-overs. “I was always intrigued by the world of trucks,” he explains through a thick Italian accent, “Probably because my dad always took me for a drive in his old Scania as a kid.”
“Starting in 2006, when I built the truck series, I was slow,” Andrea admits. “I had little building experience, less Lego bricks and a small house!” Since moving, Andrea has kicked his hobby into overdrive, but it was Lego set 10220, the Volkswagen T1 Camper Bus, that prompted him explore possibilities other than prime movers.
Like many good car customisers, Andrea started with a standard base, in this case the 10220 Kombi kit, then modified the design to his taste, first turning out a VW ‘Road Service’ ute. Justifiably pleased with the outcome, he created another ute, this time in Esso livery with a ‘canvas’ canopy. A later model, ‘Bay Window’ Kombi ute followed, then a wheel-less, ‘bare metal’ Bus made entirely from silvery-grey bricks.
But what’s an awesome bunch of chrome-laden classics without a garage or two to house them in? “I was inspired by the Oldtimers Department of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles that is located in Hannover, Germany,” Andrea confesses. “Plus I have always been fascinated by old garages and workshops.”
That fascination saw him create his own ‘Norton 74’ Speed Garage, a beautiful Esso service station and no less than two, differently scaled Vespa workshops. But it was in March 2017 that the hot rodding and Lego communities respectively went batshit crazy over Andrea’s creations, prompted by the reveal of his amazing replica of the famous Mooneyes Garage in Santa Fe Springs, California.
It’s not hard to see why; the diorama includes cool details such as tool chests, trolley jacks, a drill press, an air compressor and even a surfboard mounted to the wall. The Mooneyes F100 shop truck and a ’32 coupe, both presented in the company’s trademark yellow, each cop a tune-up overseen by Dean Moon himself. Outside, weeds grow from cracks in the footpath, surrounded by discarded junk; old oil cans, used tyres and even a busted bicycle frame. It’s incredible stuff and warrants repeat views, such is the quality.
The minifigure-friendly vehicles are a little low-res; for more detail you have to peruse Andrea’s array of hot rods; all built in approximately 1:18 scale and the latest of which was unleashed in July. “I saw this Hot Rod in Chop & Roll magazine a few months ago and was stricken by the uncommon colour; PPG1936 Cordoba Tan,” Andrea says. “Plus its story is really cool; built in California and shipped to Japan for the new owner. As soon as I spotted this car, I decided to replicate it in Lego bricks!”
A sucker for a good hot-rodding back-story, Andrea has recreated a heap of actual hot rods that have piqued his interest; Chuck Miller’s Ridler-winning Ford C-cab Fire Truck, Tom Daniel’s Monogram models Beer Wagon and a ’23 Model T that remained in storage in California for 48 years before being sold and shipped to Norway, just to name three!
Like his workshops, Andrea’s hot rods are full of detail, right down to their separate chassis, front suspension components and superbly crafted, individual engines. What makes Andrea’s mastery of the Lego hot rod build even more amazing is that he was generally unaware of the existence of rods until 2015!
“Some European countries like Switzerland, Sweden or England have a thriving hot rod scene. Here the culture is virtually unknown!” he says of his native Italy. “Recently I discovered the Kustom Kulture by reading magazines on the issue. Right away, I loved this underground movement of car design, pin-striping, muscle cars and custom vehicles,” he continues, gesturing to a yellow, palm-sized, ’32 rod with a red tow truck hitch. “Kustom Kulture is the essence of creative and DIY way of life!”
What’s even more astonishing is that Andrea is yet to actually see a hot rod in the metal; they’re not exactly common on the streets of Milan. Yet there’s no doubt about his very real passion for classics, hot rods and ‘old timers’. Perhaps it’s equally surprising to learn that despite his obvious skills with the bricks and how he presents them, Andrea is not a professional Lego builder.
Of his abilities, Andrea explains, “Graphic design isn’t part of my day job and I’ve never had any formal training. I’m an old-school builder; I don’t use Lego Digital Designer or other software. I prefer to spend time building and taking apart rather than standing in front of a PC!” Typical hot rodder!
“To be appreciated in the AFOL community, it’s not good enough to be a good builder; you have to take very good photos too!” He’s not wrong; a cursory glance over Andrea’s Flickr account reveals not only the extent of his model-making, but how beautifully he can present them to the world. “It has been a long, demanding and stimulating path, but now when I look at my Flickr, I’m really happy. And I did it all myself via free tutorials.”
If that’s not the essence of DIY, we don’t know what is, and while the Lego community have bestowed upon Andrea the coveted title of ‘Master Builder’, we feel he can add ‘hot-rodder’ to his qualifications. For practical reasons, his car is a 1993 Benz wagon, residing in the garage next to a 1980 BMW R80/7 bike and a Vespa scooter. But on his shelves sit a heap of thoughtfully considered, uniquely created one-off hot rods. And unlike most guys, he’s got a bunch of workshops in which to work on them!
1. Like many of us, Andrea messed with Lego as a kid, but in 2006 he returned to his hobby, creating a series of 1/13-scale trucks. His focus was narrow; Scania and Volvo, just like the rigs he saw around Italy as a kid. Andrea’s Scania LB140 is even finished off in Swedish yellow-and-blue, just like Scania used during the 1970s when displaying their range at international truck shows.
2. In 1953, Exxon tasked Dutch architect Willem Marinus Dudok with creating a simple, inexpensive petrol station for installation at multiple sites across the Netherlands. The distinctive design found its way to 112 locations under the Esso brand, although few remain. Andrea stumbled across pictures of the iconic servo, complete with Esso-branded Kombi service truck and decided to recreate the lot. It took him only two months; both the structure and the Veedub!
3. Working for Monogram models from 1967 to 1975, Tom Daniel was one of their most prolific designers; however, his ‘Beer Wagon’ was the first in a career that yielded over 80 kits. Based off a 1920s ‘Bulldog’ Mack truck, Andrea has replicated the fanciful hot rod design faithfully, right down to the intake runners, Iron Cross rear window and chain-drive rear end!
4. The Don Ridler Memorial Award has been won by a lot of famous guys; Chip Foose and Troy Trepanier spring to mind, but in 1968, it was won by Chuck Miller for his wild, fire truck-themed Ford C-cab. Andrea’s Lego model mirrors the original, including blown small-block V8, Goodyear slicks, roof racks and abbreviated wooden ladders affixed to the side. He’s even had a crack at the white seat with red inserts.
5. With Lego’s release of the Volkswagen T1 Camper Bus set 10220 back in 2011, Andrea saw a bunch of alternatives he could create, beginning with a simple ute conversion. Like Volkswagen, he later updated the Kombi, subtly modifying the kit design (and colours) to reflect the T2 ‘bay window’ model. With the flurry of restorer activity around collector Kombis these days, Andrea followed suit, expanding to a ‘bare-metal’ bay window, stripped and sitting on a dolly, waiting for some attention. Watch out for the oil spill, however.