Throwback Thursday - 4500 Snowspeeder

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Rebel Snowspeeder

Rebel Snowspeeder

©2004 LEGO Group

Today's Throwback Thursday article has been kindly provided by Duq:

While patiently waiting for Santa to treat me to the new 75144 UCS Snowspeeder I spotted set 4500 on Catawiki. This Snowspeeder from 2004 was a missing link in my slowly growing Snowspeeder collection so I had a go and managed to put in the winning bid. Building this set reminded me of just how much has changed in 13 years.

Even before opening the box two things caught my attention. The design of Star Wars box art changes every year so that was no surprise. It was much more subtle than that. The soldier on the front of the box has a yellow head. For a long time now we are used to seeing minifigs in licensed sets with 'flesh' coloured heads but Star Wars sets began with yellow heads.

Minifigs had always had yellow heads. You could argue that the baby in set 215 Red Indians was the first minifig with a head in a different colour but the change really started with the NBA characters in 2003. That year also saw the first Star Wars minifigs with 'skin tone' heads; Bib Fortuna (4475) has a tan head and Lando Calrissian (10123) a brown head. 2004 was the transition year. Dagobah Luke (4502) has a yellow head like the minifigs in this set, but Han and Leia (4504) have 'light flesh' heads. By 2005 the yellow heads were gone from Star Wars. The second thing to catch my eye is on the back of the box: the photo on the right shows an alternative model for which there are no instructions. A long time ago that was normal. Every LEGO set showed other things you could make with the pieces in the box, but no instructions were given for those models. In the early 2000's that tradition disappeared. I have been told by people in Billund that the reason behind this change was too many complaints from parents that little Johnny couldn't figure out how to build the alternative model.

Time to open the box and start with bag 1. No, wait, there are no numbered bags in this set. They weren't nearly as common in those days. Even set 7262 TIE Fighter & Y-Wing did not have numbered bags to separate the two models. I opened all four bags and among the parts I noticed two that illustrated how production has been changed to be more efficient. First I noticed a 2x2 turntable that was already assembled. Nowadays you have to put the dish in the plate yourself but I remember that back then you expected parts like that to come assembled. What I didn't remember was that in those days torsos already had a head attached. Taking the put-the-head-on-the-torso machine out of the production process obviously saved a good bit of money and putting the head on the torso yourself doesn't really impact the building experience, does it?

If you know your LEGO history you've been expecting a paragraph about The Big Colour Change. Indeed 2004 was in the middle of the biggest upset in AFOL history, the change from old grey to bluish grey. LEGO was in trouble in the early 2000's and one of the cost-saving measures was reducing the colour palette that had been growing out of control. They used the opportunity to 'redefine' some colours at the same time to create a consistent and future-proof palette. The new colours were tested on focus-groups and received overwhelming positive feedback. Crucially though AFOLs were not represented in those focus groups. LEGO was only just beginning to realise the importance of the AFOL market; the Community Development Team had not yet been formed. The company later admitted to having underestimated the impact of the colour change on AFOLs.

My copy of set 4500 contains only new grey but the colours in the instruction booklet are clearly based on old grey. Those instructions otherwise look a lot like the ones you find in sets today except... there's no list of parts for every step. I don't remember my childhood sets having those parts lists. I think they started with Technic sets, then large sets like Model Team and over time smaller sets were given the same treatment. Today everything bigger than a polybag has instructions that show the required parts for each step. The booklet also doesn't have the full set inventory at the back that is common today.

I haven't really talked about the set itself. LEGO have released 7 minifig-sized Snowspeeders since 1999 and over years the design has not changed much. There are a few important changes from the first Snowspeeder set though. This was the first one with white as the main colour. In the movies the Snowspeeders are light grey but apparently designers felt that LEGO light grey is too dark. It was also the first model to have the tow cable and I like the white colour that's been a feature ever since.

I might look at Snowspeeder sets in more detail at a later date. For now I hope you've enjoyed this little history lesson.

 

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28 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Lovely throwback! Let's see a photo of the fleet...!
"Star Wars sets began with yellow heads" - ooh, I fondly remember the beginning of Star Wars LEGO; fully half the minifigs in 7101 had non-yellow heads... ;-)

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By in United Kingdom,

I have the snow speeder from 1999

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By in United Kingdom,

Great article - I remember buying this in 2004 and had forgotten how much things have changed. Epecially 2x2 turntable construction and step-by-step parts lists.

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By in Canada,

I just found this set used! Could you list the set #'s of every snowspeeder?

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By in United Kingdom,

Well that ended abruptly. I was expecting something about the model!

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By in United States,

I also have the original snowspeeder from 1999, set 7130. There are very small changes from the 1999 set to this one. Primarily the colour change from light grey to white, the two side lasers, and the tow cable. Personally, I like the use of the grey on the snowspeeder; it's accurate to the film.

2004 is such a weird year for Star Wars' minifig heads. I'm baffled some sets have the yellow heads whilst others have the flesh ones. I have set 4504 Millennium Falcon with flesh-toned heads yet I also own set 4501 Mos Eisley Cantina, which has yellow heads for the human characters--and that also was released in 2004! That difference between those sets with the heads has always bothered me. (I have 2004's version of HP's Hogwarts Express and that has flesh heads. Sigh.)

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By in France,

GREAT article - I love the history aspect. Per other comments, could you do a part II article comparing the sets, photos, and more on the models? cheers

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By in United Kingdom,

I believe the 1HY sets of 2004 had yellow heads while the 2HY ones had fleshies.

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By in United States,

Did you just call it throwback Thursday, or is it actually a thing?

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By in United Kingdom,

It's a thing. Google it...

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By in United States,

^Throwback Thursday is an internet thing where websites take old articles and pretend they are new to get more clicks on old outdated garbage. ;)

I love this set, the minifigure is awesome.

And if you think the yellow / skin tone was bad, just remember there is a Spiderman set wear the torso neck was yellow and the head was skin tone. A huge mess.

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By in Finland,

Hmm... I don't think it's really that different from today's sets as people say. I mean, most of the parts in this set (if not all?) are still in production, you still build with the same system and have the same good feeling when you get it done.
I'm NOT saying that this is a bad thing by any means, I just find it nice to see that some good things haven't changed! :)

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By in United States,

Great Throwback Thursday article! I was missing these... one of very few things I looked forward to on Thursday's, aka The Day Before Temporary Freedom!

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By in France,

Thanks for sharing with us your accurate knowledge of the little brick and your emotions while opening and discovering your "brand new" SW set. You probably throw a few of us back years ago, feeling something which smells a bit like nostalgia. Good article indeed.

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By in Puerto Rico,

This hit me like a punch, this here was one of the first SW sets I had and while the speeder itself is in pieces the radar dish turret is intact after I rebuilt it. Thanks for this article.

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By in Norway,

@David1985 Dumbledore has a yellow chest in the 2004 Hogwarts castle, even though the rest of the minifigure has a flesh tone. It's okay, though, as his beard covers it. It's just funny. What's not funny is my 2004 X-Wing being old gray, and my 2004 Falcon being new gray... It's actually still new gray in my mind, 13 years on, even though most of my collection is newer than 2004.

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By in United States,

@ LuvLegos_Cool_J: There's actually quite a bit of difference between 7130 (original) and 4500 (2004). The construction of the fuselage is entirely different, because in 7130, the gunner and pilot are seperated by a removable container for Luke's lightsaber and a pair of macrobinoculars. This was obviously not screen-accurate, and it was omitted on 4500 and all subsequent Snowspeeders. The only real storage in newer models is along the sides of the cockpit.

The design of 4500 must be a real winner in Lego's book--every single Snowspeeder they've released since then has shared that same basic design, with only marginal tweaks. Look at 7666, 8089, 75014, 75049, and 75098--all sporting 4500's architecture.

If you think about it, 2004 is still technically a "yellow year." The Falcon set didn't come out until August, and it was the only one that year to include fleshies. Furthermore, there exists evidence to imply if not outright prove that Lego originally intended to include yellow minifigs in 4504, only to change their minds at the eleventh hour.

As for whether gray or white is more accurate for Rebel ships...that's a debate that will continue to rage for decades to come. I've always preferred white, if only to provide contrast with the monotone gray of Imperial ships.

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By in United States,

J0rgen, Did either the ships have mixed greys? The mid 2000s was tough on LEGO fans, weird mixes of yellow and freshtones, greys not matching in sets, hell I have several sets were there are 3-5 shades of the same color. It was a mess.

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By in United States,

You guys did a WONDERFULL comparison of all the Slave 1 sets to have come out a while ago. I really found that article informative and a great read. I would really like if you guys did the same with other sets/items that have had multiple releases over the years. The snowspeeder would be perfect for this as it has had several releases including 2 UCS sets. Great job!

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By in Norway,

@David1985 If they did, it wasn't a noticeable difference, I think.

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By in United States,

You know you're getting old when Throwback Thursday is a 2000's era Star Wars set...

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By in United States,

@J0rgen: The 4502 X-wing set is in old gray because it actually came out early, in late 2003. I still consider it part of the 2004-09 block, though.

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By in United Kingdom,

Also significant as the only place to get a matching pair of 2x3 wedge plates in Tan!

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By in United States,

I acquired this one when getting a good deal on the original Republic Hover Tank. I'll be selling it as soon as I can afford the Assault on Hoth set from last year.

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By in Germany,

I remember this set so well and what I find interesting is that 2004 marks a small revolution for the design of the main ships. Of course they're much more complex, polished and stable these days, having more pieces and a much higher price, but 2004 set the design and construction till now. The X-wing, Snowspeeder and Falcon are best examples, as versions from 2004 differed so much from their original releases and basically the same techniques are used till today. The last Snowspeeder still has the same canopy parts, basic fuselage and wings constructions. 2004 was when LSW grew up, as to say.

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By in United States,

White may not be an accurate color for the rebel ships, but IMO the Mid Stone/LBG color is too dark; those early light gray x-wings and snowspeeders just don't like "right". Maybe if there was a "very light gray" in use back then, that would have been the best color solution; but since there wasn't (at least, not in any great mass-production numbers), I think I prefer the white over the current grays.

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