Throwback Thursday: 5590 Whirl and Wheel Super Truck

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View image at flickr

Having been reminded what a superb set 5590 Whirl and Wheel Super Truck is when it came up as the random set of the day yesterday I thought I'd dig mine out and take a few photos.

I emerged from my dark ages in 1995 and by then it was already 5 years old. But, it was still in the shops and I believe I purchased it in 1996 at a slight discount, from Gamleys (remember them?). I haven't kept many sets from that era built up but this is one I could not bear to dismantle.

Let's see how it measures up to today's sets...


Sets produced for the Model Team theme were at the pinnacle of complexity, aesthetics and size and with 1063 pieces in this set it was the largest set released in 1990 by some margin. The next biggest in terms of number of pieces was the huge 6399 Airport Shuttle, so clearly parts density is much higher in this model than in its contemporaries.

It's effectively three highly detailed and functional models in one. The tractor unit, the trailer and the helicopter. It's also huge: about 60cm from cab to tail fin.

View image at flickr

The 6-wheel tractor unit features opening doors of the type used in trains at the time, and steering: something that's sadly lacking from today's successor to Model Team, Creator, sets.

It's packed with details: wing mirrors, lights, horns, windscreen wipers and other greebles. The cab is kitted out with steering wheel and levers. The doors are printed but most other decorations are stickers, which has stood the test of time and look as good as when I applied them.

I'm not sure why, but it looks as if I didn't apply the sticker to the piece usually used as a radar dish at the top of the cab, which really should have been angled down a bit more before I took these photos.

View image at flickr

Steering is achieved by twisting the spare wheel behind the cab.

View image at flickr

The helicopter is a thing of beauty and could stand alone as a set in its own right. It's one of the best examples of a rotorcraft LEGO has produced, surpassed only by another Model team set, 5542 Black Thunder.

Again, it utilises train doors and is packed with small details.

View image at flickr

The rear of the body is neatly contoured using slopes.

View image at flickr

Even the trailer is impressively detailed.

View image at flickr

The top is fitted with hinged sections that are designed to hold the helicopter steady.

View image at flickr

It really is a beauty...

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

It's tempting to say that they don't make 'em like this any more and, actually, they don't. This set must surely represent the pinnacle of traditional 'System' models, showing what can be achieved with just basic bricks, plates and slopes, before the introduction of curves, wedges, ball joints, and ever more specialist pieces.

Today's sets are undeniably sleeker, more sophisticated and packed with fantastic new parts but, 28 years on, I reckon this one compares favorably with any of this year's releases.

LEGO continued to produce Model Team sets at a rate of one or two a year until 1999 but in my view none surpassed this one. I have a few others made up still and could be persuaded to dig out a few more if there's interest.


Grey or white?

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

Grey photographic background or white? I thought I'd try white for a change but I think I prefer grey as the colours stand out better against it, but I'd be interested to hear your views.

 

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61 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

At first glance couldnt tell that was from 1990.

Definitely the Grey

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By in Netherlands,

The grey background looks better. Although I never owned any of the Model Team sets, I prefer the first set in the series, the "Big Rig". I have it laying around in pieces in a box of old pieces I got in a haul a few years ago, will hopefully sort and build it once.

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By in United Kingdom,

Model Team passed me by as I was not following LEGO between childhood and adulthood until the Star Wars theme came along in 1999, but I have to agree this is a great looking set. The level of detail, inclusion of steering and one of the best looking LEGO helicopters I've seen make it a fantastic package.

I agree that grey is slightly better, it seems to help a lot with contrast.

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By in Netherlands,

Really cool indeed. And: double wheels on both tractor and trailer!

I only owned #5541 Model Team-wise. Remember the chromed pieces were something new, then.

Could you maybe also review the B-model, Huw? Looks very interesting.

And, is the trailer of this model also combinable with #5571 Big Truck? The colours match really nicely!

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By in United States,

I would so easily buy one of these today! That's a gorgeous set. At first glance it reminded me of the similar model 60183 in the CITY 2018 line but upon closer examination I appreciated the model being more substantial by about 753 pieces.

This Throwback Thursday feature of Brickset is great. Look forward to the daily change and especially appreciated a "review" from the vantage point of an actual owner of the set. Thanks!

Grey is easier on the eyes and more complimentary to the photo's subject, which is a CLASSIC.

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By in Turkey,

Great article!

First of all I must answer your question as I personally find the grey back ground a better option because white adds too much brightness, hence it is better to see the details on grey background-in my opinion. However both are quite nice.

I grew up with Lego System. I also collected the yearly leaflets when I found one. I still have them somewhere in the house. Anyway in 90's, Model Team and Technic were my favourites even then, but they were far away from my options-they weren't available in Turkey and in my city. They would be too expensive for us anyway! This set especially was one of my favourites and I would try to copy it with my limited System bricks just looking at the leaflet! Oh, look I have a grill that suits that truck! Hmm if I put two windscreens and wipers, that looks just like that and so on.

I am 31 now and it is really saddening not to see these kind of sets anymore. We sure have Creator nowadays but the ambience of that time is much more different and nicer in my opinion. Only if TLG would reproduce some of those iconic sets again... like they did in 2004 with 10151 Hot Rod Set

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By in Australia,

The unofficial 5590 week continues :). Gorgeous set indeed.

Also, yeah, I gotta agree, the grey background looks nicer.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks Huw - most interesting. I wasn't aware of the Model Team line and would certainly be interested in seeing what else you've got from that era. As others have said, it doesn't look like a nigh-on 30 year old set. I associate that time with very blocky, unsophisticated designs, and this wouldn't look out of place alongside some models in the current Creator or even Technic lines.

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By in New Zealand,

A magnificent Lego model and pure joy.

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By in Sweden,

I really need to dig this set out and build it! But, alas, where to put it then. 60cm length is a real challenge space-wise...
I own most of the Model Team sets; they are (almost) all great! In particular 5542 Black Thunder is just a fantastic helicopter model (also rather big though). Get it / them if you can!

And for the record: I prefer the grey background as well. White makes the colors seem a bit washed out.

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By in United Kingdom,

You're right, grey makes the colours stand out better.

I got this set for Christmas in the early nineties, a little before I entered my 'dark ages'. I must have been around 11 or 12. I loved it, and I still have it, packed away in the (mint) box.

I'd say the successor to Model Team is probably the Creator Expert vehicles, but I can't see them doing another one like this - that seems to be the preserve of Technic these days.

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By in Finland,

Thanks for the great article, BUT WHY ON EARTH have you put the front wheels the wrong way around?! They look so UGLY that way, protruding so conspicuously, and I'm sure steering doesn't work that well either, since the wheels have less space to turn! Sorry, I had to say this and I wonder didn't anyone else notice? :P

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By in United Kingdom,

Got this one as a kid and it sat on my window shelf for a number of years as I couldn't bear to take it apart (so never attempted the B model, though always wanted to). Consequently a number of the greys are significantly 'yellowed' but I still have all the pieces, and the manual somewhere. So may have to rebuild it a some point.

Great model, great memories.

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By in Netherlands,

I loved the Model Team line and especially the trucks. So I own all of them.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Ssorg, in the 22 years I've had it constructed I've never noticed that the front wheels have been mounted the wrong way round! You're right, it does look better the other way round even if they don't then match the those on the rear axles.

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By in United Kingdom,

Was just going to ask, beaten to it. How are your Light Greys. This was before LBG existed. Maybe there is a market for retro fitting old sets with LBG parts. I was amazed recently though had much the sun affected LBG parts on display in a room I swear does not receive direct sunlight.

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By in Finland,

@Huw, the wheels are not supposed to match. If you look at pretty much any real big rig, you notice how the front wheels rims DO look different (the center having either a somewhat smooth surface or a "hill") from those on all other wheels (them having a "pit" in the middle). I am NOT an expert on truck mechanics nor do I know all subtleties of English (being a foreign language to me) so I don't know actual technical terms, but it is a thing and the Model Team vehicles have been designed to depict that real feature. You see it on other MT sets too, for example:
https://brickset.com/sets/5580-1/Highway-Rig
https://brickset.com/sets/5571-1/Giant-Truck
So yeah, you've got all the reasons in the world to put the front wheels the way they're intended. :)

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By in Australia,

This set was always on my want list but was always too much and city/train was the main focus. Great looking set and I love the chopper.

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By in Netherlands,

This was the first massive LEGO set I bought as a kid. I put it back together years ago and now it's collecting dust, I really should clean it properly because your photos are better than the real thing here. You say the doors are printed but the red on the doors of the tractor are stickers in my set. They never kept their position due to the curves on the door. Can you enlighten me a bit, are yours indeed printed?

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By in Italy,

Thanks Huw for your beautiful review, as usually. And I really agree with you regarding the (for me big!) lack from today's successor, Creators, Ideas etc.: the missing of steering wheels!! Almost unacceptable.
I own the 5581 and 5541.. and I'm very happy to have them, bought when I was twenty -:)

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By in Canada,

Grey is much better. Oh, I loved the model team sets and was able to buy 5580 Highway Rig with the box for only $40!

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By in Poland,

The funniest thing is today build witch such compelxity could appear in Ninjago xD

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By in Germany,

Great set. 18 tires :D Want to have one now.

The grey background has a better contrast.

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By in United States,

This was on Katawiki also a couple days ago! As a Technic collector when the Model Team theme began it was a tough decision whether to start collecting them or not. After all, they did have a small amount of Technic in them and I loved the way they looked, of course, but ultimately decided against it. Meh, no regrets.

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By in United Kingdom,

Is a slightly lighter grey background an option? Better contrast, but not too dark?

I got this set probably shortly before my dark ages began. Absolutely love it. I don't included any of my pre dark ages sets in my brickset collectin. This is partly because I went through a phase of building MOCs then burning them in the wood behind my house. Brickset members - please form on orderly line to kick me in the butt! Now my secret is out, I think I need to go to therapy or something to deal with the shame.

I might try to find the unusual pieces at my parents' house (just windscreens, wheels and doors?) and try to rebuild with parts from my current collection.

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm glad that you managed to keep that set out of the sun, @Huw.
I was sorry to see Model Team go and only have the sets from 1995 on.

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By in Canada,

Hard to believe this set was released in 1990. I too remember being in college in '95 and seeing this at TRU and at the time thought it was new that year. Alas I never bought this set as may dark ages didn't end until a few years later.

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By in Canada,

What an awesome set!

I had/have the first three Model Team sets from '86: 5510, 5540, 5580. I must have built them a thousand times over, including the B models. After that I sadly went into my dark ages. If only I knew then what I know now... :-)

I recently picked up all my and my brother's childhood Lego. Hopefully all pieces are there to rebuild these beauties.

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By in Slovenia,

Grey, maybee a bit lighter.
And awesome set from very missed theme.

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By in United States,

I’d go with the grey backdrop.

Model Team is still among my favorite themes. I definitely enjoy the new Creator theme, but one of the major charms of Model Team for me, is that these sets actually look like they’re made of LEGO. The studs are proudly on display. Very little, or no SNOT building, and the usage of traditional elements really help to show off what can be done with the LEGO brick.

These are incredible. I’d love you to do a Model Team mini-series of posts.

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By in United States,

Grey looks better, at least with these colors. But only if it's the old Light Grey...

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By in United States,

Good thing I have this set complete with box in my collection. Will dig it out and put together sometime. This one and 5591 are the must-have duo for any Model Team fans.

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By in Germany,

I love Model Team sets, even though at the time I never got any of them. This one is still high up on my wishlist. Last year I missed an opportunity when I had a MISB version of this set under watch on ebay and couldn't be online at the time the auction ended. It went, believe it or not, for 70 Euro!!! What a missed deal :-(

I got the similar 5591 a few years ago via ebay in used condition. It was quite cheap, but the white parts were heavily yellowed, the stickers were a mess, and a few bits and bobs were missing. But at least it gave me the chance to try out the hydrogen peroxide trick I had seen in one of Jang's videos a short while prior to that purchase :-)

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By in United States,

50% gray is the best way to display anything because the contrast subject and bg isn't distracting.

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By in Spain,

I love Throwback Thursdays. Thank you Huw.
I also prefer grey, like Anastasia...

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By in United States,

grey plz...

This set looks really nice . Although some parts of the set would benefit from modern parts (mostly the roof and some bits of the trailer) this set doesn't need them. It reminds me of when i was little and the only parts i had were slopes, bricks and plates and a couple hinges. (most of my lego when i was about 6 years old wasn't very new.)

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By in France,

As I've commented already on the random set post about this model, I had this one and loved it, it's one of the lego sets I remember the most fondly, along with the lego technic prop plane (https://brickset.com/sets/8855-1/Prop-Plane) which at the time was SO DIFFICULT for me to build (I was 10 or 11 when I got it according to the release date of the set).

Unlike @andhe though, I did thoroughly enjoy the B model of this one as well. I remember it being absolutely awesome, sleek lines, somewhat futuristic, I loved both of those models! ??

And now I'm loving seeing this one 3 times on the front page in one week. ;)

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By in United States,

I wish they still made helicopters like that. I'm so tired of the one-piece cockpits on every CITY helicopter these days.

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By in France,

the database needs more pictures of model team sets

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By in United States,

Oh man, I forgot I had Black Thunder. That will have to be the next set I resurrect from my big box o' loose LEGO; it's got to be one of the most displayable sets I have.

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By in United Kingdom,

Great post. Great set! I was astonished to find it over twenty years old. Only on closer inspection does its age show but that's not actually a problem. I'm off to get one.

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By in Germany,

It's interesting they made part 2826 (helicopter windscreen) kind of specially for that set. It never reappeared in any set up until 1995 and in total it only appeared in 3 sets at all (one being the Black Thunder from 1998 the other Aquazone set 6175).
Also funny that it changed color each time it appeared.

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By in Germany,

The discovery of the wheels having been attached wrong for 22 years has made this wonderful article even more wonderful. Thank you! :-)

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By in Ireland,

I missed this through a combination of economics followed by dark age. About 18 months ago I spotted a job lot of parts on a local selling site. I had a feeling this is what it was so after a few questions to make myself a bit more certain I bought it for €25 - I was delighted when the set turned out to be 100% complete and I happened to have a manual I had procured elsewhere! Excellent looking model

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By in Netherlands,

Fantastic review! Ever since I was a kid I wanted this set and I'm still looking for it. Do you have more Model Team sets that you can review? I'd love to see them. The pictures are very nice too.

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By in United States,

@Huw...so nice to see this model again. You're right, what a great achievement with no real specialized parts. My only quip is maybe they could've used a technic beam for the tail boom so it wouldn't droop down. But regardless, excellent details here.
What also is remarkable is the alt-build for this kit. Has a nice look and great details (is it considered a 'pushback truck'?).
Oh, and also go for your grey background. The white seems to wash out the colors a bit.
And by the way friggin' Lepin ripped a Whirl and Wheel kit too.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks everyone for your feedback, I'll stick to grey and also kit CapnRex101 out with a roll, too :)

Expect to see another Model Team set highlighted next Thursday!

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By in Hungary,

Great arcticle about a great model. This was the golden era of LEGO IMO. This set is brilliant in every way: function, design and playability.

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm glad you spun this into a Throwback Thursday post - it really is a classic set, and one of the ones I would pick out if I had to show someone what I think Lego is, at its best. I'd like to see more TBT posts on other Model Team sets.

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By in United States,

The real pinnacle of the the traditional System/Model Team is the 5571 Giant Truck, not 5590.

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By in United Kingdom,

Arrrgghh this makes me even more gutted that I had to sell mine a few years back as we desperately needed the money :( Still hopefully the Mack Anthem will make up for it :)

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By in Denmark,

City helicopters are for play, this is a model primarily for display.

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By in United Kingdom,

@huw a discount in Gamleys? I seem to remember that was as rare as a Mr Gold!

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By in United Kingdom,

You're right, it didn't happen often! I think the box must have been bashed a bit or something...

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By in Netherlands,

The B model of this set resembles pretty much what I was building for myself in the middle of the eighties, combining Technic with System. Round the time this set emerged, I was fully in my dark ages, so it completely passed me by.

Somebody wrote that the Mack Anthem tentativley moves back to the model team kind of combination between Technic and System, but to be honest, it's still a long way to go. I would love that, though. If they'd just up Creator Expert vehicles to that level...

Also: despite all the nice parts around today that make sets look way more realistic than they could ever do up until the early nineties, I really love sets like these where espacially the helicopter shows what you can do with a much more limited and basic parts selection. Maybe Lego should do some "Classic" sets...

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By in United Kingdom,

When I first saw this come up I immediately thought it was a Technic set. It looks pretty impressive even by today's standards, and all without the specialist elements we get now. This was a really interesting article and if I find one at a boot sale or second hand sale I'll look to pick it up.

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By in Netherlands,

I'm voting for the grey background too :)
And this is an excellent article, of an excellent set!. If these TT's will become a regular thing, might i suggest the 6989 for a future article? It's my favorite Space set ever, and ranks very high in my overall Lego listing. Could be due to affection though, i still have my original one. I'm eagerly awaiting the day it pops up in the Random Set article!

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By in Sweden,

I still have my set. Nowadays it sits in my youngest daughters room

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By in Indonesia,

The better looking grey background's been decided meanwhile I see.

I'd love to see a review of the 5571 Giant Truck from the Model Team theme. With about 1750 pieces it's pretty close what a modern Technic truck of roughly the same size would be in terms of piece count, while from a very different era!

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By in Netherlands,

Thanks for the review, so fast after it showed up in the random set feature!

How are the bricks of this set holding up? Any of them cracked or discolored? Any pieces that have lost most of their clutch power?

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By in United Kingdom,

I bought this too when I came out of my Dark Ages. I loved the alternative model too. Model Team is probably my favourite theme and best of all is the enormous Giant :-) Truck 5571. Good times.

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