This year's major subtheme for Friends is a go-kart racing theme. I decided to start the theme by building a mid-priced selection, 41351 Creative Tuning Shop. I had the most questions about this particular set as I wondered if it would be somewhat superfluous considering the other sets in the theme. Is it something that's worth of entering in the race, or should you drive off without it? Let's take a look and find out.
The front of the box shows the set situated on the sidelines of a race track, which makes sense. Emma and Dean are shown working on one of the go-karts while Chico the cat looks on. The building, as such, is in the background. The upper right corner of the box shows the Friends in their racing gear with a racetrack flag motif as the background ribbon. The back of the box shows the building from the back, as well as some of the customizations that can be made to the go-karts included in the set. Inside the box there are four numbered bags, a small sticker sheet and an instruction booklet.
Emma and Dean are the minidolls for this set. Emma is dressed in her go-kart racing gear and has the same white racing pants with silver metallic boots as we've seen before (and I suspect we'll see the other Friends wearing). Her racing coat is wonderfully detailed in pale blue and lilac. She has one sleeve in blue and the other in lilac. Her jacket is styled similar to what we saw Olivia wearing in 41343, with stripes of the two featured colours to one side of the off center zipper and a solid colour on the other. This is our first introduction to Dean, and he also has a detailed look. He's wearing overalls with a metal buckle on one strap. He wears a name tag and his overalls are suitably splashed with paint as one would expect in a body shop. The printing on both minidolls look great.
Chico, Emma's cat, is the featured cute Friends animal in the set. Chico is suitably adorable and has detailed printing on her face. I particularly like her heart shaped white patch on her chest. Chico is relatively new; we first met her last year but she's included in several sets this year.
Emma and Dean also come equipped with helmets and goggles. Both helmets are suitably colour coordinated with their outfits.
There's not much detail on the back of the minidolls, though I do like the new molded piece for the helmet that allows for Emma's ponytail.
The completed model
A couple small accessory builds are included - a maintenance cart and a paint sprayer.
The main action parts of the set are of course, the go-karts. There are two included in this set. There's also one go-kart launcher. The launching mechanism is simple but effective: the go-kart is placed so that the rear of the go-kart is flush with the technic lever included in the launch build.
In this case, it appears the launchers will be colour coordinated with the Friends. This one uses lilac so looks to be paired with Emma's cart (or Dean's, as she's let Dean try it out). Pressing down quickly and firmly on the lever will launch the go-kart. I tried this a few times and found I could get the go kart to move between 1-2 metres depending on the type of smooth surface.
Another accessory included is a hoist for the go-karts for when maintenance is provided.
A simple turn of the gear and the hoist is elevated to allow Emma and Dean to perform their go-kart maintenance.
There's some extra parts provided so that the go-karts can be customized.
You can amuse yourself mixing and matching the different parts. This is one of the suggestions provided in the instruction booklet. If anything, I think more pieces should have been included to allow for more creativity.
Moving onto the building - this is a typical open Friends building, and this one feels much more like a façade than most. The ground floor includes a showroom area and a maintenance shop. The showroom has floor to ceiling windows, which shows off a go-kart on a revolving display.
The front of the maintenance shop is relatively unremarkable,. There's a small sign that shows that the establishment is open.
Turning the building around, we see some car polish bottles in the shop. This is the portion of the building which feels like a façade as there are no details other than the bottles on the inside of the shop and a couple tools.
It does, however, have a moving function. Turning the yellow lever moves the door to the side to allow a go-kart to enter. I expect most would place the hoist in this area.
The rear view of the showroom area shows a few more details, including a trophy from a previous race as well as floodlights to show off the go-kart on display. A door is found off to the side that has a decorated doormat just inside.
Although there's no means to get to the next floor, upstairs there's an office. It's well furnished with a computer showing a go-kart schematic, desk, chairs, and a large whiteboard with another schematic. As we've come to expect food in all Friends sets, this one does not disappoint by having snacks available on a table in the middle of the room.
The building is topped with some great brick built features: a large spray paint can with a wrench in the background. I think the office and these brick features are the best parts of the building.
I think the racing subtheme for Friends this year is a brilliant idea. This series of sets have the Friends out doing something fun, and participating in all aspects of the race. I like that this set shows Emma working on her go-kart along with Dean.
I have to confess that out of all the sets in the subtheme, this was the one that I was looking forward to the least. I expected it to be kind of "meh". However, it's much better than I expected. The minidolls are great with some wonderful printed details. I'm really liking the minidolls in this wave.
I'm still disappointed in the building. While Friends sets have been criticized for being open, in most cases they at least have three walls. This building is little more than a façade. While there are some details provided, the building doesn't have the level of detail typically seen on Friends sets.
The stars of this set are the go-karts, and their customizable features. I really enjoyed this aspect of the set. I suspect kids will love having the ability to make a go-kart specific to their taste. In that respect, it may have been worth providing more bricks to allow more options, and eliminating part of the building/façade. The go kart launchers are great fun, and it looks like a launcher is included in most of the rest of the sets in the subtheme.
I'm a little puzzled by the name of the set - while body work and painting is happening here, I don't see a lot of "tuning".
While the set (402 pieces, $39.99, 39.99€, £39.99) has its merits, I wish the building had more substance and there were more customizable options for the go-karts. It's worth picking up if you're interesting in adding to the go kart collection or (if you're like me) you're a completionist of the subthemes that you like. Otherwise, it's worth looking for on sale.
Many thanks to the LEGO Group for providing Brickset with a copy of the set. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.