Ninjago was my 2016 theme of the year and I had high hopes for the 2018 Ninjago offerings. And then the sets for the first half of the year arrived, and I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s not that they were bad, but they didn’t excite me like the 2016 or 2017 sets had done.
I’ve learned never to write Ninjago off, though, and true to form the theme bounced back with a strong-looking line-up for the second half of the year. 70654 Dieselnaut, with its Ninjago-meets-Mad-Max stylings, was a stand out for me and I’m therefore pleased to bring you a review of the set.
Box & Contents
The front of the box (above) depicts a fierce battle taking place on and around the Dieselnaut. The Iron Baron, leader of the Dragon Hunters, is at the helm while three of his fellow villains defend the vehicle from Zane, Jay and Teen Wu. The back of the box (below) highlights a number of key play features, as well as revealing that the Dieselnaut is almost half a metre long which is bigger than I was expecting.
The box contains nine sequentially numbered bags plus a tenth, unnumbered bag made of a softer plastic. There’s also a sticker sheet (below) containing ten stickers, and a 156-page instruction booklet.
The set contains seven minifigures. First up are Zane, Teen Wu and Jay (below, from left to right). According to Bricklink this version of Zane has appeared in three sets to date; his torso print, which features belts and a carabiner, is unique to this minifigure, as are his printed legs, but other constituent elements such as his flat silver head have previously appeared elsewhere.
Teen Wu is unique to this set. His black torso, which is printed with an orange sash, a heavy-duty belt running diagonally from hip to shoulder and a scrap of olive green fabric, is exclusive to this minifigure, as is his mid-length white hair complete with topknot and gold headband. His legs are unprinted. Like Zane, this version of Jay can be found in three Ninjago Hunted sets. His intricate torso and leg prints are exclusive to this minifigure, while his headgear is shared with one other Jay variant.
I removed all armour, weapons and headgear prior to shooting the picture below so that you can see the alternate expressions and torso backprints.
Next up are Heavy Metal (below left) and Iron Baron (below right), both of which can only be found in two sets including this one. I think they look spectacular! Heavy Metal’s intricately-printed torso is shared with four other Ninjago Hunted villains spread across three sets, and his torso is nicely complemented by black legs which feature an interesting, detail-heavy print. An impressive black and flat silver breastplate with spiked shoulder pad, face protector and scabbard obscures the head print which you can see here; at time of writing the head print is exclusive to this minifigure. A slightly incongruous dark brown conical hat, appearing in a set for only the sixth time in this colour, rounds things off.
The Iron Baron is no less eye-catching. His silver, olive green and orange torso print is exclusive to this minifigure, as is his grisly head print with its red and green eyes, olive green stripes and yellow teeth. His legs, which incorporate a pearl dark grey pirate peg leg, have only previously appeared as part of the Series 3 Collectible Minifigure Space Villain in this colour, and he sports the same breastplate as Heavy Metal. Strangely, however, Iron Baron’s breastplate attaches backwards, meaning that the face protector covers the back of his head and the scabbard is at the front. Incongruous headgear is once again the order of the day in the form of a black top hat recently worn by The Penguin in 70909 Batcave Break-In.
I've once again removed all headgear and armour for the rear view shot below so you can see the torso back prints and, in the case of Heavy Metal, the printing on the back of the head.
The final two minifigures are Skullbreaker (below left) and Muzzle (below right). These guys are basically identical with the exception that Skullbreaker sports a black Ninja face scarf whereas Muzzle has the same breastplate with spiked shoulder pad and face protector as Heavy Metal and the Iron Baron. The torso print, printed legs and head print are shared with other Ninjago Hunter villains, but the black hoods are exclusive to these two minifigures.
With their armour and headgear removed, Skullbreaker and Muzzle are identical from behind (below). The pearl dark grey arms and orange hips work well with the torso print, and overall I have to say that I’m impressed by the four Ninjago Hunted villains in this set.
The build is broken into nine stages, each of which has its own numbered bag of elements. The first numbered bag contains the elements needed to construct a foldable weapons rack and a statue, both of which can be seen below. The statue incorporates all four Dragon Armour elements - the Dragon Helmet, Dragon Chestplate, Dragonbone Blade and Dragon Shield - all of which are new this year and exclusive to the Ninjago Hunted subtheme.
The next two build stages are focused on construction of the Dieselnaut’s chassis (below). The vehicle is built on a 6-wide base and construction utilises a number of Technic beams and bricks which help to ensure rigidity; among these Technic elements is a dark azure 4 x 6 Technic brick with open centre which has only previously appeared in two sets. This is also the case for the pair of reddish brown 3L Technic pin connectors with 2 pins and a centre hole which anchor the front axles to the chassis. There’s a ram at the front of the vehicle which is cushioned internally by a couple of flexible rubber axle connectors which act as shock absorbers.
One of the things that immediately appealed to me about the set was the olive green and orange colour scheme, and we see the first appearance of olive green elements at this point in the build. Modified 2 x 2 x 2/3 bricks with two studs and curved slope end are interspersed with black 2 x 3 pentagonal tiles which still feel very new to me even though they’ve actually appeared in almost 30 sets in this colour alone. This interesting arrangement of elements is sadly barely visible in the final build but can at least be enjoyed in the work-in-progress image below.
The hollow superstructure at the rear of the vehicle, which has been designed to accommodate the weapons rack, is next to be built. It incorporates a host of uncommon olive green elements including 45 degree 2 x 2 double concave slopes only previously seen in 71042 Silent Mary in this colour, a 4 x 4 pointed wedge which is new in this colour, and four 2 x 2 round corner tiles which are appearing in a set for only the second time in olive green.
A black 4 x 4 inverted dish with orange dragon print attaches on one side of the superstructure. This dish is attached to a pearl dark grey barrel with axle hole on the opposite side of the vehicle via a simple assembly of axles and gears, and turning either the dish or the barrel causes an axle protruding from the top of the vehicle to rotate – more on this later. Further exterior decoration is provided by uncommon flat silver ingots, and there’s also a windscreen of sorts made up of a pearl dark grey 1 x 4 x 6 bar with end protrusions. A couple of uncommon black curved 3 x 4 x 3 hinged panels are stickered in orange and black and form part of the midsection on both sides of the vehicle; these panels can be folded outwards and downwards to reveal an empty compartment within.
Attention then shifts to the front of the vehicle. This incorporates an engine featuring a turbine fashioned from a 10-blade rotor. It’s enclosed above by a stickered engine cover fashioned from a black 3 x 6 x 10 half drum which is currently exclusive to this set in black. The engine cover is hinged at the back, which allows it to be raised like the hood of a car. The hinge mechanism incorporates some uncommon orange Technic elements including a perpendicular axle and pin connector. More rare orange Technic elements, notably a 135-degree angle connector and a pair of 2L axle connectors, are utilised in the construction of a modest crane (below) which sits on a small platform on the right side of the vehicle. The jib of the crane is formed from a pair of orange 1 x 3 Bionicle teeth, while the grab consists of a pair of flat silver Hero Factory claws. The grab attaches to the crane via a 21-link trans-orange chain, and despite the small size of the crane it still manages to incorporate a rudimentary winding mechanism.
A harpoon launcher complete with harpoon is mounted on the opposite side of the vehicle from the crane. The mounting point features a quartet of orange modified 2 x 2 corner tiles with cut corner, appearing in a set for only the third time in this colour, while the harpoon is tipped with an uncommon white spear tip with fins. The harpoon itself doesn’t actually fire; instead it’s fixed to the top of a spring shooter which fires trans-orange arrows. A larger gun emplacement is mounted on the top of the vehicle at the rear. This also fires trans-orange arrows from a spring shooter and can be rotated through 360 degrees by turning the previously described printed dish or pearl dark grey barrel.
We finally get to attach the wheels at this point. The rear tyres are 81.6mm x 38mm balloon tyres which were last seen on 2015’s Formula Off-Roader set, while the smaller 68.7mm x 34mm front tyres have only previously appeared in eight sets, most recently in 2012. Next the tracks are assembled and fitted. Each track comprises 22 Technic tread elements. A rubber attachment is fixed to every second tread element in order to increase friction and theoretically help the track to grip the terrain that the vehicle is driving on. Despite the use of these rubber lugs the tracks unfortunately didn’t perform well on my wooden building table, generally sliding across the surface rather than moving as designed. I can however confirm that the tracks worked fine on my hall carpet!
The front of the Dieselnaut is completed with the addition of a suitably fierce-looking front bumper/fender which features a number of large white barbs, after which all that’s left to build is a removable jail cell (below) which attaches to the rear of the vehicle. This is constructed on a 4 x 7 x 2/3 vehicle base, while the roof is formed from a black 8 x 14 lattice. This rubbery element is currently exclusive to the set in black, and starts out flat but is soft enough to be bent into the appropriate shape. The sides of the cell are enclosed by olive green 6 x 6 inverted dishes which are also exclusive to the set in this colour; these are attached via hinges and can therefore be opened to provide access to the cell.
You can see the completed Dieselnaut in all its fearsome glory below, from the front….
….and from the rear.
The removable jail cell attaches to the Dieselnaut by way of a couple of Technic axles and slides on and off with ease. Rotation joints attached to the proximal end of the axles allow the cell to be lifted up and tucked neatly into the back of the vehicle. The cell has been lowered to ground level in the picture below, revealing the weapons rack hidden away inside the hollow superstructure.
The completed Dieselnaut can be seen below together with its complement of minifigures. The engine cover is in the raised position revealing the turbine, and the curved midsection panels have been retracted.
I’m pleased to report that this set definitely lived up to my expectations. In fact, I think that the Dieselnaut looks better in person than in the official pictures. It’s big and imposing, the design is idiosyncratic and imaginative, and I love the colour scheme with its prominent use of olive green and orange allied to dark bluish grey and black. Arguably more importantly for the target demographic, it provides a huge amount of play potential, with an impressive variety of play features shoehorned into the vehicle. I was also impressed with the minifigures, particularly Iron Baron and Heavy Metal with their pantomime villain, over-the-top styling. My only real criticism concerns the stiff tracks at the front of the vehicle which stubbornly refuse to operate reliably on smooth surfaces, although perhaps that could be remedied with some tweaking.
70654 Dieselnaut is available now at a RRP of £89.99 / US$109.99 / €99.99. Many thanks to the LEGO Group for providing Brickset with a review copy of the set. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.