We’ve all spent time snapping together little Lego bricks to make spaceships, cars, unflattering portraits of our siblings, and anything else we can think of. But some people take Legos really seriously, creating crazy models that require knowledge of robotics, real-life engineering, and even the ability to bend reality.
Functional V8 engine
One of the first things any of us made with Legos as kids was a crude model of a car. Obviously, they didn’t go anywhere beyond finding their way under our parents’ feet. That didn’t deter some imaginative kids, who grew up into imaginative adults and started building car components out of the plastic blocks. The most impressive is Huib van der Hart’s working V8 engine.
This isn’t just a static scale model of a V8 engine. It actually runs. With a little electricity, the thing springs to life. (Obviously van der Hart didn’t want real gasoline running through the engine, combusting, and turning the model into a molten blob of plastic.) Plus, since it runs on electricity, it’s technically the engine of a smart car! Other than that, it’s not too different from a car engine. It runs up to an impressive RPM and is a six-speed. You can actually watch the model change gears as it is running, including reverse and neutral. Who knew that making moving models of this complexity was possible with Legos, but the best thing about this is, van der Hart conveniently has written out instructions on how to build it. Just don’t steal Legos from a kid to do it.
M.C. Escher art
Escher’s works are a trip — they always have some sort of crazy paradox that can only exist on paper. One of the most famous is the infinite staircase, which jumped back into pop culture when it appeared in Inception. Clearly, Escher’s art was only meant to exist in dream worlds.
But that didn’t stop Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shui, an eccentric team of Escher (and Lego) fans. They wanted to see Escher’s ideas jump into real life. The most impressive models they made re-created "Ascending and Descending" (the staircase one) and "Relativity." Unfortunately, they learned that changing the structure of reality is actually impossible, so the team used super-clever optical illusions to recreate the print … but only if viewed from one side. Still, that’s damn impressive. "Relativity" was tough too, because they had to model gravity working in three directions simultaneously. Obviously, outside of creating some sort of gravity generator, that’s impossible. Unless you have Legos.
Using something called the SNOT technique (which probably only makes sense if you’re a level 100 Master Builder who has sold your soul to the devil), they accurately recreated gravity working against the laws of reality. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if they create Lego Inception. Maybe they already have? Maybe we are already living inside one of their Lego models! Braaaammmm.
USS Harry S. Truman
Aircraft carriers are insanely complex in real-life, but it takes a certain type of mad genius to look at one and go: "Hey I can build one of those in Lego." Malle Hawking is that type of person. He embarked on a quest to recreate the USS Harry S. Truman, which seems like a random ship to make, but hey, maybe he liked it. Instead of just creating a little model, though Hawking decided to create it on mini-figure scale using only 25 internet pictures. The end product is a 16-foot long, 4-foot tall, 350-pound model. It displaces enough water to float.
Oddly, that’s not even the most impressive thing about this model. Since it’s a scale model, the creation has a flight deck, full-sized hangar bay and meticulously modeled bridge. Hawking included every airplane in the complement of the Harry S. Truman’s air wing. He didn’t just create a scale model of the ship — he also created scale models of every type of airplane that the real-life plane carrier had. He didn’t use any off-the-shelf kits. He just modeled them on his own.
But wait, there’s more! The aircraft elevators and radar dishes actually move and work. Even the catapult was modeled and motorized. Hawking can even launch his miniature F-18s from his miniature aircraft carrier! If Legominifigures ever gain sentience, this will probably be their base of operations when overthrowing their human overlords.
The Lego company hires people to design and build insane models with their plastic bricks, which sounds like the best job in the world. Of course, there are a ton of Star Wars fans on the teams. Together, they made the craziest Star Wars model in the world: a life-sized X-wing starfighter based off the Lego X-wing model we played with as kids.
Using canon sources for the dimensions, the Lego builders put together the iconic spaceship, piece by piece. In the end, they used 5 million pieces. It is 42 times bigger than the commercially available X-wing model, and took 4 months to make. This isn’t just some slapped-together Lego model, either — the Lego team actually had to sit down and think about real-world engineering issues when building it. Since the model was going to make a world tour, they had to engineer it to withstand travel and set-up. That’s the most fun way to use an engineering degree imaginable.
At 45,000 pounds and engineered to withstand stresses, there really isn’t that much of a difference between the model and its fictional counterpart, except for all the sci-fi tech (as far as we know). Frankly, we wouldn’t put it past those Lego geniuses to discover hyperdrive before NASA does.
Out of all the things to build a life-sized model of, the T-800 is probably the coolest, but also the most worrying. Designed by Martin Latta, the T-800 stands at an impressive six feet tall, and is a faithful reproduction of the iconic cyborg assassin. Latta spared no expense for his model. In all, it has 15,000 Lego pieces, and comes complete with light-up eyes. Thankfully, Latta didn’t try to create an advanced AI brain to come with his creation, but we wouldn’t put it past him to start working on it, thereby accidentally creating the machine uprising.
The actual movie prop for the T-800 is pretty complex, with lots of exposed pistons and components. Latta did an amazing job reproducing everything. Pretty much everything else is in place, with all the pistons and components modeled with loving care. Latta might even plan to skin the robot, which will involve way more time staring at photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger then we’d be comfortable with. With a life-sized X-wing and a life-sized T-800 hanging around, the rise of the machines will probably come from the T-800 gaining sentience and modifying the X-wing to actually fly. The end of the world will be the coolest cross-over event ever.
Tallest Lego tower
For years, teams around the world have fought for the world record of the tallest Lego tower. They keep one-upping each other, with the record inching higher and higher. Breaking the record isn’t a matter of making the tower look pretty — it’s just getting as many bricks as high as possible.
In 2015, the record went to an Italian Lego group for their 114-foot-11-inch-tall Lego tower. Donations poured in for the record attempt, and in the end, the Lego Tower of Babel was a fabulous rainbow of plastic bricks stretching a couple of stories above the historic buildings of Milan. Oddly, the team didn’t go all-out trying to break the record. They just added a little bit to the record, beating the 2014 mark by a mere 10.5 inches. If that isn’t an invitation to competition, we don’t know what is. Naturally, the record was broken the following year, with a tower in a German Legoland beating the Italian tower by another foot and a half.
Slowly, the record inches higher and higher, until eventually we either discover the maximum height a Lego tower can reach, or a Lego tower reaches space. One or the other. If the record just slowly keeps inching higher and higher, that is going to take a while, but just wait: the 2375 Lego tower record is going to be insane. Just as long as the Enterprise doesn’t accidentally run into it.
A world record-holder Rubik’s Cube-solving robot
There is probably a ton of overlap between people who love solving Rubik’s Cubes and those who build Lego robots, so it’s not too much of a surprise that somebody finally figured out how to build a Lego robot so fast, it beats the Rubik’s Cube world record.
Named CubeStormer III, this brilliant little robot solves cubes in just 3.253 seconds. That’s insanely fast, especially considering it’s just made of commercially available Lego parts. The brains of the robot are a normal Samsung Galaxy phone. Its processors use an app to figure out how to solve the cube. The phone’s on-board camera constantly watches the spinning cube to feed info to the phone brain, and little Lego robot arms do the rest.
Watching CubeStormer III work is amazing, especially considering how fast the little robot arms work. Remember, these are made completely out of Lego, which we never knew could move so fast. Also, unlike humans, CubeStormer III can inspect the cube and figure out the solution while still moving its robot components. To the dismay of lots of Rubik’s enthusiasts, CubeStormer III is clearly superior to them. If it doesn’t gain sentience eventually, we will be way disappointed. Robot Emperor CubeStormer III is definitely worthy of the title.
A full-sized, functional house
We knew James May was kind of eccentric after watching him on Top Gear, but we didn’t know that he was such a giant Lego fan. When James May was a boy, he wanted to build Lego full-sized house. As soon as his show started picking up, he knew that time had come to build his childhood dream. We aren’t convinced that this wasn’t the plan behind Top Gear in the first place.
From the outside, his house just looks like a block of Legos, but any fan of Top Gear knows that James May does not do anything halfway. Not content to just have models of things like toilets and sinks, he figured out how to make them work. The house was connected to water lines — the sink runs water, the toilet flushes, and the shower works. Unfortunately, the bed isn’t very soft, but being able to take a dump in a working Lego toilet certainly makes up for it.
The project wasn’t just May slowly putting together his house. He got the community to take part, and it became a labor of love for all his fans. But the house had to be demolished by order of the landowner, and Legoland went all cheap-skate. They wouldn’t transport his masterpiece because it was too expensive. So the house is gone now, but hopefully somebody got revenge on the Legoland executives by placing Lego pieces all around their beds in the middle of the night.
A functioning HK UMP 45 submachine gun
If zombie movies have taught us one lesson, it’s that anything can be used as a weapon, even children’s toys. Lego enthusiast Jack Streat wasn’t content with making peaceful models in his spare time. He wanted to make an adult toy, and settled on modeling machine guns that actually fire.
The coolest model is his HK UMP 45, but he has also made sniper rifles, World War II machine guns, and pump-action shotguns. The UMP 45 is faithfully reproduced in cool black bricks. Nothing was left out. The firing mechanism is faithfully modeled after real weapons, but instead of shooting bullets, it just shoots little bricks. Of course, these are stored in detachable magazines. Because why wouldn’t they?
As if getting the gun shooting wasn’t impressive enough, Streat went ahead and reproduced all the accessories of the HK UMP 45. A collapsible stock comes with the model, as does a Reflex sight. In case the sight doesn’t work, Streat made sure to give the gun classic iron sights. All in all, the only difference between this and the real machine gun, is that this one is made out Legos and can’t kill you. But getting a face-full of flying Lego bricks doesn’t exactly sound like a fun time, so watch out for anybody hanging around with a Lego machine gun. The eyes are the groin of the face.
Legoland has a ton of really cool Lego model displays, showing off faithful reproductions of some of the most impressive architecture in the world. None, however, are as impressive as the 1,300,000-brick model of Munich’s iconic Allianz Arena.
The arena itself is pretty amazing, but honestly, seeing it made of Legos is actually more impressive. The original stadium has a beautiful curved face, which is really difficult to reproduce with rectangular pieces. By using careful layering of bricks, however, the curved facade was re-created. That’s probably the coolest part of it.
The designers of the model decided to build it on the scale of Lego minifigures. At "full capacity," the model seats up to 30,000 little Lego figures, some of which were designed by park visitors. The huge stadium stands 1 meter tall, and completely replicates the iconic curves the original stadium. If that wasn’t enough, the stadium also lights up like the real thing, and even has smoke effects that can shoot out over the crowd of Lego figures. Hopefully they can figure out how to make little Lego robot figures as well, so they can have a real soccer game running during park hours. If Legoland Deutschland ends up doing that, remember that we came up with it first.
A shockingly detailed map of Europe
It takes a special type of person to look at a map of Europe and go: "You know what? This would be awesome to make out of Lego." But thank God those people exist, because without them, we wouldn’t have one of the weirdest, yet most impressive Lego projects in the world: a 157-square-foot, 53,500-brick, Lego map of Europe.
Now at first, that doesn’t sound like much, but this isn’t just a normal map. Oh no, the builders of the project wanted to design a relief map, with all the mountain ranges, river beds, and lowlands of Europe modeled to scale. For example, the mountains of the Alps stick up above the map. It’s a pretty amazing feat of Lego cartography, but the makers decided that mapping the geography of Europe still wasn’t impressive enough. They decided to recreate 44 of the most famous landmarks in Europe out of Legos, and stick them on the map in their respective locations. In the end, looking at the model is like a little tour of the European continent. An actual tour of Europe is probably cooler … but only marginally so. At least, until these guys build a life-sized Lego European dance club.
A working 1800s Babbage difference engine
Strap on your thinking cap. Smart technological wonders are now small enough that you can keep one in your pocket and make calls with it. Back in the 1800s, though, it was a pretty big deal when English mathematician Charles Babbage designed a big mechanical calculator called a "difference engine," which Encyclopedia Britannica describes as verging on being the world’s first computer. Unfortunately, funding difficulties made it so that Babbage’s project was never completed.
In 2011, though, Babbage’s dream came to life in the unexpected form of little plastic blocks. According to Wired, the man behind the bricks was a former Apple software engineer named Andrew Carol, who worked fastidiously on the project for six years, using about 2,000 Lego pieces… and yes, it works! According to Carol’s YouTube, those spinning plastic gears are able to tabulate "any polynomial of the form aX^2 + bX + c for X:0 through N with answers to 3 digits," a statement which might awaken some high school math trauma for many readers, but is nonetheless very cool.
Rivendell from Lord of the Rings
Back in 2012, Lego enthusiast Alice Finch put together the largest Lego replica of Hogwarts to date. Making an entire school of witchcraft and wizardry out of tiny toy bricks is no easy feat, but Finch wanted to ratchet things up to the next level. That’s when (cue the soundtrack) she met fellow Lego builder David Frank, according to Mashable, and they decided to work together to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s elven city of Rivendell to plasticized life.
Compared to the gentle rolling hills of the Shire, Rivendell presented some complex architectural challenges, presumably requiring coffee, sleepless nights, and a hardcore work ethic. Both of the plastic brick veterans wanted to get the city up and running before BrickCon 2013, which resulted in three months of late-night building sessions that probably resembled the exhausting "study routine" that got you through your college exams. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films were a huge help in determining the city’s layout, and the duo made further adjustments after the release of The Hobbit. In the end, Rivendell was built using 200,000 bricks, and the elves lived happily ever after.
A working pinball machine
Few things bring out cheesy old childhood memories like a pinball machine, the ultimate testament to how two little flippers can command supernatural power over an entire board of switches, blinking bumpers, and mazes. Good pinball machines are always complex, since getting a high score means doing lots of tricky maneuvers, and that’s exactly what makes it so impressive that the talented Bre Burns made a functional pinball machine entirely out of Legos, according to Fast Company. The game, titled Benny’s Spaceship Adventure, does everything you’d expect a pinball machine to do, from making cute sounds to tallying up the user’s score. This feat was accomplished using 15,000 Lego bricks, with particular credit going to those programmable Lego Mindstorms NXT bricks.
As Bre herself explains in the video, the design is 100 percent Lego product, with no cheats: even the pinballs themselves are Lego balls, and the bumpers use official Lego rubber bands. Now that’s impressive.
A full-size drivable car
Your average car is made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from glass to aluminum to rubber, all of which can get pretty gnarled up if you’re unlucky enough to experience a head-on collision. Now, if you heard that someone had built a cool-looking car out of Lego blocks — let’s say, a smooth blue Bugatti Chiron — you’d probably be impressed. Doubly so if you found out that the car was life-sized. But here’s the kicker: what if you could actually open the Lego door of a Lego car, hit the ignition, and drive away?
Crazy as it sounds, a drivable Lego car really exists, according to TechCrunch. Obviously, building a car out of over 1 million tiny plastic "Technic" bits is a lot of work, and it required 13,000 man hours, according to Lego.com. While this blocky Bugatti only drives up to 19 MPH, it’s certainly fast enough to dodge some cones, and the vehicle contains other fun features like a detachable Lego steering wheel, a spoiler that electronically lifts and lowers, and a fully-functional speedometer built out of… well, you know. To be fair, not every single part of the car is built from toy bricks, as rendering it drivable does require a steel frame, batteries, and actual rubber tires. While you probably don’t want to turn this one into a daily commuter, just imagine the look on your partner’s face if you parked this in the driveway.
Diagnosed on the autism spectrum, ten-year-old Brynjar Karl Bigisson of Reykjavik, Iceland, often struggled to communicate with others, suffering from loneliness and a lack of connection to his peers, according to CNN. One thing he did become passionate about, though, was sea vessels, inspired by a fishing trip with his grandfather. This interest eventually spiraled into a fascination with the most iconic ship of all time, the Titanic, and a fervent desire to create a scale model out of Legos, perfectly sized to fit those little yellow Lego people.
Bryjnar dove into his project, and his family enthusiastically joined in, using the original Titanic blueprint to craft a model that ended up being 26 feet long, five feet tall, and built from 56,000 Lego bricks. All in all, the project took almost a year. Now that he’s a teenager, Brynjar credits the success of his Titanic project with helping him to become less shy and more comfortable with others, thanks to the fame and attention his achievement received afterward. Brynjar is still a young guy, and the ambition behind this project definitely indicates that he has a bright future ahead of him.
Sure, many kids had a plastic Batcave set when they were a kid. Maybe you were even innovative enough to compile all your black Lego bricks and build one yourself. But no matter how ambitious your plans may have been, you would’ve had a hard time competing with the work of Carlyle Livingston II and Wayne Hussey, featured on Kotaku, who spent over 800 hours constructing something that even the Dark Knight himself (particularly the version featured in The Lego Batman Movie) would be proud of.
The fact that their Batcave weighs over 100 pounds and is constructed from over 20,000 parts is small potatoes compared to the insane level of detail, which led Maxim to call it "the best Lego Batcave ever." Not only is there a Batmobile, a Batplane, and a Batboat right out of the Tim Burton movies, but Livingston and Hussey’s Batcave also features its own lighting system and four motors that power such mechanical contraptions as a turntable for the fancy black super-car, some swanky elevators, and more. Here’s to these guys for making childhood dreams come true.
The biggest Lego airplane in the world
If you were to watch the video above, at first glance, you might just think that it features a regular airplane. An Airbus A380, to be precise, which happens to be one of the largest airplanes in the world. Look closer, though, and as the little brick edges become apparent, you’ll realize that this Airbus A380 is made entirely of Legos. While this model isn’t going to take off into the clouds anytime soon, it’s nonetheless a seriously impressive plastic masterpiece.
Made at a 1:25 scale, according to Gizmodo, the Lego Airbus is over 9 feet long, with a 10.5 foot wingspan. It stands about 3.2 feet tall, and the plane’s over 75,000 pieces weigh in at about 220 pounds. It was built over the course of 600 hours by a professional Lego team, who all certainly put their backs into it. Despite the Singapore Airlines tag, Experience the Skies says that the plane itself is actually parked at the Legoland in Denmark.
Lego my cello
Ask anybody in a band, and they’ll tell you musical instruments can get crazy expensive. In 2009, though, the Telegraph reported that a clever New York City artist named Nathan Sawaya had eschewed standard materials like maple and spruce to make his own functional cello, instead opting for — you guessed it! — yellow, brown, and black Lego blocks. Though Sawaya says the Lego cello doesn’t quite replicate the beautiful sound of a real cello, it is fully playable when strung with regular cello strings, which definitely marks this achievement as one for the books.
As it happens, Sawaya has become a big name in the wild world of Lego sculptures, with Inhabitat writing in 2011 that he had constructed an entire bedroom set out of Legos, including drawers that opened and closed, a nightstand with a small reproduction of Auguste Rodin’s "The Thinker" on it, as well as what is probably the world’s most rigidly uncomfortable mattress and pillow set of all time. Placed alongside the little bed, of course, is Sawaya’s miraculous Lego-constructed cello … you know, in case he wakes up in the middle of the night from his hard plastic block bed, can’t fall back asleep for some reason, and wants to play his plastic block musical instrument into the wee hours. Now, if he can just follow this up by making a Lego hangpan, or a sitar…