Lego requires only one capability beyond not being ham-fisted, and that is visual acuity: the capacity to identify parts and their ultimate location from superbly-drawn instructions. Whether you start off with one of the ultra-simple sets aimed at under-5s or go straight to the adult kits, the activity is the same.
That said, even the monster of a project I just purchased, with its “16+” warning and 3,599 parts is, er, child’s play compared to one of Nigella’s recipes.
Having first rediscovered my hand-to-eye co-ordination with smaller kits from a Chinese maker of Lego-like sets but with pieces so small that most watchmakers would feel right at home with them, I decided to move from a 10in tall model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to what Lego says is the most complex model yet in their Technic series. I splashed out for the recently-released Bugatti Chiron, which is as close as I will ever get to the real thing. As a long-term, non-owning member of the Bugatti Owner’s Club, it was probably inevitable.
This massive kit arrives in a box weighing 6kg and measuring 15x57x37.5cm. Within are smaller, perfectly-nested boxes designed to present the building process in stages – its engine section mates with the front half of the vehicle in precisely the same manner as the real car. Be warned: there is a serious feeling of self-doubt upon discovering not one but two instruction manuals totalling over 600 pages.
I was hoping to take you through the entire process of building this magnificent 1/8th-scale vehicle, which will stand nearly 2ft long when finished. Instead, my ambition was as exaggerated as my appetite when I see a bowl of olives.
I now appreciate that my spare evenings through the coming winter months will be occupied with its assembly, in far smaller stages than even the individual boxes of parts propose.
Whatever latent snobbery I may have held as a one-time builder of both plastic and metal model kits requiring the aforementioned constructional abilities, this goes way beyond what most imagine when hearing the maker’s name. It features a 16-cylinder engine with moving pistons. Every door, lid, boot and bonnet panel opens to reveal detained compartments.
The movable gear paddle actually works the 8-speed gearbox, and – of course – the steering is entirely lifelike and correct. It even comes with a “top speed key” like the actual vehicle for raising or lowering the rear wing, while the storage compartment contains a miniature Bugatti overnight bag.
With the gift-giving season beckoning, this is the sort of present that any car fanatic would appreciate. If your beneficiary, however, is brand-sensitive, there’s an equally impressive Porsche, and I have my eye on the James Bond Aston Martin kit, once the Chiron is completed.
Then there are the amazing Harry Potter sets, massive lorries, motorcycles, architectural subjects – a hard-boiled detective’s office – and others to test one’s patience. A second childhood has never seemed so inviting.