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Toys for boys: A Ferrari fan reflects on Lego’s latest Technic set, the 488 GTE

How assembling Lego's latest and newest Technic set, the Ferrari 488 GTE, made this Ferrari fan reflect on his love for the legendary Italian carmaker.

Ferrari is my automotive Holy Grail. At the tender age of three, I used a red crayon to crudely draw the Prancing Horse on paper. At 16, I mastered the art of driving the F50 in the classic arcade game Outrun 2. And at 30, well, I wish I could say owning the keys to a shiny new scarlet speedster is the natural rite of passage.

The truth, however, is what is arguably the most famous car brand in the world is also one of the most exclusive. Joining a Ferrari club is a privilege. Donning the colours for the racing team? Forget about it, unless you invest in your child’s go-karting career.

Which is why for the rest of us, the closest we can get to wearing a Ferrari racer’s badge of honour is to splurge the cash on Lego’s latest Technic set, the 488 GTE “AF Corse #51”. We may not get to sit in the driver’s seat and hear the V8 engine growl, but Lego promises we will still derive satisfaction from fixing the complex set together and then leaving everything else to our imagination.

(Related: Object of desire – The 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa scale model)

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Enzo Ferrari

The side view of the completed Lego Technic Ferrari 488 GTE, sans stickers.

The side view of the completed Lego Technic Ferrari 488 GTE, sans stickers.

Enzo Ferrari envisioned leading his own racing team to victory, built it from scratch, and the rest is history. So at 1677 pieces, building this miniature version of Ferrari’s racing horse in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) really should be a breeze, as long as I put my mind to the task.

Lego wants every owner of the 488 GTE set to experience first-hand the labour and intricacies of building a race car. And so, as I flip open the instruction booklet that is just as thick and immaculately designed as the actual Ferrari owner’s manual, the first of five construction stages dives straight into the heart of the car – its engine.

Thankfully, the instructions aren’t in Italian. But the diagrams can be just as difficult to decipher as the Da Vinci Code. Does the brick go above or under the other? Is the end of the protruding rod supposed to face inwards or outwards? It doesn’t help that many of these pieces are just a few millimetres long, and my fat fingers clearly aren’t the best of tools for a job of this precise nature. I imagine a scowling Italian factory manager yelling “Stupido cazzo!” each time a brick drops and bounces under the couch.

The puzzle-solving gets increasingly frustrating with the nagging thought at the back of my mind that as the engine assembly becomes bigger, any wrongly fitted brick could cause the entire construction to be disassembled.

Then at some point, a satisfying click of the Lego bricks leads to a fully functioning engine, sort of. The pistons move up and down as I wind the crankshaft, and even on this scale it’s a fascinating sight to behold, especially knowing that I built it with my bare hands. This must be the feeling that every worker in Maranello feels when he fixes the last bolt onto a shiny all-aluminium V8 unit, ready for the next stage of the assembly line.

(Related: The new Ferrari Portofino M is quite the stunner)

The famous Ferrari engine, in Lego format.

The famous Ferrari engine, in Lego format.

“Everybody is a Ferrari fan. Even if they say they’re not, they’re Ferrari fans.” – Sebastian Vettel, former Ferrari F1 driver

I grew up indoctrinated in the legend of the prancing horse, and it’s highly possible that I had learnt to say “Ferrari” before “mummy”, thanks to a dad who had been amassing his secret collection of Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell F1 scale models months before I was born.

Loving Ferrari is the combination of a lust for speed, beauty and soul. Rarely do automobiles fall in the middle of the Venn diagram – fast and sleek cars often feel devoid of passion or warmth. But when you sit inside a Ferrari, it’s different. Everything from the curves of the aluminium body to the stitching on the leather upholstery to the F1-esque dials on the steering wheel just blends seamlessly, and flaunts the proud heritage of the Italian brand and the spirit of its workers who put everything together.

A close-up look at the steering wheel on the Lego Technic Ferrari 488 GTE.

A close-up look at the steering wheel on the Lego Technic Ferrari 488 GTE.

Or at least that’s what I believe it should feel like, as I affix the sticker on my miniature steering wheel in the driver’s cockpit.

By now, I had spent six hours on the floor in my living room. And it would be another day before I attach the tyres to complete the build of the 1677-piece Lego Ferrari 488 GTE “AF Corse #51”. The entire build process is laborious, anguishing, and makes you question your decision to splurge the money on an expensive hobby. But the fruits of your labour are a piece of art that you can proudly claim to have made yourself, and the reaffirmed love for the Italian beauty.

Now sip on a negroni, put your hand on the 488’s roof, and listen to the gradually intensifying beating of its heart.