The pandemic has had a pretty grim impact on cinematic release schedules this year. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was originally slated for a July 10th release, but is currently delayed to June 11, 2021. That left a lot of fans pretty unhappy…but LEGO has found a way to keep us busy while we wait for things to return to a new normal. Arguably the most beloved converted 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance of all time, the Ghostbusters ECTO-1 will be available directly via LEGO.com and LEGO Stores starting November 15th. This 2,352 piece set will retail for US $199.99 | CAN $259.99 | UK £179.99. What secrets does this new version of the ECTO-1 hold? Read on and see!
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
The box and contents
Unfortunately, our review copy was banged up a bit in transit, but you can still see that the box for this set is pretty sharp looking with the “Adult Collector” styling, which means a plain black background, prominent logos, and a mandatory 18+ age rating. (I’d guess an actual age requirement for this set would be closer to 10+, as there’s nothing super complex about the build.) What is missing is any sort of “Ultimate Collector Series” (UCS) messaging. While LEGO has currently only applied that term to Star Wars-themed sets, many collectors view sets like this and the recent 76139 Batmobile to be UCS-equivalents. To be fair, this set lacks some “standard” UCS features like a display plaque and related exclusive minifigures, so maybe leaving that marketing off is better.
On the back, you can more easily see that this is the version of the ECTO-1 from the Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie. There are a couple of stills from the trailer, along with a few insets showing off the real-world play features of the set. The main focus, though, is still on the car itself, this time seen from a rear angle.
Inside the box are 23 numbered bags, grouped across 12 building steps. There’s also an unnumbered bag containing the tires and other larger elements.
The instruction book and sticker sheet are protected from damage by a white cardboard envelope. The manual is perfect bound and 312 pages long. In a fun twist, the cover art calls back to classic automotive owner’s manuals, rather than showing off another product shot. The back cover has the Ghostbusters logo as well as one for General Motors, pointing out that this set is also a licensed product for the GM brand. Interestingly, that logo isn’t strongly featured on the outer packaging, only showing up in the legal-ese blurbs on the bottom of the box.
While this set does contain printed parts, the sticker sheet is also pretty big. And repetitive. The ECTO-1 in the Afterlife movie has apparently been sitting idle for years and has gathered a lot of rust in that time. I wasn’t very impressed with these “rust” stickers – each one of the four patterns is duplicated many times, leading to a pretty cookie-cutter look. Since they’re just stickers, it would have been nice for each rust patch to have a slightly different shape. On the other hand, these are stickers and not printed parts, so if you want to just leave the rust off and have a “freshly painted” ECTO-1, you can.
The majority of the set features relatively common parts, but there are a few rare and new gems. Quarter-panel domes in dark blue-grey were a fun new surprise, and the Technic shock absorber has only appeared previously in the 42107 Ducati Panigale V4 R. There’s are also a somewhat uncommon 1×2 dashed-arrow tile, and a new/updated Proton-pack print on a 2×2 round tile.
Other new printed parts include this siren-grille on a 2×2 boat tile and a new hubcap design on 3×3 Technic discs.
There are also two completely new parts in this set: a new steering wheel and a 6×14 curved windscreen. The center hub of the steering wheel has the same dimensions as a stack of two 2×2 round plates with axle hole, with the rim extending out a 5-stud width. The rim itself uses the standard bar diameter, meaning you can attach stuff to it using standard LEGO clips. Hopefully, we’ll see both of these again, as they feel like super useful elements for custom car building.
The final new printed element I wanted to call attention to is something sure to be a hit with Ghostbusters fans: a 1×4 logo brick. The set includes three of them, built into the front and rear doors.
The chassis for the ECTO-1 is very sturdy and holds up well to handling. Technic gearing is integrated into the build early on, and drives several action features.
First up is the steering functionality. This will eventually be hooked up to both the steering wheel in the cab, as well as being able to be turned from a knob on the roof rack.
The next bit of building intrigue starts off with this chair, situated in the center of the car. Built into the back of it is a proton pack, featuring that new printed 2×2 round tile.
As seen in the trailer, this is a “gunner’s chair” that swings out of the car. Pressing on a section of the car’s exterior pushes the chair out while spinning it around. The action here is smooth and didn’t jam on me at all. However, putting the chair back into the car isn’t as clean, as we’ll see later on.
The next few sections of the build also have some Technic-complexities to them, but overall the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The interior details are a little sparse, and some are obviously designed to hide the Technic mechanisms. Peering closely at the movie trailer stills, what you can see of the interior of the car matches up pretty well overall.
The next action feature is this drop-away ramp at the back of the vehicle. While building, it was easier to manipulate the chair to see things in action, but once the build is done, you pull a lever on the other side. In the shot below, you can also see that there’s a crate labeled “R. T. V.” A quick bit of internet sleuthing reveals that this stands for “Remote Trap Vehicle,” coincidentally the second element of this action feature. Again, we’ll get to that in a little bit.
On the exterior, things are starting to come together. (Despite my sloppy early-stage building here.) The license plate is a sticker on a 2×4 tile, which is kind of a bummer. This would have made a nice printed part, as I can never get the stickers on perfectly straight.
Moving along, the doors make their appearance. Only three of them open, as the fourth hides the trap door mechanics above. The yellow railings inside the doors will be used later as connection points for the windows and interior details.
The door hinges make use of some interesting hinge construction that we saw previously in the 10265 Ford Mustang. This keeps the doors from swinging open too wide, and makes the model feel a bit more real-world accurate as a result.
The next sections of the exterior aren’t a complex build, but they really capture the shaping of the ECTO-1 perfectly. The interior tech displays are a little low-key and make use of very common printed technical elements. They’re very hard to see in the completed model, though, so again this is more of a fun detail for the person building the set than anyone else. It’ll be interesting if the new movie eventually gives us more shots of these equipment panels to compare against.
Up front, the grille of the ECTO-1 is constructed in part from 44 minifigure roller skates. It’s an unusual design choice, and it works really well.
The engine (with appropriate Cadillac stickers) looks good, and nestles between wheel wells created by those dark blue-grey quarter domes. It’s a bit of an unexpected bonus as the packaging doesn’t call out the opening hood at all.
Back inside, the dashboard combines a sticker for the speedometer with printed tiles for the other instrumentation. That new steering wheel element really stands out as a cool addition to the styling.
Next up is adding on the windows and the rear door. It was about this point I was really getting annoyed at all the rust stickers. Also, the rear door doesn’t perfectly align with the car’s body, sitting a couple of degrees off of true. It’s a minor nit that no one will ever notice, and having the door mounted at a very unusual-for-LEGO angle makes up for this small compromise in design. Besides, it matches my slightly-off-angle license plate.
I had expected the roof to be a removable element, but instead it’s firmly affixed. This is due to the integrated Technic gears that are driven off of the rear wheels.
While building all the roof-mounted equipment, the instructions provided a nice little treat. Most of the devices have a bit of movie-trivia displayed in inset graphics. If you, like me, thought those red barrels were some sort of cannon, think again. Apparently they’re part of the “T.U. Antenna,” which sniffs out psychokinetic energy.
One final bit of construction elegance I want to highlight is the way the rear quarter panels are attached. By using ball-and-hitch connections, the angle of the 3×12 wedge plate is matched for a studs-up top edge. It’s a really clever technique I hope to adapt into my own future creations. You can also see some of the internal connections that hold up the tail fins and tail lights.
The finished model
The completed ECTO-1 delivers very well on the movie-accuracy scorecard. There are obviously some changes from the first movie, the most notable being the ladder to the roof moving to the opposite side of the car. But without actively checking against a movie still in a “spot the 5 differences” challenge, most people would be hard-pressed to even notice that change.
Sometimes LEGO models look great in general, but fall short when seen from the wrong angle. The ECTO-1 doesn’t have that problem, as it looks spot-on from all sides.
The repetitive rust designs do continue to feel like a shortfall, particularly when seen from the side. The duplication of shape is obvious when you see several identical stickers next to each other. Casual observers might never notice, though. Also of note is the construction of the roof ladder. Those are window-less LEGO window frames.
As mentioned earlier, the gunner’s seat action feature slides the chair out of the car very well. Putting the chair back, though, is not nearly as smooth. After pushing the chair back into the cab, if the cord on the proton pack doesn’t get mashed flush with the front seats, the door will refuse to close. Careful positioning of the minifigure whip element that makes up the cord can minimize this, but I can’t help but wonder if a different part choice or slightly different build design might have helped more.
Up on the roof rack, you can see all the different gadgets and gizmos that make up the Ghostbusters’ detection systems. There are a few small stickers to add some warning labels to things, and they help provide a sense of scale, too. The 2×2 round brick in clear can be turned to steer the ECTO-1.
As mentioned earlier, the rear wheels drive some action features on the roof. The T.U. Antenna swings from side to side, and the radar dish rotates. This is another treat not hinted at on the packaging.
I’m not completely sold on the design of the interior of the hood, but the bonus detail of the ECTO-1’s engine is more than enough to make me smile. This is a detail that I don’t think would have been high on anyone’s wish list, and it seems like it would have been easy to cut for cost-savings had push come to shove. Its inclusion does make this feel more like an “adult collectible,” though.
A new feature for the ECTO-1 in Afterlife is the Remote Trap Vehicle. We don’t know much about it yet, but it seems pretty clear what it is and what it does in the Ghostbusters universe. Opening the rear door, you can place the R.T.V. in the trunk.
Pulling the activation lever drops the trap door, and sends the R.T.V. rolling. The lever is a little hard to grip, but putting a bigger handle on would have looked really stupid. As an action feature it works pretty well; the R.T.V. exits with a decent amount of speed.
The final step, number 608 on page 304, is to put a sticker on a couple of curved slopes to make a bag of Stay-Puft Marshmallows. The logo is close to the one seen in the earlier movies, with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man being drawn in his LEGO incarnation.
The bag sits loosely on the front passenger seat of the car. It’s kind of an odd addition, but makes for a great little Easter egg.
Comparison with the Batmobile
I mentioned earlier that LEGO fans tend to think of this scale of vehicle as belonging to the same meta-theme. To that end, I thought it might be interesting to see how the ECTO-1 looked next to the Batmobile.
The Batmobile is a bigger (and more expensive) set, and does make the ECTO-1 feel a bit puny. But despite the scale not matching up, they do look pretty good when displayed side-by-side. The ECTO-1’s increased level of visual complexity plays well with the Batmobile’s streamlined shape. Plus the overall black-and-white color combination just looks spiffy.
Conclusion and recommendation
I don’t know if Ghostbusters: Afterlife will be any good, but in the end, that doesn’t really need to impact my views on this set. This is a superb rendition of the ECTO-1. Instantly recognizable, full of great details, and sporting a fair number of interesting functions and features. There are a good variety of parts, including those sweet new windscreen and steering wheel molds, and some fun prints. From a cost perspective, at $200 US for 2,352 pieces this set comes in at around 8.5 cents per part; a decent ratio, particularly considering the included licensing fees for both Ghostbusters and GM. There are downsides, though. The lack of a display plaque and absence of any minifigures makes this feel like a downgrade from other UCS-style sets, a comparison that’s sure to be made even if LEGO doesn’t directly invite it. Still, aimed as it is at the “adult collector market,” I have a feeling LEGO will sell a lot of these. There’s no denying it will make an impressive holiday gift. And considering the popularity of the Ghostbusters franchise, long term collectability seems like a safe bet, too.
I can easily see die-hard fans wanting to pick up a second (or third) copy of this set to make movie-accurate versions of the ECTO for each film. As a more casual viewer, I probably won’t seek out a second copy, unless these inexplicably go on sale someday. But I am very tempted to rip off all those stupid rust stickers, move that ladder to the “correct” side, and have “my version” of the ECTO-1 for display. And isn’t that a pretty decent endorsement? It’s a LEGO set you want to build with. Feels like a win to me.
And, look, I made it all the way to the end without resorting to a “Who you gonna call?” joke!
10274 Ghostbusters ECTO-1 will be available starting November 15 in LEGO stores and from the LEGO Shop Online for US $199.99 | CAN $259.99 | UK £179.99. It may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
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