I've acquired a few of the Speed Champions sets over the last several years, mostly they've been sitting around in their boxes waiting for some time to build them. The latest wave of Lego's increasingly-excellent sets triggered a mass build which became a study in the evolution of this line's experience design.
Then came a few waves of increasingly-well-shaped car models. Techniques improved, some new parts were introduced. The best of these sets were still let down by either an obnoxious rainbow of randomly-colored parts ("color vomit") or hampered by arbitrarily-complicated and monotonous plate-stacking builds.
January 2019 brought the the most recent wave. Tight, crisp designs with mostly-coherent parts colorways and sections of dense, intricate, and very interesting builds. Maybe they're a little too complicated for little kids now, but they're genuinely cool.
Here's how I think they stack up, and why.
75890 Ferrari F40
Refreshingly coherent parts colors, everything on-theme. Finished build appears far more straightforward and simple than it actually is. Interesting techniques are involved in building up the surfaces all the way around the model. The thin black trim line around the the whole car is a triumph of SNOT techniques. I would not have expected the entire side panel to be hung off a single corner plate, but it works. Quite clever and very refined. The cuteness of the standard short-wheelbase Speed Champions proportions works well on this one. It's very cute... (but I still want to lower and lengthen it for a more menacing presence.)
> Replacing radiator hood-vent stickers with proper slopes is an easy fix.
> A little too cute. Needs maybe a stud more wheelbase, bonus staggered 6/7- or 7/8-wide build
> Also needs a GTE variation with huge rear wing
> Nose is a bit blocky. Round the corners more, perhaps 2x1 curve bows instead of the 1x2 tiles.
> The big brick in back could have been something engine-ish despite not being visible. At least it's gray and not some random color.
75892 McLaren Senna
Wicked shaping. Cool sections, decent color use (maybe a bit overzealous with the orange). A very fun build. Front and Rear clips in particular are a riot of angles and slopes and interesting parts use.
> Adding the Senna's side sill detail required a redesign of the entire center of the car
> Needs a less hump-backed rear roof area for a better silhouette.
75894 Mini Dakar
I love the colorway on this thing. It's great-looking even as a pile of parts; lots of dark green, a bit of red, offset with some brown and mechanical grays. And it's a gnarly looking build when it's done. Most Speed Champions come across as a compact, cute caricature. This build goes the other way; it's comically-big... Even more so parked up against its kit-mate, the properly-tiny Mini Cooper. The Dakar has some interesting shaping with many wing plates and wedge-cut bows, and a clever build for the nose. The chassis doesn't really add any perspective or understanding how the real vehicle works (it's mid-engined, right?) but the model's suspension forces quite different approach than most Speed Champions. Feels very Lego, though, like a good City or Creator model... Fenders are cool, mudflaps are cool, skidplates are cool. Very cool.
> Needs the stickers to look properly cool
> Perhaps a little strange to say, but this one has a great looking minifig. The winking driver is very cute.
75884 Mustang Fastback 68
Great build, nice colors. Parts and techniques just clever enough to come across as genuinely fun. Great result. Overall a surprisingly satisfyingly great little set.
> All-green colorway better, just replace the white bits on the sides.
> Roof wants some work, really wants to be dark green...
> How about other variations like Shelby?
75894 Mini Cooper Monte Carlo Rally
Mad genius design. An astonishing number of parts packed into one very tiny car. The build somehow magically transforms from 4 to 3 to 5 and back to 4-wide sections... Mad. Genius. Looks fantastic done. Lovely details, particularly that roof rack with spare tires.
> Inspired to try some odd-stud builds now.
> Shouldn't zero ground clearance be a concern for a rally car?
75893 Dodge Charger 70
What a beast. This one was a complete surprise... Maybe it's all the exotics and race cars on my shelf, but this old barge is a standout. Fantastically great build, good colors. Interior is great, too. Very fun and an excellent result, right there with the Mustang.
> Swap the aft fender tile and sticker for smaller red + black tiles to continue the red stripe.
> Skip the swappable supercharger and redo internal nose area with some engine detail?
75885 Ford Fiesta M-Sport WRC
Cool build, fantastic detail shaping, interesting techniques. Cool result. So many great parts which, like the Senna, come together in a riot of detailed surfaces. Random colors inside are a little annoying.
> Could be built a plate lower overall? (It's a small car IRL but looks very big compared to other SC builds)
75888 Porsche 911 RSR
Good result. Very crisp, tight, lean shaping. Cool build and the red interior is a treat, but color vomit inside is silly.
> Swap parts for less annoying color randomness.
> No engine a missed opportunity.
> Race-car livery needs all the stickers.
75880 McLaren 720S
Cool details and shaping, particularly that nose. A few random colors inside could be swapped otherwise a nice tidy build. The accompanying designer's desk is one of the better bonus builds. Altogether a very satisfying and coherent set. Stands out as a good singular set to represent a complete vision, a nicely resolved story.
> Looks amazing adapted to Dark Blue
75877 Mercedes AMG GT3
The first Speed Champion I really admired as a design. Internally a pretty straightforward build but very cool result; a solid, long and low mass of badass car. Rear clip build is quite clever. Colors generally on-theme except for the complex around the swappable-nose structure which is best replaced with more detail for a radiator and nose vent anyway.
> Reworked nose with radiator and vent (also eliminates most of the odd-color parts)
> Newer pointy bows on rear fenders over taillights to round the tail a bit more
75878 Bugatti Chiron
Generally a pretty fun build with good details and shapes, but the result desperately needs to be longer and lower; the actual Chiron's very low and covers a patch of ground the size of a small continent. This set introduced some cool new parts, however, and the colors are good (tan interior a nice touch). Even has something engine-ish in the rear compartment.
> Lower, longer redesign around new curved fenders
> Possible 7-wide?
75881 Ford GT LM
Actually a cool build. Good shaping. Parts colors on-theme. Looks less stubby in person... could definitely be lower though. And wider... And maybe less colorful (with apologies to Andy Blackmore)
> Try a lower build with new fenders?
> 7~8 wide solution along with the Chiron?
> Will look more coherent with a one-color build?
75887 Porsche 919
Much improved over the lowly Audi R18 set... Good shaping for the scale. Random internal part colors are incongruous and spoil it a bit. This subject matter is so intricate and detailed that a better model would have to be larger to really capture it.
> Wants to be 8-wide and longer
> Wants to be more detailed...
> Race-car livery needs all the stickers.
75886 / 75889 Ferrari 488 GT3/GTE
Nicely shaped solutions to the 488's flowing curves. Lego's original design is a stud too short in wheelbase, which has the double impact of also forcing it too tall.
> My improved build is much better looking :)
> Needs the extra wheelbase, engine detail, lower, smoother rear deck and roofline
> Looks good (better?) as a road car...
75870 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Easily the best-looking of the very early SC releases. A simple blocky build, full of the randomly-colored parts it will take years for Lego to move away from. Result is a bit too tall, but ultimately kind of cool in a good chunky Speed Champions-ish way.
75893 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
There's nothing really wrong with this model, it's a decent if fairly basic SC design. It suffers most from the form language of the subject matter which is just a fairly unremarkable high-silled brick of modern car. Foundational internal build with no surprises as far as unique or interesting parts, but does turn out very solid. I appreciate the half-stud offset roof and the hood scoop detail. Odd choices of build for the front clip - stickers for all of the front surfaces, headlights, grill, and lower valance is disappointing - but the rear clip is satisfying with the smooth underside "diffuser' and big exhausts hanging out.
> Looks easy to build in other colorways, maybe something darker would be more menacing.
> Group5/DTM/Time-Attack ish road racer mod? Splitter, diffuser, box flares, big wing... something to liven up the profile.
75881 Ford GT40
Conflicted on this one... The finished model is a very good result, but it's let down by a ridiculously random and busy build. The original Lego teaser video sparked a flurry of fan-build designs which achieved the same exterior result with more straightforward and much more enjoyable build techniques. It's a pretty model, but it's an annoying build.
> Needs a total redesign to be fun.
> Wants to be wider and lower
> Other colorways are possible
75888 Porsche 930
Like the GT40, the finished exterior body shaping quite good and is a reasonably accurate rendition of the 930... but the build experience is a let-down. Signature whale-tail looks great, brown interior is alright and an admirable effort to pay attention to the layers of the car. The internal color vomit and odd build structure (in a similar style as the GT40) is much fiddley-er than it needs to be, stacks of random parts just creating a solid mass. I really don't understand the model's wheel-tire combo, it's different but not successful. Surprisingly unsatisfying build... Kind of the opposite of the Chiron where the result isn't quite as cool as the build experience, the 930 looks cooler than it is to build.
> Exterior details are good
> Absolutely needs different wheel/tire solution
> Devise a more interesting and enjoyable internal chassis build.
Last but not least, where this all began...
75872 Audi R18 LMP
Ok for an early SC build but still fiddly and random. Really illustrates how far Speed Champions have come in just a couple years. The build result is mediocre, proportions are way, way out of whack (and shockingly not the worst of the bunch). Really just a bunch of bricks that sort of resemble a racing car. Audi Sport stickers and printed windscreen are nice.
> Needs a total redesign with totally different proportions, probably as an 8-wide along with the 919.
> Singly responsible for getting me into Speed Champions, and more significantly, inspiring me to design all my 1/24 scale super-detail models.
To sum up, get all the current Speed Champions sets why they're still plentiful (and on discount at places like Amazon or Walmart). Get them. Any of them, all of them... Also go scoop up last-year's sets while you can. That Bugatti Chiron? $60 on eBay now...
As for me, I'm going to seriously mod some of these (Senna, F40, Chiron...)
Oh, and those Le Mans prototype builds? 8 wide was pretty cute. 1/24 scale 10-wide is a whole other thing from Speed Champions, but they're amazing. Here's one: Audi R18 '16