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The new Meccasaur not quite finding its way to your local store!
By Brian Leach
I first knew this was available in about September 2016. Not much of the new Spin Master range had interested me, but this one did because it was affordable and I have always quite liked dinosaurs. Who can't like the very funny Rex the green dinosaur in the Toy Story movie? The first time I saw it was when Chris Instone took it to the December Hainault Hangout in 2016 and he remarked on the difficulty obtaining it.
It is not on sale in the UK. In March this year I changed job and had a week's training in America. I thought 'why not try Walmart?', but all the local stores were out of stock. There was a deliver-to-store option but it was two days and I had left it slightly too late. Shame; it would have only cost $53 (about £40).
On the Internet it was very expensive. Amazon was quoting £92 minimum. eBay was less. I decided it could be a joint birthday present from my mother and my brother. I got it on the 25th July seven days before my birthday as my brother was going on holiday. This gave me time to build it for the Eltham Park Festival.
It was Thursday 27th when I started on it and the festival was on the Sunday. In the 1970s Meccano was mostly metal with a few plastic parts. Meccasaur is almost all plastic with a few metal parts. This is a bit of a pity but it still has the ½" hole spacing and metal fixings. The part quality is very good - no tarnishing. The plastic is also good with no rough edges.
» Watch Brian's Meccasaur unboxing video on his YouTube channel
One of the Meccasaur's feet
The manual is quite good with 126 diagrams. But here are some of the problems I had:
- Diagram 1: I did not notice the bolts had 1:1 scale pictures for you to match. Looking back, it is extremely obvious. This meant I used the wrong bolt in three places and had to backtrack because the control unit did not join properly with the body and one claw had too short a bolt. My mistake.
- Diagram 6: The wires from the motor unit need to go through a hole in an outer casing. It is very easily to snag the cable in the hole. This means that once constructed the wire does not get to the control unit. I nearly damaged the wire trying to force it, but fortunately realised my mistake in time.
- Diagram 18: Mystery part. This looks like a foot stop to give the foot grip, but it does not contact with the ground!
- Diagram 17-23: Angle bracket position inconsistent. You would think this would be a mistake of the past.
- Diagram 16-27: Foot shape. The foot is loose-bolted and then strips are joined on to give the foot its shape. It is not too clear that the loose-bolting is needed and even less clear that the bolts need tightening once it has its shape.
- Diagram 29: I got a pivot point wrong, so Meccasaur did not walk and tended to fall. My mistake, but a close-up diagram would have helped.
Diagram 1 in the manual showing the 1:1 scale bolt
It took six hours to construct and then another two hours to realise my mistakes. It was complete the night before the festival.
Operation is with three stepper motors (not totally sure about that). Two actuate the left and right legs. The third moves the mouth and also his claws. Movements are walk forward, walk left, walk right, charge attack, lunge attack, ask a yes/no question (he nods appropriately), and room guard mode (he has a microphone and light sensor). He can record sequences of movements and even your own voice.
He makes various noises. Petting will make him coo and giggle. Mainly he roars, growls, snorts, hums and occasionally farts!
» Watch Brian's Meccasaur in action on his YouTube channel
I am a Meccano traditionalist, using mainly 1970s Meccano. I am however glad that Meccano survives and I fully appreciate that Spin Master need to provide interesting, inexpensive mass market products. 1970s Meccano is great but its time has passed. I hope Meccano continues for a long time in the modern market place.
The 'not coming to a store near you' is no longer true - Meccasaur has been spotted at Toys R Us for a rather pricey £99.
» This article appeared in the Christmas 2017 issue of SELMEC News.