A mysterious white reFrame was recently spotted in the area of former East Asia. Scouts report that at first they thought it was a new aircraft prototype from ARMaTech Industries as they often conducted test runs in the region but conflicting reports indicate they saw a white mech instead.
Regardless of what it’s true nature is, pilots are advised to stay away from it until more intel is gathered.
– End of report from NEST High Command
This guy has been on the drawing board for almost a year as I’ve been wanting to do a transforming mech from my reFrame V3 mech frame. It would be both a test of the frame’s design flexibility and would also be a good personal challenge as I’ve never attempted something like this before.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Zeta Gundam and had so many Zeta models, both in plastic kits as well as the pre-assembled and painted action figs and even SD ones! I even had the Playstation 1 Z Gundam game so I really did love the Zeta design! There was something about how it looked and definitely the WaveRider transformation captivated me immensely.
There’s also the Ikaruga video game (which I’ve never played! But it’s out now on the Switch so I might get it :D) and at first, I didn’t even know it was a video game. I saw the model kit at a local hobby shop and thought it was from an anime or manga but did I love the ship’s design! It was unique from most starfighters I’ve seen from video games and really had a beautiful aesthetic to it that I wanted to recreate in LEGO form. Initially this was just an idea to make a LEGO version of the starfighter as is but somewhere along the line, I started thinking how I could make it into a mech.
Thankfully I stumbled upon this great breakdown GIF from Joe Gloria over at Artstation!
Definitely the challenge with this build was how it didn’t really have a mech form. I basically had to take the ship design, figure out which parts could have been made into which body parts while figuring out the brick engineering required to get the transformation and placement right.
I actually had to start with modifying the reFrame V3 body frame for this build as I needed to make sure how I built the body would allow enough transformation options for the arms and legs. I also had to carefully color select pieces as I wanted to make it as accurate as possible with the original Ikaruga. I then proceeded to the head build and was actually building it in the starfighter orientation. This way I could get the look of the original design in the ship form then worry about the mech version later since I’m freely interpreting that.
The hardest part of the whole build was figuring out a new hip build that would allow the legs to swivel to the side of the arms for the fighter form. This was incredibly hard to do while keeping the whole thing compact and still followed the side joint alignment for the reFrame and often times I had to scrap ideas and start from scratch.
I initially went for a half-width liftarm arrangement to help me swivel the legs but the way I built it was too unstable that the legs would swivel out of position with the slightest touch. I eventually relied on a design that relied heavily on the lampholder piece slotted into this Pneumatic piece (in DBG), a few T-bars, clips, and thin liftarms and that made it really stable.
As for the legs themselves, the thighs are a slightly modified reFrame V3 thigh assembly. I had to adjust the knee piece placement by a plate just to allow better balance for the entire build. The curved plating was very satisfying to do as they look really good 😀 The knees and lower legs had to be done from scratch as they needed to fold in a specific angle to match the Ikaruga’s design. The feet are those little “not-really-feet” pegs that are commonly seen with mech design that don’t have actual feet and are more like pointed toes? I had to switch back to the mech form for the legs as I needed to make sure it could balance on it’s own even with these little stille-toes ;p
Looking at the design sketches at this point, I was on point with the ideas I had for the build and mostly had issues with stability with the pieces and the joint mechanisms. I wanted to now test how I’d swivel the legs and if the hip arrangement worked properly and could sustain the leg weight.
Thankfully things folded into place after a few adjustments to the hips to get enough clearance for the arms. The arms were actually done with a Eureka moment, using the hinge plate used for modular buildings as the elbow joint. This meant I could fully fold the arms and tuck them to the side of the torso for starfighter form. Added the extra armor plates and boosters to the sides of the legs and things looked good.
The last part was making sure both mech and fighter forms were looking good and pieces were stable. The picture is actually an early finished model but had tons of unstable connections so the last part was just reinforcing those areas. For example, the legs in fighter form would tend to drop out of alignment easily so I had to attach it to the side of the shoulders via a 1×2 jumper plate using the inner thigh 2×2 round plate.
I also added some aesthetic details that I initially missed like the Khopesh blades at the rear thigh, the extra blades by the legs, and the guns that would be mounted on the hands (I initially didn’t plan on building the guns but figured it’d be weird with the ship not having pew pew weapons).
Extremely happy with this build considering it was an overnight build and most of the plans I sketched out for it were very close to the finished build 😀 One of the few rare cases where my build plans was around 80% of the finished version.
For those interested in LEGO mech building, I also have an eBook from 2015 called Mech Wars 2015 Instructional Primer. It contains some things I wrote about basic mech building, a bit about my Mech Warsuniverse, and all my early models from 2014-2015. If you’re looking for a resource that could help you start or even improve your mech building skills, you might find this eBook useful. 😀
If you liked this article then you can help me out create more LEGO mech content by clicking the PayPal donate button below. Your monetary contribution, no matter how big or small, will definitely help me a lot in sustaining this passion 😀