Model kits–The UGEARS model of the Weasley car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

UGEARS is the Ukrainian company that creates engineered models, reflecting the history of science and technology in plywood gears and rods.  They also make steampunk and fantasy creations.  Last year and earlier this year I reviewed several STEM kits provided by UGEARS (check out my reviews here) as well as a magnificent mechanical winged dragon model (reviewed here and still flying).

UGEARS has secured the license to make working, functional vehicles from the Harry Potter franchise and today I’m reviewing the Harry Potter line’s Weasley family Ford Anglia kit.

The Harry Potter collection features three separate plywood models kits: The Knight Bus, the Hogwarts Express train, and the Weasly family Ford Anglia car.

Here are the details on the Ford Anglia model:

The Anglia is a faithful reproduction of the Weasley’s enchanted Muggle car. Children will delight as they fly it through the air or pretend to race it along a track just ahead of the Hogwarts Express. Who can forget the scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron fly back to Hogwarts in the Anglia, before losing control and crash landing in the Whomping Willow? After a narrow escape, the young wizards and all their belongings get ejected by the car, upset at the abuse it has received.

The UGEARS Flying Ford Anglia has a spring drive that transmits torque to the rear wheels, providing drive power. The car can travel 3-4 meters on a single wind-up of the ratchet mechanism located on the undercarriage. The spring drum is safely tucked under the model car’s seats, while the authentic rear license plate functions as the start/stop button. There is also a neutral gear that lets the car roll freely. The front wheels rotate 25 degrees in either direction and can be turned using the steering wheel or by pressing the wheels themselves, allowing the car to travel in a straight line or turn circles (you are in charge of making the Anglia fly!). The car rides on any flat surface, from carpet to slippery tile, thanks to the grippy rubber band “tires” encircling all wheels.

You can manually open the doors, trunk and hood of the Flying Ford Anglia. The open hood (or “bonnet” in the UK) reveals engine details, while the trunk (or “boot”) is large enough to accommodate Harry’s model suitcases with laser-engraved Hogwarts crest.

But here’s where the real magic comes in: thanks to a special mechanism attached to the spring-loaded shaft running through the cabin, the Anglia has a secret “ejection” function. When the front license plate is pressed, the trunk and side doors pop open while the tilting front seats and a lever in the trunk dramatically throw all passengers and contents from the vehicle. Place Harry’s suitcases in the trunk, press the front plate, and watch as they are unceremoniously ejected by the angry Anglia!

Here is a video from UGEARS of the Ford Anglia model in action:

Let’s dig into the kit.  It includes three large laser-cut plywood sheets and one smaller sheet, one piece of wax and one piece of sandpaper, both for friction reduction, two small metal springs for the collision feature elements, rubber bands for wheel traction, and one metal spring for the wind-up car mechanism.

I have several suggestions for improvements for this kit compared to past UGEARS kits.  The first is the instruction book for this kit could use more explanations of the purpose of each assembly.  A great feature I mentioned in my reviews of the UGEARS STEM kits was its explanation of the mechanics of each phase of construction.  There is an international audience for UGEARS products, and just like for Revell and AMT model kits, visual instructions don’t always translate as well as text instructions.  Once I completed the Ford Anglia, I had to guess how to operate each feature.  The UGEARS STEM kits had better instructions on operating the models once complete.

This is the big wind-up mechanism:

Can this be over-twisted?  I don’t know–the instructions do not say.  This shows the detailed gears of the kit:

This next image is the bottom of the car.  Once complete, I couldn’t tell what each switch was for and had to guess.  I never figured out what the hook on the back was used for.  The D for Drive seemed to be intended to set the car into motion, while the N, usually for Neutral, seemed to allow the wind-up to occur.

The model kit, like all UGEARS kits, does not require glue, but I found it to be necessary since the door handles, the seats, the side panels, and all the parts smaller than 3/4 inch would not stay adhered to the model.  Part of the issue is this isn’t only a static model, but one that is supposed to break apart in a specific way, so I think the engineering wasn’t as solid as for the previous kits I’ve reviewed.

The new feature I hadn’t encountered on a UGEARS kit yet was precision laser cutting that allowed the wood to form fit around curves, giving the walls of the car a realistic look:

It’s really cool.  But take care, as one of these snapped while forming it to the frame.  Fortunately that same piece included an extra part.  This is the trunk of the car:

My first attempt at building the kit took about 4 hours.  The build steps each went smoothly.

If you build this kit, pay particular attention to the steering mechanism and the frame connections.  Also, I’d advise gluing all the seat parts that are to pop-out or they will fall out on their own every time you move the model.  Just don’t glue any parts that are to be used as hinge or joint pieces–basically anything requiring a wax connector.

Ultimately the Ford Anglia looked like the product box image once complete.  It makes for a nice shelf kit for any fan of the Harry Potter movies, and especially this scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Unfortunately on completion none of the moving features worked, and once I pushed the button on the license plate, everything popped apart as planned, but also other components popped off the car.  I have built several of the UGEARs kits (see links to all my reviews below) but this is the first I could not get to work.  I spent several hours over multiple days and took the model apart and rebuilt it to try to get it to propel itself across any kind of surface.  Each time I got the car to do one feature, parts elsewhere fell off the car.

On second assembly the steering column worked, but because each axle is only slotted into the top and bottom assembly, each front wheel kept falling off and nothing I could do would get them to stay attached.  Likewise, the trunk stayed shut on the first assembly but could not close on the second try.  The wind-up mechanism would wind and spin once triggered, but the car would not roll more than slightly on any surface I tried–the weight and friction made it impossible.  The gear shift snapped from trying to get the “power train” piece of plywood to stay on or off, and the replica exhaust fan housing ultimately snapped as well.

Ultimately I decided to stop and leave it together and put it on the shelf once I had everything in a solid state and it looked complete again.

I think the problem with the engineering on this kit is that it’s not as forgiving as the prior kits and it has too many tension points.  I’m sure others will be able to build it and use it as intended.  I gave it more time and attention than I usually would in case some user error was involved.  If that’s the case, I couldn’t find what it was.

I’d recommend this kit only for an adult advanced modeler with plenty of extra time to rebuild and correct if warranted.  The guys at my local model shop, which sells UGEARS kits, tell me that all model kit designs have flaws and the whole point of building models is to overcome those flaws, so you may want to consider that advice.  I’m not saying it will have problems for everyone, just that I was unable to build it in accordance with the instructions and get the special features to work.

If you’re beginning with models I’d lean toward one of the other kits I’ve reviewed.  Check those out if you missed them: the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), the Random Generator (reviewed here), the Tachometer reviewed here), and the Variator (reviewed here).  In addition to the other STEM kits we reviewed, UGEARS offers four other STEM kits you may want to try: a Differential gear, a Counter, a Pendulum, and a Curvimeter tool, and outside the STEM series are other engineering marvel kits like the Pneumatic Engine and Dynamometer, plus many stunning, elaborate, advanced kits like the Windstorm Dragon reviewed here.  Take a look at all the available UGEARS models at the UGEARS website for more information.

You can order UGEARS products at its website here and support the artisans, engineers, and craftspeople in Ukraine.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

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