Unlike IKEA furniture or a kid’s bicycle, “assembly required” is the feature that makes Lego’s building sets so appealing. Half the fun is working your way through the instruction manual and watching your model slowly take shape. Some sets are more challenging, while others result in a final model with more playability. But of all the sets I’ve assembled over the past 30+ years, Lego’s Aston Martin DB5 strikes the perfect balance between everything that makes the building toy so enjoyable.
In recent years, most of the Lego sets I’ve built have been some of the toymaker’s most complex sets. And while on a technical level they’re undoubtedly impressive, the builds never felt as enjoyable as they did when I was a kid. Building Lego sets for work purposes, and racing to meet a deadline, certainly contributed to this feeling, but I think other things factored in as well. Building Lego’s Voltron, for example, eventually felt a little repetitive as I worked through all five robot lions. And while the end result looks great standing on a shelf, transforming and actually playing with the toy can be a little tricky.
Building Lego’s 3,929-piece Technic Bucket Wheel Excavator a few years ago felt like the longest 20 hours of my life, and my thumbs still throb from pushing thousands of tiny Lego Technic components together. As Lego sets go, it was a masterpiece of engineering, but a challenge I’m happy to never tackle again. The build process felt like such a chore that I actually didn’t touch Lego for a couple of years following that review.
With the 1,295-piece Lego Aston Martin DB5 I decided to take my time, building only a small section of the set every evening. It helped rekindle my love of the toy, but so did the set’s lovely balance of complex Technic components that power the car’s many features, and old-school brick-on-brick building that creates the iconic lines of Bond’s most memorable ride.
Even the Lego DB5's instruction manual is fun, made to look like a classified dossier that includes schematic drawings that illustrate exactly how the car’s secret spy functions are designed to work. The drawings not only help you live out your Q fantasies but are also useful for troubleshooting the various mechanisms if they don’t work exactly as they’re supposed to.
As an older Lego enthusiast, I certainly have an appreciation for the complexity and functionality Lego Technic can bring to a model. But I also find the tiny Technic components can add a lot of challenge that isn’t always enjoyable, especially when you’re trying to locate a tiny part for 10 minutes, or jam a tiny connector into a hole. With the DB5, Lego has used Technic sparingly to power all of the car’s secret spy functionality, and seeing how the hidden moving mechanisms all came together as the build progressed was genuinely satisfying.
Working through the model’s interior sections is the longest part of the build, but it never got to the point of feeling repetitive or drawn out. Instead, I often felt compelled to immediately move on to the next section, even when I should have probably headed to bed. As I transitioned to the vehicle’s bodywork—including the functional doors, trunk, hood, and recreating all of the unique contours and curves that defined the Aston Martin during the Bond years—the build started to move a lot faster.
If you’re a die-hard Aston Martin fan, or happen to critique cars for a living, you’ll probably have a lot to say when it comes to how accurately Lego has recreated the DB5. But for me, the functional spy features of this set far outweigh any discrepancies between the toy and the actual car. Even the passenger-side ejector seat of James Bond’s fictional Aston Martin DB5 has been included, powered by a Technic mechanism that pops-open the roof and blasts the seat out as you pull and push a lever hidden on the toy’s bumper.
As someone who doesn’t have a lot of spare time to devote to all the Lego sets I’d like to build, the $150 Aston Martin DB5 helped remind me why Lego is still the world’s most popular building toy. Building the Technic Bucket Wheel Excavator and Lego Voltron felt more challenging than fun, but the DB5 exemplifies the simple joy that can come with mashing hundreds of tiny plastic bricks together. I’m even happy to overlook the fact that Lego wasn’t able to include front wheels that actually steer on this set. Who needs to steer around obstacles when machine gun headlights can simply blast a clear path for you to drive through?