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The Lego Aftermarket Made My Senna F1 Car Model Come Alive

My Senna McLaren MP4/4 felt naked and borderline incomplete. It turns out an aftermarket decal set is all it needed.
Jerry Perez

I’ve written about Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna a lot here on The Drive. I had the chance to watch him race in person and on TV when I was a kid, then my fandom grew later on as his legacy became larger than life following his deadly crash. You might have seen that I snapped up the Lego Speed Champions Ayrton Senna McLaren MP4/4 set when it was announced, and that’s what I’m messing with this weekend.

Not long after I pre-ordered the set, I got a box in the mail and finally had what I think is one of the coolest Lego sets ever in my possession. As it often happens, I was too caught up with daily life to build it right away, but I eventually set a few days aside to build it throughout my kids’ spring break. My colleague Adam Ismail also got one but he built his in one sitting, which is commendable. Then again, he’s a bit of an overachiever.

This is what it looked like before the aftermarket decals. It just felt empty. Jerry Perez

Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed the assembly process, but once I was done with the set, I couldn’t help but notice a few areas where Lego really dropped the ball. First and foremost: the tires. The front ones are okay, but the problem is that all four tires are identical, so the rears end up being incredibly narrow and not up to snuff. The MP4/4’s rear tires were 5 inches wider than the fronts—11.5 versus 16.5. This is a big miss for an otherwise good-looking set.

Then there’s the front fairing, which has that big crease or kink as it gets to the tip of the nose of the car. I know, I know, it’s a Lego set and it’s still going to be blocky, but I feel like something could’ve been done to match the McLaren’s smooth, sloping front.

Last but not least, there’s the sticker set. I fully understand why Lego can’t just print everyone’s logo from back in the day. There are licensing issues, the willingness of other companies to cooperate in the project, and the fact that the biggest sponsor of the car is a freaking cigarette company. I get it. But you know, without all the sponsors, the car just looks a bit naked.

Shortly after I nestled my build into its own acrylic box and found it a nice little spot on my bookshelf, the answer to my prayers emerged in a Lego Facebook group I’m in. It turns out a few Legoheads who are crafty with vinyl and stickers had come up with a full replica livery of Senna’s F1 car. Not long after that, MattsBrickMocs—a well-known Lego accessory company from the U.K.—rolled out its own super-legit sticker set for 18 GBP. It even offered a Prost sticker set, in case you wanted to turn your Senna car into a Prost car for some reason. Or maybe you have two Lego sets and want to build the pair. That’d actually be kind of cool.

Jerry Perez

It only took a couple of weeks for the decals to arrive from England, and luckily they were completely intact. They sat around in my office for a few weeks because again, busy life, but I finally got around to putting them on this weekend. The result is quite fantastic. I’m so much happier with the MP4/4 model now that it better resembles the real deal.

It only took me about an hour to get the whole thing done. About half of that was devoted to the tire decals alone, which I mostly did one letter at a time because I enjoy suffering. I finally grew impatient after three tires, so I used the included transfer tape to wrap up the last one. The tires still look off, but they’re slightly more realistic-looking with the Goodyear Eagle decals. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way my Senna McLaren F1 car looks now.

What a fitting way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Senna’s death, as well as one more year of being a Big Senna (and Lego) Guy.

Email the author at jerry@thedrive.com