Brick by brick

Small, but perfectly formed: creating the new LEGO® Fat Boy® was all about attention to detail, as its senior designer explains

The Fat Boy® is one of the most popular Harley-Davidson® models.

Designed by Willie G. Davidson and Louie Netz in 1990, the original model featured monochrome silver paint, a silver frame with yellow detailing, and lacing on the seat and fuel tank, giving it a handcrafted look that had global appeal.

These iconic design elements and the world-famous logo are still used on models produced today, but the newest version won’t feature that trademark, throaty Harley-Davidson sound. Why? Because it’s made of LEGO®.

The devil is in the details

Harley-Davidson and LEGO have teamed up to create a 1,023-piece model Fat Boy. Measuring just over 20cm (7”) high, 18cm (7”) wide and 33cm (12”) long, this new addition to LEGO’s automotive assemblies is an impressive display model.

What’s really special about the LEGO Fat Boy is its attention to detail, which effectively captures the magic of the real-life machine. It features a Milwaukee-Eight® engine with moving pistons, which spring to life when you spin the rear tyre. Ten motors were built and tested on thousands of cycles to ensure that every motor built would run smoothly after countless hours of play. LEGO Element Designer Mani Zamani also developed a 35mm tyre – the widest ever made by LEGO – to mimic the Fat Boy’s 240mm rear tyre.

Dual exhaust pipes, handlebar steering, a moveable gearshift pedal and brake levers, and a working kickstand add to the accuracy of the model, which the team at LEGO worked hard to achieve. Meanwhile, the authentic ‘wicked red’ and black colour scheme on the model perfect the Harley-Davidson ‘look’.

Behind the build

“LEGO bricks are great for building square houses and rectangular structures that are not meant to move. Motorcycles are not square, and they’re supposed to move, so from the start everything was a challenge!” explains LEGO Senior Designer Mike Psiaki. “The frame was probably the biggest challenge. It was difficult to make something that matched the Fat Boy motorcycle’s Softail® frame, but also had the strength needed to support the model in play. For the final design, we used a hybrid combination of LEGO Technic and System Elements to create a model that is both rugged and beautiful, while delivering a one-of-a-kind building experience; a true feat of LEGO engineering.”

Collaboration between Harley-Davidson and LEGO seems only natural when you consider the affinity between the two brands. Both are global sensations, have enjoyed longevity – Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 and LEGO in 1932 – and had humble origins. The former was launched in a shed by William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson; the latter by one-man-band Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter who started making wooden toys after losing his job during the Great Depression. Above all, both brands encourage individuality and creativity.

The LEGO Fat Boy definitely required creativity in its development. “We made several different major loops on the model to make sure everything was working from a functional perspective, a stability perspective and an aesthetic perspective,” Mike continues. “But most importantly, we wanted to deliver all that in an incredible building experience, the core of what makes a LEGO model cool,” Mike concludes.

Dreaming big

To help commemorate the new set, LEGO’s Master Builders built a life-size version of the Fat Boy from LEGO bricks, made of almost 70,000 pieces and taking 865 hours to complete. The retail version may not take you this long to build, but as it’s part of the ‘Creator Expert’ range and has an age recommendation of 16+, you’ll still need your brains in gear!

The LEGO Fat Boy was released on August 1, 2019 and is available from LEGO Stores and You can discover the bike that inspired the build here.