The original Blade Runner from 1982 became a cultural phenomenon, creating a visual tone and setting that was influential for the science fiction genre for decades to come. This achievement is largely attributed to the futuristic and iconic designs made Sydney Jay Mead who continued to pen the production design for many more film classics, such as Tron and Aliens. After graduating from the Art Center School in Los Angeles he took his first job at the Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio in 1959. He later became independent as a designer and illustrator, but his passion for transportation design is still apparent in his later works, most prominently of course in his famous car and motorcycle drawings. Initially, he was tasked with creating the vehicles for Blade Runner but his designs ended up influencing the look of the environments as well. Although the film's legacy is dominated by it's dark, dystopian tone and the existential dread that the world emits, Ridley Scott himself has always characterised the art of Blade Runner more as a tongue-in-cheek caricature rather than a realistic portrayal of a technologically advanced future. The designs commissioned from Mead had to fit this expressive, odd and fantastical world that Scott envisioned. And one of his designs became one of the most recognisable vehicles in cinema history: The Spinner.
Police Spinner 44
from Blade Runner
Mead proposed the idea of a clean, fully closed flying car instead of creating an aircraft with a rotating blade as its main propulsion. The Spinner has the established aerodyne principle of powered lift as the basis for its design. Engines within the body of the vehicle vent their exhaust downward and to the back, pushing the Spinner of the ground. The main body is aerodynamically sculptured in a similar style to a lifting body aircraft. It is a believable, yet a completely outlandish reincarnation of a typical car.
Another core concept of Ridley Scott's vision for Blade Runner was the idea that technological advancements happen so quickly that it would not be economical to replace most of the machines and utilities but instead retrofit them to maintain their functionality. This patchwork philosophy can be seen in all facets of the films production design for example in the old buildings in Los Angeles that have been cluttered with larger air-conditioning systems, cables and neon signs. Mead's Spinner also adheres to this idea. The police lights and equipment all look retroactively tagged on, instead of being integrated into the design.
Given Blade Runner's status in modern pop culture it is not surprising that the Spinner inspired many LEGO® fan creations over the years. Because of the ever increasing number of new LEGO® elements, each of them has become progressively more accurate to the on-screen appearance. One of my personal favourite interpretations is a model from 2017, done by the incredible talented LEGO® builder Calin. When I started designing my version three years later, I did not feel the need to reinvent everything. I therefore based my model on the many fitting design solutions of Calin's build. The most integral of those are the translucent wedge pieces (Part-ID 41749 and 41750) that capture the curvature of the cockpit perfectly as well as the quarter circle tiles (Part-ID 27925) that create the front wheels.
The rear third of the model is the area that I changed significantly. In most previous LEGO® versions of the Spinner the diagonal yellow stripe was either achieved with stickers or left out completely. As it is such an integral design feature I wanted to replicate it with LEGO® as well and came up with a brick-built solution instead: Using triangular tiles (Part-ID 35787) allowed the entire side panel behind the cockpit to be turned 45° degrees, positioning the yellow pieces at the right angle. A lot of work also went into replicating the messy and tagged on look of the emergency lights. They are made out of multiple different LEGO® pieces to replicate the various shapes and colours of the original: 1*1 round plates (Part-ID 4073) in trans-orange (Colour-ID 98) and trans-dark blue (Colour-ID 14) create the main lights, a trans-orange light cover (Part-ID 58176) the central one, trans-red (Colour-ID 17) and trans-dark blue infinity stones (Part-ID 36451a) the smaller ones in the front and a trans-yellow (Colour-ID 19) light bulb cover (Part-ID 4770) the additional warning light on the pilot side.
The true colour of the Spinner has been a heavily discussed topic ever since the movie released. The movie replica displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum is painted in a bright cobalt blue, while the versions photographed at the Blade Runner set appear to be a less saturated cerulean blue. Either way, there is no denying that due to the lighting the Spinner does appear very dark in the movie. I therefore decided to build the Spinner in dark blue (Colour-ID 63).
from Blade Runner 2049
In 2017 a sequel was released, titled Blade Runner 2049, co-written by Hampton Fancher, who also worked on the script of the original, and directed by Dennis Villeneuve. The movie, as the title suggests, takes place 30 years after the story of the first one. The film revolves around a new character, K (short for KD6-3.7) a replicant who works as a Blade Runner for the LAPD, but the setting, the futuristic city of Los Angeles, remains the same. Still, the look and feel of the world have naturally evolved over the decades.
Dennis Villeneuve described the aesthetic of Blade Runner 2049 with the word "brutality" and production designer Dennis Gassner has incorporated that idea into the designs of the various vehicles and buildings starting with a new interpretation of the iconic Spinner. Given Blade Runner 2049's much bigger budget and scope, many artists created different versions of the vehicle for the film. Senior concept artist George Hull created the first sketches for K's Spinner. For the final film the police markings and emergency lights of Hull's concept were removed and some of the textures were simplified, but many of the core strokes stayed the same. Gone are the round shapes and flashy colours of the 1982 version. K's Spinner is much more angular, robust and raw. Considering the time gap between the two movies, it makes sense that vehicle design evolved that way, similar to how the curvy look of the cars of the 50s eventually made way for the boxy design of the cars of the 70s and 80s. As for the paint job, the entire body work is kept in a cold and brutal metallic finish.
K's Spinner not only serves a central role in the movies plot but its aesthetic served as a template for the design language of the entire movie. Because it preserves so much of the original Spinner's layout while striking a completely new and much more menacing emotional tone, it is undoubtedly one of the most successful redesigns for a movie sequel. However, the lack of an eye-catching colour and the complex angles made it quite difficult to capture its look in a LEGO® model.
I built the first LEGO® version of K's Spinner in 2017, before the movie came out. For reference, I mainly used the few scenes from the trailer as well as some behind-the-scenes footage, but it was difficult to get a good understanding of the shaping of the vehicle. I revisited that model in 2020 having newly released LEGO® pieces, as well as much more reference material to work with. Nowadays there is extensive documentation about the vehicle available online.
One of the main things that I reworked was the sloping rear section. My original model used wedge plates which made the surface quite uneven and cluttered with exposed studs. The redesign incorporates a LEGO® Technic panel (Part-ID 11946 and 11947) on either side which makes for a much cleaner and sleeker look. Wedge pieces (Part-ID 29119 and 29120) on the lower sides fill the space very tightly to minimise the gaps in between the differently angled parts. Curved slopes (Part-ID 42022) in trans-black (Colour-ID 13) are used to create the silhouette of the cockpit. Using these pieces separated the doors from the main windscreen, which not only made it possible to recreate the A-pillars but also allowed the scissor doors to open just like in the movie. Another design highlight are the curved main headlights. Since there are very few curved LEGO® pieces available in translucent, I used a cut fiber optics cable (Part-ID x400c20) to replicate the shape. Since Blade Runner 2049 has a lot more variety in the types of scenery compared to the original, I made sure to also present K's Spinner in the various distinct environments of the movie.