Hall of Shame: Printed Headlights

Today, instead of exploring the pinnacles of the LEGO Group’s illustrious product line, this is an entry that will showcase the absolute bottom of the barrel; those sets, pieces, and themes that make fans cringe or want to curl up in a ball and cry. These occasional deviations will be the Brick Fanatics Hall of Shame. First up on our painful trip down memory lane – printed headlights.

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I will acknowledge that these components are not necessarily bad in their own right. Lots of folks love printed parts, especially when the alternative is a sticker. It’s also fair to say that the headlight images emblazoned on these components are far more realistic than the early Town headlights.

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The main problem with printed headlights is the association. Printed headlights were integral to the mass juniorisation of Town/CITY sets that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That mistake in direction was one of the key factors that led to the LEGO Group’s flirtation with bankruptcy in 2004. Simply put, the sets these parts came with were awful – nearly without exception. The goal of the printing was not realism, it was to reduce piece count so that children, apparently lacking concentration thanks to an obsession with videogames, could still manage to build.

Fire Station
Image courtesy of Brickset.com

6554 Blaze Brigade, from 1997, is a case study in the problems that printed headlights were emblematic of. First, take a look at the building – it is all large single pieces and is completely without detail. Where are the garage doors, the roof access, or for any of the details that this range is known for? Then there are the vehicles – each has a low part count, no roof and of course, printed headlights. The juxtaposition of realistic printing with absolutely unrealistic vehicles is jarring at best and makes one want to hurl at worst. Finally, and it may seem like a nitpick, but who is driving the Fire Truck?

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Thankfully, this awful trend did not last. Printed headlights gave way back to a more traditional brick built design and with it came sets worth having. CITY rebounded in the mid 2000s and has been surging to greater heights ever since. Using a basic SNOT technique, LEGO headlights are now more detailed and attractive than ever before, giving an extra boost of realism to the vehicles they adorn.  So after a decade of excellence fans should rest easy that these printed headlights are unlikely to ever spoil a parts bag again. But if printed headlights do sneak into a modern LEGO set, then past experience suggests it is an omen of worse things to come.

Brick Fanatics Hall of Fame Honourees: 

Largest Piece – 7994 City Harbour’s Boat Hull 

Tallest Minifigure Scale Set – 10237 Tower of Orthanc

First System Set With Over 1000 Pieces – 6542 Launch and Load Seaport

Brick Fanatics Hall of Shame:

Printed Headlights


When I was 3 years old my dad bought home 6659 TV Camera Crew as a gift — he had no idea what he had just unleashed. Three decades and no dark age later, I am still going strong. My love of LEGO led me to a career in Civil Engineering and I am now raising three budding LEGO lovers with my lovely wife who is, bless her, a huge supporter of my brick addiction. When not writing for Brick Fanatics or fulfilling my duties as the U.S. Editor of Blocks Magazine I enjoy collecting, MOCing, exhibiting, as well as running, climbing and home improvement.

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