This week we have a Blast from the Past! The classic (that word makes me feel old...) 8868-1 - Airtech Claw Rig from 1992. This was one of my childhood dreams. But my budget was limited. By the time I saved enough, the 8480-1 - Space Shuttle came out. And I was a big space geek at that time. This week, the 8868-1 finally arrived. Come join me!


The Set
The Box
The Instruction

The Parts
The Build


The 8868-1 - Airtech Claw Rig was the largest Technic set ever upon release, with 954 parts. This was thé set to have at the time. I remember staring at the catalog, dreaming of one day owning this beast.


All functions in this set use pneumatics to operate. The pneumatic system was introduced in 1984. This first system worked with both compressed air, and vacuum. Below is an image from set 8040-1, one of the first sets to have pneumatic functions.

The pump 4701c01 has 2 functions: Press it down, air gets compressed. Pull it up, a vacuum gets created. A Distribution Block 4692c01 - Technic Pneumatic Distribution Block 2 x 4 (Complete) distributes this airflow into a 75215 - Pneumatic Switch with Top Studs, that lets you bring compressed air to the cylinder 4688c01 to expend it, or vacuum to retract him.

In 1989 came a new system, the so-called 2nd generation, from which our subject is also part of. The biggest difference is that this system only works with compressed air. For that, a new pump 2797c02 - Pneumatic Pump New Style with Black Top was created, that only delivers compressed air. This air goes to a switch, that lets the air into 1 of the 2 inlets of the new 2793c01 - Pneumatic Cylinder with 2 Inlets Medium (48mm) with Black Top,making it expand or retract. Below is a schematic of this system, taken from the instructions of set 8837-1 - Pneumatic Excavator. This was my first set with pneumatic functions. Still have it.

Later, a smaller pump 74982 - Pneumatic Pump 1 x 5.5 and cylinder 74981 - Pneumatic Cylinder 1 x 5 with 2 Inlets were introduced. The pump appeared in 7 sets, including the 8868-1. In 2011 a new version 99798 - Pneumatic Pump 1 x 6 was introduced. The small cylinder has ended up in 12 sets until 2013, including the 8868-1.

A big downside of working with compressed air, is that the pressure quickly drops after an action is performed. There is little storage in the tubes, so there is little backup. In 1997, the 75974 - Pneumatic Airtank was introduced as a storage supply for air. The 42043-1 - Mercedes Benz Arocs 3245 could have used these tanks very well. The small pump in this set just can’t keep the pressure up. It’s the only smudge on an otherwise near prefect set.

In 2003, the big cylinder and switches were replaced with studless versions ( 47225 - Pneumatic Cylinder with 2 Inlets and Rounded End Medium (48mm) & 47223a - Pneumatic Switch with Pin Holes), making them more suitable for the new studless Technic designs.

In 2015, a longer thin cylinder was introduced, the 19476 - Pneumatic Cylinder 1 x 11 with 2 Stepped Inlets [V2]. All cylinders and pumps were also updated with a stepped inlet, securing tubes better.

In 2018, a new switch 19474 - Pneumatic Switch with Pin Holes, Axle Hole and Stepped Outlets was introduced, making it possible to directly connect an axle to the switch.

Studded Beams vs Studless Beams

Talking of studless:
The ‘old school’ Technic sets used Technic Bricks or Studded Beams. These are the same as regular bricks, but have holes in the sides that fit axles and pins (and illegally studs). Around the year 2000, these technic bricks got replaced by Liftarms (also known as Studless Beams). Some welcomed this change, other called it heresy. What are the benefits and disadvantages of both systems?

Benefits of Studded Beams:
The studs provide a sturdy bonding. One brick can easily be placed upon another brick without other parts needed. You can see in the old instructions, that there are much more parts used per building step, because you can build along the entire build. Just one layer upon another. They are also stronger, meaning they are less prone to flex under pressure.

Downsides of Studded Beams:
This can be summed up in: Awkward size.
Because the bricks are a bit higher (6 LMU) than wide and thick (steps of 5 LMU), building vertically is tricky. You need to add plates between the bricks to fit a beam vertically, and even then you can’t use every hole, but you’re stuck to a certain pattern. This highly limits creativity. Another downside are the studs themselves. Because they stick out, it limits space for other parts.

Benefits of Studless Beams:
Height, width and length are all in the same 5 LMU system, so building in 3D is much more flexible. Studless beams make it possible to make much more complex, dense builds.

Downsides of Studless Beams:
Where you can build in layers with studded beams, this is not possible with studless beams. To connect 2 beams, you need extra parts like pins or other connectors. To get a beam in the right place, you need to think much further ahead in your design process, making it less intuitive.
Also, the studless beam tend to bend and twist under pressure. The pin-connection are less sturdy than stud connections. This means you need more part to create a sturdy build. The 42082-1 for instance consists of 15% of Pin 2780. Count in the other types of pins, this goes to 23%. In the 8868-1 this is only 9%

I won’t go into the snake-pit of aesthetics. Some prefer the ‘real’ Technic look of studded beams, others find that messy and prefer the smooth look of studless beams. Since this is all purely a matter of taste, I can’t give an objective statement in this department.

To which side your preference falls, we can discuss for centuries. I’ll just give my own opinion: Just combine the 2 systems. We see this already happening in sets, like the 42009-1. Most of the build is done in studless beams, but the boom, that needs to be rigid and strong, is mostly made out of studded beams.

The Set

The new compressor truck can't be described in words - you simply have to see and hear it!
An electric motor combined with a miniature compressor and valve activated pneumatics are new dimensions to TECHNIC builders, taking you one step closer to reality. Just like completing the construction makes you feel six feet high!
From the LEGO Catalog.

The Box

Well, my marktplaats.nl (Dutch version of eBay) purchase didn't come with a box, so all information here is second hand:
The box measures 545 x 350 x 90 mm and weighs 2260 gram. It's a box from the gold ages: A flip-able front with below a see-through plastic, allowing you to see all the parts in the box. I miss those, but they will probably be too expensive and plastic-consuming to use nowadays.

Some things I noticed:
The low selection of pins and bushes, axles and gears! Impressive how the designers were able to build this beast with such a limited pallet. We're a bit spoiled nowadays, but there are not many parts I deem unnessasary though. Some white parts are a bit yellow, but that's to be expected for a set of this age. Overall I can;t complain. All pneumatics and electrics still work. Two rubber belts are a bit shot, but still function. You need to be carefull buying a set this old. Don't be afraid to ask additional questions to the seller. The pneumatic can quickly set you back a lot of money when they ned to be replaced.

The Instructions

The Building Instructions has 60 pages. It contains both the A- and the B-model. The A-model has only 32 steps! That's about 30 parts per step. The B-model has 35 steps.

The pdf can be downloaded here.

The Parts

The set contains 954 parts and 10 spare parts, in 8 different colors, and 28 different categories, with a total of 160 unique parts/color combinations.

Main colors are:

Main categories are:

There are new parts (at the time) in this set:
2745 - Technic Cylinder 4 x 4 x 1 2/3 with Axle Holes

74981 - Pneumatic Cylinder 1 x 5 with 2 Inlets

74982 - Pneumatic Pump 1 x 5.5

75c09 - Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 9L / 7.2cm

2536c - Plant, Tree Palm Trunk - Short Connector, Axle Hole with 4 Inside Prongs

2847c02 - Electric 9V Battery Box 4 x 14 x 4 with Yellow Base Complete Assembly

The Build

First thing I noticed, is that this set suffer from the same problem as the 8880-1 - Super Car. The differentials stick out on the underside, making it all wobbly. Quickly fixed with some bricks from storage.
The second thing: These instructions are no joke! In step 3, I already have the underside mostly done. A lot of parts per step. Also, you keep building across the entire model, from front to end. In modern sets, you usually build sub-models, that are later added to the main build.

There are a lot of hoses in this set

Example of the instructions: In modern sets, this would be spread out over several steps.
I never knew the turning of the crane was also done by pneumatics! I always assumed that was just done with gears. Very clever build.
This is I thnink the largest step. Look at all those parts used at once!

The crane takes shape. At this point, the number of hoses is manegable. You have to be carefull not to mix anything up.
The smal pump gets placed.
Here I was wondering why they didn't use a 6538a - Technic Axle Connector Ridged [with + Hole + Orientation] here, since the connection is straight. Turns out, this part was introduced a year later than this set.


Well, it was worth the wait. This is a great set. Tricky to build, a good challange. But not so much, that you get frustrated. The endresult looks good, and all functions work good. Only the turning of the crane goes slow and jerky. But thats because there are 2 large cilinders used. They need a lot of air.
If you ever have the chance to pick up this set: DO IT!


Disclaimer: Anything said in this post is the opinion of the author and not The LEGO Group.
Parts- and build photographs by Tobymac (© 2019 Rebrickable)


  • 2 weeks, 3 days ago Gemiini Level 14 MOC Designer
    I fell in love with this set when I saw him for the first time. Unfortunately, there was no option to buy it then, the cost exceeded half a year's salary converted to dollars. All the time I watched it in the LEGO book and counted the number of pneumatic cylinders. I was wondering what the battery box was for.

    Sensational set.
  • 2 months ago skaah Level 4
    Its much improved by replacing the grabber with the one from the 8443-1 set.
  • 6 months, 3 weeks ago Capparezza Level 6
    Thanks for that review, just brought back some good old memories. Ooooh what a nice trip down Memory Lane. I remember that I had my leg broken and had it plastered. Couldn't leave the house for 3 weeks. Then my uncle showed up with this enornmous box, wrapped in gift paper. It was the 8868! I was almost glad to have my leg broken.... :D
    The next 3 days I had an awesome time figuring the build out. As you stated yourself, instructions haven't been like today. Lots of parts per step and sometimes you have to backtrack and remove some parts again, just because you misinterpreted a step 2 pages earlier. But hell, it did make a lot of fun and I was pretty proud of myself when it was finished and everything was working as it should.
    Cheers, Chris
  • 6 months, 4 weeks ago J_Svensk Level 7 MOC Designer
    Great review! My parents really understood how badly I wanted this set so they cooperated with some more relatives, got the money, and gave me only one christmas present that year.. :) I still remember how happy I was.. :)

    Built it several times until I for some stupid reason sold all my LEGO sets when I grew up.

    A decade later, I went to become a mechanical engineer working with designing cranes, and then I realised how much I missed this set. A lot of collegaues have some large LEGO model at the office, and I really wanted to have this set again since I had it as a child.

    I found a complete set on ebay, bought it, built it with my son which brought up a lot of great childhood memories, and nowadays it stands gracefully on my office desk.. :)
  • 6 months, 4 weeks ago sn3akz Level 6
    One of the biggest presents that I got from my parents for my birthday. It took almost a week to complete, since I was only 11. But I managed it in the end (minus the cutting of the air hoses, my father did that)

    I still have it around, although it's not complete anymore. Parts are somewhere in "The Box". I'll complete it again this winter, along with the space shuttle, which is my first-ever self-earned-and-bought big Technic set.
  • 7 months ago flymay Level 2
    I remember this set - amazing thing :)
  • 7 months ago PWHH Level 12
    Nice Review! I wished for the tow truck as a child, but unfortunately didn't get it...
  • 7 months, 1 week ago KBD Design Level 11 MOC Designer
    Really nice review. A lot of great details I didn't know about.
  • 7 months, 1 week ago combatruckdude Level 14 MOC Designer
    Wow. 75970 Tracer Vs Widowmaker has almost 50 steps.
  • 7 months, 1 week ago MartyMcfly4 Level 6
    I had this set and loved it.  Building required a lot of concentration, but worth it.  Wished I kept my old technic sets from my childhood.
  • 7 months, 1 week ago Commander_Cody Level 11 MOC Designer
    Nice review! This set is older than me!
    The pneumatic things look pretty cool though.
  • 7 months, 1 week ago Henk61 Level 22
    Great review. I really like the pneumatic assembly! It was sure a great set then… Thanks for the review again!
  • 7 months, 1 week ago OES_78 Level 4
    Very good review. I myself own this set too.
    Find this set one of the best in recent years.
    Unfortunately, made a small mistake. There are no light bluish gray bricks in this set, they are all light gray
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