Dualing Y-Wings

From the moment I saw these lumbering bombers skimming across the surface of the Death Star I’ve always had a soft spot for the Y-wing, and though I wasn’t lucky enough to own the Kenner version as a boy I still got to fly one thanks to LucasArts when Star Wars: X-Wing was released in 1993.

My dream of owning the Rebel Alliance’s go-to multi-role starfighter/bomber was realised in 1999 with the release of 7150 TIE FIghter & Y-wing.

Looking back – because there have been quite a few releases of this starship (including five System/minifig scale ones and a pair of UCS sets – plus one at the end of 2019 if rumours are true) – it wasn’t the greatest of builds, even for the time but we didn’t mind.

These days though, the LEGO Star Wars design team has far more resources at hand and it’s easy to state that LEGO has presented the pinnacle of Y-wing Starfighter builds in the currently available 75181 Y-Wing Starfighter. Coming in hot on its heels is the recently retired 75172 Y-Wing Starfighter, released as part of the Rogue One line of toys.

And to find out which one is the best The Holo-Brick Archives’ most devoted LEGO Star Wars father-and-son team dedicated an entire day to building both sets, at the same time, at different ends of the same table.

To set the scene, it was a sunny summer morning in December and we had the whole day to ourselves. After a casual breakfast we cleared the coffee table, put Rogue One on in the background and placed a liberal supply of cushions on the floor before assuming the easy pose, the sitting position that was invented thousands of years ago by monks who trained to endure long hours of sitting and meditating – and we all learned in school.

Before getting stuck in we took a moment to appreciate the boxes these two sets came in because it’s always worth recognising that it is the graphics and artwork that first catches our eye. The smaller of the two sets is fronted by an all-action depiction of the contents, topped off by one of the most compelling header graphics ever to adorn the LEGO Star Wars line – the helmeted Deathtrooper. The adult version of this set shows a similar scene, with the Death Star trench and pursuing TIE Fighters in the background, surrounded by a more minimalist black border with white text giving it the look of a luxury chocolate brand.

The difference in the graphic design of these two sets’ packaging is notable – one clearly shows play while the other portrays display. Whichever appeals to you the art designer’s work should be recognised.

The next – and obvious step – was to debouch the contents of each box.

Opening the 75181 UCS Y-Wing first, we both took a moment to review the set’s contents: an interior box decorated with minimalist line art of the LEGO model, a thickness instruction book which included an insight into the set’s design team, a sticker sheet and fifteen bags containing 1967 pieces. Compared to the UCS set, the System-scale 75172 Y-Wing Starfighter’s contents was much more demure, with five bags, a sticker sheet and a considerably thinner instruction book.

The comparative complexities of the build are best outlined with a quick glance at the pages in the instruction books that illustrate the breakdown of bags: there is only one page in the simpler 75172 Y-Wing Starfighter’s instruction book, showing how the five bags comprise five stages of builds – while the far more evolved 75181 UCS Y-Wing has two pages graphically describing how the fifteen bags combine in the (more-or-less same) five build stages.

Oscar’s sense of relief when he realised that the scale of his build less than mine was noticeable, but understanding the expectation that we build alongside each other, he promised not to race ahead to the finish line. And with that we began, and both quickly observed that we were starting the main build – the starfighter itself – with the fuselage.

By distracting himself with the occasional glance to check out the action of Rogue One, and later Star Wars: Resistance, Oscar was able to keep pace with my more intricate build. He would occasionally sidle up to my end of the table to show me his handiwork and remark on the additional layer of details that the designers at LEGO had embedded onto the UCS Y-Wing.

At one point the parallel build-off diverged and the smaller Y-Wings instructions accelerated Oscar towards the cockpit while I continued to add greeblies to the hull. While he celebrated his lead I enjoyed a moment of nostalgia by casting my mind back to when I built the original 10134 UCS Y-wing Attack Starfighter fourteen years ago.

The two Y-Wings rejoined their shared course we both completed the cockpits. Despite the scale difference, they took Oscar and I roughly the same amount of time; the smaller 75172 has more pieces to put together, while 75181’s cockpit has a number of larger elements that speed up the build. With the yellow banding on the cockpit’s plating, it’s clear at this point that the two Y-wing models are both from Gold Squadron – the description of the UCS version mentions the “Gold Leader minifigure and an R2-BHD droid”, an astromech that Wookieepedia notes that the astromech is assigned to Gold Leader Jon Vander, while a touch of helmet pattern forensics on the so-called “Y-Wing pilot minifigure” that comes with the System set indicates it is Wona Goban, who served in the Battle of Scarif, under the callsign Gold Nine. Though no droid is canonically assigned to Gold Nine, a review of the Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide clearly puts it as R3-S1, the pit boss of all the astromechs at the Rebel’s headquarters on Yavin IV. There’s no record of R3-S1’s participation at the Battle of Scariff, which suggests that Wona Gabon could have flown one of the astromech-less Y-Wings at the Battle of Yavin.

With the cockpits complete the build shifted to the engine nacelles, a section of the Y-Wing that often as bland as it is uninspiring, and typically sidestepped by LEGO designers. Not so with these two models though, which have a surprising amount of greebling – especially the lesser of the pair where the smaller hands attached to Oscar’s arms were an advantage.

Due to a significant amount of distraction caused by the background entertainment – which I was able to ignore but did a great job of slowing Oscar down – both builds came in at just under five hours.

The two final constructions are attractive in their design, colourings, and ornamentation. With regards to design, it’s hard to comprehend how the LEGO Star Wars team were able to refine the multitude of different practical and digital models produced by Lucasfilm and ILM. These two representative Y-Wings capture the essence of this multi-theatre fighter-bombers, particularly in tying in scenes from the two pivotal battles – Scariff and Yavin – this craft had an important role in. And while the yellow bandings on the cockpit give the models a needed splash of colour, it is the tan, brown and sand blue elements that really give these two sets a lift. Since the inception of the UCS line in 2000, LEGO has done a great job of capturing the attention of the adult LEGO hobbyist, and 75181 is no exception. The surface texturing on both sets and use of some surprising elements, like Indiana Jones’s whip and battle droid torsos as inventive details, is above par and no sections of either build is a letdown.

Best of all was the time I got to spend building, comparing notes and sharing a combined passion with my son.

If your collection doesn’t have enough space for the footprint of either of these models you could consider the adding a Microfighter-scale version – or two – to your shelves instead. Choose from either 75162 Y-Wing Microfighter or the buildable one that comes in the LEGO Star Wars: Build Your Own Adventure book (DK) which Son of LEGOscum kindly reviewed when it was released in August, 2016.

Neither of these small-scale Y-wing builds are available on the primary market so you will have to turn to eBay or Bricklink for help.

If you are looking for an even smaller Y-wing addition to augment your Star Wars collection there is always the option of the Y-Wing Pilot Keychain, which only retails for US$4.99.

Entertainment Earth

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