With the release of the new Diorama Collection sets earlier this year, LEGO Star Wars fans are now able to build the pivotal scene where Luke Skywalker flies his X-wing fighter down a heavily-defended trench in order to destroy the Death Star.
However, this isn’t the first mini-scale depiction of the famous trench run scene, because – nearly twenty years ago – LEGO did make a mini-scale Death Star trench, complete with an X-wing and three TIE Fighters!
Way back in 2003, when LEGO was still dipping its toes into the fledgling world of online sales, the company that would eventually have one of the most trafficked shopping websites in the world was still exploring different retail platforms away from the world of brick-and-mortar stores. The company already had success with shop@home telephone and mail ordering sales, and the Internet was fast becoming an important sales platform.
What few collectors remember is the brief period between 2002 and 2005 when LEGO utilized eBay to create a buzz among its fans, and even fewer can recall that in June 2003 they ran two simultaneous auctions for a unique model of the Death Star trench.
Built in the model shop at the LEGO offices in Enfield, Connecticut, its footprint measured a whopping 20″ (51 cm) by 10.5″ (27 cm) and was 5″ (13cm) tall, and used approximately 2100 pieces, giving it a total weight of 7 lbs 9 oz (3.5 kg).
Created by Erik Varzegi, one of the designers on the Enfield-based team, the model was comprised of a base, 27 surface modules (one of which had a rotating turbolaser cannon), a side wall and – unlike its modern predecessor – the trench’s terminal wall, complete with a thermal exhaust port.
Coinciding with the launch of the mini-scale subtheme in 2003, the model came with two 3219 TIE Fighters and a 4484 X-wing Fighter & TIE Advanced, to help fans relive the climactic ending of A New Hope.
Making use of old-school light and dark gray bricks, which were the standard at the time, Varzegi also incorporated printed bricks from 7180 B-Wing at Rebel Control Center, 7111 Droid Fighter, 7161 Gungan Sub, 7171 Mos Espa Podrace, 7141 Naboo Fighter and 7186 Watto’s Junkyard to add extra detail to his creation.
Drawing on his own copy of The Star Wars Sketchbook, which he had owned since he was 10 years old, Varzego studdiod Joe Johnston’s concept models and even went as far as to utilize the same modular design the ILM model makers used in 1976 by covering the trench’s base with interchangeable 10 x 10 stud plates.
Though all the components – with the exception of the mini-scale sets which came in their original packaging – were glued together, it arrived in a disassembled state, allowing the owners to decide for themselves how they wanted the floor of the trench to look.
Running from June 16th to the 23rd, the two eBay auctions ended at around $835 (approximately $1345 in today’s money), which is a fair bit lower than the estimated $1725 it would cost nowadays to assemble one through Bricklink purchases.
Like much of the information about this model, the winners’ identities have been lost to time, and neither of these Death Star Mini-Model scenes have ever resurfaced again. With only two fully assembled, and a single prototype kept secure at the LEGO office in Connecticut, this has to be one of the rarest builds that LEGO has ever released to the public.