Many people use Lego bricks to create all sorts of things – buildings, people, animals, all types of vehicles, whatever – but we think we found the ultimate Lego big rig builder. His name is Dennis Glaasker, but most people know him by his internationally-recognizable alias “Bricks on Wheels” on the web. Dennis’ hobby is building scale models of cars and bikes, but mostly big trucks – and he is good!
It all started out back in the 1970s when he was a kid. Dennis was one of those boys with a big passion for cars and trucks. Back then, he could spend hours watching the old Scania and Volvo trucks roaring though his hometown in The Netherlands, Europe, on their way to Germany or Scandinavia. Being a creative guy, he started drawing trucks, and then building scale models from standard plastic kits that were available in the stores. He also had some nice Lego sets his parents gave him as gifts, and soon he started to build his own creations with them, trying to copy the trucks he saw in town and in the European truck magazines. Around this same time, truckers in Europe started dressing up their rigs with loads of accessories and some airbrushing. These early show trucks, including the ones from the USA, soon became his favorite theme for building his scaled models.
In the early 1980s, Dennis had built many Lego models but, like many other boys his age, he lost interest a bit during the teenage years. Ten years later, in the early 1990s, Dennis got access to the internet and quickly discovered that Legos had become a serious medium used for model building throughout the world. Now that he was older and had a job, he could invest some money in new bricks, which were now widely available at stores and various websites. He could also now just order what he needed, so he didn’t have to rely on standard sets anymore to increase his collection. He started by ordering a lot of wheels in different scales, and then he picked up the hobby once again, and never looked back.
Nowadays, the Lego community worldwide is huge, and there are many very talented Lego builders who make the most beautiful things. It is something that everybody likes – from kids to grandparents. But, Dennis is one of the few builders that specialize in custom big rig trucks. Websites like ours (www.tenfourmagazine.com) have inspired Dennis to build truly custom rigs at the highest detail he can achieve with the small bricks – and it is a lot of work. Building mostly Peterbilts in scale 1:13 and 1:16, a completed rig can easily weigh between 10 and 15 pounds and require thousands of bricks to construct. Some are even remote-controlled, with multiple engines for the drivetrain and steering.
The first step in building a new “creation” is to surf the internet for inspiration. Sometimes Dennis builds a replica of an existing truck, but often he makes a Kenworth or Peterbilt of his own design. Dennis likes to build American trucks, but living in The Netherlands makes that hard because there are not many of them in Europe. Once he is inspired, he begins by scaling the dimensions to his common sizes of 1:13 or 1:16 (these scales are based on the fixed sizes of available Lego wheels).
Once the dimensions of the chassis are set, he often makes a sketch of what he thinks it should look like when done. At this point, he then checks to see if he has all the desired Lego bricks needed, and that he has the right colors. This can be a challenge, because not every color is available in Lego bricks, and some essential parts are only available in even fewer colors. Nowadays, you can buy whatever single bricks you need in any available color on the web, so that has made Dennis’ job a little easier.
The next step is the actual building of the truck, which typically takes around 6 to 8 weeks. Making a rigid Lego chassis with single bricks without making it too bulky requires some plastic construction engineering, as Dennis really aims to make it as close to the real thing as possible. When the chassis is ready, he then builds up the engine, cab and bunk (if it has one). To go the extra mile, Dennis recently started having some of his bricks chrome plated using a technology called “plating on plastics” which adds a very thin layer of true chrome to the bricks. They look great and they truly add to the custom look of his creations. Now that is true customizing!
When a truck is finished, Dennis takes a few pictures of it and then keeps it for a while. He attends a couple of shows every year with his trucks and always gets plenty of attention – from both young and older people. After a while, not wanting them to just sit and collect dust, he takes them apart to build new things, which is one of the advantages of using Lego bricks – you can use them over and over again. For Dennis, the fun comes from the build itself, not putting it on a shelf. He figures that this makes him more of a “creative hobbyist” than a true Lego collector.
Over the last couple of years, Dennis has had many enthusiastic reactions from truckers in the USA – some want to buy one of his models while others want him to build a Lego version of their truck. But, as you can imagine, trying to ship something as big and fragile as a Lego truck would be very challenging (and expensive), to say the least. Dennis hopes to one day come to the United States and see some of the real trucks that inspired some of his creations. His wish is to one day come here and go to a big show, like MATS in Louisville or the SuperRigs event.
At 39 years old, Dennis feels that this will be his hobby for life, as custom trucks never fail to impress and inspire him, and he truly enjoys building these custom creations. Living in The Netherlands with his wife and two kids, Dennis works as an international sales representative for a company that develops and manufactures specialty display windows (the cover glass that goes in front of electronic displays). To see more of Dennis’ work, search the internet for “bricksonwheels” (with no spaces) and find his photostream on Flickr. We would like to thank Dennis for finding us and for sharing his passion with us so that we could pass it on and share it with our readers. Dennis, you are a true artist with an awesome talent! Keep up the good work and never leave your “toys” behind again!!