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3D Puzzle Vehicle
With Pullback Power

(Produced by Greenbrier International, Inc.)

A toy review by Mark Patraw
Posted on 9/17/13


The Motorized Constructacar comes on a 6" (15 cm) wide x 9" (23 cm) tall blister card, with the plastic bubble glued securely onto the cardback. The front of the package is attractive with a predominately blue color scheme and checkered flag motif, and the plastic window gives you a good view of the model's components. There are several different car styles available--the package advertises four, and I believe that I saw at least three (if memory serves, there was a white-and-red car and a yellow-and-black one, in addition to the orange-and-white sample I'm reviewing). The assembly instructions are printed, in black-and-white, on the back, so take care not to toss it into the garbage can or recycling bin by accident.


The wheels, front axle, and motorized engine are the only "true" 3-dimensional objects in the package. The two smaller front wheels, and their corresponding axle, are taped to the front of the plastic bubble, but the larger back wheels and engine aren't secured in any way and just pop out of their bubble depressions. All four wheels are made out of black plastic with chromed rims. I noticed, in the store, that the chrome finish tends to be applied pretty poorly, so if you have the luxury of choice, try to pick out a set that has good coverage (I actually would have preferred to buy the yellow and black car, instead of this white and orange one, but the wheels looked terrible, which is why I left it on the peg). One of my wheels also had some plastic flash on it, partially covering the hole that the axle goes into, which would have caused difficulties during the assembly process if I hadn't removed it.

The flat car pieces are all printed on four pre-cut sheets. These are composed of a layer of foam sandwiched between two pieces of thin cardstock. The individual components pop out pretty easily with just pressure from your fingers, but the package recommends that you poke out the smaller holes with the end of a screwdriver or bobby pin (I used the blunt end of a sewing needle, simply because I had one handy, but you could stab yourself with the sharp end of the needle if you're not careful, so I wouldn't recommend following my example when there are any number of safer tools that you could use instead).

Here's what all twenty-five pieces look like punched out. It'd probably be better to remove the pieces as you need them, rather than all at once like this, because you might get confused about what's what. The only reason I did it this way was so that I could shoot the photo below. By the way, "kawai" is Japanese for "love", "pet", or "to hold dear", I wonder if that's what Greenbrier was going for, or if it's just a coincidence? Some people REALLY love their cars, so it's not that odd of a choice from that perspective.

This is the mess you'll be left with when you're done. I'm contemplating holding onto these scraps, as they might prove useful for one of my future art projects.


Putting the vehicle together is relatively easy, provided that you take your time and follow the diagrams on the back of the package. The instructions say that you can assemble and disassemble the vehicle as much as you want, so I wouldn't worry too much about making a mistake, because, short of tearing one of the pieces, you should be able to go back and fix any blunders. I found getting the four wheels onto their axles and the two flat sections that attach directly onto the front and back of the engine to be the only tricky parts, because the fit was VERY tight. I'd say it took me around an hour to get all the pieces removed from their sheets and then assemble the model, but bear in mind that I was also frequently stopping to set up and shoot photos for this review, so, I imagine your average person would probably be able to do it faster than that. Fully built, the car is a pretty impressive size, clocking in at 5-1/2" (14 cm) in length, 2-1/4" (6 cm) in width, and 1-3/4" (4.5 cm) in height. As someone who's made similar stuff from scratch, I was impressed with the engineering/design of this toy--it's simple but elegant. If you don't plan on ever taking this apart again, you can glue the pieces together for added strength/durability, but the slots/tabs hold pretty well on their own without any adhesives.

The top of the car opens, so, if you've got figures small enough, the vehicle can house passengers.
Speaking of which, it would have been nice if Greenbrier had included a driver figure,
even if they were flat and made out of the same foam/cardboard as the car pieces.
I'd say that there was enough room on at least one of the sheets to print one.

Action Feature

Unfortunately, the car's pullback feature does not work very well at all. I tested the engine and back wheels a bit before assembling the vehicle, and the mechanism seemed to work fine, but, fully built, it performs sporadically at best. After trying many times, I got the car to limp and stutter around on my computer desk a little bit, but that's it. The mechanism isn't broken or anything, you can hold the car up in the air and manually wind the wheels, and they'll spin vigorously once you let go, but if you try the same thing by pulling the car back on a flat surface, the wheels barely want to budge. I suspect that there's some kind of friction problem going on, but I don't know what I could do to correct it (maybe if the back tires had a rough sculpted texture, or were made from rubber instead of plastic, giving them some "tooth", they'd be able to grip surfaces and get some better traction?). While it's a bummer that the vehicle can't zip around like I thought it would, it's still a cool looking ride and a fun model to build. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did.

Cost and Value

I only paid a buck for this, plus six cents sales tax, at the local Dollar Tree store (where everything and anything in the establishment can be had for a portrait of George Washington), which is more than fair. Even though the motorized pullback feature didn't work particularly well on my sample, I still think you're getting a good value for the model building aspect alone.

For Parents

Greenbrier International is marketing this to the four-years-and-older crowd, but I don't think that many four-year-olds would be able to handle constructing something as complex as this without their parent's assistance. Due to the small parts, the manufacturer does not recommend this item for children under 3 years of age. If your child is rough with their toys, this vehicle probably won't have a very long lifespan. I think these cars would make for nice stocking stuffers or party favors.

  • Clever construction and colorful/attractive design.
  • The model-building aspect adds an additional layer of play value above and beyond that of a basic car.
  • For the most part, the pieces are easy to punch out and assemble, and you don't need any glue, which is always a plus.
  • The pullback motorized action is pretty finicky and doesn't work particularly well.
  • Plastic flash on one of the tires would have caused assembly problems if I hadn't removed it.
  • While the model is fairly solid, due to the materials it's made from, it's certainly not going to as durable as an all plastic/metal toy car. If you're rough or careless, this item may not last very long.
  • Chrome coverage on the wheel rims can be pretty spotty; take the time to pick out a good sample at the store if you're buying one in person.

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