Daimler Ferret

A trip down Meccano memory lane

Eh? What?

I’ve been commissioned to create a learning session all about military vehicles. To cut a long story very short, I’m focussing on power to weight ratios and ground pressure of off-road vehicles.

Challenger main battle tank

Chieftain main battle tank

I figured that the best way to do this was to get the children to build their own vehicles. So I found Eitech, a German educational Meccano company. That gives me the ability to compare wheeled vehicles with tracked ones and see how they cope with different situations.

Only thing is, I reckon the last time I built anything with Meccano, my age was in single figures so this is something of a trip down memory lane. If not into the unknown.

Opening the boxOpening the box

Obviously I can’t set the children loose with kits I’ve never built so, in order to prepare properly, I need to build them myself.

So I’m going to document this journey for your entertainment and (maybe) edification.

The tracked vehicle

I’m going with the tracked kit first. Why not start with the most complex one?

Eitech tracked vehicleEitech tracked vehicle

First impressions

Open the box and tip out the, weighty, contents.

First impressions: My word! There are a lot of bits!

That's a lot of very small pieces

That’s a lot of very small pieces

And some of them are quite small.

Ok, let’s count them all to make sure I’ve got everything…

All in neat piles

All in neat piles

…Wow! That’s a lot of bits! They’re all there.

Adventures in Ikea

Now to actually build something. The instructions are very much in the style of Ikea: pictures and diagrams with no words. Shall we see how we get on?

Right. Eyes down, look in!

Step 1: not too bad so far. Haven’t dropped anything yet. It even looks like the picture.

Getting started

Getting started

Oh, maybe not. That bit there needs to be one hole further along. Ah, right. Now it’s better.

Now for step 2: the sides. I’m beginning to suspect that the designers had smaller hands than me.

One side done. That was a little fiddly. I suspect the designers had more hands than me, and more manual dexterity. Bodes well.

Sides on

Sides on

Their diagrams also leaves a little to be desired in terms of clarity. Which is unhelpful.

The second side is better. I think (hubris alert) I’m getting the hang of this.

On a roll

Steps 3 & 4: easy peasy. I reckon it’s the front and the back.

fore and aft

fore and aft

Step 5…Oh. I’m  not entirely sure what’s going on here…this could be tricky.

  1. I think I’ve got it…How small are their hands! Really tiny. I’m going to start using tweezers to get these bits in place! Wow!
Where has it gone?

Where has it gone?

AAAARgh! I’ve just dropped a nut into the guts of the chassis and have been reduced to shaking it until the bit falls out again!

Right. Unscrew that bit a little, push this bit through the gap, hope that my finger can hold the nut in place whist I….AAaaargh! Try again…Aaargh! One last time. Got it! Now screw up all the bits I undid. Aaah.

On to the next step.

Step 7

Step 6 was inconsequential.


Step 7: fiddly but doable. Keep going. Nearly there.

Refill of coffee

Step 8: roof on. The end must be in sight now. Surely?

No, apparently not. Axles on. Eh? What? Aaaah. Good job I know what a lock nut is and how it works, otherwise I’d have been scunnered!



And I’m not sure their axles are long enough. Nrrr!


Now for the bucket. This is pretty straightforward.


Aaaaaah! I see! The red spanner has a little slot that will hold a nut while you screw a bolt into it. Why didn’t I realise this before? That might make things a little easier.



Now to put the bucket on. Yes!

No! Friction washer in the wrong place. Yes!

Acid test

Right. Let’s push it along the carpet and see if the wheels fall off…



…Nuts. The wheels fall off. Actually, the nuts holding the axle in place come loose and the axle threatens to come off, but it’s pretty much the same thing. Partially dismantle it and tighten everything up again.

Why is there a nut on the carpet? Where has that come from? Oh. There. Right, partially dismantle it, refit the nut, tighten everything up again.

Put the wee manny in the cockpit and we’re done!

Now, with driver

Now, with driver

I’ve never felt so good completing something designed for 8 year olds.

I’ve got a bit of thinking to do.


This should be much simpler. There are far fewer pieces. There’s even a few leftovers for if (when) one or two of the screws haven’t been faced properly.

Right then

Step 1:

Dear sweet Jesus! What? Step 1 is, apparently, just put the entire cab together. 20 bolts in total in one step. Right then, let’s get to it.

Actually, that wasn’t too bad. Maybe I’m getting the hang of it.



Step 2. Nuts! Concentrate. Take it apart again and put it together right.

Step 3. Oooh, a new piece. That could make taking it apart difficult.

Information overload

It’s another “just do these thirty things” step. OK, look closely. How does this work? Aaah. That makes sense. Oh. Remember those new bits? They’re totally in the way for this step.

And the rest of it

And the rest of it

Oops. I’ve just put two pieces together that were supposed to go into something and then be assembled. Now I can’t get them apart again. Maybe I can prise them apart with my Leatherman? No. What about the blade? Maybe…Ow! Ow! Great. Now I’m bleeding. That bit was cosmetic anyway. You know what? I don’t think I’m going to bother with it.



I’m finished apart from that.

I’m going to go and put a plaster on.

Look: I made a thing!

Look: I made a thing!

Posted by Past Participants Andy

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