Shown above is a very old LEGO image of circa 1953 showing the first known LEGO garage artwork. This particular artwork shows a 1:43 scale Chevrolet Truck with a LEGO Mursten (bricks) garage, from a 1953 LEGO truck brochure. The LEGO bricks of that era had slots for inserting the very thin Automatic Binding Bricks windows. These early bricks and windows were retired in 1956.
The First LEGO Garage Sets #236/#1236 (1955-70).
It is doubtful if any LEGO model set came in as many variations as the #236/#1236 Garage set, produced from 1955-70. There were 8 different box design/size versions produced. During 1958-60 there were sometimes 4 versions sold at the same time in European countries. This set was produced in either rectangular (parts loose in box w/o 1:87 VW Bus) or flat box version (parts held in place by cardboard insert with a 1:87 VW Bus). The rectangular box versions were produced from 1955-70, while the flat box versions were produced from 1958-65. Neither version was sold in USA or Canada. Interestingly enough, the flat box versions (with the 1:80 or 1:87 VW Bus) usually sell for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market, while the rectangular box versions (except for the earliest) usually sell in the $60-$120 range. Although the VW Bus adds value to the set, many early LEGO collectors seem to prize the sets with the parts nicely displayed in the cardboard cutout insert that holds the parts in place.
The rectangular (loose parts) box was sold from1955 until 1970, in 5 box versions. In 1958 some countries started selling this set in a new flat box version, where the parts were nicely held in place by inserts. This version also had a LEGO VW Bus that was never included in the rectangular box version. This box was a 1:80 larger VW Bus (with fake windows of glass). In 1962 this bus was remodeled as a 1:87 smaller VW Bus (also called a van), with clear “glass” inserts. This smaller version was included in the flat box version, until this box type was retired in 1965. Any country that sold LEGO before 1958 had the rectangular box version. In 1958 half of continental European countries switched over to the flat box version. From 1960-65 England, Ireland and (starting 1962) Australia sold only the flat box version, and when it was retired in 1965, they never switched over to the rectangular box version.
The earliest version of the Garage Set was this 1955-58 rectangular box version of the #1236 Danish, Swedish and Norwegian garage. Although the box shows an Esso Service printed beam, and a 1:87 Bedford Esso Tanker Truck, neither of these was ever included in this set. These parts were likely added at a later date because the image on the back of the box shows them. The loose box versions of the #236/#1236 never came with a 1:87vehicle, and only came with a GARAGE printed brick. There was a printed instructions leaflet that came with this earliest rectangular version of the box.
This is a flat box version of the #1236 set of 1958-59. This set came with all the parts of the rectangular loose box version, plus a VW Bus. The box insert held the parts in place. Thin instructions were either on the inside box top (1958-59 and 1959-60 versions, and on the bottom of the box of the 1960-65 version.
This earliest loose parts version of #1236 was produced from 1955-57 in Denmark and Norway, and 1955-58 in Sweden. Pictured top is a Swedish box (system i lek), pictured bottom is a Danish box (system i leg). Interestingly enough, all the boxes had the same writing on top: “helautomatiske vippeport”. This earliest box version is the only one that came with a separate instructions leaflet. This is the end flap (left) of the #1236 box.
The 1955-56 version of the #1236 Garage Set had slotted bricks and a garage door frame with “wings” on the side, and no studs on top of the frame. The 1955 version of the door frame had “wings” going all the way up and down the side, so that it required 4 slotted 1x2 bricks on each side to hold it in place. In 1956 this door frame was remodeled to require only 2 slotted bricks (thus allowing for staggered rows of bricks). In later 1956 this same door frame was used with the new hollow bottom bricks without studs. This required the need for only 4 slotted 1x2 bricks in the set, for holding the garage frame to the side walls.
This loose parts version was the first of the #236 box types, and was produced from 1956-58 in Germany and from 1957-58 in Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. This set used the new bricks with the LEGO logo on the studs. The garage door frame also now had studs on top. No slotted bricks were ever found in these sets.
This earliest flat box version (#236/#1236) was produced in 1958-59 in Denmark and Norway as set #1236, and from 1958-59 in Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg as set #236. This was the first set to come with small LEGO windows, and 1x2 trans-clear bricks. The building instructions were on the inside box top. This set had the #258 VW Bus inside the box.
This loose box version of #236 was produced from 1958-60 in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, and from 1959-60 in France. Although the back of the box also listed the “System in Play” message in all European LEGO country languages (except for Finnish and Portuguese), many of these countries did not sell this box type. This was the only version of the rectangular loose box type that came with the small LEGO windows and 1x2 trans-clear bricks.
This flat box version of #236 was produced from 1959-60 in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Portugal. This box continued to have the small LEGO windows and 1x2 trans-clear bricks. The instructions were on the inside box top. This set also contained a #258 VW Bus.
This flat box version (#236) was produced from 1960-65 in Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Britain and Ireland, and 1962-65 in Australia. This set continued to have small classic LEGO windows, and 1x2 trans-clear bricks. This set also contained a #258 VW Bus. In 1962 the bus was remodeled from a 1:80 scale bus (without “glass”) to a smaller 1:87 scale bus (with “glass”).
This loose box version of #236 was produced from 1960-67 in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and Sweden, and 1966-67 in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Portugal. This box switched back to having the larger 1x6x2 LEGO windows, but no more trans-clear 1x2 bricks.
This loose box version of #236 (with gray baseplate and garage frame) was produced from 1968-70 in all of continental Europe. It continued to have the large 1x6x2 LEGO windows. In 1971 a new garage system was introduced, and this set was retired.