The 8414 Technic set was released originally in Europe in 1997 then released in the U.S. in early 1998. When I first saw the Mountain Rambler in the 1997 Technic catalog I immediately thought "I must have this cool looking set." Fortunately it showed up right at the end of 1997 in local stores for $29.99 retail.
The set is 244 pieces for an off road vehicle with working steering, 2 medium sized bubble tires on the front, dual treads over 3 hubs for the rear, and a working V2 engine with clear cylinders and red pistons. The primary color is yellow with black and gray trim. Also, the entire rear operates on 5L (5 stud length) gray shocks. The alternate model is a robot that moves about on the treads and the shocks are used to operate the arms in a "pinching" manor to grasp objects.
The only unique pieces for this set include yellow number 1 cross connectors, yellow number 6 cross connectors, and red crank shafts in the engine. Nothing else too spectacular to report. The single seat, however, is constructed from black hinge pieces instead of the traditional black Technic 1-piece chair. The steering is the common black and gray steering set with the rubber rack. The overall dimensions measure 26 studs long by 16 studs wide by 11 bricks high. The highest point being the gray central steering knob located on top near the center. Enclosing the driver's area or cab is a long 1-piece yellow flex tube. A much welcomed piece is the gray universal joint incorporated into the steering arm. All hubs for the wheels are in yellow. Only a few stickers (4 of them) are used and cover only single pieces.
The vehicle, in my opinion, would be considered a small to medium sized Technic Model and is labeled "Technic Build" on the box indicating the sets building difficulty by Lego. It took me around one to two hours of leisure building time to construct the Mountain Rambler. Not too difficult yet pleasurable to build was my experience.
The Mountain Rambler has a very futuristic look both from the front and from the side. I would consider it a very good display model. As for the playability, how fun or easy the model is to play with, is average to poor. Unfortunately the front and rear axles on the tread hubs are connected with a solid axle and not a differential. Thus, turning corners is cumbersome, plus its small size and light weight make it easy to over power the steering knob. The treads are very taunt, meaning the vehicle doesn't travel very far at all when pushed in a straight line. To compensate for this, excess forward force is applied, then in turn, steering isn't effective. The model though is quite rigid and sturdy, well designed.
My overall final opinion is mixed. From its outward appearance, many Technic and non-Technic fans might wish to purchase this set, yet its playability suffers. As for parts, buying the set just for parts, depends on what the buyer is looking for. With its small 244 piece count there is a very limited amount of parts of any particular color. The angle beams and treads make the Mountain Rambler appear larger than it really is, thus giving the affect of more pieces.
I would buy this set again just as a display model and as an avid collector of the Technic series. Even with a $30 price tag, its not a bad buy and certainly affordable. I would recommend this set for Technic collectors, but not as a "first" set for any newcomers. The bottom line is 3 stars, four for appearance, two for playability, and three for piece content.