Sci-fi Model Kit Supplemental: UFO Mystery Ship and AMT Mr. Spock.

posted by JamieH 8:00 AM
Friday, May 1, 2009

I’ve got lots of ideas in mind to write about, but occasionally I’ll have to deviate from my plan every now and then to talk about current developments. This is one of those.

Late last week and just this week I received test shots of two long lost kits, the old AMT Spock (with snakes) model kit and the UFO Mystery Ship. Many speculated whether the tools still existed and what shape they were in. We were excited to hear about six months ago that the tools had been found. (We knew they existed but their location in the Dyersville warehouse was not documented) We received photos of the molds themselves about three months ago and went through the task of having them shipped to our factory in China.

UFO Mystery Ship

So the great mystery was “will we find the clear engine parts intact? Or possibly as an insert?” Unfortunately, the answers were “no” and “no”. However we did find the other long lost parts like the nose cone, scout ship landing gear and the opaque parts that were to go between the clear parts. The tool showed no signs that there was a place to put an insert for clear parts. Also missing was any remnant of the original base. The only trace of the previous base is two holes in the bottom of the ship where the base may have been connected. (My best guess having never had the chance to study the underside of a Leif kit)

One significant revelation was seeing how the forward neck section had been divided from the back section. I wondered why the break was made right in the middle rather than at the more logical seem where the neck connects to the body of the ship. The reason for having the break at all was just to fit in the smaller square box style. We’ve speculated why these kinds of decisions were made. We figure it was to make all packages a smaller standard size to fit on retailers shelves or to purely to remove the air from inside the box. Anyway, the split is very even and we can see that this may be a simple thing to reconnect the neck. We haven’t decided whether we should do that at this point or not. If we find any demand at big box hobby retailers, they want everything in standard size model kit boxes. The kit will fit that style as is but definitely wouldn’t if we restore the neck. Whether or not we do it for this release or for the (hopefully) eventual back dating needed to make it a genuine Leif Ericson remains to be seen.

The test shots arrived in fine shape and a quick buildup went smoothly. All of the shots did have a few issues with the 4-pronged nose cone. One of the prongs was bent and the cone had a pretty significant sinkhole in it. The timing of the arrival of the kit was perfect as we are planning our Wonderfest presence. We’ll have a professionally built copy of the kit there. I have to admit as I was building the kit, my attitude towards it went from really like to LOVE. It is such an elegant, believable design. Although it would be great to have engines filling their spots, the ship looks great from every angle. The scout ship is a great design as well. It is prime to be upsized and detailed out into a kit of its own. Even the flimsy base did its job adequately without taking anything away from the design.

AMT Spock

We were really biting our lip on this one. What would be in the tool and what wouldn’t be? Everyone can see that the re-release done for the motion picture was a half-ass job. It had butchered the kit and who knows why such a significant change was made. Sure it made the character the same style as the movie. Why cut the base and eliminate the snakes? Just because they weren’t in the film or maybe they were perceived as hokey? We thought that maybe it was done to fit the standard square style box but found that the kit would have fit that box anyway.

One day we received a DVD full of documentation. We had someone onsite in the warehouse, researching, documenting, photographing the test shots on record and cracking open tools to find kits to potentially re-release whether it be Trek or other possible licenses. I started thumbing through it and with baited breath double clicked the folder named “Mr. Spock”… And what to my wondering eyes should appear but the snake sprue completely intact on the photo of the test shot on record. Hooray! However the base was still the butchered half… Bumpum badum. (like the Price Is Right)

So a couple months pass and we received photos of the actual tool and saw that a section of the original base was ground out and replaced by an insert cutting the base as we know it today. The good news about this was that we can create a new insert to put in its place. That saves us a considerable cost to backdate the kit. Work on the backdating is underway. I’ll post an update once I get revised test shots.

The parts as they exist fit fine. I was heartbroken not to be able to put the snake heads on their spot on the base though. Strangely enough, it would make a great kitbash to have the snakes growing out of the top of Spock’s head…



14 Responses to “Sci-fi Model Kit Supplemental: UFO Mystery Ship and AMT Mr. Spock.”

  1. ignatz says:

    Jamie. These pix are great! Really wonderful news about the Spock backdate. As far as the UFO Mystery ship, if there’s anyway to restore the neck, I think that would make the model MUCH more desirable to collectors and builders alike, especially with the original box art. Shame about the clear red engine parts though. I had some resin reproductions of those parts and they seemed to just sit against the hull inside the cowling. Thanks again for giving us a look behind the scenes. Those shots of the tooling are fantastic!

    Steven L.

  2. RB says:

    The blog has been great Jamie and this new post with the tooling and test shot pics is the best yet. I have a question regarding the Spock kit. I’m assuming the insert you mentioned will comprise only the middle section of the altered base. Is that correct, or will the insert also include the hydra’s section of the base as well? And will inserts also be used to return Spock’s uniform to its original series look?

    Great news on the possibility of a larger version of the Ericson/UFO scout ship. Always loved the design and have wanted to see more of it!

  3. ignatz says:

    Jamie. I don’t know anything about tool-work. What’s the process for restoring the uniform detail on the Spock figure itself?

  4. JamieH says:

    The copper-y square areas are the inserts that were made back in the day. We are having a new insert made to replace it that will seamlessly recreate the old version of the base. So when the kit comes out, the full base will be intact just the way it was originally with the spot to put the snakes. And yes, we’ll be backdating Spock’s uniform as well. I’m not sure if that will be handled via inserts or just filling in some areas of the tool.

  5. Doug Pirahna says:

    Jamie,

    Great news and great info, I always like the behind the scenes reports.

    Can you talk more about the mold inserts? I’m interested in the technical aspects of how they’re made and what you have to do to reverse one.

  6. JamieH says:

    Others, like our car guy John G, can speak to the whole insert thing. It is rare that sci-fi kits have to deal with them, but from what I’ve heard its a constant issue with the automotive stuff.

    Here’s how I understand it. When a kit is tooled, consideration is given whether parts of it can be used in other kits. When you’re tooling up a TOS Enterprise, it will more than likely just be its own thing. It isn’t likely that another kit will be made that can use its nacelles or saucer.(but don’t let that stop the kit-bashers out there) On the other hand, if you are tooling up a ’69 Camaro with a 396 engine, that same tool can be used to create a kit of a Chevelle or Nova too. So the engine elements are tooled on an insert that can be chain ganged with inserts for all of the other parts onto one tool frame to create an entire (or at least a majority of the) kit. There are occasional issues where windows or other clear or chrome parts may be on another tool or insert that has gotten lost. Digging through all of the inserts to find the one that is missing causes an amazing amount of head and heart ache.

  7. BlackBirdCD says:

    I am so thrilled to see the photos of the U.F.O. Mystery Ship molds, you have no idea how cool this post is… I hope you don’t mind I’ve referenced it from my own blog. Thank you. Same for the write-up on the Mr. Spock model.

    Back in 2002 or so I actually contacted the RC2 engineering department about re-popping the U.F.O. Mystery Ship. They were fine with letting me fund a short run (something they do for the auto folks who want an obscure kit, I was told), provided they could find the molds. They never did, unfortunately, and frankly I’m not sure if they looked very hard.

    So this is something of a thrill for me to see this. I’m looking forward to chatting with you at Wonderfest.

  8. thunderbearr says:

    The UFO is a long time favorite of mine. Thanks for making this one available again. Any chance (however slight) of the ‘Sounds of Space’ audio file being included? Perhaps as a mini-cdr?

  9. CaptAction says:

    A shame you couldn’t offer both kits… The TOS and TNG versions, or maybe include both versions in the box.

    Also, what happened to the phaser? Spock is supposed to have a phaser in his hand.

    Is the Leif Eriksen going to be released in plain styrene AND glow in the dark?

  10. JamieH says:

    CaptAction-
    With the motion picture release, the phaser had been whittled down to a pointing hand. It’ll be restored.

    The UFO will be GiD. A (hopefully) eventual release of the Lief Ericson would be in white or grey possibly and would include the sounds of space somehow.

  11. jgg1701 says:

    The UFO will be GiD. A (hopefully) eventual release of the Lief Ericson would be in white or grey possibly and would include the sounds of space somehow.

    Maybe a CD?
    -Jim

  12. arthurrex007 says:

    I have an original Lief Ericson that I turned into Khan’s Ship The Botany Bay for some strange reason. I love that it is being reissued!

  13. eimb1999 says:

    I love the pictures of the tools! Very cool!

  14. Talos says:

    I am looking forward to the UFO being available once more. Mine suffered a catastrophe back in the day and I only have the original stand and the shuttle/pilot ship left. I remember having a lot of fun building it, and can’t wait to have it back on display again.

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