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January 2013

Archive for January, 2013

Polar Lights Model Kits: A sneak peek at the new 1:144 scale C-57D

posted by JamieH 3:16 PM
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We announced our plans last year at Wonderfest to do a 1:144 scale model of the C-57D flying saucer and the project is nearing completion. Here is a behind the scenes look at some of its development.

Everyone is aware of our larger 1:72 scale kit. It is legendary for its difficulty in finding a place to display it, measuring in at 28” in diameter. We knew that the smaller kit would be rather simple and that the interior detail that the larger model presented would not be featured in this one. We did want to maintain the opening landing ramps and offer both the central landing pillar was well as a lower dome cap to replace it to display in a flying position. Other than that, we put no faith in anything found in the large kit. We knew of the upper dome profile so we didn’t trust that and figured the rest of the kit’s proportions would be just as unreliable.

In the early stages, we strongly considered using a system of three pie wedges for each of the upper and lower saucers in order to keep tooling costs in check. We could then use three copies of each part drawn from a smaller tool. Every modeler we mentioned this to hated the idea and after taking another look at things, we determined to go the extra mile and do it right with solid upper and lower saucer parts.

As with most sci-fi subject matter, the first thing we needed to decide on what size would the “real” ship be and what size would we want to make our model kit? We had a ballpark size in mind based on the tooling budget we had allotted.  We just needed to figure out what logical scale might fall within our range. The first thought was to go to half of the scale of the larger kit and shoot for 1:144. With a 28” diameter being cut down to 14”, the kit was going to be too big. My second inclination was to use 1:200 scale based on the saucer diameter I had found in a set of plans that stated a 162’ 9” diameter. That would have provided us with an approximate diameter of around 10”. I also looked into 1:144 scale at that scale and found that to be over a foot in diameter. This was a bit bigger than we had planned, but we decided it would make the most sense, but further research would be needed to nail down that size.

We enlisted Jim Small to do the research and to draw up a set of plans for the kit. As we explored figuring out what size the kit would ultimately be, we found that the proportions of the measurements we had found did not match those of the filming miniature. We felt pretty beholden to the height measurement of 38’ 6” that was based on the movie set which had pictured real men standing under the ship. If anyone wanted to do a diorama using 1:144 scale figures, the height would need to work with that in mind. We then took that consideration and used photos of the large filming miniature to determine the diameter would end up around 144’ which presented a handy 1-foot diameter for our kit.

Jim used screen grabs and photos of the filming miniatures to draw up the plans based on our final measurements. As he worked through the kit, he engineered a simple spring mechanism that would hold the ramp doors open or closed without having to glue them in one position or the other. Besides the detail the ramps present, the other interior detail we added to the kit is the inner motor “cage” that we see rotating in the lower dome when the ship is in flight.

As usual, the factory created a digital version of the ship for us to critique. Thanks to the quality of Jim’s blueprints, we only found a few minor matters to correct. Eventually they supplied a physical mockup that, again, had few things to complain about. The tooling was cut and test shots were sent. We tidied up a few things here and there. Jim did the buildup for us and the product is on track to be released this Spring. Here are a few images from along the way.