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Star Trek model kits: There’s Always Room For Improvement!

posted by JamieH 5:00 AM
Friday, April 1, 2011

A few people have been asking around about what our plans are for our upcoming release of the classic Star Trek Klingon Battle Cruiser Collector’s Edition Tin. With AMT creating the original filming model in partnership with the television show production group back in the day, the kit version was arguably the most accurate Star Trek model ever produced. With that said, if you look closely you will find that there is always room for improvement. Inexplicably, some details were changed between the model used on the show and the model that landed on shelves.  Most modelers point out the differences between the detail on the sides of the engines. That’s where we are starting but it is not where we are ending.

To figure out exactly what else to do, I contacted our friendly neighborhood space ship buildup expert, Jim Small. He has built plenty of them and had done more than his fair share of research on the ship. (I think his article about the color of the ship was one of the first articles we posted on our website.) It turned out that our development for the re-issue was about as perfect as it could get. He had been contracted to refurbish one of the rare ICONS studio scale models. I asked him to give us a little background on it.

A fellow out in Calgary, Alberta had contacted me telling me he had an old “Icons” studio-scale model of the Klingon Cruiser that was in disrepair, and asked me if I’d fix it up for him. He sent me a few snaps showing the areas he felt needed attention and I quoted him for a re-paint and re-gluing of some parts that had broken off.

The model itself has it’s roots in a casting of the original filming miniature, as the individual who restored the original model for the Smithsonian (along with the original Enterprise) had molded it before repainting the original an incorrect overall battleship gray instead of the blue-gray and green it’s supposed to be and sold off copies. I must assume that’s where Icons likely got their master pattern. Therefore except for a few things that seem to have been changed for manufacturing purposes, the model is quite accurate to the original, which is exactly double the size of the classic AMT kit.

(Note: Two models were made for the studio by AMT, one was filmed, the other one was given to Gene Roddenberry who had it for a long time after being pantographed for the AMT kit. That kit, despite a few small detail conflicts, remains an anomaly in that it is extremely accurate in overall proportions for a sci-fi model kit of the time!)

Our correspondence on the matter, led to some more topics that I hope to post about a little later on.

So with such a great piece of reference right at his fingertips, Jim took some great photos for me of detail areas that would benefit from the some rework. As with most projects, we couldn’t do it all. As usually, we tried to make changes that would have been the most difficult for a modeler to change on their own.

Here is a rundown of what we have planned accompanied by photos of mockups from the factory.

1) Engine details- the most obvious thing to start with. We found that the best way to correct it was to add the detail directly to the engines rather than tool up out of scale details to mount to it. (The remainder of the raised tab will be eliminated as well)

2) Top “wing” vent detail- (though no mockup will be done for this) We will be removing this detail as it was not present on the model used to film the show.

3) Clear Parts (aren’t so much any more)- Part of our quandary was that the clear parts tool had gone missing or was replaced some time ago. The parts that had been retooled were not accurate. In order to do more changes, we opted not to replace them but to modify other parts to include them. There were no visible clear parts on the filming model anyway so there was no loss of authenticity by doing so.

4) Dome base- (not pictured) The inclusion of our dome style base called for the old mounting holes to be filled in and a new one added at the center of gravity.

5) Upper housing vent (for lack of a better term)- Lastly but probably most significantly, we have accurized the shape of the vent on the upper housing. The vent detail before was incorrectly shaped and the louvers in the vent were too thin. Don’t let the caramel colored putty used on the mockup fool you. It looks pretty darn close to the original.

In the end, the changes work to make the kit more accurate to the original filming model. The only knock is that we are making some rather permanent changes and it won’t allow it to be built “the original way.” I hope this isn’t too disappointing. If it is, there are still plenty of copies out there of the old kit.

To check out more photos of Jim’s restoration project, be sure to check out his website.

8 Responses to “Star Trek model kits: There’s Always Room For Improvement!”

  1. Mach7 says:

    Thanks VERY much for the info! Looks like you guys really took pains to fix the small details. I have one of the 1980’s AMT kits and it will be great to compare the new to old. Any chance of talking you into releasing an add on kit for sale that would incorporate clear parts and internals for lighting like the original?


  2. eimb1999 says:

    Remember that the original studio model had no lights at all on it. Green or otherwise. The original kit had lights just for the fun-factor of a kit that at the time was probably considered more like a toy. Nowadays most modelers demand a bit more authenticity towards the stuff that was seen on screen I think.

  3. klingon1 says:

    This looks never nice. Being a devils advocate, you will be up against the Revells 1/600 kit at the end if this year. Do you know where they have got there drawings and plans from? Will it be the old plans? This is a rhetorical question as I don’t think you will be able to answer this.
    But what would be groovy is along with the new 1/350 TOS Enterprise would be a D7 in the same scale. Or what about a K’Tinga heavy cruiser in 1/1000 very nice. Keep up the good work.

  4. ModelMan says:

    I have a sealed kit from 1969. I’ve been waiting for a special occasion to open it and I think a side-by-side comparison video when this new version releases qualifies. I will miss this older version since as it was exactly what Jeffries intended in his design, but I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys will do!

  5. dcarty says:

    Excellent improvements, gentlemen! The only other improvement I could suggest would be the removal of the grid lines on the front underside of the “wings”.

  6. JamieH says:

    dcarty- We had that and a few other things quoted by the factory but opted not to do them due to cost. As it turns out the factory jumped the gun a little bit and started some things before we approved the costs. BONUS! That change was made. I’ll keep the one other little tweak a secret for as long as I can though.

  7. jasonius says:

    I’m glad you guys are going to the trouble of changing these details. Seeing this I may have to buy one.

  8. fortress says:


    Very nice idea bringing back the classic D-7! I was
    wondering will you offer it in the original box art
    and if possible in the near future how about offering
    it in GLOW like with the interplanetary ufo, that would
    really give it that cloaked and sinister look.

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