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Star Trek Model Kits: To “B” or not to “B”…

posted by JamieH 10:53 AM
Friday, January 29, 2010

Long story short (don’t worry it’ll get longer again in a minute) is that we ran into a snag in our plans to re-release the 1:1400 Enterprise 1701D. I’m not going into that right now. To be honest, the result of looking for a replacement kit is much more intriguing anyway.

We keep a handful of kit ideas in our back pocket in case our intended plans go awry (which happens all too often). On our backup list is the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701B and U.S.S. Reliant. Personally, I like the design of the Reliant but I’ve always seen an overwhelming amount of support for bringing back the B or the Excelsior. To be honest, I wasn’t very familiar with the B. I had seen ST: Generations when it came out years ago but I think we can all agree it was a pretty forgettable film. I barely remembered the Excelsior. In my mind it was the new ship that could live up to the A. It wasn’t until recently that I re-watched that one again to see that it was Scotty’s ingenuity that made the ship stall out.

We were scrambling to figure out which kit to do. So I put some feelers out. I asked Jim Small, our go-to buildup guru about the Reliant and the B and then I put a poll out on Starship Modeler. Between these two sources, I knew I’d quickly be educated on the state of the kits and get a better feeling about which way to go. It seemed like the majority of folks who liked the B actually would have preferred the Excelsior. This led to a lot of discussion on the board about what state the tool of the B would be in. Had the tool been permanently altered to transform the Excelsior kit into the Enterprise B? It became a case of model kit archeology- determining a hypothesis, investigating the clues, waiting for the vault to be opened to find out the truth…

I could see the differences between the ships but I had never cracked open a copy of the kit. In fact, at the time, all we had was the Excelsior. Jim had copies of the kits so I had him send down some pics of them. We found that many of the sprues looked the same and probably were identical but something stood out right away. The belly of secondary hull of the B had been split into two halves while the Excelsior had been one solid piece. I could see why. The flares added onto the hull would have caused a draft issue. If the original hull tool had just been modified, the injected part would never have come out of the tool.

I investigated our tool list, which is our only real documentation, and it is spotty and unclear at best. To boot, I have never gotten a clear explanation of the info included one the list. If the tool had been recorded, it shows the corresponding numbers. Most tools, which have been transferred from the US to China, have had the tool numbers documented. Most kits that have never been repopped and are still in storage in the US have no tool numbers and the tool would need to be physically searched for. The list showed two tools were required to make the Excelsior and three tools were required to make the Enterprise B. The two Excelsior tools were the same number as two tools need for the B.

The strange thing about the list is that many of the kits are listed more than once. I never noticed why until I really concentrated on this conundrum. There is one column labeled Cat # which showed a year in it like 1998. My determination is that this is the year a kit appeared in a catalog. Both the B and the Excelsior would have been shown in the catalog for several consecutive years. The Excelsior came out one year before the B but both kits looked to be available in every year the B was produced. With the volume of kits produced during that time, I doubt that the company at the time would have produced enough inventory to last for four years, then permanently alter the tool to create the B.

We landed a copy of the B and compared it to the Excelsior firsthand. There are definite shared parts as well as completely unique parts. The detail of the top saucer is much more crisp on the later Enterprise B than the Excelsior and although some injection points are close, they don’t match exactly. The troublesome part is that some sprues with many common parts have had one part switched out. That’s where it gets dicey. My theory is that the saucer top, the belly of the secondary hull, the base and the other sprue of parts for the B are all on one tool. This would leave the saucer top intact as the Excelsior but I think some of the other smaller parts may have been switched out. If these were done as tool inserts, we shouldn’t have a problem. In any case, if we find that the Excelsior parts have been lost, have a lot of existing tooling for the kit gets us a long way. Retooling the missing parts should be affordable to do at some point.

So where do we stand right now? We are having the Enterprise B/ Excelsior and Reliant tooling moved to our factory to have test shots done. This is really the only way to know what we really have.

Have we decided which kit to bring out? Right now, it looks to be the Reliant just because it is easier to move ahead with not knowing what the status of the other tool is. We do have some ideas for the Reliant which I think Star Trek model kit fans will like but we won’t be making a final announcement until we receive costs back and we are sure we can carry our plans through.

As for the Excelsior/ Enterprise B, I’ll keep you posted. One way or another, one kit or the other will be back out again some day.

38 Responses to “Star Trek Model Kits: To “B” or not to “B”…”

  1. R23 says:

    The kit I have always wanted the most to be re-issued was the Enterprise B / Excelsior. That ship just screams 80’s design to me both inside and out (the blue/green glow retro hi-fi style bridge). I think has such an original and sleek look like some passenger liner.

    I presume its the AMT kit in 1/1400 thats under consideration, I would love something bigger like Polar Lights scale but if its going to get the treatment the other reissues have had (like full body aztec decals) then im definitely buying one.

    It would be great if it could be moulded clear though to make it easy to light all the tiny windows. I think Platz in Japan did a run in clear.

    I suppose I would dreaming if you guys would do a 1/350 one! Lunar Models did a resin one a while back but it was quite rare and not that accurate.

    Thanks for keeping us posted on all the progress!

  2. DrTikhon says:

    That is a letdown about the D, but I understand your job. If you could give us an explanation the next time you get a breather, I’d appreciate that. No worries.

    I personally have never felt much attachment to the B or Excelsior. I never realized how much people liked it until after a local comic book shop had some kind of Star Trek schwindig. Although, in 1/1400 or 1/1000 scale I’d commit to buying it. (And enjoy it while I’m at it.) Gotta have my Enterprises.

    And since I’m already typing, any chance you have some sort of reference list (or know of a place that does) for paints you’d use for your various models? I remember as a kid some of my models had exact paint numbers for paint brands. I’m about to paint my first model in over a decade (Enterprise E) and I would like a little more than “Light Grey” or “Red” from the instruction sheet to guide me.

  3. mrnobudy says:

    Issues with the D repop…i think i might cry…
    Of all your possible kits that have been talked about, that is one that i keep hoping gets done. Improved on, sure, if not, oh well. I am probably in the Minority on that ship, but i like it.
    I hope that we can hear about what the roadblocks you are running into are soon. and if that repop is even a possibility, even in its old unaltered state.

  4. Gouf says:

    Regardless of which kit. You have some inaccuracy you have the opportunity to correct. The Excelsior kit had an ugly raised square grid pattern on the bottom of the 2ndary hull that needed sanded off. The Ent-B had giant out of scale double sized windows that blew the scale of the kit. If the aforementioned details could be smoothed over and addressed with decals instead, that would increase the urge to buy for many. Additionally the grid on the bottom of the saucer is raised instead of inset and the area where the neck connects to the saucer is inaccurate. If you could correct this that would help as well.

    You could also increase the saleability of it by giving kit options. The Excelsior had 2 different bridges, impulse crystal setups, and top shuttle bays. Engineering these options in to the kit to build either the NX-2000 prototype (Trek 3) or the NCC-2000 final version (Trek 5 and beyond and the currant kit) could add incentive for modelers to pick up multiples to build both versions.

  5. Fraley1701 says:

    I guess I did not realize how popular the Excelsior and Enterprise B were either. I have both original releases still in the box. I always thought the Excelsior class of starships were kind of ugly, but bought then in the interest of completeness; I suppose. All of the AMT/ERTL kit’s had accuracy issues and this has been brought up in countless threads in several forums. If money were no object, starting over would be the way to go. However, I know that is not the case so I would say fix what your budget allows and go for it! If they are indeed as popular as your field testing has suggested, you should make some profit off of these and hopefully be able to produce some new and better kits in the future.

  6. crowe-t says:

    I recently acquired Walker Aztek templates for the Enterprise B and Excelsior kits so this is great news. I wasn’t too interested in these 2 kits but since I got back into model building anything new and different is always a nice change. I’m still stuck on the Refit, that will always be my favorite of all the Enterprises.

    I’m in the process of building an AMT refit/smoothie and it has many, many, many…inaccuracies. In fact the starboard and port halves of the secondary hull(as well as most other parts) are not identically proportioned. I compaired the parts to another smoothie kit and a ‘panelled’ ST:V Enterprise kit and the parts all the same. I originally thought the plastic on the kit I’m building was out of shape from age but it is just that the kit parts were not accurately made BITD.

    Any changes, no matter how big or small, made to the tooling on the AMT/ERTL kits can’t hurt and will only help us build nicer kits.

  7. philp says:

    I would like to see more Trek kits in 1/1000 and since the B is already that scale that works for me. Would love to see the D and the Reliant also done in 1/1000.
    Personally, I would love the Bozeman done in 1/1000th also. Got to be one of my favorites mainly cause I liked the episode and went to school at MSU.

  8. razorwyre1 says:

    is this a re-release of the old reliant kit, or a new tool?
    i’d love a 1/1000 version…….

  9. Brad says:

    Well, of the kits you’ve suggested, I’d prefer an Excelsior class repop, simply because of the scale – 1/1000. If you repop a Reliant, it’s 1/537 (or 1/529 – whatever the “real”scale is). and none of your current refits are in that scale. The old AMT 1/537 refit kit had so many issues that I’m not keen to see it reissued. I’m hoping for more 1/1000 kits, and if it were possible to do a Reliant in that scale, that would be great.

  10. flamingakira says:

    Definitely thanks for the update! It is nice that both the Excelsior and Ent-B could have survived. The Excelsior didnt interest me much until the Ent-B debuted in Generations, and since then it’s been one of my favorite designs. To go just a step further than Gouf, it might be nice to take the tooling for both and release a combo model Excelsior/Ent-B kit. Either way, I will get whichever you release.

    Thanks again for the hard work you guys are doing. I cant wait to snap up the 1/1000 Enterprise A!!

  11. iamweasel says:

    I would really like to know what happened to the “D”. I can’t say I really care for either the Excelsior or the “B”.

  12. jamesironwolf says:

    First where can we find the poll and would be nice to know when one is up.
    I do go to starshipmoldler but i don’t remember ever hearing about polls and such there. Would be good to have a copy of the poll on the main round 2 site maybe.
    I have said many times i would like to see the Excelsior/B released. I think it might be better to just redo it from the ground up fixing the errors and making it so the extra parts of the B can just be added to the Excelsior.
    But i can understand about the costs and time required to do it.
    As the they are in 1/1000 from AMT/ETRL as is release i would still buy.
    As to the Reliant i would love to see it redone in 1/1000 or as a combo kit of 1/1000 & 1/2500 extra parts for other versions would be great too.
    Just a reissue of the old 1/537 scale Reliant….well i might get one as i do have the old AMT Enterprise A still around. But I’m not really interested in a reissue of the old kit. I was really looking forward to a 1/1000 updated Reliant. Was even planning on setting a 1/1000 Enterprise A aside to kitbash the two into one ship.
    Would like to know what happened with the 1/1400 D, But overall i was looking forward to a 1/1000 updated Enterprise D maybe with main shuttle bay that could be shown open like the 1/350 A was.
    sorry i should have made this shorter
    You guys are doing a great job over there. Keep it up. And is great that you let us know what is going on rather than leave us wondering.

  13. 67firebird says:

    Excelsior, Reliant,& Enterprise B!! I want any and all of them. There must be alot interest in all of these kits. We’ve all seen the outrageous prices that they fetch on Xbay. Love to see all of these now classic kits come back. Especially with some new aztek decals. Can’t wait. Everything old is new again.

  14. resqspc says:

    If you can do Excelsior, you can do the B. The only difference is the fairings on the engineering hull they added to the Excelsior model to create the B. Let’s have the Reliant. And the Botany Bay. And the Leif Eriksson/Interplanetary UFO/INSS MacArthur!

  15. justinleighty says:

    On the Reliant release, I’m assuming you’re talking panel decals and accurizing the height issue? I hope that’s the plan, anyway.

    The Excelsior kit always excited me. I have one out-of-box and one that I built that I’m accurizing right now. Looking at the possible changes in the tool, the biggest issue you may have is the deflector well (but the dish itself came with the Enterprise-B kit as an extra, unused part).

    The neck pieces were probably changed to add the detail, but I believe it’s accurate to the Excelsior, too. One other change that would carry back to making the Excelsior more accurate is keeping the warp engine tail-fin extenders. Other accuracy issues would probably mean major tooling changes (though for both the Excelsior and Enterprise B, feel free to improve the insert piece in the underside of the lower secondary hull!).

  16. ironchef says:

    I would really like to see a 1/350 scale Reliant to go with my Enterprise.

  17. Pwesty1017 says:

    Please, Please, Please! Do all new tooling of the Reliant(1/1000 or 1/350), look at all the picture that you can get of the ship and get it right this time. That thing that came out a few years ago was Reliant just in name only it was terrible! Polar lights can do better that and to right, do NOT rehash that child toy of a kit and say that it retooled. Sorry to say it but it true!

  18. JamieH says:

    We hope to do a 1:1000 Reliant one day, heck a 1:350 too! But until then, we have to work with the tooling we already have.

  19. ModelMan says:

    I read the article a few times, but missed the Reliant reissue note until just now.

    I hate to think you are producing a non-seller, but the original reliant kits can be ebayed today for a similar price to what you would likely charge.

    ERTL went overboard producing those and the kits still saturate the market some 15-20yrs later.

    Please invest your funds for something better and bide your time. Don’t move for the sake of moving, don’t throw money away on a simple reissue of reliant as it was; because as it was, is a waste of plastic; inaccurate and unsatisfactory.

    Maybe aztec and alternate new decals will help sales, but you’d do better offering those decals as a stand alone product for the kits that already exist. But there are already aftermarket decals for Reliant, so again, please invest your money elsewhere, such as an accurate Reliant in a different scale as so many people are clamoring for.

    I don’t see how you would break even on this particular Reliant, whereas a new 1/1000 or 1/350 will blow the lid off sales, but not the old 1/535.

    from fantasic-plastic’s site
    “…Handsomely sized but lacking much surface detail, the Reliant kit was ultimately produced in numbers that far exceeded the public demand, resulting in surplus kits appearing on the shelves of toy and hobby liquidators for years afterwards.”

    Please don’t let your time and financial investment suffer the same fate! You guys are on a roll! Rock on!

  20. Pwesty1017 says:

    I have to agree with the above statement. Anytime spent on that kit would be a wast of time unless it is a massive overhaul in spackdock. I have no problem with the size of the old 1/535 that’s only thing it had going for it, but truefully its lack of good detail of any type and has always had a look of something is not at all right here. I believe that kit as it stands now is VERY far below what I believe Polar light standers are and I do not understand the logic of putting window dressing here and there on a already sub-par kit. Sorry Polar light if you read this this but its truth ;-/

  21. jamesironwolf says:

    I just wanted to add my agreement to the above.
    I think it would be better to focus on the 1/1000 Reliant
    and correcting and updating the 1/1000 Excelsior/B.
    Just reissuing the old Reliant with the price it would likely
    be for a 1/537 size that it was… would most likely be cheaper or
    about the same to get the old version on Ebay rather tan buy the new reissue of the old kit as is. I would much rather wait abit longer for an updated 1/1000 to go with the other 1/1000 kits you have already done.

  22. JamieH says:

    We have the new Refit coming out in the next couple of weeks. Sales on that kit will need to hit a sales benchmark before we can consider developing a Reliant in 1:1000 scale. I’m not the one you guys need to convince. The ultimate decision makers are only convinced by sales numbers.

  23. 67firebird says:

    There must be a huge demand for these old kit judging by the ridiculous amounts that people are paying for them on ebay. And that is with terrible decals. Please bring back all of these old kits with some new decals.

  24. ModelMan says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I wasn’t going to buy the 1k refit, but will do so if my $20 gets a 1k Reliant. Which I also would not have bought, but will buy several of if it gets me the 350 that I do want. Otherwise, it would be nice for you guys to lift the C&D’s on the GK’ers that were about to release their 350 Reliant’s a couple years back. Cos’ that sucked.

    But by the same token, it sounds like if the 1/535 doesn’t sell well with tooling you already have, then the Reliant name is itself tarnished in the exec’s eyes. Afterall, if a repop doesn’t sell well of a design people supposedly clamor for, why invest in other scales of the same design? -Despite the fact that the problem is not the Reliant name or design, but the low standards ertl used to create it in the first place nearly 13 years after the film release.

  25. flamingakira says:

    Just out of curiosity, and feel free to give general numbers, but what kind of benchmarks are set for model kit releases? I’m sure there are different benchmarks per license and price point, but what would a 1/1000 Enterprise-A have to hit? Have the sales of the 1/350 Enterprise-A re-release hit the benchmark necessary for further development of the large collector kits?


  26. JamieH says:

    ModelMan- I didn’t mean to do a hard sell on the 1:1000 kit. The subject was a little raw because the fact had just been restated to me in a meeting I had come from literally minutes before I read your post.

    C&D’s come from the licensor not the manufacturer. If we want to report something that conflicts with our plans, we have every right to do so. Technically, we are required to do so. In any case, I have a pet project that may satisfy you. Hopefully it will see the light of day eventually.

    As for a kit in one scale affecting the plans for the same subject in another scale, it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think it is an issue. We do put a lot of thought into the timing of our releases though.

    Flamingakira- I can’t state what they are but I really feel they are achievable based on sales of repops and preorders on the new tool. The harsh reality is the way the economy runs now is much different than it was when we got into the model kit business. Needless to say the whole model kit world is a much different place than it was 10 years ago. At that time, it cost half as much to cut a tool and 10 times as much volume was sold. The higher ups just need to see the evidence that new tools are worthwhile. I think we’ll be alright.

    edge10- We are doing a clear version of the Enterprise D 1:1400 scale. Decal wraps are included but we have not altered the tool. I’ll probably write more about that in an upcoming post.

  27. mrnobudy says:

    glad to hear the Clear Ent-D is moving forward, but that for me, begs another question. Why not do the Opaque version as well. Wouldn’t it cost less, both to produce and for us consumers. I admit, I am not a ‘lighter’ so the Clear kit has no added value to me. I may pick one up, but would be more likely to pick up a case of the opaque castings.
    And you can count me in on helping with the 1000th scale Refit. I got mine on preorder already as well.

  28. ModelMan says:

    Thanks for the reply, Jamie! No hard sell at all! I wanna support you guys as much as I can. So if one more sale helps, I’ll do it. Anything I can do to laud your efforts I will do. I wasn’t gonna buy the vulcan shuttle, but I got that simply to help my local shop (they were sent too many) and to ultimately help you guys too.

    I certainly understand on the C&D’s. I was literally all set to order the GK that week that the c&d hit. I was devastated. I gotta have a 350 Reliant before I die. I’ve considered scratch building, but the effort would be huge and wasted if you guys are gonna do one anyway.

    A pet project?!? Joy! A 350 Excelsior? 😀 😀 😀

  29. jamesironwolf says:

    Already have two 1/1000 A’s on preorder with a local shop.
    Thanks for the info as always , love that you try to keep us informed.
    A clear D nice , will have to get one of those.

    Know what i would love to see done clear?
    The Klingon Bird of Prey.
    Have the mold for that around?
    Would love to have a bird of prey in clear and unpainted as if it were cloaked.

  30. JamieH says:

    Of all the ships, I hadn’t thought about the KBoP in clear. I do think the instruction sheet is cute showing how to build a cloaked ship though.

    Anyone else want to see the KBoP or any other ships in clear? We’ll be using the response to the clear D as an indicator of whether clear kits are worth pursuing as either full production runs or just limited runs.

  31. edge10 says:

    I would love to see the BIG Enterprise C kit in clear.

    The only other one I can think of would possibly be Excelsior.

  32. DrTikhon says:

    Personally, I’d only buy a clear kit if it was the only version available or if it was available first.

    Although a cloaked BoP is atleast 3 kinds of awesome.

  33. flamingakira says:

    Have to admit I’ve never lighted a kit before, and I’ve never had to paint a clear-cast one. Not sure how that will affect painting and decals. The BoP in clear sounds like a fantastic idea, though, and I know I will be picking up the Ent-D in clear.

  34. nova says:

    I built the clear Yamaguchi Pro shop model, and while it had its flaws, it turned out to be a very nice kit. If Round2 was considering releasing further kits in clear (THANKYOUTHANKYOU for the E-D in clear, BTW!!!) I’d suggest further capital ships. The E-E you have available would make a good candidate for clear plastic, as would a repop of the Enterprise C. I know I would purchase at least 2 of each of those, even though I already have one clear E-C on display. I’d say those two models would be my top votes for clear plastic consideration.

    I hate to disagree about the Klingon Bird of Prey, but I don’t see much point in releasing this as a clear kit. There aren’t many points of illumination on this model, and most of what IS lightable (the engines housing) is already cast in clear. Everything else can easily be done with the opaque plastic as it is.

  35. fortress says:

    Personaly I would love to see a larger version of the U.S.S.Excelsior/1701-B. I was very impressed with the
    1/350 Scale 1701-A & NX-01, they pulled that kit off very well
    and since there is intrest in given the public more of
    this subject why not give them a allot more. The same
    point I would argue with subjects such as;

    The U.S.S. Reliant
    The U.S.S. Voyager
    Klingon bird of prey

    Bigger that’s the ticket.

  36. darthsideous says:

    “a larger version of the U.S.S.Excelsior/1701-B” Yes i totally agree. the original 1000 scale excelsior and enterprise B are ridiculously small. I would gladdly pay for a 1/537 scale Excelsior or Enterprise B to match the old AMT kit or a 1/350 scale in either. Given the HUGE success of the 1/350 scale Enterprise Refit I have no idea why you’d waste time reissuing the smaller kits especially if theirs issues with the tooling.

  37. Tony says:

    Yes I bought the puny little kits that are out… and they sit, looking as wimpy as they are in their boxes on a shelf.

    I want a BIG kit of the Excelsior and a 350 scale Reliant. The Excelsior SHOULD be impressive, not the undersized wimpy offerings we’ve been getting. I know it’s in scale to the D, but it should be in scale to the A.

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