By mid-1967, Star Trek had been on TV for a full season. Though its ratings weren't the best, it was considered to be one of the most novel Sci-fi adventure series ever to air. The designers of Star Trek's future created a galaxy filled with alien races and cultures and space ships that looked different from anything seen before in film or on TV.

   1967 was also the year that saw the release of what may possibly be the best selling Sci-fi model kit of all time.

For an excellent article on the history of the AMT U.S.S. Enterprise kit, see "A History of the AMT Enterprise Model by Jay Chladek" on the CultTVMan website.
    AMT's Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise was a BIG kit. While most other sci-fi or spaceship model kits of the day were less than 10 inches long and usually sold for under a couple of dollars, this one was a massive 18" Long Assembled, included lights and wiring to illuminate the saucer domes and sold for a whopping $3.75!

   The kit sold too, not without the help of myself and a few of my friends. We all wanted to see who would be the first to have a finished model of the Enterprise.

    It was a fun, easy kit to build, even for an 11 year old kid. Though my skills were very limited, I managed to slap the model together and successfully wire up the dome lights. What little painting I did was guided entirely by the box art since my knowledge of the Enterprise would be based on seeing Star Trek on a 17 inch black and white TV. (I was in high school by the time I finally saw a Star Trek episode on a color television set in a local department store.)

   I proudly hung the finished model from my bedroom ceiling and couldn't wait to talk about it with my friends. Of course, I was the weird one. The other kids all got bored and abandoned the kit before they finished it. I was the crazy kid who thought building and painting models was really cool, cool enough to continue with the hobby and build more stuff.

    Two years later at the age of 13, I was introduced to the world of Fourth of July fireworks. Having a fondness for high drama, I was instinctively drawn to the concept of blowing up many of the models I had so carefully assembled and painted, including the Enterprise. (Did you know that an "Ash-Can" was a perfect fit inside a warp engine nacelle? I'll bet you do!)

    In 1974, I was an 18 year old college freshman who hadn't built any models since the seventh grade. Scale Modeling had been ignored as interests shifted to girls, cars and guitar playing. Star Trek was canceled several years before but was now more popular than ever thanks to syndication and reruns.

   A friend from college was an avid fan of the show who had built the AMT kit but never painted it. I suggested that the model could look better with some color and offered to paint it for him. I bought a brush and a few of bottles of model paint from a local Toys 'R' Us and couldn't have spent more than a half hour painting some details onto the model. I was pretty happy with the way it came out. My friend was pleased enough that I was rewarded with an Enterprise kit of my own.

  Using what little modeling skills I had at the time and the few resources that were available or even known to me, I did my best to build and paint a Trek-worthy model, one more refined than my first Enterprise build eight years earlier.

   Resources were few, limited to the book THE MAKING OF STAR TREK by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry and reruns of the TV show. At least this time they were viewed on a color TV set. It took me three evenings to build and paint the model.

    The model is mostly un-painted white plastic. What little painting that was done was hand-brushed on. Decals were applied directly to bare plastic without any overcoat, leading to their inevitable peeling off. Part seams and gaps were never filled or blended and show themselves proudly. Extra windows and markings were painted or penciled on with only a minimal attempt at accuracy.

   Still, given my skill level at the time and resources available, I think it came out really good. Years after building it, I still proudly display it alongside more recently built models.

   Building the Enterprise again re-kindled my interest in model building. Over time, I was able to develop, expand and improve my modeling skills. One day, those hobby skills would become job skills.

    In 1988 at 32 years of age, I was working as a professional Model Maker with a full-time job in a well equipped industrial model shop. This gave me access to a great variety of modeling tools and materials. I also had the good fortune to work with more experienced modelers who enjoyed sharing techniques and ideas.

    At the time, my interest had mostly focused on kit-bashing and scratch-building models of my own design like the Millennium Warthog  and the Angel's Pencil. I'd built a few models from kits recently but was hesitant to start another Enterprise, knowing what I wanted to do if I got my hands on the kit again. It was sure to turn into a bigger project than I was interested in taking on.

    At the November, 1988 exhibition of the Long Island Historical Miniatures Collectors' Society, I met Ed Dietrich. Ed brought photos of his model, the U.S.S. Lucifer, a modified AMT Enterprise. (By now, AMT had been bought by the Ertl company which continued to sell most of AMT's kits under the AMT-Ertl label.)

   The Lucifer was the "Destroyer-Type" variant on the design which had come to be known as the Constitution Class Starship, first seen in Franz Joseph's very popular book the STARFLEET TECHNICAL MANUAL. Ed did a conversion on the kit, relocated and replaced parts and added scratch-built details and custom made markings to create an excellent looking starship.

Starship U.S.S. Lucifer photos used with permission

   The Lucifer was a perfect illustration of how with some work, the AMT Enterprise could be used as a basis for making a great looking model. I was inspired and wanted to see what I could do with the kit.

   The project I wasn't ready to take on now seemed do-able. I wanted to re-work the kit to build a more accurate Enterprise and also add lights to it. All I had to do was get my hands on a kit (easy) and come up with a plan for how I was going to modify it and light it up (not so easy).

   To first get a good idea of what I wanted my Enterprise to look like, I went hunting for whatever research and references were available at the time. This included a road trip to Washington DC.

chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10