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 science-fiction adventure series ever to air and offered a variety of unique spaceships, the likes of which had never before been seen either in film or on television. It was this year that AMT released what may 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.
    My first Enterprise was from that first issue. This 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 was popular too, having also been bought by a few of my friends. It became a friendly competition 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 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. (The show was in syndication 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 shortly after starting it. I was the one 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!)

    Fast-forward 6 years to 1975. The 13 year old is now a 19 year old college student who hadn't built any models since the eighth 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 school was an avid fan of the show who had built the AMT kit without painting it. I suggested that the model could look better with some detailing and offered to paint it for him. I couldn't have spent much more than a half hour painting some details onto the model but I thought it looked really good. 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 of the Enterprise, one more refined than my first attempt eight years earlier. Resources were few, limited to the book THE MAKING OF STAR TREK by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry and reruns (in color!) of the TV show. The photos below are of the model that came to be known as the Star Drek Enterprise.

    Of note is the fact that the model is mostly un-painted with only some details painted by hand. Decals were applied directly to the bare plastic without any overcoat, leading to their inevitable peeling off. All part seams and gaps show themselves proudly. Extra windows and markings were painted or penciled on with only a minimal attempt at accuracy. Still, given resources available and my skill level at the time, I think it came out really good and I was really pleased with my paint job on the warp domes. Years after building it, I still proudly display it alongside more recently built models.

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

    By 1988, at the age of 32 I was working as a professional Model Maker and had 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 in the hobby 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. I knew what I wanted to do if I got my hands on the kit again and was sure it would 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 kit. (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.The Lucifer was a perfect illustration of how with some work, the AMT Enterprise kit could be used as a basis for making a great looking model.

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

   I was inspired by Ed's work on the Lucifer and felt ready to dive in. 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).

   The first thing I wanted to do was to get a good idea of how I wanted my model to look. I wanted to build a model that was accurate to the "real thing." I would need to do some research starting with a trip to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

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