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 when assembled 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 saucer dome lights that were included with the kit. What little painting I did was guided entirely by the box art. My knowledge of the Enterprise would be based on seeing the show on a 17 inch black and white TV. It would be another few years before I would actually see a Star Trek episode on a color television set in a local department store!

   I proudly hung the finished model from my bedroom ceiling. I was the only one in my group of friends to actually finish the model when others had gotten bored or frustrated with the kit before completing it. 

    Well, boys will be boys and two years later at the age of 13 I had been 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 8 years before. 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. The two 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 looks really good. Years after building it, it shares a shelf with more recently built models.

    By 1988, at the age of 32 I was working as a professional Industrial Model Maker and had a full-time job in a well equipped model shop. I had, over time, acquired more advanced modeling skills and gained 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.

    I was very interested in seeing what my recently developed skills could do with the venerable Enterprise kit but had turned my attention to kit-bashing and scratch-building models of my own design like the Millennium Warthog  and the Angel's Pencil. I'd built some boxed model kits recently but was hesitant to start another Enterprise, knowing that the way I wanted to do it would turn it into a major project. A good motivational push came at a scale model show, the first of many I was to attend.

    At the November, 1988 show 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, adding scratch-built details and custom made markings to create an excellent looking starship. After seeing Ed's work, I decided that I wanted to do something like that! The Lucifer was a perfect illustration of how the kit can be used as a basis for making a great looking model.

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

    I was ready. All I needed was a kit (easily acquired) and a plan on how I was going to modify and light it up (not so easy). The first thing I decided to do was take a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. to get a good idea of what I wanted my model to look like.

on to chapter 2:
RESEARCH


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

TUTORIALS AND KIT REVIEWS