This Old Starship Kit

    The "real" Enterprise is an 11 foot, 2 inch long model made of wood, plastic and sheet metal which was used to portray one of the Federation's finest starships on the 1960s TV show Star Trek. Built in 1964 and considered an icon by the show's fans, it is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
    If you can't make it to Washington to see the real thing, a good resource is Kalmbach Books' FAMOUS SPACESHIPS OF FACT AND FANTASY AND HOW TO MODEL THEM. There are some excellent photos of the TV model, some of which are black & white publicity stills which circulated at Star Trek conventions and fan shops in the '70s and '80s. Others were taken during the first restoration for the Smithsonian in the mid 1970s. There is also some interesting info about the TV model and useful tips on building AMT-Ertl's kit, some of which were used for this project.

   Some of the best resources weren't available until after I finished the Enterprise model. One is the February 1998 issue of FINE SCALE MODELER magazine in the article "Intergalactic Color and Camouflage: The Starship Enterprise". (The name was a play on a regular feature of the magazine, "International Color and Camouflage," which would showcase the correct color and markings of actual military vehicles.) There are also some great color photos taken during its restoration in the Science Fiction Modelers Associates' model shop in the September, 1996 issue of the magazine SCI-FI and FANTASY MODELS.

    Most of the "blueprints" available, including those in Franz Joseph's STAR TREK BLUEPRINTS and his STARFLEET TECHNICAL MANUAL are incorrect. They are based not on the TV model, but appear to more closely resemble a drawing (top, right) which was published in 1968 in THE MAKING OF STAR TREK. Later on, the same drawing would appear on the model kit's box. These drawings were provided to AMT by the show's producers as a guide in designing the model kit and may have been patterned after a 3-foot model of the Enterprise built prior to the 11-footer. The 3-foot model can be seen in the image to the right being fondled by a guy in a funny shirt.

from The Making of Star Trek
Click the above image for a larger image

    For more accurate drawings, look for the "Bonhomme Richard class" starship U.S.S. Essex (2257) in SHIPS of the STAR FLEET, Vol. One, a fan-published listing of Star Trek era vessels. The drawing below is modified from that blueprint.

from Ships of the Star Fleet Vol. 1

  In the late 1980s, home computers had not yet become commonplace and Internet Access was something that the U.S. Department of Defense and Al Gore had not yet made available to the general public. (We had cable TV, Compact Discs and drip coffeemakers - we weren't total barbarians!) Today, however, the Internet makes available many resources for model research. Without listing them all, two excellent websites are Starship Modeler and CultTVMan. Both of these sites contain a good number of articles and have links to many other websites that offer a wealth of information on any topic Trek.

    When I went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in 1989, the model was in poor condition. Along with missing pieces and water stains on the paint, nearly all of the lights had burnt out. The spinning effect of the Warp engines was replaced by a very sad looking blinking light effect. The museum's restoration of the model in the '70s also left it with some badly inaccurate parts, particularly the main sensor dish and the illuminated saucer domes.

    This was still a better look at the model than anything else that was available at the time. All of the color stills available were simply photos taken directly from the TV which were not sharp enough to be of much use. Even in high quality video prints of the show, the fact that the ship was always shown in motion made it difficult to discern details that were clearly visible when looking at the actual model.

   Despite being hung from the Museum's ceiling about 15 feet off the floor in a narrow passageway, I was able to take many useful research photos. Most were taken from directly underneath and some were taken from a stairway which gave a good, if distant view of the front of the model.

on to chapter 3:
Assembly and Conversion

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