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

    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 which has some excellent photos of the model taken during one of the Smithsonian's early restorations. There is also some interesting info about the 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 inaccurate. They appear to more closely resemble a drawing (top, left) which is said to have been provided to AMT by Desilu studios as a guide in designing the model kit. The same drawing would be published in 1968 in THE MAKING OF STAR TREK and would, later on, appear on the AMT kit's box. The drawing may have been patterned after a 3-foot model of the Enterprise which was built prior to the 11-footer and can be seen in the image to the left being fondled by a guy in a funny shirt.

    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 Enterprise was in poor condition. The model was missing some pieces, there were water stains and in a couple of spots, it looked like the paint was wearing away. Most of the lights weren't working and the spinning effect of the Warp engines was replaced by some very sad looking blinking lights. Parts that were missing when the Smithsonian acquired the model were replaced with inaccurate replacements.

    This was still a better look at the big 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. The best prints of Star Trek were available on a "newly mastered" set of VHS tapes. It was still tough to make out a lot of details on the surface of the Enterprise.

   The big model was 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 nearby stairway which gave a good, if distant view of the front.

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chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10