In 1989, 22 years after it's initial release, AMT-Ertl's kit was still the only Enterprise sold. Available at most local hobby shops, its price was now $14.99.

   Ertl had made some changes to the model kit since I last built it. The molds for the parts were modified after the lighting for the saucer and warp engines had been eliminated. This allowed for some improvements to the kit and also some new issues.

    The instruction sheet for the kit had remained the same throughout its entire run. Over time, the assembly diagrams changed only slightly to reflect the few small modifications made to the kit over the years. Click on the image to the right to view the full instruction sheet in PDF format.

Click image to view full instructions
    Most of the kit would be assembled as per the instruction sheet. Most of the kit's parts would be modified in one way or another while others would be replaced. For the sake of clarity, I will describe most of the components of the model by using the part names found in the kit instructions rather than the names often found in "Trekkie Lore."



    The bridge and upper decks at the center of the saucer-shaped Primary Hull top have a profile that appears too flat on the top and should be more rounded. I replaced the entire part with the saucer top from the Star Drek Enterprise. The older pressings of the kit included a saucer top with a more rounded bridge and upper deck section than later releases of the kit.  Though still not correct, the older part looks better. Parts from the new kit were later used to restore the Star Drek Enterprise.

   The only paint to remove on the old part was on the windows, which sanded off easily. The old decals, long ago applied to bare plastic, almost came off by themselves.

   The raised grid lines were shaved off with a #17 X-acto chisel blade and the top was sanded smooth with 320, and 400 grit sandpaper (see "The Ultimate Starship" in FAMOUS SPACESHIPS...).

Primary Hull top from new kit (left, gray plastic) with grid lines - saucer top from old kit (right, white plastic) with grid lines removed. The green blotches are filler putty which became necessary when I got too enthusiastic with a hobby knife.

a rounder bottom

   The raised concentric circles on the Primary Hull bottom were also removed. New circles were scribed with a divider at radii of two, one and a half and one inch, and pieces of Evergreen .040" strip styrene were added. The three round quarter inch depressions were filled with Squadron putty and sanded flat. The flat, raised platform in the center of the part was sanded until it was completely blended into the contour of the saucer bottom. A new "Planetary Sensor Dome," the clear dome on the bottom of the saucer, was made from a piece of acrylic cut on a lathe.

    Holes were drilled into the top and bottom Primary Hull halves to accommodate sensor dome lights and LED running lights. Two 3-volt model railroad bulbs were placed into milled aluminum reflectors (the aluminum would also act as a heat sink, keeping the bulb housing from becoming too hot) which were then glued into the saucer halves. They were wired together in series for a total capacity of six volts. Running lights were two pairs of LEDs, each pair wired in series with one 3K-ohm resistor on each side of the saucer, mounted directly into the saucer hull. All three light pairs (port running lights, starboard running lights and sensor domes) were wired together in parallel to one common pair of wires. The Primary Hull was then glued together with the common pair of wires running out the opening on the underside.


    I cut the sensor mount (the three concentric rings behind the sensor dish) out of the Secondary Hull Front Cover and replaced it with a section of 1 1/4 inch acrylic rod turned on a lathe. The Main Sensor and Navigational Deflector dish was replaced with the more accurate dish from the old Enterprise model. Old paint was removed from the dish easily with oven cleaner and a tooth brush. Its diameter was turned down on a lathe from 1 3/16" to just under an inch. Once assembled, the sensor dish and platform were sprayed with Tamiya Copper.

The Secondary Hull Front Cover with the sensor mount removed.

The new sensor mount.
Doin' the dishes
Dish from the new kit is on the left, the dish from the old kit on the right.

    The light on the top back end of the Secondary Hull (the Aft Navigation Beacon in Trekkie Lore), absent from later versions of the kit, was made from a section of clear sprue (the "trees" from molded model kits) and trimmed with a section of plastic tube. It was lit from underneath with a six volt lamp (below).


    Perhaps the most striking feature of the original television Enterprise is the warp engines. The front of each engine was fitted with a ring of colored lights behind a spinning multi-spoked vane covered by a frosted dome. This gave the impression that the warp engines were generating immense power in some yet to be discovered form. It was a simple design that looked great on TV.

   The biggest challenge presented by this build was figuring out how to faithfully depict the warp drive effect in a space less than an inch in diameter. I toyed with the idea of animating the warp domes using hobby-size electric motors but nothing was ever built. Several options were explored on paper and it was decided that the space inside the kit's engine nacelles was just too tight to do what I wanted with available resources. Coming up with a workable design for a static warp dome would be easier but not necessarily easy.

    Some experimenting was done before I found a satisfactory way to light up the engines. The domes supplied with the kit are too thick and opaque, so they were replaced. After playing around with different materials, I decided to vacuform my own domes to create a convincing warp effect. I had access to a small vacuform machine at the model shop where I worked.

    I used a three layered system of domes made from .015" translucent (natural) sheet styrene and .030" clear copolyester. Vacuform patterns were made by sinking marbles or ball bearings of varying sizes into a wood base. The clear inner domes were painted with Tamiya clear red acrylic in a random vane pattern.

An' a one...
Engine dome vacuform patterns from left to right: inner
"color dome", middle diffuser dome, outer dome.' a two...
Vacuformed domes from left to right: "color dome",
diffuser, outer dome.
Boom!' a three.
    The kit's two "propulsion unit domes" were removed from their molded collars with a razor saw, leaving the forward bevel. Three raised bumps on each collar where they meet the domes were filed off. (The "Space Energy Field Sensors" in the Tech Manual.) The new, scratch-built dome assemblies were then glued to the flat ends of the dome collars.

To the left is a diagram of the warp dome lighting assembly. The images below show the warp dome components from left to right: aluminum reflector with amber bulb, painted color dome glued onto the collar from the kit dome and the diffuser dome glued over that. Below is one of the completed domes.

    One 3-volt amber bulb mounted in an aluminum reflector illuminates each engine. The wires run down through the pylons and out holes cut into the mounting tabs. The two engines were wired in series giving them a total power capacity of six volts together.

   While not exactly spot-on, I'm really happy with the look of the domes when lit up. In an effort to share this with other modelers and also make a little money in the process, I adapted the vacuform molds I made into an aftermarket lighting kit for AMT's starship model.


    The grooves running around the aft end of the engine nacelles didn't line up when the engine halves were assembled so they were filled in. Black striping would be used after painting instead.

    The rectangular grids on the insides of the engine pylons possess some nasty ejector pin marks. They were shaved and sanded off and would be replaced by decals after painting.

    Each of the "propulsion unit shields" was cut into three sections each about 5/16" wide. The front and rear of each section was beveled and they were placed in position underneath the engine domes, 1/4" behind and about 1/16" apart. Tabs were added to the "intercoolers" made from 1/4" sections of .040" x 1/16" strip styrene.

before and after
"Intercoolers", before and after modification.

The warp engine with modified
"propulsion unit shields"

    After the grooves in the "shuttle craft hangar deck" were filled in, Assembly of the model was completed as per the kit's instructions. All the sub-assembly circuitry was routed to the secondary hull and connected  to a 1/8" phone jack which was placed at the bottom of the secondary hull, close to the model's center of gravity. This power jack would double as the model's mounting point. The entire secondary hull would be reinforced with A&B epoxy putty so that the phone jack alone could support the top-heavy model's weight. After testing the system with a six volt DC adapter, I closed up the secondary hull and sealed up the model.

   Finally, using a sharp file and much effort, the three flat platforms on the sides and bottom of the forward secondary hull were recessed 1/32". The side platforms were finished with pieces of strip styrene (arrows, right).

    By the time I had finished assembling the Enterprise, the control reactors on the inboard engine slots were the only parts of the kit that weren't reworked, replaced or scratch-built (arrow, below).


    A powered display stand was made from a 1 1/2" thick piece of basswood milled out to accommodate four "C" batteries, a switch and an external power source jack. The model is mounted on a 1/8" phone plug epoxied to a well supported 5 1/2" long section of Plastruct 5/16" ABS tube. When the model is "plugged in" to the base, it's held very securely. Plugging an external power source into the base cuts off power from the batteries.

Ahh, so that's how they traveled at warp speed.
Bottom of stand showing batteries and wiring.
Sit it on this.
Back of powered display stand. Note the external source jack
and on/off switch. Plug on top of rod plugs tightly into bottom of model.

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chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10