My first impression
upon opening the kit's box for the first time was that this is probably
the scariest looking, most intimidating Science Fiction model kit I've
ever seen! Over one hundred and fifty of the kit's parts are photo-etched
stainless steel, most of them tiny and very delicate. I have experience
with "multi-media" kits, having built Lunar
Models' Voyager space probe, also a very challenging kit that came
with polyurethane resin and very finely detailed photo-etched brass parts.
That kit was simple compared to this one! (I built that model in 1994 -
vision was sharper, hands steadier.)
| Whether talking
about Science Fiction films or Film in general, it's hard to dispute that
the scene of the Orion III space plane approaching the ringed Space
Station V in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey
remains one of the most memorable scenes in Film History. Choreographed
to Johann Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz, it set a new standard for how a science
fiction movie should look.
In the nearly
half-century since the film's premiere, only the Orion "Space
Clipper" and the Moon Bus were ever produced as model kits.
Fortunately, the garage
kit industry filled in many of the blanks, providing kits of subjects
that the big companies didn't release. Fantastic Plastic Models now offers
their kit 2001: Space Station V which is available from the
Plastic Virtual Museum Store.
The kit contains
"200+ pieces." Twenty-seven of them are cast out of polyurethane resin
and make up the ring, central hub, ring spokes and the Orion III
space plane. The rest is all photo-etched stainless steel and makes up
assorted fine detail and also the framework of the "under construction"
secondary ring as it appeared in the film.
for the resin parts of the kit were made from AutoCAD drawings by Scott
Lowther using "stereo lithography," an industrial version of "3D Printing".
This method has been used for some other high-end garage kits and makes
for much cleaner and geometrically consistent master parts.
For Sci-fi modelers
who like to add lights to models, only the core section has any hollow
spaces conducive to lights and wiring. The solid-cast ring segments and
spokes make it next to impossible to light the ring windows. Some serious
props to anyone who manages to do this.
| The resin parts
are nicely cast and show a lot of fine detail. The pieces, cast by Mana
Studios appear to be free of air bubbles. Pour stubs on some of the parts
are large and will require removal and some clean-up. Though there is quite
an amount of flash on the parts, it's mostly thin enough to be scraped
off with a fingernail.
A few of the
parts actually have bits of the silicone rubber mold stuck in crevices,
one of which is visible as a small green fleck on the top piece in the
image to the right. Sadly, silicone rubber molds don't last forever and
kits like this are often limited to short runs unless the manufacturer
decides to cast new molds from the masters.
One group of
parts where flash may be an issue is the ring spokes, some of which are
shown below. Each spoke consists of a single core with very thin "cables"
running along two sides. These cables appear very fragile and will require
care in handling and flash clean up.
wisely chose to use stainless steel for the photo-etched parts. Made by
Paragrafix, some of the parts are so tiny and delicate that softer brass
or aluminum, more commonly used in multi-media model kits, would be too
fragile. All of the photo etched parts are clearly marked.
| Because of
the space station's changing size from original concept to film, Fantastic
Plastic provides not one but three Orion III space planes to depict
the space station in three different scales.
In Arthur C.
Clarke's novelization of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the space
station, referred to as Space Station One is described as a "three-hundred-yard-diameter
disk." The double-ringed space station in Kubrick's film, now called
Station V, is scaled to look over twice that size so as to appear much
more impressive next to the approaching Orion.
The kit provides
the space plane in three lengths: 7/8, 1-3/8, and 1-7/8 inches long depicting
the 230 foot long Orion spacecraft in 1/2800, 1/2100 or 1/1400 scales.
The largest Orion makes the space station model scale out to the
size of the novel's space station. The smallest one would match the model
to the movie space station's conjectural size of two-thousand feet across.
The middle is a compromise. Even the tiniest of the
Orions is nicely
The kit comes
with instructions that cover four 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages. Drawings and
text lay out the assembly of all of the resin and steel parts. Also
aiding in the assembly is a copy of Scott Lowther's CAD drawings scaled
to the same size as the kit.
The resin portion
of the kit is very simple and once flash and pouring stubs are removed,
should go together very easily. The core parts fit together using notches
and grooves. The ring segments key together where they are joined to the
spokes. The #1 and unfinished #2 ring are assembled separately and then
joined together via keyed gluing surfaces.
The kit's real
challenge is in handling all those metal parts. Most are very delicate
and will need to be handled carefully. The framework of the #2 ring is
designed so that the long pieces fit through notches on the frame pieces
which should make assembly of this part easier. While the intricate latticework
of the unfinished #2 ring looks very complicated, the combination of the
instructions and the scale drawings should simplify the assembly.
No display stand
is provided although a really nice acrylic base is sold by a third party
provider with nice photos on Fantastic Plastic's Virtual
Museum Store page.
Photos of Allen
Ury's buildup on his Fantastic Plastic website show that the 2001:
Space Station V kit can be built up into a beautiful model. Though
very challenging, the kit appears to be buildable by any modeler with some
resin and photo-etch experience and lots of patience. I still won't call
this an easy kit but the quality of its design, engineering and production
makes this a kit that I look forward to building.