1/650 scale Star Trek USS Enterprise from Round 2/AMT
By Jay Chladek
Most SF modelers have a bit of a love hate relationship with the old AMT 18” Enterprise kit from Star Trek. In one sense we tend to look back with affection for this model as for most, it was one of the first SF kits we ever built. In another sense, we also think back to the shortcomings of the plastic as it wasn’t exactly studio model accurate, had its fair share of construction problems to overcome and the decal sheet was a bit lacking compared to what aftermarket sources could offer. Not many modelers shed tears when the old tooling was retired from the AMT catalog in the 1996 after thirty years of production.
Fast forward to 2008 and interest in the kit grew when Round 2 announced they were reissuing the old kit in the original first issue box art from the 1960s. I myself had mixed feelings as I knew from doing research for the “History of the AMT Enterprise” article that the more recent pressings of the kit were almost entirely different from the original offerings. This newer kit (which I refer to as the Small Box version), was made from steel tooling around 1975 and it replaced the aluminum tooling used for the original kit issued in 1966. This was done because the old molds were worn out and demand for the kit remained high. Although the newer kit was easier to assemble then its predecessor, accuracy suffered in certain key areas, such as the secondary hull, navigational deflector and detail pieces on the warp engines. As such, I wondered just what Round 2 was going to do with this new offering to make people want to buy it again. Now we have our answer.
The newest issue of the 18” kit comes packaged in a box identical in size to the original and featuring the first issue box art. The eyes are treated to a wash of 1960s colors and the artwork looks just as fresh today as it did when first issued. I’m tempted to frame this artwork as it looks that good. The side panels do show minor differences from the original (no “As seen on NBC TV” printing and revised contents and description panels), making it somewhat easy for collectors to spot differences between this box art and the original. But I imagine somebody on the internet auction sites will try to pass this new issue off as the original, so be careful if you are looking for an original AMT issue.
Original Saucer with Grid
The contents of the box look familiar. True to form, the plastic is essentially the small box kit done in white plastic like the original run kits, as opposed to the gray plastic used by AMT/Ertl in the 1980s and 90s. As such, this kit builds up the same as the older ones. But there is one pleasant change as the upper saucer is now completely smooth and no longer features the raised panel line grid that was the subject of many a debate in modeling forums.
Reissued Saucer without the grid
To do this, it looks like AMT polished the lines off the mold. As a result the smooth saucer top is ever so slightly thicker then the ones with the grid. The saucer edge has more sprue channels, probably due to the age of the molds. But it is nothing that a little modeling skill can’t overcome. The upper and lower sensor domes are molded in clear with an ever so slight green tint, but the green is hardly noticeable at all. All other details remain the same as other small box issues, from the three dimples on the lower saucer, to the less accurate deflector dish and housing.
New decal sheet
Okay, so the plastic hasn’t changed much, but what about the decal sheet? Rather then issue the kit with a reprint of either the original decals from the first issues, or the later small box markings, Round 2 decided to offer an all new decal sheet based on the one designed for the Polar Lights 1/1000 Enterprise kit. This sheet is BIG as it is almost as big as the floor of the kit box! Every feature from the 1/1000 sheet is provided here in perfect register as you get all the markings for the dark windows on the pilot version of the ship, the lighted windows on the series version and all the proper trim markings unique to these different versions. The only thing I can see missing are the gray triangle markings for the bottom of the saucer. The Polar Lights kit has those triangles etched into the saucer, so no decals were provided. But since they aren’t molded into the AMT saucer, it is up to the modeler to come up with replacements on his own. Like the Polar Lights sheet, you also get the slightly different pilot version fonts for the ship name and NCC numbers, and you also get the Mirror Universe markings for the ISS Enterprise as well. Also provided are names and NCC numbers for 12 additional starships done in the proper series style font numbers and the upper saucer numbers are printed in an arc. The following names and NCC numbers are provided:
- USS Constellation NCC-1017
- USS Constitution NCC-1700
- USS Defiant NCC-1764
- USS Excalibur NCC-1664
- USS Exeter NCC-1672
- USS Farragut NCC-1647
- USS Hood NCC-1703
- USS Intrepid NCC-1631
- USS Lexington NCC-1709
- USS Potemkin NCC-1657
- USS Republic NCC-1371
- USS Yorktown NCC-1717
Only the names and numbers for USS Kongo and USS Valiant are not provided as these were on the sheet issued in AMT’s small box pressings. But even without a letters “J, Q, V and Z” on the sheet, a modeler has enough letters and numbers to cobble together almost any name and NCC number they so desire and these missing letters could be modified from others as well. With some rationing, quite a few of the markings that would end up unused on a model could be used to decorate a second one in combination with markings from other sources, be they kit or aftermarket.
In conclusion, this reissue offers excellent value for the money if for nothing else then the decal sheet alone as a price this kit retails for makes it practically a steal. There are enough aftermarket parts out there from various sources to overcome the kit’s well documented shortcomings and its decent size builds into an attractive model, regardless of any corrections being made to the kit or not. The low number of parts makes it a good introduction to science fiction modeling for even novice builders, although the Polar Lights 1/1000 scale kits are still easier to assemble and more accurate. Round 2 will also be offering this kit in a special collectors tin for almost double the price, but the kit contents will be exactly the same as the boxed version. If you want to take a stroll down memory lane and visit an old friend, this kit is waiting for you. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.