A History of the AMT Enterprise Model by Jay Chladek part 1

Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in the CultTVman Chat Room discussing the original AMT Enterprise kit. One of the more interesting facets of this model is that it has changed quite a bit over the years. A couple years ago, Jay Chladek and I sat down at Wonderfest and actually compared an original Enterprise to a recent kit. BIG difference. From that conversation, Jay put together this exhaustive article covering the history of this model kit.

History and Evolution of the AMT 18″ U.S.S. Enterprise kit

by Jay Chladek

In all of science fiction modeling, the one kit that has been produced the longest and one which probably almost every modeler with at least a passing interest in science fiction has built at one time or another has been the classic 18″ U.S.S. Enterprise kit from AMT. The model stayed in AMT’s catalog for almost 30 years, which has to be something of a record, considering the average sales life of science fiction subjects. However, the kit that has been issued in recent times is not exactly the same kit as it first appeared in the late 60s. The purpose of this article is to document the various changes seen in the classic Enterprise kit and provide some clues as to why the changes were made over the years. It is also worth noting that although the Aurora plastics corporation also issued AMTs classic 18″ kit for the European and Canadian markets, this article mostly covers the various changes made to the kit that was issued by AMT directly. There is some information provided on the Aurora issues near the end.

In the 60s, AMT had a very good relationship with the producers of Star Trek from the early days of production. According to some accounts, when AMT originally tooled up the 18″ Enterprise, they apparently had access to the three foot studio model of the ship, originally built for the pilot episodes, then modified for the series. Indeed, some features on the kit do match features on the three foot model more closely then those found on the larger 11 foot model, supporting that this may indeed have been the case, although not proving it entirely, as other features on the kit don’t match either studio model at all. After the Enterprise was issued, AMTs connection with Trek remained good as they also supposedly built the studio model of the classic Klingon cruiser, in exchange for using it as a master and being allowed to do a kit based on the model.

The classic AMT Enterprise kit would also go on to share screen time with its studio model counterpart. An AMT kit was extensively battle damaged to represent the trashed U.S.S. Constellation, seen in the episode “The Doomsday Machine”, with some footage being used later in the episode “The Ultimate Computer”, this time representing the U.S.S. Excalibur. Supposedly another Enterprise kit (non battle damaged this time) was used to represent a tiny U.S.S. Enterprise shown out the window in an office of space station K-7 in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, but there is no confirmation of that. It is also worth noting that the last time AMT Trek kits were used extensively as studio models in a Trek series was during the DS9 episode “The Way of the Warrior”, when several AMT/Ertl kits of the various Klingon ships were used to swell the ranks of the fleet around Deep Space 9 for the climactic battle sequence and then blown up in spectacular fashion by the pyro department. This is not likely to happen again as computer graphics have pretty much replaced motion control in production of the Trek TV shows

Long box version one, Kit# S921-200

The very first Enterprise kit was issued in a tall box, featuring an artwork of the Enterprise near a red planet. Made up of about 25 parts, the kit was molded in white plastic, with the bridge and main sensor domes molded in clear green plastic.

The kit included a simple, battery powered lighting system for the just the upper and lower saucer domes. The lighting system housed two AA batteries in the secondary hull in a “flashlight” style arrangement with the main deflector dish mount acting as the light switch. This model is quite distinctive from the small box kit that most of us are familiar with. Below is a list of some of the details that I have documented

Warp Engines

The bussard collectors were single piece units molded in white (see photo) with the three rectangular “intake sink field generator” pieces molded on them.

The rear nacelle endcaps more closely matched those found on the pilot versions of the Enterprise and didn’t feature the large balls that were added to the series version. The cross section of the warp engines did not feature a pronounced taper from front to back that the studio models had.

Secondary Hull

This assembly changed the most during the life of the kit. The basic assembly was made up of three main pieces, but the lower part of the hull was designed to snap off so that the batteries could be changed. .

The navigational deflector dish and mount details closely matched those found on the studio models, even though the dish itself was not quite big enough for the pilot version of the ship or small enough for the series version.

The three rectangular protrusions that line the deflector mount were molded onto the main secondary hull parts, allowing the deflector mount to rotate and be used as the light switch. The neck mount to the saucer section was a little different from the small box kit and the shuttle bay observation dome is also present on this kit.

The warp engine attachment was a very flimsy lock tab system that slid into the warp engine attachment tab inside the secondary hull. It probably didn’t take much work to get the Constellation’s warp engines all screwed up when Desilu’s FX crew built it for the “Doomsday Machine” episode, as crooked pylons were quite a problem with the early kits

Primary Hull

This assembly has changed the least over the years. The upper saucer featured the infamous grid pattern, but the shape of the B-C deck teardrop feature was subtly different from the small box kit (still not accurate to the studio model though). The impulse engine raised details were slightly different as well. The lower saucer also had the three depressions in the saucer, but they are offset about 5 degrees to port. Some of the window details don’t quite match those in the small box kit, but the two assemblies are pretty close to one another, detail wise.

Decals and Stand

The decal sheet provided included markings for the Enterprise only, in a font style that closely approximated what was used on the studio models while not matching exactly. The kit instructions had no decal placement guide, but the decal sheet included rudimentary placement instructions and the box art provided a visual guide. The kit included a two piece stand with a triangular base, which was required to be glued to the kit due to the model’s tricky center of gravity. These first stands were molded in clear plastic.

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