Dave Ruther’s Thunderbirds Elevator Car part 1

I was always impressed with this vehicle, which made it’s one and only screen appearance on Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds pilot, “Trapped in the Sky”.

The Master Elevator Car, together with 3 radio controlled elevator cars, served the purpose of rescuing aircraft that couldn’t land due to having problems with their landing gear. The elevator cars could be driven in formation along a runway at high speed and the aircraft could land onto their flat roofs. The cars themselves are virtually identical, the only main difference being that the “Master” car is the only one with a driver/cockpit.

The first job I had in building this vehicle was to determine the scale and ultimately build my model in line with the studio version. One of the benefits of most of the craft featured in Gerry Anderson’s television series is the use of recognisable kits. In particular, the Airfix Girder Bridge. This kit has a knack of turning up everywhere in a Gerry Anderson show and therefore, scaling is made a lot simpler.

This model is no different. Whilst studying the one and only (small) photograph that I had of the model, I noticed that the yellow framework around the “roof” of the vehicle is said girder bridge. Continuous freeze-framing of the video recorder enabled me to determine the actual size and notice other detail on the vehicle.

My first job was to buy two girder bridge kits (now supplied by Dapol). By laying out the required pieces onto a piece of MDF (medium density fibreboard), I could now establish the size of the roof. This was then cut to the required size. The shape is virtually rectangular, with the corners slightly sloping in. After roving any excess sprue, the girder bridge pieces were then simply glued on using super glue, ensuring that the “rivet” pattern on these pieces face inwards. The places where the corners join were trimmed, so that it looked like a continuous length.

A piece of wood was glued to the bottom of the roof, together with kit bashed dressing and brass rod. The roof was then painted with matt black enamel and the girder work painted yellow, with red striping where required. Grey enamel was then airbrushed on the top part of the roof to simulate aircraft skid marks. The “Master Elevator Car” and “1” placards were made from painted plastic card and white lettraset.

Next I built up the four “hydraulic rams” which are used to support the roof to the body of the vehicle. These were made from lengths of brass tube, fixed together with epoxy. The roof ends were hammered flat and attached to the roof via a brass rod passing through holes in the ends, which was soldered into position.

These ends were finished off with circular kit parts (from a model kit of the AT-AT, from Star Wars, I believe). The vehicle ends were fitted with box sections made up from plastic card. Each of these box sections had a hole drilled through, so that a piece of tube could be used to attach them to the body.

Unfortunately, because huge wheels surround the vehicle, the main body is pretty much obscured from view. This is where a little “artistic licence” comes into play.

The main body itself was made out of Perspex sheet. The raised centre section made to the same width as the distance between the “rams”. The front section of the vehicle was then carved from balsa wood, which was covered in model filler and sanded smooth.

In order to make the vehicle a little more interesting, the front section was then hollowed out and fitted with a homemade light sequencer, which would be used to flash various control lights in the cabin. Discarded super glue bottles were then cut into (just over) half and attached to the sides of the vehicle.

Mesh was then fitted into the ends of these to look like air intakes (or whatever the hell they are!) Various model kit parts were dressed around the back of these “intakes” and a hole drilled through the entire model and fitted with a length of brass tube “axle”.

on to part 2

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