Douglas Cowles’ Refit Enterprise #1

The building of this USS Enterprise model has been a 2 1/2 year effort with great time taken to ensure that each detail was captured as accurately as possible.


I corrected each and every one of the Ertl flaws to the best of my ability and with the help of Don Matthys, Mike Walker and JT Graphics and their excellent selection of aftermarket parts, photo etch aztec templates and decals. I spent a lot of time reviewing Chris Paveglio’s article and endless hours examining the excellent studio model photos taken by Mark Dickson as well as the ones from the Smithsonian exhibit on your site.


But most of all, I’d like to say a “thanks” to the very talented modelers that have contributed to your photo collection. I have regularly referred to all of their work at one time or another for some tidbit of insight into making the best Enterprise possible and have even contacted some of them for help. Each modeler was enthusiastic and more than willing to lend a hand.


My main goal was to portray the original re-fit Enterprise and to do so in a manner like the hand carved mahogany aircraft models that are available and that an exec. might have sitting on his desk. I’m a modeler Jim, not an electrician, so no lights, wires or batteries of any kind in this one.


Some of the specific details include:

1. A complete and thorough removal of all of the incorrect hull pattern. I used no fillers, the hull was sanded completely smooth before the first drop of glue went down.

2. The addition of Don Matthys parts and some of my own including new “baffles” on the top of the warp engine intakes and the third or uppermost “step” in the three on top of each warp engine. This third “step” was almost completely nonexistent in the molded parts.

3. I lengthened the warp engines about 1/16″ just aft of the third and largest “step” which meant lengthening the intercooler housing about a 1/16″ also. I added some fine HO scale siding to the upper and lower surfaces to recreate the fine lines that appear here on the studio model. This now meant that the flux chillers were too short so I hollowed out the opening a bit further aft and when I inserted Don Matthys parts in this area, I scooted them back a bit and blent them in with some of the original molded in detail that I left at the forward most section. They blent together perfectly.

4. I completely rebuilt the impulse engine cooling vents using the same HO siding as I used on the intercooler housings for the fine detail here as well. I had the forward end of these vents all lined up with the correct deflector line on the primary hull but when I went to assemble the primary hull to the interconnecting dorsal, I had to shim it up a bit so it wouldn’t look like it sagged forward. This threw off the alignment of the impulse engine cooling vents a bit, oh well.


5. I widened the interconnecting dorsal with some shim stock, filled the slot at the top with some very heavy shim, and added eight small details I noticed on either side of the “spine” running down the top of the secondary hull (four on each side, evenly spaced).


6. The upper section of the impulse engine has been completely rebuilt. I used Don Matthys impulse “crystal” and found a 1/18th scale car wire wheel set which I used for the fine lines around the “crystal”. I sanded one of the wire wheels down until it was paper thin, heated it very slightly and then super glued it into position while it was still pliable.

When the glue was dry, I cut out the wheel hub which left a hole just the right size for the “crystal” to snug down into. I left the “crystal” out until final assembly. The edge of the thinned wheel left just enough of a rise around the area to make it stand out from the deck. Note: Warm plastic and super glue fumes are not a pleasant combination!


7. I reshaped all of the incorrect angles and corners on the B/C deck area as best I could without sanding through the plastic. I think at a minimum, the hard “tear drop” shaped edge around the top of the B/C deck should be rounded off as it appears on the studio model. I also added two very small model railroad engine washers just behind the bridge dome and filled the holes with pin heads to make the bridge elevators.

8. The warp pylons are epoxied and shimmed in tight to the secondary hull and then I filled the base area with putty and reshaped it to what I believe to be the correct contours. I also redid the fore and aft flush vents. I hollowed out the existing recesses and then cut and shaped some “T” shaped stock to the length and shape the vents should be. I inserted the tail of the “T” into the recess just deep enough so the top was flush with the edge of the pylon and glued it in place. This left a nice crisp edge around the vent area and gave me something to work up to when I painted it

9. ALL of the panel lines have been re-scribed to their proper positions and all of the missing lines and panels were added as well per Chris Paveglio’s instructions. There was a lot of debate amongst some of the other modelers as to whether or not these lines should be scribed at all but it fit into my scheme of things so I re-scribed them anyway.


10. I think the construction feature I’m most happy with is the landing bay area. In my humble opinion, Ertl did the worst job recreating this part of the model. My answer was to saw off the entire rear end and hand build it over again. I carved out the new shaped area and puttied it into place. I then reshaped to model hanger bay doors to fit the new deck and bulk head shape and size and glued it in place. I also rebuilt the position light and spot light housing under the fantail.


11. I completed the construction up to three major components: a) The primary hull, b) the secondary hull, interconnecting dorsal and warp pylons and c) the warp engines. I made sure that each component fit tight where it mated with another so that no gaps were visible, then I started painting.

12. I masked off any detail I didn’t want painted and them primed all of the major components and smoothed and/or filled any flaws.

13. I mixed two shades of Engineering Green (white with a few drops of green until it was a color I liked), painted the darker shade where appropriate and when dry, I carefully cut and placed various sizes and shapes of drafting tape as close the the pattern shown in the studio model as I could. I then painted the lighter color and when dry, masked it off.


14. My next step was the silver and gray areas around to main deflector. I didn’t see any of the other modelers paint the underside panels fore and aft of the phasers to match the deflector area but it sure looks like it should be to me on all of the studio model photos so I did. Maybe this was an Enterprise A feature, since that was the only reference I had, and didn’t appear on the original? Anyway, same routine here but with two shades of gray and then some silver. A final mask and I started painting the hull pattern.

15. I mixed a full bottle of white Testors Model Master paint with about 10 drops of silver and painted all of the hull area and let it dry. For the engines and the secondary hull, I then cut and placed random pieces of drafting tape to cover about 1/3 of the surface. For the primary hull, I took the narrowest drafting tape available and laid it out in even radial and circular patterns to create a grid pattern between the scribed deflector shield lines. I then took liquid mask and randomly filled in various areas of the grid pattern.

16. I mixed another bottle of white with 5 drops of silver and painted over the previous coat and the masked areas. When this was dry, I cut and placed another round of drafting tape pieces over another 1/3 of the hull surfaces on the engines and the secondary hull, but removed all of the masking from the primary hull.

17. The third coat was straight white. I painted over the secondary hull and warp engines as they were and let them dry, but the third coat on the primary hull was shot using the Walker Enterprises templates for the aztec pattern. When I was studying the primary hull, it looked to me like there was a pattern going on under the aztec pattern. When the templates where removed after spraying, the previous two coats shown through and accomplished this effect.

18. All of the masking was then removed and the model was carefully wet sanded to eliminate any edges in the paint and then I finished any small detail painting.

19. The major components were then assembled. The warp engines were fit to the pylons and the primary hull was epoxied to the interconnecting dorsal. I drilled a hole in the top of thick shim on the top of the interconnection dorsal and threaded it. I then epoxied the primary hull and as the epoxy dried, I positioned a large flat washer over the threaded hole in the dorsal and inserted a screw. By adjusting the washer back from side to side and tightening the screw, I was able to ensure that the primary hull was perfectly level side to side.

21. I accomplished two steps in one next. I mixed a full bottle of Testors Model Master Clear with just TWO drops of Testors Pearlescent Clear Colors by Boyd for cars. This gave me the pearlescent finish of the original Enterprise and a smooth surface for the decals. Caution: Too much pearlescent clear and you get a yellow model!


22. The decals were applied with no problems at all. The only decals lacking from the JT Graphics set are the red stripes around the B/C deck area, the correct gangway hatch for the port side of the primary hull and the windows for the officers observation lounge. Don Matthys provided the stripes and I used all of his striping so it was consistent. For some reason, I had a set of JT Graphics decals from another model that had the proper gangway type hatch with a vertical opening rather than horizontal but it had windows on it.


I carefully removed the windows and had the proper hatch ready to go. The officers lounge windows are modified arboretum windows. Since I used the detailed arboretum windows and since you never really see the officers lounge windows brightly illuminated in the movies, I used the black arboretum windows but cut them down the middle prior to application. Once wet and in position on the model, I slid the tops of the decals together slightly to create the required taper.

23. The entire model was then mounted on a stand. The stand is a modification of the kit stand with a brass rod that goes into the secondary hull and all the way to the top of the interconnecting dorsal.

24. The entire assembly was then dull coated and the rest is history!

All that and I’m still married! One last thanks goes to my wife and boys for putting up with me through all of this. I hope everyone enjoys my efforts as much as I do

Douglas Cowles

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