On the origins
of supporting models

Marc J. Frattasio

if asked the question »Who introduced the use of plastic model kits for the construction of miniature special effects vehicles?« many otherwise knowledgeable students of TV and film science fiction would immediately respond with the name Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick's 2001 — A Space Odyssey was notable for advancing the standards of miniature design, finish, and photography to a level that would become part of popular culture via Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. However, he was not the first to use cannibalized store-bought plastic model kits to create highly detailed studio miniatures. The real pioneer of this art was none other than Derek Meddings.

Meddings is maybe best known for his contributions to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's 1960s science fiction productions like Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet. These unique TV shows used incredibly life-like electronic puppets combined with futuristic miniature vehicles and pyrotechnic effects to create amazing 21st century TV adventures.

Funding difficulties forced producer Gerry Anderson to produce his earliest efforts on severely limited budgets. To save money, Meddings started using, plastic model kits and kit parts for constructing and detailing miniature effects vehicles. This technique worked so well that major studio miniatures made entirely from modified commercial model kits were quite common up through Thunderbirds. In fact, model kit components were still used for detailing miniature vehicles in the Andersons' later and more 'sophisticated' TV shows like UFO, Space 1999, and Terrahawks.

By that time, Meddings' long time assistant Brian Johnson – who was intimately familiar with the socalled 'kitbashing' technique – had moved on to Kubrick's aforementioned production and thus introduced the use of store-bought plastic model kits to Kubrick's staff and, subsequently, to the movieworld at large. (Incidentally, another member of that same staff and in charge of spaceship production design, was Colin Cantwell who would later get involved with Star Wars in its primordial stage.)

The following listing of commercial model kits utilized in the Anderson SF productions is by no means all-inclusive. For example, I am aware that model car kits were used extensively in Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Unfortunately, my knowledge of 1960s era automobile styles is weak, thus I am unable to differentiate between most types! Also, I am well aware that many kit components were used to detail models that were essentially scratch-built. Time constraints force me to leave this huge topic to someone else.

Fireball XL5
Space City rocket launch gantry
One of the rocket launch gantrys at Space City, seen in several episodes of Fireball XL5, was actually made using the parts included in the old Monogram Redstone rocket kit. Another rocket launch gantry, seen in the The Sun Temple and other episodes used components of Airfix's HO/OO scale Travelling Crane kit.
Wings of Danger
Subterranean defense missiles
The Subterranean planetary defense missiles featured near the end of Wings of Danger appear to have been made using Aurora or Revell Bomarc missile kits that were modified through the strategic application of B-58 Hustler engines.
The Robot Freighter Mystery
The robot supply ships seen in The Robot Freighter Mystery used a golf ball and two B-58 Hustler model kit engines in their construction.
Invasion Earth
The three black alien space ships featured in Invasion Earth were made almost entirely from Revell B-58 Hustler kits. Each space ship miniature consisted of a B-58 fuselage and wings with vertical stabilizer removed. A large disk shaped object of unknown origin was attached to the nose. An inboard jet engine pod was attached to each side of the fuselage immediately below this disk. Two outboard jet engine pods replaced the vertical stabilizer. An additional outboard engine pod was mounted on top of each wing, opposite what would have been the normal B-58 position. Long tripod landing gear made from wire completed the design.
It is interesting to note that an unmodified B-58 fuel pod, with characteristic Revell fins, was used in this episode as an alien ground vehicle. This was visible in a brief clip, being 'lowered' from one of the space ships.
Several large surface to air missiles can be seen rising into launch position near the end of Invasion Earth. These miniatures were actually Aurora or Revell Bomarc missiles. These models were built 'right out of the box' except for the ramjet engines which were attached to both sides of the end of the missile body instead of their normal underwing positions.
Space City Special
The concealed WASP hydromic missile launchers that rise up in front of Marineville tower used the launch pad and gantry parts included with the Monogram Redstone rocket kit.
Marineville power plant
The Marineville power plant appears to have been constructed using Kibri oil refinery and water tank kits made for HO/OO scale model railroad trains.
Marineville car control car
The silver automobile that appears on the submerging Marineville car control platform in several episodes appears to be a stock Chevrolet Corvair kit.
The WASP bandship submarine 'Downbeat' appears to have been constructed using the conning tower and center hull section from a Renwal, Monogram, or Revell U.S. nuclear submarine kit.
Stingray is Launched
The World Aquanaut Security Patrol submarine featured in Stingray is Launched and A Nut for Marineville appears to have been an Aurora, Monogram, or Revell USS Nautilus class nuclear submarine kit. This miniature looks like it may have been used 'right out of the box'. However, from certain angles it looks as if the model's bow hydroplanes may have been altered or replaced with larger rectangular examples.
The WASP underwater interceptors seen in Stingray is Launched were actually slightly modified Airfix Bloodhound surface to air missile kits.
Plant of Doom
Titanian surface agent X20's personal submarine seen in Plant of Doom, The Golden Sea, The Master Plan, An Echo of Danger, Rescue from the Skies, and several other episodes, was actually a Revell X-5 variable geometry research aircraft kit. The X-5 was built without its wings and had several new 'fish-like' fins added to its fuselage.
Sea of Oil
The alien submarine featured in Sea of Oil was made using a Revell or Aurora F-102 Delta Dart kit modified by the addition of extra fins and a cylindrical engine extension made from a Revell Atlas missile kit's 1st stage.
Hostages of the Deep
Gaddus' submarine seen in Hostages of the Deep appears to have used some kind of plastic sailing ship kit's hull. It is possible that the old Pyro Spanish galleon kit was used. This miniature also used B-58 engine pods, and other unidentifiable objects in its construction.
The Big Gun
U.S. Industrial complex
The US industrial complex targeted by the Solarstar missile ejector submarine in The Big Gun was made using Kibri oil refinery and water tank kit parts.
Emergency Marineville
Marineville bomb disposal unit truck
The white bomb disposal unit truck seen in Emergency Marineville was made using a 1955 Ford pickup truck kit.
The Man from the Navy
The World Navy submarine featured in The Man from the Navy utilized a plastic toy or model kit 'midget' race car body as it's hull. The miniature also incorporated several scale deck fittings of the sort used by wooden model ship builders and propellers made from Airfix hovercraft kit parts.
Pink Ice
The grey and yellow WASP helicopter seen in Pink Ice and Titan Goes Pop was actually a slightly modified Hawk Kaman Husky kit. This model was given a new tail boom and fin that was attached to the top of the Husky's long exhaust pipe. Only one rotor and rotor support pylon was used. Also, the landing gear skid parts were not used, leaving the helicopter with only small wheels for landing gear.
Star of the East
In Star of the East, an Arab despot named El Hudat destroyed two radio controlled target aircraft during trials of his new 'WADI' gunboat. These blue and orange aircraft appear to have actually been unmodified Airfix or Frog Blackburn Buccaneer kits.
The World Security Patrol 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' destroyed by El Hudat in Star of the East is clearly a modified Revell B-58 kit. This model appears to have the same canard configuration and paint scheme as the WASP Spearhead jets described above. However, the 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' model was very different in design. The model retained the normal B-58 vertical stabilizer with a new swept horizontal stabilizer added to its tip. Also, it appears that an inboard engine pod was mounted on top of each wing opposite its normal 'B-58' position.
There is an interesting and confusing discrepancy visible in TV footage of this miniature. If you slow down a video or laser disk to a freeze frame on this aircraft, you will notice that the jet that explodes is a different model altogether! It has an additional two engines mounted on the tail like one of the common Spearhead jets! I suspect that only one 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' model was made and that some kind of accident happened to it. Thus, a substitute aircraft model had to be obtained midway through filming in order to keep the proper schedule.
Eastern Eclipse
A Christmas to Remember
The enemy submarine featured in A Christmas to Remember has a vaguely familiar shape that may have utilized a plastic warship kit's hull. Do I dare say that it resembles Supercar from above? The miniature definitely utilized inverted B-58 Hustler vertical stablizers as forward hydroplanes.
The Lighthouse Dwellers
The Mole Thunderbird 2 pod vehicle used parts from the Airfix model railroad truss bridge, Revell Mercury Atlas rocket, an unknown model car, and B-58 Hustler in its construction.
The truss bridge is immediately recognizable as the elevating portion of the Mole's trolly. One half of the Atlas rocket is mounted on either side of the bridge. Hustler main landing gear strut parts are visible attached to the front of the rocket. The car part is noticable as the boxy housing at the rear of the drill itself.
The Mole, Recovery Vehicles, Restraining Unit (DOMO), Excavator, Radio Transmitter Truck, Firefly and other similar tracked Thunderbirds vehicles appear to have all used the same unknown toy tank or model kit for their wheels and tracks.
UN rescue helicopters
The yellow UN rescue helicopters had B-58 outboard engine pod halfs mounted on the sides of their landing skid supports.
American automobile kits
Many American automobile kits from the early to mid 1960s showed up in unmodified or slightly modified form in Thunderbirds. Some of these kits included:
Ford Thunderbird kits appeared in several Thunderbirds episodes including City of Fire and Thirty Minutes After Noon.
Corvette Stingray automobiles with bubble tops appeared in City of Fire, Terror in New York City and Thirty Minutes After Noon.
Lincoln Continental Estate automobiles appeared in Move and You're Dead and The Cham-Cham.
A Pontiac Bonneville appeared in The Duchess Assignment.
Although I do not know for certain exactly which manufacturer's kits were used by the Thunderbirds team, I suspect that AMT 1/24th scale kits were the most likely candidates.
Trapped in the Sky
The dark blue and white aircraft with white 'UN 10' markings that appeared in Trapped in the Sky was made using the fuselage, vertical stabilizer, and inboard jet engines from a B-58 Hustler kit. A new jet fighter type cockpit canopy, swept wings, and a 'T' type horizontal stabilizer from unknown sources were added.
Pit of Peril
The red and white U.S. Army rescue helicopter seen at the end of Pit of Peril was made using a Sikorsky Seaking kit, possibly of Airfix origin, and B-58 parts. Two B-58 outboard engine pods were mounted in place of the helicopter's tail rotor, the kit's 5 bladed main rotor was replaced with a three bladed version, and the model was fitted with new landing skids made from wire.
Thunderbird 1 robot camera
The remote controlled flying video camera that comes out of Thunderbird 1 in Pit of Peril and Edge of Impact appears to have used the old Monogram Space Taxi kit combined with three B-58 jet engine pods.
Sunprobe gantry
The Sunprobe rocket gantry seen in Sunprobe was built using Airfix model railroad truss bridges and parts from the Revell Mercury-Atlas rocket kit, Monogram Redstone rocket kit, and Airfix SR-N-1 hovercraft kit.
The Uninvited
Zombite fighters
The three Zombite fighter jets featured in The Uninvited were made using Revell, Aurora, or Monogram F-104 fuselages and B-58 inboard engine pods. The unique ring tail came from an unknown source and was supported by an assembly constructed from a split F-104 horizontal stabilizer fin.
Operation Crash-dive
London airport air sea rescue jets
The three yellow and red air sea rescue jets seen in Operation Crash-dive and The Impostors appear to have been reworked from The Impostors World Navy jets described below. The only visible difference, except of course for paint scheme, is that these ASR jets have an triangular extension applied to the front of their vertical stabilizers.
Martian Invasion
The light aircraft used by the Hood at the end of Martian Invasion appears to have been a Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer kit modified with a new 'butterfly' tail section.
Brink of Disaster
The two Atlantic Pacific monorail line inspection heli-jets seen in Brink of Disaster were made using a Hawk Kaman Husky helicopter kit's cabin mated to a tail boom made from the rear fusilage and vertical stabilizer from a B-58 kit.
End of the Road
Helijet type #1
The small heli-jets seen in Pit of Peril (yellow), City of Fire (blue) and End of the Road (red) were made from two Hawk Kaman Husky helicopter kit cabins joined back to back. The miniature was detailed with wings, jet engine pods, and other parts from B-58 Hustler kits.
Edge of Impact
The two Red Arrow prototype aircraft featured in Edge of Impact were made from Airfix, Revell, or Lindberg saab J-35 Draken aircraft kits modified through the application of Monogram or Revell B-58 inboard engine pods to the wings and outboard engine pods to the top of the vertical stabilizer.
Enemy jet
The unusual enemy attack jet seen at the very beginning of Edge of Impact was made using a Monogram, Aurora, or Revell F-104 Starfighter fusilage. The vertical stabilizer came from a B-58 kit. The miniature's wings, missile pods, and ventral stabilizers were of unknown pedigree.
The markings applied to this miniature's vertical stabilizer apparently came from a U.S. Air Force 'Thunderbirds' aerobatic team F-105 or F-100 kit. Interestingly enough, this exact same decal was also used on the large 'SAF' target tug aircraft featured in Trapped in the Sky and The Mighty Atom.
The Impostors
Jet type #1
The two blue and white World Navy jets seen being elevated and launched from an aircraft carrier in The Impostors used Revell, Monogram, or Aurora F-104 fuselages. Wings were actually B-58 vertical stabilizers. The long ventral engine was made using the front intake portion of a Revell B-58 engine pod mated to a tube that may have been metal or wood. Horizontal and vertical stabilizers came from unidentified sources.
Two crudely finished aircraft models with black or dark blue fuselages and white tails can be seen being elevated on World Navy aircraft carrier ramps in The Impostors immediately following the aircraft described above. One of these jets can be seen being catapulted off the deck just before the launching of a former WASP fighter from Stingray.
I suspect that these miniatures were made using Revell or Monogram X-15 research aircraft kits that were modified through the addition of a new tail and a ventral fuel tank made from a B-58 weapon/fuel pod.
Jet type #3
Three unmodified Revell F-101 Voodoo jet fighters can be seen overflying Tracy Island in The Impostors. It looks like these jets have light blue bodies and a white vertical stabilizer.
Heli-jet type #1
There is a brief clip during The Impostors search operation sequence with a long, dark heli-jet. This heli-jet was apparently made using the forward fuselages from two Aurora or Revell S55/H-19 helicopter kits joined back to front, four B-58 jet engine pods, and the horizontal stabilizers from two F-104 kits.
Heli-jet type #2
The long heli-jet seen at the beginning of The Impostors and at the end of 30 Minutes After Noon appears to have used a severely modified Boeing Chinook helicopter kit for its main body. The model's forward stabilizer fins came from the Hawk Kaman Husky kit and the rear fins are F-104 horizontal stabilizers.
I am not 100% certain about the pedigree of this miniature. Although it has many Chinook characteristics, there is something not quite right about the shape. Perhaps the miniature was based upon a plastic Chinook toy, not a scale model kit.
Background airliner
The red and white airliner that lands in front of an Air Terranean Fireflash jet in The Impostors appears to have been built from a Boeing 727 kit, possibly made by Aurora.
Cry Wolf
The U.S. spy satellite featured in Cry Wolf was made using a pair of Vollmer gas storage tank segments, electric road race guardrails, and other assorted bits and pieces of junk.
Duchess Assignment
Jet fighter
The small jet fighter seen landing on top of a large 'carrier aircraft' during the airshow in The Duchess Assignment was constructed using an Aurora, Revell, or Monogram F-104 fuslelage combined with an F-101 Voodoo's wings. I suspect that this aircraft's vertical stabilizer came from a saab Draken kit and that its horizontal stabilizer was provide by the F-101 kit. A large drop-tank was mounted below the fusilage between the wings.
The strange World Navy markings seen on this aircraft, its carrier jet, and also seen on other aircraft models in Thunderbirds appear to have been made by combining U.S. and German Air Force decals.
The Cham-Cham
Enemy fighters
The three enemy jet fighters seen in The Cham-Cham were made using the fuselage, wings, and other parts from a Monogram, Aurora, or Revell F-104 kit combined with the vertical stabilizer and outer wing panels taken from an Airfix, Revell, or Lindberg saab Draken. The F-104's nose was shortened. Outer wing panels were made from F-104 horizontal stabilizer parts split in half and a drop tank was attached to the joining surface. Horizontal stabilizers were actually the Draken's outboard wing panels.
Sharp The Cham-Cham observers can see the shadow of a short rod used to link two of these jets together in the scene where they take off from the enemy base.
Airfield jet
If you look very closely as the USAF 'RTL-2' rocket transporter aircraft leaves its hangar in The Cham-Cham, you will notice a small red jet parked near the RTL-2's hangar door. This aircraft appears to have been made from a Revell or Airfix 1/72 scale saab Draken kit modified with a Monogram B-58 jet engine on each wing and a new 'butterfly' (V shaped) tail made from two Draken vertical stabilizers. The Draken's outer wing panels were replaced with F-104 horizontal stabilizer halfs.
Atlantic Inferno
The 'Gyropedo' guided torpedoes seen in Atlantic Inferno were made from a jet aircraft kit's drop tank parts with small 'wings' added.
The World Navy target sub featured in Atlantic Inferno appears to have used a US Nuclear submarine kit (one of Renwal's SSBN kits perhaps) as its basis.
The blue and red World Navy rescue heli-jets seen in the episode Atlantic Inferno appear to have used some kind of model car kit for their main body combined with B-58 inboard engine parts, F-104 horizontal stabilizers, and drop tanks from an unknown aircraft kit.
Thunderbirds Are GO!
Glenn Field air sea rescue jets
The four silver and multicolored tail (red, yellow, green, and blue) Glenn Field Air Sea Rescue Service search jets seen in Thunderbirds Are Go! were made using Revell or Aurora F-102 fuselages combined with F-105 wings. Winglets were made from Monogram or Revell F-105 horizontal stabilizers. A rudder-top scanner pod was made from an Aurora or Lindberg B-58 kit's bomb minus the tail section. The tail section of the B-58 bomb, complete with cruciform fins, was grafted onto the F-102's nose. Skid landing gear appears to have been made using small bombs taken from the F-105 kit. The large rear engine came from other unknown sources.
Thunderbird Six
Desert airfield aircraft
The derelict aircraft seen inside a hangar at the abandoned desert airfield featured in Thunderbird Six appears to have been made using a stock Airfix or Revell AD-1 'Skyraider' model kit.
Captain Scarlet
Renegade Rocket
The red, silver, and black J17 military jet seen in Renegade Rocket appears to have been made using an Airfix French Mirage IIIc kit's fuselage, wings and vertical stabilizer, along with three external fuel tank parts and horizontal stabilizer from unidentified sources. The Mirage's nose was extended using the front half of a bomb or external fuel tank.
Base Concord missile
One of the missiles seen being lowered into a bunker at Base Concord in Renegade Rocket appears to have been built from a Regulus missile kit.
Lunarville 7
Mysteron construction vehicles
One of the Mysteron construction vehicles seen in Lunarville 7 and Crater 101 appears to have used the inverted fuselage of an unknown, possibly European military, helicopter kit.
Another one of these vehicles may have been made using the forward half and side doors of a Hawk Husky helicopter kit.
Flight 104
Background airliner
One of the airliners seen in the airport backgrounds in Flight 104 was actually an un-modified Monogram or Revell Supersonic Transport model kit.
Place of the Angels
Joe 90
Most Special Astronaut
Space station
The space station featured in Most Special Astronaut incorporated many parts taken from the Airfix Apollo Saturn 5 rocket kit. Parts used include the front half of the lunar module ascent stage, the lunar module descent stage, lunar module landing legs, lunar module antenna, service module sides and rear parts, and service module high-gain antenna.
Double Agent
The yellow and black heli-jet seen in Double Agent appears to have used the same sort of kit or toy (Boeing Sea Knight or Chinook) that the Thunderbirds Pit of Peril helicopter described above used along with the exhaust pipe from a Hawk Kaman Husky kit.
Mission X-14
The green heli-jets seen in Mission X-14 were made using slightly modified Monogram or Revell US Cobra helicopter gunship kits.
The two yellowish vtol interceptor aircraft seen in Mission X-14 were made using Revell SR-71 Blackbird kits. The Blackbirds were modified through the application of large triangular vertical stabilizers that may have come from an F-102. They were also provided with new cockpit canopies (it looks like the entire forward fuselage may have come from another jet kit but I'm not sure) and landing skids.
These miniatures are in my estimation, the worst looking converted model kits to appear in any Anderson series!

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This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission
Edited and limited to Supermarionation
images sourced mainly from the Old Plastic Model Kits website