Thunderbirds models

the pod vehicles

Marc J. Frattasio

how many people tuned in to Thunderbirds on a regular basis in anticipation of what surprise would come out of Thunderbird 2's pod? Thunderbird 2 was the only International Rescue craft to appear in all episodes of Thunderbirds and just about every episode featured some wonderful machine which emerged from the giant transporter's pod. Thunderbird 1 through Thunderbird 5 may have received 'star' billing but more often than not it was a pod vehicle that accomplished the actual rescue! The pod vehicles were sophisticated rescue machines. For the most part, each machine was designed to accomplish a specific type of rescue. Beyond this specific built-in purpose, each machine was of limited versatility. Thus, International Rescue's large stable of pod vehicles.

Pod #1

A strange air-cushioned hovering vehicle which has a mechanism on the back that produces a blast of air sufficient to cushion the fall of a person from great height. In essence, this machine acts like a contemporary 'fireman's net'.
The Hover Bed miniature was about 10" long and used two small props first seen on a puppet set as oil rig machinery in the Stingray episode Sea of Oil as the high pressure air blast mechanism.
Bomb Neutraliser
Bomb Neutralizer
Move and You're Dead

Pod #2[?]

Pod #3

Elevator Car
High Speed Elevator Cars
Trapped in the Sky
The Elevator Cars are powerful six axle trucks with large spring loaded platforms on top. These vehicles were designed to safely land aircraft which have malfunctioning landing gear. In practice, a stricken aircraft can land on top of an array of Elevator Cars speeding down a runway and be brought safely to a stop.
Two different sized Elevator Car studio miniatures were constructed for use in Thunderbirds. At least two, representing a manned master unit and a radio controlled drone, were constructed in the standard 'pod vehicle scale' of 1/24 (about 19" long) for use in close ups and scenes of the vehicles emerging from the large scale Thunderbird 2 pod set. Please note that this was the standard model automobile scale in use in the USA at that time. Three smaller scale models were build for use in scenes with a Fireflash nuclear powered airliner miniature.
Remember the smoking brakes and exploding tires? Titanium Tetrachloride, a really corrosive and toxic chemical which smokes spontaneously in contact with the air was used to produce the brake smoking effect. The tires were blown out using electrical explosive detonator squibs.
Check out that scene showing the radio controlled Elevator Car going crazy and crashing into a hastily put together model airliner during the first Fireflash landing attempt! This started off as an accident that looked so cool in rushes that it was decided to build a little scene around it. What happened was that a front control wire broke during filming on the rolling road and the miniature pod vehicle was dramatically thrown across the stage as seen on film!

Pod #4

Thunderbird 4
A bright yellow mini sub carried into action for the most part in Thunderbird 2's pod #4 though also capable of independent launch as seen in Terror in New York City.
Several different versions of Thunderbird 4 were constructed for filming in Thunderbirds. They varied to a great degree in overall contour, ranging in size from 3 to 13 to 20". All of these miniatures were made from fiberglass and had small plasticine figures of Gordon Tracy in the cockpit and working lights incorporated into the forward trough. Large scale sections were built of the nose (to film rescue tools in operation) and cockpit areas.

Pod #5

Duchess Assignment, Security Hazard
International Rescue owns one Mole which is used to burrow beneath the earth to perform subterranean rescues. The Mole is a two component machine. The actual Mole is a manned yellow cylinder with a big revolving drill bit located at the front. This device is carried into position by a blue colored tracked trolley. This trolley is remotely controlled and featured a ramp which elevates the Mole into the proper angle for drilling into the ground.
It would seem that only one 1/24 scale Mole model was made but this was reworked several times during production since it took a lot of abuse on set. It was about 22" long. Take note of the Airfix Girder Bridge, Revell 'Everything is Go!' Atlas missile, and other plastic kit parts incorporated into the trolley.

Pod #6

Some kind of low-slung utility vehicle with a retractable crane(?) or something like that mounted along its transverse axis. Used in The Perils of Penelope to check out a monorail train tunnel.
Looks like this one was made out of wood in 1/24 scale and was about 16" long. The toy caterpillar tracks used to make this miniature were different than those used to make the Recovery Vehicles, Jet Mole, Drilling and Crushing Excavator, etc.
City of Fire
A tracked heat resistant yellow firefighting vehicle, the Firefly's most distinctive characteristics are the nitroglycerin cannon and plow blade mounted on it's nose. The cannon is used to launch nitroglycerin shells which literally 'blow out' fires by momentarily depriving the fire of oxygen. The plow blade is used to clear blazing wreckage. The Firefly also has a rotating chemical fire suppressant turret mounted at the back.
The Firefly was probably made up from fiberglass castings on top of the standard Thunderbirds track set. The studio miniature was about 15" long.

As can be gathered from this listing, both the Firefly and the Mole can be seen emerging from two different pods. It may be assumed that not too close an eye was kept on such continuity details during production.

However, putting either machine in another Pod would give rise to serious story difficulties since in the episode Pit of Peril both the recovery vehicles and the Mole can be seen coming out of pod #5 and the Firefly and the Mole are established as being both in pod #5 in the City of Fire episode. Had they been in different Pods, Virgil would have had to leave the site to get another one!

Incidentally, the word 'pod' stands for 'purpose on delivery' [or so I was told].

This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission