Getting the Gang Back Together
When I was a kid, I was a model maker, and was absolutely obsessed with Star Wars. Of course those two paths crossed (to someone’s great profit, I’m sure).
Prior to Star Wars, my show piece was a WWII era Corsair done up as Pappy Boyington’s bird. There was a Spitfire, a P-38 Lightning and some others. Back then I built in 1/72 scale.
I even started buying modeller magazines to see how to make them look more realistic (I gave up on those magazines quickly because they all seemed too focused on diaramas instead of minute detailing of the vehicles) Along the way, I did learn how to weather and score fighter planes, something that I did with the Corsair.
Yeah, then 1977 happened - that little film called Star Wars - and my focus changed. I already had the AMT Star Trek Enterprise and their generic alien model (the one that glowed in the dark). So spaceships weren’t new to me, but weathered and beaten up spaceships? How cool is that?
So I got Luke’s X-wing and the Millennium Falcon. I built the X-Wing first, and scored it with india ink, and was very disappointed with how it turned out. I decided that I’d get the Falcon right. I bought as many of the Star Wars trading cards as i could. I’d trade with friends - they wanted the characters, I wanted the ship. I wanted to see every angle, to see all the colourized panels, all the scars.
One cool thing about this model was that it came with a lighting kit, with lights for the engines and cockpit. That was good, but I wanted better. Frankly the light for the cockpit was too bright. So I went to a lamp store and bought a fibre optic lamp. The salesman was confused by my presence, by my purchase, and by my statement that I was buying the lamp to break it, but at the time it was the only way that i could get my hands on even these low-grade fibre optics (they were new back then.).
I ran fibre throughout the ship, adding landing lights on the underside, and many lights to the cockpit. I also added metallic reflective tape in very small pieces throughout the back of the cockpit, so that as you looked in, the various panels on the back wall would twinkle.
I painted and scored that ship as exactly as I could to the details shown in Star Wars. I finished it about a month before The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980. Obviously, I went to see that movie opening weekend. There was one part where I was the only person who screamed “No!”
No, not the big reveal at the end. But near the beginning, when the Falcon enters the asteroid field. The damned ship turned on headlights when it flies into that cave! Headlights! My model didn’t have those. Crap!
I tore my model open, burned holes for the headlights, laid down fibre optic cables, and … had a hard time getting the ship back together. I still don’t understand what happened, but the top piece of the ship somehow warped and wouldn’t fit properly. Using an over-abundance of glue I could seal it for about a week at a time, but then it’d pop apart again.
Eventually I used so much glue that the plastic along the mandible seams just gave way. My Falcon was dead.
I hadn’t so much as taken a single picture of it!
I don’t know that it was the last model I ever built but it was certainly one of last ones. Eventually all I had left of it was the lower cockpit assembly, which may still be in a box in my sister’s basement.
Fast forward a few decades.
I saw a video of Wil Wheaton playing a Star Wars table top game, and there was a Millennium Falcon model - small, pre-assembled, and with no lights, but I could have a Falcon again.
I bought it. And I’ve become obsessed with Star Wars models again.
Then The Force Awakens happened and Star Wars models were everywhere. I’ve still got my small Falcon from the Star Wars X-Wing game. But between Christmas and birthday gifts and my own resources, I’ve acquired the Bandai series Falcon, Slave I, two Tie Fighters and an X-Wing (all 1/144 scale, all original trilogy, except for the Falcon, which has the TFA radar dish. If you know how to get the original radar dish for this, i’d love to hear from you.)
Recently, I saw (but didn’t purchase) the Y-Wing to go with this group. I may yet purchase it…
UPDATE: I did, and it was the first one I built.
So I’m slowly getting the gang back together, my original trilogy fleet of ships. Now I just have to find the time and the paints to build them. I have a friend who builds custom Gundam models, and he has a lot of advice about paints.
I feel like I’m way out of practice with model building, and will probably do them in reverse order of emotional importance to me (Falcon last). I did previously buy the Bandai Star Destroyer and built it. The pieces were so small, but so well crafted that the whole model snapped together without glue(!)
I’m looking forward to building the others. Any adivce (I’ve already found both the FaceBook and Reddit spaceship modellers groups)?