Friday, December 14, 2012

The Interplanetary U.F.O. Mystery Ship

My best friend in elementary school was named Robert. He was an only child, and his parents were divorced. Needless to say, he got a lot of the toys and model kits that I desperately wanted and never had. Among them was AMT's "Interplanetary U.F.O. Mystery Ship," which was, undeniably, the coolest starship model that wasn't actually based on a TV show or movie. And it glowed in the dark.

Man, I coveted that model. AMT put its picture on the boxes of the Star Trek kits and as I watched my Enterprise nacelles droop on their pylons, or the neck of my Klingon battle cruiser sag under the weight of the command "bubble," I'd look at that picture and wish I was building that ship. What graceful lines, what implied power... and no damned pylons! (Let me be clear: I was thrilled to have those Trek models; I just wasn't a good enough model builder to assemble them correctly, and I knew it.)

I didn't know then that it was a slightly modified re-issue of a 60's kit called the Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser, nor that it was actually designed by Matt Jeffries, designer of Star Trek's own U.S.S. Enterprise. All I knew is that it was an awesome-looking spaceship model, and that I really wanted one of my own to build and hang from my ceiling on fishing line.

Well, now I do. Or soon will, anyway, when the kit I ordered from Round 2 Models shows up here, hopefully in time for Christmas. Thanks to my mother-in-law's holiday largesse, I was finally able to score one of these awesome model kits (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) for myself. Round 2 also offers the non-glow-in-the-dark Leif Ericson, but I wanted the one that most closely resembled the 1976 version I remember.

Of course, now comes the hard part: finding time to build it... and then, somewhere to display it when I'm done. Or I could just put it into storage with all the other unbuilt model kits I've bought over the last ten years....

22 comments:

  1. Curiously enough it was used in Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's novel "The Mote in God's Eye". The got ahold of the model and wrote their story around how they thought it would work, and the bok cover art uses a paintng of it as well

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    1. It's a terrific - and very credible - starship design.

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  2. Awesome find! I remember seeing the pictures of that model on other kits, but never saw one for sale anywhere. It doesn't surprise me that it was designed by Jeffries. In fact, before I got to that part of your post, I was going to comment that the nose and conning tower resembles the Botany Bay from Star Trek...

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  3. I had that model...the UFO version. I didn't know about the Leif Ericson version until a couple of years ago. I'd love to have it again.

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  4. I remember well owning one of those. You're right about the assembly being very forgiving; the scout ship from the hold (which had these wonderful flowing fluid edges) was two pieces that fitted neatly together. My only complaint about the AMT kit was that they used a phosphorescent modeling plastic that was just not as dynamic as the materials Aurora used in their monster kits, so it tended to look a little faded in a darkened room compared with Godzilla on the other end of the shelf...

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  5. Matt Jeffries reused the design (flipped upside down) as the "Hyperspace Carrier Pegasus" in George Pal's 1970s proposed War of the Worlds tv series that would've carried the storyline back to the aliens' homeworld (which wasn't Mars! The Red Planet was just a staging area for the Earth invasion)!
    http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/leif_ericson_model.htm
    and you can see the promo reel for Pal's version...
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E1zOXarLk4
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLd-GjFu15I
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gle_pZLrq2A

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  6. AAAA! I had that set! There was something so soothing to be a youngster in a loft bed, rolling over and seeing the warm glow of my very own super-cool spaceship! I wasn't very good at models, so the cement was sorta oozing from every seam, but I managed to put it together (unlike my NCC-1701 model) and loved it so much! Now I wanna get the remake...

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  7. Loved this model!
    Because it had the conning tower in the front, I used to incorporated it into action scenarios that involved submarines, like with the Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

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  8. Oh yes! I had this hanging from my ceiling. It's faint glow made it very ghostly and eerie. Jim above is correct it's a relatively easy build - I did it without my dad's help - and that scout ship was very cool and somewhat mantis like if I remember correctly.

    I also have to second Jason on it's resemblance to the Botany Bay - a resemblance my six year old imagination was happy to capitalize on.

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  9. It's actually the 'Pegasus' from George Pal's proposed War of the Worlds TV series.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E1zOXarLk4

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    1. Actually, Peter - according to what I've read, it was designed for AMT first. Matt Jeffries then recycled it for Pal's proposed series. It was also considered for use in the Star Trek animated series.

      It was a very popular and versatile design.

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  10. I had this model and spent endless hours making it fly, opening and closing the bay doors, making the little scout ship go off on missions... didn't matter that it wasn't on one of the actual Star Trek shows, the AMT logo was enough for me to add it to my little kid Star Trek missions. It was that start of many of its own stories because I didn't know anything about it. Thanks for the background info. Had no idea Jefferies designed it.

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  11. I had a friend a lot like your Robert. An only child, so he got spoiled with all sorts of neat stuff I could only dream of. I was so envious. One thing I remember him having was another model kit, the Ragnarok orbital interceptor.

    http://tinyurl.com/cnyd6cx

    One sealed Ragnarok kit just sold on eBay a couple of weeks ago for $130!

    The worst thing about building models in the 1970s was that AMT and Revell made pretty lousy kits, with badly fitting joints and terrible detail, often featuring oversized, raised panel lines. They certainly weren't in the same class as kits from Hasegawa Minicraft or Tamiya.

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  12. I built this back in the day (the glowing version). Sadly it suffered the same fate of all my models, that of being used in interstellar battles with my brothers. The little scoutship was awesome.

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  13. Th only version of this kit that I like is the Leif Erickson star cruiser, and that's about it. I'd love to get it sometime soon.

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  14. Millions of kids had this ship (I as well..), just a fantastic design, so in line with the AMT Trek series... Of all the AMT models, this (and my 2nd purchased Spock model) remain the only ones to have survived my childhood. Just a magnificent design concept, especially with the glow effect.

    I should bring it to work for my shelves.

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  15. I had that model, the glow in the dark version, circa 1974. I had all of the Star Trek models and despite being a fan that watched rerun after rerun (after rerun), it was on the AMT boxes and implied to be a part of "the Star Trek model collection" even though I knew it was not at any time a part of the show. It didn't matter. As stated by the blogster, easily the coolest starship model never to have been on a TV show or movie.

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  16. I have both versions of the kit, but really plan to only build the glowing version ( it's easier to detail, and I don't have to worry about too much painting. It'll go great with my "Tholian Web U.S.S. Enterprise" kit that I built as the U.S.S. Defiant a year ago ( also a reissue of the old AMT Kit, but in glow-in-the-dark plastic. You can see my assembled Defiant here:http://www.amazon.com/650-USS-Enterprise-Tholian-Episode/dp/B004G7T6M6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1356728631&sr=8-4&keywords=tholian+web+enterprise )

    Dep1701

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  17. This was great I had one when I was a kid 10 or so. The glow in the dark was not so great it would glow for about 30 seconds or so then had to be recharged. But for that 30 secound it was pretty cool

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  18. >>I didn't know then that it was a slightly modified re-issue of a 60's kit called the Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser, nor that it was actually designed by Matt Jeffries...

    It would be interesting to know if the original design predated Anderson's Fireball XL5 series as there is a definite likeness between the two ships... :-)

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  19. Ha! Chalk me up as another one that had this! I can't believe I had forgotten about it until I saw this picture. It was a fantastic model and a stalwart toy.

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  20. OMFG I loved this model when I was young, and I still love it! To the point where I spent hours a while back "building" a copy in the 3-D modeling program Truespace 3. (There is at least one other copy, but nothing like making your own.)

    And they're selling the actual model again! JOY!!!

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