AMT’s U.S.S. Enterprise model at 55!

It’s not the sort of anniversary that a lot of people would notice or care about, and even within the vast Star Trek fandom it’s likely something only a segment of people would even recognize let alone take time to observe. However, for that special subset of fans for whom models in general and Star Trek models in particular are something they enjoy? Yeah, 2022 is something of a milestone, all right.

I guess I’m one of those people, at least to a degree.

While I can under no circumstances call myself a particularly skilled or accomplished model hobbyist, I’ve assembled my share of models. Most of these efforts were undertaken during my youth, of course, but I’ve also gone through phases as an adult where the challenge of building a model enticed me to spend more than a few late nights tinkering with this or that. As a kid in the mid to late 1970s, I built things like the Batmobile, the Eagle transport from Space: 1999, figure models from The Six Million Dollar Man or Planet of the Apes, Star Wars X-wings and TIE fighters, and — yes — several Star Trek models.

Star Trek models with 1970s-era packaging: the “Exploration Set,” the Bridge diorama, and Spock (with snakes!)

Particular favorites from the final frontier included the “Exploration Set,” the Enterprise bridge diorama, and the Spock (with snakes) model. Though I never successfully completed the latter, I did build the version of that kit retooled to tie into the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the three-headed snake removed and Spock’s uniform now made to resemble his ensemble from the film rather than the original TV series. Yeah, it didn’t really hit home the way the original version did.

And, of course, there was the Enterprise itself.

As a kid, I can remember building the bridge model twice. Same with the Exploration Set (both sets became casualties of playing outside…damn those things were fragile), but the Enterprise? Probably a half-dozen times, and then a couple more later on.

That Enterprise model was created by a Michigan-based company, Aluminum Model Toys or “AMT.” It was created and first released in June of 1967, just a couple of months after the last new episode of Star Trek‘s first season aired on NBC. It’s been around pretty much since then. As years passed, AMT’s Star Trek line expanded beyond the original series to include models from the feature films and spin-off television series. Along the way, the Enterprise model was released and re-released who-really-knows-for-sure how many times over. It was even updated (addressing some long-standing structural and accuracy issues) and released to pretty decent fanfare in 2016 as part of commemorating the original TV series’ 50th anniversary, and was re-issued yet again just last year in time to celebrate the original series’ 55th birthday.

I want this tattooed on my thigh.

And now, 2022 marks the model’s own version of that latter milestone.

Related: Tuesday Trekkin’: The original AMT Star Trek models

Author and one-time NASA chief historian Glen E. Swanson wrote a wonderful article about the original AMT Enterprise model for a 2021 issue of Michigan History magazine. I heard about the magazine and Mr. Swanson’s article through the Facebook/Star Trek grapevine and it was enough for me to purchase a physical copy from the MH website.

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the model as well as AMT’s enduring connection to Star Trek, Mr. Swanson penned a series of new essays, drawing inspiration from his original article. In addition hosting these on a site he maintains, Liftoffworks.com, the essays are also being shared on the CultTVman, the absolutely off-the-charts awesome website devoted to all things science fiction and monster models. Seriously, if you are at all interested in this topic, you need to bookmark this site. The sheer width and breadth of essays, build walk-throughs, reviews, and other information about models old and new is – in my mind, at least – unmatched. Plus, I don’t mind saying they’ve managed to separate me from more than a bit of my money over the years. You can read all of Mr. Swanson’s Enterprise essays by following this link:

CultTVman.com: AMT’s Enterprise at 55

AMT Enterprise model. Photo credit: National Air and Space Museum

Like a lot of people, building this particular model fired my imagination as a young kid. It fueled an interest in the original series that went beyond just watching those reruns every day after school. Having my very own Enterprise — along with those super groovy Mego action figures — drove me to create my own adventures for Kirk and the gang. It’s not at all a stretch for me to draw a line from those childhood imaginings to the Star Trek stories I now get to write as an adult.

I don’t know about anyone else, but reading all this stuff and seeing the pictures of different people building and enjoying their models makes me want to break out the tools, glue, and paints and see what sort of trouble I can cause.

6 thoughts on “AMT’s U.S.S. Enterprise model at 55!

  1. Very nice article. Like you Dayton, I too built model kits as a kid in the 70’s, including all the AMT Star Trek kits ( including the non-Trek “UFO Mystery Ship” advertised with the Trek kits on box sides ). I can’t count the number of Enterprise kits I built, for other kids as well as myself, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve found less time and patience available to build many kits anymore ( particularly with the availability of so many pre-built and pre-painted toys and models that look far better than I could have ever done ).

    But I was re-inspired to build the AMT Enterprise kit one more time several years ago when Round 2 released their “Tholian Web Edition”. The promise of a glow-in-the-dark starship was too tempting to pass up ( the fact that needing to be able to glow was a good excuse for minimal detail painting was a plus ). Building the kit was like revisiting my childhood, bringing back all the anticipation and excitement of seeing the completed model.

    I decaled this one as the U.S.S. Defiant, since it was the ship actually seen glowing in the episode and it turned out pretty well. It was well worth the effort and an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was wandering through a local hobby store just a few weeks ago when I spied a single Enterprise model almost hidden among the Star Wars and assorted car kits. This one repro’d the original box art from 1967 but also had a sleeve with the Trek 50th anniversary logo. So, almost like one does when they adopt a puppy from a shelter, I opted to buy it thinking I’d build it.

      I probably will at some point, perhaps during the winter when I’m stuck inside, but then I realized all the minor updates and corrections made to the model for this re-issue, and decided what I actually wanted to do was build a kit like those from my youth, gridlines on the saucer, other inaccuracies, and all. Thankfully, I was able to arrange a trade with a friend on Facebook, and now *that’s* the kit I want to build first. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand wanting the exact thing you had before. I built so many through the years that all the AMT issues over the years with all their changes are familiar to me.

        I have an original 1967 issue in box ( with the lights for the nacelle domes ), but that one I’ll never build. It’s a special item to me, just as it is.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I built one. Never looked that good, and the pylons needed more support where they attached to the secondary hull. (“Not Designed For Gravity Wells” should be on the boxes.)
    If I had money and room, though, I’d build the various Enterprises again. And maybe a Warbird.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I built all these model kits multiple times as well. That Exploration Set – not only fragile, but tiny, even in my childhood hands. But it was the closest thing you could get so of course they got played – especially when my friends and I would make our own Star Trek episodes with the 8mm (silent) movie camera!

    Like many others, I’ve still three or four Star Trek starship models sitting on a shelf, unopened, waiting for me to have some free time.

    While the model kits were a lot of fun, so was making our own model sets. I somehow had a small wooden hat-box-like tub and I spent hours making my own transporter chamber with it.

    Like

  4. I built the original Enterprise model, then the Vulcan Shuttle model from ‘The Motion Picture’, and then the 3 pack of Klingon, Romulan, and Enterprise smaller ships. They are all still hanging from the ceiling over my science fiction/Star Trek bookshelves … more than 4 1/2 decades after I assembled them.

    Liked by 1 person

Lay it on me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s