Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser
In 1968, in the first peak of the AMT Star Trek model series, AMT released the Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser as a start to an intended line of original, AMT-designed sci-fi vehicles. Each ship was to have a story, including key characters. The ship was designed by Star Trek's Enterprise designer, Matt Jeffries. The Leif Ericson was a sci-fi modeler and fan-favorite even then.
In the summer of 2011, AMT re-released the Leif Ericson with its original box art design, with parts cast from the original molds (reviving the clear parts) and an updated Light Emitting Diode (LED) kit.
My thanks go out to AMT for providing this kit for review and to IPMS USA for letting me do the review.
There are 22 parts molded in AMT’s light green for the cruiser, shuttle and 2 stands (one stand is not used), with 10 transparent red parts and 9 chrome-plated parts. There are also 4 pre-wired LEDs, a pre-wired battery box/switch assembly, 2 mounting screws for the switch, and 2 small lengths of heat-shrinkable tubing.
The instruction sheet consists of a single folded sheet of 11" x 17" paper with the assembly instructions on one side and the complete story of the Leif Ericson and crewman Lance Scott on the other. (There are 3 other complete instruction sheets included, in 3 languages besides English.) The decal sheet is detailed and complete, containing markings for the walls and deck of the shuttle bay interior, the aft face of the ship, and a variety of name and registry markings.
If it weren't for the lighting kit, this cruiser would go together pretty well and pretty quickly. The chrome plating on parts C22 & C23 (engine inter-adapters) make for a very tight fit with engine fronts (part # 102) and engine rears (part # 104), so it's helpful to scrape off the plating on the ends of the adapters that fit inside the fronts and rears ("fronts" & "rears" is what the instructions call them so I used the same terminology here).
The instructions give very specific tips on how to route the wiring through the engine fronts and rears then how to orient the bulbs so they face forward and aft. The leads that are soldered to the LEDs are fairly long and care must be taken to bend the leads slowly and gently to the desired angle so as to not break them. As I was installing the LEDs and assembling the engines, I periodically checked the functioning of the LEDs to make sure a wire hadn't broken somewhere while I was handling them. It would be major surgery to try to repair a failed circuit after the ship is assembled.
The nacelles are mirror images left to right but they are not symmetrically shaped from top to bottom. Monitor the instruction sheets closely for part number call-outs and installation of the nacelles. The time to paint and apply decals to the shuttle hangar is just before gluing the fuselage halves together. It's just easier that way.
The fuselage halves lined up pretty closely and, with strategically placed adhesive tape and/or clamps, can be coaxed into just the right alignment while the glue sets up. I did need a little contour putty in a couple areas where the fuselage halves were attached to the sprues, but this was minor.
The remaining assembly is a snap. I had no issues with alignment or parts fit.
I pre-painted the fuselage surface where the engines are installed (under the nacelles) prior to installing the engines, and I painted the inner surfaces of the nacelles black prior to joining them and installing them on the ship. Then, once the ship was assembled, I simply stuffed cotton balls into each end of each nacelle to mask the engines when I painted the remaining outer surface of the ship.
The instructions indicate where to put the hangar bay and aft-face decals (these are designed to fit certain places in certain ways) but, beyond that, there's just a note that says " Additional decals are included to be used at the discretion of the modeler." I actually appreciated the idea. The rest of the decal placement is up to you and when you're done it looks great (although, if I was doing it again, I would remove the molded-on window frames, since the window decals don't precisely fit the window frame pattern molded on the ship).
There is a lack of detail in the instructions when it comes to finishing out the electrical system. The red wires go together and the black wires go together and that's about all they say. I went ahead and soldered the wire connections after twisting the leads together and covered their connections with the heat-shrinkable tubing provided and shrunk them with a cigarette lighter. I used double-sided tape to hold the battery box to the underside of the stand. The other issue is mounting the switch to the underside of the stand with the screws provided. When the switch is mounted in place, the button itself is flush with the surface of the stand. I beveled the edges of the slot in the stand so I could get my finger on the button.
I used a little weathering powder around the engine vents on the wings and some of the leading edges of the wings to bring out the highlights.
This was a fun and relaxing kit to build. You don't have to take it seriously and you can just enjoy putting it together and detailing it in whatever way suits your fancy. For those reasons, I highly recommend AMT's Leif Ericson for modellers of all experience levels. It's a fast, easy build for younger modelers (even though it does require a little knowledge and experience in simple electric circuits), and for the more experienced folks and sci-fi fans, you don't have to try to live up to the standard of duplicating a well-known TV or movie ship. You can just build it your way and it looks great.
As a [really] long time sci-fi fan, I was elated when Round2/AMT announced they were going to dig this one up along with the old AMT Star Trek kits and others we built back in the day.
Earlier this year, AMT released this same kit, molded in glow-in-the-dark plastic, under the name "Interplanetary UFO." No lighting kit with that one, but there is a more expanded decal sheet with markings for an interplanetary pirate ship. That one was also a blast to finish.
Thanks again to AMT/Round2 for re-releasing this great kit and to IPMS USA for the chance to review it.