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Scale-model Enigmas

Lunar Models' rendition of
"Forbidden Planet's" Star Cruiser

Model companies have generated an intriguing variety of cool flying saucers over the years, and some have become much-wanted collector's items.

The Lindberg Company began the trend in 1952 with its trailblazing Flying Saucer model kit, the first all-plastic science fiction model kit ever made. The Lindberg saucer, a flattened disc with a bubble cockpit, is a simple kit that nonetheless became a perennial favorite among science fiction model buffs; it was reissued as a glow-in-the-dark in 1976.

More recently, Glencoe Models, which is re-releasing an intriguing line of 1 950s-era space kits, has threatened to produce another reissue of the Lindberg saucer (and we're still waiting, guys - what's Up7).

The other top collector's classic is unquestionably Aurora's UFO of 1968, based on the alien craft in the "Invaders" TV show. It's a 50s-style saucer in 1/72 scale, virtually identical to those featured in George Adamski's dubious photographs, with gorgeous box art and a keeno optional clear top that reveals the alien ship's bridge and crew. Aurora rereleased it under the title Flying Saucer in 1975-77 and, we!rdly enough, padded out the crew with additional figures from the Dick Tracy Space Coupe kit (didn't know Diet Smith was an alien) Monogram, which acquired Aurora's molds after the company's dissolution in 1977, dusted off the saucer again in 1979. Bill Bruegman's great Aurora History and Price Guide of 1992 valued the original kit, unbuilt, at about $150, or exactly one hundred times its original price; that sounds low for 1995, in view of the way TV tie-in items are soaring.

AMT, makers of the "Star Trek" line of kits, took an old spaceship kit they'd released in 1967 - the "SSC Leif Ericson," the first of a stillborn series of original spaceships to be called Strategic Space Command - and rather cheesily reissued it in 1974 as a glow-in-the-dark UFO Mystery Ship. In 1992, Britain's Airfix put out a flying saucer kit in 1/96 that was never released in the U.S.

And just this year, Milestone Productions (P.O. Box 3792, Granada Hills, CA 91394) issued a fascinating, if pricey, curiosa: a licensed reproduction kit of one of the saucers used in Ray Harryhausen's 1956 saucer epic, "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers," made from duplicates of the filmmaker's original molds. The kit is beautiful, although at three inches wide it's a little petite for $52.

Probably the oddest model kit of recent years debuted from the Testor Corporation of Rockford, IL in 1994. Testor, which has repeatedly irritated the Air Force with fairly accurate renditions of top-secret planes, now offers a large (1/48 - 13" wide) and impressive kit of the so-called Sport Model, a flying saucer that UFO cult figure Robert Lazar alleges is being studied by our government out in Nevada. The kit designer's lengthy notes make it quite clear that he believes Lazar's claims. This is a must-have item for any saucer buff, Lazarophile or not, and as of mid-1995 was sti!l available in hobby and toy stores at its release price of around $25.

My favorite model company, though, has to be Texas' Lunar Models (106 Century Drive, Cleburne, TX 76031), which has risen from humble garage-kit origins to become the best producer of cool science fiction models on the planet. A trip through their catalog will have any retro-future buff salivating like a commie behavioral experiment- a Chesley Boneestell - designed moon-ship! The Bat-Rat-Spider from "Angry Red Planet!" - and their saucer offerings are particularly impressive. Lunar sells a variety of models of "Lost In Space's" Jupiter 2, ranging from four inches to a whopping 24-incher faithfully reproduced from the Fox blueprints of the original model used for the series; they also offer a 20-inch version of the C57-D star cruiser from "Forbidden Planet." In addition, Lunar offers an amazing line of kits based on classic UFO sightings and hoaxes, including a saucer that appeared in George Adamski's photos (it is, I suspect, a better model than the one Adamski used).

-Bruce Lanier Wright



Photos by Bruce Lanier Wright

Strange Magazine contributing editor Bruce Lanier Wright is a pop-culture historian and avid, if puzzled, fortean living in Austin, Texas.

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