By By Kirk Williams - images & text © 1998
Overall, the kit is done very well. The entire model consists of only nineteen pieces, including stand. This simplicity makes the Defiant an easy model to build.
Completed, the model comes in right at 15.75" long and 11.25" wide. The main construction is basic, consisting of putting the top half of the body on the bottom. Most detail is molded directly into the two main hull pieces, keeping the number of parts small. The nacelle details are the most rigorous assembly on this model. They consist of panels with the warp grid and Bussard collectors glued in between the main hull halves.
The Bussard collectors are separate pieces that fit onto the front panels. While they are a bit of a tight fit to line up, the separate pieces lend a degree of detail that would probably not have been possible if they had been molded on. The deflector grid is much like the nacelles - just a panel that fits between the two hull halves. All parts fit smoothly, except for a sensor grid piece that fits onto the bottom of the hull, right behind where the stand fits. The piece does not lie flush and leaves gaps. With a little sanding, it will fit smoothly.
The tubular piece that fits on the bottom of the bridge section is one of this model's nicer bits of detail. The kit is designed such that you are supposed to put the decals on this part before you glue it in place. This is a nice feature that I have not previously seen on a Star Trek model.
This kit's biggest disappointment is that there are no clear pieces. This makes this model nearly impossible to light up, unless you just do running lights or cast your own clear parts. If the Bussard collectors, deflector, etc. were clear, this could be built into a very attractive and practical lighted model. [This shortcoming can be corrected by using the Defiant clear resin parts made by Don Matthy. Write him for more details. - Ed] Unlike most Star Trek models, this particular kit has plenty of space to fit a battery pack inside the hull, and because of the ship's configuration, it would be easy to run lights to the nacelles.
The waterslide decals are easy to apply, except for the stripes on top that include the name and registry. This is a rather long, thin decal, which has to be handled carefully to avoid breaking. Also, it has to be centered with a fair degree of accuracy, or the ends do not come out even. The other problem with this decal lies in the fact that the edges tend to overlap the bumps that are supposed to be the running lights. I had to trim the decal around the running lights in order to get it to fit properly. It requires a bit of working to get it around the curves and still stay straight. You might consider cutting the name and registry away from the stripes and applying this decal in three pieces.
This model's curved surfaces make certain areas hard to mask, but applying a base coat can help. I used Duck Egg Blue, which I think turned out nicer than the recommended light gray color. I recommend the Testor's Model Master paint series. The flat colors of that brand are good for hiding brush strokes.
Getting back to masking, the challenge of masking this kit is increased by what I regard as the kit's biggest shortcoming: raised panel lines. It's hard to trace around with when masking, and if the paint starts getting a little thick, the panel lines tend to disappear. I ended up going over each one with the back of my knife blade, etching all the panel lines. Engraved panel lines look much better and are easier to mask around. Also, if you decide to add running lights, engraved panel lines provide an easy way to hide an access panel for the battery pack.
Overall, the kit is very well made. Unlike some of AMT's other models, this one has a good parts fit and has no notable innacuries. Short of missing a few panel lines and panels, the model matches nicely with TV version. As for scale, it is definitely not sized to match any other of AMT's Star Trek ships, but while it's an odd scale, it builds into a model that fits nicely on a shelf. Plus you don't have to worry about it getting knocked over and a nacelle breaking off - a common problem plaguing the original 16" and TOS Enterprise.
If you put a bit of time into your paint job, this should turn out to be a model you will be proud to display.