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Building R2D2

By Steven S. Pietrobon - images & text © 2005

Scale: 1/6 (152 mm high, 100 mm wide)
Parts: 77 plastic
Instructions: Six pages. 14 Steps. Decal placement guide
Decals: Stickers
Molding Quality: 8 - little flash
Detail: 7 - good detail, but a lot is incorrect
Accuracy: 3 - shape good, but many inaccuracies
MSRP: Out of Production - your best bet is eBay
Overall Rating: 4 - can build up to a great looking model, but needs a lot of work to make accurate.

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^ Front view
Image: Box and instructions

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^ The kit parts. The stickers were not used

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^ Where I got up to before restarting. The shoulder attachments has the round inserts recently added
Image: Side feet slotted and plastic card added.

Image: The front foot shows the plastic card added to the front, top and back. The back foot shows the plastic card inserted at the side. This was latter trimmed, with any gaps filled in with putty.

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^ The dome masked for midnight blue and body masked for satin white. The bottom of the feet would be masked latter. Next to the middle leg are the scratch built Energy Capacitors.
Image: Spraying indoors is not a good idea. Here, I'm about to spray the body and arms mindnight blue.

Image: The blue panels on the dome masked up.

Image: The body and arms masked up.

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^ After detail painting. Note the extension on the middle leg.
Image: Bottom masked up.

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^ Rear view Image: Left side

Image: "We're not interested in the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon. It's fixed. Just tell the computer to open the door!"

Image: A rare view of the reactor (top) and computer (bottom) inside R2-D2.

Image: Right side

I bought the MPC R2-D2, along with C-3PO, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing, Darth Vader's TIE Fighter, and the Millenium Falcon, in a sale at a department store in the city around the end of 1980. I remember walking home excited with the kits in my hands. As soon as I got home, I opened them up and started planning on building them. My first project was R2-D2. I had a few magazine clippings and it soon became apparant that the kit was not very accurate. I decided to make it accurate, buying some plastic card, razor saw and liquid glue which I had never used before. The Summer of 1980/1981 was partly spent building R2-D2, but there were so many changes, I couldn't keep up the commitment to finish the kit. With school holidays finishing and Year 12 starting soon, R2-D2 was abandoned half built in its box.

I next worked on the kit in the Summer of 1984/1985, while I was doing work experience at Thorn-EMI for my Bachelor's degree in Electronic Engineering. I even wrote down the date that I last worked on it in the inside of R2-D2's head, 11 January 1985. I did some work on the head, sanding and filling gaps. Time passed and 24 years after I bought the kit, I decided that I was going to finish R2-D2. By pure coincidence, I finished R2-D2 a few days after seeing Revenge of the Sith in the cinema.

The instructions or "Android Assemble Manual" consists of 14 easy to follow steps. The kit includes stickers. As the kit was to be fully painted, these were not used. The instructions include many names of parts, which I use here.

Here's the list of corrections that I performed:

  • Dechromed parts except the Life Form Sensor 109. As I did not know about using bleach to do this, I sanded and scraped away the chrome by hand.
  • Some "wires" made from stretched sprue were added next to the computer interface arm.
  • Added plastic card to AMD Band Ariel 116 and Life Form Sensor 109. A strip of plastic card was shaped into a circle and glued on top the AMD Band Ariel. A square piece of card with a hole cut into it was glued into the body halves 1 and 2 where the AMD Band Ariel was glued. The Life Form Sensor required eight pieces of card as this is octangonal shaped.
  • The CO2 and Tool Arms (these are the blue arms at the top front of the body) are the wrong shape (the thick part is not wide enough). This was corrected by sawing and sanding. Thin plastic card was added into the slots to represent the arms.
  • The Program Slot just above the CO2 Arm was opened up. Plastic card was added behind the slot so that there was now space beind the slot.
  • Thin plastic card was used to fill in many of the panels around the body. This was done by simply cutting the right size panel size and glueing the card in. The vent (next to the AMD Band Ariel) also had plastic card added, with a rectangle hole for the vent.
  • Plastic card was added to the opening of the back half body 1. Normally, the reactor and computer 105 would be glued to the middle leg assembly, but this left gaps all around. The walls that were created were painted black. I also added a couple of wires at the bottom.
  • Side vents were made from plastic card and glued into slots cut out from the sides of the body.
  • A slot was cut at the bottom of the sides of the body and a straight piece of plastic card was glued. This allows room for the base of the legs to move.
  • The sides of the Programming Controls (the six buttons at the front of the body) were cut vertical.
  • The dome consisted of a chromed part 100 and a clear blue part for all the blue panels. There is also a rib that goes around the bottom. A lot of putty and sanding was required to fill in the gaps between the chromed and clear parts. As the rib sticks out, this was cut off and replaced with a strip of plastic card.
  • The VHF Scanner 28 (big round eye at front of dome) had the eye in the centre, instead of close to the top left. The eye was moved by cutting and sanding where the eye was going to, and filling in with plastic card and putty where the eye was coming from. The clear blue part of the eye was cut off from the rest of the dome, so that it could move to the newly moved hole.
  • Above the blue part of the arms, the kit had the area flat, where there should be an octagonal shaped indentation. A hole was cut out and replaced with plastic card to create the indentation. This meant the shoulder parts 19 could not be used, as the gap was taken uo with the new indentation.
  • A strip of plastic card was glued around the shoulder in order to make it even. This was puttied and sanded down.
  • The blue section of the arms was too long, with the corresponding base at the bottom of the arms too short. After glueing the halves of the arms together, the arms were cut in two at the bottom of the blue section. The base was lengthed by about 2 mm using plastic card, with the blue sectionss shortened by 2 mm. Plastic card was used to reconstruct the top of the base. The detail at the bottom of the blue section was reconstructed using thin slices of plastic card.
  • Where the Energy Capacitor 103 (the thin cans) attaches to the base of the arms, there was a gap behind the Energy Capacitor. This was filled in with plastic card.
  • In the middle of the base of the arms is some silver coloured detail. This was just a square in the kit. This square was cut and the rest of the detail added using bits of card and putty.
  • The pivot for the feet is too low, so a small gap (1 mm I think) was cut above the pivot and the pivot glued back. The inside face above the pivot was open, so this was filled in with plastic card.
  • Where the arm attaches to the body there is a short round attachment. The kit has this much too small in diameter and width. I used a thin strip of plastic card to make this the correct diameter and width. This was the point where I stopped building the kit in January 1981 (after doing all the above I was worn out!).
  • Starting again in November 2004, the base and blue halves of the arms were glued together. For the attachments, I added a circular piece of plastic card to the inside. This made the attachments nice and round. The attachments were not flush with the body, so I placed some sandpaper flush with the body and sanded away until I got a flush fitting. These were then glued to the body.
  • For the feet, I cut slots into the tops of them and filled the gap with plastic card. The instructions show the rollers in two horizontal halves, but the parts are moulded in nearly one piece, with a small end cap at one side.
  • Where the power packs attach to the feet there is a gap. There was filled in using plastic card.

  • The inside of the feet halves were painted matt black and the rollers satin black. After glueing the feet halves together with the the arm, the base of the feet was filed at an angle. This removed the detail at the base of feet which would later be replaced with decals.
  • For the middle leg, I added quite a lot of detail that was missing. Energy capacitors for the sides were built from scratch. I used a small round file to make indentations at the base of middle leg for the capacitors to fit. I also made up the front detail (like that in the arms) using thick plastic card.
  • The middle leg foot also needs to have slot cut out and filled in with plastic card. Side and front detail to the foot were added using plastic card.
  • After I had sprayed the middle leg satin white and attached the capacitors, I realised that the leg would no longer go all the way up inside the body, since the capacitors blocked the way. Thus, I moved the internal mechanism up 5 mm. This meant I had to move the rib (used to guide the leg) at the top of the leg up 5 mm. This was done using thick plastic card. To ensure a strong join, I drilled holes into the parts where pins were inserted and then superglued together. The bottom of the rollers can still be seen when the leg is in the up position, but you have to look closely at the right angle in order to notice.

I had planned on including lights for the dome, but as I wanted to get the kit finished, this idea was abandoned. I was just glad that I was finally finishing the kit!


The body, arms and middle leg were sprayed first with undercoat grey (Humbrol 1) and then with satin white. The Humbrol paint I used was not a pure white, but a bit off-white which is annoying. It would have been better to use matte white for the undercoat, as the satin white would often chip around doors, showing the grey underneath.

I couldn't just spray the dome blue, as this would cover up where the blue panels should be. So, I first masked up the non-painted silver area first and sprayed the dome midnight blue (Humbrol 15) which is a very dark blue. I chose midnight blue, as it matched the photos I had. Watching the films though, the actual blue can best be described as "candy apple blue", like "candy apple red" used on cars. This type of paint changes colour depending on the angle and lighting conditions. It might have been more accurate to use French blue (Humbrol 14) which is a normal blue colour, but I think midnight blue looks better.

After spraying, I found that there were nearly always small bits in the paints surface, so this had to be sanded down and resprayed. Thus, instead of only one or two coats, I was giving three or four coats. This greatly increased the time to build the model. One cause of the problem was in not fully removing the skins from paints. If the skin is thick, it is easy to remove, however if the skin is very thin, its much harder to remove. The other problem was spraying indoors where there is lots of dust. After deciding to spray outdoors, this problem was greatly reduced, plus I don't stink up the house!

The blue parts of the dome were then masked up. I decided to brush paint using my trusty 25 year old silver (Humbrol 11) paint. I believe this gives a more realistic finish, as long as you don't look too close. The white areas on the body and arms were masked up and sprayed midnight blue.

The reactor and computer were sprayed with undercoat grey and then satin white. The bottles were painted midnight blue, with the hoses matt red. The two round fins were painted silver. Minor detailing with silver and matt black was then done. Due to the new walls constructed from card, it was difficult getting this part to fit. The back door was detailed with silver, midnight blue and satin black.

Detail painting was then performed. I used matt grey and matt black for the side vents. Aluminium was used for the vents. For the dome, the front "infra red eye" was painted gloss red and the rear "eye" was painted gloss white, followed by gloss yellow. To make up a mask I would put some Tamiya masking tape on a flat surface. Using a round stencil, I would then use a pin to slowly scratch out a hole. The middle round mask would be removed leaving the masking tape with a hole. In The Empire Strikes Back, the front eye would alternate between red and blue, while the rear light alternates between yellow and green. These lights were static in A New Hope.

The Speaker/Microphone (below Tool Arm) was painted dark green, while the Pressurising Vents (below Speaker/Microphone) was painted semi-gloss black. The edges around these were painted silver. The base of these was painted midnight blue. The programming controls were painted aluminium. For the two rectangle lights at the front and thin rectangle light at the back of the dome, I first painted a sliver edge, masking the inner and outer part of the light. Masking the silver edge, the centre was painted with a mixture of silver and midnight blue, to get a metallic light blue effect to simulate the lights. The silver pin striping around the shoulders and halfway up the arm was done by first masking and painting silver. This came out much better than I expected. The round shoulder attachments on the body were also painted silver. The energy cables from the power pack to the feet were painted using a mixture of brown paints (I can't remember exactly what I used).

Final Assembly

After the middle leg was completed, it was put into the sliding mechanism which was painted matt black. This was then glued into the body. The bottom plate 25 was then glued in place, with plenty of filler to fill in the gaps. I used liquid paper for the first time to fill in the very small gaps left after filling. After masking, the bottom plate was sprayed satin white.

I then made up some decals which you can download here. You will need GSview to print this file. The short grey segments are used for the front and back of the feet. You need four segments per side. The long grey segments are used for the sides. You need seven segments per side for the two side feet and five segments per side for the middle foot. The small black segments are for the buttons on the Programming Controls. The dashed black semicircles go near the base of the arms and middle leg. It took me three goes to get the decals right. On placing the first decal, I found that I had printed it on white decal paper! Printing the fourth time on clear decal paper, I found the decals went on well with some setting solution.

The arms were superglued in place, as the small parts 19 could not be used to hold the arms. After drying, the arms moved smoothly, but not as far back as on the real R2-D2. With the middle leg pushed into the body, R2-D2 can stand on two legs, if a little unsteadily. The dome nicely rotates. I almost expect the model to beep and move around!


After nearly 25 years, I have finally completed my R2-D2! The MPC kit seems to be basically correct in shape, but if you want to get it actually looking like R2-D2, you have your work cut out for you. The Kaiyodo 1/6 vinyl kit is much more accurate, but I believe it doesn't have anywhere near the number of working features of the MPC kit.

Paints/Supplies: (Humbrol)
  • 130 Satin White
  • 11 Silver
  • 15 Midnight Blue
  • 60 Matt Scarlet
  • 19 Gloss Red
  • 69 Gloss Yellow
  • 56 Aluminium
  • 33 Matt Black
  • 27 Matt Sea Grey
  • Magazine clippings and internet
  • Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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    This page copyright © 2005 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 2 June 2005.