By Jack Grey - images & text © 2012
^ What you get
Image: Detail parts
Image: Bag of clear parts. You can clearly see the step in the windows.
^ Main body parts
^ Front end showing inaccurate window angle.
Image: Soft rear end details... but I have seen softer.
AMT Ertl picked up the licence for Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and brought us a model of the titular space station and the Runabout (which the crew used to get off the station, therefore defeating the entire object of setting the series there). Later on they brought us the Cardassian Galor class and the Defiant, the latter which wrecks any chance I had of saying something positive about the range of kits from this series.
The Runabout is a big shuttle with a modular design that allows the middle section to be replaced with mission specific modules so long as the mission requires modules no larger than a row of chemical toilets. It's still a recognisable Federation design with clearly defined elements such as a pair of nacelles at the sides and familiar window shapes cut into the hull.
The model itself is very good. There are issues with it, of course but in spite of them this kit can be turned into an excellent depiction of the Danube class Runabout.
What You Get
Essentially the main hull is two large pieces of styrene, the upper and lower body and in There is a fitting issue along the mid section and they don't quite go together correctly. When the model is assembled, even without fixes this would not really show up but still there is a tiny gap along the left side where the "cargo sections" join. Being that the model's body is built whole the modular design is not apparent in the model. This is a slight shame as previous AMT kits had separation lines which were never showed on screen but still, this feature was never used or even mentioned on the show so you can hardly blame AMT for this.
There are two engine sections which fix on the outside which make up the rest of the ship, the remaining parts are details and you even get an optional science pod which clips to the roof and was used to identify between various ships seen together on screen. Apart from the misalignments on the main body the rest seem to fit together fairly well. Nothing is brilliant, this is an old kit built to an older standard and the parts will all need a little encouragement to look absolutely right. This model comes from the days before Finemolds left us wondering why sci-fi models had never been built to the same standard as other scale model kits and it shows but it doesn't show too badly.
The size is excellent, it's a nice big kit. In 1:72 scale, the model builds up to over a foot in length. It's large enough to have some fun with, you don't need any advanced skills to turn this into a great model.
Accuracy & Issues
Outline accuracy is pretty good. The sets and the studio model don't match or come even very close but comparison to the studio model is very decent. The heavy-handed panel lines look appalling and make it difficult to accept the scale of the ship but they do match the original. The only area where accuracy seems to be compromised is the front windows. The studio model has a much steeper angle than those that come on the model. This would not be an easy fix, it would take a lot of re-sculpting as well as completely new windows and I've never heard of anyone attempting to correct this area. Other problems are simply spots of soft details but there's nothing else that doesn't match up very well from the pictures I have. The soft detail around the sensors is an easy repair with sheet styrene and even just some careful painting should fix those areas needing a little attention. In short, AMT did a pretty good job here. In their defence I doubt the window angle was entirely their fault, the model was brought out very quickly and probably follows the schematics closely which might either have been changed or compromised when the studio model was produced. This happens unfortunately.
There are a few missed opportunities with this kit. The biggest and most often lamented is the lack of an interior. There's a huge void inside to this ship and nothing to put there. AMT could have supplied nothing more than two seats and a dashboard and it would have been enough to look ok with the limited view inside but they didn't even take this modest step. In their defence, the ship was only ever seen with blacked out windows early in the show so AMT can be excused for designing the model without any guts, there may not have even been a set design when this kit was being planned. There is frequent talk of aftermarket parts to fix this but to my knowledge none have ever been produced. I'm not surprised; there are issues with the windows, the walls need skinning with something a little more detailed and the engineering of the two halves means that the floor sits at a different level to the join which would require some imaginative fixing. In all, there's not much chance that we're going to see a resin interior for this ship at an affordable price. My guess is it would have to be vacuum formed or cut from sheet styrene stock and I can't see a kit like that being easy to produce or well received. Scratchbuilding one wouldn't be too difficult and some people have created amazing interiors even though you can barely see them through the windows.
You get clear parts for the engines, the bussards and the radiator grilles but none for the impulse engine and exhausts even though they're seen lit up on the box art. The windows for the cockpit and lounge are also a bit wrong. They have large steps on them which are impossible to hide. If you fit them you have the options of either painting them black inside which is what they intended and is the best way to disguise the flaw. You could try painting a black frame around them which would look nice but not be screen accurate or you have the option of leaving them clear which will show the step quite plainly from the outside. You could also paint them gloss black from outside but this defeats the object of supplying them as clear parts in the first place. If you're fitting an interior of any sort then you really have no choice but to make completely new windows.
The phasers are pretty awful. They can be fixed to a degree but they're not going to look quite right. They mount to the front of the command section and the detail on the upper section is quite nicely done even though it's missing the RCS panel at the rear. The phaser emitters around the edges are a bit soft but acceptable, the problem is that when you turn them over they're hollow. Presumably the detail on the top should be replicated on the bottom but you just get an empty shell.
Other minor issues are that the rear window frames are jagged and need cleaning up to even resemble the right shape and for some reason the rear detail is far softer than the front. The moulding around the rear lounge is so weak it's difficult to know what the details are meant to be.
So all in all, there's a few things wrong with this model. If Revell or Finemolds brought it out today it would be scorned as a weak effort but it wasn't manufactured today, it came out in 1994 when Sci-fi models, especially Trek were almost expected to be poor. Back then it was a nice surprise if something went together, if details closely matched the studio model then it was a shock, albeit a pleasant one. In those terms this model delivers well. It's accurate enough to build straight from the box and paint carefully and you will end up with a very acceptable model and that's not true of many of the kits from that era. Most of the important details are ok, even by modern standards and they do match up to the studio model, even if those details don't always make good sense. There was no interior but at the time it was produced you were never able to see one through the windows and AMT did go to the effort of producing the optional pod so I'd like to believe they would have given us an inside if they could have. They even gave us a decal sheet with optional names to match the Runabouts first seen in the show although all bit the Rio Grande was destroyed, sometimes with an AMT model stepping up for the effects shots.
So yeah, it's not 100% accurate but it's still a great effort and as a fan of modifying my models this is one of my all-time favourites. It's a good size and has lots of potential.
Round 2, if you are listening, how about repopping this old model? Give us a passable interior this time, sort out the windows, add some clear parts for the impulse radiators and a pair of phasers that have proper detailing and you'd have a really nice model. Even if they just let it go as it was then I'd still buy at least one more. Until then they're still out there, you can get them from well-know internet auction sites and from friendly modellers sympathetic to your cause. I managed to get this one from a friendly modeller on this very site and I'm very happy that I did.
There is a build article by Jack Brunner, who super-detailed this kit, available here.
Many thanks to Jack's wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 6000+ readers a day? Contact us!