Kit review of the ERTL Vulcan Shuttle .

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Vulcan Shuttle

By Joe Hank - images & text © 1999

Detail: 6
Ease: 9
Decals: 5
Instructions: 5
MSRP: $22.95 USD (~$23.28 CAN/ 16.85 EUR) available from Starship Modeler
Overall Rating: 7

[Side View]

Editor's Note: This review refers to the first issue of this kit. It has since been reissued with a comprehensive decal sheet and is currently (as of 2010) readily available.

The Vulcan Shuttle Surak was only shown for about 45 seconds in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Apparently the big budget given to the movie allowed the construction of detailed models, because like all ships in the movie, it is filmed quite close and in detail. It was used to ferry the 'psychically called' Mr. Spock from Vulcan to the brand-spanking-new Enterprise as it raced to intercept V'ger. The ship even featured a separating passenger compartment that executed a graceful flip to dock with the Enterprise.

This model kit was manufactured in 1979 by AMT Corporation and is still available through a few sources. I have seen it for $80-100 USD at Sci-Fi Conventions, and I was able to buy mine through an online auction site for $35 with shipping from a collector. The seller lived in Canada, so the kit was manufactured by AMT's Canadian partner AMT Lesney Inc. (it also sports the Matchbox insignia???). It appears to be identical to the American kit, aside from both English and French text on the box and instructions. It consists of 26 pieces, including a decent stand, and two decal sheets. One decal sheet is a 'Rainbow effect' metallic press-on decal sheet and the other is a 'No-fuss' Rub-down transfer decals. I had my reservations about the no-fuss part, and it turned out to be true. Overall, the kit measures 10 inches long by 5.5 inches wide by 2.75 inches tall. Guestimated scale 1/100.


The instructions were quite clear as to part numbers and assembly, but had no information on colors or decal placement. The warp nacelles had two halves, split down the middle and an end cap. In addition, there are three fins and details which glue to each nacelle. They all fit together well, and the seams on the nacelles were all easily accessible for the tiny bit of sanding and filling necessary. The fins all fit quite snugly and needed no blending. The nacelle pylons/warp sled base consisted of a top and bottom half, with the seams hidden quite well. It did not fit together perfectly, so it was a bit of a pain to fill and sand the gaps. Two flat plates with details glued to the outsides of the plyons and lay so flat that no additional work was necessary. Finally, the base for the passenger compartment glued to the top of the warp sled and required no sanding either. Overall, the bottom section (warp sled) fit together easily.

The passenger compartment consisted of three main parts, the large top, a bottom insert, and the front 'wedge' which glued to the front top of the large top piece. The bottom insert did not fit flush, so I had to both fill the gaps between the insert and the top piece and sand the insert flush with the top piece. The front wedge glued right onto the front and did not require sanding. Additional pieces on the passenger compartment were two 'scoops' on either side and the docking ring. The scoops did not fit well and required some putty to fill the gaps, and the docking ring required similar treatment to blend the round piece into the passenger compartment. The passenger compartment can be glued to the warp sled or be left to just rest on the base (Wow...a model that Unfortunately, there is not locking mechanism, so the passenger compartment falls off easily.


Once assembled, I joined the four main pieces and filled any additional gaps. The nacelles have different tab-and-hole shapes, so you cannot accidentally reverse the nacelles (kit for ages 8 and up, can you tell?) Despite this, the nacelles lined up nicely and were not canted along either direction. After final sanding, I primed the model with K-Mart Gray Primer (great stuff, and cheap, too) and sanded a few trouble areas. When I was satisfied, I had to decide what color to paint the kit.

I struck out when looking for studio model pictures online (both the IDIC Page and Pedro's Ship-O-Rama didn't have any) but one site did: Roger Sorensen's The Model Citizen. That site had several good pictures available to use. I also was unable to find any photos in my 20+ library of Star Trek reference books. The box did contain a small photo showing several views of the studio model, which was quite helpful. (My ST:TMP Klingon Cruiser kit has a similar photo on its box. Why oh why did ERTL stop doing this?) The photo brought up a common dilemma: paint to match the studio model or the on-screen appearance? In this case, as Dr. Sorensen describes it, do you paint it in the blue and taupe of the model or the onscreen color: diaper contents? I tastefully chose the gray color.


Overall, I used Aircraft Gray (a blueish-gray color) to paint the whole ship. I realized this was quite dark and re-airbrushed the high areas with Light Gray. This lightened up the kit a lot, but the studio model still appeared to be a bit lighter. I was satisfied with the color as it was, but purists may want to use a Light Gray/Light Ghost Gray combination. The nacelles have a large amount of paneling, which I airbrushed using an index card in Dark Ghost Gray. The kit lacks any paneling detail, so I used the reference photos to paint in paneling.

On the bottom of the nacelles are two large panels in an orange-red with streaks behind them. I used Rust on the panels and airbrushed the streaks behind them. For the dark areas, I used Gunmetal, with the streaking behind the vents on the outsides on the nacelles in Flat Black. Then added all the Reaction Control Thrusters to corners of the ship as the photos showed. (ST:TMP was the first time RCSs were shown on Star Trek and can clearly be seen firing whenever the passenger compartment maneuvers). In used Insignia Yellow and Flat Black to add these. The docking ring was painted in Gunmetal, and the small bump on the bottom of the warp sled was done in Silver. The inner warp engine fins were painted steel and the spaces between in flat black. The impulse engines at the rear of the nacelles were painted Fluorescent Orange.


[Box top]

^Most of the reference photos available are from the box!


^ Markings

[Parts is parts]

^ Major parts. Below is the assembled kit, ready for painting.





^ Three views of the completed kit.

Now came the decals. The ship has both Vulcan and Federation markings, indicating that it is truly of Vulcan origin. The black Federation markings were apparently painted on after the original red Vulcan markings. The metallic decals I disregarded completely, since I didn't know where some of them went and didn't want metallic silver impulse engines! The Rub-down transfer decals didn't like to transfer at all, so I ended up rubbing them off onto a piece of paper and then carefully peeling them off and resticking them to the ship. Positioning of most of them was easy, using the reference photos I found. After they were applied, I added the final details.

Numerous small 'dark patches' appear on the studio model (micrometeoroid hits?), so I added many of them with Agressor Gray. I also used a thin black wash to 'grunge up' some of the details of the passenger compartment and the warp sled beneath the compartment. Lastly, I used a thin black paint and and airbrush to streak the warp sled bottom and several exposed front edges to get the been-around-the-galaxy-a-few-times look.


The kit comes with a large stand, which is the same one as in the Klingon cruiser kit, so it is more than adequate for the small Vulcan Shuttle. In addition, the instructions show a suggestion of how to hang it with fishing line. The choice is yours.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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Last updated on 19 May 1999.