Funding difficulties forced producer Gerry Anderson to produce his earliest efforts on severely limited budgets. To save money,
plastic model kits and kit parts for constructing and detailing miniature effects vehicles. This technique worked so well that major studio miniatures made entirely from modified commercial model kits were quite common up through Thunderbirds. In fact, model kit components were still used for detailing miniature vehicles in the Andersons' later and more 'sophisticated' TV shows like UFO, Space 1999, and Terrahawks.
By that time, Meddings' long time assistant Brian Johnson – who was intimately familiar with the socalled 'kitbashing' technique – had moved on to Kubrick's aforementioned production and thus introduced the use of store-bought plastic model kits to Kubrick's staff and, subsequently, to the movieworld at large. (Incidentally, another member of that same staff and in charge of spaceship production design, was Colin Cantwell who would later get involved with Star Wars in its primordial stage.)
The following listing of commercial model kits utilized in the Anderson SF productions is by no means all-inclusive. For example, I am aware that
model car kits
were used extensively in Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Unfortunately, my knowledge of 1960s era automobile styles is weak, thus I am unable to differentiate between most types! Also, I am well aware that many kit components were used to detail models that were essentially scratch-built. Time constraints force me to leave this huge topic to someone else.
Space City rocket launch gantry
One of the rocket launch gantrys at Space City, seen in several episodes of Fireball XL5, was actually made using the parts included in the old
rocket kit. Another rocket launch gantry, seen in the
and other episodes used components of
Subterran defense missiles
The Subterranean planetary defense missiles featured near the end of Wings of Danger appear to have been made using
kits that were modified through the strategic application of
Robot supply ship
The robot supply ships seen in The Robot Freighter Mystery used a golf ball and two
model kit engines in their construction.
The three black alien space ships featured in Invasion Earth
were made almost entirely from
kits. Each space ship miniature consisted of a B-58 fuselage and wings with vertical stabilizer removed. A large disk shaped object of unknown origin was attached to the nose. An inboard jet engine pod was attached to each side of the fuselage immediately below this disk. Two outboard jet engine pods replaced the vertical stabilizer. An additional outboard engine pod was mounted on top of each wing, opposite what would have been the normal B-58 position. Long tripod landing gear made from wire completed the design.
It is interesting to note that an unmodified B-58 fuel pod, with characteristic Revell fins, was used in this episode as an alien ground vehicle. This was visible in a brief clip, being 'lowered' from one of the space ships.
Space City surface to air missiles
Several large surface to air missiles can be seen rising into launch position near the end of Invasion Earth. These miniatures were actually
missiles. These models were built 'right out of the box' except for the ramjet engines which were attached to both sides of the end of the missile body instead of their normal underwing positions.
WASP Hydromic missile launchers
Marineville power plant
Marineville power plant
appears to have been constructed using Kibri oil refinery and water tank kits made for HO/OO scale model railroad trains.
Marineville car control car
The silver automobile that appears on the submerging
Marineville car control
platform in several episodes appears to be a stock Chevrolet Corvair kit.
WASP Bandship Downbeat
The WASP bandship submarine 'Downbeat' appears to have been constructed using the conning tower and center hull section from a Renwal, Monogram, or Revell
The World Security Patrol submarine featured in Stingray is Launched and
appears to have been an
kit. This miniature looks like it may have been used 'right out of the box'. However, from certain angles it looks as if the model's bow hydroplanes may have been altered or replaced with larger rectangular examples.
WASP underwater interceptors
The WASP underwater interceptors seen in Stingray is Launched were actually slightly modified
Titanican surface agent X20's personal submarine seen in Plant of Doom,
and several other episodes, was actually a
kit. The X-5 was built without its wings and had several new 'fish-like' fins added to its fuselage.
The undersea alien submarine featured in Sea of Oil was made using a
kit modified by the addition of extra fins and a cylindrical engine extension made from a
kit's 1st stage.
Gaddus' submarine seen in Hostages of the Deep appears to have used some kind of plastic sailing ship kit's hull. It is possible that the old
kit was used. This miniature also used
engine pods, and other unidentifiable objects in its construction.
U.S. Industrial complex
The US industrial complex targeted by the Solarstar missile ejector submarine in The Big Gun was made using Kibri oil refinery and water tank kit parts.
Marineville bomb disposal unit truck
The white bomb disposal unit truck seen in Emergency Marineville was made using a 1955 Ford pickup truck kit.
World Navy submarine
The World Navy submarine featured in The Man from the Navy utilized a plastic toy or model kit 'midget' race car body as it's hull. The miniature also incorporated several scale deck fittings of the sort used by wooden model ship builders and propellers made from
The grey and yellow WASP helicopter seen in Pink Ice and
was actually a slightly modified
kit. This model was given a new tail boom and fin that was attached to the top of the Husky's long exhaust pipe. Only one rotor and rotor support pylon was used. Also, the landing gear skid parts were not used, leaving the helicopter with only small wheels for landing gear.
El Hudatvia target aircraft
In Star of the East, an Arab despot named El Hudat destroyed two radio controlled target aircraft during trials of his new 'WADI' gunboat. These blue and orange aircraft appear to have actually been unmodified
WSP Remote controlled freight airliner
The World Security Patrol 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' destroyed by El Hudat in Star of the East is clearly a modified
kit. This model appears to have the same canard configuration and paint scheme as the WASP Spearhead jets described above. However, the 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' model was very different in design. The model retained the normal B-58 vertical stabilizer with a new swept horizontal stabilizer added to its tip. Also, it appears that an inboard engine pod was mounted on top of each wing opposite its normal 'B-58' position.
There is an interesting and confusing discrepancy visible in TV footage of this miniature. If you slow down a video or laser disk to a freeze frame on this aircraft, you will notice that the jet that explodes is a different model altogether! It has an additional two engines mounted on the tail like one of the common Spearhead jets! I suspect that only one 'Remote Controlled Freight Airliner' model was made and that some kind of accident happened to it. Thus, a substitute aircraft model had to be obtained midway through filming in order to keep the proper schedule.
The enemy submarine featured in A Christmas to Remember has a vaguely familiar shape that may have utilized a plastic warship kit's hull. Do I dare say that it resembles Supercar from above? The miniature definitely utilized inverted
vertical stablizers as forward hydroplanes.
The Mole Thunderbird 2
used parts from the
an unknown model car, and
in its construction.
The truss bridge is immediately recognizable as the elevating portion of the Mole's trolly. One half of the Atlas rocket is mounted on either side of the bridge. Hustler main landing gear strut parts are visible attached to the front of the rocket. The car part is noticable as the boxy housing at the rear of the drill itself.
and other similar tracked Thunderbirds
vehicles appear to have all used the same unknown
toy tank or model kit
for their wheels and tracks.
UN rescue helicopters
The yellow UN rescue helicopters had
outboard engine pod halfs mounted on the sides of their landing skid supports.
American automobile kits
Many American automobile kits from the early to mid 1960s showed up in unmodified or slightly modified form in Thunderbirds. Some of these kits included:
Ford Thunderbird kits appeared in several Thunderbirds episodes including
Corvette Stingray automobiles with bubble tops appeared in City of Fire,
and Thirty Minutes After Noon.
Lincoln Continental Estate automobiles appeared in
and Cham Cham.
A Pontiac Bonneville appeared in The Duchess Assignment.
Although I do not know for certain exactly which manufacturer's kits were used by the Thunderbirds team, I suspect that AMT 1/24th scale kits were the most likely candidates.
UN 10 jet
The dark blue and white aircraft with white 'UN 10' markings that appeared in Trapped in the Sky was made using the fuselage, vertical stabilizer, and inboard jet engines from a
kit. A new jet fighter type cockpit canopy, swept wings, and a 'T' type horizontal stabilizer from unknown sources were added.
U.S. Army helicopter #2
The red and white U.S. Army rescue helicopter seen at the end of Pit of Peril was made using a
kit, possibly of Airfix origin, and
parts. Two B-58 outboard engine pods were mounted in place of the helicopter's tail rotor, the kit's 5 bladed main rotor was replaced with a three bladed version, and the model was fitted with new landing skids made from wire.
Thunderbird 1 robot camera
The remote controlled flying video camera that comes out of Thunderbird 1 in Pit of Peril and Edge of Impact appears to have used the old
kit combined with three
jet engine pods.
The Sunprobe rocket gantry seen in Sunprobe was built using
and parts from the
The three Zombite fighter jets featured in The Uninvited were made using
inboard engine pods. The unique ring tail came from an unknown source and was supported by an assembly constructed from a split F-104 horizontal stabilizer fin.
The three yellow and red air sea rescue jets seen in Operation Crash Dive and The Imposters appear to have been reworked from The Imposters World Navy jets described below. The only visible difference, except of course for paint scheme, is that these ASR jets have an triangular extension applied to the front of their vertical stabilizers.
The light aircraft used by
at the end of Martian Invasion
appears to have been a
kit modified with a new 'butterfly' tail section.
Monorail inspection heli-jets
The two Atlantic Pacific monorail line inspection heli-jets seen in Brink of Disaster were made using a
kit's cabin mated to a tail boom made from the rear fusilage and vertical stabilizer from a
Helijet type #1
The small heli-jets seen in Pit of Peril (yellow), City of Fire (blue) and End of the Road (red) were made from two
kit cabins joined back to back. The miniature was detailed with wings, jet engine pods, and other parts from
The two Red Arrow prototype aircraft featured in Edge of Impact were made from
aircraft kits modified through the application of
inboard engine pods to the wings and outboard engine pods to the top of the vertical stabilizer.
The unusual enemy attack jet seen at the very beginning of Edge of Impact was made using a
fusilage. The vertical stabilizer came from a B-58 kit. The miniature's wings, missile pods, and ventral stabilizers were of unknown pedigree.
The markings applied to this miniature's vertical stabilizer apparently came from a U.S. Air Force 'Thunderbirds' aerobatic team
kit. Interestingly enough, this exact same decal was also used on the large 'SAF' target tug aircraft featured in Trapped in the Sky and
The two blue and white World Navy jets seen being elevated and launched from an aircraft carrier in The Imposters used
fuselages. Wings were actually
vertical stabilizers. The long ventral engine was made using the front intake portion of a Revell B-58 engine pod mated to a tube that may have been metal or wood. Horizontal and vertical stabilizers came from unidentified sources.
Jet type #2
Two crudely finished aircraft models with black or dark blue fuselages and white tails can be seen being elevated on World Navy aircraft carrier ramps in The Imposters
immediately following the aircraft described above. One of these jets can be seen being catapulted off the deck just before the launching of a former WASP fighter from Stingray.
I suspect that these miniatures were made using
kits that were modified through the addition of a new tail and a ventral fuel tank made from a
Jet type #3
jet fighters can be seen overflying Tracy Island in The Imposters. It looks like these jets have light blue bodies and a white vertical stabilizer.
There is a brief clip during The Imposters search operation sequence with a long, dark heli-jet. This heli-jet was apparently made using the forward fuselages from two
kits joined back to front, four
jet engine pods, and the horizontal stabilizers from two
The long heli-jet seen at the beginning of The Imposters
and at the end of 30 Minutes After Noon
appears to have used a severely modified
kit for its main body. The model's forward stabilizer fins came from the
kit and the rear fins are
I am not 100% certain about the pedigree of this miniature. Although it has many Chinook characteristics, there is something not quite right about the shape. Perhaps the miniature was based upon a plastic Chinook toy, not a scale model kit.
The red and white airliner that lands in front of an Air Terranean Fireflash jet in The Imposters appears to have been built from a
kit, possibly made by Aurora.
The U.S. spy satellite featured in Cry Wolf was made using a pair of Vollmer gas storage tank segments, electric road race guardrails, and other assorted bits and pieces of junk.
The small jet fighter seen landing on top of a large 'carrier aircraft' during the airshow in The Duchess Assignment was constructed using an
fuslelage combined with an
wings. I suspect that this aircraft's vertical stabilizer came from a
kit and that its horizontal stabilizer was provide by the F-101 kit. A large drop-tank was mounted below the fusilage between the wings.
The strange World Navy markings seen on this aircraft, its carrier jet, and also seen on other aircraft models in Thunderbirds appear to have been made by combining U.S. and German Air Force decals.
The three enemy jet fighters seen in Cham Cham
were made using the fuselage, wings, and other parts from a
kit combined with the vertical stabilizer and outer wing panels taken from an
The F-104's nose was shortened. Outer wing panels were made from F-104 horizontal stabilizer parts split in half and a drop tank was attached to the joining surface. Horizontal stabilizers were actually the Draken's outboard wing panels.
Sharp Cham Cham observers can see the shadow of a short rod used to link two of these jets together in the scene where they take off from the enemy base.
If you look very closely as the USAF 'RTL-2' rocket transporter aircraft leaves its hangar in Cham Cham, you will notice a small red jet parked near the RTL-2's hangar door. This aircraft appears to have been made from a
kit modified with a
jet engine on each wing and a new 'butterfly' (V shaped) tail made from two Draken vertical stabilizers. The Draken's outer wing panels were replaced with
horizontal stabilizer halfs.
Thunderbirds Are GO!
The 'Gyropedo' guided torpedoes seen in Atlantic Inferno were made from a jet aircraft kit's drop tank parts with small 'wings' added.
World Navy target submarine
The World Navy target sub featured in Atlantic Inferno appears to have used a US Nuclear submarine kit (one of Renwal's SSBN kits perhaps) as its basis.
World Navy rescue heli-jets
The blue and red World Navy rescue heli-jets seen in the episode Atlantic Inferno appear to have used some kind of model car kit for their main body combined with B-58 inboard engine parts, F-104 horizontal stabilizers, and drop tanks from an unknown aircraft kit.
Glenn Field air sea rescue jets
The four silver and multicolored tail (red, yellow, green, and blue) Glenn Field Air Sea Rescue Service search jets seen in Thunderbirds Are Go! were made using
fuselages combined with F-105 wings. Winglets were made from
horizontal stabilizers. A rudder-top scanner pod was made from an
kit's bomb minus the tail section. The tail section of the B-58 bomb, complete with cruciform fins, was grafted onto the F-102's nose. Skid landing gear appears to have been made using small bombs taken from the F-105 kit. The large rear engine came from other unknown sources.
Desert airfield aircraft
The derelict aircraft seen inside a hangar at the abandoned desert airfield featured in Thunderbird Six appears to have been made using a stock
Base Concord J17 fighter
The red, silver, and black J17 military jet seen in Renegade Rocket appears to have been made using an
kit's fuselage, wings and vertical stabilizer, along with three external fuel tank parts and horizontal stabilizer from unidentified sources. The Mirage's nose was extended using the front half of a bomb or external fuel tank.
Base Concord missile
One of the missiles seen being lowered into a bunker at Base Concord in Renegade Rocket appears to have been built from a
Mysteron construction vehicles
One of the Mysteron construction vehicles seen in Lunarville 7 and
appears to have used the inverted fuselage of an unknown, possibly European military, helicopter kit.
Another one of these vehicles may have been made using the forward half and side doors of a
One of the airliners seen in the airport backgrounds in Flight 104 was actually an un-modified
The space station featured in Most Special Astronaut incorporated many parts taken from the
kit. Parts used include the front half of the lunar module ascent stage, the lunar module descent stage, lunar module landing legs, lunar module antenna, service module sides and rear parts, and service module high-gain antenna.
The yellow and black heli-jet seen in Double Agent appears to have used the same sort of kit or toy (Boeing
that the Thunderbirds Pit of Peril helicopter described above used along with the exhaust pipe from a
The green heli-jets seen in Mission X-14 were made using slightly modified
The two yellowish vtol interceptor aircraft seen in Mission X-14 were made using
kits. The Blackbirds were modified through the application of large triangular vertical stabilizers that may have come from an
They were also provided with new cockpit canopies (it looks like the entire forward fuselage may have come from another jet kit but I'm not sure) and landing skids.
These miniatures are in my estimation, the worst looking converted model kits to appear in any Anderson series!