The models of Fireball XL5
Earth manned spacecraft
Marc J. Frattasio
Fireball XL5 was designed jointly by Reg Hill and
Originally it was to have been called 'Century 21' but
inspired by a brand of motor oil called 'Castrol XL', changed the name to Fireball XL5. The ship is launched from Space City on a long rail, an idea taken from the Russians who originally planned to launch their early rockets this way (perhaps inspired by German V1 'Buzz Bomb' scientists captured from Peenemunde by the Red Army after the war).
the inspiration for the take-off sequence lay elsewhere – JLN2nd]
Fireball XL5 is a two part ship. The nosecone, which is called 'Fireball Junior', can operate as an idependent spacecraft. The ship's main flight controls are of course located in Fireball Junior. However, there is also an auxilliary flight control station located beneath a long transparent canopy on top of the main body. Generally, Fireball Junior is used as a lander while the main body of the ship remains in orbit, manned or under the control of
Robert the Robot.
Here is the back end of Fireball XL5. There were at least four models made for various filming requirements. The smaller models were repainted from time to time to represent other XL class spaceships. These models ranged in size from 5 inches to 9 feet long. The Fireball XL5 models were made for the most part from wood. The larger ones had thin plywood parts while the smaller ones were made from balsa wood. Magnets and iron were used to attach the Fireball Juniors to the main ships.
Here is the EF Z4 space tanker seen in
and in several other episodes of Fireball XL5. This model was made from a pair of toy balls, some model aircraft kit fins, Airfix model railway bridge parts, and other bits and pieces of junk. This is the thing that MPC attempted to duplicate in their 1964 Fireball XL5 Space City Playset without much success. The MPC version of this vehicle is marked 'XL Fuel' and was called a 'Jet Fuel Tank' on the side of the package.
This is the Mayflower 3 space colony ship featured in
This appears to have been made from a pair of cylinderical plastic bottles plus three model tank kit track assemblies, several model aircraft kit fins, and other kit parts. This model was modified and given a repaint for use as Freighter A14 in
Space freighter A14, featured in A Day in the Life of a Space General
, looks like it may have been a modification of the Mayflower 3 from 'Space Immigrants'.
This is Master Astronaut Kelly's LP (light patrol craft) 22 space ship as seen in
This appears to be a simple balsa wood shape with plastic aircraft kit parts attached. This model may have been reused later on as a World Security Patrol guard submarine in the
The SF4 was featured in
as a bulk ore freighter. This model appears to have been made using three toy balls (possibly golf balls), some plastic bottle caps, a glue applicator, and various model aircraft kit parts.
'Q' spaceship (actually an armed freighter intended to trap a gang of space pirates) from 'Space Pirates' was similar though not identical to the SF4 ship pictured above. An extremely similar model, it has a different nosecone.
This is Jim Ireland's survey ship, the Explorer, as featured in
This model appears to have been made using a combination of balsa wood and plastic kit parts.
The SCS Valiant was a ship operated by the Briggs Brothers Space Salvage Company in
It looks like this model was made from balsa wood, detailed with kit parts and other things.
This is the one-man space capsule flown by Lt 90 in
This is just a simple turned wood shape with attached wooden fins.
Here is the wreckage of the TA2 survey ship as seen in
Who knows what this thing was made of!
The SS Thor is the ship used by Boris and Grizelda, the space spies. The front of this model appears to be made from a ribbed bottle cap and the main body may actually be some kind of bottle.
The space fuel tanker was featured in several epsodes of Fireball XL5. It turned up in 'A Day in the Life of a Space General' and
as a fuel tanker. It may also have been redressed for use as a pirate ship in 'Space Pirates' and as Kanerick's ship in
Like many other Fireball XL5 minor spacecraft, this thing was an amalgamation of plastic kit part details on top of a plastic bottle or balsa wood fuselage.
The pirate ship featued in 'Space Pirates' may have been a modification of the space tanker seen in 'Faster than Light' and other episodes. Note the aircraft wings (looks like they came from an airliner kit) and aircraft external fuel tanks. Looks like the basic body of the model was made from some kind of plastic bottle. The neck of the bottle appears to be the rocket exhaust!
Here is the criminal's ship featured in
This model appears to have been made from a variety of model aircraft kit parts.
This page published originally at
the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
Marc J. Frattasio;
not for reproduction for profit without his express permission