Kit Review: AMT’s “Cadet Series” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Set

Hello everyone!  This entry is a first for me – a sponsored kit review on behalf of a hobby vendor.  I’m doing periodic reviews for the company Models4Hobby.co.uk, and they’ve sent me this kit for review and build.  A copy of this review will also appear on their site.  I’m adding this note here in the interest of full disclosure, and in the future as I add other reviews that are from their lineup, I’ll include a similar header.  Meanwhile, on with the review!

Nice cover art here, makes a good painting reference. Save the box!

Nice cover art here, makes a good painting reference. Save the box!

AMT’s Cadet Series of Star Trek: The Motion Picture…this kit is actually three separate kits in one, each a 1:2500 scale model of the refitted USS Enterprise, the USS Reliant (from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), and the Klingon K’Tinga-class battlecruiser that appears in both films.

For starters, each ship is supplied on its own sprue, while the decals for all three are on a single unified waterslide sheet.  The decals are die-cut, which reduces the work of separating them when you need them.

All the components of the kit

All the components of the kit

Once assembled, these are also pretty small – very convenient if you live with limited shelf space, and actually if you play tabletop games that need a Star Trek theme, these would make some amazing game pieces.  I do a little Flames of War from time to time, and if I had a spaceship game I played often I’d really consider using these as units on the board.  They look that good, really.

Size comparison of the largest of the models (Enterprise) against a standard 3.5” hard drive and a bank-card

Size comparison of the largest of the models (Enterprise) against a standard 3.5” hard drive and a bank-card

Accessories

Unlike many Star Trek models, these teeny models don’t really have a lot of aftermarket accessories – for instance, there’s no photo-etch available for these, to my knowledge.  It would be possible to light these (though difficult), but you’d have to run your own wiring harness as there isn’t any 3rd-party option available.

Media Included

The box itself is worth a little mention, as it has plenty of nice artwork both front and back along with some basic information on each ship.  Pics on the box are useful for painting guidelines, as well as image references for how the kits should look when completed.

Inside the box you’ll find a one-sheet instruction set, some marketing flyers, and a one-page decal sheet.

The assembly instructions are quite simple (which really should be expected, as these tiny kits only have nine to eleven pieces each (9 for the Klingon, 10 for Enterprise, and 11 for Reliant), while the decal and painting instructions are considerably more complex.

AMT CS TMP Fig 4AMT CS TMP Fig 5

AMT CS TMP Fig 6

Instructions front and back, decal sheet – this looks pretty straightforward.

The Klingon will be the easiest of the bunch to both assemble and decorate, since its exterior is mostly uniform in nature and the decals are more of an accent.

AMT CS TMP Fig 7

The decals are die-cut, making them easy to work with

The Enterprise and Reliant, on the other hand, in the end will be almost entirely wrapped in decals, and as a result will be a bit more complex to handle.

The decal sheet is given to extreme detail, including full multi-tone Aztec patterning for both Reliant and Enterprise, so despite their final size they are going to look really hot.

 

 

AMT CS TMP Fig 8

Notice the multiple colors in the Aztec patterning – these look really good

The Parts

The sprues of the kits are easy to handle, even for myself (I am six feet tall, with correspondingly large hands, and I had no discomfort dealing with the parts in this kit).  They were laid out cleanly, with plenty of space between parts and very little crowding.  This is pretty important given the size of these parts, as they are fairly fragile.

AMT CS TMP Fig 9AMT CS TMP Fig 10

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise sprue had quite a bit of flash on it (possibly the mold has aged a bit), but none of it was any great challenge to remove – dragging a razor across the part and then a quick brush with some 600-grit sandpaper took care of it all very quickly.  The Klingon sprue had just a little flash, barely noticeable, and the Reliant was completely clean.

Enterprise had some flash on the parts, but nothing overly difficult to clean off

Enterprise had some flash on the parts, but nothing overly difficult to clean off

Check out the detailing on this hull!

Check out the detailing on this hull!

And the details on the Reliant – these are gorgeous!

And the details on the Reliant – these are gorgeous!

All that said, I think it really deserves note that the amount of detail on these tiny kits is just spectacular – even though the saucer sections of the Federation hulls are smooth, everywhere else the detail on these is just amazing.  I was really psyched to see how good these looked.

It’s also worth mentioning that all three have printed copyright text on the inside of the hulls.  It wouldn’t be anything to talk about except for the two white models (the Federation ships) – the text shows through to the outside.  I’m concerned that this will also show through the decals, so my decision here will be to prime and paint these before decaling.

The text inside the model shows through – not ideal without painting

The text inside the model shows through – not ideal without painting

Tools Needed

Technically, this is a “snap-together” kit, with no tools necessary – and yes, if you have no tools around, you could probably get this done with perhaps just your hands and a pair of scissors to deal with the flash and the decals.

The text

Snap together?  Sure, and Falls Apart too.  Get some glue.

However, as with all things, you’ll get better results by using proper tools.  That said, you won’t need a lot of them.  Here’s my list of what you will need, and what you will want (I will link each one to example products on this site where available):

 

 

 

 

Snippers and a knife – make sure your snippers can reach into small spaces

Snippers and a knife – make sure your snippers can reach into small spaces

Necessary:

A razor knife of some kind (Xacto or other)

Wire cutters or sprue snips

Poly cement (I’m using Humbrol here, but Revell and probably dozens of others

make good model glues)

Model clamps (many different varieties are available)

Make sure your cement has a good long, thin applicator tip

Make sure your cement has a good long, thin applicator tip

(several model tool sets are also available that contain many of the items mentioned)

Optional:

Gap-filling putty (like Plasto or Tamiya’s, Milliput can work, but it’s a little too thick for this)

Primer paint.  A rattle-can style is fine, or if you already have an airbrush that works too.

You can get hold of clamps in many places, I use 3.5” and 5” sizes here

You can get hold of clamps in many places, I use 3.5” and 5” sizes here

Gloss-coat in a rattle-can or for an airbrush

Paints (instructions indicate need for Pearl Wihte, Light Grey, Medium Gray, Copper, Medium Blue, Light Cream, Dark Olive, and Olive Green, if you want to go precisely by the book here).

Decal-setting solution (I use Micro-Set and Micro-Sol, but there are other vendor versions, like Revell Decalsoft and so on that also do a good job)

AMT CS TMP Fig 22

A standard file and a putty-working tool

A good flat-sided file

White PVA glue (same kind kids use in school)

Round toothpicks (called “cocktail sticks” in the UK)

Metal putty tool(s) – you can usually get some cheap dentist’s tools to work with this, but the back side of a razer knife will suffice for this kit.

Additional:

Beer, coffee, or whatever your favorite beverage for working may be.  Probably not hard liquor, since you’re going to be working with sharp tools!

A standard file and a putty-working tool

Never model without appropriate beverages!

Assembly

The assembly of this set of ships is very straightforward, as evidenced by each one getting about a third of a page of instructions to accomplish.  Each one has a few small quirks, so I’ll detail them as we go.  First, however, the overall nature of the kit needs to be examined.

The instructions are super-easy, as the parts count is very small for these

The instructions are super-easy, as the parts count is very small for these

It is labeled a “snap-together” kit, as I said earlier.  This, while technically true, will result in ships that fall apart at the slightest nudge, and you will not be happy with them if you treat this as a glue-free model.  Specifically, the Klingon’s impulse cooling manifolds will pop off, as will the Reliant’s roll-bar, and the Enterprise’s engine nacelles simply do not enjoy a solid fit.  If you look at them funny, they will pop off.

So that said, pick up a vial/tube/whatever of good poly cement.  I’d recommend one with one of those thin metal applicator tubes (I use Humbrol and Revell brands here, but there are other manufacturers who make stuff just as good, and you can find them here).

For each one, remove the parts (carefully!) from the sprues and trim away any excess flast or bits.  Before you use the glue, put the kit together friction-fit first to get a feel for how the parts fit with one another and to make sure you get it right.  After that you can disassemble the kit and reassemble it while gluing.  Some recommend giving parts a bath in soapy water to remove mold-release agents, but I didn’t bother, and didn’t notice any trouble with this.

The Klingon

I can almost feel Mark Lenard scowling at me from the bridge here

I can almost feel Mark Lenard scowling at me from the bridge here

Probably the easiest of the builds, this one goes together very simply.  Assemble the forward “neck” and then attach the command deck to it.  Press the upper and lower sections of the rear hull together, and then attach the neck to the front.  To avoid using excessive force (which leads to broken parts), trim down the tab that inserts into the rear hull a little bit.  Once attached, the engine nacelles and impulse manifolds can be attached.  You’ll probably need to clamp the hull pieces together while the glue dries in order to avoid excessive gaps (it will still have a couple of small ones, but a clamp while drying will prevent it from being unmanageable).

Enterprise

Am I the only one who hears Alexander Courage’s symphony pieces when I see this ship?

Am I the only one who hears Alexander Courage’s symphony pieces when I see this ship?

Press the two saucer halves together and set aside.  Next take the engineering hull halves and lay them out next to one another.  Set the engine pylons into their slot on one of the halves and then press the other half over it to lock it in place.  The deflector dish can now go on.  For each engine nacelle, press the two halves together and then slip over the tab on the appropriate pylon.  Lastly, the saucer can be pressed onto the neck (might take a little wiggling).  The engineering hull required a clamp while it dried to avoid a large gap.

Reliant

…or James Horner’s fantastic soundtrack from Wrath of Khan when I see this one?

…or James Horner’s fantastic soundtrack from Wrath of Khan when I see this one?

This one is the most complex of the three, with several three-part subassemblies to deal with.  First, attach the rear face of the main hull to the lower hull and then press the upper half down to fix them in place.  Determine the correct engines for each side (the ‘fin’ at the rear of the nacelle faces outward) and the correct pylon for each side and lay them out to either side of the model.  Notice that each pylon has a small injection-mold stub on the flat space where the pylon will need to snug up against the hull – make sure to carefully trim those off before assembling.  The engines clamp shut over the angled tab at the bottom of the pylon, you can’t just slip the engines on like you did with the Enterprise or the Klingon.  The main hull required a pair of clamps while it dried to keep it together.

Be careful removing the injection marks here, or you might gouge it like I did

Be careful removing the injection marks here, or you might gouge it like I did

Once the engines/pylons are assembled, set them aside and press the top of the roll bar into the main piece to assemble it.  Next, the final and hardest part of this assembly is up – the pylons each go onto their respective side of the ship, and while the glue is still soft, the roll-bar needs to be placed into the sockets on top of the two pylons and positioned correctly.  Hold it steady for a few minutes to let the glue set.

Once the three are put together, set them aside for an hour or so to let the glue cure.

Let your models rest for several hours after gluing, priming, or painting

Let your models rest for several hours after gluing, priming, or painting

Gaps

Despite using clamps, a few gaps still resulted in the build of these little buggers – the Klingon had a fair-sized gap in the top of its rear hull as well as a few smaller ones around; Reliant had a bit in the roll bar and on the rear of the main hull, and Enterprise’s neck and rear hull both had some minor gaps.

 

The Klingon had the worst of the gaps, but glue and resting time with strong clamps reduced to this to a much more manageable level

The Klingon had the worst of the gaps, but glue and resting time with strong clamps reduced to this to a much more manageable level

Enterprise had a few hairline gaps on the neck and rear hull, some PVA glue sorted that out

Enterprise had a few hairline gaps on the neck and rear hull, some PVA glue sorted that out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller ones were easily dealt with using PVA glue – just get a few drops and mix with water (4 parts glue to 1 water), then apply a little on a toothpick to fill in the small gaps.  For the larger ones (top of the Klingon hull, Reliant’s engine pylons where they meet the hull) use Plasto or something similar.

Prime-putty-sand-prime-putty-sand, my least favorite part of building

Prime-putty-sand-prime-putty-sand, my least favorite part of building

Once dry, the fillers should be sanded where they appear rough.  This will probably require two putty-sand-prime cycles to make them clean enough.

Priming

Before doing any painting/priming, make sure to wash your hands and wipe off any excess stuff on the surface of the models.

I primed all three models – the Klingon in a deep green and the Federation ships in a dark grey.  The green I was hoping would ‘bleed through’ a bit to show up in the light grey I would use as a base coat.  The grey was there to blend out the show-through of the printed text inside the parts of the Fed models.  In hindsight I should have just hit them all with dark grey and been done with it, but whatever.  Primer serves two main functions here – first to give the final paint a better grip on the model, and second to show you places that need sanding/filling.

Most of the time you see Klingons referred to as being green for their hulls – this was from the studio model of the Original Series D-7, which had a metallic/pearl green hull.  The Amar from TMP and Kronos 1 from ST6 both were more of a metallic grey on-screen, and even on screen the Original Series ship didn’t show off as all that green in hue.  I’ll do a little greenish wash on the hull coat later to give it a little hue, but not so much that it veers dramatically away from the screen appearance.

It’s almost like my own little sci-fi Christmas tree here

It’s almost like my own little sci-fi Christmas tree here

I used some spare sprue lengths and a bit of blue-tack (mine isn’t blue, it’s white, but that seems to be the prevailing name – any sort of sticky gum will do the job) to make something I could hold them with while I sprayed.  Once one side was dry, flip it and do the other (making sure none of the tacky stuff stayed on the ship).

 

 

Notice the ball of tacky gum – this stuff can be found in office-supply sections of your local supermarket, Uhu was the manufacturer of mine, you can also use “blue tack”

Notice the ball of tacky gum – this stuff can be found in office-supply sections of your local supermarket, Uhu was the manufacturer of mine, you can also use “blue tack”

After the primer was dry, I hit the two Federation ships with some Tamiya Fine White primer as a base coat for the hull, and the Klingon got a light grey coat.

A note on the use of paints – you need to have patience when waiting for them to dry.  It’s not just drying that’s needed – it’s curing, too.  Paint may feel dry to the touch, and even be easy to handle, but extended pressure or handling can reveal that the paint isn’t quite done yet, and you can give yourself a real headache by handling them too soon.  Give Tamiya paints at least two or three hours to set before extended handling, preferably let them sit overnight.  I made a mistake with the Reliant and it messed up some of my hull coat.  Took a lot of sanding and repainting to get it to look right again.

Here they are, all gloss-coated and ready for decals (Reliant was repaired after the accident below)

Here they are, all gloss-coated and ready for decals (Reliant was repaired after the accident below)

I jumped the gun a little on applying the hull coat, this is what happened when I detached the tacky gum after painting the underside

I jumped the gun a little on applying the hull coat, this is what happened when I detached the tacky gum after painting the underside

Once the hull coats were dried and fully cured, I applied a gloss-coat over all the surfaces to prep them for decals (decals go on best against a glossy surface – matte or even satin finishes can grab and rip decals).  I have some automotive clear coat I use, but in hindsight I don’t recommend this for these models – it works fine for big stuff 1/35 scale, but for these little guys it just goes on a little too thick.  Rattle-can gloss coat from Tamiya or Vallejo would probably be just fine.

While I let the gloss-coat dry, I’ll take a break here.  Next installment, I’ll cover painting and decals on these kits, which is probably going to be a bit harder than the few minutes it took to assemble them.

(Go to AMT’s “Cadet Series” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Set – Part 2)

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