The U.S.S. Excelsior has been a Star Trek favorite for quite some time now – one of the most elegant designs ever made for the Star Trek universe. I didn’t notice this at first, but the designer was strongly influenced by the 1930s Art Deco Streamline Modern style, which features rounded shapes with straight fluting – quite a retro look when you stop and think about it. I remember a friend of mine, upon first seeing the Excelsior in detail, quipped “This model isn’t so much a spaceship as a fashion statement.” When you look at the extensive use of piping and other fine details, it’s hard not to see his point.
AMT released a model of this lovely ship quite some time ago – almost 20 years, if recollection does not betray me. As a hard-core Star Trek fan and modeler I built this kit when it first came out, and still have it in my collection today.
However, Round 2 has really done this model justice on their re-release, updating and refining the parts to give the modeler the basis for a really stunning rendition of this iconic ship. A quick review of the redesigned parts reveal:
- More accurate main hull, without the ridges on the saucer edge or indented thruster panels, smoothed surround for the bridge area (plus two different bridges), two separate impulse engine crystal sections, phasers and more detail on the lower sensor dome area. Both types of impulse engines are now offered in clear plastic – something the original version did not provide.
- More definition on the secondary hull including indented forward phasers, delineated lower panels, two different shuttle bay inserts with shuttles, and more detail on the internal bay area.
As noted, this version of the kit really does permit you to build both the prototype and the operational versions of this ship – something the original did not offer. This alone makes this kit worth the money, in my opinion.
Proceeding to the build, I worked on the various subassemblies to see if things had changed much. As you can see, the lower saucer remains a relatively poor fit and still requires a fair amount of filling and sanding, especially around the impulse engine shrouds.
This is a good time to work on the neck and other fluted areas as well. Because of their design, care should be taken finishing these with sandpaper and small files in order to retain the fine fluting. Although the circumferential engine fluting is done in clear plastic, you can afford to fill and sand the ends where they meet as this part is normally painted gun metal, although not always. There is still some confusion as to what parts of the engines light up when this ship is in warp, so you’re going to have to use your own judgement about this if you’re planning a light-up version.
One nice touch is the inclusion of shuttles for both styles of shuttle bays, although you have to manually cut out the shuttle bay doors to display either. Unfortunately, this is not a task for the faint-hearted as Round 2 has made no provision for this modification and the plastic is inordinately thick – so much so that you’ll need to trim it back on the inside face as well once you open it up. However, it is a do-able task and adds just a little more interest to this kit.
Since I already had a copy of this ship in its operational state I decided to go for the prototype, using the earlier, larger bridge dome, single impulse engine crystal and round shuttle bay hangar. All of the inserts fit extremely well, although some care needs to be taken with the shuttle bay to press all the surfaces down flat before gluing. Because of the extensive Aztec decaling, I opted to sand off a few surface details to make this job easier, including the tiny phaser cannon bumps, raised detail on the engine mounts and the odd ridges on the bottom of the engines themselves.
This is a model that definitely needs to be completed as a series of subassemblies, if for no other reason than the relative complexity of the paint scheme, although this particular part of the job is dramatically lessened by the new aftermarket decals from Round 2, which eliminate all but a few painting details. Because of the sheer number of decals, however, this was by far the longest portion of the build. Ultimately I elected to airbrush a bit of thinned white to tone down the Aztek pattern, which seemed to me to simply be far too bold. If I remake this kit in the future, I’ll probably go back to using my own stencils for the pattern and use the aftermarket decals strictly for the other markings.
Once the subassemblies were completed, it wasn’t that much of a job piecing it all together. Despite the complexity of the assembly the parts fit is actually pretty good overall, and the additional details Round 2 has added really bring this ship to life.
In the end, you wind up with a lovely replica of a visually fascinating ship. I’m quite pleased with the changes Round 2 has made to his kit as well as the extremely useful aftermarket decals. My thanks to Round 2 for re-releasing this fine model as well as IPMS/USA for a chance to throw it together. Live Long and Prosper!