This is the final post of my three-year project to assemble Revell’s 1/96-scale Saturn V model kit. It’s intended to provide a few views of the completed model, and to act as a sort of index to the various sections of the stage-by-stage build log I wrote as I went along.
The kit is fundamentally flawed because it was based on the original SA-500F Facilities Integration Vehicle, a test version of the Saturn V which never flew. (Any Apollo buff can tell that, immediately, from the paint pattern featured on the box art.) The sad thing is that Revell have never revised the kit, despite reissuing it a regular intervals, including this year’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. So the kit includes parts, decals and painting instructions that are inaccurate for any of the Apollo flights, because based on an early test article. It also includes things that are just plain inaccurate—wrongly placed and wrongly sized parts, and incorrect alignments of each stage with its neighbours.
To help me understand and try to fix these problems, I used David Weeks’s 1/48 Saturn V drawing sets, available from RealSpace Models. At exactly twice the scale of the kit, they were a real boon to confirm the location and orientation of various details.
To correct many of the kit’s errors and omissions, I used various after-market detail sets—batted F-1 engines and a Block II Command/Service Module from RealSpace, New Ware’s extensive resin, photo-etch and decal detail set, and a separate decal set for the CSM from Space Model Systems.
First, here’s a four-quadrant view of the completed model, which depicts AS-506, the launch vehicle and spacecraft for the Apollo 11 mission:
And the upper section, in isolation:
There now follows a stage-by-stage description, from the top down, with links to the relevant parts of the build log.
The kit provides an early Block I Command/Service Module, whereas all manned flights used Block II CSMs. This is the resin replacement Block II from RealSpace. Kit parts are used for the Service Module’s Reaction Control System thruster blocks and S-band antenna. Some additional details were added from the New Ware set. RealSpace’s scimitar antennae on the Service Module were poorly moulded, and were removed and replaced with New Ware’s photo-etch parts. Bare-Metal Foil for the finish on the Command Module and aft Service Module heatshield. Some detailing with styrene sheet on the SM aft bulkhead. Decals from Space Model Systems appropriate for CSM-107, the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
The kit lacks a Boost Protective Cover for the Command Module—this is the vacu-formed part that comes with the RealSpace Block II Command/Service Module. I punched a couple of holes in it to represent the two windows over the central and commander’s (left) window of the Command Module. I added the kit Launch Escape System tower, detailed with some styrene rod to simulate structural ribbing and wiring harnesses.
This is the Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) which housed the Lunar Module and supported the CSM. The kit provides an upper and lower section. The upper section contains an unrealistic window, to allow viewing of the Lunar Module in situ. The lower SLA is moulded in one piece with the Instrument Unit, in reality a separate section of the launch vehicle. I filled and painted over the SLA window, and detailed the structure with New Ware parts and styrene strips. I found it was possible to leave the upper part detachable from the lower section, so that the Lunar Module could be displayed in a realistic position on top of the Instrument Unit and S-IVB stage. I also scribed out an umbilical connection port, and corrected an error in New Ware’s decals—the black -Y axis marker provided for the Instrument Unit should be +Y. The moulded support for the kit CSM was removed, since it was positioned wrongly for the RealSpace CSM.
With lower SLA attached:
The alignment between the kit SLA and S-IVB stage is wrong, and requires correction—see build log for details. The kit parts include a printed styrene sheet to be rolled to form the central tank structure. This is marked USA, which is inappropriate for manned missions—I turned it inside-out and painted it to match the rest of stage. The fore and aft skirts needed extensive detailing from New Ware, and the service tunnel was replaced.
The kit provides a single part for the S-IVB aft interstage. The alignment between this part and the S-IVB stage is wrong, and needs to be corrected—see the build log for details. Instead of using New Ware’s replacement retro rocket fairings, I added simulated fairing covers to the kit part using epoxy. I also scribed a personnel access hatch, using David Weeks’s drawings for guidance. The chequered sway targets I painted are too large, but this is deliberate—when sized correctly they could not be made to look square, because of the oversize stringers of the kit parts.
The S-II stage is wrongly aligned with the S-IVB aft interstage—see build log for details of the correction required.
This stage is very poorly depicted by the kit parts. Fairings are missing or wrongly positioned, and need to be replaced with New Ware parts. Attachment points for the kit parts need to be removed and the stringers restored. Stringers extend too far on both the fore and aft skirts, and need to be trimmed back. I added an additional insulation layer to the fore skirt using styrene sheet. Several other areas need to be cleared of stringers to allow the addition of New Ware umbilical connectors and hatches.
The liquid oxygen vent pipes are wrongly positioned, and need to be moved. I also corrected the number and position of the gores on the forward tank dome so that the vent pipes could be properly placed in the correct position. New Ware provides a resin aft heatshield—the support structure was scratch-built using 0.5mm brass rod. The kit’s aft thrust structure is extremely inaccurate, and required considerable modification and detailing with styrene rod before adding resin instrument packages from New Ware. Again, I turned the kit’s printed styrene sheet inside out so that I could produce a uniform paint job, and then mark up with decals from New Ware.
The kit S-II aft interstage comes with eight ullage motors. These were reduced to four on the Apollo 11 launch vehicle, and were later omitted entirely. The attachment points for the kit parts therefore need to be removed and the stringers restored. The kit motor fairings are too small and need to be replaced with New Ware parts. The S-II fairings extended on to the aft interstage—all the New Ware resin fairings need to be divided at an appropriate level, with their trailing parts added to the interstage and aligned. New Ware provides a photo-etch personnel access hatch.
The white flight-separation junctions, above and below the interstage, were added using 0.5mm x 1.5mm styrene strip, wrapped around the locating flanges at the base of the S-II stage and the interstage.
The S-IC stage is wrongly orientated relative to the S-II. I corrected this at the junction between the S-II aft interstage and the S-IC—see build log for details.
The entire aft end of the S-IC stage needs to be remodelled, because of inaccuracies in the heatshield and engines. The F-1 engines were covered with batted insulation, but the kit parts are bare. I used RealSpace’s resin replacements, with Bare-Metal Foil detailing and some scratch-building to reproduce the appearance of the real engines. The kit heatshield is surround by air scoops, most of which were removed in S-IC stages that actually flew—New Ware provides resin replacement for the heatshield, engine fairings and fins, and photo-etch parts for the remaining air scoops on either side of the engine fairings. The New Ware heatshield is poorly detailed—I printed a custom decal sheet to depict rivets and other details in this area. I also scratch-built lunate heatshields for the engine fairings—neither Revell nor New Ware provide appropriately shaped parts.
Slots must be cut in the kit’s aft skirt to accommodate resin hold-down posts from New Ware. The kit service tunnels are the wrong shape and size, and New Ware provides photo-etch parts that can be applied to 7mm half-round rod to produce a more realistic result. Again, I turned the kit’s printed styrene sheets inside out, so that I could achieve a uniform paint job, and then apply New Ware’s decals. And again, stringers need to be removed in several areas to allow the addition of multiple umbilical connections and access hatches from New Ware.
NB: I failed to notice, until it was too late, that this stage is almost an inch too long for its scale size, with most of the extra length being in the forward tank and intertank skirt. This means New Ware’s service tunnels appear too short on the completed model.
Positioned in SLA:
The Lunar Module provided with the kit is wrongly shaped in several respects. I added some scratch-built detailing, painted the thermal panels and adding foil in appropriate shades for Apollo 11’s LM-5, and blocked off the hole in the access tunnel with styrene sheet. I also revised the tank support strut on the left front of the ascent stage—this is modelled as a flange in the kit part, which was removed and replaced with styrene rod. A lot more detail (plume deflectors, aerials and a docking target) could easily be added but I decided against it on the grounds that the LM would be invisible in the assembled model, and would be easily damaged on disassembly.
And that’s it. Something of an epic build, involving equal parts frustration and satisfaction. I’m glad to have done it, but I wouldn’t care to undertake such a large-scale revision project again.
Well … not for a while, anyway.