Model Kit Demo - Building the Refit Ambassador Class

October, 2002  February, 2003

- Article and Photos by Stephen L.

On October 7,  2002, I was contacted by a fellow in Washington named Joshua Fuller. He had a request to have a refit Ambassador Class model built to his specifications, with some minor modifications of his own. He had seen the two models of this class I had in my gallery and wanted to commission me to build one for him. The ship would be called U.S.S. Horizon, named for the ship mentioned in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "A Piece of the Action". The Star Trek Encyclopedia indicates the Horizon was a Daedalus Class ship with a registry of NCC-176. Joshua wanted his Ambassador Class Horizon to share some of that heritage and chose a registry of NCC-56176. He speculated that there should have been at least one vessel named Horizon before the Ambassador Class, making this Starfleet's third one.

The modifications to the model, other than the various changes that alter the standard Ambassador Class to the refit version, were chosen by Joshua to be enhancements designed to aid the Horizon in battle during the Dominion War. He wanted additional Transporter Emitters, Phaser Banks, Pulse Phasers, and Photon Torpedo Launchers. The ship already had a back story, so to speak, created by Joshua. He wanted a model built so he'd have a physical representation of his ship.

What follows is a pictorial chronology of the model's construction:

While I was in the process of tracking down a kit of the USS Yamaguchi to convert into the Horizon, I was busy with Adobe Illustrator creating the decals specific to his ship.

These decals are specific to the refit Ambassador Class. The additional Phaser Warning Markings and additional Transporter Emitters needed are already added to the sheet.

Based on the commissioning date of 2351 chosen by Joshua, we agreed that the Starfleet pennants would likely be the TNG style. Research of the Star Trek timeline revealed the earliest use of the TNG-era symbol was used in the graphic for the Galaxy Class Development Project, begun in 2343.
 
Here is a picture of the basic parts of the model from the USS Yamaguchi kit. The parts are entirely molded in clear plastic due to the fact that the kit was meant to be internally lit.

This kit will need to be assembled with Proweld, as Superglue (CA) tends to pull as it dries and often cracks or shatters clear plastic. Proweld won't do this.

 
This picture shows some of the major subassemblies completed. The nacelle caps and impulse engine are tinted Clear Red.

Because some of the model will require special modifications, I will have to give the clear plastic a spray with primer so I can see the details I need to sand off or replace. (It's difficult to see detail when you can see right through the model!)

The secondary hull aft section was sliced off underneath so the third shuttlebay part can be added.
 
The main subassemblies of the kit are completed and placed together for the photo.

Extra escape pod hatches have been added to the aft of the saucer. More hatches were needed, but not included with the kit. The ten extra hatches between the pylons were cut from very thin styrene.

Some of the white plastic seen inside the saucer is some custom internal bracing to make the model sturdier.
   
Automotive spot putty was applied to the kit's seam lines and sanded with 400 grit sandpaper.

The aft phaser strip was an extra model piece from an Ambassador Class I built that didn't require that part. You can see the aft phaser is still the light gray plastic of the Enterprise-C kit.

At this point, the model is almost ready to be sprayed with primer. A few more details need to be added, namely the torpedo launcher complex, pulse phasers, and the lateral phaser banks.

The custom made decal sheet is ready to go. It was printed first on photographic paper and then laser copied onto clear decal film.
   
A gray automotive primer was used to coat the completed assembly. This served the dual purpose of giving the paint coats a better surface to adhere to, as well as highlighting any surface flaws that weren't evident while the model was still clear plastic.
   
This is the top of the model with nearly all of the major details painted. Both 'on' and 'off' windows remain to be painted as do the navigation and running lights.

The display stand was painted Flat Black so as not to detract from the model.
   
The secondary hull requires some more panel paint. All of the major assemblies, (again, minus the windows) are finished.

Since the transparent red caps don't show up as red except in direct light, they will be painted with Gloss Red to have more of an 'on' look.

The windows and other minor details will be painted and a clear coat will be sprayed to protect the paint.
   
Finally, the completed model. The remaining panels were painted and then the windows were done. It was a rough ratio of 75% White (on) windows to 25% Black (off).

The decals went on without much of a problem. The three Starfleet symbol decals had to have the white area carefully painted on the model as most printers and color copiers are incapable of printing white.
   
The navigational deflector radial lines were painted a mild blue tone to give the illusion the deflector's blue color was illuminating some of the housing. 

Here, the Bussard collectors have more of a lit appearance than the tinted Clear Red done previously.

Overall, I learned a lot about the refit Ambassador Class, much more than I knew back when I did mine. It'll be sad to see this one go...I've grown quite attached to it. :)
   
The shuttlebay landing area was carefully masked off and painted a very dark gray, in keeping with the look of the filming miniature and three yellow landing strips were painted over the gray area.

All of the navigational lights were painted their appropriate color. A White dot of paint was applied to the tip of each and then the navigation light color was repainted over the tip again and mostly wiped off. This gives the illusion that the navigation and running lights are actually illuminated and not just a solid color.
 

--- Click to see the USS Horizon page ---

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