1/72 Airfix Lunar Lander

Gallery Article by Grant Matthews


"The Eagle has landed" - 20th July 1969



Here is my second attempt at a Lunar Lander (the first being mumble years ago). I bought the kit at Fairford 2003, as it was going cheap, 2.99, and it fitted nicely into my loose modelling theme of 'unique aviation moments'. I had already decided that I was going to cover it in gold foil, but needed more details. Justin Davenport put me onto this brilliant site that contained a whole host of information on how to build a representative Lunar Lander from the very basic and inaccurate Airfix kit. Thanks Justin.

First came the difficult preparations and research. Which chocolate had the best gold foil? How much foil would I need? :o)

Then came the initial modifications to the descent stage. Building up of the rear equipment compartment, cutting out the equipment bay door next to the ladder leg and adding the bulge (of an internal tank) by using the centre piece from a contact lense case. Then came the foil covering. 3 different types were used with about 50 individual bits needed.

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Then came all the 'stretched sprue' bits. Well I can't stretch sprue - melt it, snap it, set fire to it, YES, all to easily. So I used 0.8mm strut for the flame guard supports and handrails.

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Next I began to tackle the long list of mods required to correct the ascent stage.

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The front flange came off first, to be replaced by a foil covered cocktail stick
The front door needed cutting out and a new one building.
The details above the door needed cutting off and just some putting back in the right places.
A docking window was cut in the roof and the docking ring needed major surgery.
Finally the body work needed modifying. As this was my first attempt at "cut'n'shut", I only modified one of the two locations that needed fixing. It turned out quite well - I should have been braver!

It was at this point that I realised that tiny bits of detail, even in 1/72 scale can be done and are worth it for the effect they can have on the final model. I nearly didn't bother with the docking ring mods, but being so visible on top of the kit the extra effort has transformed it from a cone of plastic into a docking ring and the model is much better looking for it.

At about this time I came across a photo in 'New Scientist' which showed all those flimsy panels on the back of the ascent stage. So out came the thin sheet and on went some bent panelling. Again, a small thing but it transformed the look of the model. The top aerial in the shot above was a hopelessly thick molding in the kit. So I used some 0.8mm strut and toothbrush bristles to make a new one. Then came some more foil, about 25 peices for the ascent stage. The painted panels were hand brushed using Humbrol enamels; good old Matt Black #33, Silver #11, Chrome Silver #191 and Ivory #41 for the off white panels.

Other extra bits added were some 1/35 scale washers to represent external lights. (Also very useful as static vents - both sides - on EH101 kits). All 3 windows had to be scratch built, as the two kit windows were badly dimpled. A large Quality Street tub came in handy for that (More chocolate :o)). Some antenna supports, and the leg wires and equipment bay door support were made from 'tinsel' wire I got from a fly fishing stall at a country show. Finally the 'solar panels' were painted red and then a coat of Tamiya clear blue applied to give that glossy purple look.

If any model needed a base it was this one. I painted a polystyrene tile black, dimpled it with my hands and elbows to make craters (bit too shallow though I think) and used PVA to stick on some crushed wood ash to get that dusty grey look. Then I set up the low lighting and tried to take some shots 'on the moon'.

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I know there are still things wrong/missing, but having recently seen photos of the one in the Smithsonian I am very pleased with the model. It looks great on the shelf and the ommisions remind me to keep trying that little bit harder.


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As a final thought. It was only 66 years from the Wright brothers giant leaps to Neil Armstrong's one small step ..... and that step was 35 years ago.



Photos and text by Grant Matthews