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Building Better Buggies
Creation of a new model kit - Part One
This newsletter edition will cover the story of how a team of three of us, consisting of myself, Jamie Hood, brand manager at Round 2 Corporation, and Daniel Prud’homme, a professional draftsman and CAD designer, created a brand new model kit of an unusual subject under the MPC nameplate: The Moon Buggy from Space: 1999. I would argue that despite its diminutive size at just under 3-1/2 inches long, it is one of the most accurate model kits of this type of vehicle likely ever done. The story is long so I’ll have to break it up into multiple parts.
First, here is the end result of our efforts, showing a candid shot of the kit built both as the fictional moon buggy and the real-life commercially available (at the time the show was made) Amphicat ATV in 1/24th scale:
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Coincidentally, back in the real year of 1999, I found and bought a REAL vintage Amphicat on which the buggy was based from a dealer in Manitoba (when I lived there) which was in severe disrepair. It ran, but barely and was in very rough shape. I had once intended to restore it fully and turn it into a Moon Buggy replica, but I just never got around to it.
This is what it looked like when I got it (below). Yes, it has the wrong wheels. That’s because replacement Amphicat wheels were LONG out of production when Behoo Industries, the company in Streetsville Ontario, Canada, went out of business in the 1970s. People had no choice but to retrofit their machines to accept similarly sized wheels made by other manufacturers.
The vehicle’s body was made from bright red vacuum-formed ABS plastic (the colour faded over time) and had a steel chassis that held the running gear and motor, a Sachs 12 horsepower 2 stroke gasoline engine like the ones used in snowmobiles.
The Amphicat brand was also manufactured by Magna corporation in the USA as well, but they visually differed significantly in several ways from the one used in Space: 1999. It was this Canadian version that was used in the show.
Fast forward to 2016. Round 2 had released the new (and fantastic!) 22” Eagle Transporter kit and was about to release the Cargo pod version. Jamie Hood decided he’d like to do a Nuclear Waste Area diorama kit that could be an accessory to it. The 22” Eagle is in 1/48th scale, so for the diorama, a similarly sized moon buggy was also to be needed to flesh out the scene. It was also decided that a Moon Buggy in a larger 1/24th scale could be added to the kit as a bonus.
Well, wasn’t it lucky that I had that real Amphicat to go by? The vehicle was extensively photographed and manually measured to use for reference. I strategically shot it in an orthographic style by walking the camera back a hundred feet or so and used a 300mm zoom lens to reduce parallax and perspective errors so that correct contours and shapes could be accurately gleaned. (I wrote a detailed article on my main website detailing this many years ago if you want to better understand the technique. You can see it here) Measuring sticks with 1” increments would help to ensure accurate dimensions. Here are examples of just some of the photos done using this method, which produces a very blueprint-like quality. Every detail possible, including the engine bay and internal chassis was fully documented. Even the underside and other details most people would never really notice. I had to prop the amphibious vehicle on its side to take those! (Click on the photos below for a larger view)
Here is a detail of one of the photos:
With all those pictures and measurements done, it was now up to daniel Prud’homme to develop the CAD model on which the kit was to be based. Dan is a perfectionist and a real stickler for detail, so he didn’t rest until all of it was absolutely right. He did an amazing job to be sure.
You might wonder about the wheels and how we corrected those. Well, I had obtained some very high-resolution photos of the actual moon buggy seen in the show as well as pictures from an existing set of wheels/tires that were supplied by someone online, but due to copyright reasons, I cannot post them here. Rest assured, a LOT of time was spent researching them and getting them right, even down to the textured “Amphicat” logos on the side walls which really are represented in the kit!
There was one detail that was done the “old school” way, and that was the steel chassis and engine. It was too difficult for me to provide all that detail to Dan in a way he could easily interpret, and since I had the real thing right here, I made the entire chassis assembly completely by hand in 1/12th scale, double the size of the 1/24th scale kit, knowing that this unit would be molded in one piece by the factory at a reduced size. Therefore my job was not to build it as it actually was, but as the factory would have to mold it which included simplification of details and draft considerations due to the limitations of plastic injection molding. As I have a reasonable understanding of these techniques, it was a fairly simple task. Also, I understood that once the chassis was installed into the finished model, most of the “buried” details would not even be seen, as they are even hard to see on the full-scale ‘Cat. I had a lot of fun building this part since I do love to scratch-build and wish I could be called upon to do a lot more of it.
I started off with building the basic frame:
Then I finished the engine, chain drive systems, centrifugal clutch with belt, transmission, muffler, and even the battery.
The finished model was sprayed with gray primer to check it all out and when satisfied, I sent it to Jamie Hood at Round 2, who in turn sent it to the factory where it would be scanned and incorporated into the tooling for the 1/24th scale kit.
This concludes the beginning of how the kit was developed. Stay tuned for the next part of this newsletter which will go into further detail on how this kit was created and the end result.