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The Mystery of the Flying Saucer (kit)

The history of flying saucer kits is fraught with confusion, controversy and perhaps even conspiracy.  In fact, while we know which kit was the first commercially available flying saucer model, there is some debate as to when it was actually released. The kit in question was the 1/48th scale Lindberg Flying Saucer which was probably designed in 1952 according to Atlantis Models, which is the most recent re-issuer of the kit.  It seems likely that it was in part a response of the epidemic UFO flap between 1952 and 1954 as well as a reflection of the role sci-fi films like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS were playing mainstream culture.

Original box art from the Lindberg release in the early 1950s.  This kit was used by Ed Wood to create the saucers in Plan 9 from Outer Space. (Source: Fantastic Plastic)


The 6 1/4 inch silver disc featured a pair of rear propulsion rocket engines and a little green man beneath a clear canopy.  Along the outer edge of the craft seems to feature rockets that would seemingly spin the craft counter-clockwise in spite of the forward propulsion suggested by the rockets.  Some interior detail is provided but even more intriguing is the set of decals that suggest the kind of markings noted in the Roswell crash case of 1947.  This, however, is likely to be more coincidence and cultural meme since the Roswell case was not well known until it was revived in the 1990s.

The Lindberg Flying Saucer was naturally a novelty kit, but ironically, it has gone on to become one of the most important kits ever made.  To begin with, it has been reissued several times and Lindberg included it in some relatively rare special packages like the "5 Space Ships of the Future" and the "Past Present and Future," only available as part of a club offer.  It was reissued again by Glencoe models in the late 90s and more recently by Atlantis Models.  As a fantasy kit, it can stand the test of time since improving detail is unnecessary.

Pictures of the built kit.  As of January 2012, the most recent re-issue is from Atlantis Models.  The kit is technically sold out, but you can still find plenty on eBay and hobby sites.  (Source: Atlantis Models)


But, what makes it really special is that this model was used to create the flying saucers for Ed Wood's now infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.  Wood simply removed the rocket engines and painted the whole thing silver.   In many of the shots, it is possible to see the surface details of the model and side ring rockets (as well as a few wires).

This is important in the history of model kits because it represents a reversed origin, especially in science fiction movies.  Most sci-fi space craft models are inspired by a film.  In this case, the film used an existing kit, almost certainly the first example of that in cinematic history.  In other words, all those Star Trek, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica kits you see are designed based on the film . . . not the other way around.


Another fascinating kit is Aurora's 1/72 scale UFO model released in 1968, which was based on a flying saucer found in the television show, THE INVADERS, that debuted the previous year.  The original issue of the kit featured gray plastic domes underneath and a detachable top to reveal an interior that included alien figures. The kit was reissued by Aurora again in 1977, this time with transparent red domes underneath and 11 figures . . . including, inexplicably, several from a Dick Tracy Space Coupe model.  When Aurora folded and sold the molds to Monogram, it was reissued two more times through them and once again in the late 1980s through a Japanese company, Tsukuda.

That is interesting enough for model collectors, but the original seems to have been based on the photos of George Adamski, who claimed to have contact with alien visitors and was well known in the 1950s.  Moreover, his photos, which actually looked like photos of a homemade flying saucer, somehow closely resembled likely Nazi experimental flying craft during WWII!  Incredibly close in some ways.



The original box art for the first issue of the Aurora UFO.  A complete and admirably obsessive comparison of all known reissues can be found at the source, The History of the Invaders UFO Model.

It has to be acknowledged here that the concept of Nazi flying saucers is . . . well . . . controversial to say the least.  Most scholars freely admit that the Germans, who produced the first jet fighter, the V1 and V2 rockets and had engineered a viable flying wing design at the end of the war, devoted serious attention to developing super weapons.  Generally speaking, Hitler felt he could compensate for being hopelessly outnumbered, even to the end, with superior technology. 

After that, however, it is hard to know what is real and what is myth.  In the most extreme versions of the story, the Nazis created a number of flying disc prototypes beginning as early as 1938 using anti-gravity propulsion systems that they either (a) acquired after a flying saucer crashed in the German Alps; (b) developed as part of a secret project known as Die Glock ("The Bell") or (c) divined through esoteric mystical practices of the Thule and Vril society, the later giving its name to one of the supposed flying saucer designs.  But wait . . . there's more.  According to the myth, a secret base was set up in Antarctica in a region called New Swabia where the Nazis could continue to develop their plans for world domination.  Some people even believe a 1947 Antarctic expedition led by Admiral Byrd was repulsed by a fleet of Nazi flying saucers, and it goes on from there.  (Seriously . . . if you want a good story and maybe a case of the willies, look it up.)

Then, in the early 1950s, a fellow named George Adamski enters popular culture as one of the first of the "contactees."  He is somewhat responsible for the concept of the cigar shaped "mothership" and the smaller flying saucer scout craft, in fact, and wrote many books on the subject.  In short, Adamski claimed that he was in contact with Orthon, a Venusian who arrived in a small "scout" craft, seen below, that looked very much like both the supposed Nazi Huanebu style craft seen in the picture to the right. 

While it is entirely possible, even likely, that the INVADERS UFO design was influenced by Adamski's photos, what are the odds that Adamski's craft would look like a Nazi designed flying saucer without some real contact?  On one hand, Adamski's claims seem to be taken from the script of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and he had a history of social mysticism.  On the other, the ship he photographed, whether he made it himself or not, is eerily close to the supposed Nazi craft.  As Mr. Spock my reduce it, the possibilities are "fascinating."

One of many convincing photos of supposed Nazi flying saucers developed but not perfected in WWII.  Mainstream scholars reject the idea and of course, photos can be faked, but still many of these shots were in circulation before Photoshop . . . though finding the original sources seems to be impossible.  There is much more to see and read at the source of this photo, the Eyepod Nazi UFO page.


(Source:  Burlington News)

(Source:  Saved from the Paper Drive)


Okay . . . so what about the conspiracy angle.  Well, by now many Americans have heard of the famous Area 51, a.k.a. Groom Lake, where supposedly the US Government tests its most advanced and incredible aircraft.  That facility, in one form or another, definitely exists and access is highly restricted.  What is less clear is the veracity of one Bob Lazar, a man who claims to have worked on secret projects there including the back engineering of a flying saucer.  Lazar claimed in 1989 that he was part of a team that constructed a flying saucer from technology recovered from crashes of alien space craft and in fact, he claimed beings from Zeta Reticuli had been visiting the planet for more than 100,000 years.

What makes all this interesting is that Lazar's profile and outlandish claims resulted in a model kit made by the Testor's company in 1996.  (Later a reissue came out that contained a 1/6th "Gray" alien, and Lindberg seems to have reissued the same kit at least once as well.)  Despite the fact that the box said "Top Secret" on the front, there was no apparent attempt to stop the issue of this kit from the U.S. government.  Does that mean that it was all a lot of bunk?

No . . . many people in the UFO community espouse the idea of a slow, planned "disclosure" of the truth, where information is gradually released to the public in the form of some facts, some half-truths and some complete lies.  That is until we are ready to know the truth.

But good luck finding the truth.  It takes about 30 minutes of reading the various conspiracy theories to start questioning the planetary origin of your grandmother.

(Source:  oldmodelkits.com)



That is actually just a small sampling of the various UFO/Flying Saucer kits that have hit the shelves of hobby stores.  In fact, there are several very exciting and interesting kits available on all sorts of TV, film and hypothetical space craft and a number of great light kits to make them come alive. (I mean, what's a UFO without cool lights, right?)  Take a look around the net if you are interested and if you need any spacecraft built to your specifications, let me know at writesjk @ gmail.com.


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