Revell 1/32(?) Colonial Viper Mk. I

Kit #6442                            MSRP $29.95                  $23.95 from Internet Hobbies
Images and text Copyright © 2009 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
        The Mk-I Colonial Viper, a short-ranged, sub-light interceptor, was introduced into service with the Colonial Space force prior to the first Cylon War and while capable of land based operations, was designed for tube launch from a Battle Star. The Mk-I Viper relied on three main ion-fusion engines that provided power for both space and atmospheric flight and included a semi-stasis system that would allow a pilot of a disabled craft to survive for about three weeks. The Mk-I Viper utilized two laser pumps for primary armament and some models incorporated under wing hardpoints for external loads.
        The Mk-I Viper was an instrumental weapon in the defeat of the Cylon aggressors and after the war was further developed into the Mk-II which included greater external weapons hardpoints and replaced the laser pumps with energized projectile weapons. Several additional developments over the years were put into production with the final production model being the Mk-VII. This version utilized extensive fly-by-wire systems and a state of the art digital navigation system designed by Dr. Gaius Baltar. This navigation this software allowed the Cylons to remotely disable the Vipers during the final Colonial/Cylon conflict. The battle star Galactica was primarily equipped with the older Mk-I units as the craft was by this time more of an operational museum that a front line Battle Star. Even though the security issues had been discovered in the Mk-VII units and removed by this time there was no manufacturing base available to generate additional units and the predominant Viper found within the surviving Human fleet was now the older Mk-I.

The Kit
        I believe it was right around 1978 when Revell released the original Mk-I Colonial Viper kit and it was a fun little kit but not much as a quality scale model. It did not include any clear parts with the canopy simply being a solid gray plastic piece with black window decals. One odd feature of the kit was a rubber band launched missile that was housed in the forward atmospheric scoop. It certainly made the kit fun for the little kids but for the Galactica modeler was not that great. In 1998 the kit was reissued then finally in 2008 the kit experienced a partial retool that included a full cockpit with clear canopy, a retooled stand and the elimination of the rubber band launched missile. Now nearly thirty years after the original release we finally have an injection molded kit of the Mk-I Viper that provides a pretty good starting point to satisfy the serious modeler.
        The kit arrives in a top opening box with nice artwork, inside we have three poly bags full of parts. Monogram always seems to do a good job on their molds and this is no exception. By that I mean even after thirty years and two previous releases of the primary parts we still have nice crisp raised panel lines (hey, it’s a 1970’s kit) and no obvious flash. New parts include the cockpit which is designed with lighting in mind. The main radar screen is a clear panel with various decals that can be placed on it. Should the modeler place a light source behind this panel then that decal would display nicely and the pilot would be highlighted. New parts also include a pilot figure with detached arms and positionable head. Sadly the pilot’s back is open and some areas are visible when he is installed so some filler is needed there. The engine nozzles have been redesigned as well to include clear inserts, again, a feature aimed at the modeler who would choose to light the kit.
        The clear parts are well done with well defined raised frames and good clarity. The engine inserts are a little odd and don’t really have a positive placement to the frame. The stand is new and allows for various positioning of the finished kit. The kit includes twenty eight light gray injection molded pieces and five clear parts for a total of thirty three parts in the box.

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Decals and Instructions
        The kit instructions consist of an eight page A-4 sized pamphlet that opens with a very brief description of the Viper and an equally brief color chart. We get six exploded view assembly steps that include some color call-outs and one page devoted to decal placement. While decal options are given for both Galactica and the Silver Spar squadron there is no optional head for the pilot for the Silver Spar squadron.
        As I already mentioned we get unit markings for both Galactica and Silver Spar which also include should patches for the pilot. A selection of pilot names are included for outside the canopy and a set of kill markings are included. Most of the decals lay down well with an application of Micro-Sol but some of the larger ones need some help over the sharper contours. The strips around the engine intakes are tricky and need some stress cuts made to get a good curve around the part. Color density is good and print registry is good.

        Back in the day when this kit was first released and long before I had acquired any real skill at building and finishing models I had one of these and really enjoyed firing that rubber band missile at the cats, oddly they did not seem to enjoy it as much as I did. That kit has been gone for many years now and like so many older modelers I am always happy to rebuild one of my early kits and do it better. This retool from Revell is an excellent opportunity to do just that and much more. The original kit offering was a good kit and the molds have weathered the years well. Overall general fit is very good, instructions are good and decals are good. The kit improvements are great and really take the kit from the toy level to the serious modeler level. The inclusion of clear parts for lighting is obviously driven by someone within Revell that understands what the Sci-Fi builder is looking for. I give this kit a very good recommendation and you get one for your collection.

        Right from the initial purchase I had plans to light this kit, after all, it just begs for it. Lighting this looks to be a pretty easy task as there are no flashing or timed lights required. I probably could add a timer chip and make the main engines flicker but I think I would rather have steady burning engines this time. For LEDs I am using a selection of 5mm super bright blue for the engines and a 5mm super bright green for the main display. Additionally I am using three 3mm super bright white, 1 1.6mm red and 1 1.6mm yellow LED for the side panels in the cockpit. All resistors are 470 Ohm resistors scaled for a nine volt battery. I cut down a small perforated board from Radio Shack to act as my hardware base.
        To get the ball rolling I started with the cockpit tub and cut out the two large displays on the right consol and drilled out the three small displays below the main radar display. I wanted to mount the green LED a little ways from the back of the radar panel to allow a little dispersal of the light and to cover the three lower displays as well. To eliminate light leak I used scrap styrene sheet and built a light tunnel to mount the LED in which was painted black on the exterior surface. For each of the side displays I cut pieces of clear plastic to insert with clear parts cement then applied some Reheat instrument decals on top. The rest of the instruments were painted but I thought I needed a little more. In the third image below I tested the side panels with a blue LED but did not like the result. I started drilling out buttons on both side panels with my welders tip drill then filled the holes with Future tinted with food coloring. Now when I install clear LEDs they provide some colored lights on both side panels. For the side displays I used low output 1.6mm red and yellow LEDS. All LEDs were installed with a hot glue gun and then painted black on the outside surface to prevent light leak. Image four below shows everything in place and while it does look a little ugly it works and you don’t see this stuff when everything is together.

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        For the engines I first built a set of cross members inside the engine bay to support the blue LEDs which were then hot glued to the structure. Next a piece of aluminum foil was pressed over the bulbs and super glued in place. This acts as both a light shield and a light reflector. I made sure that I left a long enough run of wire from the engine bay to the hardware board under the cockpit to build these pieces as separate sub-assemblies. I used a 2.1mm power jack superglued into the display stand hole as my main power jack. I replaced the top of the display stand with the counterpart to this jack and ran two fine wires down the base which will ultimately end up in a battery box. A toggle switch was installed in the bottom of the base.
        All the way through this as each LED was installed it was tested before and after to ensure everything was working properly. Now is the time to fix bugs, not after final assembly. Finally I pressed the completed burner cans in place and test fired the engines to see how things looked. At last I could get serious about painting.

More small images you can click on

        Okay, painting and other stuff. The pilot was done in standard colors, the seat was done with basic khaki and the interior was done with RLM-76. Exterior I used aircraft gray for my primary color with gunship gray as my contrasting color. Burner cans were done with Alclad Steel and the base was done with Testors Titanium. I hit the local craft store and picked up a wooden curio box for a buck which was then stained Walnut and given a gloss coat. The display base was screwed to the lid and a nine volt battery was placed inside the box. After the model was painted it was sealed with Future then washed with a sludge wash which was followed with some Polly Scale clear flat.

        And then it was done. This was a fun little build and a great diversion from the regular stuff. If you have questions about lighting models or using LEDs and resistors feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do what I can to help you out. Lighting models is not that tough once you have the basics down.

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