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Mercury Capsule


1/12 scale


Atomic City Model Engineering


S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number: MHA62001
Scale: 1/12
Contents and Media: 5 sprues of plastic parts (1 in clear, 1 in red, 1 in black, and 2 in off white); a vinyl sprue for the astronaut figure and his accessories; a set of photoetched parts for the retropack straps; a piece of clear sheet; a metal pin; two large sheets of decals
Price: USD$59.96 available online from Squadron.com
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: A rare new real spacecraft release; big and impressive; fantastic detail; accurate; effective and clever use of multi-media; includes astronaut.
Disadvantages: Large sprue attachment points.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended.


Reviewed by Gene Kozicki

Atomic City's 1/12 scale Mercury Capsule is available online from Squadron.com




There was a time when America was obsessed with the "Space Race".

Visions of traveling into space permeated our culture, from movies and books to fashion and interior design. For the first time, spaceship kits were being released based on actual spacecraft, not just something that appeared in a comic book or a Saturday morning matinee. The early astronauts were instantly propelled to overnight fame, receiving the same kind of publicity and exposure that is today reserved for only the trendiest of Hollywood types. Slowly, over the next 15 years, the public became used to hearing about the latest accomplishment in space.

As goals were achieved, it somehow became common. And then it slowly faded from the front pages of newspapers and only started to appear in the pages of specialty magazines.

For us model builders, the "Real Space" kits of the 60's gave way to the STAR WARS kits of the 70's (not that that was necessarily a bad thing). Occasionally, someone would re-issue an old kit and it would be fun to pick up a quick weekend build, reliving fond memories of our youth. But this new release goes beyond reliving old memories.

This is what it must have been like for a kid to get the latest kit back then.





You won't be able to miss Atomic City Model Engineering's 1/12 scale Mercury Capsule kit when you walk by it on the shelf of your local hobby store.

Likely, it will be the box that is dwarfing all the others on the shelf (especially if it is in the "space" section). You may not recognize the name Atomic City Model Engineering (distributed by MRC), but those of us that are familiar with Scott Alexander's work in Hollywood, with resin kits and studio scale replicas, know that he is fanatical when it comes to detail and equally obsessed with engineering. In short, unfamiliarity with this brand name is nothing to fear.

A quick look inside the box proves that.

Everything about this kit leads you to believe it is a new release from one of the major manufacturers. Except of course, most of the major manufacturers would not think to release an all new, large scale styrene kit of a spacecraft that was designed over 40 years ago. (Sorry, I'm done venting now.)

The (huge) box reveals 5 sprues of plastic parts (1 in clear, 1 in red, 1 in black, and 2 in off white), a vinyl sprue for the astronaut figure and his accessories, a set of photoetched parts for the retropack straps, a piece of clear sheet, a metal pin, and two large sheets of decals. The major components of the capsule are large single pieces, already detached from their sprues and separately bagged. All of the parts are quite large as can be expected with a 1/12th scale kit of anything.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

A minor note here is that while the parts are large, so are the sprue attachment points. You'll need a good sharp knife to cut off the parts. (Luckily the smaller parts have smaller sprue attachment points, so the risk of breaking a delicate part is reduced.)



Upon first glance, it appears that the straps that hold the retrorocket packs in place are photoetched metal. Closer inspection reveals that they are stamped out of some sort of steel and are actually made up of two parts welded (or glued) together. They feature some nice detail and they have a nice finish to them - no painting necessary. You will still have to bend them, but the shape doesn't appear too difficult. A nice little multi-media touch. The instructions are professionally laid out - clear and easy to follow. There are some additional photos and text to get around a couple of tricky areas which will help the less experienced modellers who are tempted by this large kit. Decal placement is also clear, courtesy of a large, stretched out view of the capsule that also covers the different variations between missions. The decals themselves are clear, sharp, and thin - especially useful on the corrugated surface of the capsule. I would stock up on Micro-Sol in advance. Markings are included for all of the Mercury missions as well as stenciling and individual gauges on the instrument panel.

Assembly is straightforward and broken down into sub-assemblies. The escape tower can be completed and attached once the capsule is finished (or left removable). Likewise, the interior can be assembled, detailed, and dropped into place once done. The main hatch can be left off so you can see the interior (boy, was it cramped in there). The capsule exterior is broken down into a few major pieces and several smaller detail parts. The only tricky part will be the widow area. The capsule featured a clear fairing over the window, and that is represented in the kit by a piece of clear PVC sheet that will have to be cut into shape with the provided template. Once that is done, it needs to be trapped in place between the capsule exterior and the window frame. This provides a nice clean fairing, but parts must be prepainted and the assembly order followed or you will have to mask the clear fairing later. Luckily, due to the modular nature of the kit none of this should be a problem. (Basically, you have to follow the instructions.) Also included in the instructions are some scratchbuilding tips if you want to model the Alan Shepard sub-orbital capsule. That one capsule had a different main hatch and window arrangement than the others. Some cutting of the kit is required and the instructions warn you that this modification it isn't for inexperienced modellers.

The detail on the exterior of the capsule is fantastic. All of the shingles and the various fasteners are crisply represented, as are a myriad of other little details. The retropack features fine raised details and all of the various panels are there, along with many little hoses, nozzles, and connectors. The detail of the interior is a little basic, though the dash panel has finely molded gauges and individual switches to glue on. The scientific packages carried on the Mercury missions are there, though the fine detail such as switches and wiring is missing. The main dash panel has molded detail on the back of the panel, though. This will help those of us that can't leave well enough alone to wire up the capsule. Due to certain necessities, the pilot figure had to be molded out of a soft vinyl. Though not the first choice of materials for many of us, overall I think the figure is acceptable. It will be interesting to see how one will get the shiny aluminum finish of the early spacesuits to stick on the vinyl material.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

I was able to get a quick dry-fit taped together for some photographs in fairly short order. The final product is going to be impressive. With the escape tower attached, the overall length will be over 24". The capsule itself is 11" long and over 6" in diameter (at the heat shield). The combination of size, detail, and options make this kit worthy of a nice display case. The super detailers are going to have a field day wiring up the cockpit and depicting the various missions, as well as the weathered appearance of a post splash-down capsule. Due to the size of the parts and the layout, I think anyone with a little modeling experience will be able to create a real showpiece.

Highly Recommended.

Text and Images Copyright 2005 by Gene Kozicki
Page Created 13 January, 2005
Last updated 13 January, 2005

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