Monogram 1/144 scale Saturn V
Excerpt from a draft of an article to appear in Quest Magazine
Copyright (c) 1994 Peter Alway (Källa)
The least expensive Saturn V kit available today, Monogram's Saturn V is probably the most fun. Not only do all stages separate, but the Lunar Module fairing opens in four hinged quadrants and the Lunar Module features folding legs. If you want a Saturn V to re-create every phase of an Apollo flight, this kit is for you.
Unfortunately, this kit suffers from several inaccuracies. Most grating to me is an undersized command-service module. While modeled at the correct length, the diameter of the service module scales up to 135" as opposed to 154", about 12% too small. This cannot be corrected without destroying most of the functioning gimmicks of the model. [ed. note: a correct Apollo CSM is available from RealSpace Models.] The Service module also features surface detailing characteristic of the early Block 1 spacecraft, rather than that of the manned Block 2 Apollo.
Monogram cut corners in tooling this kit, with the result that some details are poorly represented. The Reaction Control System thrusters on the service module are integral with the Service module halves, and are poorly defined. One problem inherent in a kit build with stage halves is that the quality of the corrugations is poor near the seams. The engines of the S-II stage are especially badly represented. Only the bottom halves of the engine bells (below the second stage heatshield) are molded. Above the shield, in plain view when the stages are separated, is a gaping vacuum where the J-2 engines' mechanisms belong.
The most conspicuous errors of the kit are the most easily corrected. The recommended paint scheme (at least in my 1986 "Young Astronauts" edition of the instructions) is based on pre-flight documents, and is not correct for any Saturn V flown. Monogram directs the modeler to paint the original first stage roll patterns used only on the unflown integration test vehicle SA-500F. The black areas were greatly reduced when technicians found the temperature in the intertank area became unbearably hot. There are also "USA" markings provided that appeared only on SA-500F.
The Monogram kit comes with eight ullage rockets for the S-I-C/S-II interstage ring. This is correct only for the unflown SA-500F and the unmanned Apollo 4 and 6 launches. To model Apollos 8 through 14 accurately, you would need only those parts directly above the first stage fins. Apollos 15, 16, and 17 carried none of these ullage rockets. Unfortunately, there are visible flat areas remaining if these parts are left off.
The Monogram 1/144 kit features an appealing, if inaccurate "launch pad" display base with three tiny figures that give a sense of size to the model. Unfortunately, the base hides the F-1 engines of the first stage.
Airfix 1/144 Saturn VSold for a bit more in the US, the Airfix Saturn V could easily be mistaken for the Monogram kit. The chief difference is that Airfix put a bit more effort into detailing and less into operating gimmicks. The Airfix kit shares most of the inaccuracies of the Monogram kit. Most notably the out-of-proportion service module is a hair worse in this kit, and it shares the out-of-date surface detail. The Service Module thrusters are molded as separate pieces and are much better defined. The second stage engines are complete (if not highly detailed). The lunar module shows a bit more detail, although the stages are molded together and the landing legs are fixed. This kit includes four integrally molded ullage rockets for Apollos 8 through 14, but they are positioned incorrectly. As was the case with the Monogram kit, the corrugation quality is poor near the stage half seams. Again the paint scheme is incorrect in my kit (dating to the 1970's) but this is easily fixed. A simple display stand includes a decal commemorating the Moon landing on July 21, 1969, the correct date in Greenwich time!
Revell-Germany 1/96 Saturn VThis is the largest, most detailed, and most expensive Saturn V kit sold. The Revell kit is over 45" tall and will dominate any model display. Going for nearly $100 in Europe, imported kits may sell for as much as $130 in the US. These comments are based on the History-Makers edition of the kit released around 1980 and the instructions from the original 1969 release. The most striking feature of this huge kit is the technique for building rocket stages without seams or excessive weight. The smooth tank portions of the model are made from flat printed styrene sheets rolled into tubes by the modeler. The corrugated sections are injection molded. The corrugations are uniform all the way around the model. Aside from spacecraft decals, the only markings provided with this kit are on the pre-printed tanks, which must be left unpainted. The result is a color mismatch between the white of the tanks and the white of the corrugations. There are no fin letters, or even quadrant numbers on the first stage fuel tank. The original kit recommended the SA-500F paint scheme.
This time, the service module is of the correct diameter, but it still features Block 1 surface engraving. At 1/96 scale, this engraving is too conspicuous to ignore. I scraped all detail from my service module, and applied thin striping tape to simulate the radiator lines in the correct positions. The kit also lacks the Boost Protective Cover over the command module. I adapted a spare command module piece (at the time, I had several 1/96 command-service module kits around) to act as the cover, and glued the escape tower to this part.
The Lunar Module shroud features a clear plastic window, making the Lunar Module visible. I painted this over in my kit. You may wish to add to clear windows to each interstage to show off the engine details. Engine details are a high point of this kit, with four parts per engine, plus additional structural parts for the outboard engines.
Unfortunately, many of the exterior details are not dealt with so well. The kit provides 8 ullage rockets, placed incorrectly. Correcting this will not be easy, as there are large locator tabs on the interstage ring filling space between corrugations. The outside of the S-II stage is poorly detailed. Among other errors, the five hydrogen line fairings around the base of the S-II stage are spaced incorrectly and are of the wrong shape.
This model is fragile and awkward to disassemble. Be sure to set aside a display space for the kit before you attack it. I store mine in the special "carrying case" box, and find I have to repair it most times I take it out. The assembled display stand cannot be stored in the box, making temporary display precarious.