Terrahawks - Behind The Scenes Special
Repairing the Original Studio SPACEHAWK miniature
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In 2015 I was given the task of repairing the original studio model of the spaceship called Spacehawk, a five-foot miniature used in the 1980s Gerry Anderson & Christopher Burr television series 'Terrahawks'. It was the first Terrahawk model to be built and was made in earliest stages of production when the Japanese investors decided to fly over and visit the film studio. Gerry Anderson surrounded by preproduction artwork was eager to show them something physically built, so he instructed part-time freelance model maker Phil Rae to design and build the model in a two-week time period.
The model was delivered on time (with slightly wet paint) but unlike the other Terrahawk hero models was restricted to being a kit-bashed lightweight plastic construction that, whilst satisfying the investors, did unfortunately come apart later in production and required numerous on-site repairs. One of these repairs replaced the model's plastic tube core with a solid steel one which would keep the model ridged during filming. Unfortunately this very heavy rod has made it very easy to damage the fragile plastic parts, which are becoming more brittle with age, especially when you try to move the very long model. So not surprisingly it had been broken into a great many pieces after 30 plus years and required a complete strip down and reassembly, as I needed pull apart bits that had previously been glued back in the wrong position, and also remove the solid metal core and replace it with a lightweight aluminium one, that would also allow the model to be separated into two parts for future storage/transport.

Photo Gallery

Above Left: The main hull parts as received. Above Right: Front section broken open exposing old empty paint tins.
Above Left: Easy to spot Airfix Saturn V, 1/24th scale Harrier, and Lunar Module kits, together with cake stands and coffee jar lids. Above Right: A 1970s tea dispenser clad in model kit bits and plastic strip.
Above: The various sections had broken away from their mounting points because the vintage plastic makeup containers forming the centre hull had shattered.
Above: Before repairs could start all the parts had to be washed to remove nicotine staining, and general muck, or the new glues and paints would not adhere.
Above Left: Before and after cleaning. Above Right: Starting to remove the metal core.
About centre right: The original rather flimsy 'Ski' yoghurt container had to be rebuilt at the studio from around 30 rings of plastic sheet to create a stronger solid part.
Above centre Right: During a previous studio repair job a small individual section of the hull was removed just behind the nose making the model shorter for the later half of the series.
Above: The front section is basically built from three Airfix 1/72 scale Lockheed Hercules plastic kits, with parts from the Space Shuttle cargo bay.
Above Left: Each section was carefully removed from the metal core. Above Right: Hidden details exposed on the back of this hull section, indicate that it was originally built for another model.
Above right: The 3 original support arms that come from the hull were originally plastic razors, but were changed during the series to metal.
Above: The fragile plastic containers were rebuilt and filled using resin and fibreglass, with metal screws and pins embedded to create strong mounting points. Other metal rods were run through the adjoining plastic toy wheels to improve strength.
Above: Reassembling the model and building my replica at the same time. BIC razor blade handles are screwed to the sides to give support.
The model can now be split into two big pieces, making it far easier to transport and hopefully reduce the chances of being damaged so easily in the future.
Most of the broken parts were in a bag but several missing ones had to be cast from moulds taken from the surviving examples.
Above right: reflective tapes on the original (and new replica model) show that by placing a bright light next to the camera you will create the appearance of interior lights on the model, as the light will bounce straight back into the camera lens.
Finally the original was safely back together (Top) and before returning it to it's owner/creator Phil Rae was pictured here with my completed replica. This was a big repair job, but I did just 'repair' what needed doing and not go full-on restoration with replacing bits and respraying. I only painted the damaged and new areas as I wanted to keep it as 'original' as possible, even if that means 'still a bit knackered looking'.
For me it was certainly the best way to build a good replica, as being lucky enough to have the original studio model to hand is far better than any number of photographs and measurements, so I was happy to perform the repairs and put this classic television hero model back together.

Article and other photographs David Sisson 2020