Atomic City Models 1/12 Mercury Spacecraft
The big Mercury spacecraft so many people have been waiting for has
arrived! Originally a project undertaken by Atomic Models and now handled
by MRC, the 1/12 scale Mercury Spacecraft is certainly big, coming in
a sturdy box that measures 16x12x5½ inches and weighs a few pounds.
The box top's side panels have some nice photos of Mercury spacecraft
so hang onto this as a reference.
The first thing that strikes you upon opening the box is that this is
one large kit that's going to take a fair amount of paint and glue. When
complete, the entire thing from retro rockets to the spire atop the escape
rocket will measure more than two feet tall!
What's in the Box
sealed plastic bags are five sprues of nice, crisp styrene pieces--a large
red one of mainly the escape tower parts, two light gray ones of interior
parts and parts for the retro rocket pack; a clear one for the instrument
panel, window and face plate; and a black one of miscellaneous parts.
Of course there are the large styrene parts which are individually wrapped--the
spacecraft shell (which is six inches in diameter and five inches high),
heatshield, retro pack, antenna compartment and recovery compartment.
Flash is nil, the only seam lines to be seen are the minor ones on the
escape tower's legs and spire and there are no sink marks. For the most
part, the ejector pin marks are in places that won't be seen once the
model is constructed however some are very visible on the circuit breaker
panels that flank the main instrument panel....if you have a thing against
ejector pin marks, prepare yourself to work in some really tight places
to eradicate these.
in the box are a vinyl sprue of an astronaut and four hoses and cords
that connect to his spacesuit (no seams found anywhere); a sheet of clear
PVC (more about that in awhile); and 3 metal straps for the retro pack.
The kit has two nicely printed decal sheets; one has the exterior markings
for the spacecraft such as "United States," the American flag,
various small stencils and the names of all 6 manned Mercury space flights;
and the other sheet has 17 instrument faces but primarily the stripes
to be used on the retro pack (with all those parallel and converging stripes,
for a moment, I thought someone had included an eye test in the kit!!!).
There was supposed to be a piece of metal wire in the kit to act as
a hinge for the spoiler but it wasn't there. On its website, Atomic City
Models acknowledges that some kits are missing the wire and suggests using
a piece of 0.36 piano wire, 0.73" long.
main instructions are eight pages long. The assembly of the model looks
straight-forward and is reminiscent of how the Revell 1/48 Mercury spacecraft
model was built years ago but at a considerably smaller scale.
As the instructions suggest, you can show the complete model at launch
or as it appeared in space without the escape tower or while re-entering
the earth's atmosphere with its spoiler deployed, antenna housing gone
and the retro rocket pack detached. You can leave the hatch open and not
glue the shell of the spacecraft to the heatshield for a look at the interior.
A template on the instruction sheet shows how to cut the clear PVC sheet
to create an outer window panel.
Basically the instructions show how to build the spacecraft as used
by John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper and there's
page details how to reconfigure the model to look like the spacecraft
flown by Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom; be prepared to use some extra styrene
sheets and to cut the spacecraft shell.
Other nice touches include a large diagram illustrating the locations
of the major decals, a section on how to install the antenna fairing properly
(a bit of a trick) and notes on the spacecraft markings.
Decal and Painting Instructions
A separate information sheet tells how to apply the striped decals to
the retro pack, a tedious task but one with great-looking results. It
would have been nice to have pointed out during the construction part
of the instructions how to paint the retro rocket pack and apply the decals
before assembling all of those pieces so beware....read ALL of these instruction
sheets before working on the model.
is a major oversight in that no instructions are included about how to
place the decals on the instrument panel. Two uniquely-shaped ones are
easy to figure out where to go...into the same-shaped indentations on
the instrument panel...but after that, it's your guess where the remaining
15 round-faced decals go. Maybe Atomic City feels it doesn't matter where
the instrument decals are placed--the instrument panel is hard to see
anyway--but I hope Atomic City sets up something on its website to handle
this oversight. One more word about the instrument panel... there was
no one configuration for all the manned missions; the one in the kit approximates
the one used during Cooper's MA-9 mission.
There are also "a few words about painting." Basically that
means the escape tower is "primary red," the spacecraft "black
primer," the interior "light gray" and the heatshield "either
silver or phenolic brown."
after years of model manufacturers calling out colors in the instruction
sheets in terms of FS numbers and codes for Humbrol, Xtracolor, Tamiya
and the like, these instructions seem odd in their brevity. There is a
nice touch suggesting that modelers buff the spacecraft's primer black
with steel wool but, overall, the painting instructions by Atomic City
and MRC are vague. One could be left wondering what type of red; while
Testors does make just a red in its small bottles, its Model Master lines
has eight types of red. Also, is the red gloss or flat?
As for primer black, I'd take that as a flat black.
brown? The instructions say that's the color of dark brown circuit boards
and then tell how to create this by spraying Model Master Black Window
Tint over a brown primer that's been buffed.
However, all that's said about the interior is to paint it light gray.
If you reference some photos (noted later), you'll see that it's not all
And silver? Well, there's aluminum, steel, stainless steel, magnesium
and titanium to use as starters........
I'm not trying to sound like a rivet counter nor someone lost in the
woods but I would appreciate more guidance about the painting than what's
By the way, the only comment about how to paint the instrument panel
is that it was painted in various colors that varied from mission to mission.
That's it, folks, that's all that's written in the instructions which
is sad. In mid-December, Atomic City added a note to its website
about the instrument panel's colors. Look at the box top and you'll see
a white band (might it be flat aluminum???) around the antenna fairing
but look in the instructions for any mention about this band and....well.....you
won't find any. Dang.
Similarly, the instructions have no information on how to paint the
vinyl pieces--absolutely none. I had thought one could just spray vinyl
with any paint but don't do that, say friends who have painted other vinyl
items. They recommend using Krylon Fusion paint which comes in various
colors and a primer which a modeler might be able to paint over with other
An Overall Look
because I did some research about NASA several years ago, I know enough
about Mercury spacecraft to be dangerous (the astronauts hated the word
"capsule," by the way) and with that knowledge and being a modeler,
I have the following observations:
The box top states that the kit has a complete interior. Actually, if
one does some research and, for example, looks at some websites, it's
possible to see that the model is missing some interior details and the
interior is definitely not a uniform light gray.
Also, the box top art shows the cap that sits atop the antenna fairing
during launch as being painted red but the side panel shows it being black.
According to NASA photos, it was black like the rest of the spacecraft.
The kit lacks the electrical cords connecting the escape tower to the
spacecraft and the funny little dogleg seen on one of the lowest struts
of the real escape tower. For a model this scale, these would have been
very easy to have included in the molding, as Revell did in its 1/48th
scale kit. If anyone who wants to replicate the wiring, about the best
reference I can find is an overall rending of the spacecraft by NASA,
which is referenced below.
There's no guide about painting the astronaut figure nor the two oxygen
hoses and two electrical leads. I can state that if you paint the suit
basically a shiny silver (a non-buffing aluminum is fine), the zippers
brass amid black cloth strips, the helmet glossy white and the parachute
straps flat neutral gray or off-white, you'll be close to what the astronauts
wore. If you wonder what that round disk is just below the figure's chin
is, that's a mirror.
the astronaut figure is not put in the model, you'll see there's no couch
detail. Likewise, the thruster handles are molded with the astronaut so
if he's not used, your model won't have thruster handles. Thus, you're
practically forced to use the figure (which has fine detail, it should
As for the oxygen hoses and leads, the instructions are incomplete,
showing where to place some but not all of them and you're left wondering
what to do with the lower ends of one cord (part #130) and the main oxygen
hose (part #131). If you want to know their colors, the hoses and cords
are flat white with metal connectors.
The hatch has no interior detail. That's okay if the hatch is glued
in position (I recommend a touch of white glue so it can be removed) or
just laid nearby, topside up.
If one looks at pictures of the real spacecraft with the hatch removed,
it's easy to see that there's more thickness to the walls of the spacecraft
than the model has.
Being I haven't built the kit yet, I do not know how the model will
balance if stood upon its retro rockets. For that reason, I suggest you
buy a three-inch deep section of six-inch-diameter PVC pipe, sand the
rough cut edges smooth so you won't scratch your model, paint it however
you wish and position the model on that as a simple but nice stand. If
you don't want to make a stand on your own, check out Nautilus
Models which has a wooden one for $10.
Okay, final question: is it a good kit? Yes. Definitely yes. There are
shortcomings but I recommend this kit to anyone wanting to do ultimate
Mercury kit and building it out of the box will provide you with a great
model. If you want to do some scratchbuilding such as thickening the walls
near the hatch opening, creating some additional interior details and
adding bundles of wires near the base of the escape tower and behind the
instrument panel....wires that were easily seen when the hatch was open....then
you can have fun with this model too.
The 1/12 Project Mercury Spacecraft is available from dealers at a retail
price of $69.98.
Here's some information that might help anyone wanting to build the
1/12 Mercury Spacecraft kit. Mike Robinson assisted with finding some
of these and his assistance is appreciated.
Check this website for updates by Atomic City Models:
then click "The Mercury Project"
Mike Mackowski has created books about spacecraft including a 53-page
one on the Mercury with 70+ photos and drawings; its price is $14 plus