John Lester's Marsliner.

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Another Old Dog, More New Tricks
Jazzing up Glencoe's Marsliner

By John Lester - images & text © 2000

Scale: 1/144 - about 11½" ( 29 cm) tall when completed
Parts: 23 clear & white styrene
Instructions: 6 - Adequate; 1 page, front/back pictorial
Decals: 8 - Well printed, but boring (1 scheme).
Molding Quality: 3 - Old mold, lots of flash and sinkholes.
Detail: 4 - what little there is is clumsy.
Accuracy: NA
Fit: 3 - just plain bad.
Ease: 5 - no real problems basic modeling skills can't overcome.
MSRP: $9.95 USD, available from most hobby shops.
Overall Rating: 7 - it's not "shake-the-box-and-out-pops- a-contest-winner", but you can make an interesting model from it.

Glencoe has made a name by buying up old molds and re-releasing models from the early days of scale modeling. Among their subjects are a number of kits from the '50's and '60's depicting hypothetical space craft. The Marsliner is one such kit, a commercial passenger rocketship plying the inner Solar System routes in the fabulous 1990's. It started out life as the "TWA Moonliner", a replica of a famous (at the time) Disney creation. Glencoe reissued the kit in the mid-1990's, with new decals (they were not allowed to use the TWA logo) but not much else.

The more non-mainstream (non-US mass media, I should say) the kit, the more I'm interested. I picked this kit up for about $7 USD from one of Hobbylinc's periodic sales. It promptly went into the closet, where it languished until I needed a break from other projects.

[Finished model]

^ The finished model looks basically the same from all directions.

[Putty and more putty]

^ You'll need a LOT of your favorite filler
for this one.

[windows - forget 'em]

^ Installing the windows is a waste of time
and effort.

[Landing gear struts]

^ New struts and kit parts.

[Landing gear pads]

^ Another easy mod: new "feet", and kit parts.

[Making decals]

^ I used frisket and a photocopy to make
masks for my own decals.

[Decals made]

^ The decals were not as successful as I'd
like, but they work well enough.


This is a straightforward build. Insert cockpit windows and the backing plates for the landing gear, then glue the three hull pieces together. So far, so good, except the windows don't fit well, or flush, and neither do the hull sides. Add to that a veritable galaxy of sinkholes and you have a recipe for.... well, a recipe calling for an awful lot of filler. I used putty (Squadron Green), as it's a lot easier to see than superglue against the white plastic. Unfortunately, it shrinks and cracks as it dries, especially over large areas. I finally gave up trying to file and polish the clear windows down to the point where they were flush with the outside surface of the hull, while filling in the gaps around the edges. Instead, I just filed them down and puttied over the area, and used a square of black decal film to represent a window later. After everything was puttied, I sprayed a coat of grey primer over the model. This revealed more flaws, which were puttied and smoothed. I had to repeat this process about 10 times before I was happy with the surface.

I decided not to install the kit's passenger windows, as they would be a pain to mask and paint around. Instead, I filed all the openings to the same size, and filled them with a drop of white glue after painting was done (the glue dries clear and looks good enough at this scale). The blanking plates which close off the landing gear bays are devoid of detail. I drilled several holes in each so I could add wires and other greeblies to make the area look more "busy". I should have done this before I glued them to the hull pieces, as two of the plates popped out while I was drilling. Ah, well. Lastly, I added the metal cap from an ink pen to the bottom of the hull to represent an engine bell.

That done, I turned my attention to the landing legs. These were totally lame as molded - or at least I thought so. I replaced the kit struts with stainless steel tubing (actually, two sizes of syringe needles, cut to size, filed, and slipped one inside the other). The actual legs were made from wire, small tubing cut to size, and craft beads. The "feet" were cut from the bases of the syringe needles I'd used for the struts. Once painted, these look a thousand times better than the kit plastic. Finally, the plastic "legs" were assembled. Like the rest of the kit, these fit badly and required quite a bit of sanding and putty to get right. Note that you can pose the legs tucked up next to the hull, as if in flight, but you'll need to do a little surgery to get it all to fit.

Painting and Decals

The kit provides decals for a red and white ship very much like the original 50's issue, except that "TWA" has now become "Fastway". The decals themselves are nicely printed, and quite thin. Against a solid white background, they probably won't look translucent. I wanted something different though, and found it in the "on sale" decal bin at the local shop - ATP Decals 1/144 "US Air" sheet for a 737. This determined my color scheme as brown and orange. I also decided to do the lower half of the hull in a bare metal finish, so I got some SNJ paint and polishing powder.

First off, I sprayed the whole fuselage gloss white.Then I masked off the area I wanted to be silver, and sprayed that with the SNJ Aluminum enamel. This paint is pretty similar to Testors PLA (small bottle) Chrome Silver; if that was it's only feature, I'd just use the Testors. However, the SNJ enamel is made to go with their polishing powder, and using the two, one can get a really bright, durable metallic finish. The brighter and glossier the base coat, the more like chrome you can get the finish with SNJ, so after the SNJ silver was dry to the touch, I over sprayed it with Testors Ultra-High Gloss clear. That was a mistake, but one that actually turned out well.

When the clear was dry but not cured (if you can still smell an enamel paint on your model, it's not yet fully cured) I applied the polishing powder. This is nothing more than very finely ground aluminum one applies with a soft cloth or cotton swap, then buffs out it a polishing cloth. In no time at all, the bottom half of the rocket was bright and shiny.

[Another side ...] I let this sit for a couple days, then started in on the rest of the markings. The advantage to SNJ paint/polish is that you can mask over it with tape and not ruin the finish, which is what happens with metalizers and just about every regular metallic paint. I slipped the model through the 1" circle on a drafting circle template, marked where it stopped on the hull with a pencil, then masked both sides with low tack tape and sprayed the brown color (in this case, Testor's "Manganese Brown Metallic"). I also sprayed the landing legs this color. After the brown was fully cured (I let the model sit a week, as glossy metallics take forever to cure), I masked and painted the orange areas. To get the scallop pattern for the hull, I cut 1/4" diameter semicircles of tape (using the template again), then applied these edge-to-edge all around the circumference of the hull, with the flat side butted up against the piece of tape masking the top edge of the orange. The orange paint I used was another Testors car color, "Go Mango", which covers pretty well and is not as tricky to spray as flourescents or their "International Orange".

I obviously couldn't use the red decals from the kit, but wanted to do the anti-glare panel, nose band and leg bands in the same style. I ended up photocopying the decal sheet, then using it as a template to cut masks from frisket paper (a very low tack, clear material you can find in art supply stores). These masks were then placed over clear decal film and burnished in place. That too was a mistake, as the frisket stuck to the decal film and tore up the clear carrier when I tried to pull off the masks. I sprayed a base coat of white onto the decal film, then the brown and orange. After the paint had dried, I cut the decals out with a hobby knife. Unfortunately, the edges were a little ragged, but otherwise I had no problems at all applying these home made decals (you can overcoat them with clear decal liquid if you're afraid they'll shatter). I covered up the ragged edges with black stripes from a spare decal sheet, then applied the ATP decals (US Air logos and registry).

[...and another side] Finally, I painted the landing gear "bays" a metallic black, glued the gear and struts in place, and filled the window holes with white glue. The masking had pulled up a little of the polishing powder (but not the paint underneath it) so I touched these areas up with more powder. That's when I discovered my mistake in using the high gloss clear paint. The clear apparently dried unevenly, resulting in a patchy appearance when the powder was polished over it. This, combined with a rough surface, made the "chrome" area look more like a weathered, galvanized finish. I actually like the way it looks now, but it's not what I intended. This did teach me that gloss paint over a flat primer does not leave a perfectly smooth finish, no matter what it looks like to the naked eye. Metallics - whether they be paint or powder - highlight every scratch, pit or other flaw they cover. This experiment taught me that I have to polish the surface if I want it to look bright and even under a metallic coat (jeweler's rouge, like "Blue Magic", is perfect for this).


Despite poor fit and clunky details, the Marsliner is not a bad kit. It'll take more effort than a more "modern" tooling, but you can certainly build a striking model model from these pieces. If the retro styling appeals to you, pick up one of these kits and invest some time an effort - you won't be sorry (or maybe you will, but in spite of the problems I had, I'm happy with the result).

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This page copyright © 2000 Starship Modeler™. Last updated on 14 April 2000.