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Danger Will Robinson! Polar Lights' Robot

By John Lester - images and text copyright © 1998.

(with big thanks to Joel Tavera and Steve 'CultTVMan' Iverson for all their kind assistance!)

Front View
My completed robot

Head and shoulders ...
Closer view of head and shoulders ...

Arms - replaced by door springs
Arms - replaced by door springs

Sensor bubble closeup

Close-up, chest panel
Close-up, chest panel ("Too many lights, sire")

Those %$#@! treads

The real one
Kevin Burns' Robot at the 1995 Famous Monsters Convention courtesy of Steve Iverson

Though I was too young to remember watching 'Lost in Space' when it first came out, I do have fond (if a little vague) memories of watching it in syndication as a child in the seventies. Never built the Aurora kit from which Polar Light's model is based, however. I heard so many good things about the reissue that I just had to get a copy - but that proved difficult, as everyone had underestimated the demand and these kits were scarcer than Starfuries. I was a happy man indeed when I chanced upon the last kit in my local hobby shop.

The good things said about this kit are mostly true. It builds up easily and has enough detail to satisfy most every builder. It's a faithful reproduction of the old Aurora kit, right down to the cheesy plastic lightning bolt shooting from it's claw.

The kit is not without it's share of problems, however. Those suffering from AMS (Advanced Modeler's Syndrome) will need to fix the following inaccuracies:

  1. The star sensor (part #30) appears to have far too few 'lights' - and these should be all on stalks of the same length.
  2. The sensor cone (part #28) should not be tapered. It should be a straight 'stack' on top of a larger diameter base.
  3. There are two extra columns of the square lights on the chest panel.
  4. Details on the control panel (part #5) are wrong.
There are other, more basic problems that I'll get to in a minute. Those looking for references should go straight to Lost in Space Classic TV and browse through the photo gallery (and the rest of the site - there's a lot of neat LiS stuff there!) as well as 'Modeling Irwin Allen' at CultTVMan's Sci-Fi Modeling.


The kit comes in forty or so pieces - 6 clear, the rest a grey ABS plastic. The clear parts are extremely clear (I skipped the usual dip in Future acrylic floor wax, they were that good) and nowhere near as brittle as some AMT/ERTL or Monogram pieces I've dealt with. The box comes with a note telling you that the ABS parts are not compatible with normal styrene model glues - and they are not kidding. My trusty Testor's liquid cement was almost completely ineffective (though the note said it should have worked). Tenax 7R and superglue were the only glues that I found useable.

Instructions are one fold-out sheet with ads on the back for other Polar Lights kits. There are no decals.

Assembly is straightforward. As usual, I looked over the instructions then pretty much ignored them. I built the kit up in three basic sub-assemblies to make it easier to paint: bottom half, top half and sensor dome. I didn't notice that the middle body section (part #23) has slots that should be trapped between the leg parts (#21 and #22) so the top can rotate. I ended up having to shave off the parts on #23 that stick out so I could fit the top part to the bottom.

I spent a lot of time sanding and puttying - maybe half of the 10 hours I spent on the kit. The larger pieces don't fit together all that well, and most of the smaller bits are marred by mold misalignments and ejector pin marks (especially the treads - they were nearly hopeless!). Cleaning up seams was difficult - even more so because the metallic paints used for the finish need an absolutely smooth base as they show up every last scratch like a searchlight. Krylon sandable primer came to my rescue - it sticks well to just about everything (you can even spray it over rust!), fills in the small scratches, and provides a great base for enamels, acrylics or lacquers. I filled and sanded each sub-assembly, sprayed with primer, then wet-sanded the flaws the primer revealed until I was happy with the finish. I sprayed the chest grill Tamiya clear red from the back and Smoke from the front - gives a nice 3-D effect. The part actually should be red only when the Robot is speaking. You can mimic this by installing a red LED in the chest cavity and blanking off the top and bottom of the body so the light doesn't get into the other clear parts. Hook the LED to a switch - or a motion sensing circuit - and have fun.

Unfortunately, nothing could save my kit's arms and treads. The seams between parts #24 and #25 were bad enough - but the ones between #9, #10, #8 & #11 were hopeless. What to do, what to do .... I cut off the end pieces and set them aside. Then I went hunting through the aisles of the local hardware stores for a replacement. I was looking for a 5/8ths inch diameter extension spring, like the ones used to shut screen doors. I didn't find any - so I ended up using bits from a 9/16th inch diameter door spring from Wal-Mart. Using a hacksaw, I cut the bits to the right length, superglued the end pieces on, and filled in gaps with superglue. The result is not perfect (I should have looked harder for a spring made from thinner wire) but it's a whole lot better than the kit parts.

Next, the treads. I spend hours with a microfile sanding the misaligned parts. I should have just shaved the ridges off and replaced them with stretched sprue. I also had to fill in ejector pin marks on the rollers.

Finally, the sensor dome. I sprayed the triangular part clear red, though looking back on it I probably should have left it clear. I thought of using a number of red-tipped map pins to replace the star sensor, but I was feeling lazy so I just painted the existing kit part's tips red. The rest of the pieces were painted a light grey, and over painted as necessary. Lastly, the clear neck ring got a light spraying of Tamiya Smoke mixed with Future - the color runs down into the grooves and tints them slightly darker, which looks sharp when you're done.


The instructions are vague on painting and the boxtop 'art' was certainly no help. The Lost in Space Classic TV site mentioned above and especially the Joel Tavera's Robot Paint Guide at CultTVMan's Sci-Fi Modeling were indispensable. I wanted this beast to represent the second/third season Robot as it was more colorful than season 1's silver and grey machine. The silver parts were sprayed Model Master Aluminum. The dark grey parts were brush painted a 1:1 mix of Euro I Grey and Anthracite Grey Metallic (the AGM is too thick and hard to work with straight from the bottle). The only other spot I differed from the paint guide were the treads - I painted these Model Master Flat Aircraft Black, a faded, dirty flat black that also looks really good on aircraft and vehicle tires.


I junked the base that comes with the kit. It shows a portion of some alien landscape - and like the lightning bolt, looked too cheesy for my tastes. I prefer simple bases. I used a small circular wooden plaque I picked up at a craft store for fifty cents. After sanding and staining it, I went crazy and sprayed some blue 'Fleckstone' I had left over from another project. Once dry and coated with a clear acrylic spray it looks like granite (except that in this case it's blue) and is darn near impervious to wear and tear. Not tremendously important for the top of a model base .... but I like the look.

All in all, this kit was an enjoyable build and the end result looks pretty spiffy on my entertainment center. Now for that Jupiter II ....

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Last updated on 7 March 1999

construction.gif Shhhhhhhhh ..... don't no one tell Rob I snuck back in here ....