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Building Polar Lights' Seaview

By Larry Strickland - text © 2003
Images by John Lester © 2003

Scale: Not Stated (roughly 1:350 - the kit is 13"/ 33cm long when assembled)
Parts: 21 injection molded styrene (including 2 part base)
Instructions: 1 page exploded diagram (duplicated in French)
Decals: None
Molding Quality: 8 - no major flaws
Detail: 6 - fairly soft surface detail; much of the surface detail was too large for the scale of the model.
Accuracy: 7 - from the pictures I have seen on the internet and watching the movie, it appears this model is based on the movie version of the Seaview.
Ease: 8 - fairly simple kit (only 21 parts), with only one major fit problem to deal with.
MSRP: $17.99 USD (~$27.55 CAN/ 16.81 EUR) available from hobby shops and discount retailers everywhere
Overall Rating: 8 - A decent kit at a very decent price, which should satisfy most modelers.

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First Impressions

I was pretty happy to hear that Polar Lights was finally going to release a new version of the Seaview from the old '60's TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". I first built this kit when I was about 12 years old, now that I'm pushing 40 I've wanted to build another and hopefully better Seaview.

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^ Three views of the completed model.

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^ Putty and engraving

Image: Engraving & putty, aft half

Image: Bow, under construction

Image: New doors on the sail from scrap PE

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^ New details on the top of the sail

Image: Completed sail

Image: Stern

Image: New Flying Sub hatch

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^ Closer look at the "picture window"

Before Polar Lights came up with their version of this kit, the only styrene kit that was available was the original Aurora Seaview - a kit that sells for Approx. $200 on the collector's market.

Construction

Starting with the instructions, which are pretty typical for Polar Lights, assembly directions consist of a two pages (the same page in French and English on a big fold-out sheet) of exploded diagrams, written instruction, and very vague suggestions for painting.

I next did a little research on the internet to fill in some of the details which are so glaringly absent from this kit. Next, I made a list of major flaws that I felt I could fix with a little bit of extra time. Here is a list of simple improvements to a fairly simple kit.

Problems / Solutions

  1. Part #2 Periscope and #3 Radar scope are too large for the scale.
    Solution: I replaced the parts with small pieces of brass wire which look much more to scale, plus I don't think they will break as easy as the plastic parts.
  2. The observation windows (clear plastic #1) on the sail do not fit well because the window piece is approx. 25% too small.
    Solution: I used microscale Kristal Klear to fill in the space (but 5 minute epoxy or superglue would work as well, though after the space was filled and the glue cured, you might have to sand it to shape).
  3. The doors on the sail are out of scale, wrong shape, and raised.
    Solution: I sanded off the 4 doors altogether and replaced them with some properly-shaped brass photo-etched pieces I had left over from another kit. After the brass pieces were in place, I used a small drill bit to drill small port holes in each door - I know this might sound strange, but it came out just great. You could do the same with very thin styrene cut to shape.
  4. The main hull of the Seaview has no scribed lines of any kind, which really made this model look toy-like. My first thought was to simply scribe in some panel lines to add some detail, but reference shots of the studio miniatures show no visible panel lines. The box art on the Polar Lights Seaview Box showed panel lines on the hull of the submarine.
    Solution: I used this art work as my reference to add approximately 10 -12 vertical lines on the hull of the Seaview. This was done with label tape and an engraving / etching tool, the tool you use to put an ID on high dollar items in your home. This worked very well.
  5. The opening through which the "Flying Sub" enters the Seaview (in the forward section of the lower hull part #7) is shaped incorrectly. Instead of being square, the engraved outline for the door is shaped like the flying sub.
    Solution: I sanded away the inaccurate outline of the doors, then cut out a 1 1/8 inch square in this location in order to make new doors. I used Evergreen Sheet Styrene - Metal Siding 0.040" spacing - 0.040" thick - to fill the 1 1/8" x 1 1/8" opening. I felt that this better simulated the sliding doors seen in the TV show.

Two other inaccuracies I did not address. The hull forward of the sail is actually shorter than it should be. Another member in our club showed how he was correcting this, but I decided the effort was far greater than the results would be worth - for me. Also, the pattern of windows (vents?) just aft of the large "picture window" on the bow is incorrect. I could not see a way to fix this without major surgery, and that was also more time and effort than I wanted to invest in the project.

Further Assembly

The rest of the kit went together fairly well. The only major problem was the area around the main observation window, and spot light. This took 2 to 3 applications of super glue and glazing putty to fix. I ended up replacing the spotlight itself with the dome of a clear LED. The observation window piece was painted black and the frames separating the window panes was cut from decal sheet painted the upper hull color.

Painting

The instructions are very vague on the colors for the Seaview. The main color of the ship is given simply as "blue". After doing a little research on the internet, it appears certain that the filming miniatures for both the movie and TV show were painted with a darker gray on top of the sub and a light gray on the bottom of the sub.

I read on the internet that this was done to imitate the coloring of a shark- gray on top and white on the bottom. After looking at 6-8 build-ups from other modelers, I chose to go with Dark Ghost Gray for the top and Camouflage Gray on the bottom - both in the Testors Model Master range. I was pleased with the results using these colors. Since I chose to use acrylic paint, I sealed with two misting coats of Future Floor Wax. Due to the small scale of this model, I chose not to do any washes or weathering.

Conclusions

This is a fairly nice kit. The main negatives about this kit are lack of surface detail even for this scale, and areas with poor fit. Positives include: quick build-up, very inexpensive, and fairly easy to add detail and increase accuracy if you so choose. As you can see, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I would highly recommend this kit, especially if you're interested in the subject matter.

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This page copyright © 2002 Starship Modeler™. Last updated on 20 January 2003.