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Project: Slave One Zero

By Justin 'Bluesman' Miller et al. - images & text © 2008

The CO.M.MI.E.S. (Colorado Modeling Militia Enjoying Sci Fi) Slave One Zero Build Team:

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^ Starting point

Image: Troop compartment sketch

Image: Rough layout

Image: Refining the design Wiring

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^ Coming together

Image: Wiring

Image: Bulkhead

Image: Cockpit basics

Image: Cockpit in place

Image: Gunnery station

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^ Rear deck

Image: Jumpseats

Image: In place

Image: Side wall detail

Image: New engine and wing

Image: Another look

Image: Other side

Image: 'Fenders'

Image: Closer look

Image: Headlight

Image: Grille work

Image: Grille detail

Image: More detail

Image: Weapons pylon

Image: Covering the bottom

Image: Preparing to scriube new panel detail

Image: Scribing in process

Image: Subassemblies

Image: BFG mount

Image: Gun, primed

Image: Painted

Image: Other side

Image: Power jack

Image: Testing the lighting

Image: It works!

Image: Crew deck all lit up

Image: Masked and ready to paint

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^ HVAC unit, completed

Image: Getting started

Image: Basic construction

Image: Closer look

Image: Wave and Kotobukiya option parts put to good use

Image: Guitar string piping

Image: Painted

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^ Diorama base

Image: Starting point

Image: Getting the positions right

Image: Street

Image: Darned taggers!

Image: Boxes we want to see: Bandai MG Bawoo

Image: This was before Fine Molds did theirs

Image: Hasegawa Tantive IV

Image: Hasegawa Thunderbolt

Image: Revell F-302

Image: and Daedalus

Image: Trumpeter Klingon battlecruiser

Image: A guy can dream, can't he?

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^ After the presentation

Image: Presenting the model at the Sunday dinner

Image: At Wonderfest

Image: Another look

Image: Move!Move!Move!

Image: Looking in

Image: Proud owners

This massive project began in the minds of me, Justin (Bluesman) Miller and Robb (Kylwell) Merrill in the summer of 2004. This article will chronicle the exciting journey of a model project that became much larger than we had planned, brought a group of guys together now known as the CO.M.MI.E.S. We also made John and Linda feel pretty good, which was the whole idea.


The Commies all met through Starship Modeler. We started in Denver, expanded east into Kansas and now have agents all over the United States, Scotland, England and Australia. You don't have to be from Colorado to be a Commie. And this isn't the only club within a club. The Techmages, Florida Peacekeepers, and PINKOS come to mind as well…all having strong roots to Starship Modeler.

Robb and SueAnne made the trip to Wichita that fateful summer of 2004 to see the Cosmosphere Space Museum and do some shooting at my dad's ranch. We may have talked about models too. In fact, I am sure we did.

Robb and I were sitting in my living room talking about models and I presented Robb with the idea of doing a cool project for John Lester. Our goal was simply to put a smile on John and Linda's faces, but by the time this adventure was over we found we did much more than that. My concept was to do a Slave One, but make it a Marine gunship of some sort. Robb was very receptive to the idea and we began talking about how to execute it. It was originally going to be just the ship, and simply mailed to SM HQ with a thank you note. We wanted to do something nice for John and give a little something back for everything he has done for us on the Starship Modeler site and show respect for his service to our country.

Then Robb had the idea to do a diorama and brought in the concept of having the ship landing in at the Exec West parking lot with space Marines assaulting the hotel. I liked the concept. If memory serves, I was going to do the ship and Robb was going to do the base. We talked about it some more and left it at that.

Getting Started

The first step was locating an AMT Slave One kit. I mentioned the project to Matt (M3) Jacobson and he happened to have a spare Slave One kit in his infamous Studio of Doom. So the journey begins.

Matt writes: My recollections? I believe it was Justin's idea. Mostly, but I could be wrong. Justin came up from Wichita to go with me and my sons to the annual Kansas City IPMS show in September. He told me about this crazy idea he had. All he needed was an AMT-Ertl Slave One kit to get the party started, which back in the halcyon days of 2003-2004 was a rare commodity indeed. Before the AMT re pops and the Fine Molds release. Fortunately I had a couple of those kits (always buy spares, you know) in the Closet of Doom, now the Studio of Doom).

My primary contribution to the Great Project was supplying the base kit. And yes, it was a fairly rare kit at the time. It's not my fault that these slo-mos took so frellin' long to finish it that there was a re-release and subsequent Kaybee Toys sell off of the selfsame kit in addition to the release of the Fine Molds kit in the mean time.

Little did I know what the other comrades had in store for her.

I am not sure at what point things got out of hand, but the project got bigger and bigger as new ideas were introduced. The project soon became bigger than me and Robb could do ourselves. Robb brought Dan (Jonas Calhoun) Holmes and Brad (Mr. Badwrench) Guy in on the project. Soon after Jeremy (Sgt Pinback ) Schwinck was in on it too. Hal (Roguepink) Bierman came aboard also. I was elected the project coordinator and tasks were assigned according to each member's area of modeling expertise. Robb took the street and store diorama portion. Dan and Brad did the extensive modifications to the base kit, which included rescaling it to a 1/48 scale to make use of stock figures. Dan and Brad also worked on the lighting and interior.

Matt provided the donor kit and consulting. Jeremy built the engines and weaponry and Hal made up custom decals. Of course with a team build there was some crossover in the duties. I was to paint, weather and decal the beastie.

Dan, Brad and Robb were all in the Denver area. Jeremy was in Salt Lake City. Hal was in Colorado Springs. Matt and I were in Kansas, but I would be moving to Georgia shortly after Wonderfest 05. By then I was wondering what have we gotten ourselves into and if we really could do this.

During the project we decided that replicating portions of the Exec West hotel would be difficult to make convincing. Since the final site of the diorama would be in Chicago, we thought it would be cool to do our version of a Starship Modeler storefront.

The goal was to have it ready by Wonderfest 2005, but as time went on the project got bigger than all of us. There were unforeseen challenges and setbacks along the way, but we had a very dedicated team. We decided as WF 05 approached that it would be better to take some time and do it right than rush it and mess things up. We also wanted to put our best efforts into making this a great piece to give to John. We also thought if we could have it done by WF06 that that would make a great present for John and Linda on the 10th anniversary for Starship Modeler. We talked in secret about the project at WF05 with strict orders not to discuss what Robb began calling PSOZ (pronounced Pee-Zoz) in public.

I pretty much let the guys do whatever they wanted. All I really cared about was that they give it their best shot. My job was to keep everybody on task and motivated until my end of the project. I would get reports sometimes frequently, sometimes infrequently and an occasional picture or two. At times I wondered what the rest of the guys were doing. As reports came in new concepts were added. Some worked some didn't. We also got the idea to throw in a lot of in-jokes and wanted to put a lot of detail into the project. Robb's work on the HVAC unit on top of the store is practically a contest winner on its' own.

Brad and Dan's interior is detailed equally as Robb's HVAC unit. Brad made jump seats and netting, a fire extinguisher, and upper engine bay details. And those are just the few I remember. There is a lot more. We knew there was going to be a lot to look at on this project. The more you look at it the more you will find. Look in the cockpit and you'll see ape hanger handlebars instead of a column or joystick. The hilarity is abundant in this project.

The project progressed and as my work would be towards the end of the project I really didn't feel the pressure that the rest of the team felt. That is until the end of March 2006. I received an email from Brad telling me he was on the way to mail the model to me, when somebody rear ended him. He told me his car was totalled and that the box with the Project flew across his car and was smashed to bits and that we would have to begin a salvage operation. I almost went into shock. We had put so much work into this thing, Wonderfest was coming up fast and it was my turn to contribute.

I emailed the team and told them to recover what we could and shoot for WF07. Everyone was bummed but did not want to give up. A week later I receive a package from Brad with the model and a note telling me it was an April fool's joke and that it was sweet revenge for putting the guys through a project like this, even though they all volunteered and no one was forced to work on the project.

I'll admit it was a good one. I also realized it was my time to get to work. The rest of the Commies had started this. It was up to me to finish it for the most part. I hope the team had a good laugh at my near heart attack.

Painting and Decals

The model arrived in sub assemblies: the hull, the gun and the engines and weapons pods. We would do final assembly at our room in Louisville.

I looked over the model. I was really impressed with all the detail that Dan and Brad had put into the interior. Dan and Brad had also painted the interior. I was also impressed with Jeremy's engines and wings. I began my part of the project by masking and priming. I based my paint scheme loosely on a USMC AV-8 Harrier.

I painted the interior of the fenders black and grey and gave them a good amount of weathering. Some of this wouldn't be seen when the engines were attached, but the idea was to really go all out. I also worked on the engine pods and gun. I knew decals were coming from Hal, but I printed out some of my own to add like the Swedish flag and the Starship Modeler logo. Just for kicks I found a Smith and Wesson logo, made a decal of it and put it on the gun barrel.

I emailed Linda and was discreet about asking what ship John served on while he was in the Marines. Linda told me it was USS Wasp. I found the Wasp's logo on the internet. I also modified an Enterprise MACO logo, replacing Enterprise with the name Wasp. The decals arrived from Hal via Robb. One look at the sheet had me cracking up. In addition to Marine markings there were more jokes. The SAAB grille was a nice touch. I later found out Robb did that one for me. I have a thing for Swedish cars, and John has a Swedish heritage. I decaled and weathered the hull, then boxed her up for the trip to Kentucky.

When I arrived at the Commie suite on Friday, I got to see the street and store diorama base that Robb had done. We had to use some strict security precautions as we had to add weapons and figures in the suite. One of the first visitors was actually John Lester and we scrambled to hide the model from him. We also had to be very careful to not talk about the project outside the room until the model was on the contest table.

Once the threat was over I was amazed at all the stuff Robb put in the scene…little packages of kits we'd love to have, but will never be made in the window of the store. And our signature was graffiti on the side of the building. We were going to do a series of posters like a wanted poster of Dan, a Blues benefit at the Mt. Prospect Police auction and a blockbuster film directed by Matt. The graffiti works much better on the bricks. There were also glowing red eyes of C.H.U.D. peering underneath the manhole cover.

Jeremy worked on attaching the weapons. Brad went to work on the figures and noticed something was missing. The crew ramp was detachable for painting and transport, and I had left the entire ramp assembly back in Atlanta. Brad just happened to have some tube stock and sheet plastic on hand. Brad and Matt went about rebuilding the ramp. The last touches were adding the figures and ordinance. At last the model was done, but the adventure was far from over. We packed up the model and hid it in our suite. Secrecy was of the utmost importance and we had several “guests” stopping by our suite.

There was more we wanted to do, and ideas that didn't get in the final version like Brad's FLIR pod, but there comes a point where you have to call it done and walk away.

Matt writes: Since I provided the base kit that got the ball rolling, it seems fitting that the only piece I actually built for the SL-10 project was actually on of the last pieces, if not the last piece added. In his mad rush to get to Louisville, Justin forgot a few parts to the model. The parts were for the crew ramp. Luckily, Brad had brought some perforated sheet stock and the exact size aluminum tubing that he had used the first time around on the model. I was able to quickly scratch up a replacement while final construction and systems integration was going on in the other half of the suite.

In addition to rebuilding the crew ramp, and participating in the first Iron Modeler, Matt pulled an all nighter on Friday and kitbashed a Viper X wing hybrid.


On Saturday, the Commies were putting final touches on their individual entries for the contest. While we were filling out our entry forms, Robb slid a form over to me and told me to fill in the info on SL-10. I called the project “Slave One Zero at Starship Models”. I wanted to put all the team on the form, but everyone told me since it was initially my idea to put my name on the form.

Robb transported the model to the contest room, and the Commies made a ring around Robb sort of like the Secret Service does with the President. The idea was to have minimal people see it until it was on the contest table. On the way to the contest room, we once again ran into John.

John said very casually, “Hi, guys.”

The Commies responded, “Hi, John”

It appeared that he didn't see anything and we really didn't stop to chat. We all were asking each other if he saw anything. We made our way up to the contest room and set the model in the diorama section. We then went to enjoy the day making laps around the dealers room, attending demos and presentations and having a great time.

Throughout the day, as people approached John and Linda at their booth, they asked them if they and been to the contest room and seen the project yet. John and Linda were working their table so it was hard for them to get away. As the day went on more and more people were telling John and Linda about it. Word was getting out fast. The Commies went around all day just agreeing with people that it was a cool model, but not really admitting to being involved with it. If anybody did trace any involvement back to us, we denied it, just like on Mission: Impossible.

During the pool party, someone informed us that the Commies needed to get up to the contest room because John and Linda were checking out the model. The Commies slipped away from the pool party one by one and we casually walked into the contest room and acted like we were looking at the entries, while in reality were observing John and Linda. We congregated at the opposite end of the room, and then slowly made our over to John and Linda.

It wasn't until I read Linda's article on Starship Modeler shortly after Wonderfest 06 that I found out about the emotions we had stirred up. Linda said she wanted to hug us all, but couldn't because she was tearing up. I didn't realize we'd caused that kind of reaction. John was teasing us about it all through the rest of the pool party. While we endured John's ribbing, as people found out who was responsible for the model the Commies received a lot of positive comments about it.

It was time for the contest awards. The Commies wanted to win something for Slave One Zero, but if it didn't that was okay. John and Linda enjoyed it and all the positive feedback from fellow SM members was enough. When Dave Hodge announced that Slave One Zero was awarded a bronze in the diorama category, it was a huge bonus. I wanted the Commies to come down with me, but I went down solo and accepted the award with every one of them in mind. As I made my way back, I reminded the Commies that this was a team effort and this was very much their award.

It is still not over. We had one more surprise in store that no one but the Commies knew about. The SM after-banquet had about 70 people show up. When things slowed up a little after dinner, I made an announcement and presented John and Linda with the model and told them it was theirs to take back to Chicago. Linda wanted the Commies to keep the Wonderfest bronze medal, but I felt it belonged with the model. I managed to sneak the medal into the box so it would go with them. It was a great ending to a great weekend.


The hardest part of this whole experience was not letting anyone but the Commies know about it for two years. The last few hours before we took it to the contest room were the hardest. There was even a point in the project's history where I nearly leaked out some info about it on one of the discussion forums. The project started out with a couple guys concept and grew as the Commies grew. It spanned from Utah to Georgia and points in between. It all came together in a hotel suite in Kentucky and ended up on a shelf in the offices of Starship Modeler. I am still amazed that we pulled this off considering how many miles the model traveled and the long distance coordination involved.

It was quite an experience to work on a project like this. It wasn't just about modeling and winning an award. I made some good friends along the way, and it was a pleasure to give the model to John and Linda at the end.

I'd like to thank the Commies for their hard work on this project. To John and Linda, I hope you enjoy the model as much as we enjoyed building it for you. I am not sure what we will do for Starship Modeler's 20th anniversary, but we'll think of something.

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This page copyright © 2008 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 10 January 2008.