Rob Caswell - images and text copyright © 1998.
Halcyon's release of the Aliens APC in '87 is a bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade for SF kit modeling. I bought it when it was first released. The kit is molded in a bright olive green plastic and includes a sprue of clear parts, plus a small sheet of waterslide decals. The box indicates that the kit was made in Denmark. Not a place I think of when I think "quality injection-molded kit crafting", but the quality speaks for itself. The instructions were basic in order to keep them "international" (English, German, French, and Japanese) with a minimal amount of effort. For the most part, construction steps are clear and fully illustrated, but it's a minimalist treatment.
While the kit may seem spare on detail, it's because the subject wasn't overly detailed. As far as I can tell, the kit accurately replicates all the key contours and greeblies of the original. The only notable error is the wheel hubs and treads. The kit's wheel hubs sport a raised semi-circular ridge. As seen in this close-up shot from the movie as the APC rounds a corner, that's not a ridge, but rather the edge of depressed area on the hub. This detail can be fixed with relative ease, if one wants to be 100% accurate. I didn't bother.
The pattern of the wheel treads is also incorrect. Rather than the straight-across pattern seen on the photos of my kit, the pattern is an interlocking dialogonal, as seen in this screen capture. This one's a tougher problem to fix. As with the hubs, I passed in favor a quick, fun, stock build.
The main gun turret on the vehicle's top is made to both pivot and retract along the rails running down the back of the vehicle. While this feature may make the model sound "toy-like", the results aren't bad. The motions work smoothly and the mechanisms do not sacrifice any detail. In fact it's pretty neat having the ability to display the vehicle's gun in either position.
Construction and Painting
The most notable thing about this kit's engineering is the fact that there are no alignment pins on the parts. Though this was not mentioned in the previously published reviews that I read, it may have been the source of difficulty for some of those kit builders. I found that if you take care while putting the parts together, the fit was outstanding. I had to use very little putty on this kit - about as much as I'd have used on a Tamiya kit of the same time period. It's really well-crafted.
The kit went together very quickly. When I was done, the sprues still had one or two parts left over. I have no idea what these were, as they were not in the instructions and the model appeared complete. I guess they're just random "parts box enrichment goodies"...
I backpainted all the clear parts - white for the headlights and "dorsal" search light. I used a powder blue to paint the tail lights. The clear parts were translucent, but not transparent. After painting, this "foggy" effect does a great job of hiding any paint strokes and the results look "right", for non-illuminated lenses.
I did this kit before I had my silent compressor, so I opted to keep the downstairs neighbors happy and go the spray can route for finishing. While this may seem like a second-rate shortcut, the finish came out good enough for this model to scoop a show award. Painting this kit was pretty dirt simple. Do an overall Olive Drab coat, then go back, mask off the hubs, and paint the tires black. The tips of both guns were finished in gun metal and the two rectangles on top of the upper turret were painted dark grey. End of base painting!
Next, I went back over the kit doing a black wash over most details, then drybrushing all areas. Both techniques were applied a little heavy by my current standards, but I think that's made some folks look at the kit who otherwise might have not given it a second glance.
Finally, I glossed the spots for decaling and applied the decals using a dab of Solvaset. They went down fine. The markings are a little underwhelming, but accurate. I've seen a number of folks embellish their APCs with wild paint schemes and markings. I can understand why, as an accurate kit is pretty spartan.
My kit is completely stock. However, there's a number of things you could do to spice up this beast and make it even more of a showpiece. There's the corrected wheel hubs and alternate markings, mentioned above. You could also fool around with the wheels to model them in a "turning" position. That would help the model feel more dynamic. Another nice touch might be to add functional lighting. There's plenty of room inside the model for batteries and bulbs.
I'm sure some of you might be interested in modeling this battle bus with the troop door open (no, sorry - the kit does not offer a variable position door), but you should note that the exterior of the APC does not match the interior sets seen in the movie. It's got that Tardis thing goin' on. You might want to just crack the door open a bit to hint at the interior, but you'll have a tough time if you try to reconcile the interior with the exterior in a complete and detailed way.
Finally, you could try to put together a diorama. AEF Designs used to make a set of Colonial Marines in scale with this kit, but they're long out of production. A nice substitue might be the New Centurion figure offered by Warriors Scale Models. While it's not a 100% accurate Aliens Marine, it's definitely Aliens-inspired and would make an excellent accompaniment.
Where Can I Get One?
Halcyon recently folded up shop, but this kit can still be found (as of mid-'98) through online dealers such as The Modeler's Vault. Also, the Japanese model maker, Tsukuda, has picked up a big chunk of Halcyon's backstock, for sale in Japan. However, it looks like the selection is limited to only a few kits of the Alien line, and the APC is not among them.
This page made possible by Starship Modeler - © 1998.
Last updated on 13 February 1999