Kit preview of PTM's Orion III from 2001.

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Kit Preview: PTM Orion III (v.1)

By John Lester - images & text © 1999

I'll admit, I find the first half of 2001: A Space Odyssey supremely boring. The only things that hold my interest are the cool spacecraft - including the Orion spaceplane that brings passengers from Earth to the space station. Aurora and Airfix made models of this craft way back when; those kits are now collector's items, with prices to match. So, when Part Time Models announced they would be issuing an affordable, accurized resin kit of this design, I was thrilled. PTM has been around for a while, and has a good reputation for their kits. Most of the previous releases focused on aerospace concepts that never got off the ground (like their Luft '46 line); the Orion was the first release in what eventually is planned to be a complete line of vehicles and hardware based on designs seen in 2001.

Even though Scott (PTM's founder and "CEO") noted that the first version of his Orion contains some inaccuracies, I ordered it anyway as soon as it was available. My philosophy is that I can fix the little things - just give me a basic shape to start from. And the inaccuracies are minor:

  • The cockpit framing is scribed wrong - there should be four narrow windows, vice the two fat ones on the kit.
  • The control surface actuator housings are modeled canted slightly outwards; they should instead be aligned parallel to the vehicle axis.
  • There is a missing round shape directly aft of the passenger windows.
  • The mounts for the antennae at the very rear of the engine section are incorrect (so Scott says; I'm not sure just how they're wrong).

So what do you get for your $25 (USD)? The kit comes in a ziploc bag with a stapled photocopied sheet of instructions holding it closed. It consists of two parts (four, if you count the sewing needles to be used as antennae) cast in off-white resin. There are no decals (though you can get an excellent sheet of Pan Am markings from Tangents that will fit this kit).

The first thing I noticed, before I even got the bag open, is that it must be pretty dusty wherever the resin is being mixed! The casting is pretty clean otherwise; there are small amounts of flash and excess resin on both parts, but nothing that can't be quickly cleaned up. More problematic are the numerous small pin holes marring raised/engraved details. Every one of cabin window frames, for instance, has a pit in it. The scribed panel lines appear accurately placed. However, many are not straight and look almost as if they were hand drawn without aid of a straightedge. Close examination of the surface of the kit shows a number of "bumpy" areas - almost as if the master had an orange-peel texture. Finally, on my example the nose area, as well as the starboard wing, was slightly warped. Nothing that can't be fixed in five minutes with a hair dryer though.

Instructions are .... well, they're pretty sparse. They are adequate for the job, however, given the limited number of parts. Painting instructions are similarly adequate, with a further reference to Simon Atkinson's drawings in the Piers Bizony book: 2001: Filming the Future.

[Bag full o' parts]

^ What you see when you open the box.

[Bottom of main piece]

[Top of main piece]

[Rear piece]

^ Above: three views of the two resin pieces that make up the bulk of the kit.


^ Not the greatest picture of the pin holes in the cabin window frames.

Bottom line? The kit will need some careful cleanup - but for the price, it's an excellent start to an accurate Orion model. If you don't want to have to correct the minor inaccuracies, wait until PTM releases v. 2 of this kit. Further releases are planned, including an Orion with a detailed interior, and a hypothetical cargo variant with a cargo bay like the Space Shuttle. Based on what I see in this kit, I'm looking forward to these - and you should be too.

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Last updated on 28 June 1999.