Project YT-1300: Converting an Icon

Some time ago I happened across a series of photos of the deconstruction and reconstruction of a YT-1300 light freighter model from Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing miniatures game. It was a set of great photos showing step by step how a crafty modeler cut apart a great model, and then rebuilt it into an even better model. I saved all the pictures with the intention to build my own version. You call it copying, I call it an homage to a great conversion.

Here is the finished model that inspired me. Unfortunately, it was so long ago I have lost the link to this crafty fella’s blog. I believe his name is Robert Sakaluk. I blame FFG and the closure of their forum and all the great repaints and modeling that were stashed in the X-Wing and Armada areas of that defunct forum.

Inspiration YT model pics

I had purchased the original Millennium Falcon probably just as it was released. I didn’t realize (or remember, at least) that I happened upon X-Wing just as Wave 2 was being released. It included two of my favorite ships in the entire Star Wars Universe, the Millennium Falcon and Slave-1, Bob Fett’s modified Firespray-31. Fully painted, and very detailed, I had to have them. That they belonged to a great miniatures game was a nice bonus.

FFG Falcon

As I fell into the deep hole that is X-Wing, I found the FFG forums and was inspired by the conversions and repaints everyone was doing. One particular fellow had down a conversion that moved the off-center cockpit of the Falcon to the centerline. And it was repainted a light gray and blue. That guy went by the screen name ZombieHedgehog. I was able to commission him to make a copy of the model he had posted. It turned out fantastic:

Blue center cockpit Falcon

He explained everything that went into the project, but I wasn’t comfortable trying it on my own. I’m not sure why, I have been building plastic model kits since I was probably eight-years-old. Something about hacking into a painted model gave me pause.

Time went on and I picked up two more Falcon models. FFG released a version modified and painted to represent the version seen in the sequel movies. Then another model was released of the version from the movie when the Falcon still belonged to Lando.

Somewhere in there came the inspiration to build my own armoured version of the classic YT-1300. Duly inspired, I picked up yet another YT model from FFG. And started the project. Honestly, I don’t know exactly how long this project took. Months. Over a year in total. I would do a little work, get frustrated, and set it aside for weeks. Having never done something like this before, the learning curve was steep.

I had purchased a scribing tool before I started. And a pack of engine nozzles intended for super detailing Gundam models (I believe.) I wanted the old-school feel of round engine nozzles for this build and made an eBay purchase. And then another when I realized I needed more of a particular nozzle size than the pack had. Then I picked up some Evergreen plastic in sheets and rods and strips. With all the supplies in hand, I had to take the first step.

Cutting into a perfectly good model.

Using a razor saw and cutting slow and careful, I tore that model apart. Stripping the entire cockpit out, and then removing the engines and much of the rear superstructure, I had a carcass that was ready for anything. I printed out all the pictures I had found and spent a lot of time staring at them. Progress was slow. I would make a few small parts, or cut and shape a piece of plastic, then wait days or weeks. Slowly it came back together. There were some complex curves that gave me fits. I made and discarded a number of templates and parts trying to rebuild that model. And used greenstuff to hide my mistakes or gaps I gave up trying to fit properly.

As pieces came together, I began to detail the model. Scribing panel lines went a long way towards making it look more like a space ship and less like a chunk of plastic. Tiny pieces of plastic were cut and glued into place to give visual interest. The engine bay was detailed. I constructed some engines and even used putty to hold a couple engine layouts in place to poll some friends on Facebook about which looked best. More cutting. Lots of filing. Sanding. Filling. Gluing. Some days it seemed like it was never going to be complete.

side by side engine layouts

And then, it was. I held a finished model in my hands and checked it over and over for anything else I could do. I think this is one project I could pick at nearly forever. Finally, I called it done and set it aside.

No idea what else I was doing at the time, but it sat unpainted for a long time. Eventually I primed it, and began to paint it. I liked the red and gray of the inspiration model, and gave it a similar paint job. Being a space freighter meant I got to dirty it up, using several washes and inks to put rust, oil, and fuel drips and streaks all over it. Unlike the original guy who was good enough to be able to construct it so he could paint it in subassemblies, I had a complete model to paint. Which meant the engine bay isn’t nearly as well painted as I would like.

primed/washed model

Overall, I am extremely happy with how the model came out. I have a distinct YT model, in a flashy paint scheme, that I built myself.

finished model

Here are couple other repaints I have down. Just for fun, or before a particular model was released.

X-Wing is still a great game. I have enough ships to play monster games, or throw a whole tourney on my own. And several are custom paints. Which makes it a little bit cooler. With the confidence gained, I built an armoured Nebulon-B for Star Wars Armada, and began painting all the tiny fighters for the squadrons in Armada.

A chance image of a converted model led to months of construction and painting. Funny how internet wanderings can do that.

Thanks for stopping by,

   BG