Strange New Worlds Issue 14 - June/July
Vintage Spaceship model kits and popular
publications of the 1950s
by Elliott Swanson
(Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Co.)
Circa 1957, Strombecker issued the first kits from the popular Disney productions Man
In Space and Mars And Beyond, plus the TWA Moonliner that appeared at the LA
Disneyland until 1962 (In 1962 it was toppled by bulldozers and crushed to make way for a
new attraction. Viewmaster reel set #855 "Tomorrowland" has stereo pictures of
the defunct TWA ship.) The Disney kits were very successful products for Strombecker. They
followed these with three more space kits based upon Krafft Ehricke designs developed for
Convair. A sense of Strombeckers enthusiasm can be gained by the companys 1959
promotional brochure to hobby shop owners.
Glencoe now owns the Strombecker molds. Glencoe began reissuing them as part of
Glencoes "Blueprint for the Future" series. (The only Strombecker space
kit that may be excluded from the Glencoe series is the D27/D27A TWA Moonliner.) Many of
the Strombecker kits feature box art by Cal Smith. Three gift sets featuring Strombecker
space kits were issued. These are cellophane wrapped with a printed banner. Each includes
three kits. No. 713 contains D26A, D27A, and D34; No. 714 contains D32, D34, and D35A; and
No. 715 contains D37, D38, and D39. All are extremely rare. Strombecker went out of
business in the mid-1960s.
Walt Disneys Man-In-Space Model Kit
D26-100. 1/288 scale? Issued circa 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun, the fourth
stage is in a delta wing configuration. There is an excellent full page color photo of
Heinz Haber with the Disney XR-1 studio model this kit is based upon on page 270 of the
August 1955 issue of National Geographic. There is a variant with extended wings often
encountered in space books, and actually issued as a resin model by D&E Miniatures in
about the same scale as the Strombecker kit (see D&E Miniatures section).
Von Brauns ship is a true classic of '50s spacecraft engineering. The first issue
of Strombeckers kit was in bright yellow styrene plastic. The second issue, D-26A
was gray-green styrene plastic. Issued in the UK as "Spaceship," Selcol kit
#500. Reissued in 1993 as Glencoe "Three Stage (sic) Ferry Rocket" #05908.
Decals and instructions for Strombecker D26 incorrectly show the wing markings as
"RX-1" instead of the correct "XR-1." The front side of the
instructions for D26/D26A unfold into a wall poster.
The first issue of the kit was issued in a "monochrome" box, with the rocket
shown in yellow. The D26A kit has a full color box. Current value for D26: $300-$350.
Current value for D26A: $250-$300. Current value for Selcol 500: $250-$300.
Walt Disneys Disneyland Rocket To The Moon Model Kit
D27-100. 1/83 scale? Issued circa 1957. (pictured on right) Used as a Disneyland theme
park attraction for To-morrowland. This passenger carrying rocket is marginal in terms of
being a true aerospace design. The first issue of this kit is in a purple and yellow
"monochrome" box. The second issue, D27A, was renamed "TWA Moonliner"
and had a full color box (photo on left). Issued in the UK as "Moon Rocket,"
Selcol #502. Current value for any version: $250-$300.
Walt Disneys Space Station Model Kit
D32-100. 1/300 scale? Issued circa 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun. This
doughnut-shaped station utilizes nuclear energy for on-board power, as opposed to the
Lindberg 1002 space station which uses solar collectors. The kit cleverly duplicates the
supporting guy wires by including a small spool of thread to string between the hub and
the outer ring. Issued in the UK as "Space Station," Selcol #501. Reissued in
1993 as Glencoe "Nuclear Powered Space Station" #05909. Current value for D32 or
Selcol #501: $300-$350.
Walt Disneys RM-1 Rocket Ship Model
D34-100. 1/72 scale? Issued circa 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun. This was planned
as an orbital recycling job, built around the fourth stage of the "Man-In-Space
Ship." Included with the kit is a detachable "bottle" spacesuit with a
figure. The ship was intended to carry a crew of four, was propelled by chemical engines
burning hydrazine and nitric acid, and had a lance-like extension at the front of the ship
containing a nuclear reactor for onboard power. Issued in the UK as "Rocket
Ship," Selcol #503. Reissued in 1993 as Glencoe "Retriever Rocket" #05002.
Current value of D34: $250-$300. Current value Selcol #503: $250.
Walt Disneys Satellite Launcher Model Kit
D35-100. 1/288 scale? Issued circa 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun. This
ship was intended as an alternate use of the "Man In Space Ship" launch vehicle,
designed for lofting satellites and putting cargo into orbit. In the Man In Space
film, it is seen with "CR-1" markings on the top stage. Whats unusual
about this kit is that it is done in clear acrylic plastic, and has paper cut-out inserts
to represent the arrangement of internal fuel tanks. It includes a small Sputnik-like
satellite and a removable nose cone. According to the dealer brochure, there was also a
D35A kit issued. Details on the difference between D35 and D35A are unknown. Current value
of D35: $250.
Convair Manned Lunar Reconnaissance Vehicle Model Kit
D37-100. 1/96 scale? Designed by Krafft Ehricke. This and the other two Ehricke kits
look like PVC pipe constructions, assembled and used only in space where aerodynamics
arent a consideration. The box art by Cal Smith is titled "The Dark Side of the
Moon." Reissue planned by Glencoe as #07902 (with Nuclear Powered Interplanetary
Vehicle). Current value of D37: $150.
Convair Manned Nuclear Interplanetary Vehicle Model Kit
D38-100. 1/96 scale? Designed by Krafft Ehricke. Intended for Venus and Mars
exploration, this craft uses nuclear power to heat liquid hydrogen for propulsion. The Cal
Smith box painting is titled "Mars Flight Outbound." Reissue planned by Glencoe
as #07902 (with Manned Lunar Reconnaissance Vehicle). Current value of D38: $150.
Convair Manned Observational Satellite Vehicle Model Kit
D39-100. 1/200 scale? Designed by Krafft Ehricke. This space station, intended to be
manned by a crew of four, was planned to be assembled from fuel and oxidizer tanks of
supply rockets. Box art by Cal Smith is titled "Tender Flight Arriving." The
little "tender" ship shown on the paintin (which is not included with the
kit) is similar to the Ehricke-designed tender ship that comes with the Hawk #513 Convair
Atlas Space Station. Reissue planned by Glencoe as #05911. Current value of D39: $150.
End of Article ...
1950s space books
Lindberg Spaceship kits
Monogram / Willy Ley kits
Revell model kits
Strombecker / Disney kits