Revell 1/96 Saturn V
KIT #: 3401
PRICE: £35.00 (about $54.00)
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Alasdair Mackenzie
NOTES: Out of the box kit with a few home-made modifications and extras


 The Saturn V, developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center under the direction of German scientist and ex-Nazi, Wernher von Braun, was the largest in a family of liquid-propellant rockets that solved the problem of getting men to the Moon. Remarkably, NASA launched 13 Saturn Vs from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida with no loss of crew or payload. It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and still holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload.

The most famous Saturn V flight was in July 1969 a Saturn V launched the crew of Apollo 11 that consisted of Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong to the first manned landing on the Moon.

The power of the Saturn V was staggering and the five F-1 engines used at lift off equalled 160,000,000 horsepower. This combined thrust allowed the Saturn V, which was as high as a 36 story building and weighed the same as a WWII destroyer, to break the sound barrier in just over 1 minute. The first stage burned for about 2 minutes and 41 seconds, lifting the rocket to an altitude of 42 miles (68 km) and a speed of 6,164 miles per hour.

After stage 1 separation, the second stage, powered by 5 J2 engines burned for 6 minutes and propelled the craft to 109 miles (175 km) and 15,647 mph which was close to orbital velocity.

The third stage then burned for about 2.5 minutes until first cutoff at 11 minutes 40 seconds. At this point it was 1,640 miles (2,640 km) downrange and in a parking orbit at an altitude of 118.8 miles (191.2 km) and velocity of 17,432 mph. It is fair to say that in terms of size, power, weight lifting ability and speed nothing has yet come close to equaling the might of the Saturn V and some of this comes through in the excellent movie “In the shadow of the Moon”.


I used to make model kits in my teens but gave up when I discovered girls and went to college. Since then I’ve graduated, been employed, got married, mortgaged, and had three kids. I have only recently rediscovered the magic of modelling again through the eyes of my kids who came home a few years ago with a little Revell tank kit and asked for my help. That was it! I was hooked again. Since then I have been doing mainly WWII aircraft and the occasional Soviet/Russian jet.

I got the opportunity to build the Revell 1/96 Saturn V just before Xmas 2011 when I popped into Model Zone in Aberdeen and my kids noticed a massive box with a picture of a space rocket on the side. I have been fascinated by the Apollo missions for many years and was only eight in 1973 when the missions finished; just as I was becoming aware of their significance. In the shop one of the boxes had been damaged (but not the contents I was assured) so, being a “canny” Scot I walked out having only parted with £35 (about 55 bucks) of my hard earned spondoolies. I don’t know who was more excited about opening the big box, me or the kids.

On getting home we opened up the box and were bemused to find that the box was filled with 10 massive white plastic cylinders and 4 white bits of plastic sheeting with American flags printed on the side. There were also 4 white plastic sprues with more detailed bits and pieces such as J1 and J2 engines and assorted ducting, fins and engine fairings. A smaller set of 6 silver coloured plastic sprues that contained bits for the LEM, command module, and service module were also contained and appeared to have come from another kit as the level of molding and detail was worse. The kit also contained a diorama of the moon surface, a small clear plastic sheet and a small sheet of decals. I have to say, having made a few “Tamegawa” and recent Revell kits (Lanc and Mossie)  I was not overly blown away by the detail. However, i accepted that this was a late 70s production kit so did not expect modern “Tamagawa” detail levels.


Many hours were spent sanding away the many metric tons of plastic (If scaled up 1:1) stuck to all the pieces. I spent the first few days putting together the J1 and J2 engines which, once the halves were joined and filed with a triangular file and sandpaper were quite presentable. Using a limited number of on-line pictures of J1 and J2 engines I then used a fine drill, superglue and 13 amp fuse wire to add some of the fine pipe and cable detail obvious from photos of the original vehicle. The whole lot was then airbrushed with a recent pleasant discovery; Humbrol “Metalcote” polished aluminium, which produced a quick drying and tough finish which I’ve only seen bettered using AlcladII paints. I then painted on a coat of “Klear” mixed with a drop of Tamyia acrylic gloss black to extenuate shadowing and the J-1 engines were finished. The J-2 engines had a few more parts and were a little trickier to finish but I treated them the same as the J-1 engines and added colour afterwards using my limited on-line pictures and a degree of imagination. Overall I was happy with the results, although they may not fool a NASA engineer.

I then set about putting together the LEM, command module (CM) and service module (SM) whose detail was very poor.


Once put together and sanded and filed to try and make the raised detail fit (unsuccessfully) I sprayed Humbrol matt white then masked to pick out the white markings on the photos I had. The whole lot was then sprayed with “metalcote”. The effect was quite good and once thrusters and decals were applied the SM looked quite presentable. The rocket motor was painted gun metal and the other end, where the CM sits, was painted cockpit green, shaded with Klear and Tamyia black then slightly dry brushed with matt white. The CM has some aspirations towards internal detail including a wee man, a sad attempt at a “dash board” and little windows which had to be cut out of the little piece of clear plastic supplied. This proved quite tricky and in the end I resorted to double sided sellotape and stabilising with ordinary Klear. The windows were then masked and the whole outer shell painted with Humbrol enamel gloss black. After a couple of days the whole lot was sprayed with AlcladII chrome to represent the high polish obvious from photos. This could have gone better as some dimpling of the underlying gloss black occurred as can be seen around the escape hatches. However, I had bigger fish to fry and started the horrendous construction of the different stages. I first sprayed everything with Humbrol Matt White. To show how massive this kit is I actually went through two tinlets carrying this out. I then masked off and sprayed with Humbrol Matt Black. This took a lot of care and attention to mask off the cylinders in perfect register with the black and white on the cards as the instructions were little or no help.  More difficulties arose when attempting to mask over the corrugated surfaces of many of the parts, particularly the conical piece joining stage 2 to stage 3.  So, I was delighted that, with relatively little retouching I was able to do a passable job of the distinctive Sat V black and white checker pattern.


However, the real problem arose when trying to put together the different stages with the bits of white plastic card supplied. These are to be clamped together using pieces representing the side ducting which have pegs that protrude through holes punched near the edge of each card. This proved to be utterly unsatisfactory and, in the end, I formed cylinders with the cards and using the holes as a guide, superglued and clamped the ends together after trimming away the extra card that would have stuck out from under the ducting if assembled according to the instructions. The J1 engine fairings also proved to be a pest as it was not clear from the instructions what colour they should be and I was unable to find an adequate photo on line. It was only when I looked at footage from “In the shadow of the moon” that I saw what the colours should be. However, I like what I did although I had problems adhering the fairings to the side of stage 1.

The best fun was letting my daughters help me putting the little LEM together and painting the astronauts. One had already gone in the command module and anther went inside the LEM. Once put together I doused the LEM with “Metalcote” and then scoured the internet for pictures of the black panels obvious from previous photos. This took a while and, due to the tiny size of the LEM, did much of this free hand. The Lander came with the option of folding it up and squishing it behind a crummy looking window behind the command module in the completed rocked. However, I opted for the landing configuration and sprayed the crummy window white having sanded it level. My daughter found some shiny gold foil that she saved from an Easter egg last year and I used this, with some Pritt stick, to cote the lander main body. The legs were painted with Revell gold paint as were details on the LEM which, again, may not be strictly realistic. However, as before we all liked the effect.

My lone astronaut (a perfect scale model of Neil Armstrong) was painted white and attempts were made to apply shadow and highlights both on him and the “lunar” surface. His visor was first painted black which was nested with Revell gold. I used some decals from a 1:144 scale tornado cockpit to make some detail on Wee Neil’s ruck sack and belly. Again, not accurate but the kids thought it looked good. Decal placement was the next sore head but, hey, we pretty much made up most of the rest thanks to the poor instructions. Again the lift off scene from “Shadow of the moon” showed my placing to be wrong even though I had scrutinised the instructions.

Photos were taken using a digital Cannon EOS 450D 10Mpi camera. 8 year old daughter and penny for scale courtesy of my wife and wallet.


 Despite all my moaning above, I really enjoyed building this 4 foot tall beast (see next to eight year old daughter) although the house looked like Cape Canaveral for two weeks. The family saw the monster coming together and my kids friends came from miles around wondering when launch day was scheduled. Aside from the poor level of detail in areas such as the service module my biggest bugbear was the poor instructions and how little information was supplied with the kit. That been said my family and I learned a lot from the kit and I have been booked by my kids school to do a practical demonstration of the Saturn V and the moon landings from a project they are doing there.

Highly recommended for the inexperienced and imaginative modeller who wants a really huge and impressive kit but is not too bothered about accuracy.


Mainly Wikipedia with a help from the NASA web site and (belatedly) “in the shadow of the moon”.

Alasdair Mackenzie

March 2012

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