Revell Jolly Roger Pirate Ship

KIT #:  
REVIEWER: Martin Harms


In 1960 the Revell Jolly Roger pirate ship was on my wish list for my 7th birthday.  Strangely enough, this wish list has survived to this day - the finished kit is long gone. The model was assembled by my Dad, mostly. This kit triggered off a lifelong fascination for plastic model kits. I had long breaks without building any models, but, so far, it has always caught up with me again.

In the mid 1980s I came across a re-run of the kit in a stationary shop in New Zealand. I had to buy it, of course. I took it out of the cupboard now and then, but never started the kit. But almost exactly 50 years after first holding the kit in my hands, I had to have a go. Without Dad’s help this time!


The kit is based on an attraction in the original Disneyland of the 1950s. It was a restaurant named „Chicken of the Sea“. This was a public relations exercise way to try and get people to eat Tuna in those days. How things have changed! The ship itself was to represent the Pirate Ship from the Disney Peter Pan cartoon.

The model is quite authentic to the Disney attraction. Right down to the draft of only a foot or so. The original was in water only about a foot deep. Saved children from drowning if they fell into the water, I guess. Here is a link to that ship. On the other hand, the artist who designed the original Revell kit must have been knowledgable about  sailing ships of the 16th and 17th century. A lot of details are a lot more accurate than on the Disney Restaurant.


So this got me thinking and I decided to build the model to depict a fictional ship of the 17th century rather than the 1950s „Chicken of the Sea“. The kit parts fit quite well apart from the the warped hull halves. At least from the standpoint of someone who is used to ancient plastic kits… Careful clamping and some rubber bands while the glue sets, fixed that problem.  Some parts need to be refined a bit with files and scalpel but all in all it is quite astonishing how well a kit from the early days of plastic kits can be assembled 50 years down the track.

The most difficult parts to refine were the shrouds. I went the easy way and sanded them flat from both sides. Afterwards I thinned them down with a scalpel. The steering wheel and its stand were refined with cotton thread. Before I could do that, I had to research how the real thing used to be operated.
All up, I most likely spent a lot more time researching about ships of the late seventeenth century, than I did assembling and painting the model.

The rigging is a coarse simulation of the real thing. It is quite amazing how operational the rigging is. Once I had figured out which rope did what in holding the masts and and the yardarms in position and  applied that knowledge the I was astonished to see the effect. I actually dropped the model on the floor and the rigging prevented a lot of damage to masts and shrouds. Cotton thread was soaked in diluted PVA and then dried to simulate the slack of the ropes though their own weight.


For the coloring I researched web pages about typical surface coatings from 300-400 years ago. Bright colours like red and yellow were sourced from minerals and some plants, and where obtainable in those days, but very expensive. Blue was almost non existent. The use of bright colours  was mostly restricted to figureheads in those days. There are quite a number of contemporary (mostly Dutch) maritime oil paintings that show typical paint jobs of the time.

I applied an undercoat of Revell enamel medium grey and then used I used artists acrylics for the painting. Careful application of washes and dry brushing as well as a mix of opaque layers with transparent washes are possible at little cost as one can mix minute amounts of paint that does not change in hue when drying.


All in all it was an interesting journey into the past of modelling, my own and that of the industry as it was then.


Greg Ewald reviewed this kit before for this website and was less than complimentary.

Martin Harms

22 February 2019


If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page     Back to the Review Index Page     Back to the Previews Index Page