Monday, December 08, 2014

Memory Bank: Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser/Interplanetary UFO (AMT/Round Two)

"Somewhere in deep space, beyond the edge of the known galaxy, a mysterious craft materializes out of a boiling nebula..."

My second-favorite non-TV or movie spaceship model kit of all time (after Gerry Anderson’s Starcruiser One) is the AMT Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser, which -- for a time -- joined the universe of Star Trek. It was known in that line as the Interplanetary UFO or “Mystery Ship.”

A full and meticulous history of this gorgeous space cruiser kit is available here.  

In brief, the ship was designed, apparently, by Matt Jefferies, sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s, and was released 1967-1968.  

The original intent had been to create a model kit line called “Strategic Space Command.”  The Leif Ericson was designated an Explorer Class Galactic Cruiser (with a crew of 85) in the year 2075 and it housed an exploratory scout ship.

The kit itself was molded in glow-in-the-dark plastic, to give it a kind of luminescent or eerie UFO quality. 

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, I found a mint Star Trek version of the Leif Ericson galactic cruiser at Englishtown Flea Market in New Jersey -- an amazing bazaar of memories and dreams, if you ask me -- and I promptly constructed the thing, renamed it Yorktown (I had leftover decals from the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 kit).

I then made the ship part of my make believe world. I liked the ship not only because of the swashbuckling design, because it was from no particular series or story, and I could thus imagine my own universe for it.

I still have that kit that I found in Englishtown, though it has been through several re-paintings, and Joel played with it when he was four for a little while. 

Thus, I was delighted last week when, for my birthday, Kathryn and Joel purchased for me the Round Two re-release of the Interplanetary UFO Mystery Ship.  It was the perfect gift.

The old Leif Ericson here is just as beautiful as I remember her, and I have no plans to take the kit out of the plastic.

Right now, I just like looking at the box art and remembering how much fun I had playing with this nifty space cruiser during my childhood.


  1. I had this model, too, one of my favorites when I was young.

    If I remember correctly, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven used the Leif Ericson as the basis for the starship MacArthur in The Mote in God's Eye.

  2. You remember correctly! I however had forgotten that AMT repurposed the model as a mystery UFO later on. I really wish it had been more successful and they had gone on to produce the series of original designs that had been intended.

  3. I bought this model when it was part of the Star Trek line and I was collecting all the Star Trek models. I played with this model the most since, as you pointed out, it belonged to no set storyline and could become anything you wanted it to be. In my case, I renamed it The Aurora and made up stories about the crew's adventures. Then I wrote a "novel" retelling all those adventures. I still have the composition book with the handwritten story packed away somewhere.

  4. Anonymous2:44 PM

    The original Leif Ericson also came with a record ( remember those? ) which had music cribbed from "The Twilight Zone", and had lights for clear red pieces in the engine cowlings. The lights, clear parts, landing legs for the scout and record were dropped when AMT re-purposed it as the "UFO Mystery Ship". Too bad this design never made an appearance on "Star Trek" when it was new. I'll bet it would have been much more successful in it's original configuration.


  5. Anonymous10:26 PM

    My brother had the lighted version when we were kids. The Interplanetary UFO appears briefly in the Star Trek episode "The Ultimate Computer" as an unmanned freighter which is wrongfully destroyed by the USS Enterprise.