The Skyhopper
This model is the end result of years of hard work by Ed Minto, Craig Underwood, and myself. Literally built over and over again until we arrived at what you see below, this is “V5” for me. Any build like this begins with reference photos. Without those, you are only going to be able to guess about dimensions, kit parts, and how the model was constructed. In this case, Colin Cantwell built the Skyhopper as one of the first models built for Star Wars, before ILM even existed, as a way to visualize what George Lucas was pulling together into what eventually became Star Wars. The Skyhopper is an anomaly however, as it is featured in the film not only as a 1:1 “prop” but also as a section of scaled up set piece, placed in the background hangar in the Lars Homestead. The model as built here is a representation of what Cantwell originally built, thanks to some very rare photos of the model that show all the various pieces that had broken off – some before filming, and of course some over the past 40 plus years.
The original still exists in the Lucasfilm Archives, and at some point in the 1990s was badly damaged and repaired by an ILMer, from the best reference available at that time. I personally think that is how the “tines” on the undersides of the wings ended up at 90º angles, laid flat against the wing itself, as the “skis” had broken off long long ago (before filming). But again, thanks to archival photos, our little team was able to ID and reconstruct the original build. So once parts were completely IDed and added to the bulk of the data collected and IDed by Ed, we were able to extrapolate measurements, Craig built the model in 3D, and we could then build from my laser cut acrylic parts. Even then, a few test builds were necessary to work out quirks that only really ever present themselves once you are physically building… hence this being my fifth go at a main shape. Truth be told, I am still off by a few millimeters in one area, but I find that to be an acceptable tolerance!
I had silkscreened waterslide decals made years ago, from the original desiccated vintage examples that Cantwell used, so that was also incredibly gratifying to see line up perfectly against the laser-etched panel lines. My favorite bits of trivia from this experience are that it takes thirty five separate kits to make one Skyhopper, the heatsink is nearly impossible to source without being willing to buy hundreds, the detail surrounding the chrome truck rim on the rear is a vintage 3M Scotch Tape reel (very hard to source), and that I suspect the red plastic on the underside of the main sail is a swizzle stick or cocktail decoration from the 1960s or 1970s. That is what I used, and it seems to fit the bill perfectly, both in shape and color. However, Craig has a different theory, so you never know – I may be popping the piece off later if something less esoteric makes sense/is a better fit.
The stand pictured here is not the correct nor final stand, as the original uses a three legged “lamp spider” with a different hub. This is simply a stop gap solution on a motorized turntable that evokes the same vibe as the original brass that Mr. Cantwell used. Thanks to Craig Underwood and Ed Minto for an unforgettable experience, and to Mr. Cantwell for kicking off a wave of creativity in a universe far far away, that informed and left an indelible mark on my generation. We salute you.
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