The AMT Leif Ericson Galactic Cruiser (a.k.a. Leif Erikson and UFO Mystery Ship) first appeared in 1967 or 1968. It could be seen advertised on the side of AMT's 1960s line of Star Trek models, but it was never part of that TV show.
Mike Okuda, who's great work has been seen on several Star Trek series, has filled in some background info on the Leif Ericson design:
The Leif Ericson was designed by Matt Jefferies, designer of the original Star Trek Enterprise and many of the ships that appeared in that series.
While the Leif Ericson never appeared in the original series, Mike mentioned that it did show up in a couple of places on Filmation's storyboards for the animated Star Trek
series in the early 1970s, although the ship did not appear in any of the finished episodes of the animated series.
Mike was also kind enough to retouch the scanned boxtop image of the Leif Ericson; my box had some nasty creases and was too big for my scanner, so I had to patch together two scans to make a single image. Thanks Mike!
The late 1960s through early 1970s saw three versions of the Leif Ericson:
The First Leif Ericson
- This was the original Leif Ericson, with a two piece hull molded in a light blue plastic, chrome plated parts, clear engines, a small scout,
a lighting kit, a paper record of the "Sounds of Outer Space" and a two page short story that covers the history and adventures of the ship.
I've converted the included short story to text.
The next release was the "U.F.O. Mystery Ship."
This kit was molded in a light green glow in the dark plastic. The chrome and clear parts, as well as the lights and the paper record were
not included in the kit.
The final release of the "U.F.O. Mystery Ship."
At some point, AMT decided to make the Mystery Ship kit fit into a smaller box, so the mold was redone and the ship's neck was cut, shortening the ship length by about 3mm.
This "split neck" version was only released as the "U.F.O. Mystery Ship."
The short story included with the Leif Ericson mentions that this kit was the first of several kits in AMT's "Strategic Space Command" series.
This may have been an attempt by the 1960s AMT to start their own line of non-Star Trek spaceship models; in any case, only the Leif Ericson (and its alter ego, the UFO Mystery Ship) were produced.
Over the years, the ownership of AMT changed hands several times and the various owners lost track of the Leif Ericson molds. This ended when Round 2 bought AMT.
In late 2008 Jaime Hood, the Art Director of Round 2 LLC contacted me about a mold that they believed was the Leif Ericson. It was clear to me that this was the mold for the split neck version of the Leif Ericson/U.F.O. Mystery Ship. Oddly, the mold included the chrome parts that had been missing from the original "U.F.O. Mystery Ship", but not for the clear engine parts.
Jaime has pictures of the mold at the Round 2 blog, Collector Model
The new version of the "U.F.O. Mystery Ship" was released in 2009. This kit has a split neck, but all of the originally chromed parts are included (but not chromed). The new kit also includes an extensive decal sheet as well as a new short story. Like the original Mystery Ship, it's molded in Glow in the Dark plastic.
Since the clear engine molds were missing, I decided to use the opportunity to make a copy of the original engines in Rhino 3D
, a 3D CAD program.
I had the engines printed in clear blue resin and showed Jaime the results. A few months later he contacted me; Round 2 wanted to re-release the original "Leif Ericson", but the mold for the clear engine parts was missing. They used my 3D files for the engines to make a new mold for the engine parts, as well as a scan from my Leif Ericson boxtop to make the new box artwork.
Here's a picture of the old and new clear engine parts. The old parts are on top and a lighter red in color. Click to enlarge:
The mold for the new Leif Ericson is the same as the mold for the split neck version of the U.F.O. Mystery ship, except
that the neck has been reconnected. The reconnect does not replace the approximately 3mm missing from the neck. Also, the engine placement slots are slightly different from the original Leif Ericson kit.
Due to the difficulty in obtaining the rights to the various bits of music used in the original "Sounds of Outer Space" record, the record is not included in the kit.
The Leif Ericson was re-released in late 2011.
I digitized the "Sounds of Outer Space"
record in 2004. I want to thank my friend David
for doing the conversion for me.
The sound quality isn't great, but better than I had expected from a 36 year old paper record. I also want to thank Jack
for cleaning up the audio. The version below sounds much better
than the version that I had here originally.
You can listen to a few seconds in this mp3 file
- if you dare.
and Scott Snell
did an amazing job of identifying both the source of the music and the spoken words in the record.
The lyrics are from a 1967 psychedelic rock record called "Cosmic Sounds" by The Zodiac. The music was originally used in "The Twilight Zone" and was released in "The Twilight Zone: 40th Anniversary Collection" set."
Most people probably remember the Leif Ericson as the inspiration for the INSS McArthur from The Mote in God's Eye.
which was written by Larry Niven
and Jerry Pournelle
. My copy of the paperback even had an LE inspired design on the cover! Jerry Pournelle has a page with pictures of a built up LE model.
has been kind enough to send me these outstanding renders of his INSS MacArthur. Click on the images below to
see an enlarged version:
Leif Ericson kit box images.
Click on the images below to see the box top, sides, ends and a late 60's vintage AMT ad for the
kit and details of the line drawings of the ship and scout. Some of these images are big, so you'll have to scroll to see them completely:
Leif Ericson kit parts images.
Click on the images below to see the details of the kit's plastic parts, instruction sheet
pages, details of the "Sounds of Space" record, and the kit decals. Some of these images are big, so you'll have to scroll to see them completely: