Building the Dream: The Motion Picture USS Enterprise Refit Replica – PART 1

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Building the Dream: The Motion Picture USS Enterprise Refit Replica – PART 1

On May 24, 2019, my wife Melanie, myself, and artist Dan Grumeretz unveiled the world’s first completed studio scale replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek The Motion Picture at the 2019 Escape Velocity Convention. Melanie and I ended up donating it to The Museum of Science Fiction June 1, 2020. The 2019 Escape Velocity Convention was to be a great celebration of that film’s 40th anniversary. What an amazing journey this has been. The dream of a Studio Scale REFIT Replica has come to reality.

ABOVE: Short clip of a feature video (showing Kurt Kuhn with the Enterprise) that Omar B. Rimawi filmed of the model at 2019 Escape Velocity

2010…Enter TimeSlip Creations,
George Takacs!!

ABOVE: May 26, 2019 – Kurt Kuhn (Left), George Takacs (Middle), and Dan Grumeretz (Right)

It is a journey that began for me with my contacting artist George Takacs of TimeSlip Creations about parts he had just announced he was creating for the Studio Scale Enterprise REFIT. George first stated he was making the massive 4 foot long Nacelles, showing the initial files to do so. The idea was amazing! Because so, on October 5, 2010 (a Tuesday at 6:47 AM PST) (…to be exact.. LOL) I emailed George about these parts for the first time. You may be thinking, “that is a very specific time Kurt”, right? The great thing is that I still have the emails from back then that I keep for occasions just like this one. How else would I remember the exact time? LOL. I state that with a huge, and very grateful smile. This is an important date for me, and the beginning of a huge dream fulfillment of mine, as well as for many people around the world.

ABOVE: December 9, 2010 — Kurt Kuhn with the 4 Foot Refit Nacelle Parts

2011…Enter Marc Elkins!!

ABOVE: November 22, 2013 – Marc Elkins with the Refit Saucer

Artist Marc Elkins had originally been commissioned to take on this amazing build. His skills are well known in all the fantastic work he has done over the decades he has been within it. He actually took on this project with his own build in mind. We purchased more parts from George than for just one of these builds. We actually purchased enough parts for three builds. Thus, Marc began to clean and fit all the parts coming from TimeSlip Creations…

BELOW: April 7, 2011 to November 3, 2014 Progress Photos from Marc Elkins

Vested Build Cost: $65,314.26 USD
Cost for Leila Dunbar Appraisal: $5,250 USD
June 1, 2020 Official (Documented) Appraised Value: $125,000 USD

Many people have inquired how long it took to build, and how much money it cost to make the Studio Scale USS Enterprise Refit. The caption above tells those numbers, but they should be elaborated on.  For Build time, I had quoted around 2,500 man hours during our Panel at the 2019 Escape Velocity Convention. I can tell that everyone was shocked in a sort of disbelief. Even Dan Grumeretz, this model’s primary artist, looked at me in question of that number. HA! I suppose the sound of that number seems to be an embellishment. After all my accounting, I can tell you with truth that it is not. If you break it down, you will find hours worked on this project from two different artists, an electronics expert, fabricators, a welder, and a cabinet maker, among a few other people I hired to make this model a reality. If you could see everything I have on the subject (which is too much to show) you would find my estimate is indeed true, and in fact… a very conservative estimate. What is more amazing is that my stated 2,500 hours estimate is not even counting anything George Takacs had vested in his efforts in creating the parts, and the talents he utilized (like Clint Borucki’s team at ACME Design, Inc). The hours I have stated as used for this model are only our own hours taken to create this model. That number began when I first received (in my own hands) the Nacelles from George. Still in dis-belief? This has been an 8 year, 8 month journey, with the majority of this build being completed in the last six months. Let’s add those six months up for just Dan alone. We start with two months at 12 hours daily, three months at 16 hours daily, three weeks at 20 hours daily, and one week at 24 hours daily. That is 876 hours just in the last 6 months with only one man’s hours accounted for. We had a few people working on this project during that same time, and there were many, many hours devoted to this with at least two artists in the 8.5 years before this last 6 months. Putting this “time” into a real-world perspective: If a person worked for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 16 months… (68 weeks), you will get 2,720 hours worked. That is a standard work day, with weekends off,… in only 1 year and 4 months. Interesting, isn’t it?

As for cost… if this were a Hollywood build, this would have been over $100K. But in all reality, with what we had to do to make this real at this time, it came to exactly $65,314.26 USD. Here is the great thing…. With all we now know of this beautiful model, and the fact that George continues to develop parts (which are very near to being complete) to make this an entire kit, Dan and I both agree this model could be built for much less. Better efficiency, and less time taken to make those things we know of now effects costs greatly.

ABOVE: November 22, 2013 – Kurt Kuhn (Left) and Marc Elkins (Right) with the Enterprise Saucer Top

As mentioned, this fantastic model went through two main artists, Marc Elkins and Dan Grumeretz. After a few years of acquiring parts from George, test fitting and assembling these parts, Marc found himself overloaded with work, and a new child on the way. This wonderful news was fantastic back then, and even today. That stated… it meant that the Enterprise build would have to wait for a significant time. Family is always number one with me, and Marc has an amazing and large family that he is a great Father of. Therefore, in 2014 Marc and I decided together to move that project to another artist…. Dan Grumeretz. I had already been working with Dan for a few years, with many projects. Dan was able to take my own vision and translate them into beautiful, physical display models. As it turns out, our symbiosis is a great one for this type of artwork, and the Starship Enterprise REFIT Replica was again on track. I am grateful to my friend Marc Elkins for his great contributions to this wonderful build.

Amazing Artists Utilized…
2014….Enter Dan Grumeretz!

BELOW: August 27, 2016 – Dan Grumeretz holding the Enterprise Primary Hull

ABOVE: May 24, 2019 – Dan Grumeretz working on the Studio Scale USS Enterprise

Marc had already done much of the fitment needed of the parts we had at that time, so Dan almost immediately began to create the interiors of this model. We found something very interesting almost immediately. This Studio Scale Model is actually 1/120 scale, yet it’s corridors, the Captain’s Lounge, and an entire Shuttle Bay had to be built in “N” Scale 1/160 to fit properly. Unfortunately the beautiful Shuttle Bay Dan was making did not get finished in time for the presentation, and we used the closed clam-shell doors instead. One of the main interior areas is the massive Rec Deck, which is located in the Aft Starboard saucer section. It has the largest windows in the saucer section which are squared off that the people inside the ship could have great views. This Rec Deck is shown in two fantastic scenes in the film. One is when Captain Kirk first shows the crew V’Ger, and what it did to the Klingons in Battle,.. or what appeared to be a Battle. The next time we see this massive Rec Deck is when Commander Decker is accompanying the replica of Lieutenant Ilea (whom is now communicating as V’Ger). It is this scene we have replicated in the model replica’s Rec Deck area, and it can be seen through it’s windows. In making that area, and fitting the correct size figures into it, we found the scale to be very much smaller than 1/120, and even smaller than the “N” scale of 1/160. To fit that Rec Deck into a 1/120 Saucer section, and have it be correct to the size we viewed in the film (with it’s two levels) the scale of that section is actually “Z” scale, or 1/220. The figures Dan placed in were less than .33 (⅜) inches tall!

BELOW: May 24, 2019 – Kurt Kuhn (Left) & Dan Grumeretz (Right) – Final Details on the REFIT

Easter Eggs!

In making this Enterprise, it was very important to me that this model take on the look and characteristics of what this Enterprise would look like if it were real, and someone simply shrunk it down with a shrink ray. This is the vision and criteria for all that is in the Kuhn Collection today. I call it “Idealized” because it strays from the true meaning of “Studio Scale” when that is applied. For instance, much of the detail seen through the windows of the original model were simply pictures to give it depth. Dan took it a step further. He made corridors that could be seen within all the tiny windows, and then placed actual figures in the corridors! This is where we placed in what is referred to as “Easter Eggs” into the model. “Easter Eggs” are tiny objects of interest that one discovers… like Disney does with it’s “Hidden Mickey” head in just about everything it creates. Our “Easter Eggs” begin with the Rec Room’s huge monitor… which is showing the scrolling words in the beginning of the 1977 film Star Wars! Other “Easter Eggs” can be found through various windows…. like the famed Vincent Van Gogh painting of “A Starry Night” on the rear wall of the Captain’s Lounge, or an actual “Mickey Mouse” peering at you through one of the Saucer Deck windows. Other’s include an “Andorian”, and the black and white faced character “Lokai” from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” in the primary hull section. Dan  even included “Orion Slave Girls” which are very difficult to see through the windows, but have been placed in anyway. Even more include C3PO & R2D2, and even Luke and Leia as they stood in the Medical Frigate at the end of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back! Dan added those on his own, knowing I would approve. We just could not resist. He and I have the same thoughts on “idealized” miniatures.

So many people ask me of the “Kit”. While many modelers speak of what George Takacs has created as a “Kit”,… I don’t consider it to be a singular kit….. ‘yet’ that is. I state this because as of this article, it is not yet a full kit that can stand on it’s own. While the Bridge Module stands alone as a kit, the rest are fantastically made parts that are being assembled to become a “Kit”. I can state with every confidence that the stand alone kit it shall eventually become, it is most amazing, and I highly recommend it. George is doing great work for us all! Thank you George!

Dan and I had been waiting for some ‘key’ elements from TimeSlip Creations that, as previously stated, some of which are still in development. George is making certain these parts are perfect to be released. In my experience with TimeSlip Creations, George will release nothing less than amazing. A few of the key elements that were still in development with George during the time we were in were the Neck with Torpedo Bay, the Nacelle Pylons, and the Nacelle Pylon Boots. Some of those are now available from George today, however back then they were not, and we needed these items to begin the metal armature that Dan would end up designing. We decided they would need to be scratch built to press forward with the build. Utilizing photos of the original studio model (the 1701-A shown on Modelers Miniatures & Magic), matching it with the Polar Lights 1/350 kit, and viewing close-up screen captures from Star Trek The Motion Picture, Dan was able to make all of these parts needed. We have the molds even today. I even sent a second set to Marc Elkins as a gift for his own build, as the Refit is Marc’s favorite sci-fi model. Getting back to the build, after Dan created these needed parts, he continued to work on the interiors, including very fine details for the scale.

The next section of photos shows the progress (in order of the dates they happened) by Dan from August 6, 2015 to March 28,2019. This section also shows reference used from screen captures and photos of the studio model, drawings made, the creation and casting of the Neck, Pylons and Torpedo Bay, some notes, and even the parts Dan made for the Shuttle Bay we had planned (that was not finished in time for unveiling).