Nostromo from Alien Restored

What happens to a spaceship that’s been left to the Southern California elements? It cracks, splinters and deteriorates. At least that is what happened to the Nostromo, the huge industrial towing vessel from Alien.

The original model built by the effects team at Bray Studios in London, UK for the 1979 Academy Award winning movie, was donated to Bob Burns, a prop collector, but it’s size and weight made proper storage a difficult task. So the 500 pound model sat for 20 years slowly falling apart.

The model before restoration after 20 years of being beaten by the California weather.

The Nostromo started as no more than a steel frame that was constructed to provide skeletal support to the massive (estimated at 500 pounds or more) final build. Chunks of solid wood were shaped and mounted on the steel to serve as the vessel’s “musculature.” Once the Nostromo had a sound understructure, Brian Johnson’s team went to work applying the “skin” to the Nostromo’s industrial surface. This group of artisans called themselves “The Widgeteers,” a dedicated team of detail-oriented engineers, applying hundreds of little plastic widgets in a tedious labor of madness and passion.

The Nostromo’s outer surface was brought to life via a method known as “kit-bashing” where the modellers would raid hobby shops for off-the-shelf model kits and then use the parts from those models to create the very functional-looking outer surface of the miniature. In the case of the Nostromo, certain model kits were “bashed” again and again to give the Nostromo life. Parts that were required in high multiples were sometimes obtained in batches from the models’ manufacturers. The most popular models farmed for their parts? A British Matilda tank from World War II, NASA’s space shuttle, and Darth Vader’s TIE-Fighter. The effects team then used chloroform to literally melt the plastic parts so that they could be shaped to the curving surface of the miniature. Once they were shaped, the chloroform would eat away at the thin styrene model parts, thus bonding them to the wooden understructure. With that much surface area and that many parts, one sincerely hopes that the modelers employed OSHA-approved ventilation during the build.

In 2007 restoration by the Prop Store began which involved tracking down models from the 70s to replace missing or damaged parts, and in some cases, fabricating entirely new parts.

The restored model.

This video documents the restoration process.

Full Story at The Prop Store

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