Thunderbirds was the greatest Supermarionation program of them
all. This program, the Anderson's 4th Supermarionation series,
involved the exploits of International Rescue, a secret
organization operated by millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, his
five sons, and a group of agents situated around the world.
International Rescue exists to save people's lives in situations
where conventional rescue efforts would be useless. Rescues are
carried out using an array of advanced machines, called the
Here is everyone's
favorite nuclear powered Mach 6 airliner, the Fireflash,
at Air Terranean's London International Airport terminal.
Note the Lesney Matchbox double trailer trucks in the
foreground and background.
If the guys at
London Tower had only known that the Hood's Auto-Bomb
Unit was only a harmless aerosol shaving cream can!
Here comes the
fire brigade! Looks like the two white ambulances were
modified 1/24th scale plastic car kits (probably from
AMT) and the two fire tenders were scratch built from
This large SAF
target tug aircraft was scratch built from balsa wood
with various kit components added for detail. I see some
rubber wheels of the type used on gas powered model
airplanes, several engines from a plastic B-58
"Hustler" kit, and decals from a USAF
Thunderbirds flight demonstration team F-105 Thunderchief
or F-100 Super Sabre model kit.
Here is the
automated target aircraft carried by the target tug
pictured above. This thing was a hollow shell that was
filled with Fuller's Earth so that it made a big black
cloud when blown up in front of the camera.
The UN10 jet
utilized a plastic B-58 "Hustler" kit's
fuselage, vertical stabilizer, and engines. The wings,
cockpit canopy, and horizontal stabilizer came from
unknown kit sources or were fabricated from balsa wood.
What a nice looking model!
Thunderbird 5. Rumor has it that only one model of
Thunderbird 5 was constructed and it was the crudest of
the bunch. TB5 was essentially made from cardboard
festooned with various bits and pieces ranging from
Airfix bridge parts, to fishing bobbers, to some kind of
copper heating coil. The model was redetailed several
times over the course of filming the Thunderbirds
television series and feature films.
Here is an early
version of Thunderbird 1 at London International Airport.
Note the wheeled undercarriage. The later models had
skids instead of wheels. The gray airliner parked on the
left side of the picture showed up on a Marineville
monitor screen in "Star of the East". On the
right side of the picture, you can just barely see one of
the WASP jet bombers from Stingray.
Here are two
police cars positioned under a large scale section of
Thunderbird 1. It looks like these were modified 1/24th
scale AMT plastic car kits.
Thunderbird 2 lowering Pod #3. Note the small light
colored squares near the corners of the pod door. These
are Airfix model railway bridge components. Note also the
gray aircraft from the Stingray episode "Star of the
East" in the background.
Here comes a large
scale master elevator car made from balsa wood with kit
part details and wheels meant for a gas powered model
airplane. See the cloud of dust billowing up behind the
model? That's Fuller's Earth, a very fine powder, that
was dusted liberally on the roadway. This miniature has
been fitted with a downward pointing Jetex Motor, a
pyrotechnic device used to propel model airplanes during
the 1950s and 1960s. The Jetex Motor disturbed the
Fuller's Earth as the model was pulled over the roadway
with a wire, simulating road dust or exhaust.
Here comes a large
scale cab-less radio controlled elevator car. There were
two different sizes of elevator car models made. A large
size which was used for close up filming like this
picture and a smaller size which was used on the rolling
roadway (or runway) with the Fireflash airliner model.
Here is what
happened when one of the fine control wires broke off a
small scale radio controlled elevator car on the rolling
road during filming. The elevator car on the right is
heading off the table on to the floor, propelled by the
force of the rolling road!
The effects crew
liked the effect of the little car skidding off the table
so they put together a little crash scene to incorporate
the accident into the story. This still shows a very
hastily constructed large scale 727 airliner model that
is about to be destroyed by the errant radio controlled
elevator car. It looks as if the wings and empennage of
this large scale airliner were made of silkspan paper
stretched over a balsawood framework.
Here is the roller
road in action. Both the large scale elevator car and
large scale section of the Fireflash are completely
stationary. It is the road that is doing the moving. What
you see here is a green rolling foreground section, a
rolling runway, a rolling background section, and a
rolling sky backdrop. Four rolling scenery sections in
all, each moving at a slightly different speed to
simulate the effects of varying distance.
That white residue
on the wheels and front end of this elevator car model is
Titanium Tetra Chloride, a noxious, corrosive chemical
which smoked spontaneously in contact with the air.
Here is one of the
smaller FAB1 models on a different sort of rolling
roadway, actually a rolling roadway configured as a true
roadway and not a runway. That white picket fence between
the rolling roadway and the rolling backdrop was mounted
on a roller too! This small scale FAB1 model's axles are
separated from the underbody by small pads of sponge
rubber which created the illusion of a suspension system.
The rolling roadway proved so successful that Derek
Meddings took it with him when he went to work on the
Bond films during the early 1970s.