Tuesday, October 6, 2009

South Bend Spotlight-
Electronic U.S.S. Enterprise



Item Name: Electronic U.S.S. Enterprise
Manufacturer: South Bend Toys



South Bend released this Enterprise right around the time of the release of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"



The Rundown: In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a bit of an Enterprise kick lately. Today, we'll look at one of the rarer Enterprise toys- South Bend's Electronic U.S.S. Enterprise! This is one toy that was truly ahead of it's time.



Here's how the Enterprise looks when you get it. The pieces all plug into each other so that you can form the Enterprise... or any other ship design you can come up with using the parts! As a kid, I would have probably left it as the Enterprise most of the time, but it would have been cool to disassemble it and pretend I was doing the refit. A really cool feature!



That's the ship in it's main configuration as the Enterprise. It's a pretty large toy, measuring around 19" from the tip of the saucer to the end of her nacelles. The toy is pretty detailed for it's time, copying the lines and shapes of the movie model pretty well.



If there's one place where this ship really lacks, it's in the paint. There's no painted details on her at all. Instead, South Bend went the decal route. It's a toy from it's time though, so that's pretty standard. I do wish they'd have included a sticker for the deflector dish. It looks odd without any detailing.



The bottom of the main saucer has a bunch of speaker holes in it. It's not a huge distraction, since it's not usually visible. Why are there speaker holes you ask? Why because it's an ELECTRONIC U.S.S. Enterprise of course!



There's a little red dial at the back of the saucer. When you turn the dial, the ship emits a running noise. The sound gets more and more high-pitched the farther you turn the dial. When you get to the end of the rotation, the ship starts making a phaser noise and a little red light blinks at the top. The sound can get a little annoying. Hear for yourself:



So we've looked at the Enterprise in her main configuration... Now let's take a look at the variations suggested in the instructions:



This is what they label as "Scout Class". You make this one by taking the main dish and attaching one nacelle to the bottom.



Next we have the "Transport/ Tug Class". This one is the dish with the 2 struts and nacelles directly plugged into it's sides. Interesting to note how similar this one is to the U.S.S. Reliant- long before the release of "Star Trek II".



Here's the "Experimental Class I". Getting closer to the Enterprise here, with just a switched position of the nacelles and struts. I really dig the look of this one.



And lastly, this is the "Experimental Class II". Again, just a switch on the nacelle/ strut positioning. This one looks like an ugly duckling. Who'd want to fly in this? Not me.



Accessories: The ship comes with a translucent red base. The base has the TMP-style Star Trek logo across it. Pretty cool for a base...



It's too bad this one is a bit on the pricey side because it's one of the coolest Enterprise toys out there. The whole "build your own" concept is something totally unique and really sets this ship apart. If you do decide to go after one, be sure to watch out for yellowing and missing stickers as the ship is prone to both. Oh, and since the ship doesn't show up very often, have your wallet ready because this one will set you back anywhere from $100-$200 for a nice complete version!

-James

8 comments:

  1. Nice Spotlight Item.
    Really neat concept.

    If only a company could re-imagine this idea and make a customizable star ship (maybe 3 or 4 different style possibilities). That would be so cool.

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  2. This is the greatest Enterprise toy ever. I made some extra pieces for mine so that I could attach the nacelles a few more different ways.

    The "Scout" and "Transport/Tug" class ships were based on designs seen in the original Technical Manual (you _do_ have a copy of the original Technical Manual, yes? http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Fleet-Technical-Manual/dp/0345340744 ), and the toy inspired more fan-produced ship designs based on arrangements of the parts that the toy designers hadn't thought of -- and I can't find a picture of the one I'm thinking of. It would be very cool to see another modular spaceship toy like this.

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  3. I do indeed. :) I just totally forgot they were in there when I wrote this one up...

    GREAT toy! I need to dig this one back out and display it actually...

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  4. Mine is in storage somewhere, haven't it in years. Last time I had it displayed the ship had started yellowing really bad and the stickers were coming loose. I agree it was a great toy!!!

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  5. One thing that makes this toy unique and very collectible, is that several of the details,
    such as the shape of the bridge and B and C decks, the lower sensor dome, the extra phaser turrets at the rear of the saucer, and the extra docking ports on B and C deck, closely match details seen in early publicity shots of the ship. Several of these can be seen in the Topps motion picture set, and a Milton Bradley puzzle. Other details, such as the decals for the simplified Starfleet pennant and the label for the front of the nacelle match the early 'blueprint' drawings printed on the inside covers of the Peter Pan book and record sets released to tie in with the film. This makes this one of the only licensed replicas of this "not-quite-there-yet" version of the ship to make it it to stores before all the detailing was finalized.

    My favorite memory of this toy is that I found it on a store shelf in October of 1979...two months before the movie hit theatres! I took it to a convention that same month, where it was not only coveted by every fan in the dealer's room, but it also got me a couple of long conversations with con guest Jesco Von Puttkamer, who was a NASA scientist and science advisor on "Star Trek - The Motion Picture". He was very nice and corresponded with me for several months after that, answering my geeky questions about "photic sonars", "photon torpedoes", "wormhole" and "warp drive". Pretty heady stuff for a 16 year old fan.

    Dep1701

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  6. I just posted a new in box, never opened, South Bend model of the USS Enterprise. This is the original 1979 model. I found it while cleaning my parents house. Here's the link if you're interested. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=251281637529

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  7. Thanks for putting this up, brings back fond memories of the one I had as a kid. I wish I had taken better care of it, I broke the tip of the base that held the ship and broke one of the nacelles...DANG IT! Anyway, still wish I hanged onto it. One of the best toys I ever owned.

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  8. Mine got tossed out with the trash when I moved out after I got married. By then it hadn't stood the test of time. Still it was a beautiful toy. Personally I have to disagree with the "Experimental Class" being the ugly duckling. It might be a matter of taste, but it's no worse than imperfect IMHO. It's close to what a TMP era version of Voyager might have looked like. I think it looks better than the Exp. Version with the nacelles hanging down from the saucer like sideburns. The transport tug (proto-Reliant) version would have been better if the "neck" thing wouldn't have still been attached like an afterthought. On my SBE, the neck joint to the lower hull broke off soon after I got it; Glue was able to compensate for as long as I owned it. I don't know if the connection would have been more fragile if the neck was made part of the lower hull (or how easy it would have been to glue back) but they might avoided that problem entirely. Instead of a peg at the top of the neck, they could have had something that would fit into a slot in the side of the back of the saucer. Both SBE and the Mattell Space 1999 Eagle were the toys I most I wanted when I was a kid and wished I still had.

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