Restoration of The Nostromo from the Movie Alien

Restoration of The Nostromo from the Movie Alien: "

The wizards over at The Propstore recently completed a project to restore the prop model of the Nostromo, the ship from the movie Alien.


The Nostromo after 20 years of weathering and decay (Image used with permission from The Prop Store)


The massive model of the Nostromo was painstakingly created in 1978 by a team at Bray Studios in London, UK:


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.


After filming of the movie completed, the model was donated to Bob Burns, a prop collector in Los Angeles. Due to a lack of indoor space for the model, the Nostromo was stored outdoors for 20 years and was subjected to the extreme heat and wet of Southern California. The model was eventually moved into a storage locker for another decade or so until the guys at The Prop Store volunteered to restore it and put it on display.


The video below documents the work the Prop Store guys did to restore the Nostromo:



The article at The Prop Store includes a detailed discussion of the history of the movie prop and the restoration effort, along with plenty of eye-popping photos. And as long as you’re over there, take a look around– the Prop Store Articles section is particularly interesting (especially the articles on John Dykstra).


And if you’re still hungry for more Alien trivia, head over to Wikipedia where they have a great article, chock-full of info about the movie.

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