Thursday, 24 April 2014


Sarge was sick of SWORD. Always on his goddam back. What was the point anyway? The Earth was a basket case, only months away from croakin' for good.

Why keep the soddin Casuals down? And the Rejects? Didn't they deserve to leave this mess? Or at least spend their last few weeks without SWORD on their ass. Unlike those poor bastards, Sarge could split whenever he wanted and he knew it.

The system stinks. Sarge had thought this for a long time and the feeling had grown like an abscess. "Typical elitist rich retards!" growled Sarge as he slammed down his shot glass one more time. The SWORD HQ bar was empty save for a stranger sat in the dark alcove near the back. He glanced up in Sarge's direction.

Sarge rubbed his grizzled face. "Fill me up" he barked at the bartender, who was staring at the stranger rubbing a glass with a bar towel. Sarge couldn't care less who was there. His abscess was growing bigger and needed seriously tending to once and for all. He was beginning to really hate his employer with a vengeance.

He was beginning to hate Project SWORD!

To be continued.......


The Terrahawks reunion featured no less than eleven guests on stage, so much so that as I spent so much time taking snaps I more or less missed most of what they talked about.

I did catch Jeremy Hitchen doing his Jack Nicholson impression, a variation of which was chosen for the voice of Tiger Ninestein.

Robbie (Ben) Stevens did his gurgling vocalisation of Yung Star.

Strangely enough, I don’t recall Denice Bryer doing a Zelda cackle.

Other guests from the show were puppeteer, Judy Preece,

and Gary Tomkins, the Terrahawks art director.

Peter Holmes is a name I do recall from earlier days. Apart from Terrahawks, he is credited as props master on Anderson series Joe 90 and Thunderbird 6.

Steve Begg has made quite a name for himself in the area of special effects thesedays but when he was just starting out  he was thrown in at the deep end on Terrahawks.

Here's Steve( pictured left )with another of the effects team, John Lee.

Steve with effects director, Mark Woollard.

Model unit effects man, Terry Adlam, (left) who went on to do Dick Spanner following Terrahawks.

Terry Adlam listening to Terrahawks model maker, Richard Gregory on the mic.

At the end of this session Jamie Anderson brought on special guest, Nicholas Briggs to reveal that Big Finish would be producing new audio adventures of Terrahawks using the original cast.

Next up - Taking a break from the Main Hall I have a wander into the dealers' room.


We've pondered the origins of Century 21 Project SWORD toys many times on the blog. Many readers have contributed to the debate. Sometimes as clear as day, oftentimes like platting fog, the DNA of our favourite toys has thankfully on occasion, though ever so slowly, revealed itself. 

Many mysteries still remain however and after five years this post is a stock-take of where we are at. Some ideas will be familiar to you since some sources have already been identified and blogged by readers, Bill, Scoop and me. I have also included some new ideas too.

This is my personal thesis based on all of the above. I have attempted to identify what came immediately before each C21 SWORD toy. In some cases, as we already know, there were NASA's and its contractors' designs, pure and simple. In other cases, and for me most exciting of all,  there were older toys. 

A work in progress, please see what you think. Comments and feedback, as always, would be welcomed.


From staring at SOLO comics for what must be unhealthily long periods of time I think that the direct predecessor of the the Century 21 Moon Bus was the T in a Circle [ Tai Hing ] version. Pictured here in black and white from SOLO, you can even see the T in a circle symbol on its nose. By all accounts both of them were based ultimately on the 'tracked vehicle' drawn by I. Teece in the Do You Know About Space Flight book published by Collins in 1963.

Way back in the murky beginnings of the blog our good friend Will Schwartz identified model kits by Nichimo of Japan as the source of C21 Moon Ranger. Pictured are the Space Ranger, 1965 and the earlier original, the amphibious Carboat Pioneer from 1963.

Century 21's amazing Scramble Bug trundled into our lives in 1967. Advertised in SOLO comic that year, we must look further back to the articulated lunar rovers of aerospace companies like General Motors [GM]. Although not a true likeness, pictured is my favourite, the GM Futurama rover, which 26 million people saw between 1964 and 1965 at the New York World's Fair.

The ultimate source of Century 21's Space Glider is easy, its Northrop's M2-F2 [NASA 803] first flown by Milt Thompson in the summer of 1966. Whether Century 21 made the first plastic Space Glider toy is another question. There are just so many, pictured in part in Ferryman's collection here. Day-F-ran, Hoover, Mego, 2001, Tarheel and Durham all had a go at this famous lifting body. As far as I know only Tarheel mentioned Project SWORD on the box and toy so could one of the other companies have been the origin of Century 21's version? It does seem unlikely but without hard evidence its impossible to say.

Again its fairly clear that the real origin of this beautiful vehicle lies in the US ARMY/ JPL/ NASA Prospector program 1959/60 [detailed in reader Rob Godwin's excellent book The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook]. Less easy is whether there was another toy before Century 21 brought out theirs. 

I think that there was and that toy was the T in a Circle [Tai Hing version] pictured below. Featuring virtually identical box art and wording, T in a Circle even applied for the UK patent. It' still messy though. Why does the T in a Circle box mention Project SWORD? Was it a transitional box? Is there a much rarer non-SWORD T box, which we have yet to see?

A favourite of many SWORD collectors, the Century 21 Apollo Saturn is a beautiful toy. Inspired by America's NASA SATURN program, its toy origins are to be found in Tomy of Japan. 

Tomy made three versions of the rocket before 1967 when Century 21 released their own shorter toy: the Ranger 7, the Apollo - X [not pictured but the same as Ranger 7 except it came in Japanese packaging] and the Turnpike Line Rocket Base with a metal gantry made exclusively for Sears of America in 1964. I assume Century 21 approached Tomy sometime in 1966/67 but it would be great to see some documentation.

The Dyna Soar is perhaps the most famous of all the original NASA concepts, which Century 21 used. Conceived in 1960 and unveiled in Las Vegas in 1962, USAF/ NASA's X-20 became an icon of experimental aerospace and many model kits of the plane were made. As far as I know, the Century 21 toy is the only proper toy Dyna Soar from the 1960's and probably has no predecessor. Intriguingly the toy depicted in SOLO comic [inset] has a 4 on the wing rather than the SWORD decal the toy was ultimately released with.

Most likely stemming from NASA's EMPIRE program of nuclear Mars rockets at the start of the Sixties, Century 21's own Booster Rocket was clearly inspired by Ed Valigursky's artist's impression of NASA's nuclear mars ship. Whether Century 21's toy was based on another toy, however, is a mystery of sorts. 

The toy pictured in black and white in SOLO comic [top picture] had fuel tanks in the main coloured white or a similarly pale hue, whereas the C21 toy actually released had blue tanks. The only other Booster Rocket toy of a similar size that I know of, the Hover version, was issued with orange fuel tanks. Was the toy pictured in SOLO a hybrid of the two? Intriguing but unlikely as Hover were known plagiarists, so just what was pictured in SOLO in 1967?

One of the big beasts of the Century 21 Project SWORD toy fleet, the Cape Kennedy Set realistically mimicked NASA's Saturn V rocket, LUT [Launch Umbilical Tower] and Crawler from their mid-Sixties Florida base. An iconic vehicle and structure in themselves, the toy's Bob McCall-inspired box art went further and depicted their 'roll out' from the VAB [Vehicle Assemble Building], the biggest single-story building in the world both now and at the time.

Such an iconic rocket and gantry couldn't fail to generate a slew of toys and models, but was Century 21's own toy based on or inspired by an earlier one in the way say, the Moon Ranger was? I think it was and my bet is on the Cape Kennedy Saturn V and gantry by Cashulette/ Countdown Inc. who sold their beautifully boxed model-toy at Cape Kennedy itself around 1966/ 67. Very popular with American tourists at the time, is it possible that one found its way into the hands of Jack Rosenthal's team at Century 21 Toys in the UK?

This toy must surely be the pride of the Century 21 Toys Project SWORD fleet. Much much rarer than Zero X, only three examples are known to exist at present. A legend on the blog from the start, those three toys have all turned up during the blog's 5 year life. 

Much has been said already about this amazing toy, so to summarise: the 1967 box art was based on Bob McCall's original art, which first appeared in LIFE magazine in the US and in Look and Learn comic in the UK. The design was identified by Bill Bulloch as that of US aerospace company Ling Temco Vought  from 1964. They folded in 2000. They designed the front cab to hold 30 passengers. The only other Nuclear Ferry toy known is the smaller Triang SpaceX version.

The Century 21 Toys Zero X was the pride if the Project SWORD toy fleet and a guest star borrowed from its own movie Thunderbirds Are Go. Designed by the great Derek Meddings himself in the mid-Sixties, the design and therefore the toy were without precedent. It was quite simply unique. Copied many times since by countless toy and model companies, Century 21 Toys' own amazing battery-operated plastic mega-ship from 1967 has only ever really been equaled by Aoshima's Japanese die-cast version released in 2006 [pictured]. 

Incidentally, the Century 21 Toys Zero X battery remote control unit was recycled for their Joe 90 Car a year later in 1968.

Only one of two Project SWORD toys available, which Century 21 Toys didn't produce, was Imai's battery-operated model-toy of the Beetle. However it was under licence to Century 21. The kit was issued in Japan in 1972 under the name Thunderbird 7 as part of Imai's popular Thunderbirds range of kits with box art by Showa master Shigeru Komatsuzaki. The Imai model and box art can be traced back directly to the Beetle comic strip illustrated by Malcolm Stokes in the Project SWORD Annual released in 1968/69 [pictured].

The Beetle was a complex vehicle and the name referred to it's heat-shielded state, making it look like a caterpillar rather than a beetle. In it's unshielded state it was known as the Snow Train, which was issued as a card cut-out model by Century 21 Toys as part of their Make A Model series of books. The Project SWORD Snow Train was almost certainly created by artist Eric Eden in 1966 when it debuted in the TV21 Summer Special. Eden may have been inspired by contemporary Land Train vehicles being used by the US Army but this is pure conjecture on may part.

Like the Beetle, Century 21 licensed Imai to produce a small-scale Moon Crawler kit. The first Moon Crawler kit-toy, the Thunderbird UFO Secret Dome No.4 was released in 1973 [first left pictured below]. Over the next few years various different boxes were issued as well 'Bases' including the Moon Crawler [all pictured]. All the box art was provided by Showa master Shigeru Komatsuzaki. 

I would have thought it certain that Imai based their kit on the Moon Crawler illustrated by Malcolm Stokes, which featured in the Century 21 Project SWORD Annual 1968 pictured [which in turn was most likely based on John Schoenherr's original Moon Crawler art from 1961 ]. Aoshima re-released the Imai Moon Crawler as part of their Imai Moon Base re-issue in 2002.

A further and larger Moon Crawler toy came in the form of the purple Surveyor released by Tri-ang as part of their Spacex line in 1970 [pictured bottom]. Despite having a different antenna and arms, it was still clearly inspired by Malcolm Stoke's illustrations.

The Moon Crawler had two further outings: it featured on the box art of the unlicensed UFO Missile Tank and appears to have inspired an egg-shaped Crawler toy, both pictured.

Looking at this gorgeous space plane by Century 21 Toys, it presumably had its origins in the SST [Supersonic Transport] aeroplanes of the 1950's and 60's and made famous by Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144. Many more SST's adorned the covers of Sci-Fi and engineering magazines and pictured is as close as I can get to Century 21 Toys' Probe Force One, the IC-102 from the cover of Popular Mechanics dated November 1959, although I'm dissatisfied with it.

Its worth noting that the Probe Force 1 toy advertised in its first appearance in SOLO comic in 1967 had no SWORD livery at all. It was most likely a prototype or mock up rather than another toy, although 3 further versions of Probe Force 1 do exist: Tarheel, Hover and Marusan.

This long sleek spaceship toy appeared in black and white in SOLO comic in 1967 [below]. The back fins seemed to be drawn on in the way other toys on the same page had been mocked-up. This has always had me thinking that maybe there was an earlier toy which the Probe Force 2 piggybacked? 

Sticking my neck out I'd like to propose that there was: the Apollo Rocket pictured below. It was made in Hong Kong, is unbranded and has many of the same features as the Century 21 toy [right]. 

These similar features include the bow of the ships, which is raised; the noses and cockpits and the back fins. Yes, the Apollo Rocket could just be another knockoff but we know that Century 21 'borrowed' from other toy companies like Tai Hing so this could have followed a similar pattern in Hong Kong. Again, without paperwork from Century 21 I suppose we'll never really know.

After years of searching, this is one origin I think I can nail down at long last! The inspiration for Century 21 Toys' Probe Force 3 has been a mystery. Just last year I was excited about its similarities to the Tremulis Zero Fighter. But I remained dissatisfied. However, this year a regular email from my You Tube subscription provided the answer!

In 1965 the Japanese model maker Otaki released a kit called the Monster Car [below, 2nd in from the left]. It possesses some virtually identical features to the Probe Force 3. These are the cockpit, the side indentations, the back engines and excitingly, the fan of rear cylindrical fuel tanks. After further research it would appear that Otaki based this kit on the real life Green Monster jet-engine car driven by Walt Arfons in 1961 [pictured, first left]. I believe ultimately that Probe Force 3 was also based on the Arfons Green Monster jet car. 

Speculating on the evolution of Probe Force 3, I believe it developed as pictured, from left to right: 1. Arfon Green Monster USA, 2. Otaki Monster Car Kit Japan, 3. JR21 Rocket XL9 Spaceship UK, 4. Century 21 Toys Probe Force 3 and finally, by way of an example, one of PF3's many clones, the YT silver Space Bird of Japan, bringing it full circle.

Its also worth noting that the toy initially 'advertised' in SOLO comic in 1967 [below] also appeared to be a mock up. Instead of the missile trio under the wings it has a crude add-on. An area of the rear body has been blacked out as well. Could this mock up represent a further stage of development between the JR21 XL9 and the final Probe Force 3?

Despite the Soviet Spiral 50:50 mothership having had a very similar fuselage to TF1, personally the origin of this dart-shaped, arrowhead-like spaceship has never satisfactorily been pinned down. Yes, there were many triangular concepts and prototypes milling around NASA, USAF and even the secretive Soviet Air Force in the Sixties. Which if these would Century 21 Toys designers actually have seen? In 2010 we discussed this very thing on the blog. 

What I have been looking for since is a complete arrowhead shape like Task Force 1. In the spirit of this 'new' origins post I would like to introduce the NASA/ USAF concept plane FDL-6 as a contender. The overall dart shape is spot on but on the minus side I think the dates are wrong. From what I've read FDL-6 prototypes came after 1967 when the toy was released. Ah well, the shape was good! [FDL-6 model: Fantastic Plastic]

It's worth mentioning that Japan produced its own dart spaceship, pictured below, as part of a trio of spaceships based on the Stanley Kubrick epic, 2001 A Space Odyssey released in 1968. I am unsure of the dimensions of this toy in comparison to the similar Century 21 Task Force 1. The Project SWORD Annual also featured clips from the Kubrick movie.

This sleek cigar- shaped spaceship has the classic rocket shape, especially when stood upright. Similar rockets featured in many Hollywood B-Movies epitomised by Luna in Destination Moon, 1950. The toy's possible origins have been discussed many times over the last five years on the blog and I would like to continue the discussion by adding a new idea. 

In 1965 American Walt Arfons, one of two speed-loving brothers, held the World land speed record. He had driven Goodyear's Wingfoot Express across the Bonneville Salt Flats at 413 miles per hour. I think that the blue Wingfoot Express, pictured below, looks remarkably like Task Force 2 even down to the rotunda of engines at the rear. This makes more sense when you consider the connection he and his brother Art is likely to have had with Project SWORD toys [see Probe Force 3].

Incidentally, the toy's debut in SOLO comic in 1967 appeared to be a mock-up, possibly made of card. There are only two known versions of the toy, the UK Century 21 red and the US Tarheel yellow.

A favourite of many Project SWORD toy collectors, the TF3 looks more like a drag racer than a space plane. The original black and white prototype featured in SOLO comic in 1967, as pictured, was even more streamlined than the eventual toy! In fact it looks like a racing car numbered 9 with rear fins hastily stuck on. JR21 had indeed issued toy racing cars as well! Is a JR21 BRM, pictured, the basis of the toy? I suppose we'll never know.

Looking for the real-life source of the design is equally unsatisfactory. Contemporary rear-finned land speed cars like Long John had already been made into kit form. Bill Bulloch also found an image of an 'unmanned parasite' slung beneath a US Super Hustler, which looks remarkably like the TF3 from below.

One of my own personal favourites as a kid, Scout 1 always felt great to hold, push along and fire its missile. So where did this sleek and symmetrical space boat come from? There is a strong tradition of atomic boats in comics and I have pictured three different ones including the Sea Bug. This atomic ship featured in the Fireball XL5 strip in TV21 issue 68, May 7th 1966. Drawn by the great Mike Noble in 1966, for me it captures perfectly the use of atomic nacelles like those on Scout 1. Whether it was a direct influence we'll never know.

I think we can add something to the origin of this toy. Way back when the blog began Bill Bulloch identified the Scout 2 as the 'space ferry prototype', which featured in a real photograph of US rockets used by TV21 comic in 1967 [ black and white photograph below]. Bill has since been doggedly attempting to find out more about that mysterious US space ferry and By Jove, five years on, he's done it. The blue plane below is Bill's newly discovered image, along with a small  line drawing I've found. We can safely say that the origin of the Scout 2 was the Lockheed V-5 Variable Geometry Hypersonic Glider. Well done Bill! Result!

PS. There is also allegedly some old Lockheed footage of it called 'Hypersonics' but neither Bill nor I could get it to work.

An unusually rare Century 21 toy, the Scout 3 is on many SWORD collectors' wants lists. Pictured is Ferryman's own complete example with front missile. But what inspired Century 21 to create Scout 3? There are no clues in SOLO or TV21, as it didn't feature in either comic.

Four years ago I suggested that the source might have been a Lockheed swing wing deltiod craft. I was uncertain at the time of the exact name of the plane but I now know that it is the FDL-5 developed by Lockheed for NASA/ USAF in the mid to late Sixties. The black and white image below shows the FDL-5 mocked up at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I have placed Scout 3 in similar positions to aid comparison. Is it feasible that Century 21 Toys' designers saw images like this of Lockheed's FDL-5?


Picture Acknowledgements:
Bill Bulloch, Ferryman, NASA, Graeme Walker, Scoop, Hobby Japan, Noppin, Ebay, NYWF, 
Rob Godwin, Andy Boyce

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


A taster of the sort of thing to come in my post on the "new" origins of Project SWORD toys tonight. I know this isn't SWORD but it is JR21 and I just love the symmetry of the toy and its ultra-cool inspiration. 

The X-50 Space Racer, from the JR21 X Series of toys, was first identified by Ferryman as having been inspired by the Spirit of America in 2009. It was later brilliantly researched by my friend Paul Vreede and posted in 2012. For the above family portrait I have simply added a colour photo of the Spirit of America car.

I hope you enjoy the post at Midnight. It's quite long so dib into it when you want. After five years of blogging many insightful readers have contributed to what we now know. I have simply brought it all together, updated it and added a little garnish here and there.






The second round of guest talks on the Saturday was the Four Feather Falls Reunion.

Now, I don’t remember ever seeing this series on television so really it has no nostalgic aspects for me apart from the fact that it was Gerry Anderson’s first series using the Supermarionation techniques,  and watching the odd episode these days does show how  Gerry’s shows  developed and improved over the years.

Amongst the four guests were the surviving voice artists and one of the series' directors. 

Denice Bryer , who had already worked with Gerry on The Adventures of Twizzle and the Blue Cars commercial,  would return many years later to voice Zelda in Terrahawks. She provided the voice of both Martha ‘Ma’ Jones and Little Jake.

David Graham really needs no introduction to Anderson fans. He has contributed to many Anderson series and films over the years, as well as creating the original voice of the Daleks.  He provided, amongst others, the voice of Grandpa Ebenezer Twink in Four Feather Falls.

Nicholas Parsons was the speaking voice of hero, Tex Tucker. Parsons was married to Denise Bryer at the time and was just helping out during a script read- through in the presence of Gerry, with whom he had previously worked with on the Blue Cars commercial. It was found he had an appealing vocal interpretation of the Tex Tucker character, and subsequently got the job.

Director, David Elliott worked with Gerry from the early 50’s, before leaving A.P. films in 1966 during Thunderbirds to join the BBC.

This guest panel was a lot of fun with Nicholas Parsons, an accomplished entertainer and a surprisingly sprightly 90 year old, quite naturally taking centre stage.

Next on – Expect the Unexpected Terrahawks Reunion

Moebius Flying Sub by Kevin D

I just completed this model kit (I don't do many), of the Flying Sub from 'Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea'. I have always loved this design. This kit is by Moebius and is excellent. I have added the lighting.
Take care,


the definitive guide to vintage thunderbirds toys - steve's thunderbirds vintage toys

BLOG EXCLUSIVES ARCHIVE: CUrrently out of order

Spacex Mobile Launch Pad Instruction sheet courtesy of reader Mike Burrows

Spacex Nuclear Pulse Instruction sheet courtesy of reader Mike Burrows

Tarheel Moon Prospector Instruction sheet courtesy of Woodsy

Snow Train and Hover Tank Make a Model Book Century 21 courtesy of Woodsy

Scout 3 Box copy to print out and make up by Woodsy and Wotan


Courtesy of Graeme Walker

Blog exclusive 3 - tarheel moon prospector instruction sheet - print-out a4 and keep!


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