“Thunderbirds are go!" quickly became a popular phrase for schoolkids when Gerry Anderson’s soon-to-be-famous series first aired in 1965. Featuring ‘Supermarionation’ for its puppet stars, led by Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott and Virgil, plus their glammed-up friend Lady Penelope and Brains the scientist, Thunderbirds was soon an international hit.
To the rescue
Based on the remote Tracy Island, the Tracy family made heroic disaster-rescues across the world, using their fleet of Thunderbirds rescue craft, and also fought the bad guys, especially the loathsome Hood. Even so, only 32 episodes were made - a warmed-over live action movie was released in 2004, but was not a success.
Still, times may be changing, as the UK Royal Mail has a set of T-Birds stamps on sale, and Gerry Anderson (now a sprightly 81 years old) confirmed this week that there is a new TV series in the works. Whether it’s live-action or Supermarionation is something we’ll have to find out.
In the model world, there are Thunderbirds models aplenty, ranging from Dinky Toys diecast Lady Penelope’s pink FAB 1 Rolls-Royce, to plastic kits of the various T-Birds craft. Of these, the Japanese Imai company has perhaps the widest range of offerings. Many of these are discontinued or hard to find - so to have a look at one in closeup we snouted deep into the SMN Vault of Antiquity to find the kit shown in the pix above.
This is actually quite a cracker, with several craft in the same, richly painted box (the art is quite luscious), each moulded in a different shade and scale. Actually that’s not quite true - the kit is labelled ‘Thunderbird 2 with three elevator cars in pod’ - so the other craft, which also include a TB1 and tiny TB5 space station, are popped into the box as free extras. Very nice attitude, Imai.
Details big and small
Some detail is rather disappointing - Thunderbird 2’s flight-deck windows are just moulded indentations, for example, but the tiny Mole and Thunderbird 4 are very neatly detailed. So it’s swings and roundabouts, but the skilled model maker should be able to turn the set into an impressive display piece.
Fanderson, the home of all things Thunderbirdish and more here.
Thunderbirds toys, models and collectibles are here.
The pictures show:
1 The UK Thunderbirds 4-3-2-1 stamp set.
2-3 Imai Thunderbird 2 box, and components.
4 Imai FAB 1 six-wheel Rolls-Royce
5 Nice and big Product Enterprises FAB 1 collectible - it’s 460 mm (18 in) long, with chauffeur Parker at the wheel.
6 Contemporary advert for Thunderbird toys - we'll take the ray gun please!