This is probably the niftiest Star Trek starship toy ever made.
Although produced 20 years earlier, in many ways it puts the Playmates toy line of the 1990s to shame. It was produced by the South Bend Toy Company in 1979, intended to represent the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The ship is about 18" long and molded in white plastic - although after 23 years the plastic may be starting to yellow depending on exposure to sunlight. It came packaged with labels to apply yourself and a translucent red stand.
The saucer under the impulse engines and part of the dorsal is thickened and a 9V battery fits inside. The "impulse deflection crystal" is a on/off dial that controls the sound effects. It's a waveform that changes pitch and speed with the dial - from a warp-drive throb to a red-alert alarm to the whine of a firing phaser. While this pales in comparison to the recorded clips produced by the Playmates starship line in the 1990s it's cute in a retro sort of way.
The labels are only vague approximations of the actual markings on the ship - for example, the large Starfleet emblem on the sides of the secondary hull. There are 39 opaque labels.
Overall, it's a fair representation of the ship, although it has some interesting and unusual protrusions from visible from the bottom side visible in some of the photos on these pages.
(For many years I was under the mistaken impression - documented on this page - that there were additional transparent decals for the airlocks and the windows on the botanical gardens, and a foil label for the photon torpedo launcher. Astute reader and fellow collector Ken Stokes pointed out that these were not present in the original toy! Apparently, a previous owner had applied decals from an AMT model kit to mine. My apologies to anyone who was mislead. - Joshua Bell, 20 April 2006)
The protrusions are what make the South Bend Enterprise an incredible toy - the ship is modular, and can be taken apart and reassembled in several different configurations! The pieces are:
The saucer has two female connections on the port and starboard sides, and one male connection on the dorsal. The engineering hull has one female connection on the dorsal, and two female connections on each side, high and low. Each pylon has one male connector on each end, and each nacelle has a single female connector. All of the connectors are symmetric.
This is enough to allow you to create a several different configurations --15 in total, if you require a saucer, at least one nacelle, left/right symmetry, and everything faces forwards. These include movie-era versions of a few of Franz Joseph's classic Star Fleet Technical Manual designs.
The packaging suggests two "experimental" designs in addition to the classic Scout/Destroyer and Transport/Tug.
|I currently own two of these toys - one complete, with box, that has most of the labels intact (the one pictured here in assembled form), and a second missing all of the labels and one of the female connectors inside the secondary hull (pictured above, disassembled.) Somewhere on my "TO-DO" list is a goal to collect several more and kitbash some additional connections to allow a Constellation-class ship (saucer with four nacelles) and some male/male connectors to allow nacelles to be attached directly to female connectors on the saucer and engineering hull. A Reliant-style roll bar is also an option.|
I've created a replacement label set - you can download the PDF here. Note that this was done by redrawing the stickers in a vector graphics program - a scan of the original sticker sheet would be more accurate.
Note that the second sheet of labels are "apocryphal" - they match the AMT labels a previous owner had applied to my toy. This certainly explains the radically different quality between the two sets!
Trevor O'Brien sent me these gorgeous pictures of his SBE with this replacement label set. The angles match some of the classic beauty shots of the Enterprise, and his SBE is still a pearly white.
Tray Chester has graciously provided scans of the instruction sheets that came with the SBE that show where all of the stickers go. Click for larger versions:
Do you have SBE stories you want to share? Send me email.
Want your own South Bend Enterprise? Try this eBay search. There's usually at least one or two up for auction each month, going for $50 to $200. Or take a peek at this fancy-schmancy widget:
Interested in a toy version of the movie Enterprise, but a South Bend Enterprise is out of your price range? You're in luck! Art Asylum released a gorgeous toy version of the NX-01 Enterprise and followed up with a nice version of the Enterprise-A!
I have a couple of these (well, one for me, one for my son) and it's certainly pretty, but you can't make other ships with the toy, so it's not as fun. Art Asylum - now designing ships for the distributor Diamond Select Toys. They have continued the line with an Enterprise-E, classic Enterprise (including variants from the pilots), and a re-release of the motion picture Enterprise, but branded as the refit as seen in The Wrath of Khan.
What about other vintage ST:TMP ship toys? Check out the Mego Museum's page on Star Trek: The Motion Picture toys, which starts off with figures but also has photographs of the Enterprise and Klingon Cruiser. If you dig further you can find photos of the Vulcan Shuttle. And of course, there's the TV commercial, showing the detaching saucer with landing gear!