From the year 1971 until 1980 Estes produced the original version of the Interceptor. It is considered by many to be the quintessential kit of model rocketry's "Golden Age". Many online auctions for the original sealed kits can go up to hundreds of dollars! Fortunately for those of us who are fans of the futuristic design but without a huge bankroll Estes finally re-released a new version of the kit in late 2007! There have been many improvements on the original incorporated into this version.
All of the required parts were present and in good condition. Estes has included slip sheets with the decals to prevent damage to them. The original kit had wooden dowels that have now been replaced with plastic for the antennas and the wing pods now are two pieces joined lengthwise instead of a nosecone, body tube and tail cone.
The instructions are what you would expect from Estes. Well illustrated and reasonably easy to follow with even a minimum of modeling experience. As usual, you build the motor mount first and glue it into the airframe. Next the fins go on and then the plastic bits. I left the ribbed tail cone off of the rear of the model until after it was painted to make it easier to paint without masking.
Two things to note about the construction. The first is that the "antennas" for the top of the fins have slots for the balsa to fit into. On my kit, and others of which I have heard discussed online, the slot is overly long lengthwise, leaving a gap that has to be filled.
The other potential "gotcha" is not a big deal either, but should be noted. The two fins that go on the bottom rear of the model are adhered to the model with the large part towards the front. On nearly half the finished models of this kit that I have seen (including mine...oops!) they are glued on backwards! I didn't notice that I had done this until after I had the finished paint and 3/4 of the decals on. It doesn't affect the stability of the kit, it just gives it a slightly different look.
The finishing for the Interceptor is easy and difficult. The stock paint job is white with red orange wing pods and a black tail cone. A quick coat of Kilz® primer and sanding was all the prep required and the whole model got a coat of white. I then masked the wings and painted the pods orange. I painted the tail cone black separately and glued it in place afterward.
After I had built and painted the model, I was terribly disappointed. I looked at it sitting on the table without the decals and was struck by the thought "Wow, that looks really, really boring!" It is the decals that make this model spectacular. After the decals, it went from "ho-hum" to "WOW!"
I have read several discussions online about how modelers think that the decals are thin and hard to work with. My experience is the opposite. While I have had a good deal of experience with water slide decals, I wouldn't consider myself an "expert". While there are a TON of decals for the Interceptor, I didn't have many problems with them. I took my time carefully cutting out the decals and applying them. It took nearly two and a half hours without a break to do this. That's a whole lot of decals.
The one potential "gotcha" here is the two long thin decals with wording of "U.S. Air Force FC-803" and the decal of the yellow stripe around the airframe must either be overlapped or carefully trimmed. I'm not sure how the design of these three decals could be improved, but they must be applied very carefully to avoid nudging the others out of place.
To finish off the Interceptor and seal the decals in place, I gave it a couple of coats of Future floor polish.
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
As much time and effort that went into the Interceptor, I was just a little leery about actually launching it. For the first flight of my new show piece, I loaded up a C6-3 and a handful of dog barf wadding and waited for a lull in the breeze. I didn't want to take any chances of the rocket drifting into the water all around our launch site.
After the countdown, the Interceptor shot off the pad and into the sky. It was a nice smooth arc slightly into the winds aloft. Right at apogee the large parachute popped and it gently rifted back to within 50 feet of the pad.
For the first flight, I was cautious about using the longer delay as the Interceptor is a fairly heavy, draggy rocket. In the following flights I tried going to the recommended C6-5 and the flight profile has been about the same, with the ejection just past apogee instead of at it.
I was somewhat concerned about the shock cord in the kit. It had been many years since I had seen one of the "rubber band" style cords in an Estes kit. It also seemed a bit short. For the amount of work that had gone into the rocket, I didn't want it to snap after only a couple of flights so I swapped it out for 1/4" elastic that I felt more comfortable with.
The parachute for the Interceptor is sized perfectly. It gives the rocket a nice, gentle recovery without drifting a mile down range.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
The return of the Estes Interceptor is something that I never thought that I would see. My modeling skills were not up to building it at the time the original kit was in production, so thankfully I now have the opportunity to build this classic design now.
The construction of the rocket was very straight forward, without any major "gotchas". The finishing is both the main pro and con to the kit. There are a LOT of decals. Take your time with them and you will be rewarded with an amazing looking rocket. Rush it and it will show.
Luckily, the Interceptor is as good a flier as it is a display piece. While I have not had the guts to try launching it on the smaller recommended motors, I am happy to report that even on a medium size field there should be no problems with recovery.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Here is the technique that I use for applying the decals that might be of use to a novice with water slide decals. Soaking the decal thoroughly, just to the point where is will slide on the backing paper, but not so long that it floats off the backing in the water. Put a small amount of water onto the model where you are going to position the decal. Position the decal, still on the paper in the location where you want it. Now, press lightly on one edge of the decal and hold it still. With your other hand, gently pull the paper out from under the decal. Do NOT attempt to slide the decal off the paper. Once the decal is on the model, as long as there is a bit of water under it, it can be nudged around a bit. Do NOT attempt to make any major shifts or the decal can tear. If you HAVE to, slide the decal back onto the backing paper and reposition it. After the decal is in it's final position, gently wipe away the excess water, working from the center of the decal outwards. Be very careful. If you are too aggressive, you might nudge it out of position.