Introduction: Aliens APC - Radio Controlled

Picture of Aliens APC - Radio Controlled

“Independently targetting particle-beam phalanx. Whap! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart-missiles, phased-plasma pulse-rifles, RPG's. We got sonic eee-lectronic ballbreakers, we got nukes, we got sticks…”

You know the rest and everybody loves the scene where the top turret rotates and drops to the back. The APC from the film Aliens doesn't appear often enough and it's a shame we don't get to see the vehicle's weapons in action. This is a project I'd been trying to do for years and this was my second attempt. It was originally intended for a model in a month idea, but life had other ideas so I had to put it on hold.  It was built over 4 months in 2003, during which time I lost my workshop and had to settle for a kitchen instead!

Like most scratchbuilds certain parts dictate the scale of the model and for this it was the wheels, which I obtained whilst in a hardware store in Norway. The scale became roughly 1/11 and it really suits the vehicle, not too small and just right for turning into a radio-controlled toy. I'd already bought the 1/35 Halcyon version and used that as my template, along with drawings and photos obtained from the film and the internet.

The majority of the vehicle is made from scrap wood, but plenty of wall filler was also used. The covers on the wheels come from CDs and the grill mesh I found in a hobby store in the embroidery section! Virtually everything has been tailor-made, including the front Gatling guns and the muzzles of the main turret. It was surprisingly quick to build the main structure, but the fine detailing like the rivets on the door and windshield took a while.  Simon. 

Step 1: Research!

Picture of Research!

Most of my scratch-builds are bigger models based on smaller ones that you can buy in the shops.  The 1/35 Halcyon model was pretty accurate and served as a template to help me draw the floorplan and side views, which went through a number of modifications.  Years later I did buy a set of blueprints for the original film version and that would have saved a lot of time!  Once I was happy I cut the floorplan out of the flap of an old writing desk.

Step 2: Building the Shell

Picture of Building the Shell

The shell was surprisingly easy to build, even with a fairly basic scroll saw (the ones used to make jigsaws etc) and was cut from MDF (medium density fibre board).  It's very easy to work with and seals well for painting purposes later on.  The 1/35 model gives you a nice scale comparison.

A rolling chassis was essential, even though at this stage it was a very crude one.


Step 3: Filling in the Blanks

Picture of Filling in the Blanks

Once the top surfaces had been cut, it was time to fill in the gaps as it was impossible to cut and bend any inserts to fit.  Although the Aliens APC looks like a simple flat surface, it has some complex areas to deal with and wall filler was used.  In hindsight it's much better to use car body filler, more on why later.

 More complex structures like the top turret can be made up using layers of MDF and once the basic shape is right, can be filled.

Step 4: Primed

Picture of Primed

A quick coat of primer will help to show any glaring mistakes and also helps to seal wood based material, which has a tendency to soak up paint and alter colour schemes.  The smaller front turret has been made out of circular wooden discs.

Step 5: Extras and CD Wheels

Picture of Extras and CD Wheels

Extras like the armoured door, exhausts and meshes (from plastic embroidery guides) have been added, as well as the armoured wheel covers.  These were fairly tricky to make, but luckily old CDs were perfect and all I needed to add was some extra detailing and way of removing them easily (using velcro spots).

Step 6: Black Top, Green Top

Picture of Black Top, Green Top

I used a black base coat to save on paint costs, but it served another useful purpose.  For weathering or any future damage any chips would likely be red primer or black.  The final top coat was standard NATO olive drab, which has a slightly yellowy tinge and I luckily found somewhere that sold large sized cans in the UK.

The paint issues I mentioned in an earlier step were to do with the paint cracking and peeling up wherever it covered the wall filler I had used.  Once sanded back and resprayed it actually helped to make the vehicle look a bit more worn.

Step 7: Super Detailing

Picture of Super Detailing

The following parts took a long time to make, but by breaking the problem down in to smaller parts weren't too fiddly to make.  The end results were certainly pleasing :-)

The clear missile canopies were made from CD cases, as was the windshield and the rivets were sewing pin heads.  The turrett carrier was a mix of MDF, CD cases and architectural plastics, while the muzzles were cut down plastic water pipes.

The camera surveillance system and guard rail were built from scratch using plastic and the tips of two felt tip pens - sacrificed for a good cause!

Step 8: Steering and Gear Boxes

Picture of Steering and Gear Boxes

One of my favourite parts of the build, ever since I discovered Lego Technic I've been fascinated by gears and suspension.  Naturally I had to build these in to my model and they built from scraps.  The front wheel setup was made from the legs of a flipchart and the shock absorbers were functioning key ring items.

The transmission was made up of a robust cordless 18v drill motor and a cut down hand drill.  It's not the most efficient system, but it's durable and works.  All of the wheel mounts were designed to be quick release, using split pins.

Step 9: Internals

Picture of Internals

Shots of the working front suspension in place along with the rear transmission.  The rear also had limited suspension travel, as it was placed on a long flat board and acted like a springboard.  The power supply came from the 18v cordless drill, which simplified charging too and the motor was controlled using an Electonize unit.

Step 10: The Finished Article

Picture of The Finished Article

I have to admit that out of all of the models I've ever made, this is the one that makes me smile the most.  It came out really well and with a decent weathering job will look even better.  In the attached pics it does look a bit factory new!

I will add some video of it in action, but it is a heavy model and only really likes running on smooth surfaces.  The servo for the front wheels had to be substantially beefed up too.


JimW44 (author)2017-04-07

Omg I know what I'm building soon as I can get out of this hospital

nachetepc (author)2016-09-04

Incredible! Can you give me the first templates?????

VincentZ3 (author)2015-07-21

ill be making millions from this website it is genuis

craftclarity (author)2014-03-08

Just now spotted this. Brilliant build! Nice work. Very, Very, Very Nice Work.

giorjann (author)2011-11-02

it's cool

curious youth (author)2011-09-25

sweet as ible man!
when i start getting regular money i will be applying this method to make halo vehicles. a tad more complicated but a heap more fun :D

tinker234 (author)2011-09-08

wow wonder if i could scale it up to my action fiqures scale hmm

vov35 (author)tinker2342011-09-11

I'd rather scale it up to life-sized.... what would the nieghbours think? :p

plasticpopcorn4 (author)vov352011-09-15

good luck with blind spots

vov35 (author)plasticpopcorn42011-09-15

man, if anybody's in your blind spot and you're driving a 12+ ton APC, do you really care?

tinker234 (author)vov352011-09-13

wellcould be a few complaints (author)vov352011-09-11

Me too, I wonder if wood would fly or if you would have to do metal just because you have to.

Beergnome (author)jj.inc2011-09-11

Wood would to heavy, fragile, expensive, and susceptible to the elements. one would want tor make a steel substructure skeleton and use a mixture of cast fiberglass and bent sheet metal (author)Beergnome2011-09-11

I just found out what I am going to put under it. An old aircraft tug, that's what they used originally.

andreas_sher (author)jj.inc2011-09-11

Put me down for one too! Great for driving to work in! Road rage, what road rage? :)

simonhaydn (author)2011-09-11

Both turrets work and the front one is linked to the steering. The top turret doesn't slide down the back though.

neema_t (author)simonhaydn2011-09-15

I was just thinking about watching Alien tonight, shame I hadn't seen this earlier... I bet you could make a mechanism for the top turret using a loose belt drive from a dead scanner, that's how I'd probably do it anyway. The electric/hand drill drivetrain tipped this project over the edge of 'that's a pretty cool idea' to 'that is absolutely awesome' for me!

Avatar_I_Am (author)2011-09-12

Dogone! That is SOOOO Cool!
I am SOOOO jealous!
VERY Nicely Done!

rivencole (author)2011-09-11

i am thinking of doing a similar project.
what electronize controller did you use? i looked at their site but was hoping for a north american equivalent so i dont have to spend as much on shipping (i know, im cheap) since the site i found required payment in sterling.

simonhaydn (author)rivencole2011-09-12

I will get back to you on the specs of the controller, but since the advent of Robot Wars in the US and UK there are plenty of decent and cheap controllers.

simonhaydn (author)simonhaydn2011-09-12

I've added a pic of the Electronize FR15 HVR controller. Simon.

rivencole (author)simonhaydn2011-09-12

thank you very much for answering. by the way, how heavy is this thing? i was thinking of cutting up some old computer tower panels to use for my version, both for weight and simply to use metal (more authentic i think), but was wondering if the weight saving would be worth the trouble. thanks again

Blaise_Gauba (author)2011-09-11

Beautiful job and I loved the "Alien" series and especially that vehicle...but I was deeply disappointed that the "Transaxle" of the vehicle broke so easily. I guess that's what happens when corporations get "No-Bid Contracts" and build inferior Weapons Systems for our Marines. Ha, ha, ha! O.K. sorry, still, those movies I really enjoyed a lot...except for the last one with that weird human/hybrid Alien babything. I was actually laughing out loud when I saw it and was almost kicked out of the theatre. I build props, models and miniatures for Feature Films and Television Shows in Hollywood and I have to say that you have done an excellent job on this model. Bravo!

simonhaydn (author)Blaise_Gauba2011-09-12

Thank you and I completely agree with your comments on the Alien series, the hybrid spoilt what was an interesting film up to that point! I would love to build some of the other vehicles like the Sulaco, dropship and powerloader, but will need a better workshop first.

Blaise_Gauba (author)simonhaydn2011-09-12

Where do you live if I may be so bold to ask? If you ever need small parts manufactured for any of your models...and I deem it/them not TOO time consuming, I would be glad to put stuff together for you...unpainted. I built all of the Miniatures for the "Miniature Killer" Series for the Television Show: CSI: Las Vegas. I have built many, many models, and miniatures for numerous Feature Films and Television Shows over my 29 years in the Entertainment Industry. I can also cast brass or bronze parts (if you pay the casting fees...which if the parts are relatively small...within these dimensions: 2.75" Dia. X 6" Length can cost about $50 to cast) that is a very reasonable cost for this type of work. The reason why I am offering my services for basically free (minus shipping charges) is because I do not create my own models (I have no room for display or storage) because I live in an apartment and space is precious. My webportfolio can be viewed at: Simon...have a great day and again...very nice work on the vehicle.

simonhaydn (author)Blaise_Gauba2011-09-12

I'm based in Cambridge, England (for now), but that's a great offer and I'm sure I could make use of your skills. I never managed to sculpt, which would be handy for making a Sentinel from The Matrix and looking at your website I really like the giant Buzz Lightyear.

Blaise_Gauba (author)simonhaydn2011-09-12

Thank you Simon. The big sculpts were a lot of fun to do...and a challenge to boot! (author)2011-09-11

Why are there no moving videos of this, you made it in 2003, the only video is looking it over, I am exited to see the video. Also, wouldn't it be awesome to have the 4 wheel steering from the film?

simonhaydn (author)jj.inc2011-09-12

Back then I never got round to taking some decent video of it, but once I've charged it up (and repaired my RC transmitter) I'll get some action shots. The APC has been sitting in a loft for way too long and there have been plenty of ups and downs since it was built.

4 wheel steering would be great and if I ever built another one, I'd add that and make it much lighter too!

vov35 (author)2011-09-11

This is perhaps the most badass phase of your project. Does it move reasonably fast?

simonhaydn (author)vov352011-09-12

It's not too bad in a straight line, but it's not RC car fast. It probably wouldn't suit the model and there'd also be the worry of crashing it! Think I'd cry...

rivencole (author)2011-09-11

what do you mean by key ring items in relation to use as shock absorbers? what are the "items"?

simonhaydn (author)rivencole2011-09-12

If you type in "suspension keyring" on Google and look at the Image results, you'll see what I mean. Some of the designs are fully functional and work very well as simple shock absorbers.

KaptinScarlet (author)2011-09-12

When I saw this in the email I thought it was full sized! what a great model and what an excellent photo of it... I think you should get a job working for a film studio model shop. brilliant.

darkbain (author)2011-09-11

This would be nice as a model alone, but motorized it's sweetness. Very very nice man.

Honus (author)2011-09-11

Awesome! The use of the hand drill is brilliant.

InstructablesMunkey (author)2011-09-11

"Game over man! Game over."

Does this one come with a blown transaxle? Excellent job.

simonhaydn (author)2011-09-11

Thanks for all the amazing comments! They all help to encourage me to complete my other projects.

Kidgun (author)2011-09-09

can u do it with a gas Eg

zack247 (author)Kidgun2011-09-09

a gas engine would possibly make it perform better, since they can put out a fair bit more horsepower and torque than an electric motor. but torque usually depends on the gearbox.

simonhaydn (author)zack2472011-09-11

A gas engine would be nice and more authentic, but the 18v drill motor has plenty of torque. The problem area is the power required to steer the front wheels, as it currently needs a very beefy servo.

sithstalker (author)2011-09-11

does the turret work

sithstalker (author)2011-09-11

this a wicked build going to have a go

sithstalker (author)2011-09-11

am a really big alien fan this is soooooooo sweet nice job

Dominion-Network (author)2011-09-09

Oh my god, my hat is well and truly tipped to you my friend this is simply beautiful, I will have to attempt to recreate it and robot it with arduino

aessam1 (author)2011-09-09

Really amazing
first time i saw it, i thought it was real

dimtick (author)2011-09-09

GREAT JOB!!!!!!!
The Aliens vehicle is one of my all time favorite movie vehicles.
nice to see i'm not the only one

nnpcto (author)2011-09-09

On game DOOM you casually didn't work. There the technics just the same was in some fragments of game

sololife.sai (author)2011-09-09


snelpiller (author)2011-09-09

awesome! now add a video x)

About This Instructable




Bio: Science Fiction. A precursor to science fact.
More by simonhaydn:Resonance Demonstrator (or is it a Christmas decoration?) Triangle Wheel Reflectors - BicycleRecreating TRON: Legacy - Custom digital art with a bicycle
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