Explorers Thunder Road 1:1 scale build

When I was around 5 years old my dad sat me down and let me watch Explorers. It instantly became my favorite movie, right up there with Corvette Summer (you know the one with Mark Hamill). I was instantly hooked with the story and the wonder of space. But most importantly, the boys cobble together their own space ship with a tilt a whirl and some old junk, it was love at first sight. I knew I had to have my own Thunder Road. My dad being the kind of guy he is, started scouring the internet and any yard sale and swap meet he could to find the pieces for the Thunder Road. Back then (circa 2005) there weren't really any resources to find the correct pieces or even what the pieces were. He eventually found a guy on the internet named Skip. Skip was selling an old rusty tilt a whirl car for $850 in Minnesota. We live in Illinois so it would be quite the drive to go pick it up. My dad ended up sending Skip the money and Skip was never heard from again. My dream of having my very own Thunder Road was shattered, but I never forgot it. He also found a local laundromat that had some similar dryer doors to the ones on the ship around 2006. For years those were the only pieces I had to keep the dream alive. That was until August 2019. My dad was once again on the hunt. He was scouring Marketplace on Facebook and found a lady in Kentucky selling a rusty tilt a whirl car for $175. It was super rough but I knew I had to have it. We rented a truck and drove to pick it up. Finally at 19 I had brought home the biggest piece of the puzzle and the dream was back in full swing. I honestly can't remember a time in life before Explorers and it will always be my favorite.
Here's the marketplace picture that the lady had listed. In rough shape but definitely usable..
Can't wait to see it come together. Explorers is one of my all time childhood favorites
I'm probably over halfway through the build now. I have a Facebook page that I created for the build. You can follow that too if you're on facebook. I was sharing those posts to the RPF page on there before it got taken down a few days ago. I'll try to transfer all of those posts here in order the best as I can
The first piece I officially finished for the ship is this air purifier thing that sits on the back shelf in the ship. It's shown blowing out oxygen but in reality there was a hole cut in the shelf under it with a tube feeding it air. I ripped up the internet and even posted it in multiple groups and forums asking what it was and no one could identify it. I came to the conclusion that it had to be something very obscure or cobbled together from random pieces. But I do know for sure that whatever it is, it couldn't actually blow air through it by itself. So since I couldn't find one or identify it. I had to make it from scratch. I'd say I got pretty close for something that's only seen for a few seconds on screen and in the dark.


And the real thing in the movie:

This is amazing. One of my favourites as a kid, so it was with great pleasure I got to sit with my daughter and watch it this past weekend. She loved it :)
This picture is from April 2023. The tilt a whirl car had been in my storage shed for about 2 years, I had to put the build on the back burner for a while because of its size and how much work it would be. As you can see I started to do some body work before but nothing crazy. Also introducing the tire and trashcan.

Okay, now it's time to get into the pieces of the Thunder Road. I'll start with the tv screen. The tv on the TR in the movie is an early 60s (1961-1964) RCA 19" portable New Vista. It's a light cream color in the movie but I have yet to see one in real life that matches that color. But it's an extremely rare tv to find for some reason, it took me 17 YEARS to find one for sale. But I finally did in December 2022. I had joined a few vintage tv collector pages on Facebook and I had seen a few people pop up with one over about the span of 5-6 years, but sadly none of them wanted to sell them and shipping would be a different story. Well I was scrolling Facebook one morning and someone had shared a link to the page from marketplace. The main picture on the ad was the backside of a tv with its guts hanging out. I clicked on it just to see what kind of tv it as and there it was, the ever elusive RCA in Chicago. Just 5 hours away from me. I sent the guy a message and told him what I was doing and how special that tv is to me and he ended up just gifting it to me as a Christmas gift! So I drove there and picked it up and finally after 17 years I had one of the hardest to find pieces of the ship. I took the face off, painted it the correct color and made the fake screen out of plastic from a poster frame, and sprayed it lightly with matte clearcoat to give the screen that hazy look that you see in the movie.


And the tv on the ship:


And my tv after the modifications:

Next up will be the washer windows. The washer windows on the ship in the movie are anywhere from 1961-1971 Lady Kenmore Combo machine doors. Each machine had one door and was for in-home use. They are extremely difficult to find and I have yet to see any for sale. Luckily for me I have a set of equally difficult to find 70s Maytag dryer doors from an old laundromat a few towns over from me. The Maytag doors have the same overall shape but lack 99% of the details that make the Kenmore doors stand out. As far as I've seen the Maytag doors are the only other brand that are even close to being similar in size and shape as the Kenmore doors. I did a bit of sprucing them up and made them look the part pretty close.

The doors in the movie:


How my Maytag doors looked originally, you can see the hole for the original handle that I had to eventually fill:


An original Kenmore door still on the machine (image found on the internet):


And my set of Maytag doors dressed to look like the Kenmore:


I had to make the Kenmore style handles from scratch and hand bent them on my kitchen table, added the chrome ring around the window, the raised edge around the whole door, added door hinges to attach to the ship, and filled the original handle hole and painted them. I'd say they turned out pretty hard to tell apart!
I can't look at that without hearing Jerry Goldsmith's amazing score in the back of my head. You've set the tone for my day! :)
This is great. I was a teen when the movie came out and I've always loved it.
River Phoenix (Wolfgang)
Amanda Peterson (Lori)
Dick Miller (Charlie Drake)
This is great. I was a teen when the movie came out and I've always loved it.
River Phoenix (Wolfgang)
Amanda Peterson (Lori)
Dick Miller (Charlie Drake)
I knew about River and Dick, but not Amanda. Just read up on her. So sad.

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