Viper Construction

The Viper Mk II is constructed of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam (EPS) — a.k.a. Styrofoam — over a steel armature.

EPS foam blocks,

Both of the Viper Mk II’s were sculpted by hand in a rented warehouse in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The warehouse was near North Shore studios (formerly Lions Gate Studios) where the MiniSeries first filmed.

Project lead for the viper build, JohnJohnny Bones” Lavell, shares insight on it’s construction in 2003.

Viper builder John "Johnny Bones" Lavell,

I was provided with scaled drawings, such as the one here. The Art Department did make an attempt at slicing up a 3-d wire frame, however the results were totally unusable. I then took those scale drawings and lofted all the sections by hand. I don’t think this would ever happen today as computer generated models are way more sophisticated and easy to manipulate.

Viper elevation blueprint by Neville Conway,

Lofting is a drafting technique where a builder transfers the dimensions and curves from a Lines Plan (blueprint) to a Full Sized Plan of the item which is to be built. The overall design and blueprints for the practical filming mock-up were drafted by Neville Conway in January of 2003. The EPS blocks were carved to shape with a “hot wire” following lofted templates John and his team prepared. John explains more on the process…

It took us three and a half months to make the Vipers and Raptor. We were on what used to be a Thomas Special Effects warehouse and there were about 25 construction members on the team. If you add paint, set dec, effects we were over 50 people on some days, especially as the deadline loomed. All the metal work was done by Vern Winn who makes magic with metal.

The following photo shows the “hot wire” templates hanging on the workshop wall, which were used as guides to hot wire the basic shape of the Viper pieces prior to sculpting.

Hard patterns used to form Viper foam,

The carved and assembled pieces were “poly urea hard coated” to create a durable shell over the soft foam. This hard shell coating is similar in method to how surfboards are constructed. The yellow area of this viper has a layer of the hard coat applied.

Yellow hard coat applied to Viper,

Simple bucks were made to cradle the hull of the Viper Mk II while it was being shaped. A great advantage of having these large pieces constructed of EPS is their light weight which makes them easy to move around on set.

Foam Viper in cradle,

Section of the steel armature used for strengthing the wings is visible in this “never before seen” photo of the Viper Mk II left wing.

Viper wing armature, Galactiguise.comThe following photo shows the wing pylon taped in place as the adhesive sets.

Viper wing taped after gluing in place,

Closer view of the Viper Mk II engine nacelle. Notice the wing cut-outs and upper engine cowl have not been cut into the raw foam yet.

Foam Viper no cut-outs,

The following photo is of the viper in primer gray prior to it going to paint with portions of the cockpit installed.

Viper in primer gray,


The colours used on the Viper Mk II were the same colours used on other parts of the Galactica sets. According to the original colour chips used by set-dec all of the paints were from Benjamin Moore.

Fuselage: BM – feather gray 2127-60 (Note: this is also the colour used on the Galactica’s interior walls. i.e. Adama’s quarters for instance.)

Stripes: BM – classic burgundy, Exterior ready-mixed (Note: this is also the colour used on the Galactica’s hanger bay. i.e. Red stripes on the deck and the Cylon Resurrection tubs.)

You can see the rough texture of the poly urea hard coat under the burgundy and light gray paint in this close-up.

Burgundy and Light Gray colours of the Viper,