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The Return of the X-wing Guy: Building an X-wing part 3

x-wing southend-on-sea

Dave Taylor has arrived at his home town shopping centre in an attempt to complete his replica X-wing fighter, racing against the clutches of time.

Little does Dave know that THE BEARDED TRIO have begun construction on their final chapter of his journey, one even more powerful than the first two chapters. At the end he may be something of a Dave star.

When completed, this ultimate coverage could spell instant recognition for this Star Wars fan sculptor struggling to complete his most ambitious project ever...

x-wing southend-on-sea

Okay, so I may have gently ripped off the opening crawl of Return of the Jedi, but then what better way to open the concluding third chapter of artist Dave Taylor's quest to build a replica X-wing fighter.

I've followed Dave on his journey from pencil sketch through to finished article, complete with 30ft wingspan and 17ft long laser cannons.  If you missed those blood, sweat and cheers filled instalments you can catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

The last instalment left us suitably on tenterhooks but thankfully the materials (somehow) made it through the door – if the art and prop building ever dries up he’d make a great removal man

Until now all we'd had were fleeting glimpses of how Dave's X-wing was going to turn out, but what we had seen was exciting. We'd been teased with a flash of laser cannon here and reveal of intake engines there. 

It was like a slow motion montage, the staggered unwrapping of a Christmas present or opening of an advent calendar. We were now at that stage where we could open all of those advent doors all at once and scoff the chocolates, the whole lot of them.

And it was good. So, here, through the magic of timelapse is Dave Taylor's crashed X-wing replica. 

Below only takes about four minutes – looking like something from The Wizard of Speed and Time (remember that?) - but the actual building and painting of the starfighter took just nearly 11 hours.

Alas, Dave and his crew were unable to levitate the pieces Jedi Master style so they had to build it the traditional way, by hand.

A long time ago (Friday evening to be precise) in a galaxy not so far, far away...

The journey may have been complete but how was it completed?

The big build began at 6.15pm, Dave had already 'built' the X-wing in the storage space at the shopping centre, a dry run if you will just to see if it all fitted together.

He'd now have to take it all apart and squeeze it through a normal size door into the shopping centre. Impossible? Dave used to bullseye womp rats in his T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than a normal door, so he was okay.

x-wing southend-on-sea

It had been a muggy day and with the warmth of the centre, along with the lights beating down made it feel hotter than the forest of Endor on a sweltering day.

But, even this early into the evening there is no mistaking that this is the rear end of an X-wing.

Already people were passing through after work, all stopping to stare, asking what it is. One even thought it was for Santa. Perhaps it was Dave’s beard that threw them?

Soon it was just us rogue ones and our rapidly forming X-wing. The only noise, apart from the odd bit of drilling and cutting echoing round the empty shopping centre was the incessant rumble of the escalators in the background.

x-wing southend-on-sea

Our only audience now, the occasional security guard and two mannequins looking out at us with their deathly stare. It really does have a feel of Dawn of the Dead about it meets DIY SOS.

There were a few other interested parties from the Star Wars universe trying to get in the action as well.

As we enter the fifth hour of work the glue guns are out and so still are the hammers. Me, I'm dressed for comfort in my Chewbacca onesie, even though I am a little on the warm side. Hotter than the innards of a Tauntaun you could say.

Although progress is good and clear for all to see - and there are a few of us helping out - time is also racing by with it, all having to be done and the area clean and tidy by 8am. Despite it being a 'crash site' there is of course health and safety to consider.

At the time of writing that is some eight hours way but paint has to come out yet - a lovely dove grey and slate grey for anyone interested in colour matching - and then the X-wing really will have landed.

Dave said: “It’s taken just three weeks from when I first starting making measurements from the modelling kit to the mammoth nearly 11 hour installation that finished at 430am on the day of opening.

“The hardest element was getting the large sections through a normal size door, I’d built it in an empty shop unit, so it had to be broken down and come out. Putting all those structural timbers back together was quite an effort, by necessity they are quite heavy

x-wing southend-on-sea

Once that was done it went like clockwork, the wings went on really easy as I had lots of hands on it. We then popped the engines on, parts of which were very hard to paint so we had rollers on the end of brooms. It's a shame that there wasn't time to paint the sections beforehand.”

The guys volunteering to help were all artists and modelmakers, as well as huge Star Wars fans as well. You could tell that they had a real love and passion for the project with each meaningful brushstroke.

Dave’s known them all for years, so knew that he could trust them to get the job done well. It was like the operated with a hive mentality at times, all acting together as one with little need for verbal communication.

Dave said: “I couldn't have put it together without them. It's amazing what the love of Star Wars and the words want to help build a replica X-wing fighter on Friday night can achieve. I had a lot of great help from a lot of great friends.

x-wing southend-on-sea

“There was lots of assembling and painting, without them I'd still be stood here.”

With any project this size there were of course unexpected changes, even Rogue One had reshoots. Health and safety rules in the centre regarding distances from objects meant Dave had to make some minor sacrifices, including losing the cockpit being attached, so he had to make the X-wing tighter to the wall. There was an easy solution though…and you have to love the ‘crash site do not enter sign’.

x-wing southend-on-sea

Dave said: “We just had it blown off in the crash so was still part of the debris. There are always these creative challenges, no matter what the project. It’s just how you solve them that counts.”

And whilst some pieces disappeared, others were created. He made the droid on a whim. It may not have been the droid we were looking for but there simply wasn’t time to make an R2 unit, as domes are difficult to make well, but a friend of Dave’s had suggested an R5 unit instead.

x-wing southend-on-sea

Dave said: “The head is a truncated cone rather than a dome, which can be made by bending a sheet over a rigid former. I'm glad I made it, not only does the white colour break up all of that grey, but it adds to the Star Wars aesthetic. You can see that its battle damaged, having been in a crash. It’s hardly surprising that it had a bad motivator.”

x-wing southend-on-sea

It turns out the X-wing fighter project hasn't just proved popular on The Bearded Trio, it's also caused a positive disturbance in the force in and around Southend, where it can still be found on display at The Victoria Shopping Centre in the seaside town.

There's been two full pages in the local daily paper, The Echo, and even interviews on BBC Essex.

So now his X-wing is finally complete, how does Dave feel about his X-cellent creation?

x-wing southend-on-sea

Dave said: “It's hard, as at the moment I'm just seeing the bits that we missed or perhaps those sections that I didn't realise as well as I had hoped. On the whole though, yes, I'm really pleased with it but it is the reactions of other people that has really taken me aback.

“I've had people I've never even met before coming out to me to shake my hand and tell me how great they think it is. The amount of kids and big kids I've seen posing in front of it for photos has been incredible."

x-wing southend-on-sea

One person who didn't care for it, perhaps understandably, was the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader. He didn't even stop for a photo or turn his head to take a look at it. Misery.

It wasn't long before he was seen heading downstairs via the escalators like some X-Factor contestant who hadn't made it through the auditions round but still thought they were the bees knees. 

Dave even found himself posing with various Star Wars ensembles for photos in front of his own creation. 

x-wing southend-on-sea

George Lucas brought huge joy and smiles to whole audiences who saw the (then) culmination of the Star Wars trilogy with Return of the Jedi some 35 years ago.

Dave, aged six, was one of those whisked to a galaxy far, far away creating lifelong memories and loves of Star Wars.

And although he may not have had that budget he's just helped create those lifelong memories for six year olds seeing his X-wing. As he no doubt had his playground water cooler moments about the film, Dave's X-wing is sure to be the toast of playgrounds and across Essex.

X-wing replica project successfully completed, all we were missing at end was a medal ceremony and an R2 unit squeaking, bleeping and rocking. I'd probably add my inferior Chewbacca roar to the proceedings. It's been an epic end to an epic project.

Dave, the creative force will be with you, always...

x-wing southend-on-sea

Dean Newman is Chief Writer at The Daily Jaws, writes his own film blog, Admit One, and previously wrote for Syfy. He’s always been a huge film and Spielberg fan, keen soundtrack and movie poster collector and is a budding script writer.

The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.




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