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Warhammer 40K: 1997’s Original METAL Thunderhawk

5 Minute Read
Jun 5 2024
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We’re headed back to 1997 to see GW’s most “HEAVY METAL” miniature – the original Thunderhawk.

With GW rolling out their first plastic Thunderhawk, it’s time to go back to where it all began.

  • Do you shudder when you see large gangly metal minis that can barely hold together under their own weight?
  • Do you develop cold sweats at the thought of accedentally dropping a metal Bloodthirster onto a concrete floor?
  • Do you think you’re pinning skills aren’t quite up to snuff.


Then prepare yourself for the metal monster from 1997 – the FIRST GW Thunderhawk.

1997 was the era of 3rd Edition. GW’s Space Marine Codex had one of the greatest company wide efforts GW had pulled off till that time – the entire Ultramarines Chapter painted up in a single picture.  No photoshop – they painted the whole thing:

But look way in the back – yes that is a Thunderhawk – or three.  This was before the time of Forge World. It turned out that that amazing model would be available for sale shortly.

Fast forward to Citadel Journal 22 from October-November of 1997:


Within this mighty magazine of Blood Bowl, Necromunda and others was this two page ad spread:

Note the £400 cost (plus that shipping), and that quaint mail-in order form. Now take a look at GW’s unvarnished advice regarding the kit:


“…it is actually an absolute bitch to put together!”

And they weren’t kidding…

Wading into the Kit Itself

First of all the kit arrived at your location in a velvet lined wood box with its individual production number printed on the lid. These images come from eBay where several of these kits have been sold over the years.

Opening that up gives you the red or green velvet box, just stuffed to the gills with metal parts:

Laying these out gives you some idea of how many metal parts we are talking about:


The kit had a 12 page assembly guide. Now remember we are talking a 100% metal model. All superglue to hold this one together. Also note the size of the model – it’s not as large as the later resin models, but by metal standards – it’s ENORMOUS.

Here’s just a couple of pages from the assembly guide to give you an idea of the subcomponent complexity:

Assembling the forward fuselage…

I would imagine for a kit of this size and weight, epoxy would be more appropriate, with the super-glue used just to get the parts aligned properly.


Engine assembly – don’t drop it!

In the next 5 years, Forge World would get off the ground, and move GW into the niche resin casting world.  The big resin Thunderhawk would arrive with a splash. While we could consider it long in the tooth by today’s standard, you can see the dramatic improvement in size, quality, detail and construction it represented over the original metal one. The metal Thunderhawk kits are quite rare and ebay can go over a year without one going up for auction.

This (above) notable 1997 metal Thunderhawk sold recently for an eyewatering  £25,600.00!

The first Forge World resin Thunderhawk, circa 2004, the direct descendant to the metal Thunderhawk.

Goodbye metal Thunderhawk, and thousands of Eldar Falcons…


The Metal Thunderhawk Lost At Sea

One metal Thunderhawk was also part of a semi-legendary GW mishap, still whispered about decades later on game nights. In November of 1997, the freighter MSC Carla headed from the United Kingdom to the port of Boston in the USA, was cut in half during a fierce storm, and lost all it’s containers to the cold waters of the Atlantic. One container housed the entire consignment of thousands of the brand new plastic Eldar Falcons bound for America, and one metal Thunderhawk. Now lost forever at a depth of over 9000 ft. You can watch more about the incident here.

The Teensy Metal & Plastic Thunderhawks

EPIC gave us two other Metal Thunderhawks, only much smaller and easier to build. Here’s the later and more detailed version.

Here’s the older flying breadbox – the very first Thunderhawk, from EPIC Space Marine:

Just a couple years back, Aeronautica Imperialis gave us the long rumored “Plastic Thunderhawk” – chock full of exquisite details, and based on the most recent resin kit. But, just not in the scale man expected.

~ Does anyone have any of these old metal birds (big or small) still out there?

And last but not least the most recent Forge World resin Thunderhawk for those of you who must the latest and greatest from GW.

Author: Larry Vela
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