Eduard 1/48 Spitfire IXc "Late Production"
KIT #: 8281
PRICE: $49.95 SRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: New Tool kit - Profipak version


          Had not the RAF been able to bring a new Spitfire into combat in the summer of 1942 to face the Fw‑190A that could outfly the Spitfire V on every point but turning circle, the war over Northern Europe would have likely taken a different course. As it was, the RAF had to stop daylight operations over northern France twice - in November -December 1941 and in March-April 1942 - due to high losses of Spitfires operating against JG 2 and JG 26 on the Channel Front.  The new Merlin 61-powered Spitfire VII and VIII with their 2-stage superchargers could match the Fw-190's performance, but were at least a year away from production. 

          As a “stopgap,” two Spitfire Vc airframes, AB196 and AB197, were given strengthened longerons Merlin 61s with 2-stage superchargers were mounted.  AB196 first flew on February 26, with AB197 taking to the air a month later.  Both were successful and on the strength of these results the Spitfire IX was ordered into production at Castle Bromwich immediately.  Even given top priority, the Spitfire IX did not fully equip all RAF fighter squadrons in the UK until late 1943. The "interim" Mk.IX became the second most‑produced Spitfire, running close behind the Spitfire V, and gave the RAF parity with the best German equipment. As leading Spitfire IX ace Johnny Johnson noted in his autobiography, "Wing Leader," the Spitfire IX and the Fw‑190A were so closely‑similar in performance that the outcome of a fight was a matter of pilot ability.

          By D‑Day, the Spitfire IX had been replaced as the RAF's high altitude air‑superiority fighter by the Griffon‑powered Spitfire XIV,; however, even with its assignment changing to that of fighter‑bomber to support the invasion, the Mk.IX would show on numerous occasions that it was still the mount of aces, right up to the concluding weeks of the war.

          John Plagis, a Rhodesian of Greek parentage, first made a name for himself flying Spitfire Vs over Malta with 249 and 185 Squadrons in 1942‑43, with whom he scored ten victories over German and Italian opponents. Evacuated to England after suffering a complete physical and mental breakdown from extended daily combat over the previous eight months, he joined 64 Squadron, the unit that had been first to take the Spitfire IX into combat in July 1942, in September 1943; flying over northern Europe, he scored four more victories by early 1944. In May 1944 he was assigned Officer Commanding 126 "Persian Gulf" Squadron. The unit took on that name because half the establishment were Spitfire IXs purchased by British residents of the Persian Gulf; they were named for the states of the region, with Plagis' ML214 named for the sheikdom of Muscat.

          As were most Spitfire squadrons in 2nd Tactical Air Force, 126 Squadron was a fighter‑bomber unit, its Spitfires carrying two 250‑lb bombs underwing. However, on July 24, 1944, Plagis and his wingman were jumped by a group of Bf‑109Gs, and ‑ in the ensuing melee ‑ Plagis nailed one enemy fighter, his last definite kill of the war. His final tally was 15 destroyed, 2 shared destroyed, 2 shared probably destroyed, 6 damaged and 1 shared damaged.

          In September 1944 during the ill‑fated Operation “Market‑Garden” Plagis was shot down by flak over Arnhem and crashed at high speed, surviving with only minor injuries.

          In late 1944, 126 Squadron was equipped with the Mustang III and Plagis led the squadron in bomber-escort missions til April, when he was posted for a rest.

          Remaining in the RAF, he was posted to Rhodesia, his home country, taking command of a squadron that October. Returning to Britain in 1947, Plagis commanded two units flying Gloster Meteors until he retired in May 1948.  He returned to Rhodesia and went into business in Salisbury. Tragically, in 1952 he committed suicide, most likely a victim of the then little-understood malady of PTSD.


          Modelers have wanted an accurate model of the Spitfire IX since at least 1959, when I first embarked on the quest.  Utilizing parts from the old Airfix Spitfire IX (wings), Matchbox Spitfire IX (fuselage, tail,landing gear, prop) one could create an accurate model in 1/72 in the early 1970s.  The situation in 1/48 was more difficult: in 1969, Otaki brought out a Spitfire IX which could be turned into a Spitfire IX with extra work, but it lacked the accurate shape of the cowling, and importantly the curvaceous lower area immediately aft of the wing for the “gulled” effect.  Falcon brought out vacuform parts that would change the lower fuselage, but the cowling remained uncorrected.

           In 1999, ICM brought out their Spitfire IX.  Once one got a kit that wasn’t short-shot, it became obvious the model was over-engineered; if you attempted to use any of the parts for the engine and engine mounts, the fuselage would spread so wide that the wing could take on anhedral when mated to the fuselage if one was not careful (one well-known reviewer missed that, to his eternal chagrin).  That was merely the most obvious problem with fuselage shape overall contributing to the failure of the kit.

           In 2001, Hasegawa brought out what everyone expected would be the definitive long-sought Spitfire IX.  Soon modelers were aware that the fuselage was inaccurate in strange ways.  In fact, what had happened was that Hasegawa had fallen victim to the idea that if there is a really nice book out on a topic, that any drawings in the book must be equally very nice and accurate, and they went with the drawings in the Aero Detail book on the Spitfire IX.  In fact, Aero Detail books are now notorious for their bad drawings, though model companies are still occasionally suckered by them (we finally figured out what was wrong with the production drawings for the H-K B-17G when Neil Yan happened to mention he was using the Aero Detail book - getting rid of those drawings may have been the single most important thing the SME team did on that project).  Some ten years ago Aeroclub released an accurate Spitfire VIII and Spitfire IX fuselage to go with the otherwise-accurate parts of the Hasegawa kit.

           Ever since Eduard announced a Merlin-61 series of Spitfires, modelers have been praying things would finally be put right.  Well, the kit is out and it has been lauded for finally solving the problem.  The niceties and subtleties of the shape of the Spitfire IX have finally been recreated.

          The first kit in the series is the late-production Spitfire IX with the larger Aero-Vee intake and air filter, narrow-chord cannon fairings and a choice of rounded or pointed rudders.  Looking at the parts supplied, it is obvious there will be an early-production Spitfire IX and a Spitfire Ixe/XVI to come.

           Myself, I was a bit worried about Eduard tackling this, after the disappointments of the 1/48 Bf-110 series and the Fw-190s, which were all over-engineered and ill-fitting as a result, turning them into “can of worms” projects.  Fortunately, the over-engineering has been limited to only two areas: an unnecessarily-complicated method of attaching the exhaust stacks requiring them to be attached before painting, and molding the upper cowling part in two pieces rather than one, creating a centerline seam guaranteed to get rid of all the petite surface detail in the sanding-down to solve the problem.  I look at the incredibly-complicated method of attaching the exhausts, then look at the extremely-simple system used by Airfix on their Spitfire XII and P.R. XIX and Seafire XVII, and shake my head.  When completed, there is nothing about the Eduard method that results in anything looking any different than what one gets with the Airfix kits.  Airfix also demonstrates that through the use of slide-mold technology, there was no reason to split the upper cowling.

          I was worried about the rivets, too.  I have been around two 1:1 Spitfires out at Planes of Fame since 2002, and from a distance further than ten feet (2.5 inches in 1/48) it is virtually impossible to see the rivets on the airframe, unless it is sitting outside in good sunlight at “magic hour” when the angle of the light “pops out” rivets if one is standing within 16 feet (4 inches in 1/48) of the airplane.  The good news with the Eduard rivets is that under a coat of paint, they’re not that noticeable beyond about 5 inches (a scale 20 feet) away from the model, holding it under a strong light.  They’re very nice, and were done because the CAD technology is now such that such molds can be made.  In my experience, most of the “very serious indeed” modelers who love all these rivets have mostly never been within five miles of an actual airplane.  The good news is these rivets can disappear with a light sanding; that is very much necessary with the leading edge of the wing back to the main spar, which has flush riveting and was puttied for smoothness in World War II just like the P-51.

          The cockpit detail provided by the kit is “good enough,” particularly since this is a “Profipack” release with photo-etch details such as instrument panel and seat belts. The truth is, once a 1/48 Spitfire model is assembled, the only part of the cockpit that can easily be seen in any detail is the seat, unless you’re one of those who has to use a penlight to look at your model.  Eduard is pushing a very nice Brassin cockpit with all the bells and whistles, which ups the price of the model by 50%, but the fact is with a Spitfire cockpit that “good enough is good enough,” and in my opinion the money spent on a resin cockpit could be better spent on a second kit. Resinaholics may find their mileage varies.

          The decals provide markings for five airplanes (one in two different schemes for a total of six different looks).  Most of these are well-known airplanes and the decals are good.  Fortunately, there were a number of aftermarket decal sheets released back in the late 1990s/early 2000s and while the companies may no longer exist the decal sheets can be found on eBay and other sources; most Spitfire fans probably have several sheets in their collections now.


          I divided the model into two major sub-assemblies: fuselage and wing.

          I first assembled the wing.  The wheel wells come in six-parts; I have to say that once they were assembled and the wing was glued together, I could not see any real detail difference between what Eduard had created and what Airfix accomplished with greater simplicity.  The separate ailerons, however, do a very good job of showing the deep separation between wing and aileron on the upper surface.  I was also puzzled by the multi-part radiators, which provided several opportunities to mis-align the four parts that make up each.  Again, comparing the final result to the two-part Airfix radiator housings, I couldn’t see any detail difference.  (In making that parts count, I am not counting the two parts of each radiator, which both Airfix and Eduard do as separate parts.)

          Next, I assembled the part upper cowling.  There is no very positive alignment to these parts, and no matter how careful I was in assembling them, in the end there was one of those @#$%@!! centerline seams to fill with C-A glue and then cover with Mr. Surfacer before it finally disappeared (along with the rivet detail, which wasn’t really a great loss).

          I moved on to the cockpit.  This assembly is a bit more fiddly than other Spitfire cockpits I have done, and the detail was not as extensive as one finds in the Hasegawa kit (probably as a way of pushing the Brassin cockpit), but the end result looks quite nice when viewed inside the assembled fuselage.  As I said earlier, the one real thing any Spitfire cockpit needs is a good seat, and Eduard gives you that (again in four parts, which left me puzzled once again when comparing it to the one-piece seats Airfix manages to create).  

          The fuselage went together without problem, and I attached the horizontal stabilizers for the later elevators.  If you are going to droop the elevators, cut off the little alignment pins, since they make things harder.  Also, please don’t drop the elevators 45 degress as one frequently sees on models - the fact is that Spitfire elevators only travel about 15 degrees up or down at a maximum. 

          The wing was fiddly to attach, and I discovered I needed to sand down the lower edge of the cockpit side pieces just a bit.  Once that was done, the wing slipped right into position.  (I might add that these new kits done with state-of-the-art CAD design really are precision fit.  Be sure you clean off all sprue attachment points thoroughly, or things will not fit right.

          I would be willing to bet that Plagis’ airplane, like so many other Spitfire Ixc’s turned into fighter bombers, had the cannon moved outboard as with the universal or “e” wing.  However, there are no photographs of this airplane that I could find in an internet search; I wonder where the profile, which was first published in Osprey’s “Late Marque Spitfire Aces 1942-45" came from.  Since there is no proof one way or the other, I went ahead and did it with the “c” wing.


          I decided I would do John Plagis’ Spitfire since I had the Aeromaster sheet that had those markings.  All the profiles show the airplane with full wraparound D-Day stripes, but I decided I wanted to do it as it most likely looked on July 24, 1944, when he scored his final victory: in early July, directions came to units operating in France to remove the stripes from the upper fuselage and top of the wings.  Therefore, when I painted the model, I only did the stripes on the lower areas.  I pre-shaded the model with flat black, then applied white over that in a thin coat, which would make the white stripes look “distressed,” since they were a temporary paint.  When I painted the upper camouflage, I left the areas that would have been touched up following the removal of the stripes the original dark color I had applied, doing “post shading” only on those areas not covered by the earlier stripes.  I used Tamiya’s Ocean Grey, RAF Dark Green and Sea Grey medium for this.  I would note here that Eduard’s painting instructions are wrong, since they call for Dark Sea Grey instead of Ocean Grey.  Also, the A-scheme camouflage pattern they provide is not accurate.  If you have a Hasegawa kit, the camouflage pattern shown in those instructions is correct.  After painting and unmasking everything, I applied a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss varnish to the model.

           I discovered when I went to apply the decals that the leading edge yellow stripes I was going to use were no good, since they shattered on impact with the water.  I thus had to go back at the end and hand paint the yellow leading edge stripes.  I suggest you paint those early, and mask them before applying camouflage.

           I used the personal markings for Plagis’ airplane provided in the Aeromaster sheet, and used the last national insignia decals from my old Victory Productions Spitfire sheet since I liked the colors better than the kit decals.  I used stencils from a Lifelike Decals sheet, since much of what Eduard provides is so small (and likely accurate) that it can’t really be seen. 

          I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Flat varnish, then applied the lower fuselage oil stains and the exhaust stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”  I “muddied” the wheels and wheel wells, and applied mud spray behind the gear, given that the summer of 1944 in Normandy was pretty rainy from all accounts.  I then attached the landing gear and prop, unmasked the canopy, and set it in the open position.


           Yes, the Spitfire IX has finally been “done right” in 1/48.  Model in confidence, it’s going to look good.  However, I wish that when Eduard brings out their next Spitfire IXs they will correct that upper cowling (but I’m not holding my breath).  I still can’t figure out why they made things more difficult than necessary, doing the exhausts the way they did, and over-complicating the gear wells, the radiator housings and the seat, particularly since it is perfectly obvious from their main Spitfire competitor that these areas can be done simply, to the same result in final look.  Just because something can be done complicated is no reason it should be.  There’s a good reason why the First Rule of Engineering is KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

 Tom Cleaver

May 2013

Review Kit courtesy of Hobby Link Japan.

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