Revell 1/32 Spitfire II

KIT #

5516

PRICE:

$28.50 MSRP

DECALS:

Two aircraft

REVIEWER:

Lee Kolosna

NOTES:

Eduard harness, Eagle Strike decals used.

HISTORY

 
   The Spitfireís deserved place in aviation history was earned by its performance during the Battle of Britain in 1940.  Even though the largest share of the fighting was carried out by the less glamorous Hurricane, the Spitfire captivated the emotions of the free world and went on to become one of the premier fighter aircraft of the entire war.  Pressed into combat during desperate times, the Spitfire embodied the feisty spirit of a besieged nation through its graceful lines, high speed, excellent maneuverability, and relatively heavy armament.  First flown in 1936, the Spitfire entered service in 1938.  The Mark Ia was equipped with eight .303 inch Browning machine guns, and was powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin II engine of 1175 HP.  The Mark IIa, which began delivery in June 1940, received a more powerful Merlin XII engine and incorporated standard armor plating.

    Fighting against the onslaught of attacking German fighters and bombers, the Spitfires flew multiple missions each day, pushing both the pilots and their aircraft to the extreme limits of endurance.  After nearly half a year of furious combat, the German high command backed down and redirected its attention to other areas of the world, giving the United Kingdom a chance to catch its collective breath.  The entire nation owed a great debt to the RAF, and the Spitfire continued to be steadily refined through upgrades to engine and armament.  Never lost were the delightful flying characteristics and elegant lines that made this one of the most beautiful aircraft ever created.

THE KIT

    Scott Van Akenís excellent preview of this kit can be viewed here.

    An interesting collaboration between Hasegawa and Revell-Monogram, this kit combines the fuselage and detail pieces of the older but still good Hasegawa Mk Vb kit with a newly tooled wing and spinner.  Molded in medium gray plastic, the first thing that one notices upon inspection of the pieces is that the new wing sections have engraved panel lines and detail, while the older fuselage sections have raised panel lines.  The logical choice is to sand off the raised line and rescribe, which fortunately isnít that difficult to do on this simple kit.  The cockpit interior pieces are quite nicely detailed and will satisfy most modelers, although various details are specific to a Mark V Spitfire and not quite correct for the earlier models.  This applies to the antenna mast as well.  The clear pieces are adequately thin and transparent, with two different windscreens provided to depict the different configurations for the armored glass.  The new wing pieces look great, although the modeler will need to drill out the shell ejector slots as they are molded only as depressions in the lower surface.

    Decals are for two aircraft finished in the standard camouflage scheme of the time, Dark Earth and Dark Green over Sky.  The aircraft markings on the decal sheet are printed as Sky, rather than the correct Medium Sea Grey.  The red used in the roundels is more of a brick color than the standard dull red.  A number of stencils are provided, and the sheet looks to be of high quality.  I did however experience a number of problems with the decals, as can be seen below in the painting and decal section.

CONSTRUCTION

    Believe it or not, I didnít start in the cockpit on this one. I first tackled the task of rescribing all the panel lines on the fuselage.  Iíve never been all that thrilled with any of the scribers on the market, usually reverting to the old trick of using the backside of a clipped X-acto blade.  Iíd thought Iíd try another classic technique and chucked a medium sewing needle in a pin vise and used that to do the scribing.  Using Dymo label tape as my guide, I was able to scratch in new panel lines without messing things up too badly.  I liked the control I had with the needle and will probably continue to use this method in the future.  A light sanding removed the furrowed edges of the newly engraved lines.  It took a little effort, but I think it was worth it.

    The cockpit was painted in Interior Grey-Green, with a Panzer Red-Brown seat to simulate the Bakelight material used to save weight.  The instrument panel and various boxes on the sides were painted flat black and drybrushed with light gray and silver to bring out the detail.  Watch for some of Revellís recommended color call-outs, as they would have you paint the two oxygen tanks as if they were fire extinguishers!  The correct color is silver, not gloss red.  I picked out the instrument calibrations with a white colored pencil and added a drop of Future to simulate the glass dial covering.  A Sutton harness was obtained from an Eduard photo-etched set, painted off-white, and glued to the seat.  Note that the attachment point for the shoulder belts was way back in the top rear of the fuselage, so I added an extension strap made of paper and glued it from the rear of the seat to the bottom of the bulkhead aft of the rear windows.

    The fuselage was glued together and the seams were filled with CA glue.  The fuel filler cap in front of the windscreen is depicted as a featureless depression, so I cut out a thin piece of sheet styrene and sanded it to a circular shape and placed it there.  I opened up the shell ejector ports on the bottom wing and glued the top halves on.  The proper wing tips were added, but I found that these were noticeably thinner than the wing they were attached to.  I had to sand the outer parts of the wings to make for a nice seamless transition.  I did a dry-fit test of how the wings would mate with the fuselage assembly.  As it is, the thickness of the wings is less than anticipated by the wing root on the fuselage.  To fix this, I put a small piece of extra sprue to act as a spreader bar in each wing, which slightly raised the overall thickness.  As I glued the wings on, I had to pay close attention to dihedral, because the bottom wing has essentially none.  By pulling each wing up with a long piece of masking tape that was stretched from one tip to the other, I was able to get the proper dihedral.  I glued this wings in this position and let them dry over night.  The next day I filled the wing-to-fuselage seams with CA glue.  Despite all the pulling and tugging and engineering, there still were fairly significant seams to be filled.

    Somewhere in the construction phase of this project I managed to lose the cockpit door panel.  I scratch-built a new one from sheet styrene and bits of wire which looked better anyway, including a three dimensional crowbar.

    I inserted a piece of clear amber rod to simulate the identification light under the belly of the aircraft.  As mentioned previously, the antenna mast is reflective of a Mark V Spitfire, lacking the prominent triangular insulator.  I fashioned a new mast from sheet styrene and attached it to the model with a pin made of brass rod.  I also carefully drilled holes in the mast to accept the aerial wires.  The kitís Mark V roots also leave the modeler without an attachment point for the wire on top of the tail section.  I put a small piece of brass wire here and glued two tiny rectangles of sheet styrene on either side for strength and the proper appearance.

    Most Spitfires at rest have elevators in a dive position, reflecting the fact that the control stick was pushed forward as an aid to cockpit entry and exit.  I cut the elevators off the horizontal stabilizers and re-positioned them.  I checked all my seams and make the necessary corrections before washing the model to remove all the sanding dust and headed out to the paint barn.

CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS

    I chose to do a Spitfire Mark Ia from 222 Squadron, based at Hornchurch, England in August 1940, as shown in a nice color profile in the Paul Lucas Camouflage and Markings book.  This is an interesting subject because it depicts the underside color not in the familiar Sky Type S, but rather in No. 1 Sky Blue, which was colloquially referred to as Duck Egg Blue.  There was a lot of variation in underside color during this turbulent period of time, with everything from a very pale blue all the way to a rich duck egg green being seen underneath RAF aircraft.  Only towards the end of 1940 did Sky become standardized, but even that was short-lived as the color changed once again to Medium Sea Grey in the following year.  Also of note is the unusual underside roundel size and placement at the extreme wing tips.  There was quite a bit of experimentation with this as well, as the RAF was constantly worried that friendly AAA gunners would shoot down their own aircraft.  It was a legitimate concern.

Iíve been continuing my experiments with pre-shading by first spraying every panel line with dark gray, then spraying the camouflage colors on the interior of each panel, letting only a slight overspray fall on the panel line itself.  This worked out pretty well on the light underside, but the top colors, being so dark, diminished the effect to the point of near invisibility.  Oh well. The underside was painted in a custom mix of Testorís Acryl Duck Egg Blue and a bunch of other colors that brought it close to FS15325.  This is based on research done by Paul Lucas from preserved pieces of actual 222 squadron aircraft.  Itís a neat color, something that one doesnít see very often on a warplane.  I masked off the underside and sprayed Polly Scale Dark Earth on the topside.  The disruptive camouflage pattern B was marked off with a pencil and sprayed with Testorís Acryl RAF Dark Green.  I attempted to get the smallest amount of overspray that I possibly could, as photographs of a number of early Spitfires show a slightly soft demarcation between the two colors.

    The British were very worried about the use of poison gas, so early aircraft had a patch of special paint applied to the wing that would change color to indicate if such substances were encountered.  I painted the diamond-shaped area on the port wing using Testorís Acryl Chromate Yellow.  After letting the paint cure for a couple of days, I sprayed several coats of Future floor polish to give a gloss surface for the decals to adhere to.

    As previously mentioned, the kit decals look quite nice on the sheet. But as I put the upper wing roundels on, I slightly tore the edge of one of the large markings.  As they dried, I applied Micro Set to help the decals conform.  This did not agree with the decal at all, melting visible holes in the top layer of the emulsion.  It also didnít help very much in getting the decals to mold to the surface details.  The last straw was encountered when I tried to apply the long wing walk stripes and had them disintegrate in my hand.  That was it for me. I put the model away for week after ordering a new set of decals directly from Eagle Strike.  Although this set was designed for Eagle Squadron Mark Vbs, I was able to use the roundels and fin flashes.  But I first had to get the kit decals off and had a heck of time.  They simply would not come up using the strongest tape I have.  I finally resorted to using Polly Scale Easy Lift off, which of course removed the paint as well.  I sanded down the area and repainted the offending sections.

    Ready for the Eagle Strike decals, I applied them with no problems as they reacted very well with the usual Micro Scale setting solutions.  The underwing roundels came from an old Fujimi Spitfire kit sheet.  That still left me with a task of coming up with some aircraft code letters.  I went back to the kit decals and slathered them with Micro Superfilm.  This sealed them and prevented any further problems with disintegration.  I then cut out the letters very carefully and sprayed them with the proper Medium Sea Grey color.  These were applied to the side of the fuselage, with a little painting needed to touch up some ragged edges.  Not the easiest way to get code letters, but it worked for me.  I also used the Superfilm on the remaining stripes and wrestled them onto the model, with a few stripes coming from a railroad sheet to replace the ones I messed up earlier.  I also used to kit decals for the linen patches over each of the gun ports.  As I handled the model, the thin decals eventually broke open over the hole, so I now have a model of plane that has returned from a mission where its guns were fired.

    Finally past the decal stage, I sealed the model with a coat of Future in preparation of weathering.  I applied a wash of Burnt Umber and Payneís gray artistís oils thinned with Turpenoid to all the panel lines.  Various shades of gray pastels were used to dirty up the underside.  Early Merlin engines had a tendency to leak oil, turning the belly area into a mucky mess fairly quickly.  Subtle staining was added to the engine exhaust and shell ejector chute areas, and a subtle drybrush of silver was applied to the high-wear areas of the wing root.  I wanted my model to look used but not weather-beaten, as August was still fairly early in the Battle of Britain.  Since these airplanes were waxed in the attempt to eek ever possible MPH out the airframe, I sealed the weathering with a coat of Testorís Acryl semi-gloss clear, which gave a nice satin finish.

    Small detail painting was done to the spinner (Night), the prop blades, the wheels, and the engine exhaust stacks.  The canopy was masked with drafting tape and painted after polishing with Novus Plastic Polish #2.  No more Future on canopies for me Ė this Novus stuff is great!  It makes the canopy crystal clear and avoids all the fussiness of the Future dipping process.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

    I glued on the landing gear and assembled the propeller.  Navigation lights were simulated with a drop of red or green paint.  The canopy pieces were glued on and the seams filled with white glue and sprayed with the surrounding camouflage color to blend in.  I glued the aerial wires into their pre-drilled holes in the mast.  I gave some thought to putting IFF wires that ran from the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizers to the side of the fuselage, but my understanding is that these were used on only selected aircraft.  I popped on the spinner and glued on the cockpit access door to complete the project, which clocked in at just under 60 hours of work.

CONCLUSIONS

    This is a good kit for a decent price.  While not exactly state-of-the-art, it combines the best elements of the Hasegawa Spitfire with some modern upgrades.  I really like the idea and hope that manufacturers can do more like this in the future.  I was disappointed by the kit decals, especially because they looked so nice on the sheet.  Revell-Monogram kit decals have been improved greatly in the past few years, so this one was a definite step backwards.  Iím hoping that I just got one from a bad batch.  With a little bit of work to rescribe the fuselage panel lines, a very nice replica of one of the most beautiful airplanes to ever grace the sky can be had.

    Thanks to Les Piper, Dave Gibson, and Dave Wadman for their invaluable assistance while building this model.

REFERENCES

Lucas, Paul: Camouflage and Markings No.2: The Battle for Britain - RAF May December 1940, Scale Aircraft Monographs

Humphreys, Robert: The Supermarine Spitfire, a Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller, Part 1 Ė Merlin-Powered

Piper, Les: E-mail conversations about Spitfire details

Gibson, Dave: E-mail conversations about Spitfire details

Wadman, Dave: E-mail conversations about Spitfire details

Lee Kolosna

May 2003

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