HobbyBoss 1/32 Spitfire Vb

KIT #: 38205
PRICE: 39.99
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Mogens Lund

      Master 32-018 cannon,   Eduard ED32705 cockpit interior and    JX126 canopy masks,  Quickboost QB32116 Spitfire Mk.V exhausts and 32-114 Spitfire Mk.V stabilizers


I presume that the history of this mark of the Spitfire is so well known that a detailed description is largely unnecessary. It must be sufficient to state that it followed the Mk.II with the introduction of the Rolls Royce Merlin 45, that it entered service in the spring of 1941, that the initial version was the Mk.VA with eight machine guns, the next version being the Mk.VB with two 20mm cannon and four machine guns, the final version being the Mk.VC with the universal wing that could carry a second 20mm cannon instead of the two machine guns. Later in its career it was fitted with bomb shackles under the wings and the fuselage to be used as a fighter bomber. Fitted with the characteristic dust filter under the nose it was in widespread use in the Middle East. When the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A arrived on the scene over France in 1941 it became apparent that the Mk.VB was outclassed and luckily with the introduction of the Merlin 60-series and the Spitfire Mk.IX the balance was redressed. It was still in use in some theatres of the war until war's end as a fighter bomber.


Late 2011 HobbyBoss issued their Spitfire Mk.VB in 1/32, shortly after followed by the Spitfire Mk.VB/trop version. This review is on the Mk.VB. In this kit you may choose between two markings, one being that of one of Polish fighter ace Jan Zumbach's Spitfires. So let's first take a look at this gentleman:


Jan Zumbach


Jan Eugeniusz Ludwig Zumbach was born April 14, 1915. The son of Polish-born Swiss parents, Zumbach was registered as a Swiss citizen and hid his nationality in order to join the Polish army in 1934. He served as an infantryman until 1936 when he transferred to the Polish Air Force. After graduating from flying training in 1938 he was posted to 111 Eskadra Mysliwska.


Zumbach did not fly during the German invasion of Poland due to a broken leg as a result of a flying accident during the summer of 1939. He returned to his unit only to be evacuated to France via Rumania. While in France, Zumbach flew the Morane-Saulnier MS.406 and Curtiss Hawk 75 with GCII/55. On June 10, he was one of several pilots shot down by Bf 109s, but escaped unscathed. On June 18, 1940, he traveled to Britain by boat and on August 2 was posted as one of the founding members to the newly formed No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron.


During the Battle of Britain, Zumbach scored eight confirmed kills and one probable, mostly against Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. On May 9, 1941, when returning from a mission, Zumbach himself was shot down by a Bf 109, but was able to bail out unharmed.


Zumbach became one of the first Allied pilots to engage in combat with the German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 when on October13, 1941, he damaged, and in return, his aircraft was damaged by a "single radial-engined fighter". In December the same year Zumbach was posted to No. 58 OTU, and in March 1942 he returned to No. 303 Sqn as a flight commander. In May, he was promoted to Squadron Leader and took command of the squadron, a post he held from May 19 1942 until November 30 1943.


During this period, Zumbach flew three Spitfire VBs, carrying the serial numbers BM144, EP594 and EN951. All these aircraft carried the same code, RF-D, (RF being the squadron code for No. 303 Sqn) and D being the individual aircraft code. All three aircraft carried a cartoon of Donald Duck on the port side of the fuselage, slightly forward of the cockpit. Zumbach's victory tally was marked with German crosses under the cockpit on the port side; confirmed kills were outlined in white, probable kills in red, and damaged aircraft with no outline.


After handing over command of No. 303 Sqn to Sqn Ldr Bieńkowski, Zumbach spent a year in staff appointments, including the Polish Air Force Staff College. He returned to flying duties as the commander of the No. 2nd Polish Air Wing, No 133 Wing. On September 25, 1944 he scored his final victory of the war, a probable kill over over Arnhem in The Netherlands.


On January 30, 1945, Zumbach was posted to HQ, No. 84 Group. While flying an Auster that was used to visit units under the Group's command, he made a navigational error and ran out of fuel. He force-landed in enemy territory and spent the final month of the war as a prisoner of war. Zumbach's final victory tally was 12 (and 2 shared) confirmed kills, five probables and one damaged.


Zumbach was demobilized in October 1946 but continued to fly for a living. Under a Swiss passport, he flew contraband around Southern Europe and the Middle East.

In January 1962, Zumbach was contracted to organize and command Avikat, the air force of Congolese breakaway state of Katanga, commanding it until December 1962. He went on to deal in second-hand aircraft before again becoming a mercenary to organize and command the air force of Biafra, flying the Douglas B-26 Invader, using the nom de guerre of John Brown.


In 1975, Zumbach published his autobiography. Originally available in French under the title Mister Brown: Aventures dans le ciel, it was subsequently published in German and English under the title On Wings of War: My Life as a Pilot Adventurer.

Zumbach died January 31, 1986 in France and was buried at Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland.


Coming close on the heels of Tamiya's magnificent Spitfire Mk.IX I was curious to see whether HobbyBoss could live up to Tamiya. Well, I found three faults in the kit, one being a much too rounded fuselage top. A comparison with both the Tamiya Spitfire and the old Hasegawa Spitfire in the same scale shows how inaccurate the fuselage top is. In this photo you may see the difference between a Tamiya canopy and a HobbyBoss canopy. The other one is the stabilizers which for some inexplicable reason are reproduced as canvas covered. The first fault cannot be remedied the second will have to be remedied with the substitution of the kit's stabilizers with new ones produced by Quickboost. The third fault I believe to be the humps in the upper wings over the wheel wells. I'm not sure whether these are correct for the Mk.V, I have never seen them on photos of Mk.Vs and it's very difficult to remove them without doing much damage to the surface detail. I chose to retain them, incorrect or not. The kit includes a metal fret with seat belts, which I did not use, and front and aft grilles for the circular oil cooler under the port wing. One point about the wings is that their leading edges seem too rounded, at least compared to the Tamiya Spitfire.



As for the cockpit it is sufficiently detailed built OOB. The kit gives you decals for the instrument panel, but the Eduard instrument panel gives you much more realism in the cockpit. Assembly of the cockpit is, as nearly always in aircraft kits, the first step. Instrument panel and rudder pedal assembly go together rather well except for the control stick which I found a problem to mount correctly, the instructions are a bit vague on that point. The armour back plate does for some reason not cover the whole of the seat's back, so if you want it correct you will find a better armour plate in Eduard's cockpit set. As I chose to close the cockpit on my HobbyBoss Spitfire I used the plate supplied with the kit. Below the pilot's head rest is a slot for the seat belts. You will have to drill it open to pass the shoulder harness through to be attached to the bulkhead behind the seat bulkhead . Side panels provide the necessary details, but they do not curve in as the case is for the Tamiya Spitfire. You may include a radio installation behind the cockpit to be seen through a detachable panel on the left side of the fuselage. I decided to keep this panel closed so ditched the kit radio. You really can't see the radio when the fuselage halves are mated. Actually, Eduard gives you a much better radio if you choose to buy this detail set. One other thing is that the kit provides you with a fuselage tank to put behind the engine bay. As you really can't see it when the fuselage halves are mated it was ditched too! One important note concerns the cockpit door. Looking at it closely, you can see that the crowbar seems to be sitting behind the door ribbing . Difficult to get it out of there if your scale pilot would have to exit by way of the crowbar! It was of no concern to me as I built my Mk.VB with canopy closed, but if you want to display the cockpit as open you will have to do something. On my upcoming Mk.VB/Trop I will use a left over cockpit door from one of my Tamiya Spitfires. One other solution is to remove all detail from the door and supplant them with ribbing and a crowbar from the Eduard interior set. 


Next step is the engine. As with the Tamiya Spitfire, HobbyBoss includes a Merlin engine with loose panels. Taking one look at the engine I quickly chose to close in the engine using only the parts necessary for the fitting of the propeller and the exhausts (Photo 06).  I was satisfied to find that the panels fitted very well, only using Kristal Klear to fill in the minute gaps between panels. Magnificent brand, just brush some KK around the panels and wipe off with water. Repeat if necessary.


Next up are the wings. A rather funny feature is that the panels for the machine gun and cannon bays are clear to reveal the guns in their bays. Well, I decided to leave the guns out and duly painted the covers over. Actually the covers fitted as well as you could possibly demand, cementing them from the inside before mating the wing halves. Again I used Kristal Clear to close up small gaps. You may drop the flaps, but I have never seen a photograph depicting a parked Spitfire with its flaps down, which also goes for the Hurricane, the Typhoon and the Tempest. I remember having read somewhere that a pilot would be given a fine if he forgot to retract his flaps upon landing! The same goes for the flap indicators on top of the wings, they would also be closed on parked aircraft, their fit, by the way, not being so good. And it goes for the under wing landing lights as well. The Master cannon is a much better rendition of the Hispano cannon fitted to the Mk.VB and needs a bit of drilling to fit in.


The final steps are cementing the fuselage halves together, put on the stabilizers, the elevators and the rudder. Elevators and rudder are separate pieces so you can set them as you wish .


Bringing the completed fuselage together with the completed wings revealed some gaps, especially in the wing root areas. A bit of filling and sanding was therefore necessary. The undercarriage legs were added fitted with brake lines and after a coat of thin grey paint to check for discrepancies in my work the model was ready for painting.


The kit provides you with a bomb and a shackle to fit under the belly. I don't think that Zumbach ever flew as a fighter bomber but it will of course come in handy for a Mk.VB in a different guise.



Zumbach's Spitfire was finished in the standard ETO camouflage of Medium Sea Grey, Ocean Grey and Dark Green, all paints coming from the Xtracrylic range. As always with British ETO fighters I painted the wing leading edges yellow and the fuselage band Sky Type S and masked these areas before using the other colours. As something new I decided to try to paint the wing walk lines instead of using the kit markings. It turned out to be quite easy in this scale. Only got them a wee bit too broad. But the effect is great, I assure you! The markings of course came from the HobbyBoss sheet which is well printed and in the correct colours, it seems.



 My last additions to a kit are always the radio mast, the pitot tube and cockpit rear view mirror as I always tend to break them away during construction. The main wheels, which are of vinyl with separate hubs, and tail wheel came on as well in this stage together with the necessary antenna wiring for which I always use stretched clear sprue. I have built models in earnest for at least 40 years but have never actually come around the teach myself weathering techniques, so that's why Zumbach's Spitfire is so clean!



Bearing in mind that HobbyBoss and incidentally most of the kit producers are basically toy producers the HobbyBoss rendition of the Spitfire is actually a very fine kit with really good surface detail, not of the Tamiya level, mind you, but you can easily place a Tamiya Spitfire next to a HobbyBoss Spitfire and only see the difference in their surface detail on close scrutiny. Except, of course, that the fuselage top of the HobbyBoss Spitfire stands off compared with the Tamiya Spitfire. 


All in all a very good kit that OOB will give the average modeller, to which category I count myself, a very good Spitfire, and the use of aftermarket product will only enhance the result. The only direct criticisms that I will pass are the wrongly shaped top fuselage and the stabilizers that will have to be replaced with those from Quickboost as noted above. I'm quite contended with my Mk.VB and am presently underway with my Mk.VB/Trop.

Mogens Lund

September 2012

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