Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire I

KIT #: 61032
PRICE: $30.00 or so
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Lyle
NOTES: Aviaeology #A0D48C04, RAF & FAA Aircraft Serials – 4” & 6” Night (Black)


 Occasionally I get asked why I’m interested in scale modeling and my usual fumbling response is that I like working with my hands and building replicas of things I’m interested in, which tend to be things of war.  Over the years I’ve pondered the next logical question - “Why are you interested in things of war?”  And to that I still have no answer, only guesses.  Who can explain why you’re interested in the things you’re interested in?

            An interest in things of war and military affairs in general could be stoked I suppose by the basic human drama of it all.  One nation pits its citizens, technology, and might against that of another, and the winner not only gets the spoils but also gets to write history.  For the citizens of the winning nation life generally goes on, but for those of the losing nation life is completely altered.  This proposition was never more apparent than during the summer of 1940 when Hitler’s armies sat on the coast of France, poised to conquer Britain and forever change that nation’s fundamental way of life.

            The drama of a huge land battle is self-apparent, but what made the Battle of Britain so dramatic was that it was the first time a campaign was decided completely in the air.  When the Luftwaffe finally admitted defeat and Hitler turned towards Russia, not a ground troop from either side had fought with his adversary.  Britain’s saviors were not soldiers and tanks, but pilots and aircraft, a situation created by her unique island geography.  Hitler knew trying to cross the Channel without control of the air would be suicidal, and so the nature of the battle was decided right then and there.  One could argue that if Mother Russia’s greatest natural defense was General Winter, than Britain’s was the English Channel.

            The Hurricane and Spitfire will always be the heroes of the battle, with the more numerous but less glamorous Hurricane playing second fiddle.  Over the years the Spitfire has become a beloved legend, always a contender for the title of greatest fighter aircraft ever built.  In production throughout the entire war and highly successful wherever it fought, it goes without saying that it deserves every accolade it has ever received.

            A couple of years ago I kit-bashed a Mk. IX in 1/48 scale using the Hasegawa kit, the Aeroclub conversion set, and a whole lot of resin extras.  Recently however the Battle of Britain bug hit me and I decided to build a Mk. I variant and finish it in the markings of Eric Lock, one of the battle’s most successful aces.  Tamiya’s Mk. I kit fit the bill perfectly.


 I’m a fan of Eduard’s “Zoom” photo etch sets, and so I purchased one for this build.  The set provides just the right amount of photo etch details without going overboard, basically giving you a color-printed instrument panel, the seatbelts and some other small details.  Per usual construction started in the cockpit, so I had to be aware of how to integrate the Eduard details with the kit parts.  I painted the cockpit floor, side walls, lower instrument panel, and seat structure Testors Acrylic RAF Interior Green.  The seat was then painted Vallejo Saddle Brown to represent the red-brown bakelite construction of the real thing.  I then added the Eduard set’s nicely printed Sutton harness to the seat using CA glue.  Eduard’s printed instrument panel parts are real gems – how they get such precisely printed instrument dials is beyond me.  Once the panel was assembled I brushed on some Vallejo Matte Finish and then put a dab of Testors Gloss Finish on each dial.  The rest of the cockpit was assembled per the kit’s instructions and given a pin wash of MIG Productions Dark Brown wash.  Finally, the smaller details were picked out by hand.

            I cut the port side cockpit door from the port side fuselage half (Tamiya provides an actual door part in the kit so you can toss the one you cut out) so a bit more of the cockpit will be visible after assembly, and then glued the fuselage halves together.  The completed cockpit assembly then slides into the fuselage from underneath.  I had to fiddle with it a little to get the instrument panel and seat bulkhead to sit properly on the ribs in the fuselage, but overall the fit was very good.  I then sanded the seams of the fuselage halves, a process that only took a few moments.

            At this point the instructions would have you continue adding more detail to the fuselage, but I deviated from that and assembled the wings next.  The upper halves were attached to the one-piece lower half, and once again the fit was very good.  Once the wings were dry I glued them and the horizontal stabilizers to the fuselage.  A bit of gap was present at the wing roots, but a small bead of CA glue took care of that problem. 

            A few more items needed to be added before painting could begin.  The various coolers under the wings were glued on, as was the lower part of the engine cowling.  I then attached the windscreen, masked it and the cockpit opening off, and headed for the spray booth.


 After a primer coat of Tamiya Surface Primer was sprayed on the model, I pre-shaded the panel lines with some Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black.  I airbrushed Tamiya XF-21 Sky onto the undersides, letting the pre-shading show through.  I then masked off those areas that might be affected by spraying the upper surfaces and sprayed a 50/50 mix of Tamiya XF-54 Flat Earth and XF-57 Buff onto said upper surfaces.  I then used Silly Putty to mask that color off in a Type A, hard-edged scheme (Tamiya provides a Type B schematic printed to scale – to use for a Type A scheme you just reverse it on the model), and sprayed Testors RAF Dark Green on to the model.  Once everything was dry I sprayed Future onto the whole model in preparation for the decals.

I used the kit’s decals for the stencils, fin flashes, and roundels.  I also used the kit’s decals for the fuselage codes, piecing together Lock’s “EB-Q” as best I could.  The color of the letters is a bit too dark to my eye, but c’est la vie.  The small serial number codes were sourced from an Aviaeology set.  I found the Tamiya decals to be a bit thick (seems to be a common complaint), but all behaved acceptably with Walthers Solvaset.  In the areas where they wouldn’t snuggle down into a panel line I cut the decal along the line with my knife and then applied Solvaset.  That solved the problem.  Once they were dry I airbrushed another layer of Future over them to seal them.

When the Future was cured I used a small brush to apply a pin wash of Mig Productions “Dark Wash” to all of the panel lines.  I used a small, lint-free cloth to wipe the seams in the direction of the airflow to create subtle streaking effects.  Up next was an airbrushed coat of Testors Lacquer Flat Finish, sprayed straight out of the bottle.  I post-shaded the panel lines with a very dilute mix of 50/50 Tamiya XF1 Black and Tamiya XF64 Red Brown, keeping it subtle as it’s an effect that is easy to overdo.  Using this mix I also added streaking for the machine guns and engine exhausts, as well as other areas on the airframe. 

A couple of photos in my references show some Mk. I’s with a lot of paint scuffing along the wing roots, especially on the port side, so I tried to duplicate that effect using a Silver Berol pencil.  I sharpened the pencil and then gently jabbed it repeatedly onto the surface, leaving lots of tiny silver dots.  The effect looks very good, but drives anyone nearby crazy as it sounds like a woodpecker is attacking the house. 

            I painted the wingtip lights next.  They were first painted using Testors Chrome Silver, and then that was followed by the applicable color of either Tamiya Clear Red or Clear Blue.  The final weathering effect was to dust the landing gear and tires with some earth-colored pigments.

            Finishing the model simply involved attaching the final fragile bits – canopy, pitot tube, landing gear, etc.  I used stretched sprue for the antenna cables.  I painted them dark gray, and declared the model finished.  A nice, easy build.  I love 1/48 scale fighters.


             It’s hard to believe this kit is now almost 20 years old.  Tamiya’s kit engineering is as good as ever with this kit – the construction phase was a joy and flew by very quickly.  After a string of some long, involved builds this kit was just what I needed.  Highly recommended!


-  Osprey Publications, Aircraft of the Aces #12, “Spitfire Mark I/II Aces 1939-41”

-  Specialty Press, Warbird Tech Series #35, “Merlin-Powered Spitfires”

-  Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft in Action #39, “Spitfire in Action”

Scott Lyle

July 2012

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