Subject: Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vb

Scale: 1/32

Manufacturer: Hasegawa

Kit No.: (Squadron Mail Order Nos.) HE08052(RAF desert versions);

HE08082(RAF European versions)

Parts: 78(7 transparencies, 68 tan or gray styrene)

Media: Injection molded styrene

Price: US$32.50 (Squadron catalogue price)

Detail: 9(ascending scale 1-10)

Accuracy: 9 (ascending, 1-10); see review

This is THE 1/32 scale Merlin-powered Spitfire to build (like there's much choice, with the Revell Mk.I), unless Tamiya comes out with something better. Hasegawa's Spitfire Mk. V has been around for over 20 years and sets the standard for even 1/48 kits in terms of detail and variantoptions.

From the basic kit, you can build a Mk. Vb with standard carburetor intake and either clipped or full-span wings, a Mk. Vb with the huge Vokes tropical air filter for the carburetor, or a clipped-wing tropical Mk. VB with the more compact Aboukir derivative of the Vokes filter. Propeller options are also addressed with spinners and blades for either the deHavilland or Rotol three-bladed propellers used on Mk. V's. Different windscreens are also provided for either internal or external armor installations. While the full armament and stores capability of later Mk. V's is not fully catered for in this kit, you still get a nice, bulky ventral slipper tank.

External detail is a combination of recessed hatch seams and raised panel lines, with well executed fabric rudder detail and the proper metal-covered ailerons found on most Mk. V's. The cockpit hatch is molded separately, and the underwing landing light covers can be cut loose for the conveniently-provided lamp parts. No engine is provided, but that only becomes a problem if you want the engine exposed. The wing-fuselage joint included the proper pseudo-inverted gull curvature on the underside, long before the current spate of 1/48 and 1/72 Spits did. Probably the Airfix Spit Mk. V had the only other correct wing joint before now.

The cockpit is the real centerpiece of this kit. Besides having the correct open-frame rear cockpit bulkhead, the unit features a separate clear-plastic reflector gunsight, separate lower sidewalls to represent the true interior fuselage contour, multi-piece seat frame and adjustment lever, a beautiful seat with flare holder, rudder pedal frame, individual, throttle, flap, trim and radio panel units, well engraved instrument panel, oxygen bottles, armor plate, control stick/grip and good raised stringer detail. The only real weak point here is the control grip, and I replaced that with a Revell Spitfire unit. You can add straps and buckles and have a truly outstanding cockpit after only painting and drybrushing. The cockpit side hatch - with a separate locking bar - allows you to show off all that interior detail. A shell-type four-piece pilot with good detail is included

Landing gear is also well done, with the main gear legs featuring the locking lugs that kept the gear from drooping into the slipstream during high-G maneuvers. The extend/retract indicator rods on the upper wing are molded in place and are probably best replaced with brass wire or stretched sprue. The propellers and spinners are correct in outline, although the blades for the Rotol unit (long spinner and wide blade roots) look to be a bit on the thin side. I'd recommend laminating a piece of .010 plastic sheet to each blade's rear face and file and sand to the correct thicknesses along the blade's length.

Problems are minor, considering what you get. There is no open option for the flaps, and a shallow sink mark runs about 3/16" in from the trailing  edge. Ensuring a good clean ventral wing/fuselage joint requires a little care and a touch of putty. The kit decals have always been acceptable in thickness and great in register. Markings - all Royal Air Force - included a No. 303 Sqdn (Polish) machine, a Western Desert Vokes version with no visible squadron codes, and a No. 601 Sqdn LF Mk. Vb with clipped wings and the Aboukir filter. The latter version looks like a real hot-rod in Middle Stone//Dk. Earth/Azure Blue camouflage and black squadron codes. An early 1980's Minicraft/Hasegawa release for a USAAF 31st Fighter Group Mk. Vb with the Vokes filter included Scale Master decals. Yet another Hasegawa-boxed release includes markings for at least one LF Mk. V in green-gray camouflage.

A little tip here - for any British produced aircraft from the WWII era, unless otherwise specified, use Testors Model Master Pale Green for interior painting. Allowing for scale color deviation, it looks like British anti-corrosion primer. If I wanted to build a Mk. I or Mk. II, I'd backdate this kit instead of trying the old Revell Mk. I. Aftermarket resin conversions are also available to turn the Hasegawa kit into a Mk. IX or Mk. XIV. Finally, Hasegawa issued its own variation of the Mk. V's when it put out an HF Mk. VI - a production version of the high-altitude fighters built at RAF rework depots in Egypt to counter Luftwaffe Ju-86 high-altitude photo-recon planes.

Simply put, build this kit!

- Mike Still

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