Airfix 1/48 Spitfire PR.XIX

KIT #: A05119
PRICE: $21.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Fernando Rolandelli


If the status of the Spitfire as “the best fighter aircraft of WW2” can be doubted, its condition as “the best medium range reconnaissance aircraft” probably cannot. Without in any way having been designed for the role, Spitfires were modified for the reconnaissance role from the very beginning, at first in an almost artisan scale, and it were PR Spitfires the first to be deployed overseas and make contact with the enemy. Later, beginning with the PR.IV, production was standardized, as was the scheme “fuel in wings, cameras in fuselage”, with the introduction of the so-called “Bowser” wing, an early attempt at a “wet” wing. The last of these recce versions, and the only one fitted with a Griffon engine, was the PR.XIX, which, as most Spitfire versions were, was a kind of an hybrid aircraft mating the general Mk.XIV fuselage to a PR.XI wings (with extra fuel in the seldom used  wing camera bays, to a total of 256 gallons) and (type 390) PR.X pressurized system (itself an adaptation from the HF.VII), modified with a “PR windscreen”, without armor. It was a remarkable aircraft, with a top speed of 717 km/h at 26,000 ft, and a maximun ceiling of 42,600, a figure reached almost unofficially. Entering service in May, 1944, 225 were built, seen widespread service in Europe and Italy before the end of the war.

No.682 Squadron was formed from No.4 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Maison Blanche on 1 February 1943, for photographic reconnaissance duties in the Western and Central Mediterranean. After flying missions over Tunisia and Italy from Algeria, it moved to Italy in December 1943, mounted on Spitfire PR Mk XIs, and for the rest of the war based detachments at many airfields in Italy. In September 1944 it began being reequipped with PR.XIX; about that same time, a detachment was sent to southern France which moved forward behind the Allied armies until it reached Nancy in November, where it stayed until the end of March 1945. On 14 September 1945 the squadron was disbanded.


This most eagerly awaited kit is one of those embodying the virtual resurrection of Airfix to the “kits for serious modellers” market. You can read a more detailed preview here.

The first impressions are good. Plastic is a bit soft, but some people like it best. Panel lines are still a bit oversized but well defined. Small parts are rather poor, specially the undercarriage. Cockpit detail is barely adequate; but the seat looks very good. Armour is molded into the headrest bulkhead, which surprised me; though in wartime it looks to have been fitted (against PR practice), the post-war machines depicted in the decal sheet had it most probably removed.

The moulds are “PR.XIX specific”, it doesn't look as if they were planned as a multiversion mould. Every one of the three plus transparent sprues have “XIX specific” parts. Airfix will be able to profit of the research only if releasing a XIV or XVIII model.



 The cockpit is a bit of a disappointment. The detail is very soft, exception made of the seat. I decided not to use any aftermarket (I had none available here at Nairobi) exception made of the Q type harness from an Eduard generic set. I added bits of equipment as per the SAMI illustrations; most notable were the electrical box at the left console and the trim wheels. I painted the instruments with a draftman's pen. I had problems in identifying the throttle lever, there is a similar lever in the forward bulkhead which is an oversized pump lever. The thing I most regretted not being able to replace were the rudder pedals, a bare slab of plastic. Had I had my spare parts box with me, I would have used even the discarded plastic ones from any kit. Luckily, they are not that visible. I bored the holes around the seat mounting and bulkhead.

The camera compartment is a very good addition to the kit; having been in the “PR Spits” business for some time, I have long prayed for some aftermarket company releasing something like that. I decided to open the hatches on both sides, but it would be probably a better idea to open only the one with the camera port.

Everything was painted in Aircraft Grey Green, as I intended to model a wartime machine. The cameras were painted a light grey. 


 The kit assembles very well. There are some mould marks around the rocker covers that require some extra attention. Only the rear wing undersurface joint really needs filler; a smear of putty should make short work of most others. Detail is again a bit soft but adequate. Windscreen fits real well, but the rear quarterdeck fit is marginal. Main legs are undersized in diameter (actually, they are “flattened”) and lack a really positive fit, and the door can mar the little they have; the flexible plastic doesn't help, and alignment can be thrown off. Dropped flaps, a usual Airfix trait in Spitfire kits, are a bit better than usual; I decided to assemble them like that, just to evaluate the look, which wasn't too bad. I liked the positionable flying surfaces, particularly the elevators.

The canopy/rear window combo, another usual Airfix's Spits trait, is ridiculous, and I honestly think there is no way it may look anywhere near realistic. I therefore chose to simply put the hood opened on its rails. The quarterdeck window is a bit small in width compared to its sills; I worked a bit to get a better fit, but, in the end, it backfired, for the hood would have sat easier on it. I had to force it a bit to avoid it riding high.


 I intended to model a wartime machine, so I had to get some aftermarket decals (the ones in the kit depict the well known PS888 and a Swedish machine). Xtradecals being out of print, I got the “Kits-World” 48-091 sheet, covering several wartime and postwar machines. I settled for RM640, “F”, from 682 Sqn, RAF, flying over Italy in 1944. The machine was PRU Blue overall, a scheme most adept to weathering; I painted it “mottle-fashion” in several shades of the base colour on a dark preshade, to achieve an uneven look. While the interior and details were brush painted with Humbrol paints (the ones available at Nairobi), the exterior was painted with Xtracolor and a Paasche VL.

 Decals performed well, once I got their habit to stick to the spot in the model (or otherwise) where they landed. They should be floated into position with no solvents and taking care they do not fold on themselves. Composing the serial from the small (4” scale) individual letters and numbers was a chore. The fuselage roundels I deem to be a bit big, and the fin flash is the big “fighter-type” flag, while my instinct would have said the small “PR-type” one was the correct (both are available on the sheet, and the instructions are very positive in showing the big one) I messed up the right hand fuselage roundel (which should be cut over the hatch), cutting it in the wrong place twice (it ended up on the right wing, where, if you look closely, you can see the shape of the cut.

 Regarding the true production model of RM640, as part of the first batch of PR.XIX built by Vickers-Armstrong, there is a probability that it was actually a Type 389, instead of a 390, that is, without pressurization equipment. The decal instruction sheet very clearly shows the nose blower and the rear exhaust, but it might be they used a “stylized” drawing without any pretence of accuracy.


 Is it a good kit? Yes, no doubt. Is it an excellent kit? Well, it can be argued. It is as close as possible to spot on in outline accuracy; it has reasonable surface detail and perhaps below par small parts. It can be built OOB and render a real good model of this handsome aircraft. If building it again, I would definitely use some kind of aftermarket set for the cockpit. Thoroughly recommended.


 - SAMI Publications Modeller’s Datafiles no. 05 “Supermarine Spitfire part II – Griffon powered versions”

- “Spitfire at War”, Alfred Price, Ian Allan Publications

- RAF website

Fernando Rolandelli

September 2013

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