|KIT:||Airfix 1/48 Spitfire I/IIa|
Like many kids growing up during the 1960s in the UK, the signs of war were all around me. Aircraft crash sites had not been plundered by modern day “archaeologists”. Over grown piles of rubble still marked the spots where once houses had stood, (bomb sites) and served as playgrounds for us. Junk shops were full of wartime memorabilia and Action Man was a Royal Marine Commando with an equipment bag full of grenades and explosives, not the bi-sexual mountain climber with a handbag full of hair gel kids get today! While my brothers saved all their money for Nazi ceremonial daggers and German tin helmets, I only had eyes for one thing. The Airfix 1/72 MkIX Spitfire JE-J flown by Johnnie Johnson. I built dozens of them because when ever I had enough money to buy a new kit, I felt cheated if it wasn’t a Spitfire!! Spitfires were my everything.
Airfix (and to a lesser extent FROG) introduced me to modelling and it was this passion that I revived after 35 year in 2006.
So here we are in 2007, Airfix has once again recovered from a “near death experience” and launched itself back onto a nostalgic (if not slightly confused) public with a new Spitfire! A shrewd move on their part as any ageing JE-J builder will tell you. An aircraft magazine editor once told me that a Spitfire cover story was worth another 10% in monthly sales for the magazine, Such is the endearing magic of this wonderful 70 year old machine and explains in part why Airfix chose to re-launch itself with a Spitfire.
After a typical “Merlin” like start up, the new 1/48 MkI spit coughed and spluttered its way on to the market a few months after its forecast arrival and almost immediately sold out at most outlets. A hugely popular kit? Or a poor marketing strategy from Airfix? Who knows?
The box art depicts a famous photo of 19Sqn’s press day, showing off their new charges for the first time, a large No.19 on each tail (a paint job applied for just one day and removed after the press launch)
Inside the box are 7 grey plastic sprues and 3 clear. If like me you were expecting Airfix to have filled a gap in the market here with a dedicated Pre-war spit your going to be disappointed. What you get is a token MkI with a built in ability to be re-boxed at a later date as a MkII or V and with additional parts for a low back model of some sort and canon armament, various propellers and canopies, under carriage doors etc (for your spares box)
Airfix have given a nod in the direction of an early MkI with a non-blown canopy and a two bladed prop but that is really about it.
The cockpit has seat armour and headrest armour, a crowbar on the door and a reflector gun sight, none of which will be needed in the Pre war version. The instrument panel looks good and there is an attempt at cockpit sidewall detail but if you intend to model this Spit with its door open the whole cockpit will need some work including the seat.
The wings are a bit odd!! The eight browning gun ports are moulded on the centre line of the wing joint but should be predominantly in the top half of the wing. The wing flaps (airlons) are “enthusiastically” moulded but the wing trailing edge’s are way to thick. Flaps can be posed up or down and the wheel wells are boxed in.
Something not right here! An after market rudder would possibly help. The tail is again too thick and the rudder is the wrong shape on its vertical rear, side profile. Tail wings will also need thinning.
The basic shape looks good but the door hinge will need sanding down a bit I think.
A trial fit of parts looks promising but the wing root to fuselage will need attention. Early experiences from fellow modellers point to a spreader bar being the answer to eliminate the gap where the fuselage would appear to be a little narrow.
It’s difficult to see where Airfix were hoping to peg this one? A Tamiya MkII with an after market Prop and hood would be a better starting point for a Pre war Spit.
In my opinion (and it is just an opinion) the opportunity to fill a hole in the Spitfire market with a purpose built, OTB Pre-war Spit has been missed.
Parts and decals are supplied for a MkII as well but that has been adequately (and better) covered by other manufacturers.
On the subject of decals, mine had fused themselves to their cover sheet in the box. The Yellow of the Roundels is too dark, almost a mustard colour.
In fairness to Airfix I should imagine that financial constraints have meant that building in model and Mk flexibility was important but I fear they have produced a “jack of all trades and master of non” That said its cheap at £9.99 and is a lot better than the 1/72 MkIX I brought 40 years ago that got me hooked so lets hope this latest Airfix Spitfire will hook a few more Eight year olds who can go on to report to the next generation as I have tried to do here!
Early canopy with non-armoured glass in the windscreen
Two bladed prop and early type radio mast
Wing to fuselage fit (fixable)
Thick trailing edges
Very thick transparent parts
Low detail in the undercarriage legs/wheels.
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