Airfix 1/72 Spitfire PR. IV (PR type D)

KIT #: A02010
PRICE: $7.99 SRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Pavla U72-129 conversion set


The Mk I PR Type D (also called the Extra Super Long Range Spitfire) was the first PR variant that was not a conversion of existing fighter airframes. The Type D carried so much fuel that it was nicknamed "the bowser." The D shaped wing leading edges, ahead of the main spar, proved to be an ideal location for an integral tank. Accordingly, in early 1940, work started on converting the leading edges, between rib four through to rib 21, by sealing off the spar, outer ribs and all skin joins allowing 57 gal (259 l) of fuel to be carried in each wing. Because the work was of low priority, and with the urgent need for fighters the first two, hand-built prototypes of the PR Type Ds weren't available until October. In addition to the leading edge tanks these prototypes also had a 29 gal (132 l) tank in the rear fuselage. An additional 14 gal (63 l) oil tank was fitted in the port wing. The cameras, two vertically mounted F.24s with 8 inch (20.3 cm) or 20 inch (50.8 cm) lens or two vertically mounted F.8s with 20-inch (510 mm) lens, were located in the rear fuselage. With the full fuel load the center of gravity was so far back the aircraft was difficult to fly until the rear fuselage tank had been emptied. Despite these difficulties the type quickly proved its worth, photographing such long distance targets as Stettin, Marseilles, Trondheim and Toulon.

Once the first two Type Ds, P9551 and P9552 had proven the concept the production aircraft, which were soon redesignated PR Mk IV, were modified to increase the leading edge tank capacity to 66.5 gal (302 l) and by omitting the rear fuselage tank. These aircraft were better balanced and had the more powerful Merlin 45 engine as used by the Mk V, along with heated cabins, which were a great comfort to pilots on such long flights. A total of 229 Type Ds were built. These aircraft were constantly modified for conditions and rarely were any two alike.


One is provided with a nicely detailed kit with a number of optional bits that were not available on the earlier, but still nice near-snap Mk I. This does include bits to make a Mk.II which is basically a Rotol prop, blunter spinner and the bulge for the Coffman Starter. One does have to drill out the placement hole for the latter prior to starting construction.

You also get a nicely done cockpit with a decal for the instruments. The two bottles for what I guess are pneumatic cylinders for some of the various systems are included, something not found in most other injected Spitfire kits. Sidewall detail is also nicely done, considering that the canopy bits are one-piece. For those wanting to do a very early Mk. I, you have the two bladed prop and the flat topped canopy. Most Mk. Is will be using the deHavilland prop and more pointed spinner as well as the bulged canopy. Though no stand is provided, it is available from Hornby so a wheels up option is included, using separate bits for this. Speaking of landing gear, the main gear legs are molded with the doors and five spoke wheels are provided.

Instructions are nicely done using only Humbrol paint number references. Markings options are for two planes both in Green/Earth upper surface camouflage. One is a Mk. I from 19 Squadron in August 1938. This has a black/white underside with the color demarcation line straight down the centerline of the fuselage. Control surfaces are aluminum dope on the underside. The other is a Mk.II from 118 Squadron in May of 1941 with the Sky underside and Sky Blue tail band and spinner. Decals are well printed and previous experience with these sorts of decals has been good. There are full color painting instructions provided.

First step was to see what I had to do to the kit to convert it to the PR.IV version. This meant using the Pavla seat and the large fuel tank, both of which had to be painted prior to installation. The tank is a red brown with aluminum ends with the seat being red brown with black padding and a green-grey armor plate. I am not sure if these planes would have had pilot armor due to the weight, but perhaps it would have been left intact for peace of mind if nothing else. The seat could well have been aluminum or green-grey, but on mine, it is red brown. The rest of the interior parts were painted with the green-grey. For this I used Agama paint while the red brown is a Vallejo shade. Both acrylics and the Agama sticks better to the resin. I also installed the fill in plate for under the oil cooler. The wing had to have all weapons holes filled and that was done after the wing halves were glued together. I used super glue for this task after first stretching some sprue to fill the holes. All of the shell ejections chutes were filled with super glue as well. I am not sure if the leading edge inspection plates would have been filled, so left them as they were. I also drilled out the camera openings. The instructions call for a 3mm hole. The closest I could get was a #42 drill bit that is 2.969mm as a #43 bit is over by a tenth.

At the interior, I built up the cockpit using the Pavla Seat and additional fuel tank. Installing this fuel tank means that the pair of bottles that goes on the fuselage side wall will not fit (or be seen even if they did). I also removed the gun sight from the instrument panel as without guns, it would not be needed. I thought about removing the gun button as well, but figured they might use that to trigger the cameras. The instrument decal went on without a hitch and reacted well to setting solutions. A bit of painting was done for the sidewalls and then the interior was glued together and installed in the fuselage. Fit is actually very good and with that in place, the halves were closed.

Next, the wings were attached without any real trauma. The right aft root seems to have a bit of a step, but sanding on the underside will help to remove that. Tail planes are keyed to keep them on the proper side and the separate rudder was glued in place as well. On the underside, the larger air intake was cemented in place as was the smaller, tubular cooler. Then it was time for the canopy bits. I really had some problems with this and do wish Pavla offered a single-piece option. It all boils down to the fact that I am not good with vac canopies, but as I needed the unarmored windscreen and bulged canopy sides, I had no choice. Needless to say, the end result clearly shows my lack of abilities in this area. I then masked everything and headed for paint.


According to Pavla, this aircraft was overall Royal Blue, and gave an FS number of 35044 as the proper shade. This is US Insignia Blue, a very dark blue and available in the Testors range, which is what I used. If you look at the photo on the right, you will see that it is a much darker shade than the wing of the PRU Blue aircraft un the lower left. After spraying on several coats, I went back and touched up the wheel wells with RAF Interior Green. Now there is an excellent chance that these wells were also painted Royal Blue, but I decided to keep them in the original primer. The main landing gear were installed as was the tail wheel. Then the kit was given a coat of gloss clear in preparation for the decals.

The only markings for this plane were with the conversion sheet. Right away I noticed that I was missing the underwing roundels. Perhaps they disappeared during the initial review if they were separate or perhaps they were never included. I think the latter as the decals were still sealed. As I know of no aftermarket replacement for these markings, I had nothing to put on the underside.

The decals themselves are very thin. I had no issues with the roundels and used Mr. Mark Softener as they did not conform to the panel lines on their own and MicroSol had no effect on them either. Where I ran into issues were with the serial numbers and aircraft letter. The serials broke into sections and though I was able to save the number portion of them, the letter portions folded on themselves and then broke into pieces. I had no option to find replacement decals so hand painted the serial letters, and it looks like it. Fortunately, the color, Andrea Blue, is a perfect match. For the side letters, one X went on perfectly and the other did not, breaking apart. I scrounged a white X from the Modeldecal range, though it is a bit thinner than the other side. Both the set serial and letter decals silvered, even after using Mr. Mark Softener on them.


Not much to add in this case. I added the resin wheels that came with the conversion set, glued on the pitot tube, and used an Aries replacement antenna post. Judging from the photo that accompanies this article, there was no long wire as I do not see a rudder post for it. I also note that the carb intake in the photo and the one provided in the set is a bit different. So, the spinner was pushed in place after the exhaust were painted Alclad II's Exhaust Manifold and then installed. I used the more pointed spinner provided in the kit and the wider of the three props. The model was then given a matte clear and pastels were used for the exhaust stains. Masking was removed from the clear bits, a dose of Pledge (with Future clear) was applied to them to clear them up a bit. This was because of the poor fit of the windscreen, which required filler and some fairing in to look proper. Naturally, I could not prevent sanding the clear so buffed it out as best I could. As a final touch, the camera ports on the underside had some clear gloss swiped over them, and an MV Products lens was installed for the landing light.


None of the glitches in this build were the fault of the base kit. Even the conversion set was nicely done, aside from the decals. You would think that after building a ton of models over the years that I would not have issues with a build. This is one reason I do not build for others! Still, it was worth the effort and I learned a few things along the way, which is always a good thing. This will not be my last Airfix Spitfire, I can guarantee you. I very much like the new tool kits that Airfix is producing and see no reason why I shouldn't build even more of them. If you can get past the somewhat simplified construct and the largish engraved detail, you will find a kit that is a delight to build. Not only that, it looks great in my 1/72 Spitfire collection.


Thanks to Pavla Models for the conversion set.  

January 2012

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