Airfix 1/48 Spitfire I

KIT #: A05126
PRICE: $24.95 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


One of the few aircraft to remain in production from the beginning of the war to the end, the Supermarine Spitfire gained popular acclaim during the Battle of Britain as its pilots bravely fought against the Luftwaffe during the Summer of 1940. Ignoring the fact that the Hurricane was the more numerous of the two and that it did most of the bomber interception, the Spitfire is the one that strikes our fancy of 'the few' who fought during those perilous time.

Designed about the same time as it's adversary, the Bf-109, the Spitfire was a much more elegant aircraft; full of curves where the 109 was all angles. This curvaceous design also meant that it was more difficult to construct and repair, but gave it excellent maneuverability compared to the faster 109E.

Like the 109, the Spitfire was designed as a point defense fighter and not a longer range bomber escort. The Spitfire I and II was never fitted with the bulky long range drop tanks as eventually was the 109E since most combat between the two occurred over British territory and bases. Subsequent Spitfire designs changed that and the Spitfires of 1945, while still obviously a Spitfire, had no parts in common with the 1939 versions.


As usual, our LHS seems to be one of the last ones to get in new Airfix kits. This is entirely because they are shipped from the UK, through the Panama Canal, to Seattle, to Hornby USA, to the various distributors and then back east across the country, back towards its point of origin.

The kit has a lot of parts and multiples of all sorts of things. Three different props, three different windscreens, three different canopies, three different upper rear cowling sections, two different exhaust, and two different spinners. The kit can be built wheels up so separate gear doors, one set with partial struts installed for the gear up option. A stand is an extra, but I'm glad Hornby has them for those who want to buy them.

Other options are the ability to have all the gun access panels removed to show the wing mounted weapons. The builder will need to cut open the access doors, but the kit includes spares. One can also have the cockpit door open. This includes a crowbar, which I understand is not correct for early Spits. The cockpit canopy can be posed open if one wishes and there are parts where the canopy is molded with the rear clear section for the closed option. To use this latter option, the fuselage area will need to be trimmed. One can also install an armored headrest. The instructions dictate which markings option uses which of the optional bits so one pretty well has to know what is being built before starting.

The cockpit is very nicely detailed with all he various bits and pieces one needs. There is plenty of sidewall detail and one can install armor with the seat. My seat center section was rather oddly warped so it will be interesting to see if I can get the seat together properly. The fore and aft bulkheads fit into the cockpit side sections making a strong tub. There are decals for the main instrument panel and the entire tub assembly then fits into the two fuselage halves. A pilot is provided so those not using one will have to find a harness somewhere.

One does built up the wheel wells with a circular insert for each well backed by a nice spar. The main gear legs attach to this separate spar. There is another to box in the gear well and short spar sections to fit outboard of the gear wells. There are eleven construction steps regarding the installation of the wing guns so those who wish to finish the kit faster, these can be skipped. Apparently gun barrels did not protrude from the wings as none are included.

Tailplanes are upper and lower, right and left sides with an insert. The elevators are a single piece so can be posed down. Separate also are the ailerons and the rudder. The large radiator has a separate cooling flap that can be posed down. Apparently Airfix has realized after all these decades that Spitfires do not have lowered flaps on the ground so those are not an option.

Apparently all three options have tubular exhaust and none of them use the Rotol prop. Two use the deHavilland and one the Watts. One of the final attachments is the radio mast. Three different styles are provided.

Instructions are very nicely done with the usual Humbrol only color numbers except for the overall camo and markings scheme. All are in green/brown uppers. The box art plane is with 602 Squadron in August 1940. This has a sky underside. The 19 Squadron plane has the Watts prop and black/white underside with aluminum painted lower control surfaces. Finally, with what looks like a zinc chromate yellow nose is a plane with 57 OTU in mid 1941. The decal sheet is very nicely printed and should provide no issues. There are LOTS of Spitfire I aftermarket sheets for those who want something different.

I'm not a huge Spitfire fan. In fact, the only reason I started this is that I wanted a replacement for my old Tamiya Spit I. Rather than start the Tamiya kit, I figured I'd give the somewhat recent Airfix kit a go. So I started by slavishly following the instructions and building up the cockpit. As mentioned above, part B8, the armor plating for the seat was badly warped. When it came time to attach that, I simply bent it a lot (thanks to the soft plastic this is fairly easy to do) and clamped it to the bottom of the seat when it came time to glue it. I also found that the notch for the joining of part C 34 and C 42 was too narrow. In addition, part C 20 was short shot so I didn't install it.

When one builds up the cockpit, you are actually building a tub with sidewalls and the whole deal. This then fits in between the two fuselage halves when you close the fuselage. It takes a lot more effort to get some of the pieces to fit in place. Using good glue will help in this by softening the plastic and acting as a lubricant. You think you are going to break a piece getting it in place when it will suddenly go that little extra distance and fit as it should. I should mention that I didn't add seat belts to this.

I also decided to do this one with the canopy closed. I know a lot of folks like the open option, but I'm not a huge fan. To do so a small section around the rear of the cockpit needs to be removed from each side. It is clearly marked and thanks to the soft plastic I had both modified in about five minutes. The cockpit was installed in one fuselage half. There is a compressed air bottle that fits behind the seat (part C1), and it is about impossible to fit with the fuselage half in place. I left it out. The other half was attached and the fit here is excellent.

Same cannot be said for the upper cowling section that covers the cockpit. I had to do a lot of pushing and clamping as well as using super glue to get it in place. Even then I had to deal with gaps. Since I use clear super glue, these are easy to see even after sanding. This was rather typical of gaps I had when dealing with the wings.  Moving to the wing, I installed the wheel wells, spars and the upper landing gear attachments. In my mind, this is a fairly lame way of doing things and seems unnecessarily complex.

With the wings together, These were attached to the fuselage. The attachment is quite positive, but I had the usual gaps to deal with, especially the forward wing root area, where they were fairly large. The tailplane halves were joined and attached as well. Then the elevators and rudder. There is a small insert that holds the elevators in place that is a bit fussy to attach, but does its job. I glued the rudder at a bit of an angle and didn't glue the elevators at this time.

Moving back to the underside, the radiators were assembled as needed and glued in place. The carb intake piece and lower nose piece were attached at this time. Then I masked and installed the canopy sections after attaching the gun sight. I chose the closed position for several reasons. One is that the canopy is fairly clear and shows the interior well enough. Secondly, I'd have to cut open the door and get a resin replacement as the Mk.I did not have a crowbar (that was added with the Mk.V). 

At this time, I prepped for painting. I chose an offering on Illiad Decals 48003 'Prewar Spitfires' that had an armored windscreen. It was an aircraft from 41 Squadron in 1939. This plane had the deHavilland prop and 'straight' antenna mast. The underside was split down the middle with black on the left side and white on the right. I first painted the white, then did some masking and did the black.

On the upper side, I painted everything with dark earth. This time, I decided to try some camouflage masks. I used Top Notch set TNM48-50, which is pattern A as it matched what Illiad showed in the decal instructions. These took a bit of practice, especially the large one for the left wing, but worked as advertised. For 'hard' masked planes like the Spitfire, these really are a time saver. In the image you see, the dark areas are the masks. When this photo was taken, the nose one, which is the most complex, had not yet been attached. Once on, the dark green was applied in light coats to keep it from creeping under the mask at areas such as the flight control hinge areas. I used Model Master enamels for the upper shades. I then removed the masks and put them back on the backing sheet as it looks like they have enough stick to be reusable.

Next step was to attach the landing gear. I'm probably not the first one to say this, but the way Airfix has designed the main gear is poor. It does nothing to ensure the correct angles and as expected, both of my gear legs have issues. What is wrong with positive locators? Once the gear were installed, I gave the airframe a coat of gloss clear for the decals. I also painted the prop and spinner in preparation for installation after the markings are in place.

As mentioned, I chose a scheme from Iliad Decals Prewar Spitfire sheets. The option I chose is minimal at best when it comes to markings with only upper wing roundels and for the sides, roundels and code letters. I did use some of the stencils from the kit decals to keep things from looking too barren. The Iliad decals are great. No setting solution was required and they snuggled right into panel lines like a champ. Kit decals did require solution.

Not much left. I attached and painted the straight radio mast, the prop assembly and the pitot tube. Then I gave the airframe a coat of semi-matte clear to seal everything in. I then painted the formation lights and glued on the exhaust. As I'd forgotten to install the lower light before assembling the wings, I used some clear cement to duplicate it. The masking came off, I added the upper clear light lens and strung an EZ-line radio wire.

My past experience with Airfix kits did me well. I did not expect Tamiya fit and didn't get it. Despite the areas that I've mentioned that I did not like, the overall build went without too much trauma. The kit offers a lot of options not mentioned in the instructions so those with a fair knowledge of the aircraft can model pretty much any Mk.I that was built. I was also quite pleased with the performance of the camouflage masks. This is the first time I've used these and can easily recommend them. Same with the Iliad decals. They are top notch and I use them whenever I do a subject they cover. Probably the biggest benefits of the Airfix kit over the new Tamiya (and I've not built the Tamiya kit yet), are the ability to do multiple variants with the bits in the box and the price.

27 September 2019

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Thanks to me for picking this one up.

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