Airfix 1/48 Spitfire Vb

KIT #: A05125A
PRICE: $37.00 delivered
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2021 release

HISTORY

The Spitfire Vb became the main production version of the Mark Vs. Along with the new Merlin 45 series the B wing was fitted as standard. As production progressed changes were incorporated, some of which became standard on all later Spitfires. Production started with several Mk Ibs which were converted to Mk Vbs by Supermarine. Starting in early 1941 the round section exhaust stacks were changed to a fishtail type, marginally increasing exhaust thrust. Some late production Vbs and Vcs were fitted with six shorter exhaust stacks per side, similar to those of Spitfire IXs and Seafire IIIs; this was originally stipulated as applying specifically to Vb(trop)s. After some initial problems with the original Mk I size oil coolers, a bigger oil cooler was fitted under the port wing; this could be recognised by a deeper housing with a circular entry. From mid-1941 alloy covered ailerons became a universal fitting.

A constant flow of modifications were made as production progressed. A "blown" cockpit hood, manufactured by Malcolm, was introduced in an effort to further increase the pilot's head-room and visibility. Many mid to late production Vbs and all Vcs used the modified, improved windscreen assembly with the integral bullet resistant centre panel and flat side screens introduced with the Mk III. Because the rear frame of this windscreen was taller than that of the earlier model the cockpit hoods were not interchangeable and could be distinguished by the wider rear framing on the hood used with the late-style windscreen.

Different propeller types were fitted, according to where the Spitfire V was built: Supermarine and Westland manufactured Vbs and Vcs used 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) diameter, 3 bladed de Havilland constant speed units, with narrow metal blades, while Castle Bromwich manufactured Vbs and Vcs were fitted with a wide bladed Rotol constant speed propeller of either 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) diameter, with metal blades, or (on late production Spitfires) 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m) diameter, with broader, "Jablo" (compressed wood) blades. The Rotol spinners were longer and more pointed than the de Havilland leading to a 3.5 in (8.9 cm) increase in overall length. The Rotol propellers allowed a modest speed increase over 20,000 ft (6,100 m) and an increase in the service ceiling. A large number of Spitfire VBs were fitted with "gun heater intensifier" systems on the exhaust stacks. These piped additional heated air into the gun bays. There was a short tubular intake on the front of the first stack and a narrow pipe led into the engine cowling from the rear exhaust.

The Vb series were the first Spitfires able to carry a range of specially designed slipper-type drop tanks which were fitted underneath the wing centre-section. Small hooks were fitted just forward of the inboard flaps. When the tank was released, these hooks caught the trailing edge of the tank, swinging it clear of the fuselage.

THE KIT

Back in 2014, Airfix released a Spitfire Vb that got pretty good reviews from builders. This kit is much the same as that kit except for the A sprue which contains fuselage halves and a spinner. The kit's interior is very nicely done, only really lacking a seat harness, which you can get via aftermarket. A pilot figure is provided should you wish to include one. If you include the pilot, you'll need to leave off the rudder pedals. A decal is provided for the instrument panel.

Before installing the interior in the fuselage you have to decide if you want the canopy open or closed. The closed version requires a bit of trimming to the fuselage sides. You also have the option of an open door and again, will need to do some cutting to provide this. With the fuselage halves together, an upper fuselage insert is placed just forward of the cockpit.

Moving to the wings, there is a single piece for each main gear well along with a short spar that needs to be attached along with the upper gear leg attachment area that needs to be put in the lower wing before attahing the upper halves. This assembly then goes against the fuselage. Moving to the rear, the tailplanes are attached followed by the rudder and elevators. Then the ailerons are glued in place.

Construction then moves to the lower cowling sectionsand the wing radiators. The large one can have the exhaust door attached in the lowered position. Then the tail gear is attached. This kit can be built with the gear up and those parts are provided. For gear down you get a well molded strut and an unspoked wheel. The final bits are the exhaust, cannon, and prop followed by the clear bits.

Instructions are very well done with the usual Humbrol paint references. Markings are for two planes. One is the box art plane from the 336th FS in 1942. The other is a 133 Squadron plane from a bit earlier in 1942. Both are dark green/ocean grey over medium sea grey with yellow wing leading edge sections along with a sky spinner and fuselage band. Decals are superbly printed by Cartograf. According to Tom Cleaver, Airfix got the camouflage pattern and font of the box art plane wrong so check his article for more information. There are lots of aftermarket sheets for a Vb if you want to do something different.  

CONCLUSIONS

This kit appears to be engineered pretty much the same as their Mk.I I built a couple of years back. As such, it should be a pretty trouble-free build. While not the same minute detail as the Eduard kit, it should prove to be a much less fussy and frustrating experience.

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire_(early_Merlin-powered_variants)#Mk_Vb_and_Vb_(trop)_(Types_349_and_352)

August 2022

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