Maybe I am prejudiced because I grew up building Airfix kits, but to me Airfix kits are still the most appealing because they're (usually) accurate, easy to build models, that allow you to add some more details if you like.
This Spitfire kit is a 2009 release, it comes in an attractive sturdy red box with a separate lid and some modelling hints on the sides of the lower half. Inside the box is a bag of parts wrapped in a large instruction sheet. A well printed set of decals and a very useful full-colour sheet with accurate scale drawings offering 4 side views for each paint scheme and a leaflet for the Airfix Club completes the contents of the box.
It looks like the Airfix designers have based the kit on one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Spitfire PR.XIX aircraft as some minor differences between the BBMF aircraft and operational aircraft can also be found in the kit.
The kit represents a PR.XIX Type 390 with pressurized cockpit.
This Spitfire PR.XIX model kit is available as a separate kit with decals for operational PR.XIX PS888 and BBMF Fighters Gift Set (cat.nr. A50065) contains a pair of PR.XIX kits with decals for PS915 and PM631.
PS888 was the last Spitfire to fly an operational mission in the RAF (in April 1954) and BBMF PS915 is currently painted in the colours of PS888 to commemorate this fact.
Pavla have created a resin cockpit detail set (cat.nr. C72085) for this kit but fitting these parts is considerably more work than adding the missing details from scratch (as is usually the case with resin or PE detail sets IMHO), after all Airfix provides an accurate base, so why waste time and money on replacing those details Airfix already provides ?
Apart from that, the vac-form canopy provided by Pavla may have slightly better clarity, but the vac-form process caused the canopy rail sealing strips to be warped, whereas the Airfix item has accurate straight sealing strips.
The cockpit interior offers well detailed side walls yet the instrument panel is flat and featureless (no instrument decal is included either). Granted, the instrument panel is somewhat hidden below the coaming and the canopy is a single closed piece, but you can still catch a glimpse of the lower half of the panel through the canopy.
So that's where the old fashioned fun starts: some heat stretched sprue makes a nice source of round bits that can be used to simulate the raised instrument faces. The main flight instruments are mounted on a rectangular panel that is slightly raised, so find a suitable number tab on the sprues, cut it to size, sand it down and cement it to the instrument panel.
I also added the compass and its bracket below the instrument panel, I made the bracket out of very thin transparent sheet as shown in this picture: I used the rear tab of the bracket to attach it to the rear of the panel, then painted the sides green whilst leaving most of the rear unpainted so it appears to be fitted by the sides of the bracket. The compass is again made out of sections of heat stretched sprue.
I modified the notches in part 53 (seat support frame with armour plate) so I can slide the part in place after joining the fuselage halves. The notch on the lefthand side of the part (right on the picture) can be cut down further because it is hidden between two ridges in the fuselage.
I read in some review that the prop diameter is too small, so I checked: diameter of the real item is quoted as 10ft 5in (317,5cm), i.e. a 1/72 scale prop blade should be 22.05mm long when measured from the center of the prop. The kit prop blades measure on average 21.1mm, so indeed the prop is slightly too small but not enough for me to replace or modify it.
Also the leading edges of the blades could do with a bit of sharpening.
The spinner cap does not fit properly to the backplate because the inside edges of the spinner are more curved than the recesses in the backplate. Easiest way to fix this is to trim the inner corners of the edges of the spinner (marked with dark blue in picture, I already trimmed the remaining edges before taking the picture). After some minor trimming the spinner does fit perfectly.
To allow the prop to be fitted to the fuselage after painting, I replaced the lock ring with one cut from a piece of vinyl power cord insulation and added a bit of tubing inside the fuselage to hold the ring in its proper location.
Operational PR.XIX Spits had 'bowser' wings, i.e. packed with fuel tanks, the BBMF Spit had some of these tanks and the details that go with these tanks removed, so the kit does not have these details either. The painting instructions do show all of the details so you can use those as a guide for adding the missing details.
|the following details should be added to both port and starboard wing|
|1||navigation light: clear red tip on the lefthand (port) wing, clear green tip on the righthand (starboard) wing.|
|2||metal tube connecting the leading edge tank to the tank behind the wing spar. The tube starts at the centre of the circular hatch and is 4.2mm long at 1/72 scale.|
|3||small shallow blister over wheel well.|
|4||flap actuator cover (scribe the contours or add from very thin plastic sheet), on later marks like this PR.XIX this flat cover has a hinge on its forward edge (on earlier Spitfire marks the hinge was on the inboard edge), the rear edge is located directly over the flap hinge line. When the flap is lowered the actuator hinges upward, pushing the cover open.|
The lower wings are only missing a tiny round raised cover behind each main fuel pump blister (visible above the arrow in the picture).
I also extended the walls of the wheel wells to touch the upper wing using a strip of very thin polystyrene sheet. The shape and dimensions of the strip are shown in the diagram below, the gray lines are fold lines, the part between the gray lines should be curved to fit the contours of the wheel well.
The wing tip navigation lights can be made from a length of 0,7mm plastic rod.
The fuselage is nicely done, the only improvements I made were to fill the small hole in front of the windshield, replacing it with a slightly recessed fuel filler cap, slightly enhancing the shape of the front of the cam covers, improving the shape of the various scoops and vents and adding a whip aerial behind the cockpit.
Be very careful with the fuselage halves once these are removed from the sprues: the rear corners of the wing fairings are very thin and fragile so only place the fuselage halves on the mating edges.
Part 3 on the sprue with the fuselage halves is an opaque replacement for the clear camera hatch in the port fuselage, this part is only used for the BBMF version.
To keep the vulnerable corners of the fuselage to wing fairings from getting damaged, I decided to fit the upper wings to the fuselage halves as early as I could. This is quite easy (provided the parts fit properly): apply slow curing glue to the mating edges of one upper wing and the matching fuselage halve (make sure no glue can reach the lower wing halves !) join the wing to the fuselage halve, dry-fit the other fuselage halve, dry-fit the lower wing for support and let the glue cure, then remove the lower wing and repeat for the other wing halve. After the glue of both wing joints has cured, remove the lower wing again and separate the fuselage halves. Before fitting the wings I fitted the rear cockpit bulkhead (part 12) to the righthand fuselage halve to make sure the fuselage has its proper shape.
One benefit of joining just the upper wings to the fuselage instead of assembling the wings first is that there is hardly any fuselage-wing joint seam to clear up.
Spitfire PR.XIX aircraft were fitted with either fabric covered or metal skinned control surfaces. The kit offers fabric covered control surfaces as can be seen by the raised ribs. Spitfires PS888 and PS915 both were fitted with metal skinned elevators and rudder, so I carefully scraped off the raised ridges from the kit parts. Note that the large ridge on the upper side of each elevator depicts the trim tab actuator cover, this should not be removed.
The shape of the elevators in the kit is slightly too square so I corrected this as well.
On the picture the port tailplane (part 22) already has the correct shape and has its ridges removed, the starboard tailplane (part 23) still has its original shape and details.
The paint scheme of PS888 is a bit of a mystery, as it does not conform to regulations. Regulations dictate the entire airframe to be PRU Blue with only the top of the fuselage painted Medium Sea Grey, instead the colour boundaries on PS888 follow a Royal Navy paint scheme. I can imagine the wing upper surfaces to be painted in a lighter colour to keep the wing tanks from heating up too much, after all PS888 was based in Singapore, but why the tailplane upper surfaces were also painted Medium Sea Grey is not clear to me.
Some PR aircraft had large serials painted on the lower wings and some had not, Airfix does not include underwing serials on the decal sheet, so no serials under the wings of my PS888 model.
I could not find any pictures of PS888 with a gray and PRU Blue spinner, only with a white spinner on a PRU Blue backplate so that's how I painted mine.
Date finished: xxx xx, 202x.
|Paints (to be) used|
|upper fuselage||Humbrol Authentic HB-6 Sea Grey Medium|
|lower fuselage||Aeromaster Acrylic 1117 PRU Blue|
|spinner||Tamiya XF-1 Flat White|
|cockpit interior, wheel wells||Model Master 2062 RAF Interior Green|
|undercarriage and details||?? silver|
|tires||Humbrol 32 Matt Dark Gray|
|accentuated recesses||Revell Airbrush 31582 transparent Sepia|