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Airfix 1/48 scale
Spitfire Mk.IXc / XVIe


 

S u m m a r y

Description and Catalogue Number: Airfix Kit # 05113 - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc / XVIe
Scale: 1/48
Contents and Media: 70+ parts in grey injection molded plastic; six parts in clear; markings for three aircraft
Price: 10.99 available online from Hannants
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: Accurate in outline, profile and dimensions; fine recessed surface detail (especially panel lines on new fuselage and wings); many useful options including armament, wheels, wing tips and top engine cowling; plenty of spare parts including an entire MkVc wing(!); good quality decals; nice cockpit detail; pilot figure included.
Disadvantages: Clear parts a bit thick; poorly shaped propeller blades; marginal shapes in some detail areas; thick wing; wide, soft fabric surface detail.
Recommendation: Recommended.

 

Reviewed by Brett Green

 

Background

 

The search for a perfect 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.VIII / IX / XVI has been a bit like the quest for the Holy Grail. Every time modellers get a whiff, that perfect Spitfire just recedes into the mist again.

Hopes were high for the Ocidental offering, but that kit had some serious dimensional and cross-section problems. The ICM 1/48 scale Spitfire IX  was more accurate, but early pressings were plagued with moulding flaws and the fuselage was a bit skinny in any case. Over-engineering also made this kit a challenge to build. Hasegawa's 1/48 scale Spitfires are beautifully detailed, but the whole family is blighted with a noticeably short fuselage and related detail issues.

It is as if this great aviation icon is cursed.

Airfix is the latest company to take their chances with the most-produced of all Spitfire variants. So, have we finally found that elusive plastic counterpart to the Holy Grail?

 

 

FirstLook

 

Airfix has released an almost all-new kit with their 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.IXc / XVIe. The new parts include the entire fuselage, an all-new wing, and the specific details relating to late Merlin Spitfires.

In total, there are more than 70 parts in grey injection-moulded styrene on nine sprues. 

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The new parts are especially well done. Panel lines are crisply recessed and very fine, supplemented with subtle rivet and fastener detail in places. The texture of the new parts is satin - certainly not the egg-shell finish that we have seen on some recent Airfix mouldings. There are only a couple of minor sink marks that I can see on my sample. These are on the starboard side of the fuselage under the canopy, and will be quickly dispatched with putty and a sanding stick. The only other moulding eccentricity is the massive sprue connectors on the wing parts.

It is a great relief to find that the general outline of the airframe, and the overall dimensions, correspond with respected plans. The shape of this Spitfire is basically accurate.

So, what can we build from the parts in the box?

Airfix supplies us with a standard "razorback" fuselage, plus a late elliptical wing. In addition to this basic canvas, Airfix offers two styles of upper cowl (early "flat" style and the later bulged version, usually seen covering Packard Merlins), three varieties of separate wing tips (standard, clipped LF and the pointed HF versions), and three versions of wing gun covers (standard two-gun C, four gun C, and E). Only the flared style of exhausts are in the box. Two wheel patterns are included though - four spoke and covered, both with smooth treaded tyres. Elevators are the late "kinked" style only, and the supercharger intake under the nose is also the late style. Early (rounded) and late (pointy) rudders are also included.

 

 

Taking all these options into account, we can build any razorback Spitfire IX or XVI straight from the box except the early production Mk.IX. And even if you do want to build an early Mk.IXc from, say, 1943, you will only have to rescribe the elevator hinge line and modify the supercharger intake.

Airfix has also provided separate flaps. Keep in mind, though, that the flaps were either full up or full down, and it was rare to see flaps down when the Spitfire was parked.

The cockpit and wheel wells are quite good. A few prominent  features such as the oxygen regulator, oxygen hose and some wheels and boxes are missing, but they will be very easy to add from scrap plastic and wire if you feel so inclined. The seat looks good too, although it does appear somewhat oversize.

Detail is a little half-hearted on the exhausts and inside the radiator where there is no facing detail. Airfix has also not quite nailed the shape of the narrow wing cannon bulges. In addition, the trailing edges of the elevators and rudders are quite thick, the fabric texture is soft, and the trim actuators are chunky and simplified.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The most noticeable problem, however, is the shape of the propeller blades, which are pretty bad. The profile is more suggestive of a bread knife than a propeller blade.

 

 

At the very least, the modeller should reshape the leading edge to obtain a curve leading toward the propeller tip. Ideally though, the propeller blades should be replaced. The shape of the spinner is a bit too pointy, but this problem is nowhere near as critical as the blades. Fortunately, both Aeroclub and Ultracast offer replacement propeller blades and spinners for late-Merlin Spitfires. Although neither is designed for the Airfix kit, I have checked both replacement units against the Airfix fuselage and it should be fairly simple to adapt them to the job.

The six clear parts are very clean, but a bit on the thick side. Interestingly, although not discussed in the instructions, two alternate parts are supplied for the small aft canopy section. One is taller than the other. I assume the short one should be used when the sliding section is fixed open (allowing clearance from the thick plastic). The taller one would be used if the canopy was glued shut.

 

 

Test fitting indicates that the wing is quite thick overall. This will be most noticeable when viewed directly in front. The aileron trailing edges can be easily thinned with a few swipes with a sanding stick. If the flaps are secured in the dropped position, you will limit the visual impact of the thick wing.

Markings are supplied for three aircraft. The decals are very good - high gloss and in perfect register. The only wrinkle is the Sky codes and fuselage band. The Sky colour has been printed using a dot-screen process and, viewed close up, you can see the dots.

 

 

In addition to the Mk.IX / XVI kit contents, Airfix has included a "bonus" Mk.Vc wing. Although its inclusion is a bit odd (the separately sprued parts cannot be used on this variant), it is nevertheless welcome. Maybe a cross kitting with a Tamiya Mk.Vb to deliver a Spitfire Vc?

 

 

Conclusion

 

I think that modellers have to accept that we may never see the late-Merlin Spitfire Holy Grail materialise in 1/48 scale, but the Airfix Mk.IX / XVI does have its good points.

The new Airfix Spitfire Mk.IXc / XVIe is a decent model with accurate dimensions, nice surface detail and plenty of useful options. The kit's problem areas are irksome, but most are addressable.

With a replacement propeller assembly, some attention to trailing edges and perhaps a vacform canopy, the Airfix Spitfire will be an attractive addition to your collection. It will be more accurate in outline than the Hasegawa and Ocidental offerings, and should be easier to build than ICM.

At around 10.99, it represents pretty good value too.

Recommended.

Thanks to Hannants for the review sample.


Text and Images Copyright 2006 by Brett Green
Page Created 21 March, 2006
Last updated 21 March, 2006

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Airfix's 1/48 scale Spitfire IX / XVI will be available online from Squadron.com