Airfix’s 1/48 Spitfire Mk. I- Welcome back!

To say I’ve been eagerly awaiting the resurrected Airfix’s Spitfire Mk. I is an understatement. From posting previews from other sites, to linking to Brett Green’s build of the kit, I’ve been staying on top of news regarding the kit. The one thing I was missing? The kit!

The fact that I didn’t have the kit was sort of self-imposed. I wanted to give the business to my local hobby shop, Hayes Hobby House. I really try to support the LHS, so instead of ordering it from online sources, I waited. And pestered Mike at Hayes. I had him sworn to double-dog-secret-dare that as soon as one came in, he let me know.

My office phone rang last Wednesday. It was Mike. “Guess what the UPS man will deliver Friday?” Woo-hoo! I would finally get my Airfix Spitfire Mk. I!

I’d been looking forward to this kit since last year, when I’d heard that Airfix would release a Spitfire 70th Anniversary set, consisting of their already released Mk. IXc/XVIe, Mk. 22/24, and a new tooling Mk. I. I’d built the Mk. IX already, in fact, I liked it so much I built a second one. And I had the Mk. 22/24 in the stash, as it had already been on the market for a few years. The Mk. I, however, would only be released in the 70th Anniversary set, according to reports in the modeling press. So I really wanted that set. Unfortunately, Airfix went out of business before it was released. I thought I’d miss out on the kit- until Hornby stepped in and bought the Airfix assets. And the first kit the “new” Airfix would release would be the Mk. I.

Having built the Mk. IX already, I assumed that the Mk. I would be of similar quality. And while the IX was no Hasegawa or Tamiya quality kit, it was nice overall. And to me, there’s just something nice about a Spitfire from Airfix, regardless of quality.

On opening the box, I was very pleased to see that the kit actually corrected a few things I thought could have been done better on the Mk. IX. Whether the improvements were made in response to criticisms of the Mk. IX I don’t know. But I do like the fact that Airfix has released a kit that should be able to compete well in the market. I certainly would love to see the trend continue.

One of the first things I looked at was the interior detail. If you’ve built the Mk. IX, the interior will look very familiar. In fact, the sprues containing the cockpit parts are from the Mk. IX kit. The only difference is one part that must have changed from the Mark Is to the Mk. IIs (both of which can be built from the kit). The detail is minimal but adequate. If you’re OK with basic detail, all that is really needed is some seat belts. And as the cockpits of Spitfires were very similar, most after market sets for anything from the Mk. I thru the Mk. IX will really add to the look. And some simple scratch building can add a lot also.

One part I was really glad to see Airfix improve was the wing shape. While the shape of the Mk. IX wing had been nice, it was very thick, on both edges, and in the thickness of the chord. In the Mk. I, Airfix slimmed the wing up quite nicely, and OOB it should look very nice. I was also very pleased with the fabric detail on the ailerons. They look very nice, and I think with some highlighting and shading should be quite striking when the kit is done.

Another feature I liked was the upper cowl being molded as part of the fuselage. In the Mk. IX, the upper cowl was a separate piece, as the Mk. IX and XVI had slightly different parts. The lack of the cowl being an integral part meant there were some alignment problems in gluing the fuselage together. As the Mk. I has the cowl as part of the fuselage, I feel like the fit should be much better.

One of the things I’m excited about is the inclusion of the Watts two-bladed prop, so that an early Mk. I can be built. And spinners for both the Rotol and de Havilland three bladed propellers are also included.

Also noticeably improved are the landing gear door covers. The Mk. IX had overly thick covers, with rounded outer edges, and also missing the very prominent inner “bevel” the real aircraft had. Though the Mk. IX covers are included in the kit, the fact that Airfix corrected the issue is very nice. They could’ve just left them as is. Instead, the supply a new set, much thinner, flatter on the outside, and with the bevel molded in. And the sink marks that were on the Mk. IX are absent from the Mk. I covers.

These are the gear doors that are common with the Mk. IX
These are the improved gear doors supplied with the Mk. I.

The clear parts are typical for Airfix- a bit thick, but shaped reasonably well. A vacform canopy will probably work better than the kit supplied part if you choose an open canopy option. It looks very similar to the Mk. IX part, and in the open position, it did ride high.

If you built the Mk. IX, you probably noticed that your spare parts box grew considerably at the finishing of the kit. It not only had a complete MK. V wing, but two propellers, Mk. VIII style tail wheel doors, several variants of gun bulge inserts for the wing, and several other smaller parts. The Mk. I follows in the same fashion. With the included parts, anything from an early two bladed Mk. I up through a Mk. II can be built. And with a well stocked spares box (maybe from the Airfix Mk. IX!) building a Mk. III is no difficulty. (And I’m quite sure it won’t be long before we see some aftermarket parts to build the Spitfire prototype, K5054.)

Though Tamiya’s Spitfire Mk. I is one of the nicest kits ever produced, Airfix’s has a place on retailers and modelers shelves also. The option for building the early Mk. Is is certainly a bonus. Markings for an early Mk. I and a Mk. II are supplied, though any Mk. I or II after market decals would work with the kit. And at a price of less than $20, it is a bargain.

So did the kit live up to my expectations? You bet, and in many ways, exceeded them. I like this kit, I like it a lot. It’s the kind I prefer- decent detail, good price, and in the end, it can be built into a great looking model.

Welcome back, Airfix! I look forward to many more Spitfires….. and maybe some other great kits too. 🙂