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Build report: A Tale of Two Spitfires

spitfire-two1.jpgThere is quite a bit of discussion among modelers about the merits of one kit versus another. Frequently, a modeler will post the question “Which kit of this aircraft/tank/car is the best?” What follows can often get very heated. The answer is very subjective, depending on the viewpoint of the person answering the question. One person may refuse to even look at a kit with raised panel lines- another may not ever notice. One modeler may carefully align the fuselage against a scale drawing, another may not even know what the term “scale foot” means.

And in most cases, some modelers will say “it’s all about the fun. It’s a hobby.” I think sometimes we forget that.

So with that in mind, here is a build report on a simultaneous build I did a while back- Hasegawa’s Spitfire Mk. Ixe, and Airfix’s Spitfire Mk. Vc, both in 1/72 scale.

The Kits
100_1648.jpg Hasegawa Spitfire Mk. IXe
Hasegawa’s kit is a real gem. Though the instructions only detail the assembly of the Mark as advertised, the sprues contain parts required for a Mk. VIII also. The clipped wingtips are even included, allowing for even more variation in the build. (I bet you could squeak a Mk. XVI out too!)
Panel lines are recessed, and the parts are just gorgeous. The wings are very thin and look nice, especially the trailing edges- no sanding needed there! There are a total 46 parts to the kit. The single piece canopy was nicely clear and not too thick. Markings for two RAF birds were included, and the decals include an instrument panel decal.

Airfix Spitfire Mk. Vc
100_1642.jpg The Airfix kit came as part of Airfix’s 70th Anniversary 5 kit Spitfire set, which also included an S6b, Mk. I, Mk.IX, and Mk. XVIe. This Mk. V is actually Airfix’s older (circa 1973) Mk. Vb kit, with an additional “c” wing sprue and the Vokes tropical filter. Wide and narrow cannon bulges are provided for the “c” wing. The older “b” wing is also included.

Panel lines are raised on the older parts, though there is recessed detail around the engine that is a bit exaggerated. Oddly, the panel line detail for the newer “c” wing is recessed. The newer wing is a bit thick also, though certainly usable.

Decals are provided for two aircraft, an Australian Spitfire based in New Guinea, and a South African Air Force one from the MTO. The single piece canopy is a bit thick, but nothing some Future won’t cure.

The Build
In order not to cause a stock market crash, I started as is prescribed by galactic treaty with the cockpits of both aircraft. The Airfix kit cockpit is very basic- floor, seat, and…. well, floor and seat. And a pilot. No sidewall detail. Which makes assembling the cockpit a rather quick affair. Hasegawa’s kit is a bit more detailed, with a floor, seat, IP, rear bulkhead AND control stick. Sidewall detailing consists of a few ribs.

As I did not plan to add any aftermarket detail to either kit, I simply assembled them, and gave them both a coat of Pollyscale British Interior Green. One advantage to building two kits of the same type is it greatly simplifies painting! After that had time to dry, I picked out detail – what there was- with some black paint, added a bit of silver drybrushing, and closed the fuselages of both kits up.

100_1643.jpgOne note- before closing up the Airfix kit, I cut away the lower portion of the aircraft’s chin to make way for the Vokes tropical filter that would be added later. Making the cut was very simple- it goes right along a panel lines. A slightly conservative cut will give a little room to sand as needed for fit. Better to sand a little than try to add plastic!

In both cases, the fuselages went together well, though the Haseagawa kit was practically flawless. The Airfix kit had a slight “step” on the underside mid-fuselage, but some quick sanding took care of that.

In examining the “c” wing of the Airfix kit- which was a bit thick and had recessed panel lines- I made the decision to use the thinner, raised panel line “b” wing. Two reason- for one, this kept the panel line detail consistent with the fuselage. (Yes, I was too lazy to rescribe…) Second, the “b” wing was much thinner, and had a better appearance.

100_1647.jpgI’d also been looking over the parts for the Hasegawa kit, and decided to make it into a Mk. VIII instead of the IX. The biggest visible changes were using the broad chord “pointed” rudder, and adding the retractable tail wheel. As the Hasegawa kit has both of these, the modification was as simple as using different parts than the instructions indicated. Having sorted that out, I moved on to the wings.

Both kits have the same wing arrangement- one lower piece and two upper pieces. The Hasegawa kit does not use inserts for the cannon bulges, nor does the “b” wing for the Airfix kit. The parts go together well, just a little bit of sanding required in both kits to “blend” the seam a bit. With the wings together, I moved on to joining them to the fuselage. As one would expect, fitting the wings to the fuselage is a slightly different experience for each kit.

The Hasegawa kit’s wings went on with almost no fuss. Some filler was needed at the join for the rear and front underside portions, but nothing to much to complain about. The gap at the wing root was small enough that the glue itself sealed the join nicely.

The Airfix wing was a bit more troublesome, though not as bad as I’d been led to believe given what I’d read some folks say about it. The underside join, fore and aft, was about as tight as the Hasegawa kit, with only a slight bit more of a gap. (In both cases the gap was not even the thickness of .020 sheet styrene.) The wing root fit left a gap maybe the width of .030 styrene. However, a little filler to close it, and some CA to give a good sanding surface took care of it without problem.

I added the horizontal stabs to each kit, and also the underside of the engine area. For the Hasegawa kit, I chose the larger air filter provided with the kit, based on reference photos of Mk. VIIIs. The Vokes filter for the Mk. V was a two piece assembly, and after having assembled and sanded them, I added that to the Airfix kit.

With all but the fiddly-bits in place, I moved on to painting.

Painting and decals
After having decided to build the Vb with Vokes filter, and the VIII instead of a IX, I thought it would be cool to put both birds in desert camo with US markings. After a quick search of the decals that were available, I found just the right set- Aeromaster set number AN72202, “American Spitfires in Africa/Italy”. Great find too- not only did it have markings for both the kits, I had leftovers for two more Spitfires. 😀

Settling on these marking also simplified the painting- they’d both get the same colors and the same pattern.

I started on the undersides, using Pollyscale’s Azure Blue for both birds. Masking that off to protect from overspray, I painted the top of both Spitfires with Pollyscale Middlestone. After giving that ample time to cure, I cut out masks from blue masking tape for the camo patterns and applied them to both kits. The final coat of paint was Pollyscale British Dark Earth. Removing all the tape, I was very pleased with the result on both aircraft. I’ve always liked the look of the MTO aircraft in their desert camo pattern. And it’s twice as enjoyable having two of them on your workbench!

With the Spitfires ready for decals, I sprayed on a few thin coats of Future to prepare the surface. Choosing a “menacing” shark mouth for the V, and “Fargo Express” for the VIII, I quickly had all the decals on, snugged tight in place with Pollyscale decal Softener.

100_1649.jpgI prefer to finish my builds with a panel lines wash. Opinions vary as to how accurate this is, but I do it simply because I prefer the way it looks. The panel was for the Hasegawa Spitfire’s recessed panel lines was quite easy. I simply resorted to my favorite method of an acrylic/water/dishsoap mixture, and in no time at all it was done.

100_1646.jpgThe Airfix kit, with it’s raised panel lines, was a different challenge. I’d never had much luck with doing a wash on raised lines. I had used pastels on a previous Revell Me-262 build that had raised lines, and decided to give that technique a try on the Airfix kit. I used some a mixture of black and gray chalks, and applied them with a 00 brush clipped to a stub. I put a few “dabs” of chalk along the panel line, and dragged the brush lightly along the line. I’d then blow off the excess, leaving a darkened panel line. The effect ended up looking more like what you would expect from a typical pre-shading technique. In retrospect, I’d have to say I overdid it a bit, but not to the point I’m unhappy with it. Call it a learning experience. 😀

Finishing up
With the markings done, I added a bit of exhaust and gun stains using Tamiya Smoke. The final parts went on their respective mounts…. wheels and gear, antennas, gun barrels for the Mk. V (the Mk. VIII had them already mounted on the wing), and of course, the canopies, now with a fresh coat of paint on their frameworks, courtesy of some Bare Metal Foil masking. A coat of Pollyscale Flat took the shine off of the Future coat, and left them looking dirty but not beat, ready to take on a Messerschmidt or two over the waters of the Mediterranean.

To get right to the point- they both look like Spitfires, and I’m quite happy to have them on my shelf. The Hasegawa kit is simply a near perfect kit, with great fit, lots of flexibility on versions, and with just enough of the “right stuff” for nearly any level of modeler. The Airfix kit, while lagging slightly in the area of fit (and only so slightly), is also an equally enjoyable build- especially considering it’s age.

Both kits lack in the area of cockpit detail, with the Hasegawa kit coming in with a decided advantage over the almost non-existant Airfix kit. However, I say that more as an observation than a criticism, because I think not every modeler wants to fiddle with a 20 piece cockpit, and often just wants to get on with the exterior. In both kit’s cases, an aftermarket addition would make them both shine, especially with a vaform canopy addition opened up to show the detail.

Externally, they both look just right, and unless you just have an aversion to raised panel lines, the surface detail of the Airfix kit is perfectly acceptable. No doubt the Hasegawa kit has more intricate surface detail, but again- they both end up looking exactly as you’d think a Spitfire should look.

I’d recommend either of these kits for any skill level. In fact, I’d say just build them both. You can never have enough Spitfires!

For another look at how the Airfix Mk. V kit can look using the kit markings and an aftermarket cockpit, check out this build report by David Thompson on the Aircraft Resource Center (ARC) website.