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Build Report: Hobbyboss’ 1/72 Spitfire Mk. Vb Tropical

hobbyboss_172_spitfiremkvb-3When it comes to modeling, sometimes I cannot resist a challenge. Especially when I hear how “bad” a kit is. I’d read on a modeling forum some discussion of 1/72 Spitfire kits and their relative merits. The poor little Hobbyboss Spitfire did not fare well.

Now I will admit, the actual criticisms were right on. I’ll go into more detail later, but it wasn’t just criticized for no reason…. there were some legitimate beefs.

Yet I always root for the underdog. And it was a Spitfire they were talking about, my all time favorite airplane. And it sounded like one of those “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees” of a kit.

So when my local IPMS club, Lafayette Scale Modelers, held a raffle at the annual show last November, I grabbed this kit up right away when my number was called and I saw it sitting there, kind of sad looking.

And I’m glad I did. It was a fun, quick little build. Even with all the faults Lucy….err….. other modelers observed.

Now, to be sure, the faults are there. For one- no gear doors. Now I’m not saying that there might not have been a Spitfire that didn’t have them, but I’ve got a lot of reference pics- including one of the birds that the kit has markings for. And all of the pictures I have show gear doors.

Other flaws exist…. the canopy supplied with the kit, both open and closed options, is over-sized, which is especially apparent on the front windscreen. It even shows up on the box top. The prop comes with the blades at an odd angle… they almost look feathered, facing knife-edge into the line of flight. The chin is slightly too deep, almost looking like the deeper chin used on some PR versions for the added oil capacity. There are some little “nubs” on the underside of the wing that I’m not even sure what they are supposed to represent. The spinner is a bit odd in shape, too.

But honestly, I’m no rivet counter. And truth be told, all these “flaws” actually make me love the kit more. Poor little thing just needs some attention.

Of course, there are some very good points to the kit. Hobbyboss does a great job on the casting of the parts. Their 1/72 kits feature single-piece casting sof the wing and fuselage, and the surface detail is very good. The panel line engraving is some of the finest I’ve seen. And the fit is very, very good. No huge gaps to fill, sono  seams to sand…. just join the two together and you are on your way. Actual construction of the kit took about 5 minutes to get it to the “wings/tail planes on” stage. And that includes the time to hold the parts together while Tamiya’s Extra Thin Cement did it’s thing.

The cockpit detail is…. almost none. Since it is cast as a single piece, the cockpit is simply a “tub” in the fuselage with a rudimentary seat, and a nub for a control stick. No instrument panel, rudder pedals, etc. Certainly this would turn some away from the kit who really enjoy cockpit detailing. However, I should note that my son has built at least half-a-dozen Hobbyboss Bf-109s, all with similar lack of cockpit detail, specifically because he wants to get right to the exterior painting- his favorite part. So keep in mind if you are recommending kits that there are many folks who might see this as a feature.

I did add a P/E control column, mainly because I had it on on a P/E fret I was using. Also, I recently saw in one of the UK modeling magazines how a modeler very creatively printed out sidewall detail for some Hobbyboss 109s on paper, and once glued in, looked quite nice. So if you wanted to try something new, that might interest you.

I swiped a brush full of Humbrol acrylic paint into the interior…. can’t recall the number, but it was the British interior green color. Some Pollyscale Panzer Red Brown, or as I refer to it “Spitfire seat color” went on the seat, and I painted the top half of the forward part of the cockpit black to represent the IP.

Next I turned to the gear doors, or lack thereof. The aforementioned P/E fret that I sourced the control column from was out on the desk because it had…. gear doors! They were actually intended for a 1/72 scale Hasegawa kit, but as I had them, and knew that any Hasegawa kit I bought would also come with doors, I decided to make use of them. I simply CA’d them into the gear legs, and moved on.

The kit prop looked like it was feathered, with the blades turning knife-edge into the direction of flight. I considered going with it anyway, but as I looked at the part, I realized it would be a simple matter to cut the blades off, reposition them, and be done with it. A few swipes from my razor saw took care of it. I glued the props central portion into the spinner, using the holes in the spinner to help with alignment, and simply glued the blades back in. I guessed at the angle…. it’s close enough, I reckon. Main point it doesn’t look feathered anymore.

I sourced a canopy from the spares box. The spare would not fit quite right, so I sawed off the front part of the windscreen, and it fit OK, and looked better than the kit supplied one. The aft part of the canopy actually looked perfect, so I wnt with that. And with the canopy open, the sliding portion, though oversized, worked quite well, as it actually fit just right over the rails. Most times when you position a Spitfires canopy open, it rides high, as it needs to be a bit oversized to fit right on a model. In this case the over-sized canopy fit just right, and the net effect is very good, I think.

The last correction were to take care of the “nubs”- four of them- on the undersides of the wings. I simply used my sprue cutters to clip them off, cleaned up a bit with a #11 blade and sandpaper, and moved on to the painting.

Undersides were covered with Pollyscale azure blue, and the upper surfaces were middlestone and dark earth, both also Pollyscale. A highly thinned solution of Tamiya smoke was used for some post-shading.

I wanted to get a little more variation in the aircraft colors, hoping for a more sun-weathered look. I decided to try using the “dot-filter” technique I’ve read so much about. It basically involves putting lots of little dots of artists oils on the surface to be weathered, and then using a large, soft brush, swiping these dots until they streak, gradually reducing them until what you end up with is a “filter” that makes the surface look like it has many shades, streaks and variations, yet not so prominent that you can really pinpoint one color over another.

When it was all said and done, I could see that the method certainly can acheive the effect I wanted, but I do need more practice. On the bottom, it was slightly over-done, and on the top, it was under-done. So I guess, taking the average, it was just right. 🙂

After I gave that time to dry, I applied a coat of Future. Next came the decals. The Hobbyboss decals are very thin, went down well, and with a coat or two of Pollyscale decal softener, they snugged down very tight. The quality of the decals is certainly high when you consider this kit retails for less than $10.

I finished up the kit by adding a panel wash of burnt umber artists oils, some Tamiya smoke for the exhaust stains, and a coat of Pollyscale Flat. I glued on the canopy, landing gear and prop, and called it done.

While I certainly enjoyed this build, I’d have a hard time suggesting someone build this kit if they were looking for a Spitfire Mk.V in 1/72 scale. Certainly the Airfix and Tamiya kits would be a better choice if you were going to build a single example. Still, if you’re a Spitfire nut like I am, or are just wanting a quick build to satisfy the Spitfire fix, consider the Hobbyboss one. If you don’t mind a few warts and maybe a little correction here and there (or not…. it would still build up fine with no changes) then this might be the kit for you. In any case, keep Hobbyboss in mind when you’re looking at any 1/72 kits- they have a huge line that are very affordable. And from what I’ve seen, this Spitfire kit is actualy the exception in terms of accuracy- most of the others seem pretty good.