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Build report: MPM’s 1/72 Spitfire PR Mk. XI

mpm_spitefire_mkxi-1My evil evil nemesis and arch-rival is Mr. Vacform canopy. Odd when you consider how much I like to build short-run kits. I guess I justify it by rationalizing that the trade-off is worth it… short-run kits open up avenues to the rare and esoteric, with the price being the vacform canopy.

However, when I saw MPM’s Spitfire Mk. XI on the shelf at Hayes Hobby House, the small label on the front that said “injection molded canopy” made me take a second look. I could have my cake and eat it too!

(Of course, I still retained some insanity…. I also picked up their Mk. XVIII with the aforementioned evil nemesis and arch-rival, Mr. Vacform canopy contained within the box…. it sits in the stash, waiting, watching. We will meet and settle it…. one day….)

So I grabbed it up and brought it home. It sat for a while in the stash, until I decided it was time to build a Spitfire, even if it was just a quick build.

The cockpit is minimal- a floor, seat, stick and instrument panel, and a couple of bulkheads. Buttoned up under the closed canopy, you probably wouldn’t see much anyway. I considered adding a few details, but as this was supposed to be a quick build to take care of my Spitfire fixed, I kept it simple.

The interior received a coat of Humbrol Acrylics 78, otherwise known as interior green. (The bottle of paint actually came from Airfix’s Spitfire Mk. XVIe Club Edition kit for 2008.) The seat was painted a red-black mix of Tamiya acrylics to approximate the Bakelite seat color. The IP was painted black, and drybrushed with light gray.

As the openings for the camera ports were not opened, I used a #11 blade to “drill” them out, until it was the correct size for a disc of clear plastic punched with my die and punch set to fit in.

Fitting the cockpit into the fuselage halves required a bit of sanding. Both the bulkheads and the floor needed some styrene removed before the fuselage would get a good fit. It took a bit of fiddling. I finally compromised. I glued the aft half of the fuselage together, leaving the front to spread open so I could insert the cockpit in. After a few rounds of sanding and fitting, it went in nicely. I closed it all up, using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement to join everything together.

The fit was pretty good- mostly a little sanding was needed here and there to remove the “squish” left behind by the cement. I masked off the canopy using my favorite canopy mask, Model Master Tape. I then used some white glue to affix the canopy… but more on that later.

The wing fit was not perfect. It wasn’t bad, but test fitting showed if I glued the upper wing panels to the lower panel, it would leave a small gap at the roots to deal with. But the fit of the uppoer wing panels to the fuselage was good. So using the Tamiya cement, I glued the upper wing panels to the fuselage, pushing it together with pretty good force to “squish” a solid plastic bead out. Once those were solidly set, I test fitted the lower.

Fitting showed that the lower wing would align nicely on one side, but be slightly offset on the other. The lower wing projected about 1/16th of an inch forward along the left wing tip, with a corresponding gap at the aft part where the upper wing was exposed. However- this type of gap was much easier to deal with than a wing root gap.

I glued the lower part of the wing on the right side, clamping it tightly and letting it dry completely. Once it was set, I did the same on the left side, not forcing the fit but simply letting it line up where it wanted. Once that was dry, I simply sanded the lower portion of the wing that protruded, making sure it was aligned and shaped to flow into the upper wing properly. I then set the plane down on a sheet of styrene, and traced the contour of the trailing edge where the “underlap” was. the part I traced fit snugly up to the lower part of the wing. I slabbed on Tamiya cement, joining the styrene sheet filler with the upper and lower wing.

Once that was fully dry, I just hand to sand that down, and rescribe panel lines.Once painted, you can’t even tell that the repair work was done.

In fact, on my last few builds, I’ve more and more utilized sheet styrene to fill gaps and make corrections. And I’ve been amazed at how that, combined with Tamiya cement, is able to solve almost any problems. And since it is plastic- it sands as you would expect, holds scribing, and does the job perfectly.

After adding the tail planes, it was ready for painting.

One of the features on almost every Spitfire are the small wingwalk strips. Most kits use a decal for this, but aligning such small, narrow decals can be a problem. So I finally realized it might be much easier to paint. I started by spraying a small strip of Tamiya flat black where the wing walks would be. Once dry, I cut very narrow strips of blue masking tape and applied them. I cut them longer than needed, so I could hold the ends taught as I placed them down. I then used sprue cutters to clip them off. Once that was done, I painted the white wing stripes, using Tamiya white, and more blue masking tape to mask those off.

The rest was fairly easy- Pollyscale PR Blue all over. I wanted to give it a faded, random look, but I wanted to try some different techniques than I’ve normally used.

After the base color dried, I removed the masking on the stripes. As I was doing this, I noticed some of the canopy masking had come up. I tried to push it back down, but the canopy popped loose. And in doing so, a hairline fracture developed near the front. I decided to leave it off while finishing the rest, and stick it on last.

On to the weathering….

I then used what I can best describe as a “wet dot filter” technique. I’ve seen the armor modelers use small dots of oils to give streaks etc. I’ve tried it before, and it worked OK. But I thought it might go a little better if the dots went down on a “wet” surface. So I brushed on a pretty heavy coat of odorless turpenoid, getting the surface (we’ll discuss a wing for an example) wet all over. Then I put dots of white, yellow and something that looked like tuna down, slightly thinned before application. The spots immediately  “blossomed”, running into to each other. I let them flow as they wanted, as this added to the randomness. I then walked away and let it dry. (Note I did this directly over the acrylic paint- there was no sealer coat.)

When it was dry, it looked a mess. But I took a soft, dry brush, and just sort of started brushing and swirling. It pulled up most of the excess, and left a fairly nice looking faded finish.

I then hit the whole thing with a coat of Future, and applied the decals. Another coat of future sealed these in. I then did a lighter variation of the “wet ” filter technique, to give some fading to the decals. Once this dried fully, I used a heavily diluted mix of isopropyl alcohol and Tamiya smoke to give some post-shading. I also added some exhaust staining. One more light coat of Future sealed this in, and I followed that with an oil wash of Windsor and Newton burnt umber oil. Finally, Model Master Flat coat topped it all off.

The final bits and pieces went on. As you often find in short run kits, I had to make a part- the antenna. The instructions actually have the dimensions, so making it is easy.

Unfortunately, the canopy now did not want to fit quite right… pushing it a bit to get it settled made me worry it would extend the crack in the canopy. So going by my number one rule- “Hey, it’s a hobby and supposed to be fun!”, I glued it on as best I could and called it done. I probably could’ve fiddled with it more, but I was happy with it. I’ll never have a perfect build, I figured, so why sweat it? 😉

I really enjoyed this build. It is a very good quality short run kit. You will do a bit more in parts clean-up, and you’ll have to deal with some minor fit issues. Also, things like alignment pins and tabs for the elevators aren’t there. But these little challenges really help grow your modeling skills. I recommend this kit- you’ll have a fine looking example of one of the rarer Spitfires to show off when you are complete!