I’ve never hidden the fact that I love Spitfires. Any scale, any mark, any maker, any time. I generally have at least one on my workbench in some stage of completion at any given time. (Right now I have three!) And more than any other maker, I enjoy Airfix Spitfires.
It’s certainly not the engineering. Airfix has greatly improved it’s kits over the years, but face it- even their Spitfire Mk. I in 1/48 scale, as new and nice as it is, doesn’t quite make it to the standard of Tamiya’s Mk. I offering. Yet it’s the Airfix kit I’ve built. The Tamiya one is still waiting to make it to the bench.
When I read that Airfix was planning to release a new tool 1/72 scale Mk. IX to replace their old tooling of that mark, I was very excited. The Mk. IX is my favorite of all the Spitfire Marks, especially if it’s in Johnnie Johnson’s JE-J livery. My big plan was to do a sort of comparative build of the two, examining a bit of the history of the old one, and looking ahead with the new one.
The trouble is, my desire to build the classic little kit overrode my patience to wait for the new one! So I pulled it out of the 70th Anniversary 1/72 Spitfire set (you did get that before the “old Airfix” went under, didn’t you….?) and got to work.
I’d love to know how many examples of this kit have been built. It’s been around a while. In terms of detail and engineering, it’s far from modern. The cockpit is virtually non-existent- basically a seat/bulkhead piece, enough to place a pilot on. I decided to build it OOB without the pilot, so I simply painted the seat area Pollyscale Panzer Reb-Brown (more properly known as “Spitfire seat color”…), and the rest PS British Interior Green.
The fuselage went together well. I used a bit of sheet styrene to close a small gap on the upper cowl, but Tamiya Extra Thin Cement judiciously applied took care of most of the join. The wings were one piece affairs, with tabs that fit into a slot in the fuselage. Don’t bother looking underneath for the “inverted gull wing” at the trailing edge of the wing/fuselage join that rivet counters so breathlessly look for- it’s not there. (Personally I’ve never interviewed a gull to get an accurate look at “reverse gull wing” so I don’t worry about that too much. Maybe the next trip to the beach…)
The wheel wells are shallow and lack detail. While most Airfix Spitfires are known for having an accurate profile, the tail for this one just looks a bit odd to my eye. But I never bothered comparing it to those scale diagrams to make sure. The spinner is undersized, the molded-in exhausts are oversized. The panel lines are raised and the openings for the .303 machine guns aren’t there.
But you know what? I had fun building this kit. Nothing to fuss about. Glue it together like you did when you were a kid, before your blood pressure was raised over cowl shape or gull-like appearances or the curvature of the upper out wing tips or DuPont colors.
It’s for fun, remember?
So I glued it together and did a little sanding and scribed the panel lines… I actually find it relaxing scribing lines. It’s like whittling. 🙂 The Spitfire set came with Humbrol acrylics, so I painted the exterior in the supplied Humbrol colors, and was very pleased with them. The decals weren’t in perfect register, but they went down nicely. And it was Johnnie Johnson’s JE-J EN398. So all is forgiven. I finished it all in a coat of Pollyscale Flat.
When it was all said and done, it passed the “Does it look like a Spitfire?” test. Yep, it does. In fact, I am quite fond of it. Because it has history. It’s a historic plane, flown by heroic men. It was produced in the country that birthed it, and the country that loved it. It was made by the company that defined modeling in the UK for decades, and as far as I can tell, still holds a special place in the hearts of modelers not only in the UK, but around the world. Who knows how many young hands have glued it together, and then flown it into imaginary battle, complete with engine sounds and machine gun sounds and imagined radio conversations with scores of toys soldiers. (Airfix HO scale soldiers anyone? I still have mine!)
It’s not expensive. You can find it for around $5. I bet if you talk to your fellow modelers someone will say “I have a dozen in the stash- I’ll just give you one.” Build it and have fun. It represents another era. Soon a new tool Mk. IX will replace it, hopefully to be enjoyed by as many generations. I can’t wait for that new kit!
Yet I must admit, there is a certain sadness in seeing the old one retired. Thanks for the memories Airfix!