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Build Report: 1/72 MPM Spitfire Mk. XVIII

MPM_Spitfire_MkXVIII-7I don’t know why I do it. I question my sanity when I do. I swear I’ll never do it again. Then I find myself in the hobby shop, or in the stash closet, staring. Contemplating. Deep in thought. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Inevitably, I give in.

Another short-run kit with a vacform canopy.

Sure, they often cover subjects the big guys won’t. And they really stretch your modeling skills. And when you’re all done, they usually look pretty good on the shelf.

But there is the inevitable thick cast sprue gates, blobish parts here and there, plenty of mold seams, giant ejector pins hunks. And, as I’ve already mentioned, my evil arch nemesis and rival, Mr. Vacform canopy.

Yet it’s like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for me. Those little, pitiful models seem to say “Won’t someone build me?” I can just see them, a la “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”, sitting forlornly on the Island of Misfit Toys. “Won’t someone build us?”

I probably put far too much thought into what plastic models think. 😉

Which brings us to MPM’s 1/72 Spitfire Mk. XVIII.

I’d built MPM’s Spitfire Mk. XI a while back, and enjoyed it despite the typical short-run warts. Especially nice was the fact that it’s box proudly proclaimed “injection molded canopy”. That sold me. Not long after that, though, I saw the Mk. XVIII from MPM. No proud proclamation of injection molded canopy. Just Mr. Vacform, sitting in there, waiting, watching.

The kit itself was a reasonably good example of a mid-range short run kit. The parts were cast reasonably well- only a few blobish bits here and there to clean up. A small amount of photoetch was included to dress up the cockpit a bit. A nice decal sheet. As far as short run goes, it was a good kit.

The cockpit had both injection molded and photetch parts. I suspect the p/e was a later add on to dress it up a bit more. A cockpit floor, instrument panel and stick were adequate for a closed cockpit version. the injection molded seat  needed to be used. The instructions called for the p/e floor to be fixed to the fuselage side by itself, but I saved myself a little trouble, glued the p/e part to the injection molded floor, and that made fitting much easier. The instrument panel had a small acetate sheet fo rthe instruments, though I my as well have left it off for all that can be seen of the interior.

One of the secrets of building short run kits is to test fit and test fit and test fit. I sanded down the mating edges of the fuselage halves so that they aligned perfectly, which made closing up the fuselage simple. No gaps, though there was a bit of a step on the underside when the upper portions were aligned. Short run requires sanding, too…..

The wings went on well, though I did have to use some styrene sheet to close gaps at the fore and aft underside join with the fuselage. I also needed to do the same thing for a small wing root gap. But once sanded down, it was smooth and ready for painting.

The lowers received a coat of Pollyscale Medium Sea Gray, while the uppers were treated to PS Ocean Gray and Dark Green. The usual Future coat, decals, oil wash and dull coat followed with no drama. The decals settled down nicely and worked well, the markings being for a 32 Squadron based bird that operated in the Palestine-Israeli War of 1948.

As this was an FR bird with camera ports, I had to drill those ports out. I actually used Future to make the camera transparency, and it worked quite well. I simply dipped a brush in Future, stuck it in the camera port, and slowly pulled it back out. It left a film of Future that dried in place. A few more drops to thicken it it up left a very nice, very clear port.

As far as short-run kits go, this one was moving along quite well.

But I still had to tackle that dadgum vacform canopy.

Now, I’ve read every technique I think there is for using them. Stuff them with clay, use this type of blade, sand this, Future this, don’t cut it, just score it….. lots of kind folks have taken great pity on me and written me with all sorts of helpful advice. Which only reinforces my ultimate conclusion regarding vacform canopies- they have all conspired to foil me. they are SPECTER to my Bond. Joker to my Batman. Cobra to my GI Joe. Cogswell to my Spacely.

At first things were going well. Stuff it with clay? Check. brand new #11 blade? Check. Score it lightly to break the excess? Check. Sand the remaining so that it fits? Check.

Only at some point, as I cut along the right side of the canopy, Mr. Vacform took over my hand and made it jump across the canopy, slicing right through it.

And for the first time, I was building a short run kit with only one vacform canopy supplied.

I stared at it, thunk about it, and finally decided “leave it alone”. I build for fun. Won’t let adversity slow me down. Plus i wanted to get the thing done.

So it sits on the shelf with a giant “vent” along the side. Call it a battle wound in the ongoing fight with Mr. Vacform canopy. I figured why worry- I can just take pics from the good side. 🙂

If you want to build a Spitfire Mk. XVIII in 1/72 scale, and you have a few kits under your belt, give this one a shot. it’s a decent little kit that looks the part of the Mk. XVIII.

Just watch out for that vacform canopy. Trust me- they’re out to get us.