I’d first heard that Airfix would be releasing two new Spitfire toolings, the Mk. XII and the Seafire Mk. XVII, in late 2009. If I recall correctly, they were announced as 2010 releases. As often happens in modeling, the actual release date moved on a bit. However, in both their cases, the wait was worth it.
If you’ve seen the sprues for the Mk. XII, the Seafire XVII will look very familiar. The kit contains 148 parts on two light gray sprues and one clear sprue. Packaged in a sturdy, top opening and very colorful box, the parts are bagged in a single bag, with the clear parts protected in their own small bag. Instructions are printed on A4 paper, comprising sixty steps. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s actually due to the fair number of options available, as well as simply breaking down assembly sequences that other makers might combine into a single step. More on that though, to come.
If you’ve not built an Airfix kit since Hornby took over the brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The molding are top notch and look very good. If this kit is anything like the Mk. XII, the fit of all parts will be excellent. Some criticize Airfix’s latest molds for having recessed panel lines that are too heavy. However, I personally like them, as I like doing a fairly stark panel line wash on all of my kits. While “petite” panel lines are nice, if they can’t hold a apnel line wash after a coat or two of paint and some Future, I feel that’s too “petite”. In my mind, Airfix has it just about right. Of course, if they are too deep for your own tastes, it’s not to difficult to prime the kit with a good surfacer and tone them down a bit.
The cockpit, as in the Mk. XII, is excellent. Many of the parts look to be the same, which would be expected. The IP is a bit flat, not having too many details. Some Mike Grant instrument decals would certainly be in order. I do wish Airfix would offer a bit more raised detail on the IP, as I like the look of a drybrushed IP, personally. The compass is included as a separate piece. The rudder pedals are the typical “block” presentation. I suppose that could be criticized, however, when I look in the cockpit of my assembled Mk. XII, I can’t even see the pedals, so I guess that’s not a problem.
The seat is nicely represented. I’ve seen some with a bit sharper detail, but for this scale it works. I’m not sure the flare rack was included in this Mk. of aircraft, so a check on references will be called for. If it does need to be removed, doing so will not present a problem. The seat adjustment lever is provided- a nice touch that I’m glad to see Airfix add in their recent Spitfire/Seafire molds. Side wall detail is adequate, though I would like to see a bit more relief in the detail, just to help it stand out. Still, with some drybrushing and picking out details with color, it will look very nice.
Where the kit really shines is the number of presentation options. This is why there are so many steps, I believe. The kit can be shown with an open or closed cockpit, wheels up or down, flaps up or down, tail hook “stinger” extended or retracted, and wings folded or deployed. With an optional stand from Airfix, this can lead to some interesting possibilities- such as showing the kit wheels down, stinger deployed, and flaps open, as if it were landing on the deck of a carrier. With the addition of underwing rockets and two options of extra fuel tanks, posable control surfaces, and two styles of tires (in round and flattened versions) with two types wheel covers, the variety of configurations is almost endless.
An aspect I appreciate is the way the folding wings are handled. As I am an out of the box builder, I like to do just that- cut out the parts and build them. Often with naval aircraft with folding wings, you must try to assemble folded wing parts extended, if you prefer that presentation. Airfix has taken the task of making sure those parts aligned out by simply providing parts for both the extended and folded wing options. No cutting or lining up separate parts. In fact, apart from cutting out the cockpit door if you prefer that open, no other slicing and dicing is required. (And a separate door is provided in that instance!)
The clear parts are acceptable. They’re not particularly thin or thick. Two of the “bubble” canopy parts are provided, one for use (or so it appears as I look at the instructions) with an open cockpit/open door configuration, and the other for use as an open or closed canopy with the door closed.
Three marking options are provided. One is a dark sea gray over sky, where the dark sea gray covers the entire upper surfaces. A second option uses the same colors, but the sky color extends up the fuselage sides. A third option, which to me is the most interesting, is an extra dark sea gray and dark slate gray over sky scheme, with bright yellow elevators, ailerons and wing tips. I’m guessing many modelers will choose this colorful option. And no worries about the decal quality, as they are printed by Cartograph. The sheet is simply beautiful.
I’ll leave the accuracy of shape discussions to folks who know and care more about that aspect than I do. To my eye it looks like a Seafire XVII. (I’m quite convinced that if you could travel back in time, shrink a real aircraft to 1/48 scale, bring it back to today, and place it on a modeling forum, there would be a chorus of criticisms for the shape, color and a host of other issues about how “inaccurate” it was.) Suffice to say I’m sure Airfix will sell quite a few of these, and they will be well received by the majority of modelers who simply enjoy a good build. I don’t say that as a way of skirting any issues, but simply to point out that Airfix has packaged a great kit at a really attractive price, and it’s a kit that will satisfy any level of modeler.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this kit to any model builder.
Thanks Airfix for another fine addition to the stable of Mr. Mitchell’s beauty!