My usual pattern for building a model is to decide on a general subject (which more often than not is a Spitfire or P-40), then decide on a kit, and then decide on markings. However, when I found myself in possession of 3D-Kits “Rotol Spitfires Mk. I & II”, I made the decision based on the markings, and then followed up by finding a kit.
The process started shortly after I’d interviewed Stewart Meikle, the man behind 3D-Kits. (Note: 3D-Kits has shut down. ~Ed.) I’d used his conversion sets for both a Spitfire LR Mk. II, and a Hurricane IId in some builds, and was very happy with the results. So when I visited my favorite hobby shop in the world, Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, NC, I was pleasantly surprised to see several sets of Stewart’s decals available. I decided on the Rotol Spitfires set because it had markings for Eagle Squadron pilot Bill Dunn, an American who flew with the RAF. And I’d also been wanting to build the Airfix Spitfire Mk. I/Ia/IIa I had in the stash. To top it off, not long after I read Bill Dunn’s autobiography, “Fighter Pilot“. So armed with the history, kit and decals, I set off to building!
I won’t go in to too much detail on the kit itself, having detailed it previously in another build report. It’s a very good, versatile kit, allowing the builder to build an early two-bladed Mk. I, a later Mk. I with the de Havilland prop, or a Mk. IIa with Rotol prop. Of course, some Mk. Is had the Rotal prop, and some Mk. IIs ended up with a de Havilland prop, so check your references.
Also, a respectable Spitfire Mk. Va can be built from the kit, too. Airfix actually boxes that in a special edition to benefit the RAF Benevolent Fund, complete with markings for Douglas Bader, probably the most recognizable user of the Mk. Va.
Cockpit detail is pretty good, though a bit “soft” in places. A little scratch building or some aftermarket would not hurt, but certainly it works to go out of the box.
Construction is very easy, with generally a good fit. You will need to do a little work to get completely remove any seam lines on the fuselage. I glued the upper wing parts to the fuselage, and then the lower parts on, which left a bit of sanding at the wing tips. This took care of a wing gap issue I’d had on a previous build of the same kit.
Surface detail on the kit is good, though it’s a bit thick in places. To be fair, the Tamiya Spitfire Mk. I is really a better kit, with sharper detailing both inside and out, and better fit. (And you can generally find it for only a few dollars more, if that.) However, I am an Airfix fan, and can say that you’ll not miss out on any modeling enjoyment by going the Airfix route. And because the Airfix kit offers options that the Tamiya kit does not in terms of variants, it does save money by not having to buy aftermarket parts for early or Rotol Spitfires like you would with the Tamiya kit. (Although once you build the Airfix kit, you’ll have some spares…. ;))
For the color scheme, I chose markings for Dunn’s re-painted Mk. IIa. It seems his Mk. IIa started in the most often seen scheme of Dark Earth and Dark Green over Sky, but was repainted around August 15th, 1941 with the Medium Sea Gray underneath, and Dark Earth and Ocean Gray uppers. Dunn was flying this aircraft in this scheme when he scored his fifth victory, making him an ace. It was also in this engagement he and his aircraft were shot up pretty badly. So this aircraft I built depicts the airframe during a very short time frame.
On a side note, I think modelers often forget that the photo we see of an airplane represents how it looked only at that moment in time, not through its service life. A new airplane might be in use only a few months before being replaced by a newer airframe, yet in that time a huge degree of wear and tear could take place, as well as paint changes, touchups, etc. For instance, many modelers depict famous airplanes with D-Day stripes, because those are what we see on photos. Yet the fact remains that on June 4th, 1944, most of those same airplanes had no stripes.
The point is- do your research, but don’t let it restrain you from modeling outside of the photo.
For paints, I used Tamiya’s XF-81/82/83, my most often used colors. I actually liked Pollyscale’s versions of these colors better, but given they’re no longer an option, I opt for Tamiya because it just airbrushes so well. (And I’ll say it again… Testors, you killed the wrong paint line…)
I chose to do a little less weathering than I normally do, given the fact that at best, the bird would have about 12 days of exposure at most during this time before it was damaged. So aside from some shading/fading to give some variation, some minor paint chipping, and some light exhaust and fuel staining, I didn’t do to much weathering.
The decals set offers several options, this information taken from 3D-Kits site:
- Two different Spitfire Mk Is from 54 Sqn in March 1940. (These are of interest because they are Rotol equipped Mk. I Spitfires. Ed.)
- A presentation Spitfire Mk II ‘Armagh’ from 19 Sqn, June 1941. This aircraft was paid for with donations raised by the Belfast Telegraph.
- Two versions of Bill Dunn’s ‘XR-D’ Spitfire MK II from the beginning and end of August 1941. The first in brown/green camouflage, the second in grey/green in which he became an ace.
The decals went on without any fuss whatsoever They are very thin, in perfect register, and settled easily with my favorite decal set, Solvaset. Having also used 3D-Kits decals in the aforementioned conversion set builds, I can testify that you’ll be pleased with any set of Stewart’s decals you purchase. He provides very clear instructions, as well as brief, interesting historical notes for the various marking options.
This was a very enjoyable build, topped off with especially nice decals for an airplane and pilot I quite enjoyed reading about. Whether you decide to build Airfix’s versatile early Spitfires (in one box!), or opt for Tamiya’s gorgeous Mk. I (with aftermarket bits or Airfix leftovers) you’ll be able to finish them in fine fashion using 3D-Kits “Rotol Spitfires Mk. I & II”, or any of their other Spitfire decals. (And they do make decals for those 109s and 110s so handily shot down by Spitfires and Hurricanes, so if your fancy is one of those, you’ll find something there too. Of course, I stick with the Spitfires… :))