I suppose I must ask you to bear with me before I get on to the subject of this build report. I need to explain how I model, or more precisely, what I enjoy about modeling. My motto is “build it like a kid”. Enjoy a model. The simpler the better. I’m far less concerned about the dimensional or detail accuracy of a kit than I am how much I actually enjoy the process of building. And while I do like nice detailing and engineering, for my own style I’d take a simple, uncomplicated build any day, even if it’s not “accurate” or all that impressive from an engineering standpoint.
And I also love Spitfires. Especially the Mk. IX. Of all the Marks of Spits, the Mk. IX is my favorite. To me, it was the epitome of beauty in the line of aircraft. So it was with great anticipation that I waited the release of Eduard’s Mk. IX.
And thus I think I set myself up for a bit of a disappointment.
Now, this kit has a huge number of pluses, don’t get me wrong. Though I am not an accuracy fiend, this kit seems to be the most accurate in dimension of any of the 1/48 scale Mk. IX kits available. By a long shot, too. And it’s detailing is superior in every aspect. The casting of the parts is virtually flawless.
So why, you may ask yourself, is Jon sounding not quite so happy?
Simply put, I didn’t enjoy the build.
It’s not that the parts don’t fit well. They generally do. It’s not quite up to Tamiya standard, which is amazing. But it’s very, very good.
But as I outlined at the beginning, I’m more about the process of the build, and not so much the other aspects of it. So what, specifically, did I not enjoy?
Ultimately, it came down to some engineering decisions in the parts breakdown.
First, there is the upper cowl. This kit features some of the most subtle and beautiful recessed rivet detail I’ve ever seen on a kit. In fact, it’s probably THE most subtle I’ve ever seen. Certainly not overdone. But the upper cowl is split into two parts. And while the parts fit closely together, I don’t care how good the fit, and how effective the glue weld, a seam is a seam. No matter how carefully your efforts may be to eliminate the seam, you lose some of that rivet detail. The question in my mind was “why not cast it as one piece?” Tamiya’s 32nd scale Spitfire had an amazing upper cowl- one piece, and wafer thin. The Airfix and Italeri kits, while not nearly as refined as the Eduard kit, both feature single piece upper cowlings. I’d have much rather seen that on the Eduard kit.
Moving on down the side of the cowl, we come to the exhausts. The kit exhausts look very, very good. But I found the assembly of the parts to be sort of a puzzle, and never did get them to go together correctly. In addition, they are designed to be added prior to closing the fuselage. Which means you either have to paint them and then take great pain to mask them, or paint them after finishing the rest of the aircraft painting, neither method appealing to me. I didn’t see a good method (at the time) to add them afterwards, either. (Although I’ve since devised a plan that may work.)
So I decided to order Eduard’s resin exhausts. Gorgeous casting. The engineering seemed a little more conducive to add the exhausts at the end, so I went that route. But more on that later….
Moving to the underside of the cowl, we get to the carb intake. Again, it’s split down the middle. But to compound that, the aft part of it, where it joins onto the lower wing, is cast into the wing. So you end up with a seam running both in latitude and longitude. Again- a poor engineering decision in my opinion.
The radiator intakes under both wings were also a bit of a let down. Most kits cast each radiator housing as a single part, sometimes with separate cooling flaps that can be positioned. I’ve always thought that worked well. However, Eduard cast the housings in three parts- two sides and the bottom, and then had a separate cooling flap. Again- they fit is pretty good, but there is a seam to deal with, and it’s a fairly fragile part. Sure, it takes only some basic modeling skills to deal with, but more and more, I kept coming to the question of “why”?
The biggest “why” had to be the gun openings for the four machine guns. Some kits represent these as simple holes, which is not quite right. The Hasegawa Spitfire IX, for all it’s faults, represents these beautifully. The outboard opening is slightly favored to the upper wing, so it’s less of a circle, and more of an oval that trails back.
Typically, the gun openings were covered up with a patch. On most kits, these are depicted with decals, which when carefully applied, look quite nice- the decal generally setting into the openings a bit and giving the look of the real aircraft, at least when compared to photos.
Yet the engineering decision for this kit was to add the tape as raised panels, and then further compound that with a faint raised line to represent the gun openings. The logic for this baffled me. If you want to show the openings, or you think the molded on tape coverings are too thick for the scale,you have to sand them off- obliterating the rivet detail as with the upper cowl.
OK… remember I mentioned the exhausts… I’d left them off to the end. Painted them, and attempted to glue them on. But getting them all aligned at the end proved quite difficult and frustrating. I realized they too were designed to be added from the get go. I did OK on the right side, but by the time I got to the left side, I was simply sticking them on in frustration just to get it over with.
I know, by this point most of you are probably rolling your eyes and saying “get over it whiner”. Which has some truth to it, I suppose.
But you really have to understand how much I love Spitfires, and how excited I was about this kit. (I explored this in detail in a blog post.) I had so hoped this would be THE kit. The perfect kit. I suppose I built it up so far in my mind that when it came to the build, I felt a far greater sense of disappointment than if someone would have just handed it to me and said “here, build this”, without any prior knowledge.
Aside from the items I listed above, the build was good. It’s typical of newer Eduard kits. Very nice, very detailed, very accurate, and (in my opinion) a bit over engineered.
Having said all this…. I will build another. Now that I’ve discovered the parts of the kit I’m not really happy with, and having built one, I think I’m prepared to build another. Because when it is complete, it most definitely is the best looking Spitfire Mk. IX available today, by a long shot. Even if it is a bit fiddly in my experience.
Of course, the question I’m asked is “should I build it?” And to that, I can only say “it depends”. If you’ve read all of this, and the thought of dealing with the issues I’ve covered seems like a bunch of nonsense, then you’ll probably love this kit. Most people who have built it seem to really like it. I’ll admit- I’m the oddball in the crowd.
However, if the items listed above sound like a bit of a hassle, and you’re just looking for a pleasant, easy build, without a lot of parts and such, I’d still recommend the Hasegawa kit, or the Occidental/Italeri kit, or the Airfix kit (in that order). All have some shape or detail issues, but in my experience, they were much more pleasant to build. And in the end, they look like a Spitfire to all but the most boffiny of Spitfire boffins. (If boffiny is even word…)
When it comes down to it, that’s what I look for in a kit. Pleasant. Fun. Enjoyable. Stress free. There is enough in my day that is not pleasant, fun, enjoyable and stress free. The last thing I need is all of that gunking up my hobby.