When I returned to the scale modeling hobby in 2006, I built an Airfix 1/48 Spitfire Mk. IXc. It was one of the last kits released by the “old” Airfix, pre-Hornby. It was a bit thick, not a great fit, and had some fairly poor decals. Not a bad kit, but certainly not one of the better kits on the market. I recall showing it to a friend at the time, and he said “That’s the Airfix kit? You did a good job on it, given the kit.”
My how times have changed.
It’s amazing the turnaround that has happened at Airfix since Hornby breathed new life into the iconic British company. And their newly tooled 1/48 Hurricane Mk. I is a fine example of that change.
The reigning Hurricane “champ” had been the hasegawa kit, in my opinion. And while it was very good, and very detailed, Hasegawa’s insistence on using various inserts (that didn’t always fit quite right) left me wishing for a little more.
Having now built Airfix’s kit, I can safely say it is now the champ of Hurricane kits in my book.
The cockpit is simply the most detailed Hurricane kit you’ll find out of the box. I will admit- it is a bit complicated to sort out. Precise part placement and alignment is an absolute necessity. In Steve Budd’s fine article on building the kit, published in the April 2015 Airfix Model World, he suggested clamping the various spars that the cockpit assembly is built on to the lower wing first to aid in alignment and stability. I completely concur with this method, as it made the assembly much easier.
I also followed Steve’s lead in building up the cockpit first, and then painting it. This worked very well, and I think it also aided the assembly. I also heeded his suggestion to not build the seat and firewall into the cockpit framework as the instructions suggest, but rather to insert them into the fuselage, and then mate the wing to it. That worked well also. It did require removing the small alignment pins on the bulkhead.
The fit of the fuselage halves was good, as was the wing fit. When it came to joining the wing to the fuselage, however, I found that all the framework that made up the cockpit required some very careful manipulation. Using the tip of a #11 blade, I had to slightly bend in the cockpit framework to allow the fuselage to fit over it properly. (Of course, I may have not had everything aligned perfectly. Others I have talked to had no problem at all in this step.)
Once I did this though, everything snapped right into place. There was a bit of a mismatch in the forward lower wing join, and again, it was likely my own fault. A little Tamiya Basic Putty sorted it out, however.
I will admit- at this stage of the build, I was a bit frustrated with it all. Yet as I continued to work, I was able to see it in a different perspective. I think the reason Airfix has shown such amazing growth is because they’ve been willing to stretch themselves. This kit, even more than their recent Spitfire Mk. I and V, shows a willingness to try some things that are new. If Tamiya had used this same method, it would have been absolutely lockstep precise. For Airfix, this method is probably pushing the envelope of their production. And it’s not that they aren’t capable of delivering Tamiya-like fit. I believe they certainly are. But what I most appreciate is they push the limits of what can be done and still make the kit affordable enough that I could build two or three for the price of one Tamiya or Hasegawa kit.
So if you get a little frustrated, as I did, perhaps keep that in mind.
Anyway…. enough of the editorial.
As the kit parts included a filter for the tropical Hurricane, I decided to go “off script” and add that. It wasn’t until I had glued the wing to the fuselage that I realized a bit of kit surgery was required to use the part, but I made it work. (Parts are also included in the kit for a Sea Hurricane!)
I did run into a few other minor issues…. The control separate control surfaces left large gaps, and the part that forms the radiator opening didn’t quite fit properly, though it was sorted out with some putty. And there was small dimple- a casting imperfection- on the fuselage where the left tailplane joined. I checked a second example of the kit I had, and it was there too. Again, Tamiya putty fixed it right up.
Once the airframe was assembled, next came the paint. I had purchased a few Hataka paints, a brand new to me. It is manufactured in Poland, I believe. It’s an acrylic paint, water based, similar to Vallejo’s paint. However, it is not made by Vallejo.
On the underside, I used the Hataka Azure Blue. I thought the color looked good- a bit darker and more purple to it than Vallejo, which is what I normally use for MTO aircraft. It did require thinning. I used Hataka’s own brand of thinner.
Overall, I felt it did not perform as well as Vallejo Model Air. Even with thinning, it had severe problems with tip dry and general flow. Its adhesion was good, actually better than Vallejo, on an unprimed surface. Cleanup of the the airbrush afterward was a bit difficult, as it got quite gunky. It’s too bad, as their range of colors is impressive.
The uppers were done with my favorite paint, Tamiya, for the dark earth. I use XF-72 as a close substitute. The middlestone was from Gunze’s range. (I really, really wish Tamiya would round out their RAF line and add at least Azure Blue, Middlestone, and a proper Dark Earth. Although a full range of RAF and FAA colors from them would be outstanding!)
Decals came from Aviaeology’s “Vital Storm part 1: Early RAF Hurricanes“, a very nice set. The particular markings I chose were for a Malta based Hurricane. The documentation said there were two possibilities on the colors, so I chose the familiar MTO scheme, which is a favorite. The decals went down nicely, and Solvaset zapped them in place. (I highly recommend this set, or any of Aviaeology’s decals. They’re very nicely printed and well documented.)
I did the usual weathering with artist’s oils, employing both the dot filter method and panel line washes, and also adding chipping with a Prismacolor silver pencil. The finishing touch was post-fading and shading with my airbrush. A final coat of Vallejo Satin Varnish brought everything in line.
Despite some initial frustration with the engineering of the cockpit and how it all went together, I have to say I quite enjoyed the kit. I think Airfix has leaped far ahead of the Hasegawa Hurricane in terms of finished product. From a buildability standpoint, I think they’re a bit closer. Hasegawa’s general assembly is a bit easier, but its use of inserts is a problem. And while Airfix’s cockpit is a bit fiddly, the overall parts layout makes much better sense. And Airfix wins out from a cost perspective, certainly.
If you have to nail me down on one or the other- Airfix. Hands down.
Though I did run into a few bumps, none were difficult to deal with. And given Airfix’s recent history, they’ll make improvements that will make their next offerings even better. But I can highly recommend this kit.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must wrap this up. I think I want to build a Sea Hurricane now. 🙂