In Progress: Airfix’s new-tool 1/48 Spitfire Mk. I

If you’ve built Airfix’s new-tool Spitfire Mk. V, the Mk. I will seem very familiar. The two kits have many parts in common. The new Mk. I adds the A wing, and appropriate parts to build early and late Mk. Is, and the Mk. IIa. (A kitbash of the two kits would yield a Mk. IIb and a Va…)

The cockpit is a bit fiddly to get it all lined up, but it works well and is very detailed. I did opt for an Ultracast resin seat, which required a bit of modification of the kit armor plating to fit in. I also found that enlarging the hole in the lower part of the cockpit “tub” that the belly light must fit through helps greatly in fitting the wing to the fuselage. (This was the case in the two Mk. V examples I built also.)

The gas tank cover still did not fit really well, and sits slightly proud of the surface. I’m not sure why Airfix engineered it this way. I suppose it was an attempt to account for the various canopy types, but I do think there are better methods to handle it. (I actually wondered if someone from Eduard was hired by Airfix to “help” with the engineering. So much right- but a couple of things leave me scratching my head.)

The wing to fuselage fit was a bit less than I’d expect from such a new tooling kit. I don’t recall the Mk. V being quite as “off”. The fit fore and aft was fine, but there were some significant gaps at the wing to fuselage join- wide enough that I had to stretch some sprue to fill it in, and then sand it down. It also took quite a bit of work to get rid of the upper cowl seam, though I attribute that to the Tamiya Extra Thin cement I used. I got a bit too much on, and it left the gap “soft”.

Another puzzling aspect of the assembly to this point was the carburetor intake. Airfix left a large hole in the bottom of the wing for the forward part of the intake to fit in. The trouble is the hole is far too big. I think next time I build this kit, I’ll fill that gap in from the inside, and then sand down the carb intake to fit flush to that.

The tail planes fit reasonably well. A bit of cleanup and test fitting was required to get the fit as close as possible, and then a bead of Mr. Surfacer took care of the rest. All of the control surfaces are separate, which I suppose most modelers prefer, or at least the vocal ones on internet forums. But quite honestly I prefer them to be fixed. It’s a rare manufacturer that actually gets the control surfaces to fit with any sort of scale realism. The elevators and rudder on this kit are fine, but the ailerons are a bit too “gappy” in my view.

All of the above criticisms are small, compared to by biggest beef with this kit’s engineering- the landing gear.

The Spitfire landing gear was a complicated mechanism, and getting it to look “right” in scale is difficult. Tamiya and Hasegawa simply used molded in detail in the gear bay interior, and the landing gear was inserted into holes. (Worked very well, i might add.) Eduard took a bit of a different approach, using a part glued into the wheel well assembly, but still making use of the “peg and hole” approach to mounting the gear.

For some inexplicable reason, Airfix decided to be more clever. And I say clever quite facetiously. 

Taking a page from Eduard’s playbook, they made the pintle that the gear leg is joined to a separate part. However, instead of the “peg and hole” approach, they chose to do a sort of notched butt-join. And the idea being you only fit the gear struts much later in assembly. When i built the Mk. V when it first came out, I realized the folly of this. So my approach in this kit was to fully assemble the gear strut first, and once it had dried, I then fitted in into the wing, and then the gear doors were fitted. This gave a very solid join, with no fuss in trying to do so later in the build, after painting. Because I paint the landing gear and wheel wells the underside color, this makes thing easy.

But why Airfix thought this was a good idea is beyond me.

Overall it’s a great kit to build, despite my criticisms. Certainly more detailed and better shaped than Tamiya’s Mk. I. But I still think the Tamiya kit surpasses the Airfix offering in terms of ease of build. And I think Airfix still could pay more attention to surface detail. Simply put- if I were choosing a Mk. I to give my 11 year old nephew, the Tamiya kit would win hands down. But if you’re a modeler with a few kits under your belt, certainly go for the Airfix kit.

Next up will be painting!


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