A Brief Review of 1/48 Spitfire Kits

Please note: This was originally published in 2017, shortly before I switched to building scifi kits. So the observations shared here (with one noted exception) doesn’t reflect any Spitfire kits produced after the original publication date.

I build a lot of Spitfires. As of this writing, I’ve built 82. While I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on Spitfires, I can say without a doubt I have plenty of experience building them. I generally build out of the box, and I’m not a picky modeler, really. Close enough is good enough for me.

And quite often, after asking me “why do you build all those Spitfires”, the next question I am generally asked by those still waiting around after answering the first question is “what kit do you recommend?”

So this list represents my opinion on the various Marks of Spitfires in 1/48 scale, the primary scale I build in. I have built all of the aircraft mentioned here, so I’m not just relying on something I read on a forum, or what I heard some guy say one time at a contest while we waited in line for nachos. 🙂

These are my opinions based on my own experiences.

I don’t know if this list includes all available kits, but it does include all the ones I am aware of and have built. I have not included resin or vacform kits, as I don’t generally build those.

At the end I make some recommendations about picking a kit, if your plan isn’t to build them all. (Although why you wouldn’t want to build them all is beyond me… 🙂 )

I hope some find this useful!

Mk. I– This is a hard choice, between the Tamiya and Airfix offerings. I guess the best answer I can give is “it depends”. If you favor accuracy over build experience, go with Airfix. It’s slightly more accurate in shape. If you prefer a good build experience, get the Tamiya kit. If you’re going to nail me down to what I prefer – Tamiya. (See the Mk. Vb comments below.)

(Addendum: I built Tamiya’s new-tool Mk. I in 2019. It is a wonderful kit, very detailed, and generally superior in every way to the two listed above. However, it has some photoetch parts that are mandatory – no plastic equivalents are provided. While the kit goes together well, I always felt the old Tamiya Mk. I could be recommended to anyone, regardless of age and experience. This new tool does not fit in that category in my mind. I do recommend the new tool over the other two – unless it is for a young or new builder. In that case, stick with the old Tamiya kit.)

Mk. II– Revell and Airifx are the two you’ll find most often. Go with Airfix, hands down. The Revell one isn’t bad, but it’s not really a close competition.

(A note on the Airfix Mk. I/II kits… Airfix released a version back in 2007, and an updated, completely retooled version in 2015. These comments apply to the updated version.)

Seafire II– Hasegawa makes a conversion of this aircraft. It’s essentially their Mk. Vb kit, with a few additional bits and bobs to make a conversion. All in all not a bad package, but I do think it would be worth exploring conversion sets for the Tamiya Mk. Vb. (I’ve not built that combination.)

Seafire III– Special Hobby and Airfix make versions of this Seafire. The Special Hobby kit is a purpose made Seafire III- go with it. The Airfix kit is their old Mk. Vb fuselage, with raised panel lines, coupled with an overly thick C wing with recessed panel lines, and a few other bits. It’s not bad, but the SH kit is a better choice in my opinion.

Mk. Vb– Hasegawa, Fujimi, Tamiya and Airfix all make kits of this version. As with the Mk. I, it comes down to whether you favor accuracy over build experience. Airfix gets a slight nod on accuracy, but Tamiya gets it on build experience. I detailed this in a head to head build of the two, so check that out for more information. But if you insist on a call – Tamiya, by a slight bit.

Mk. Vc– Special Hobby makes a Vc. It’s a bit finicky to build, but with care it is a good kit. But also check out Alley Cat’s resin C wing conversion for the Airfix Vb. Good stuff. There’s also a really nice Montex C wing for the Tamiya Vb. Great wing, but it’s made of unobtanium and is expensive when you can find it. Classic Airframes, Eduard, Italeri, and Revell have also reboxed the Special Hobby kit in various forms.

Mk. VI– Hasegawa makes a reasonable kit, which is really just a conversion of their Vb, but you have to do a bit of detective work to get all the details right.

Mk. VII– Hasegawa and ICM here. I prefer the ICM kit. The Hasegawa offering is a Mk. IX conversion. As with the Mk. VI you’ll need to do a bit of detective work to get all the details right. (Although I suppose an Eduard kit could be made to work with some leftover ICM parts.)

Mk. VIII– Eduard, ICM, Hasegawa and Otaki/Arii make this kit. Get the Eduard kit. Period. ICM if you’re broke.

Mk. IX– Eduard, Hasegawa, ICM, Italeri/Occidental and Airfix all have Mk. IXs. Eduard is easily the best, though if you are on a tight budget get the ICM kit. Hasegawa’s kit is nice but poorly shaped. The Airfix kit is a bit thick in places, and is the least desirable of the ones available IMO. The Italeri/Occidental is a bit oddly shaped too, but actually isn’t a bad build if you can get it really cheap. (<$10)

Mk. XII– Airfix and Special Hobby do this one. I like the Airfix kit. I suppose it comes down to where you stand on ease of assembly. If that matters, go with Airfix. If not, the Special Hobby kit is a bit better in terms of shape and detail. Either one will get you there.

Mk. XIV– Academy and Hobbycraft make versions this one. Neither have the best shape, but neither are bad kits, really. I’d give the nod to Academy simply because it is slightly more detailed and has better surface detail.

(Addendum: Airfix has released a new tool Mk. XIV. I have not built the kit, however, so I cannot comment on it. You may find Paul Budzik’s video series helpful.)

Seafire XV– Hobbycraft and Special Hobby do this one. Go with Special Hobby. (Although a nice XV can be built by kit bashing Airfix’s Mk. XII and Seafire XVII.) The Hobbycraft kit isn’t bad, just very, very plain.

Mk. XVI– Eduard (bubbletop & standard), ICM (bubbletop & standard), Italeri/Occidental (bubbletop only)  and Airfix (bubbletop & standard). Eduard is the best. ICM on a budget.

Seafire XVII– Airfix. Build this one. Lovely kit.

Mk. XIX– Airfix. Great kit. Boring schemes though….

Mk. 22/24– Airfix. Great kit.

Seafire 46/47– Ditto as the Mk. 22/24

So What Should I Build?

OK, here are  a few scenarios-

  • If you only want to build ONE Spitfire kit, go with any of the Eduard kits. They have a Mk. VIII, IX and XVI, and while the particulars vary, Eduard’s Spitfires are simply the best you can build. Not perfect, mind you…. but overall I rate them the highest.
  • If you’re looking to build an early, “short nosed” Merlin engine Spitfire, well, it’s sort of a toss up. If you’re OK with a few finicky areas in the build (mainly the landing gear), go with Airfix’s Mk. I or Mk. Vb. If you’re wanting a zero drama build, go with Tamiya’s Mk. I or Vb. The Airfix kit has better overall detail, but the Tamiya kit has better surface detail. Airfix is a bit more accurate. (See addendum above regarding Tamiya’s new tool Mk. I.)
  • If you’re looking to build a later, “long nosed” Merlin engine Spitfire, go with Eduard. Even if you’re on a budget, the Eduard Weekend Edition kits aren’t that much more than ICM’s kit if you do some bargain hunting. And Eduard’s is just that much better…. it is worth it.
  • If you’re looking to build a Griffon engine Spitfire, well, it’s a close call, but I really I enjoyed Airfix’s Seafire Mk. XVII the most. The Mk. 22/24 and Seafire 46/47 are awesome, but something about that XVII just really got me.

And finally, in no particular order, here are a few of my Spitfires. I saw few, because as of today (Aug. 3 ’17), I’ve built 82.

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