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  1. Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc (A17001) 1:24 Airfix The Supermarine Spitfire was the mainstay of British Fighter Command for the majority of WWII, in conjunction with the Hurricane during the Battle of Britain, with the Mk.IX being the most popular (with many) throughout the war, seeing extended periods of production with only minor alterations for the role for which it was intended that differentiated between the sub-variants. Originally requested to counter the superiority of the then-new Fw.190, a two-stage supercharged Merlin designated type 61 provided performance in spades, and the fitting of twin wing-mounted cannons with accommodating blisters gave it enough punch to take down its diminutive Butcher-Bird prey. The suffix following the mark number relates to the wings fitted to the aircraft, as they could vary. The C wing was also known as the Universal Wing, and saw extensive use because it mounted two 20mm cannon in each wing, the outer barrel usually covered by a rubber plug. The main gear was adjusted in an effort to give it more stable landing characteristics, and bowed gear bays removed the need for blisters on the upper wing surface, helping aerodynamics. The gun mounts were redesigned to need smaller blisters in the wing tops to accommodate the feeder motors, and there was even more room for fuel than earlier wings. Lastly, the wings were able to have longer elliptical or shorter clipped tips fitted, the resulting shorter wingspan giving the aircraft a faster roll-rate that would be especially useful in low-altitude combat. The Kit A lot of Britmodellers have been waiting for this kit, some of them more patiently than others, and at last it has arrived. This big box of plastic shouldn’t be confused with the old 1970s vintage 1:24 Spit, as it is a brand-new 100% 21st Century tooling that uses a culmination of all the lessons and skills learned by modern Airfix, and extending that to create a highly-detailed, well-appointed model of this graceful and deadly WWII fighter, in what is thought by many to be its definitive Merlin-powered mark, the Mark IX or 9 if your Roman numerals aren’t what they used to be. The kit arrives in a comparatively compact box that has a certain heft to it thanks to what’s packed inside. The artwork on the front depicts a squadron of Mk.IXs in loose formation, all wearing D-Day stripes and flying over the invasion fleet in the English Channel. The box has a satin finish that I feel adds a little class to the package, but the rest of the box is finished in the familiar red theme that we expect from Airfix these days. Inside are eleven sprues in mid-grey styrene, one of clear parts, a thick instruction booklet that is printed on heavier stock than usual, three folded A3 sheets in full colour on glossy paper, and everything is individually bagged, apart from the fuselage and wing sprues, which are naked and separated by a sheet of brown paper to prevent scuffing and scratches in transit and storage. A word about detail. There’s a lot, and it’s pretty impressive, ranging from fine panel lines and riveting, to ‘oil-canning’ of the thin skin of the aircraft, delicate styrene seat belts, a full Rolls-Royce Merlin engine with bearers and hollow exhaust tips, and wing armament plus representation of some of the various ribs within the wings that will be seen if you leave the bays open. You’ll have to drill out the gun muzzles yourself, but in the grand scheme of things that’s a moment’s work. The decals are by Cartograf, and you five disparate markings options from which to choose from. Construction begins with a page of diagrams showing where the interior decals go, and there are plenty of them, with over 25 on the instrument panel alone. With all that committed to memory, the pilot’s seat is the first actual modelling to be done, making up the seat and its mount from four main parts, plus another two on the rear, linking the support rails together, with the seat armour sliding over the arms, and latching on a spur moulded into the back of the seat. The lap belts are draped over the seat pan, sliding them through the slots in the sides of the seat, then the adjustment lever clips onto the left side. The fuselage frame behind the seat is prepared by adding the small block on the rear at the top, with the triangular head armour panel on the opposite side, fitting the seat to the front once finished. The cockpit floor is a busy place, and starts with a long shallow curved segment to which some ribs and other parts are glued, to be joined by the starboard sidewall, which is also detailed and has all the colours called out as you go. The instrument panel frame includes the foot well aperture, and has the compass mount hung from it with a clear lens, and then a choice of two instrument panels, one with blank dials to receive decals, or the other with raised details for you to paint if your hands are steady enough. Refer to the diagrams at the front of the booklet for the decal placement, although I’m never sure why companies mould their panels in clear then tell you to paint them. Moving on, the completed panel is inserted into a groove in the floor, and the port sidewall is mated along its length, using the ribs as a guide to the correct angle. The prominent bundle of thick wires are run down the side, leading to the throttle quadrant, and the rudder pedals with their linkages are laid into the floor along with another frame over the top, then they’re hemmed in by the bulkhead that has a pair of indented areas to accommodate the larger-footed pilot’s toes. The seat and its frame are inserted into another groove in the floor with an accompanying side-view, and the two frames behind them are also installed, with two bracing struts keeping them at the correct distance from each other. The shoulder straps can be added to the seat now, slipped through the slot in the head armour, and attached to the cross-brace in the frame behind. The port sidewall is detailed next, and the control column is built up from the wider lower section, with the top section having the spade-grip and control-lines moulded-in, which should strengthen the join. There is also a separate trigger lever that attaches to the back of the grip, then the completed column is plugged into the socket in the floor. The fuselage is prepared by adding inserts under the tail to accommodate the fixed tail-wheel that this mark had, indicating some future release with a retractable wheel. They’d be daft not to, to be honest. The next step only applies if you intend to close up the canopy, and includes holding part N4, which has the word “JIG” written on it, against the starboard cockpit sill to use as a guide to removing the lip. You are told in big bold letters NOT to glue the jig to the fuselage sides, for reasons that might not be clear to everyone. Additional detail parts are glued to the inside of the fuselage above the waist-line where the cockpit tub will sit, then adding another control box with wiring once the cockpit is in situ. A long, ribbed hose with a small rectangular box on the end is threaded through the aft cockpit, and a few more greeblies are inserted for’ard, then the radio trestle is glued to the back of the aftmost frame, with the battery-like radio box built up and fitted on the platform, which has an arrow moulded into it, so you put it in the right way around. At the rear the tail gear bay is inserted into its raised location area, and is painted silver. The next choice is partly dependent on whether you have already removed the lip from the starboard sill for the closed canopy option. The other two options are to have the canopy open but the side door closed, or have the door open, and for once you don’t have to cut a section out of the fuselage. The port fuselage half has the cut-out already there, and if you are closing up the door you insert the crowbar, remembering not to paint it red (a post-war thing that purists hate), and then place the door into position. The door is given an opener mechanism along the top edge for the other two options along with its crowbar, and is either put in closed, or open after removing the four little tabs from around the aperture. At long last, you can close up the fuselage, and add the firewall after fixing a part that holds the fuel filler cap just below the level of the deck in front of the windscreen. There’s a note that some aircraft had that bulkhead painted aluminium instead of the usual interior green, so if you’re a stickler, you’ll need to find out which to choose, or do what I usually do and paint it whichever colour you think will be prettiest. The first of the flying surfaces to be built up are the elevators, and you have a choice of two styles depending on which decal option you have chosen, as they carried different shaped elevators. The aerofoils and the flying surfaces are each two parts, with a separate trim-tab in each one that you can leave loose, although that’s probably not a good idea, as a droopy trim-tab would indicate a badly trimmed aircraft, or a broken cable. The aerofoils slot into the tail with male and female aspects to the tabs that allow them to mate together within the fuselage for additional strength. The appropriate flying surfaces are glued to the trailing edges after inserting the inner end into a slot in the fuselage, just like the real one, and the rudder panel is made up and glued in the middle with a separate trim tab, stopping the two elevators from fighting. An actuator is glued under the elevators to the rudder on the port side, although if you’ve deflected the rudder, you might need to extend or shorten the rod between the two fairings. The Spitfire’s lower wings are moulded as a single span part that extends out to the tip joint, and incorporates the rear fairing underneath the fuselage like most other Spitfire kits. A pair of inserts for the flap bay walls are glued near the rear of the wing, and a small raised half-circle upstand is removed from the starboard wing-root, as two are moulded in, one in each root because the location of the gun-camera sometimes varied. The main spar has two holes that are filled with inserts that accept the gear legs later on, with a scrap diagram showing their correct location. At this stage the spar isn’t glued in place, but is used as a guide along with the first of the ribs (F33 & F3) for the following steps that build up the gear bays. Each circular section of the main bays are built up from three sectors plus a rib, while the long portion of the bay is formed by the spar and another wall part that is glued to the edge of the bay, but not the first rib, or the rib attached to the round bay section. Once both bays have been completed, glue can be run along the spar and the initial ribs, presumably to ensure everything is correctly positioned and symmetrical. You are advised to hold each wing on a flat surface while the glue dries, to further ensure correct alignment. That might be challenging for the impatient modellers amongst us. The next stage is to create the gun bays, starting with four more ribs, each one having an additional tube-part fitted along the way. There are two twin receptacles for ammo boxes in the wing, but only one is filled in this variant, with a well-detailed run of ammo moulded into the top of a box-like part slotting into the front of the two spaces, one for each wing. Each wing is fitted with two of the four ribs made up earlier, plus four additional ribs that need no preparation, dropping a spacer between two of the outer ones, and the ammo feed into slots between the two wider spaced ribs. A horseshoe-shaped part slips in the front of the outer pair, and another sturdy rib slots into the space between the innermost two, then an L-shaped trunk and a straight extension snake from the inner wing to the outer, linking up with the small tubes inserted in the ribs earlier. Very clever, and carried out twice in mirror image of course. Even with the little gun-camera cradle you have a choice of putting either a lens in, or blacking out the interior to give it some depth, so make your choice. The inner bay is fitted out with a 20mm cannon breech, linking into to the heating trunk (guns freeze at altitude), and a two-part drum feeder is slipped over the breech and into the ammo box, again with lots of clever engineering on show. This mark also carried a pair of .303 machine guns in the outer gun bays, which you can install with their ammo feed if you plan on leaving the bays closed, or with their mounting clamp if you are opening the bays up. Once they’re glued in, your options are limited if you change your mind unless you abrade away the clamp, which will otherwise baulk the bay door. Again, this is done in mirror-image on the other wing, then the lower bay doors are optionally fitted into the lower wing, unless you plan on showing them off. Surprisingly, you can then join the fuselage to the lower wings, with two scrap diagrams showing how the two assemblies lock together top and bottom. The upper wings are separate assemblies, and take much less effort than the lowers, simply adding the bay doors if you want to, and choosing the appropriate cannon bulge for your decal option, then gluing them onto the lower wings. She’s looking very Spitfire-y ‘round about now. Attention stays with the wings, but on the exterior of the lowers, where you will find the radiator boxes. The process begins with making up the radiator baths on a C-shaped bearer, adding two textured faces to the open sides, taking care to heed the arrows moulded into the backsides of the parts. The bath laminates to the floor of the fairing, and two side panels are added, making the choice of posing the cooling flaps open or closed, and again doing this twice, one for each wing. The depression in the wing underside is prepared with a short length of pipework at the rear and a strake at the front, then after a little bit of pre-emptive painting, the radiator fairings are docked with the lip of their bay and glued in place. Yet again, you have another choice, this time of whether to have the traditional elliptical wingtips that are made of two halves plus a clear light, or a totally clear clipped tip that only one decal option uses in this boxing. More choices! If you prefer your models buttoned up with the cowlings in place, you have an option to build up a slender core of the engine that uses a few parts that will be visible to give you something to hang your prop on. Alternatively, you can build the whole Merlin engine up and display it proudly after you’ve painted and weathered it to your whim. The instructions hold your hand and allow you to step through the process with minimal fuss. We’ll follow the easy route first, then come back and discuss the building of this impressive hunk of plastic Merlin next. Engine Cowling On The basic engine block is made out of three sections of plastic, and at the front is a flared portion onto which you glue the transfer casing with its many closure bolts, after sliding the splined drive-shaft inside without any glue. You use this as a jig for the engine bearers, but don’t be tempted to throw the engine away afterwards. The two triangular mounts clip onto the sides of the engine and are joined together via a U-shaped cross-member, then once the glue is dry, you remove the engine and add a flat-bottomed V-shaped brace between the U-brace and the rear of the mounts. The completed mount is then inserted into the holes pre-drilled in the firewall bulkhead and left to dry while you finish off making the core of the engine. The substantial supercharger assembly is made up from eight parts, and a section of the trunking marked in green is cut off to allow easier fitting of the cowling parts. The finished sub-assembly is glued to the rear of the block, and it is re-introduced between the engine bearers, this time with the addition of glue. The ram air intake under the nose has a filter box installed on some decal options, which is made out of two halves plus slim side parts, or you fit the basic L-shaped intake that is moulded in two halves, joining down the middle. You attach whichever option you choose to the intake end of the supercharger assembly under the engine, then start making up the cowling panels for installation, starting with the side cowlings, which have an extra frame added inside after clipping off the pegs at the rear end. The spinner backing disc joins the two panels at the front, and the top is covered over with a one-piece top cowling, avoiding all those horrible centre seams of yesteryear. The lower cowling is still moulded in two parts through necessity however, as it has the air intake of either long or short variety with a separate lip added to the front of either option. It is glued to the bottom of the cowling assembly, creating the completed nose, revealing why you chopped that section off the engine earlier. Two small wing root fairings are added at the leading edge of the wings, covering over the gun-camera, after which you can install the cowling to give your Spitfire a nose. Engine Cowling Off The first step is the same, joining three parts to make the block, then making up two cylinder blocks out of another three parts each, and remembering to paint the RR logos red when you’ve finished. Each head received a few small parts, then they are linked together by the intake, which is made from a two-part duct and two three-legged spurs, one each side. The completed subassembly is installed on top of the block, locating on raised pads and adding more small parts before building up a more detailed version of the supercharger and adding a curved tank under the transfer casing. The vertical intake ducting is also more detailed with various ancillaries, and the extras just keep piling up on the sides of the engine, including a wiring harness and dynamo, plus a number of parts spilling over onto the bulkhead, which includes a couple of small tanks of various shapes. The three-part engine mount is formed around the engine, using it as a jig while you glue it, adding the V-shaped braces and two thick hoses snaking through the interstices, with two scrap diagrams showing their correct orientation. The motor drops into its supports, and more wires and hoses are added, some of them with scrap diagrams to help you with routing them. The oil tank that is slung under the engine is shaped around the sump, and is made from top and bottom surfaces, plus an end-cap and a filler tube on one side. It mounts under the engine on four lugs hanging from the mounts, then the spinner backing disc glues to the front of the transfer casing, locating on three pips. Two more lugs on the sides of the spinner plate locate the front of the mounting frame for the cowling, and there is one for each side, adding the root fairings over the hoses and the gun-camera location. Creating the two ram air intake options is the same for the engine-out option, making up either the filter box or the L-shaped intake, then building the appropriate cowling with its intake lip and installing it under the engine, unless you’d rather leave it off to see your work on the engine better. The side cowlings have a small intake on the port side, and a choice of blister shape on the starboard, and you can fit one, both or neither as you see fit, with the same choice for the top cowling, which has a small intake on the starboard side near the rear. The ejector exhausts are all separate from each other, and have an insert in the inner face to give each one a hollow tip, although you may need to do a little filling if you don’t get a neat join. It is on the backside though, so you don’t have to be too tidy. Each stub is handed, so take care to keep the sides separate, and slot them into the grooves in the cowling, starting at the rear due to the cranked tip. You have another choice under the wings, to decide whether you want to pose the flaps up for a ‘clean’ airframe, or pose them down as was often seen when taxi-ing, although rumour has it that a pilot would be fined a few shillings if he left them down once parked up. The closed flaps are the easiest option, requiring fitting of the two flap sections flush with the airflow under each wing, and gluing the flap indicator tabs level with the upper wing surface. Posing the flaps down is a little more involved, but could hardly be called complicated. The flaps sections are posed dropped, and an actuator is inserted into the wing, pushing up the indicator tab into the vertical position. The ailerons are next, made of two halves plus a C-shaped hinge that is set within the halves unglued to allow you to pose them as you like. I’ll probably set mine and flood them with glue to keep them in position, as I’ll get told off if they’re both hanging down, or the one deflected upward is too severe. I’m referring to a conversation I had with my buddy @Stringbag the other day when we were dismantling a rotten glider wing, when he showed me how little deflection upward there was in your typical aileron. The twin cannon fairings are both made of two halves, and have a peg moulded in that should give a strong joint, but the wings still aren’t finished! If you plan on displaying your model wheels-up, the main gear is made up starting with only half the tyre, inserting a two-part hub in the middle, and then sliding the leg into the centre. The painted assemblies are then set into the bays flush, inserting the top dog-leg into the socket in the spar, and the inner part of the bay is covered over by a B-2 Spirit shaped cover – I mean it, it really does look like a tiny stealth bomber. The main gear bay covers fill the rest of the aperture, leaving part of the tyre visible at the outermost edge. For wheels down, you start with a choice of three styles of hub. One with five spokes for two options, another with four for two more, and a solid hub for just one option. Your choice is slipped into the two-part tyre, and the gear leg has a separate oleo-scissor link added to the rear, joining the two moving parts of the strut. Before they are inserted into their sockets in the spar, a small mechanism is installed in the bay, connecting to an actuator at the upper end of each leg. The little B-2 shaped insert and main wheel are fixed to both sides, and the captive bay doors are mated with the backs of the struts after painting them the same colour as the underside. This Spit had a fixed tail-wheel, which is made up from a short strut with split yoke, and a two-part wheel with slim flat-spot at the bottom. It is slipped into the small opening under the tail, and secures in a hole in the bulkhead within, regardless of whether you are posing your model flying or on the ground. We’re on the final gluey strait now, inserting an L-shaped pitot under the port wing and an antenna under the starboard, the mast antenna behind the cockpit with either a fairing or a clear lens just behind it, and a choice of two styles of gunsight in the front of the cockpit, both of which are made from a number of parts, some of which are clear for realism. You have a few choices with the canopy beyond whether to pose it open or closed, but the windscreen is devoid of choice, having a circular rear-view mirror added at the top, and the fixed rear portion of the canopy is also standard. Where you do have a choice is whether to use the simplified un-blown canopy that has no seam down the outside, or go for the more accurately-shaped canopy and sand then polish the seamline away. It’s a surprisingly simple task with the correct tools, so I’d suggest making the effort to use the more realistic version, but if you really can’t face the prospect, you have an easy alternative that doesn’t look too different. You use the same part for the sliding canopy whether you are depicting it open or closed, and if you have decided to pose the door open, that gets glued in place at this stage too. It will probably end up left off until after painting in the real world though. All that’s left is to make up the prop, which has four separate blades, each one having an insert at the root of the blade to obtain the correct shape. A little filling and sanding might be required here, but getting it right with the glue should help reduce that. Each blade is keyed and inserted into the two-part boss, which is laid over the spinner back-plate and has a front section that fits over a square peg, then is covered over by the pointed spinner cap, or could be left off for a maintenance diorama. Markings There are a generous five decal options included with this kit, although you could argue that there are seven, because one option has two alternatives, on a decal sheet that is quite a bit larger than A4 and was a swine to scan. The glossy profiles take a side per option, and the sixth side covers the stencils that will be very visible at this scale and will make the task easier without the clutter of the other decals or colour on the drawings. From the box you can build one of the following: ML214 flown by Sqn.Ldr. Johnny Plagis, No.126 (Persian Gulf) Sqn., RAF Harrowbeer, Devon, England, July 1944 (with options for June & Dec 1944) EN398 flown by Lt.Lt. Ian Keltie, No.402 Sqn. “City of Winnipeg”, RAF Kenley, Surrey, England, March 1943 EN398 flown by Wing Commander James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, No.402 Sqn. “City of Winnipeg” RAF Kenley, Surrey, England, Summer 1943 Aircraft flown by Cpt. Garth Jared, Commanding Officer, 309th Fighter Sqn., 31st Fighter Group, USAAF, Italy, December 1943 GR 2/33 “Savoie”, Armée de l’Air, Luxeuil-le-Bains, France, early 1945 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is a very impressive successor to the original 70s era “Super Kits” of yore, and brings a huge quantity of detail to the party that will look great under a few coats of paint and maybe some sympathetic weathering. It’s a beauty, with some subtle overlapping panels and oil-canning of the skin, and has been well-worth the wait. Very highly recommended. At time of writing there’s a free A2 poster of the box art work Review sample courtesy of
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