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  1. Supermarine Spitfire Vb Airfix 1:48 The Spitfire hardly needs an introduction, an iconic war machine and graceful lines satisfying the technical theory that ‘If it looks right, it flies right’! With around 6000 aircraft produced across the various sites, the Mk.V was the most produced version of the 20,000+ built. Coming in to service in 1941, it incorporated many of the improvements developed in the Mk.III, however instead of using the planned Mk.XX Merlin which was in short supply, the Mk.45 with a single stage single supercharger was used as it could easily be fitted to the standard fuselage of the Mk.I/II. Three types of wing were available in the Mk.V range, the ‘A’ wing using the traditional 8 gun layout and the ‘B’ wing housing two 20mm cannon and 4 machine guns. The universal ‘C’ wing introduced shortly afterwards had a more flexible arrangement being able to house either the ‘A’ or ‘B’ configurations or 4 cannon and 4 machine guns. A key feature of the Mk.45 Merlin introduced in late ’41’ was the ability to cope with negative ‘g’ without cutting out significantly improving dogfight performance in an effort to close the gap on the newly developed FW190. As well as being used in the UK, the Mk.V saw considerable service abroad. The need to cope with hotter and harsher climates led to some of the ugliest and slowest Spitfires to be built (I say that in principal, but I actually like the tropical versions!). Tropical versions accommodated a deep chin Vokes filter, but the extra drag and reduced intake charge speed affected the performance by around 8mph and clime rate aby about 600ft/min. Later, in-field improvements led to a more streamlined ‘Aboukir’ tropical filter which went some way to restoring the original lines of the spitfire too. The Mk.V’s endured fierce combats with front line fighters of the Axis air forces across most theatres of WWII including Europe, the Mediterranean, Pacific and Russian. In an ironic turn of developments, the ‘stop gap’ MkV was gradually replaced by the next ‘stop gap’ version, the Mk.IX which became the second most widely produced variant. The key difference in the two aircraft was a notably longer nose to accommodate a two stage supercharger giving a much improved high altitude performance to deal with the FW190’s over Europe. The kit The release of this new kit by Airfix was somewhat of a surprise, with very little hype. Maybe a new quarter scale Spitfire just doesn’t need the marketing effort other kits require and given the interest of forums, this may well be the case. It replaces the 1977 tooling with the iconic QJ-R tropical Spitfire artwork that is probably the reason I developed such a soft spot for the ‘ugly’ Spits in the first place. That said, the Tamiya Vb is probably the current bench mark in this scale that Airfix have entered the competition with. From the various comparisons across the internet (thanks to some of the guys on here, Troy Smith in particular), it appears that Airfix have produced a gem of a kit in terms of accuracy. Comparing the two, the Airfix wing is considered more accurate and the nose correct in length, whereas the Tamiya is a few mm too short. First impressions are certainly favourable. Moulding quality is superb with the panel lines recessed and more refined than some of the recent Airfix releases. The parts breakdown add a little more complexity than the Tamiya kit which I’ll pick up in the review later on, but there is a good range of options covering most of the Vb variations. Flash is almost none existent and there are only a few observations of sink marks which I’ll mention later too. The box is thankfully top opening with stunning digital artwork of a tropical version. The instructions are excellent in my opinion with good clear steps using colour to improve clarity. So, on with assembly. Traditionally it starts with the cockpit interior. Unlike the fuselage moulded sidewall interior of the Tamiya kit, the Airfix kit has two inserts with excellent detail moulded on that mate to the fuselage inner walls. The seat comprising three main parts is also nicely formed, although looks a little thin in width by itself. Once in place, I doubt that this would be as noticeable. Unfortunately, there are no harnesses, so you may want to scratch build these, purchase some aftermarket parts or fit the included pilot. The bulk head and surrounding frame work is well catered for as is the main panel. The framework, seat and flying panel are all assembled within the two sidewall inserts making a complete interior that then sandwiches inside the fuselage halves. Before you do this however, there is an important decision to make. If you want to have the canopy closed, you have to cut a small section of the fuselage away to locate the canopy. This is one of the complexities that leads me to believe this kit is a little more challenging for novice builders. There are marks in the fuselage interior as a guide and with the right tools, is quite straight forwards. If you want the canopy open and the access door open too, it will need cutting away. Again, there are cut lines on the fuselage interior as a guide. If you do take this option however, you don’t need to use the cut-away door, there is a separate part on the sprue. The nose panel fasteners are well produced as are the various lumps and bumps around the engine area. I appreciate that there is a divided opinion on rivets on a Spitfire, but some faint rivets on the fuselage would improve the surface in my opinion. Eduard has done an excellent job of it on their Mk.IX as an example. Finally, to complete the fuselage assembly, there are two options for the cockpit forward upper bulkhead. These ‘saddle’ parts accommodate two different styles of windscreen installations. Based on experience of building modern Airfix kits, the tolerances are very precise. As such, any paint on the edges of the fuselage structure under the upper this saddle part may need sanding off for a flush fit. On with the wing assembly next. As with the fuselage, detail is nicely reproduced with the cannon bumps and wing stiffeners moulded in (you may need to remove the latter if producing an aftermarket scheme as not all had these fitted). There is a very slight sink mark in the wing tips. One of the lower wings is slightly warped being very thin, however once mated to the upper wing, this shouldn’t be a concern. The ailerons are separate parts allowing off centre positioning to add a little interest to your build. Again, there is a little more complexity here than with the Tamiya kit for comparison and I’m not sure why this option was taken by Airfix. Two spars are included with a hinge mechanism for the main gear legs. The main gear legs are then fixed to these hinge parts, but the join is just a butt joint albeit with a step. The instructions call for the correct angles of positioning both laterally and longitudinally, but care will need to be taken to get this right. A good choice of glue will be critical here and I suspect this will be a weak point if displayed wheels down. The tyres are moulded with flat spots and bulged for in the lower position with separate hub parts making painting much easier. None bulged ‘half’ tyres are included for in the retracted position. Two choices of oil cooler are included, one for the tropical version, one for the standard variant. However I thought that tropical versions also had a deeper radiator, but only one type of radiator is included, maybe someone can clarify this? On the 1/24 Spit, both radiators are included. That aside, the radiator builds up well with a separate exit flap that can be positioned at preference. With the wing in place, the chin parts can be fitted. Both standard and Vokes tropical parts are included. If you want to do an Aboukir variant, Freightdog have just released an aftermarket part which I can recommend having seen it at the Brampton show. The tail feathers are fitted next. Separate elevators and rudder parts again make for a more interesting display if you prefer to position them off centre. The fabric effect on these parts is pleasingly subtle. There are three types of exhausts included in the kit, although one type are the pre-fishtailed ones that I can only imagine were used on very early Mk.V’s at best. The two options included in the instructions are both fish tail, but one has the gun heating pipes. Two types of propellers are included in the kit. The Rotol with wooden blades looks very good although there is evidence of sink marks at the base on my example. This is quite visible, but some filler will easily sort the issue out. Whilst the blades on the DeHavilland propeller are fine, the spinner is too long. Again, Freightdog can come to the rescue here with a correct ‘stubbier’ one, or if you have one knocking around in the spares box, that might be an option. Dropping some filler inside the point of the hub might allow for it be sanded back to the correct length as another option to consider too. The cockpit options are quite thorough. You have the choice of three windscreens and canopies as well as either open or closed. Again, if you are using aftermarket decal options, do your research before choosing the correct type. The parts are very good with thin moulding and the only distortion on the blown hood parts which I would consider as minimal. Another option included in the kit is both clear and non-clear clipped wing tips. Finally there is a large slipper tank and two 250lb bombs included in the set although there is no call for the bombs in the instructions. To summarise the options included, there are: Intakes - standard or Vokes Windscreen / canopy - three styles Oil cooler - standard or tropical Wing tips - standard or clipped Aerial masts - 2 types Slipper tank 250lb bombs x2 Exhausts - 3 types Gear - retracted or lowered Decals Having built a few Airfix kits recently, the quality of the decals have been impressive. Whilst thin, they are also strong and settle down well. The decals in this kit appear to be of the same quality. Very sharp and detailed print with a slightly matt finish. As well as the plentiful stencils included, the following aircraft schemes are provided: 249Sqn (Gold Coast) RAF flown by P/O Robert Wendell “Buck” McNair DFC during Operation ‘Spotter’ from Ta’ Qali, Malta 1942 with an interesting dark earth / sea grey paint scheme BM597 (G-MKVB) restored in the colours of 317Sqn Polish Fighter Squadron. More conventional scheme and now based at Duxford with the Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd. Conclusion As mentioned at the start, this is regarded as a very accurate kit, which is a sensitive area of discussion when it comes to Spitfires. There are some steps that require care and attention during assembly which probably make it less of a beginner’s kit than the Tamiya equivalent, but the optional parts included allow for a wide range of aftermarket choices which I suspect will fuel future decal releases. The cockpit is nicely detailed, although there is still room for aftermarket improvement should you wish. All in all, an outstanding kit and probably Airfix’s best Spitfire in any scale yet. I’ve already bought another! Review sample courtesy of
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