Airfix 1:72 Supermarine Spitfire Model Mk.1a – Classic Model Airplane Kits Building
guest post by Darron Zeff
- Aircraft: Supermarine/Vickers Spitfire Mk.1a
- Scale: 1/72
- Kit: Airfix #A01017A
- Parts: 35 light grey + 2 clear injection molded.
- Surface detail: engraved
- Decals: 1 option
- Accuracy: excellent
- Price: € 4,99
- Additional items used: Techmod sheet #72012S, Airfix #02040 parts 39,40,47,48
The Supermarine Spitfire.
It is only the most iconic British fighter of WW II. As so much has been written about it already I’ll just limit my 2 cents worth to one of the lesser known versions. Although the Mk.V was the first mass produced, it certainly wasn’t the first cannon armed Spitfire. Already at the end of 1938 it was realized that soon the 8 .303” Browning machine guns would be enough to bring down an enemy aircraft. Early ’39 A Spitfire I was modified to carry a 20mm Hispano canon in each wing. These replaced the 2 inboard Brownings in each wing. Tests proved the effectiveness of the cannons and so a small series of approx. 30 cannon armed Spitfires were built. These were tested by 19 squadron. However the drum feed proved to be notoriously unreliable causing the guns to jam frequently. This led to the pilots requesting their original Browning armed machines back. The problem was finally solved by installing a new link fed system. Machines with this new modification became known as the Mk.Ib and 92 squadron received a number of these. The Mk.II was also built in the a and b version. However the added weight of the canon had a detrimental effect on the performance. The limited amount of rounds for the canons was also seen as a disadvantage and most pilots therefore preferred the a versions. Most of the Ib and IIb’s were later converted to Mk.V standard.
This is a completely new molding, which has nothing to do with any of the previous Spitfire kits by Airfix. It comes in a reasonably sturdy “end opening” box. Bagged inside the box you will find two light grey sprues and a separately packed transparent one. The parts have crisply engraved surface detail. The cockpits inside walls also have several details on them. The canopy is reasonably thin and very clear, and comes with molded on rear view mirror. Alternative parts are provided for gear up and down options. The 4 page A4 size instruction leaflet starts with a short history in several languages, followed by the explanation of the pictograms. Construction is covered with 7 easy to follow steps. The last two drawings are very helpful in showing the correct angles for the landing gear. Throughout construction detail colours are given. Sadly this is only in Humbrol numbers and no mention is made of what colours these numbers actually stand for. A high quality decal sheet provides the markings for one machine and includes a decal for the instrument panel, and a large section of service stenciling all of which is readable under a magnifying glass. On the rear of the box you will find a drawing which shows the colour scheme, thankfully this time with colour names, and the placement of all the markings.
airfix 1/72 spitfire
airfix 1 72 spitfire ix
airfix 1 72 spitfire
airfix spitfire 1 72
Dimensions are all within a millimeter of what they should be. Surface detail has been very accurately reproduced, and pretty much every panel line is catered for. The classical Spitfire shape has been captured really well, including the subtle gull wing effect at the wings trailing edge. Even cockpit detail has, within the limits of this scale, been incorporated faithfully. I haven’t seen the Tamiya kit up close, but I would dare to say this new Airfix kit is at least as good, if not better.
When I spotted this kit on the shelves of my local hobby shop, my first thought was; “is this the new mold kit I heard rumors about or just another reissue of the old and tired kit?”. The advantage of buying at a shop is that, if asked, most will let you look inside the box before you buy it. A quick glance over the contents confirmed my hope that this was indeed a new kit, and wow did it look good.
I was already planning to build this kit out of the box before I had even left the shop. I always wanted to build a Spit with the early camo and the high contrast wing undersides. The kit markings do not provide for such a machine, but I knew I had a Techmod sheet somewhere depicting just such a machine. As the kit looked great on the sprue I was very eager to start it, so less than an hour after buying it, it was on the workbench.
As the parts are very sharply molded there is little or no cleanup required. I discarded the nicely molded pilot figure, and then assembled the basic cockpit. This consists of a front and rear bulkhead, which are joined together by a structure of tubes. The spitfire did not have a floor as such and this is correctly depicted. I removed the “solid” reflector sight, and this will be replaced with a transparent part later. After this had set I painted it, and the cockpit side walls British cockpit green. The seat is also indicated as being cockpit green but I think it should actually be more of a redbrownish colour. Unlike the earlier PR.19 kit, this one does include a decal for the instrument panel, which I thankfully used.
It fitted rather well after I had made a small cut out that slots around the gun sight. I carefully painted the detail molded onto the cockpit side walls. I added a seat harness made from Tamiya masking tape to the seat. Then the seat and control column were added to the interior. Next the complete interior is glued into a fuselage half, and the oxygen bottles are added. Now it was time to close the fuselage. This is a very tight fit. So tight that if the layer paint you slapped on is too thick, it will not fit.
I now glued the main wing together. Again unlike the PR.19 kit, the wheel bay is now completely boxed in, and has structural detail molded on. After this had dried, the wing was joined with the fuselage. This also was a very tight and precise fit, a vast improvement over the previous kits. Before installing the rear wings, I scored the elevator hinge lines deeper, and then bent the elevators slightly down. This is often seen on parked machines. I also installed the separate rudder slightly out of center to add more interest to the model. After painting their interiors I installed the oil cooler and radiator bath to the wing underside. The two part carburetor intake was next.
At this time I decided to look up the Techmod sheet. I found it alright, but I was not happy with what I saw. The decals I was intending to use turned out to be for a Spitfire Mk.Ib! Construction that had moved on rapidly was now stopped dead in its tracks. The next two weeks the kit remained untouched while I considered my options: forget about the colour scheme and go with the kits decals for a Mk.Ia, or convert the kit to a Ib and use the Techmod decals. Converting the kit would mean I had to find two cannon barrels, add bulges to the top and the underside of the wings and change panel lines. Then I remembered I had one of the “new” Mk.Vc kits also recently released by Airfix. This is basically the old Mk.V kit with a new sprue. Amongst new wings this sprue also contains cannons and two versions of wing blisters. I took the narrow blisters (parts #39 & 40) and a pair of the cannon barrels (parts #47 & 48). This would still leave enough parts to complete one of the two options in this kit.
I first had to determine where I would have to cut the wings to insert the new blister panels, but once this was done the actual work of cutting the openings and installing the new panels took no longer than an afternoon. The smaller under wing blisters were fashioned from a reshaped piece of Contrail strut. So the decision had been made for the Ib and the colour scheme I originally had in my mind.
With the basic airframe now complete, I added the landing gear. As with the PR.19 the legs are molded integral with the gear covers, however they are even better detailed than on that kit. I then added a new transparent gun sight reflector. The only bad fitting part of this kit is the canopy, and it took quite a bit of scraping and sanding before I had a perfect fit. The prop was then assembled. Most Mk.1 kits have a Rotol unit, but Airfix supply the deHavilland airscrew with the pointy spinner. For an early Spitfire this is actually more correct. Although some Mk.1’s had their dH unit replaced by a Rotol, It was only with the Mk.II that the Rotol airscrew became standard. After painting and decaling the rest of the detail parts were added and the prop was inserted.
Painting and decaling
As mentioned before, the paint details for the interior are only given in Humbrol numbers. I really hope Airfix/Hornby will change their policy regarding this. It would be nice to have at least generic colour names as well. It would be even better if a cross reference to a few other paint brands was included, as Humbrol paints are impossible to get in shops around my place. Of course this isn’t a problem for an experienced modeler, but a beginner might be put off by this.
I used Revell’s Aqua color #39 dark green and #82 dark earth for the upper camouflage. I did lighten the dark green a bit though for scale effect. For the underside colours I chose Tamiya XF-21 sky, and Revell #09 anthrazit. Anthrazit is a very dark grey, which looks better than real black in this scale. Once this had dried I accentuated the panel lines with a wash of a dark brownish grey of water colour. Once I was satisfied with the result I sealed everything in with a cote of Tamiya clear varnish.
Now it was time for decaling. The kit comes with a very nice decal sheet for DW-K. This is a Mk.Ia belonging to no. 610 sqn, 13 grp based at Biggin Hill July 1940.
As mentioned before I went for a Mk.Ib coded QJ-F belonging to 92 “East India” sqn based at Manston in December 1940. I have used Techmod decals before and I wasn’t that happy with them then. I therefore decided to use just those decals specific for this machine from the techmod sheet and the rest from the kit. Sure enough the Techmod decals refused to settle properly and even my secret “MAD” weapon, undiluted Tamiya acrylic thinner, had little or no effect. The sky fuselage band even started showing up cracks. Luckily the Airfix decals performed flawlessly, being sturdy enough to handle some abuse but still able to settle down on surface detail. I did need the help of the mild Agama Tensol for the upper wing roundels though. This made them conform perfectly to the raised and engraved surface detail underneath them. Once everything had thoroughly dried I retraced the panel lines over the decals with a soft black pencil. The decals were then sealed in with a coat of Talens water based satin varnish.
As these machines were in constant used during the battle of Britain there was little time for more than basic maintenance and these aircraft often looked well worn. I tried to replicate this with pastel chalks. I used this for the exhaust streak (various brown and grey pigments) the redbrown rust on the exhausts and light brown streaks from the shell case ejectors. I have also started experimenting with the use of pastels to break up the even sheen of the satin varnish with good results. If the pastel colours are chosen well, this will give a slightly more matt and discolored look to the finish in places where it is applied. Although it doesn’t always show up in pictures, it looks rather convincing on the model.
Although things went rather differently then the OOB build I had originally intended, I am well pleased with the result. I now have a Spitfire in my collection of a mark that, as far as I know, has never been released in kit form.
Sadly I am not very positive about the Techmod decals. Although they look good on the sheet, my latest experience with using them has put me off. I am unsure if I’ll ever try them again.
This kit firmly puts Airfix back on my list of interesting companies.
I am very glad that Airfix decided to start from scratch instead of adapting an older mold. It has resulted in a superb little kit. Apart from the canopy, which needs some adjustment, the kit fits together like the proverbial hand in a glove.
Not only the mold is state of the art, the decals are also a vast improvement over what was found in the older kits, both in completeness as well as in accuracy.
I highly recommend this kit to builders of all skill levels. At a price of less than a third of its only real contender, the Tamiya kit, this Airfix kit surely deserves to be a best seller.
I hope Hornby will continue to release new mold kits instead of recycling the old tired molds over and over again. Recycling the old kits didn’t do Airfix any good and I hope Hornby won’t fall into the same trap. This new kit does make me wonder what will be next, a new Gosling? Perhaps a new Hampden or Boston? Or dare I dream, a new Whitley or Sunderland please please please?
Please note the kit number is A01071A. This is the new mold kit, and it has nothing to do with kit number 01071, which is the old mold kit.
- Aerodata international No.2 Spitfire I & II
- Squadron signal in action 39 Spitfire
- Air international vol.28 no.2 februari 1985