Building Classic Model Kits – Tamiya 1:72 Supermarine Spitfire Model MK.I (60748)
guest post by Olin Benear
The Spitfire will live forever in the annals of aviation history. Since so much has already been written about this legendary and beloved airplane I can skip the history lesson. Instead, I will cover the fighter pilot whose airplane I chose to depict for this build… Alan Christopher Deere. Alan Deere was born in Auckland New Zealand and travelled to Britain to join the Royal Air Force in 1937. Once he had completed his training he was posted to No 54 Squadron which at the time was flying Gloster Gladiators. The unit converted to Spitfires in early 1939. In May 1940 his unit was heavily involved in the fighting over the Dunkirk evacuation. By the close of that operation on June 3rd his tally stood at 7 enemy aircraft destroyed and 2 shared destroyed. For this success, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross award.
In July and August his unit was once again heavily engaged and by the end of the latter month his tally now stood at 13 enemy aircraft destroyed, 2 shared destroyed, 3 probably destroyed and one damaged. Soon he received a bar to his DFC. Deere then served a rest tour as a fighter controller and saw no further action until August 1941 when he joined No 602 Squadron flying Spitfire Mk. VBs. At the end of the war his tally stood at 17 enemy aircraft destroyed, 1 shared destroyed, 2 and 1 shared unconfirmed destroyed, 4 probably destroyed and 7 and 1 shared damaged. After the war, he continued to serve in the RAF and retired with the rank of air commodore in 1967. He died in 1995.
This kit (Tamiya No. 60748) is obviously pantographed down from the Tamiya 1:48 scale kit. I can’t imagine how elated most 1:72 scale modelers must have felt when they heard the news that Tamiya was releasing this kit in 1:72 scale at the time. It has been around for a while. I got back into the hobby in 2002 and I know it was already out then and that’s already 10 years ago! Overall as John has already alluded to, what you get is a very nice kit with beautiful detail done in Tamiya’s high, exacting standard. I have read some comments in other reviews that said the shape of the nose is a bit off and that the top of it is a bit too square and could benefit from being rounded off with some careful sanding. Most modelers (me being one of them) will probably be content with the kit as is and just leave things the way they are.
Markings are provided for two aircraft, DWO of No 601 Squadron and QJB from No 92 Squadron. Both feature the familiar Dark Earth and Dark Green over Sky camouflage schemes while QJB has the bottom side of the port wing painted in “night”/ black. Tamiya’s decals are known for being a little on the thick side and I have had trouble with some of them in the past. One approach I have heard of to get them to snuggle down better is to try using warm to hot water with them. I will have to try this in the future if I am to use them again.
Construction started with the cockpit. I used Model Master RAF Interior Green for all of it plus the insides of the fuselage halves and oxygen bottles. The level of detail is very nice and it features a floor, seat, control column, rear bulkhead, and instrument panel. The fuselage halves feature some lovely raised detail in the form of stringers, quadrants, and boxes. There is also a headrest and another piece that goes on the backside of the bulkhead. I knew I’d be doing this model with a closed canopy so I didn’t exactly “go to town on the interior”. However, I couldn’t help adding a little color here and there so the headrest and the other part (B5) plus the “ring” of the control column, compass, and the instrument panel I used flat black. Some of the boxes on the side walls were also picked out with this color too. The raised surface detail of the instrument panel was highlighted with a silver pencil and for the seat cushion, I used a light chocolaty brown color. Little did I know at the time that the whole seat probably should have been that famous red-brown color, d’oh! Although I basically just painted all the pieces and glued them together o.o.b. I did do a wash on the seat cushion and it really made the details pop out.
Though a decal is provided for the seat belts I didn’t use it. I should have and in the end, I wound up adding some homemade generic ones from masking tape. By this point the cockpit was finished so I did some other things like glue the wings together. The fuselage halves were glued together next, just remember to add the bushing piece and poly cap into the nose beforehand. From this point on I kicked it into second gear so to speak and soon had a complete airframe. The cockpit assembly was dropped into place and the wings and horizontal stabs fit very well. The lower nose piece was no slouch either. The excellence of Tamiya’s engineering and fit made for short work with most areas though I did have some very small gaps at the wing roots which needed filling. I was worried I might erase some of the lovely detail in this area so resorted to a trick that usually works most of the time. This is to use some Gunze Mr. Surfacer (or Tamiya putty etc) wiped down with a Q-tip dampened in fingernail polish remover after about 15-20 minutes of set-up time. Usually, you are rewarded with being able to wipe away most of the excess filler leaving only the stuff you need in the critical areas where you really want it. Most modelers probably are doing this anyway but it is a good tip to know. If you erase too much of the filler you can always go back and apply a little more and repeat the process. Obviously, the bonus of doing seams like these with the swiping method is you don’t end up obliterating the surrounding surface detail like you might if you were just sanding it.
The windscreen and canopy were cleaned up masked off with Bare Metal Foil and attached. A last-minute check for any seam issues and now painting could begin! Enamels were used throughout and for the bottom, I used Model Master RAF Sky “TYPE F”. The bottom was masked off and Humbrol 29 Dark Earth was sprayed next. Thus came one of the second lengthiest parts of the build, the final masking for the last color! I wanted to do a hard-edged camouflage pattern as many photos of Spitfire Mk.1s seem to show they had a hard-edged pattern. Armed with this knowledge I proceeded to go this route. Granted even though I can be somewhat anal at times, still, the average modeler could probably mask something like this in far less time than I could! I easily had several hours just masking the green alone!
Using the photocopier machine at work I enlarged the upper profile drawing from the directions to scale and traced the patterns out onto some extra wide Tamiya masking tape. Finally, Humbrol #30 Dark Green was sprayed on, and with that, I was done with all the major paintings. Of course, during this time all the other small parts like the gear doors, antenna mast, landing gear struts, and wheels were also painted.
Markings and Finishing Construction:
After a couple of coats of gloss, the decals were ready to be applied. (If I remember correctly I used Future) I knew by the time I had begun to paint that I wanted to do something different as far as whose airplane I was going to depict. For this build, I wanted to do one of the Spitfires flown by legendary fighter pilot Al Deere. Decals were a hodgepodge mix from the kit and my stash. For the fin flash, wing walks, and some of the stencils on the wings I used the kit decals. The fuselage roundels were scrounged from a Hasegawa Hurricane I had previously built while the upper wing roundels were from an Airfix Spitfire. Now the distinctive items such as the code letters came from an old Micro Scale sheet of RAF code letters. This particular airplane (and others in this squadron) typically used smaller than normal code letters and little did I know that an old sheet bought at a model show years ago would come in handy!
The characteristic “Kiwi” picture and fuselage serial numbers came from yet another old Super Scale sheet, (#72-55 British Aces WWII also featuring markings for Tuck, Bader, Finucane, and Caldwell) so I was good to go. To be safe I brushed on some liquid decal film from Micro Scale over the old RAF code letters from the other sheet (later trimming away all the new excess carrier film) to prevent them from shattering once they hit the water. Decals worked out pretty well but the upper wing Roundels from the Airfix Spitfire took a lot of “coaxing” to finally get them to settle down. The same could be said for the old code letters which judging by their age had seemed to have lost most of their adhesive properties! I even used some good old-fashioned saliva to help get them to stick! Since this particular plane did not feature any underwing roundels I did not put any of these on. The kiwi and serial number ones worked fine especially considering their age.
The landing gear was added next and proved a nice, solid, easy fit. Around this time I added the antenna mast as well. The decals were sealed with another coat or two of Future which when dry was followed up by an oil wash for the panel lines with some Raw Umber oil paint mixed with lighter fluid (I use the stuff that contains Naphtha). Testors Dullcote was used for the final finishing coat and the exhausts were painted with my old favorite ……Floquil Railroad Colors “Roof Brown”. I removed the masking foil from the canopy and polished it up with some Model Wax The Final Detail and by now the model was nearly complete. The machine gun barrels were painted flat black and the spinner and prop assembly was added.
Unfortunately, some silvering had occurred with some of the decals, especially around the KLB code letters and the small black serial numbers. Using a fine brush I dry brushed around them with the dark green and dark earth. While I got rid of quite a bit of it I didn’t get rid of all of it try as I might, grrr! Some weathering was done using some pastel chalks and that was about it. Special thanks to my friend Peter L’Heureux for doing the antenna wire for me as I was too lazy to do it! This was done using some stretched sprue which was colored with a black Sharpie magic marker.
Well there you have it, the model was finally finished and this was my first ever Spitfire. Building the Tamiya Mk.1 kit was a great place to start and a real treat since it fitted so well and was pretty much an easy build. I was pretty pleased with the result despite some of the silvering with some of the decals. This was a wonderful addition to my built collection since A) I had no RAF aircraft and B) I didn’t have any Spitfires! 🙂 After having built one it has really made an impression on me and it truly is a beautiful airplane. I will definitely be building more Spitfires! I would recommend it to anyone and it definitely looks the part. I would love to build the brand new Airfix Mk.1 kit and compare it with this one and see how they compare.