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Airfix 1/48 scale
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I


 

S u m m a r y

Description and Catalogue Number: Airfix Kit # 05115 - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
Scale: 1/48
Contents and Media: 77 parts in grey injection molded plastic; 14 parts in clear; markings for two aircraft
Price: 10.99 available online from Hannants
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: Accurate in outline, profile and dimensions; first ever option for an initial Mk.I straight from the box; fine recessed surface detail; useful options including parts for a Mk.II; pilot figure included.
Disadvantages: Thick clear parts; dot-screen printing on decals visible close-up; some minor detail issues.
Recommendation: Recommended.

 

Reviewed by Brett Green
 

FirstLook

 

When the new 1/48 scale Airfix Spitfire Mk.I turned up on the doorstep this morning, I approached the parcel with a sense of both anticipation and foreboding.

This is the first time that an early Spitfire Mk.I has been available straight from the box, yet last year's frustrating Airfix Spitfire Mk.IX is still a fresh memory. Although generally accurate, that kit was plagued with irksome errors, short-cuts and some pretty crude aspects that really should not be expected in a mainstream kit of the 21st century.

I am pleased to report that Airfix has addressed virtually all of the problems associated with that earlier offering.

Airfix has released an almost all-new kit with their 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.I. New parts include the entire fuselage, an all-new wing, and the specific details relating to early Merlin Spitfires.

In total, there are 77 parts in grey injection-moulded styrene plus 14 parts in clear plastic. 

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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The surface of the plastic parts is smooth and consistent. There is no evidence of the eggshell finish seen on some recent Airfix releases.

The new fuselage features the upper engine cowl moulded as part of each fuselage half. The rudder is also moulded in place on each fuselage half. The thinness and subtle fabric texture of the rudder are both noticeable improvements over the Mk.IX kit.

The wing is specific to the Mk.I / Mk.II with eight machine gun armament.

Surface detail is by way of very fine and crisply recessed panel lines combined with fabric texture for the control surfaces. The panel lines look terrific - at least the equal of what we are now seeing from Revell of Germany. In my opinion, the fabric texture on the ailerons and elevators will benefit from being toned down with a coat or two of Mr Surfacer and some selective sanding. The elevator trim actuators are a bit heavy too.

Airfix has persisted with separate flaps. Keep in mind, though, that the flaps were either full up or full down, and it was rare to see flaps down when the Spitfire was parked.

 

 

A Watts two-bladed propeller plus two styles of three bladed prop - de Havilland and Rotol units - are supplied, permitting the modeller to build any Spitfire from an early Mk.I to a Mk.II. The flat canopy and early-style oil cooler housing are provided for the early Mk.I, whilst Mk.II specifics such as the Coffman starter bulge are also offered in the kit. Four spoke and five spoke main wheels are included. Five spoke wheels were typical for the Mk.I through Mk.V.

The cockpit will be familiar to anyone who has built either last year's Mk.IX or even the old Airfix Spitfire Mk.Vb from the 1970s. This is one of the few areas where the kit betrays its ancestry, but I actually like this vintage cockpit with its deeply rendered sidewall structure. Careful painting really brings out the details. The photo below shows my recent effort with the Airfix Spitfire IX cockpit. The only additions are an Ultracast seat and entry door, fuse wire, replacement cockpit rails and some Reheat placard decals.

 

 

This time around, Airfix has enhanced the front office with a new quadrant for the lower starboard sidewall.

In addition to the armoured and non-armoured windscreens, blown and flat canopies and rear sections for either a PR bird or a regular Spitfire, the clear sprues also contain a bubble top canopy for a low back Mk.XVI (and later) Spitfire. These clear parts are very clean, but really are too thick for a modern mainstream kit. The windscreen is especially distorted.

 

 

Markings are supplied for two aircraft. The decals are high gloss and in perfect register. The option for the Spitfire Mk.II benefits from recent research on the use of Sky Blue spinners and fuselage bands in combination with Sky Type S lower surfaces. The only problem is that the colours have been printed using a dot-screen process and, viewed close up, you can see the dots on the yellow, Sky Blue and Medium Sea Grey.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

[../../../photogallery/photo00023368/real.htm]


Accuracy

The general outline of the airframe in plan and profile, and the overall dimensions, correspond with published plans. The shape of this Spitfire is accurate.

In terms of detail accuracy, respected researcher John Adams from Aeroclub has made the following observations on HyperScale's "Plane Talking" Forum. To quote John:

  • "The fuselage is very good and from the firewall back it matches on all points - windscreen, door, rear of rear view panel etc. The rudder is of correct chord and shape, with the only very minor niggles being the shape of the fin/fuselage fillet and that the rudder hinge line is 0.5mm too far aft. The wing fillets are good and of the correct width.

  • The nose contours (ie thrust-line) on the Airfix Merlin family Spits are too high and although some reshaping has been done, the Mk.I nose plate is still too high by 0.75mm. Okay, most folks won't notice it.

  • The wings. In 1/48 scale the Spitfire wing at its thickest point should be 7mm and this new kit comes very close. Shapewise, the trailing edge is very good.

  • The leading edge at the centre gun positions is a touch too "full" and again at the very tip where the navigation light is.

  • The wing root angles on model Spitfires are all different and these follow the pattern but not the drawings.

  • I don't like the silly fabric sag, but a film of filler will sort this . The panel lines are fine. The trailing edges though much improved will still benefit from thinning down on the insides.

  • The shape of the D.H. prop blades is good but the Rotol not so good and the Watts two blader should look the part when assembled, but watch out for the tips sweeping back."

 

 

Conclusion

 

Airfix's new 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.I is an accurate model with restrained surface detail and the option to build either an early Mk.I, a Battle of Britain Mk.I or a Mk.II. The main problem with the kit, the thick windscreen and canopy, can easily be replaced with vacform parts or even more easily ignored.

Some modellers may ask why they should buy this kit instead of Tamiya's 1/48 Spitfire Mk.I. On one hand, Tamiya's kit will be easier to build and the clear parts are thinner. On the other hand, the Airfix kit boasts a more accurate outline, especially the plan form of the wing; has finer surface detail; and is the only option available for a very early Spitfire with two-bladed Watts propeller and the flat canopy.

At around 10.99, it represents pretty good value too.

If you want to build an early Spitfire Mk.I, it is no contest - buy the Airfix kit. Your decision for a late Mk.I will depend on your personal preference for either accuracy and surface finesse (in which case you'll probably choose Airfix), or ease of construction (Tamiya).

This model can be considered the final product of the "old Airfix", but the improvements found in this kit auger well for future releases. I look forward to seeing the first offering fully developed under Airfix's new stewardship.

Welcome back, Airfix!

Recommended.

Thanks to Hannants for the review sample.


Text and Images Copyright 2007 by Brett Green
Page Created 24 July, 2007
Last updated 24 December, 2007

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Airfix's 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.I will be available online from Squadron.com