Airfix 1/24 Spitfire Mk.I Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||July 2009||Manufacturer||Airfix|
|Kit Number||12001||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Excellently detailed large scale Spitfire||Cons||Only one marking option|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$74.95|
The Spitfire was a product of the brilliant designer R. J. Mitchell, who was responsible for the series of Supermarine racing seaplanes culminating in the S.6B which won the Schneider Trophy outright for Britain in 1931 and raised the world speed record to 407 mph. From the engine used in the Schneider Trophy races, Rolls-Royce developed the Merlin in-line engine and around this engine Mitchell designed the smallest possible fighter. The new aircraft, named the Spitfire, incorporated eight machine guns, an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage. It first flew on March 5th, 1936 and within three months had shown such promise that 310 were ordered for the RAF. A further order followed the next year.
Production Spitfires began to reach the squadrons in 1938, at the time of the Munich Crisis and when war broke out nice squadrons of the R.A.F. were equipped with Spitfires with other squadrons in the process of converting. Unlike Britain’s other eight-gun fighter, the Hawker Hurricane, Spitfires were not sent out to France, but retained for home defense. When the Battle of Britain began in the summer of 1940, there were nineteen squadrons of Spitfires available. They were now fitted with a three-bladed propeller in place of the earlier two-blade wooden airscrew and with an external bullet-proof windscreen. These Spitfires, together with Hurricanes, represented a total force of some 600 combat-ready fighters and throughout the Battle of Britain the young pilots of the R.A.F. faced a German force which at times numbered over 2,000 aircraft. The Spitfire was slightly faster and considerably more maneuverable than the Messerschmitt Bf-109. It could climb and dive more quickly and had the advantage of cannon armament. In the light of the Battle of Britain experience, later marks of the Spitfire were introduced with higher powered Merlins and cannons fitted in place of the machine guns.
Spitfire production and development continued throughout the war and progressively more powerful engines and armament were introduced as well as tropical and naval versions. The final versions of the Spitfire were developed in 1947 by which time it had been re-engined with a Rolls-Royce Griffon producing over 2,000 hp, fitted with a “bubble” canopy and maximum speed was raised to over 450 m.p.h. When production ended, over 20,000 Spitfires had been built.
The immortal Spitfire was the most famous fighter flown by Britain in WWII and one of the greatest warplanes of all time. The mainstay of the R.A.F. Fighter Command throughout the war, the basic design was so successful that it remained in production for almost 10 years.
Airfix is a prolific model company based in the UK. At the time that I bought my kit, however, it was being re-released under the MPC label, a division of General Mills in the USA.
The kit came in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows a flight of 4 Spitfires in battle with 3 Bf-109’s. The aircraft in the foreground is the mount of Fight Lieutenant Deere, D.F.C., one of the most successful pilots of No. 54 Squadron, based at Hornchurch during the Battle of Britain. It carries a wave pattern camouflage of tan and olive green above a sky undercarriage. The fuselage code is KL roundel B in white letters. There is a “Kiwi” insignia under the cockpit on the post side. The serial no. P9398 appears in small black letters in front of the tail. The forward part of the tail has the British vertical tricolor stripes. The propeller spinner is black. Above the wings are dark blue R.A.F. roundels with red centers. The fuselage roundels are red, white, dark blue and yellow (reading from the centers outward. This is the only marking provided in the kit on the decal sheet.
The box art calls the model a super kit, because of it’s large 1/24th scale and announces that the wingspan of the made up model will be over 18 inches and it’s length over 14 inches. A side panel has 3 color illustrations of various parts of the Spitfire: the open wing panels showing the .30 Browning machine guns (which the kit provides removable panels for), the Rolls-Royce 12 cylinder engine, also with removable panels), the cockpit interior (that includes instruments, controls, seat and other details and that the canopy slides back to better display the inside in the kit. Next to this is a two paragraph history of the Spitfire and the statement that the kit is made in the USA. The other side panel is identical, but adds MPC’s (Model Products Co.) address in Mount Clemens, Michigan USA and that the kit is licensed by Airfix.
Inside the kit are 4 chalk white trees of parts (in a sealed cello bag), the loose lower wing half (full span and also chalk white, the loose fuselage halves (chalk white), a tree of clear parts, 3 black vinyl tires (these two items are also in a sealed cello bag. The instructions and decal sheet complete the kit’s contents.
The instructions consist of a staple bound booklet of 12 pages in 10 ½” x 8 ½” format.
Page one of the instruction booklet repeats the box art in black and white. Page two begins with general instructions, followed by the history of the Spitfire.
Pages three through 10 give a total of 17 assembly step drawings. Colors of various details are called out in each step.
Page 11 has a 4-view illustration for marking the aircraft as Fl. Lt. Deere’s “Kiwi”. It also shows where to place various stencil markings on the decal sheet.
Page 12 is mostly black except for MPC’s address.
There are no parts tree illustrations in the instruction booklet.
The trees are not alphabetized, but they have the part numbers molded next to the parts. This means that you will have to search all the trees for the part number you need. Bad move MPC. With the many parts in the kit, this will become quite a chore.
Panel lines are of the raised and engraved both type.
The trees were originally molded into one huge sprue. This was folded over twice in the kit while the plastic was still hot at the factory. I had to break apart these folds to make the several sprues you see here.
The first of these chalk white sprues holds: the landing gear legs and doors, some large air scoops, the elevator halves etc. (38 parts)
The second chalk white sprue holds: the ailerons, pilot seat, joy stick, oxygen bottles, instrument panel, foot pedals, bulkheads etc. (24 parts)
The third chalk white sprue holds: the engine parts, horizontal tail surface halves, machine guns etc. (45 parts)
The fourth chalk white sprue holds: the propeller spinner, cowling panels, small air scoops, engine bearers, rudder halves etc. (24 parts)
The chalk white lower wing half is full span and loose in the box.
The chalk white upper wing halves were loose and in the cello with the 4 sprues.
The chalk white pilot figure was also loose in the cello with the 4 sprues. He is divided into the front and half of his full body, with 2 separate arms (4 parts)
The clear parts tree holds: instrument dials, cockpit canopy panels, reflector gunsight and wing light lenses (7 parts)
The final parts in the kit are the 3 black vinyl tires, for the main gear and tail wheel.
The decal sheet completes the kit’s contents. It only offers the markings for the box art subject, along with stencil markings. Over the years that this kit sat in my stash, this sheet had curled up into a tube. When I went to straighten it out, I managed to crack the upper wing roundels.
Recommended to experienced modelers, due to the parts count. I only wish that more than one marking was included in the kit. However, the re-release has different markings than my kit does. Too bad that the aftermarket decal manufacturers never saw fit to offer sheets of alternate markings to fit the Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft kits.