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Spitfire

ICM 1/48 Spitfire Mk.IX Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2006 Manufacturer ICM
Subject Spitfire Mk.IX Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48061 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easily the nicest Spitfire Mk.IX in this scale Cons Small sink marks still in the wings
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $23.00

First Look

Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX
Spitfire Mk.IX

The history of the Supermarine Spitfire and its contribution to the defense of Britain and the air war in general is well documented in articles and reviews on the subject. The Spitfire Mk.V was initially intended to be an interim design while waiting for the parts/resources for the Mark III. The Mark V was essentially a Mark I/II airframe with a Merlin 45 engine replacing the Merlin XX. This 'interim' solution wound up being the second-most numerous variant of the Spitfire, the most numerous version being the Mk.IX.

The Spitfire Mk.IX was yet another incremental improvement to an existing airframe in production. The Luftwaffe had pressed the Fw 190A into service and it proved more than a match for the Mark V. The answer was to bolt on a Merlin out of the 60-series in place of the Merlin 45, the additional horsepower of the new Merlins put the Spitfire back on par with this new adversary.

The early Spitfire Mk.IX was still a Mark V airframe with a new engine/lengthened cowling. Later Mk.IXs featured taller rudders and a redesigned elevator. Then there were those wings.

The two most common wings were the C-wing, which had a 20mm cannon fitted in the inboard positions and the .303 machine guns in the outboard positions; and the E-wing, which moved the 20mm cannon into the outboard position to make room for the 50 caliber machine guns in the inboard positions. These were referred to as Mk.IXc and Mk.IXe, respectively.

To add to the designation dilemma, Spitfires were equipped with standard wingtips, clipped wingtips, and extended wingtips for high altitude flight. These wingtips were generally matched up with a corresponding Merlin engine optimized for medium, low, or high altitude operations. Spitfires with one of the low-altitude Merlins was designated LF Mk.IX, with one of the medium-altitude Merlins Mk.IX, whilst with one of the high-altitude Merlins was designtated HF Mk.IX. The wingtips didn't always match the engine.

I remember too many years ago (I believe it was eight), I was at one of the hobby trade shows and ran into the ICM booth. There on display was this new 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.IX. The build-up kit was quite nice, and then there were all of those details!

To top things off, there was a gentleman visiting the booth that was pouring over the build-up and it turned out that the chap was the chief mechanic for Cliff Robertson's (the actor) Spitfire Mk.IX. In fact, it was clear who was more proud of the aircraft as he carried a book of photos of the aircraft like a proud father of his children. He was clearly impressed with this kit as well.

Here we are in the present, and I'm happy to see the ICM Spitfires are coming back into circulation, this time imported through Testors. The molds are clearly still in good shape.

The kit is molded in a white styrene (with a hint of purple) and presented on six parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. This kit is still my favorite Spitfire, and according to comparisons I did several years ago, this kit scaled out spot-on while the Tamiya and Hasegawa fuselages were a bit short.

What you get in the box is the Swiss Army Knife of Spitfires. The parts trees contain everything you'll need to do just about every variation of the Mk.VIII and Mk.IX including:

  • Early and late rudder
  • Early and late horizontal stabs/elevators
  • Detailed Merlin engine visible under a removable hood
  • Removable gun access panels to reveal the gun bays
  • Guns and access panels for the C and E wing versions, plus even the large teardrop panels of the Mk.VIII
  • Normal, clipped, and extended wingtips
  • Parts for open or closed canopy
  • Ventral auxiliary fuel tank
  • Bomb or rocket underwing armament
  • Removable top and bottom engine access panels

The kit cockpit is very nicely detailed and one of the best I've seen in this scale which wasn't made from resin. The engine compartment is also quite detailed, but I remember that all of that detail won't fit inside the cowling and still have the upper and lower access panels close. Not a problem if you're posing the aircraft with the cowlings unbuttoned.

One of the molding 'bugs' that have been seen in the kit is still there, small sink marks in the wing just ahead of the ailerons. This is due to shrinkage at cooling due to a structural ridge molded inside each upper wing part. This is no biggie as it took me a little cyano years ago and now a quick treatment with Mr. Putty now to remove these slight blemishes.

As I am reminded, I built one of these kits not long after seeing it the first time at the hobby show. In that case, I opted to build the Mk.VIII version which is released with additional parts in another release. The fit of the model was really not bad, though it needs a little more attention with dry-fitting than your Tamiyagawa-type kits. I ran into a snag that I didn't even see until after I completed the model - the firewall and/or instrument panel was a hair too wide and forced the fuselage sides to flare out slightly wider. When the wings were installed, there was no gap in the fuselage/wing joint, but there wasn't any dihedral left in those wings either! When I do this one again, I just need to dry fit the engine and cockpit assemblies into the fuselage and make adjustments to ensure a tight fit at the wing/fuselage joint without creating a flat Hurricane-type wing in the process. Live and learn...

This release has markings for two examples:

  • Spitfire Mk.IX, MK392, JE-J, 144 Wing, as flown by Wing Commander John Johnson
  • Spitfire Mk.IX, BS435, FY-F, 611 Sqn, as flown by Sqn Ldr H. Armstrong

As I said earlier, this is still the best Spitfire Mk.IX produced in this scale. No other kit offers as much detail, variant options, and scale accuracy all in one box. It doesn't build as easily as a Tamiyagawa-type kit, but they require aftermarket details to achieve some of the same detailing. If you factor the low retail cost of this kit, you have a clear winner.

Definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!

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