Tamiya’s 1/32 Spitfire Mk IX: Build it.

20181224_144439Almost two years ago I traded in 1/48 in favor of the larger scale.  My introduction to “man scale” was Tamiya’s 1/32 Corsair, and the following shift from 1/48 was tectonic and total.   Tamiya’s Corsair was so good, in fact, that it took several 1/32 kits from manufacturers such as Hasegawa, Trumpeter and Special Hobby to illustrate just how far Tamiya had knocked the Corsair out of the park.  It was Mark McGuire on steroids good.

The Tamiya experience was a paradigm shift in my perception of the build experience. It was like methamphetamine.  I knew I would always be chasing that high so I had to be judicious with building Tamiya.  For that reason, I have been hesitant to revisit any big Tamiya kits for an irrational fear that they really were that good. As such, I would get caught in a loop of only building Tamiya kits, letting the skills honed at the anvil of the likes of Special Hobby atrophy beyond recognition.  Well, having built Special Hobby’s 1/32 Tempest Mk V in the livery of Pierre Clostermann’s famous mount, I wanted to have one of his Spitfires as well.  Enter the Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk IX.

The bottom line for everything I write below, is that like the second hit of meth, the Spitfire falls marginally but noticeably short of the Corsair.  It leaves you satisfied but wanting more.  Most notably, between the Corsair and the Spitfire, Tamiya has thrown down the gauntlet to every other manufacturer and will leave you asking why can’t [insert every other manufacturer] mold plastic this cleanly, with so few fit issues.

That said, unlike the Corsair, the Spitfire does have some rather infamous fit issues.  The fit of the multi part cowlings around the engine, and the engine sub assembly to the fuselage, leaves something to be desired.  This part of the build left me frustrated enough to hit pause on the Spitfire for a few months to let my froth subside and contemplate alternatives. Ultimately I decided to permanently affix three of the four cowlings, hiding a great deal of the work I had invested in Tamiya’s beautifully designed Merlin. The fit of the wing assembly to the bottom of the fuselage needed some relatively minor work to smooth out the transition between the parts. This sort of fit issue is pretty typical when compared to most other kits I’ve built, but stands out against a kit where very little filler was otherwise needed. Beyond that, follow the lengthy instructions and everything essentially falls together.

Of note, there are only a few places where I believe the aftermarket has provided quality additions to this model. 

1) As per usual I added HGW fabric belts.  The kit belts are photo etch, but the HGW offerings are truly a must have for any build. While the fabric belts take several hours to assemble, I think it’s worth the effort.

2) Tamiya’s tires are molded in rubber.  I have never liked this option and opted for a set of resin weighted wheels and tires as provided by Aires.  These were flawless, as I have come to expect using them on several other large scale builds. 

3) Don’t use Tamiya decals.  I’ve learned this lesson over the years and let my experience be your guide.  For most of the markings on this kit I used pre-cut masks from various manufacturers.  The end result with painting roundels is that even though it takes significantly more time than throwing down decals,  it is worth the effort. 

IMG_0613
The kit plastic, Eduard placards, and Aires control column and floor are shown here

4) I used parts from the Aires full cockpit but in hindsight believe this isn’t worth the effort. The Aires cockpit floor required too much effort to fit and was ultimately jettisoned in favor of the kit parts. Tamiya’s cockpit is good enough with the addition of some Eduard photo etch and some placard decals.

5) The Quickboost resin exhausts were a welcome and relatively cheap addition that didn’t require buggering up the weld lines on the kit plastic.  

6) I used AM decals to get Clostermann’s LO-D specific markings.  These were acquired on a decal sheet from, surprisingly, a French firm with markings specific to Free French Spitfires in 1/32.  I highly recommend these decals, if Clostermann or other Free French are your preferred markings for Spitfires.  Just plan well ahead as shipping to the US took a couple weeks. 

In sum, its a kit worth the money and time.  If you don’t have as much of either of those as you’d like, I still say you can get close with the new tool Revell offerings. 

Check out the completed build here.

AWARDS

  • 2019
    • Chattanooga Model Con
      • Gold Medal (10.33/11)
    • IPMS Middle Tennessee
      • First Place – 1/32 and larger Allied

Special Hobby’s Tempting 1/32 Tempest MK V.

There are really only two books that have inspired me to model specific subjects. The one that matters to this discussion is Pierre Clostermann’s diary “The Big Show.” In it is an unvarnished account of the author’s time as a Free French pilot in the RAF in command of both the legendary Spitfire and the brooding Tempest Mk V. To me the Tempest with its gaping maw, cuts a profile of a bare knuckle boxer, a hard-as-coffin-nails street fighter. The Tempest exudes a singular purpose of power in a way the more elegant Spitfires, Mustangs and Lightings do not. And, having recently made the transition from 1/48 to 1/32 I had to build not only a Tempest, but one of Clostermann’s.

12507474_823446341118493_752942340085445332_n.png
Clostermann in his Tempest Mk. V, NV 994.
20170524_105844-COLLAGE
I really enjoyed the detail and build of the cockpit, especially with the addition of HGW’s fabric belts.

Enter the Special Hobby 1/32 high tech Tempest Mk. V. I read several in box reviews and was amazed at the level of detail that Special Hobby had appeared to achieve. I ordered one and dove in with excitement and high expectations. I must admit that my initial expectations of the kit were too high, and that is not the fault of Special Hobby but of Tamiya. I had just completed Tamiya’s 1/32 Corsair and that unfairly set a bar that few kits could achieve. But, Special Hobby is not let off of the hook. While the detail is truly tantalizing, especially the cockpit, the fit and assembly is often immensely frustrating.

With a few tweaks, Special Hobby could have an exceptional kit on their hands. What Special Hobby currently has is inarguably one of the two best Tempest Mk V in 1/32 scale (note: there are only two Tempest V kits available in 1/32 scale). Make no mistake, if you are willing to invest the work, Special Hobby’s Tempest will build into an impressive and substantial display piece, but it will provide many hours of frustration and unnecessary work to get there.

I will not recount every step of my build that spanned over ten weeks, or each of the many areas that I believe needed improvement. Some of those issues could be problems I created. I will, however, address a few areas that provided me the most trouble.

  1. Wheel Bays: This is the place that needs a redesign from Special Hobby. The instructions provided in my kit were incorrect (they were correct in my version of their Mk II). The construction is unnecessarily complicated and finicky. Slight misalignments in this stage can throw off the alignment of the top wing, thus throwing off everything from the fit of wing tip lights, to the inserts Special Hobby created for the inner wing to allow the same wing moldings for the Mk. V and Mk. II. Later in the construction, Special Hobby wants the builder to install about a dozen small parts, all of which required varying degrees of modification to fit correctly. Most troubling were the fit of the knuckle where the main landing gear struts connect to the wheel bays. I had to modify them until they were almost unrecognizable. It all worked in the end, but I think that was more my will than the kit. Special Hobby should look at creating a one piece resin wheel bay insert. This would fix the correct proportions and alignment of all of the important parts.
  2. Cowling: The focal point of the Tempest V is the prominent yawning radiator/oil cooler inlet. Special Hobby created a sub assembly with the radiator faces sandwiched between two halves of the engine and radiator cowlings. After dry fitting and trying to correct the fit of this multiple part affair,

IMG_20170606_092456
Note filler required for a smooth transition between cowling and fuselage and inner wing inserts and wing.

I decided the best way to assemble these parts is to ignore the steps suggested in the instructions. I glued the cowling halves together so as to be able to fill and sand the prominent seams on the inner and outer surfaces of the radiator scoop. Then, I had to sand down the radiator faces to fit into the assembled cowling. The next step is to fit the assembled cowling onto the assembled fuselage. Every build I’ve seen of this kit has had some sort of significant step/gap between the engine cowling sub assembly and the fuselage, so I am not alone. The fit of the cowling halves required substantial sanding and filling that required a great deal of riveting and scribing to resurrect from plastic sanded smooth.

  • Other: The instructions, while pretty, often provide less than necessary clarity on how to assemble the parts, or are outright wrong (as was the case with the wheel bays). The clear parts all required some modification to fit correctly (especially the landing, navigation, and formation lights). The fit was bad enough that, when possible, I attached the lights with gap filling CA, then sanded/polished to match the surrounding contours. This means you need to put the lights on before paint so as not to destroy the paint during sanding. The gun sight is provided in a beautifully cast resin that is almost impossible to fit into the windscreen correctly. Pay great attention here, with lots of dry fitting.
  • Ultimately the rule on this kit is simple: dry fit constantly, plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of time to build it. This kit can’t be rushed. The Tempest requires the builder’s full attention (ironically, I think this was said by her pilots, too). With time, patience and intermediate skill, a great result awaits. As a good friend who has built the kit said, “this is the best-worst kit you’ll ever build.” In sum, it’s modern Tamiya level detail with 1960’s era Revellogram fit.

    IMG_20170720_072101

    Here is an album of un-narrated pictures during the build process.