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. 

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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

Revell’s 1/32 scale Spitfire MkIIa: 1/4 the cost of a Tamiya Spit, and 2/3 the quality.

If you base your modeling decisions on value, this kit needs to be top of the heap.  Revell’s new tool early war Spitfire is a gem where value intersects quality.  I highly recommend it to modeler’s of any skill.  That said, we are modelers and there are always things to complain about.

The first and major concern is, regardless of quality and how fun this kit was to build, this is actually not a Spitfire MkIIa out of the box.  It is closer to a Spitfire Mk V with a fantasy prop and spinner and incorrect ailerons. Or, it could also be a Spitfire MkIIa with an incorrect oil cooler, a fantasy prop and spinner, and incorrect ailerons.  You get to decide.

Either way, unsurprisingly, there are correction sets to let you go any way you want.  As I wanted an early war Spitfire, I chose the slightly more ambitious project of correcting the wing with a new resin set of ailerons, a corrected oil cooler, and a more detailed radiator, from Barracuda. It truly was an easy fix if you follow the instructions, with only having to cut out part of the kit wing out for the cooler and radiator. Everything fit beautifully, including the ailerons.

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Beginning surgery for the Barracuda corrections.

The second concern is that the canopy included with the kit doesn’t fit correctly in the open position.  It is too narrow to slide back over the fuselage and thus will sit noticeably too high on the spine if open.  The simple solution is to put the canopy in the closed position, where the canopy fits perfectly.  Closing the canopy partially solves another problem: out of the box the cockpit is a bit sparse for an open canopy inspection. This too can be corrected rather easily, but I chose the “good enough under glass” option. For my route I simply added some HGW fabric belts, and once again leaned on Barracuda for a replacement resin seat with armor (it’s head scratching why Revell left out the armor backing from their kit).   I even used the kit decal for the instrument panel and carefully applied 5-second fix to create the appearance of lenses.  I think it turned out rather well. It’s not Tamiya, but it looks good enough.IMG_0819.JPG

Construction was a breeze.  Everything fit like it should with no real issues along the typical trouble areas like the wing root.  The horizontal stabilizers actually fit better than my experience with Tamiya Spits, and it was a relief to not have to wrestle a full Merlin, four cowlings and tiny magnets.

The third and final concern is the fit of the landing gear legs into the wing.  There is no other way to describe it but sloppy.  I used some 15 minute epoxy and spent a few minutes checking the alignment of the legs to each other and the aircraft,  and let it set. I think it came out okay, but the issue here was surprising given the overall fit of the rest of the kit.

Finally, I painted, lightly weathered, and threw on Eagle Parts resin Rotol prop and spinner and called it done.

In sum this is a great kit. There are issues, but all kits have them. For the money, especially if you want a Mk V spitfire and don’t mind errors like an incorrect prop/spinner and or ailerons, this kit will surpass even much more expensive kits.  If you want an early war Spitfire, a Mk I or II, you can invest in some resin replacement parts, and with a little work have the best early mark spitfire in 1/32 scale.