by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Valiant Wings have published the first volume in what promises to be possibly the most comprehensive modelling guide yet devoted to the Spitfire and Seafire. Part 1 focuses on the Merlin-engined variants, from the prototype through to the Mk XVI and PR Mk XIII for the Spitfire, and the LR Mk III for its carrier-based counterpart. Along the way, the coverage also takes in rare birds such as the float-equipped test-beds and various 2-seater conversions.
Richard Franks' hefty 240-page A4 softbound book follows the firmly established and very successful Airframe & Miniature format, breaking its coverage neatly between "airframe chapters" and "miniature chapters" and offering a combination of historical data, high quality colour profiles, kit builds by internationally acclaimed modellers, a reviews section and, finally, a fold-out page of 1:48 scale drawings.
The first 36 pages are devoted to a Preface - but the name hardly does it justice, because it’s actually a very useful concise historical overview of the Merlin-engined Spitfire and Seafire variants that’s well worth reading.
Next follow the Airframe Chapters:
1. Evolution - Mk I to V
2. Evolution - Mk VI to IX/XVI
3. Evolution - Photo-reconnaissance
4. Evolution - Seafire
5. Camouflage and Markings and Colour Profiles
The Evolution chapters detail each variant in turn, with notes on the differences and specific camouflage and markings where appropriate, serial numbers, period photos plus side-view line-art by Richard Caruana.
Richard Caruana also turns his talents to the Camouflage and Markings chapter, this time with a mass of top quality colour profiles and plan views. As ever, the section starts with a reminder of the perils in interpreting vintage monochrome photos, the chapter provides an excellent guide to the development of RAF fighter camouflage during the period - and the accompanying photos are are well chosen to illustrate clear variations in the standard schemes.
The range of markings illustrated should provide fresh inspiration for even the most seasoned Spitfire modeller - and the coverage doesn’t end with RAF and Royal Navy aircraft, because aircraft serving with some 20 foreign air forces are also described. So, if you think you’ve built everything, how about an Indian Air Force 2-seater, or a Burmese Mk.IX to get the creative juices flowing?
The Miniature Chapters will undoubtedly be a focus for many modellers:
6. Spitfire (Merlin-powered) Kits
7. Building a Selection
8. Building a Collection
9. In Detail: The Supermarine Spitfire & Seafire
Chapter 6 reviews a selection of the currently available kits of Merlin-engined Spitfires (sadly no Seafires) and gives a good idea of the pros and cons to expect with each.
Building a Selection offers 4 top quality builds by Libor Jekl, Steve Evans and Dani Zamarbide:
Libor Jekl leads the models section with a beautiful build of Airfix's 1:72 Spitfire Mk.II augmented by Eduard details in the cockpit and CMK gun bays, plus a Rob Taurus vacuformed canopy. As usual with Libor's builds, you could easily mistake the finished model for a much larger scale, such is the quality of his detailing and finishing.
As good as it is, Libor's Mk.II almost pales in comparison with his second build - Eduard's 1:72 Mk.IX with Brassin engine and gun bays. This is quite astounding, and I could quite honestly have mistaken the shots of the completed build for a 1:32 kit - it really is that good!
The next build is an Eduard kit again, as Steve Evans builds their excellent 1:48 Eduard Mk.IXe. Steve sticks to what the kit provides - this is the Profi-Pack boxing, so it's finely detailed as supplied - and, as you'd expect from Steve, the result is excellent.
Finally, Dani Zamarbide builds the 1:32 Tamiya Mk.IXc with added details in the form of Aires and Barracuda cockpit details, Master Model guns and a resin pilot figure. Ironically, whereas LIbor has added an engine to his 1:72 Mk.IX, Dani chose to leave out Tamiya's nicely detailed Merlin. Dani's build is a treat for those who like their builds heavily weathered - this is a Spit that's seen plenty of service - and there is a mass of inspiration to be had from the carefully applied streaks, stains and chipped paintwork.
Building a Collection covers some of the same ground as the Evolution chapters, but this time with the aid of isometric artwork by Wojciech Sankowski to illustrate each variant, with notes highlighting the changes in each case. With a few fresh vintage photos slotted in for good measure, it makes a great quick reference to check what’s involved in modelling any specific variant.
Valiant Wings have saved until almost last what will be the reason many modellers buy the book - the In Detail section.
This is a comprehensive “walkaround”, with the added bonus of referencing many vintage photos and manuals to accompany the modern shots of preserved airframes. Over the course of some 60 pages, the section covers:
Engine, Propeller, Cowls
Oil, Fuel, Coolant, Oxygen, Hydraulic
Cockpit & Canopy
Mid & Aft Fuselage
Armament, Ordnance & Drop Tanks
The photos aren’t particularly large, but the quality is excellent and the depth and breadth of the coverage is truly impressive - especially considering the range of variants the book covers. I really like the way Valiant Wings use period illustrations to accompany the modern shots of restored airframes to help ensure historical accuracy.
Almost last come the Appendices:
I. Kit List
II. Accessory and Mask List
III. Decal List
Rounding everything off is a very handy set of 1:48 Scale Plans Fold-out Plans covering a selection of the variants featured in the book.
ConclusionPart One in Valiant Wings’ Spitfire/Seafire reference series is highly impressive and will appeal to aviation enthusiasts and modellers alike. No matter how many books you have on the shelf dedicated to this iconic aircraft, this title deserves to join them - and if you intend to limit yourself to just one reference book on the Merlin-engined Spitfire and Seafire versions, this could well have everything you need. Highly recommended.
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