by: Doug Nelson [ ]
Background None could argue that the Spitfire is one of the most iconic aircraft of all time, and really needs no introduction. Often associated with winning the Battle of Britain, variations of the basic airframe served Britain (and other countries) as the primary fighter throughout the war. Universally praised for its excellent handling characteristics, the Spitfire was flown by virtually every British WW2 "ace" at one point in their careers.
With its slender fuselage and curving elliptical wing and roaring Merlin, few, if any, can deny the beauty of this thoroughbred.
The Spitfire has long been a favorite of mine, and I was thrilled when Tamiya released their Mk VII, IX and XI kits in 1/32 scale. However, my favorite are still the earlier Mk I ~ Mk V models, and hopefully we will see them soon from Tamiya. However, I was certain that I would never see a kit in any scale of the first of the line, the prototype Spitfire, K5054.
The Kit New from Aerotech - the aircraft model brand of Marsh Models - is their 1/32 Supermarine Spitfire Prototype. The kit consists of resin, photo etched, white metal, rubber and vacuform parts. Of course when I heard about this kit being released, I immediately wanted one. However, it was somewhat expensive as it is a limited release of 150 examples. Since my birthday was coming up, I decided to treat myself to this kit nonetheless!
The kit is packed is a stout A4 box, with the solid one-piece wings and fuselage, as well as the packets of smaller bits being wrapped in bubble wrap. Unfortunately, the fuselage on my example was snapped in half at the back of the cockpit. DMC Models, where I purchased my kit, was kind enough to promptly send me a new fuselage, and has followed up with Aerotech to help them improve the packaging to reduce or eliminate this problem.
The kit's 23 resin parts are nicely cast in a dark-grey resin. The surfaces are nice and smooth, and panels lines, although a tiny bit heavy on the fuselage, are straight and nicely rendered. I could not resist a quick test fit of the fuselage and wings, and was pleased to see that with a little cleanup, they should fit perfectly together. Also cast in the same resin are the control surfaces, underwing radiators, prop/spinner, wheel hubs/covers and cockpit floor, seat and door.
Main wheels are molded in a rubber material, however for anyone bothered by this, I think you could replace them with any 1/32 spitfire wheels and use the kit supplied covers for the hubs.
Aerotech provide 24 white metal parts, which include the cockpit bulkheads, control column and assorted cockpit parts. Also provided in white metal are main gear struts and tailskid, the inner and outer gear doors (I will replace these with some thin sheet styrene), pitot tube and some parts used to hold the prop in place.
A vacuform canopy is included, although it is not very clear. I am sure that Future/Kleer will sort out any issues, however, I would have preferred resin as I don't like working with thin vacuform parts. The main canopy must be cut from the windscreen if the builder wishes to display all of the cockpit detail with the side entry door open (which you will after fitting the kits nicely detailed interior).
Four sheets of photo eched parts (2 brass, 2 nickel) provide the remaining parts. Sheet 1 (brass) is primarily dedicated to the flaps, so if you wish to leave them up, you'll have a lot of leftover parts. Sheet 2 (nickel) is devoted to the cockpit, providing the required sidewalls, framing and instrument panel, as well as some interior bits, brake lines and the exhaust cutouts (note K5054 had flush exhaust). Sheet 3 (brass) provides the more flap parts as well as the interior/exterior details of the gear doors and the radiator mesh details, flap down indicator doors and seatbelts. Sheet 4 (nickel) has the oleo struts links and other small bits.
Two pieces of brass rod are supplied for use in building the flaps.
The kit decals are nicely printed and in register, with provide markings for K5054 as she looked with the overall pale blue-grey scheme (applied just over a month from her first flight), with a color chip which appears to have been matched to the full size K5054 replica included with the instructions (a nice touch indeed). However, one could also use these decals to build the unfinished prototype at the time of her first flight as well with slight modifications to the kit (see modelers notes below). As the placement guide is limited to two views of the finished model, you should consult your reference material for decal placement.
The instructions consist of a two-sided A4 sheet, with one side showing the exterior assembly, and the other side showing (with nice color photos) the interior/radiator/flap assembly which will need to be used as guidance for fitting of the interior parts. Some previous experience building models will be required, as the instructions do not have traditional "steps". which will require one to plan their own assembly sequence. Fortunately, the overall number of parts is not great and things do appear to be pretty straightforward. Color callouts are included for Humbrol paints with the exception of the exterior color, for which the aforementioned paint chip is provided.
First Impressions The high-quality of this kit is evident, and I am pleased to have gotten one. Unfortunately, if you wants an accurate prototype spitfire, this is the only way to get one without a lot of scratch building (even with the available conversion sets). The kits seems to match well to existing plans, drawings and photos.
The main area of note is that assembling the cockpit will be non-traditional as you will need to insert the parts into the cockpit from the bottom. However, with some planning, patience and care I am sure it will not be too difficult. Once the cockpit is finished the rest of the build should be straight-forward and quick.
As previously mentioned, the only minor issue with the kit is the cloudy vacuformed transparencies. Supplying more than one would have been a nice gesture so that you have a spare if you mess up the first attempt of cutting and fitting them (which I may). However, as Marsh Models (Aerotech) has provided their contact info on the instructions, you could probably contact them for a replacement if required.
Having build a few resin kits now, I actually prefer them in some ways to injected plastic. I find resin kits to be quicker to assemble, as there are typically fewer parts, and any cleanup/fit issues can be fixed quickly with some sanding and/or cyanoacrylate glue due to the softer nature of resin parts.
I am certainly looking forward to building this kit and adding a significant example of aviation history to my collection of built aircraft!
Modelers' notes Note that there are a number of differences between K5054 and production model Spitfires. These include a deeper and differently shaped nose, different panel lines, underwing radiator and rudder shape, gear doors and tailskid, different cockpit layout and different windscreen/canopy to name a few. While Paragon had released a conversion set that covered some of these items, the different nose shape, cockpit layout and panel lines will still need to be addressed by the modeler if one chooses to go that route.
As K5054 underwent a number of changes during her test career, modelers should consult references to determine the configuration of the airframe at the time period they wish to portray her. For example, the rudder as provided in the kit is correct for the painted prototype, but in order to build the model in the configuration for its first flight, the rudder and fin will require modification to reflect the diagonal fin top and the size of the rudder horn balance will need to be increased.
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