by: Wiggus [ ]
I’m going to spare you any short and woefully incomplete history of the famous Supermarine Spitfire. Suffice to say, it is without question one of the most popular aircraft ever produced. Even your grandma loves the Spit. Build her one for her birthday.
However, it is important to mention why this kit has garnered so much press and attention; this is a brand new 2018 tooling of Tamiya’s 1/48 Mk.I Spitfire. The last time a new tooling of the Mk.I was produced was 1993 when I had a ponytail, played in bands five nights a week, and slept till noon everyday. That was a long time ago, but I bet that kit has held up better than my hairline. That kit birthed several releases of the Mk.V over the next fourteen years. So before I start getting all weepy…let’s take a look at Tamiya’s new and improved 2018 Spitfire Mk.I.
In the Box
3 sprues in dark gray styrene
1 clear sprue
1 photo-etch fret
12 page instruction manual
Masks, decals and textured stickers
Background info in four languages
Full color marking and decal guide
This kit lets you build one of three versions. There is a 1939 pre-war plane from the No. 65 Squadron. And there are two from 1940; No. 610 Squadron from the Battle of Britain and No. 19 Squadron. The No. 19 Squadron plane, with the black and white lower wings, is Spitfire N3200 which was shot down during the Dunkirk evacuation. It was fully restored (and mostly rebuilt) in 2014 and lives at Duxford airfield in England. It is fully operational and hence there are oodles of photos available for reference. Both wartime versions share almost exactly the same build steps, but the pre-war version has some different parts or parts that need to be modified.
The twelve page instruction booklet is in black and white. There are color callouts for Tamiya paints only; a variety of Tamiya XF, X, AS, and TS paints.
A full-color painting guide is also included. Side one shows the “A” camouflage pattern of the No. 610 Squadron from the Battle of Britain 1940 in 1:1. You can photocopy this side and use it to cut out masks for the camo. The second side shows the other two variants; 1939 No. 65 Squadron, and 1940 N3200 No. 19 Squadron. The drawings on the second side are smaller. You would have to enlarge them 128% to make 1:1 masks, but don’t bother. But the No. 19 Squadron shares the same “A” pattern as on side one. And the No. 65 Squadron Simply is simply the reverse for the “B” pattern camo.
A mask sheet is included for the canopy, but per Tamiya’s standard practice, the lines are printed but not pre-scored. You will have to cut them by hand.
The decal sheet is in very good register and includes a lot of stencils and gauges for the cockpit dash. Strangely, all of the three and four-color roundels have the small red centers separate from the main decal. I thought that maybe this made the printing easier, or was separated for color fidelity reasons, but the tail markings have their red band printed right on top of the white background. So that theory doesn’t play out. I can’t think of a single good reason for this. If you can, leave a comment on this reviews thread. Whatever the reason, you will have to worry about perfectly centering the red center on top of the main decal.
The carrier film is matte, not glossy. And Tamiya lives up their reputation for thick decals; you can feel them as you run your fingers across the sheet. For my test build (to follow) I’ve decided to only use what’s included in the box, and the Tamiya paint mixes. We’ll see how the decals go down.
The instructions are very clear and have very detailed painting diagrams of small parts (especially in the cockpit). They also show where small parts need to be altered depending on which variant you have decided to build. It will be easy to miss something. Take it slow and be thorough.
This is a good time to discuss the radio aerials. Here the instructions falls short, giving mixed signals and no clear direction. I will go into greater detail about the variations in my build review feature. In short, the color poster and the final illustration in the instructions all include the IFF wires, which run from the roundels on the side fuselage back to the tips of the horizontal stabilizers. Yet none of these planes would have had the IFF equipment installed.
If you want to build Version B from 1939 there is only one option; the round mast with the aerial running from the top of the mast to the top of the tail. Version A (P9495) and Version C (N3200) were both built in April 1940. N3200 was downed in June during Operation Dynamo, and P9495 was damaged and removed from service in August 1940. Both planes were gone before IFF equipment was ever issued, so neither would have had those wires. The restored N3200 has the tapered mast and the aerial wire that runs up from the fuselage to the top of the mast, then back to the top of the tail. P9495 would most likely use this same aerial configuration.
Tamiya’s reputation for minding the details even extends to the packing. The kit arrived in perfect condition. Each sprue, the PE fret, and the decal sheet are packed in separate sealed plastic sleeves to prevent them from getting scratched during shipping. The PE fret is backed with cardboard to prevent warping.
The photo-etch steel sprue includes two sets of seatbelts, one for use with the pilot, and without. Other PE parts are the pedal straps, gunsights, cockpit details and radiator and oil cooler screens. The clear sprue includes both open and closed canopy options, as well as two armored windscreens.
All of the gray styrene parts have a slightly rough texture. I was really surprised by this. It’s not bad, mind you, but rougher than I was expecting from Tamiya and worth noting. The raised details are beautiful and crisp, such as the Dzus fasteners around the nose area. The panel lines are recessed and are very fine. Ejection pin marks are nonexistent. They have made sure that the ejector pins are on the sprue runners, not on the kit parts. The interior of the rear fuselage and wings have ribbed supports molded in, to guard against warping.
Tamiya has also taken pains so that in many places the sprue gates attach on the mating surfaces of parts, rather than on the visible external surfaces. The intent is to give the builder less cleanup on visible areas, which could end up obscuring details. Cleaning up flat mating surfaces should go much quicker, although you must be mindful that you preserve good mating seams.
Three of the eight pages of instruction concern themselves with the cockpit alone. There is a wealth of detail here. By my count there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 42 parts depending on if you use the pilot and the seatbelts.
The mid-side of each fuselage half is a separate insert, which is different depending on whether you want to build the cockpit open or closed. There are also two doors included for the open cockpit option; one with a crowbar inside the door and one without. I’ve seen some buzz online that there are two ways to build an Mk.I Spitfire; without a crowbar on the door…or the WRONG WAY. They cite that the crowbar wasn’t added until later variants emerged. Fair ‘nuff. However, I don’t think that the inclusion of a door with a crowbar is a mistake, but rather is a clue that later Spitfires are coming based on this same tooling. Other clues are separate air intakes, chin panel, wing tips, nose tip, and various tiny body bulges that must be glued in place.
Unfortunately though, if you choose to build the cockpit closed then you only have one choice. Crowbar. A crowbar is molded onto the left cockpit wall. You can take pains to remove it, but my bet is you’ll never see it…especially if you add the pilot. I’m sure this was an economic decision so that they can use the same fuselage inserts for Mk.Vs down the line.
Some may be disappointed that there is no open engine option, but the three-port exhausts are beautifully molded and include weld seams. The tips of the two forward ports are glued in separately where the sprue gates attach, ensuring easy cleanup while maintaining the welds. Nice.
Finally, a brilliant decision was made to mold both landing struts as one piece attached to a crossmember that cements into the lower wing, which is then covered by wing panels. This ensures strength, stability, and proper landing gear attitude. Why isn’t every single kit made this way? Sadly though the tires are not molded to reflect the aircraft’s weight, and the tailwheel assembly is soft on detail.
All in all though, this kit sure lives up to the hype it has received. This In-Box Review will be followed by a full build feature on Aeroscale.
Thanks to Tamiya for supplying this kit for review, and to KitMaker Network for trusting me with it.