by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
It's hard to imagine a more daring proposition for a small manufacturer than to tackle one of the most iconic fighters of all time, but that's exactly what Pacific Coast Models have done with their 1/32 scale Spitfire Mk.IX! For some bizarre reason this version of the Spitfire (the second-most produced variant, after the Mk.V - and most-produced if you include the near-identical Mk. XVI) has never been released in this scale as an injected kit. PCM have spotted a major gap in the market and produced a very fine limited-run model.
Combining the talents of Sword (who produced the parts), Eduard (with a colour photo-etched set) and Cartograf (for the decals), the kit arrives in a solid and surprisingly compact top-opening box and comprises:
68 x grey styrene parts
9 x clear styrene parts
22 x resin parts
43 x etched parts
Decals for 6 x colour schemes
The kit is moulded in two types of styrene - the airframe in quite a hard plastic, the smaller parts in a rather softer kind. Bear in mind that this is a limited-run model, so expect to have to do a little extra clean-up, but the overall finish is excellent with a highly polished exterior and very finely engraved panel lines and subtly embossed fasteners. There's a touch of flash here and there, and an odd ejector-pin mark on the underside of one wing-tip, but clean-up of the airframe should be pretty painless. Smaller parts are satin-finished and I did find one or two shallow sink-marks, but nothing serious. One or two details had filled in on the review sample (e.g. lightening holes on fuselage frames) but, again, preparation looks no more than normal in today's breed of high-quality short-run kits.
The fit of the main parts is very encouraging, with the fuselage and wings lining up precisely. There's a bit of a gap at the wing roots until the interior bulkheads are slotted in - once in place, these spread the fuselage halves and the fit is much better. The belly features the Spitfire's distinctive "gull-wing" and (presumably due to moulding restrictions) the kit includes a separate panel forming the rear of the wing/fuselage joint. It's the sort of part which would have rung instant alarm bells in short-run kits a few years ago, but here the fit is very good and it shouldn't complicate assembly appreciably.
I'll admit straight away that I'm in no sense a Spitfire expert! I'll definitely bow to others on this and, ion the question of accuracy, I see that people are already at each other's throats dissecting the kit in some forums on the basis of a millimetre this way or that... but, from a layman's point of view on the basis of the test-fit I think PCM's Spitfire captures the lines of the original very well and looks set to build into a real beauty! The elevators are the later, balanced style, but it's a simple job to depict the earlier style. The kit includes 3 styles of cannon covers - the wide double-teardrop, single blisters and a semi-oblong style which I've never seen before but which might match match some oblique references I've read. Some sources have criticised the propeller blades ... I have to say they look perfectly usable to me - all I'll do is blunt the tips very slightly....
Resin detailsThe kit comes complete with an excellent set of resin parts. The casting is perfect in my set - not a bubble in sight and some great details, including really beautiful lower sidewalls for the cockpit, plus a very nicely produced seat. Completing the cockpit are an excellent control column, rudder pedals, compass and items like the voltage regulator. The wheel wells are each formed of two parts - a main well, plus a detailed retraction mechanism. "Unweighted" wheels are provided with plain or 5-spoked hubs. Rounding things off are two sets of hollowed-out exhausts - fish-tailed and plain type.
Etched DetailsThe etched fret produced by Eduard includes an alternative instrument panel. (There's also a very nice moulded version but, although it has well detailed bezels, no decals are provided for the faces and so it can't match the instant appeal that Eduard manage to achieve on the pre-painted instruments.) The faces of the etches consoles are painted dark grey, rather than black, which looks a bit odd to my eyes, so I'll probably mask off the details and repaint them. The etched cockpit accessories also include a number of placards, plus a multi-part Sutton harness.
The radiators have etched cores and strengtheners - but note: there's a mistake in the instructions - both etched parts PP14 should be used in the port radiator.
Wrapping up the etched parts is a pair of torque links for the undercarriage. The latter is quite a simple affair and will benefit from a bit of a clean-up and the addition of brake lines, but the important thing from the photos I've seen of finished models built from this kit is that it captures the "sit" of the Spitfire very nicely.
Clear partsThe transparencies include a 3-part canopy which is thin and crystal clear. The framework is sharp and well-defined and the sliding section captures the bulged profile of the original and does so without any sign of a seam.
Instructions & decalsThe assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and break construction down into 20 logical stages. Colour notes are keyed to most details and no particular brand of model paints is recommended.
The kit is accompanied by a massive sheet of decals with markings for no less than 6 schemes:
1. WZ-JJ, Lt. John Fawcett, 309 FS, 31 FG, 15 AF, Italy, 1944
2. MK392 / JE-J, Wg Cdr "Johnnie" Johnson, OC Kenley Wing, 1944
3. PT396 / EJ-C, Wg Crd "Jack" Charles, RCAF, OC Tangmere Wing, 1944
4. EN315 / ZX-6, Sqn Lrd Stanislaw Skalsk, OC No. 145 Squadron, 1943
5. MM.4095 / 5-19, 8° Gr, 5° St, Aeronautica Militare Italiana, 1947
6. "Red 2", Soviet Air Force
The sheet also includes a good selection of stencils and the printing is excellent, with the registration spot on and crystal clear carrier film around the thin, glossy items. Most of the colours look good, with a nice dull shade of red for the RAF roundels, but the Sky codes look rather suspect. Replacements are easily available if you so chose - and, with this a subject so dear to his heart, I've no doubt that Mal is preparing a set of Miracle Masks to accompany the kit.
ConclusionPacific Coast Models' kit is probably the most exciting release for Spitfire fans in many years. At last there's a chance to build an affordable, accurate and beautifully detailed Spitfire Mk. IX straight from the box. I think it's good value at a tad under £40 - bear in mind the resin and etched details would probably coast £15 or so if bought separately and their inclusion makes for a very complete kit that should more than satisfy most modellers. Pacific Coast should be applauded for tackling such an ambitious kit and it deserves to be a huge success. With its mixed-media nature it's not a beginners kit, but modellers with a bit of experience should really enjoy it. Recommended.
A note to UK-based modellersPacific Coast Models are available exclusively from Cammett Ltd. who have been appointed sole UK distributors (and who very kindly provided the review sample). The current range includes:
Spitfire Mk. IXc - £39.95
Macchi C.200 - £35.95
Macchi C.202 - £35.99
Macchi C.205 - £35.99
Reggianne Re 2005 - £35.99
Macchi C.200 - tba
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.