Few kits have managed to create such a storm of excitement prior to their release as Tamiya's 1:32 Spitfire Mk. IXc. Announcing it in the lead up to the Tokyo Model Show, Tamiya did a masterful job of keeping the kit essentially under wraps whilst "letting slip" just enough tidbits by way of rumours and photos to keep the interest cranked up to "11".
A few pre-release final test shots were sent out to lucky modellers who were sworn to secrecy as they built the model for magazine reviews (see the truly astounding job HERE
that our own Jean-Luc did for France's Tamiya Magazine! ), but for the rest of us it was simply a case of sitting and waiting.
Until now! The full production model is on sale worldwide and, not surprisingly, is selling out as fast as Tamiya can produce it! Any doubts about the wisdom of releasing such an ambitious kit at a time of continuing global economic hardship has proved groundless - Tamiya obviously know their market, and the kit looks set to be a stunning success.
The kit arrives in a surprisingly compact box that is satisfyingly heavy and stuffed to the brim when you lift the lid off. The Spitfire IXc comprises:
366 x grey styrene parts
6 x grey high impact plastic parts
18 x clear styrene parts
69 x etched steel parts
6 x rubber parts
A pack of steel pins, screws, poly-caps, magnet and a screwdriver
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
A sheet of painting masks
A black styrene stand with adhesive metal nameplates
A 36-page instruction booklet
A 15-page reference booklet including walkaround photos
The first thing that impresses you is the quality of the moulding. Obviously, we've come to expect absolute crispness in any new Tamiya kit and, true to form, there's not even a hint of flash or any sink marks that I could find. But what does irritate slightly - to get one minor gripe out of the way early - is the number of shallow ejector pin marks, some in quite awkward places and which will be visible unless cleaned up.
Other than that, the moulding is simply superb, with a very delicate embossed fasteners and rivet effect on the exterior surfaces, with fine engraved panel lines along with some lightly raised panels. The fabric surfaces have rib tapes which are a bit exaggerated for my taste (this is true of almost every mainstream kit), but they will polish down to a more true-to-scale appearance.
Many sprue attachments are on the mating surfaces of parts to give a really clean exterior finish, so preparing the main components for a test fit takes a minute or two. That done though, the way the pieces clip together precisely is very encouraging and the panel line-up is exact. The fuselage wing joint is excellent and there's a short "spar" across the lower centre of the wing to maintain the dihedral. The tailplanes fit so neatly, I'm tempted to leave them off until almost the end of construction to make painting easier - they certainly won't need any filler.
A few details
Working through in roughly the order of the instructions...
The cockpit is made up of a mix of styrene and etched parts, and includes a number of optional pieces. Depending on the version you build, there are around 70 parts in the "office", with a choice of instrument panels and gunsights, and the option to fit a pilot figure. The instrument panel is a mix of styrene and etch, with glazed inserts and decals to go on the rear for the instrument dials. An etched seat harness is provided which seems a little basic on the fret compared with aftermarket harnesses, but will probably look very good when painted and weathered carefully.
All the control surfaces are separate and movable, with small metal hinges and the landing flaps can be modelled raised or lowered. The wing features a choice of tips and gun covers, and all the access panels on both the top and bottom are separate. No gun bays are included, but it seems an open invitation to add some if Tamiya don't have a set of extras already up their sleeve.
The undercarriage is unusual on two counts. It can be fitted raised or lowered - and it's not an either/or decision, you can change it after the model is completed - and the legs have metal strengthening pins to fit inside. Brake lines are included, and there's a choice of wheel hubs for the rubber tyres. Rubber tyres? These aren't exactly my favourites, but Tamiya's are certainly well done and there's a choice provided, depending whether you want the gear raised or lowered.
Much has been made of the Merlin engine, and it's easy to see why! 4 pages of instructions are devoted to it and over 80 parts must make this one of the most detailed engines yet in a mainstream kit. Of course, the other feature that everyone's talking about is the removable engine panels, held in place by magnets. These are moulded in a different plastic to the main kit parts and are amazingly thin. I think Jean-Luc found that they didn't stay in place as well as he hoped on his build, so I'll have to see if I have any better luck.
For external stores, a pair of nicely detailed 250 lb bombs is supplied with impressively thin tails, and a slipper tank. What seems odd is that 2 x tanks are provided, until you realise that it also serves as the attachment mount for the display stand. Having two is a very neat idea - you modify one to fit the stand and it means no ugly hole in the underneath of the kit if you want the option of displaying the model in flying mode.
The propeller is beautifully moulded in two parts, with a nicely detailed boss and is held in place with a poly-cap. The spinner seems to capture the shape of the original very well.
Lastly, for the Spitfire itself, there's a set of crystal clear transparencies. The canopy parts are very thin, with crisply defined frames and no distortion, but to allow the sliding section to be moulded with its correct blown cross-section there's inevitably a fine mould line to polish off. Kabuki tape painting masks are included for the canopy. You must cut these out yourself - admittedly only a minute or two's work, but it does seem a little quaint when other companies die-cut their ones ready to use.
Completing the kit are a pair of multi-part figures; the seated pilot mentioned earlier and a standing figure. The detail is pretty good (the seated figure even has separate clear goggles), but I can't help but think I've seen crisper on Tamiya's recent figures.
Instructions & Decals
The main instruction booklet is very well illustrated and clearly laid out. You can seldom go far wrong with Tamiya's instructions and that seems to be the case here too. Quite detailed colour notes are given throughout and these are keyed to Tamiya's own range of paints.
Along with the standard instructions, there's a rather neat little full-colour reference booklet. This includes 41 walkaround shots of preserved Spitfires. You do need to be a little bit wary of some of the details in the museum exhibits (a blue seat harness, for instance...) but, although small, the photos are excellent quality and will certainly be useful.
Decals are provided for 3 x colour schemes:
A. s/n EN398, JE-J, Wing Commander "Johnnie" Johnson, Kenly Wing
B. s/n EN315, ZX-6, 145 Sqn., Tunisia, 1943
C. s/n TD202, P, GC 1/4 "Dauphiné", Armée de l'Air, Nha-Trang, Indochina, 1948
The decals are printed on two sheets with a satin finish and seem to be very good quality. The registration is perfect, with accurate colours and there's a comprehensive set of stencilling provided. Tamiya decals always look a little bit thick on the sheet, so I was wary of them for years until I built their recent 1:48 Zero and found that they actually snuggled down beautifully with a little setting solution and allowed all the rivet and panel detail to show clearly.
Whichever way you look at it, Tamiya's 1:32 Spitfire Mk. IXc is a stunning kit. Is it perfect? Not quite, but no kit ever has been or probably ever will be. From the parts breakdown it's clear that more versions will follow, and aftermarket companies are no doubt hard at work on extras to tempt us with, but make no mistake - straight from the box this will build into one of the most detailed mainstream kits yet produced. Tamiya are to be applauded for taking such a bold step in difficult times, and the gamble has surely paid off - the Spitfire looks set to be the big hit in the aircraft kit market this Christmas.
It's not cheap, but it is gorgeous - the kit that Spitfire fans have been waiting for for years - and it must be a hot contender for kit of year. If it doesn't win, I think a lot of people will want to know why not! Highly recommended.
Tamiya's Spitfire Mk.IXc was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan. Visit HLJ for Japanese kits at Japanese prices.
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