The original Airfix Spitfire Mk.IX was the very first kit I bought when I was about 5 years old and the kit cost around two shillings (10p) at Woolworths. It stayed unpainted for a little while in its sky-blue plastic before being joined by an "Me 109" and then my parents relented - "OK, if you're really serious about building these models, we'll let you paint them!" The only problem was, what colour to choose, because I was only allowed one pot of paint that had to do for both kits. The issue was solved when my father declared that "khaki" was a good camouflage colour, so that was it - my dogfighting duo sat proudly on the shelf, with Humbrol "khaki" daubed over and around the markings which, of course, I'd already applied!
Even by the 1970s, when Airfix released their stupendous 1:24 Spitfire Mk.I, it was clear that the old Mk.IX was dreadfully crude by later standards. With a questionable shape, no "gull wing", and little by way of detail, it was definitely due for retirement. Most of us assumed that a new kit must be on the way (especially after the appearance of the much improved 1:72 Mk.V) but it never happened and, bizarrely, this fossil of a kit remained available, doing little to enhance Airfix's reputation as times grew harder and the golden days became just a memory.
But, at last, that's all changed with the release of a new-tool Mk.IX designed and moulded with the latest technology. The kit though, stays true to its roots - Airfix have kept it simple and affordable, aimed at the "pocketmoney" end of the market, while still providing a very sound basis for an accurate Spit.
Airfix's new Spitfire Mk.IX arrives well packed in a sturdy little red box. Like many recent Airfix kits, it's accompanied by a massively over-large set of instructions, but these do help pad and protect everything against damage in transit. The three main sprues are in one bag, with the clear parts sealed separately inside. The kit comprises:
37 x pale grey styrene parts
2 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The parts are cleanly moulded, with no signs of flash or sink marks. There are a few ejector pin marks, but they are quite light and soon dealt with. The surface finish comprises engraved panel lines and quite a subtle fabric effect. Some of the panel lines are a bit on the heavy side for this scale, but a coat of paint will help knock them back.
Test fit and overall shape
A crucial point with any kit aimed at a mass market, particularly youngsters and beginners, is that it simply fits together well, and Airfix's Spitfire doesn't disappoint; the main airframe slots together very neatly and there's a good fit at the wing roots. The other encouraging thing is that it captures the look of the aircraft very well - this really is in a different league altogether to the old kit. High points for me are the nice thin trailing edges, along with with the distinctive "gull-wing".
A few details
The weakest part of the kit is undoubtedly the cockpit - or rather, the lack of one. Although Airfix provide quite a good pilot figure, what he sits in bears little resemblance to a Spitfire's "office". A crude seat attaches to a floor (the Spitfire cockpit famously didn't have a "floor", as such) and the instrument panel is simply moulded onto the fuselage halves, split down the middle with a huge hole right in the middle for the gunsight. There are no control column, rudder pedals or other details except for a rather stylized headrest.
The propeller seems rather spindly to me, but the spinner isn't bad.
The undercarriage can be built either raised or lowered and has the late-style oleo scissors, along with the accompanying doors and the notch in the front of the wheelwells. On top of the wings there's a bulge over the wheelwells. There seems to be a consensus among the Spitfire experts that this was a post-war modification, but the plastic is thick enough to allow the bulges to be sanded off easily if you so choose.
The rudder is the standard rounded type, while the elevators are the later, balanced, style. The rear edge looks slightly squared off, but a quick swipe with a sanding stick will take care of that.
The one-piece canopy is nice and clear, with crisply defined framing. It's quite thick though, so sawing it up to pose open isn't really an option.
Instructions and decals
The instructions really are overkill for such a simple kit, with a 4-page A4 booklet, one page of which is left blank for "modeller notes" and the rear cover entirely empty. It really does seem a waste of paper.
As you'd expect, construction is very straightforward and broken down into 10 easy stages, so there should be no problems for even the least experienced modeller. Colour matches for Humbrol paints are keyed to most details.
The two decal options are nicely illustrated on a separate full-colour sheet (although a little misleading in that they show an aerial wire that shouldn't be fitted to a Mk.IX):
A. MK392, JE-J, flown by Wing Commander "Johnnie" Johnson, 144 Wing, Ford, 1944
B. EN315, ZX-6, flown by Sqn.Leader Stanislaw Skalski, 145 Sqn., Tunisia, May 1943.
The decals in my kit are something of a mixed bag. Despite being thin and glossy, the fuselage codes for ZX-6 are out of register on my sheet. The other problem is that everything seems very dark (for some reason the colours seem better in the scan at the right) - e.g. the yellow is almost orange, the sky codes are a vivid leaf-green etc. Invasion stripes are included, which should be a boon to beginners (although possible a challenge to apply), and a nice touch is a comprehensive set of stencil markings.
Thanks to Antoni Lachetta for the following detailed information on the markings supplied:
"That is not how MK392 looked. I know, it's in all the books. It's still very wrong.
Most representations of this Spitfire are basically his earlier Spitfire, EN398, with the serial number altered and ‘invasion stripes’ added. The main differences between the two Spitfires are:
MK392 did not have the maple leaf badges or Wing Commander pennant,
The shape of the letter Js was different, those on MK392 having flat bottoms.
There are only two known photographs of MK392 taken in the summer 1944 with partial invasion stripes and winter of 1945 after the invasion stripes were removed and the spinner painted black and the Sky band on the fuselage painted over. Both, previously unpublished, photographs can been seen in 2nd TAF Volume 4.
There are still differences of opinion on whether it had an 'e' wing or 'c' wing.
The other option is easy to correct. The codes should be ZX-6 on the starbord side not 6-ZX.
Despite its simplicity, Airfix's new Spitfire is a very nice little kit that, with a little work, should build into a very nice model indeed. Just how good it can look can be seen in the forum with Magnus Fridsell's
excellent build of the kit, along with Airfix's P.R.XIX.
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