by: Martin Ramsden [ ]
When the Fw 190 appeared, the Mk.Vb was totally outclassed and a quick solution was needed. The answer was to fit the two-stage Merlin to the Mk.V airframe and the result was the Mk.IX. Although intended as a stopgap until the Mk.VIII entered service, the Mk.IX proved so good it was put into full production and became the standard RAF spitfire type until the development of the Griffon powered marks.
The Kit.The kit is moulded in white plastic and the parts are held on five sprues, plus one sprue of clear parts. Panel lines are recessed and look to be quite fine. Optional parts include early or late rudder and tailplanes, cropped, extended or regular wingtips, and large or small cannon blisters as well as early or late style carburetor air intakes. The choice of cannon blisters is interesting, the kit wing seems to be designed as an "E" type wing; most of the early MK IX Spitfires were IXb's. Some reference will be needed to check the right choice of parts is used if modelling a specific aircraft.
There are parts to build the Merlin engine with options to remove the engine panels to allow the engine to be seen. The cannon panels may also be left off to show the guns which are included, however the detail is somewhat sparse.
The cockpit looks reasonably well detailed, the instrument panel has raised dials but no instrument decal is included. One glaring fault is the joystick. The Spitfire used the spade grip which was round. The grip in this kit is square!
There are a choice of parts for the canopy to allow it to be built open or closed and the cockpit side door may be cut out and replaced with a separate door in the open position. There is a choice of external ordnance, namely one larger bomb for the under fuselage, two smaller bombs or two rockets for under the wings. There is also the option to fit a slipper fuel tank.
At first glance the molding looks to be crisp, but closer inspection shows manufacturing faults. There are sink marks where the plastic is thick; the most noticeable being on the wings, the propeller blades and the rocket heads. On the right hand fuselage half below the cockpit there is a small fault where the parts have been ejected from the molds, evidently the ejector pins have pressed too hard resulting in a small bulge which will require sanding smooth. There are also slight sink marks on the fuselage. There is flash on some parts and many of the parts will require their edges sanding to tidy them up.
One thing to note is that there are no locating pins to align the fuselage halves or for the wing assembly, so some care will need to be taken. Also, the kit is designed to be built with the Merlin engine included. If the modeller choses to omit the Merlin, then some plastic strip will need to be added behind the side engine cowls so that there is something to glue the exhausts to!
The instructions and decalsThe instructions are of the typical construction diagrams. Optional parts are shown but with little indication of which combinations should be used. Humbrol paint numbers are given. There is a black and white sheet indicating camouflage patterns and decal placement, as well as colour plan and side views on the box rear.
The decals look to be quite thin and in register except for the fuselage roundels, where the outer yellow ring is slightly off centre. Two options are supplied; FY*F (BS435) flown by Sqn. Ldr. H Armstrong OC 611 squadron, or JE*J (MK392) flown by Wg. Cdr. J. Johnson OC 144 wing.
ConclusionsThe kit is not up to the standards of Tamiya or Hasegawa, but there is enough detail to build a decent looking Spitfire. What lets it down are the sink marks which will add a fair amount of work to rectify. I think it is not a kit for the beginner but, with a little time and even more patience, a fine model could be built. Plus, at almost half the price of the Hasegawa Mk.IX it may well be worth the extra work involved, and some research on the Internet indicates the ICM kit is the most accurate regarding overall dimensions. If total accuracy is what the modeller requires, then this is the 1/48 Mk.IX to buy.