Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tamiya's new 1/32nd Spitfire

Spitfire HF VII, MD111 of 131 Squadron, based at Culmhead and seen a few weeks after D-Day. The high altitude wingtips have been replaced with standard tips. This aircraft is one of 4 subjects available in all 3 scales from BarracudaCals.

Hi Guys,

Those who know me even a little bit know I am a rabid Spitfire fanatic. I have studied the Spitfire for 30 years now, and combined with my eye for detail and shape, feel that I am reasonably qualified to comment on this new Mark IX from Tamiya.

There are plenty of reviews online that will give you a detailed breakdown of the kit and supply you with many nice images of the sprues, etched parts, hardware, instructions and decals. All will tell you what a terrific kit this is and how it has set a new standard for plastic model kits and on and on. Yada yada yada... The thing is, they are absolutely right. It is a remarkable piece of model engineering. Possibly the finest plastic airplane model ever produced. I haven't seen every kit ever made, but having been in the business for so many years, you tend to hear about the great ones, and eventually check them out for yourself.

For me, shape is everything. All the fancy engineering and amazing detail in the world means nothing if it doesn't capture the essence of the real thing. Witness the Trumpeter line. Beautifully detailed and terrific molding quality, but many of their kits are so fraught with errors that I have maybe five Trumpeter kits in my entire collection. The new 1/32 Swordfish would be a must have for me, but the fabric on the wings looks awful and overdone to my eye. Pass.

Now, I was as surprised as everyone else to hear that Tamiya had announced a 1/32 Spit IX. I also had some doubts as to whether or not this was going to be something I'd be buying, given the somewhat disappointing (in regards to accuracy) Spitfire Mk I and Vb in 1/48th scale. Those kits suffer from a short and somewhat fat fuselage, and a overly elliptic wing planform. The wing can be relatively easily fixed with some sanding, but the fuselage is much more difficult to address, so you either live with it, or find another route to getting an accurate looking single stage Spitfire in 1/48th.

Early reports from guys who's opinions regarding the Spitfire I respect seemed to be pointing to a thoroughly researched, and completely new, tool. I received my Spit IX a few weeks ago. I have gone over it with a fine tooth comb now (yes, I DO have a comb, I just haven't need to use it for the last 10 years!), and am happy to report that this kit, with a few very minor exceptions, is a superbly accurate and detailed kit. They have obviously worked from all new drawings, and have studied real Spits extensively.

The two stage Merlin engine is a kit unto itself, with over 50 parts going into the engine alone. This does not include firewall and its accessories, bearers, oil and header tanks, carb intakes and the like. The only thing missing is ROLLS ROYCE cast into the rocker covers, but then not all Merlins had this feature. Would have been cool if these were included, though!

The cockpit is very detailed, but there is room for a lot of extra detailing to be added. The wiring and hydraulic lines have thankfully not been molded in to the sidewalls. I hate this look in larger scale. You can add it yourself with a couple of hours of work. The leather backpad to the seat has been left off, the one somewhat glaring omission from the kit. I've never seen a Spit of any mark without the seat backpad. The spade grip is also missing the textured cover on the grip portion, but this is a small detail . The artificial horizon on the kit decal sheet, with its blue background, is a decidedly modern instrument, so this instrument decal should be replaced with something more period.

The only remaining small point is that the wide cannon blisters are a bit misshapen, being too square at the leading edge. Other than that, I am hard pressed to find other faults with this kit. Even the propeller blades, which are one of the most commonly badly represented parts on many kits of prop driven types, are superbly shaped and accurate looking.

I cannot say enough good about this kit. Is it perfect? No, but its damn close. Can it be improved upon? Sure!

That being the case, and despite the flurry of comments from those who will say I am gilding the Lilly, I am working away on a couple of resin sets for this model. Don't forget that I also have a set of interesting decals for the two stage Merlin Spitfire in 1/32nd. The roundels alone are an improvement over the kit decals, as the red Tamiya uses for the roundels is not "brick" colored enough .

More information to follow. There are at least 4 sets in development, and announcements will follow in the next week or so.

Happy modelling! Roy