|Product Name||Pacific Coast Models Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXe|
|Product type||1/32 scale mixed-media model kit|
|Manufacturer||Pacific Coast Models Inc., www.pacmodels.com|
|Availability and pricing||RRP £39.95, available online from Pacific Coast Models website.
UK importers for Pacific Coast Kits are Cammett Ltd.
Modellers have been waiting a very long time for a 1/32 scale Spitfire Mk.IX. Thanks to this new kit from Pacific Coast Models, at last there is a high quality, 1/32 scale kit of this very important mark of the Spitfire. The kit has been released in two guises, representing a Mk. IXc and Mk. IXe respectively with different wing and armament configuration. This is the review of the latter.
In the box
Pacific Coast Models’ Spitfire Mk IXe comes in a very convenient top opening box and consists of plastic, resin, photo-etched as well as clear plastic transparencies. Also included is a stunning set of decals which deserve special mention and which will be discussed in more detail later on. The resin parts are detail components for the cockpit sidewalls and their various fittings, control column, rudder pedals, main wheel wells, two different styles of main wheels, one with a five spoked hub and the other with a covered hub. Two different styles of exhausts manifolds are also included, one depicting the circular style outlets and the other the more flattened variant. The resin parts come on their pouring blocks, but are easily removed with the aid of a suitable saw. In fact, I expected to damage some of the finer resin parts whilst removing them, but am pleased to report that each one separated easily and cleanly from their blocks with only the usual cleaning up work required.
The photo etched parts include the radiator matrix grilles, pre painted seat harness, main wheel oleo scissors, a selection of detailed components for the cockpit and no less than three separate parts the depict the instrument panel. The transparent parts include a three part cockpit canopy, gun sight, clear light navigation covers and two styles of rear view mirrors.
The plastic parts, which comprises the bulk of the kit, are moulded on three sprues of light grey plastic and incorporate finely recessed surface detail which looks the part on the completed model. The parts map clearly shows which parts are redundant for the Mk IXe kit, thus hinting at a previous release by PCM. A tiny amount of flash was apparent on a few of the larger parts, but was easily removed and posed no problems.
The construction booklet details the build in clear and detailed pictorial form. A couple of points need mentioning as far as the booklet is concerned. First of all, the potted history incorrectly notes that the Mk IXe version was powered by the Griffon when it was, in fact, powered by the Merlin. The small intake on the upper engine cowling just above and behind the starboard exhausts is include in the kit but not shown on the drawings. The booklet illustrates the early style, rounded, rudder during the build and also illustrates the later style, or pointed, rudder as not to be used. In fact, all the aircraft illustrated in the painting guide were fitted with the later style rudder. As it is included, there’s no problem.
Similarly, the booklet depict fitting the cannon fairing and stub as per the “c” type armament, – the “e” wing had the cannon in the outer bay,- but is correct in its depiction of the location of the blisters over the cannon breech block on the wing upper surfaces. As two styles of cannon fairing are included the problem is again easily overcome.
Separate wing tips are provided, both standard and clipped. The aircraft in the painting guide all feature standard span wings. This may sound as if I’m nit-picking, but rest assured, the quality of the kit is such that it can take such close scrutiny with no adverse after effect.
Building the kit
As soon as I’d opened the box and examined its contents I’d decided that I would finish my model as the Israeli Air Force’s “Black Spitfire”, TE554, because the smart black overall finish with red trim looked so smart. This aircraft is maintained in airworthy condition and consequently features modern, non standard instrumentation. I didn’t try to replicate this feature and merely omitted the gun sight.
The build starts off with the instrument panel, which features moulded on detail as well as the detail parts on the photo etched sheet. I experimented with the instrument panel as supplied, thinking that I could always remove the moulded detail and go for the detail parts. However, whilst dry brushing I was so pleased with the level of detail as moulded that I went with what I had. Detailed painting finished the job and boded well for what was to come. The control column was then fitted to its base, followed by the pilot’s seat to which the pre-painted harness was attached at the end of the painting process. The sidewall detail was next which after assembly was painted, dry brushed and given various washes to highlight the detail which is truly superb.
There’s so much to pack into the cockpit area that I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to get both fuselage halves together. I did, though, and without any problems even though there are no alignment pegs and receiving holes. The fuselage joint was cleaned up with wet’ n’ dry once the cement had cured. Remember to position the exhaust manifolds before you bring the fuselage halves together! The cockpit access door is supplied separately, thus giving you the opportunity to have a clearer view of the fantastic internal detail, and the cockpit hood in the open position.
In the meantime, I dealt with the wings which comprise of a one piece lower surface and two separate upper wing surfaces. Interestingly, the rear area of the lower wing which incorporates the characteristic gull wing feature, is supplied as a separate part. Before the upper and lower wings can be joined, it is necessary to fit the wheel well detail which comes in two parts. Take your time to position these parts accurately, because if you’re out of alignment you’ll have problems later on when it’s time to fit the main undercarriage. With the internal detail securely installed, the upper and lower wing surfaces were brought together.
At this point I deviated slightly from the construction sequence and joined the wings to the fuselage. A sliver of plastic card was used as packing in the nose cowling/wing joint area, just to raise the upper wing surfaces so that they are in line with the wing root fuselage fillet. Superglue was used on the joint, and when this had cured, some filler was used to bring everything together. The previously assembled carburettor air intake, the longer of the two supplied, was positioned, again with superglue. A small amount of filler was needed here also in order to get this part “seated” properly.
Filler was only needed in the two previously mentioned areas, with the joint between each fuselage side and between the upper and lower wings only needed the usual sanding to remove it. I had anticipated problems when it came to fitting the lower fuselage centre section. The build booklet suggests butt joining it onto the completed wing assembly before the wings are attached to the fuselage. I shied away from this course, and fitted it after the wings had been attached. I superglued a small length of scrap plastic card inside the fuselage and the lower wing with a small amount protruding, so that the centre section could have something to attach itself to and have no excuse to disappear into the fuselage, never to see the light of day again. It worked, and the fillet fitted perfectly into its intended position.
Moving on, the rudder, tail wheel, elevators and standard span wing tips were positioned. The latter have very little to hang on to and, consequently, the joint is rather weak, so it’s best not to pick up the completed mod by the wing tips!. There were large sprue ejector marks on the wing tips which were successfully removed by using a craft knife and a touch of wet’ n’ dry. Both tube and liquid cement was used to attach the wing tips with the subsequent “overspill” serving as a filler for the joint line which was later sanded smooth. I’d already attached the radiator grille mesh and attached them inside the radiator housings, and a small amount of trimming was all that was needed before the completed radiators simply slotted into their respective recesses. The fit was excellent, but I applied a drop of liquid cement just in case.
Onto the armament now, and I started by positioning the cannon bay access panels, with the cannon breech block bulges, parts A7 and A8, in the outer position. As mentioned previously, two styles of cannon fairing are supplied, so I was able to replicate the non standard fairings which are currently fitted to TE554 by adapting the kit parts. The painting guide, though, depicts TE554 with her standard armament fitted, so the choice is yours.
The propeller blades are supplied as separate items, so I assembled them in a home made jig in order to get their pitch in the correct position, whilst referring to some photos of the real thing from my references. The completed propeller and spinner cannot be made to rotate as supplied. Please note that the drawings in the booklet show the undercarriage oleo scissors facing rearwards whereas, in fact, they should face forwards. My previous care with the wheel well fittings paid off when the main undercarriage and wheels were fitted, giving the model the correct stance. However, I suggest that the undercarriage is left off in the build until as late as possible so as to avoid any potential damage.
The three part cockpit transparency is commendably thin and fitted perfectly. I cut my own mask from my preferred brand of masking tape, but no doubt there will be after market items available soon, unless there are already! However, working in 1/32 scale, making my own masks was an easy process. Two style of rear view mirror are provided, circular and rectangular. The remaining items such as the pitot tube, aerial and the small transparent light cover on the fuselage spine behind the aerial were left off until the final stages of the build.
Painting and decalling
The painting guide consists of colour plan and profile drawings of no less than six aircraft:
- PL167, FN-Z of No 331 Sqn. RAF in September 1945 sporting R Nor. A F colours on her rudder and spinner;
- PT672, WR-RR of No 40 Sqn SAAF;
- SL628, HL M-4 in Czech AF colours, 1945;
- NH609, 4D-W of No 74 Sqn RAF, March 1945;
- TE554, 57, the Israeli Air Force’s Black Spitfire;
- SM622, a Mk IXe from an unknown Russian AF unit, sporting red stars with white outlines in six positions.
I used rattle cans to paint the model, then applied several coats of Klear until I had the gloss finish I was after before applying the decals. I must say that the decals are some of the best I’ve come across accompanying a kit. First of all, what a choice! The colour density is great and the colours themselves spot on. In fact, there are two decal sheets. The largest, measuring 34cm X 19cm contains all the various national insignia, whilst the second, measuring 34cm X 15cm has the codes, serials, wing walkway lines and stencils. The painting guide clearly shows where everything is meant to go.
The decals released quickly from their backing when moistened and went on with absolutely no trouble at all. I used a decal softening solution with no adverse effects, and successfully achieved that painted on effect. No silvering whatsoever was apparent. Another couple of coats of Klear were applied to seal the decals in place. Please note that TE554 has undergone some subtle changes to her paintwork, notably to the areas of red and to the style and position of various markings over the years. Finally, the masks were removed, the navigation lights hand painted, and my little black number was completed.
I enjoyed this build immensely. It was the first time that I’d built one of Pacific Coast Models’ kits, and the first time in a long while that I’d tackled a 1/32 scale subject. It also gave me the opportunity to finish my favourite aircraft in a smart, eye catching colour scheme. In a nutshell, I heartily recommend this kit! Happy modelling.
© Robert Humphreys Ionawr 2009