The kit provides a complete Merlin engine, with firewall, engine bearers and supercharger/intercooler assembly. The engine parts occupy no less than four separate sprues, making for a rather substantial sub-project.
The bad news for those modellers who would like to display their model with a closed cowling is that the engine subassembly is required to hold together the nose panels. There are no construction shortcuts, which I find rather unfortunate: it adds to the complexity and building time, making the kit rather inaccessible for beginners – or at least those with a sizeable dose of patience!
The fidelity of the engine parts is impeccable, a quality which can be best appreciated through this view of the assembled nose. Adding some cabling and plumbing would improve the engine even more, but for a plastic-only kit the level of detail and the impression of complex machinery is very good indeed .
Tamiya has made a selling point out of the fact that the cowling panels can be made detachable, held in place by magnets. More importantly, the panels are commendably thin (0.4 mm) and feature internal stiffeners and fittings.
Now to the part of the kit which I found my personal favourite: cowling panels. The kit comes with two styles of the cowling. Firstly, early standard production type with short carburettor intake. This intake had a distinctive shape which was peculiar to Mk. IX (and Mk. VII), and was commonly misplaced in many plastic kits of the Mk. IX. In Tamiya kit, the intricate shape of the intake scoop has been rendered correctly – shown here at the left photo.
The larger Aero-Vee air intake with integral filter housing is shown to the right, with corresponding deeper chin cowling.
The reallygood news is that the two cowlings also feature different top panels. Tamiya did correctly recognize that the upper cowling differed between early and late Mk. IXs. Unlike suggested in many recent publications and Eastern European Spitfire kits, the distinctive “hump” on the upper cowling was reserved to Merlin 66, Aero-Vee nose. Merlin 61 and -63 powered machines had a more flat, gently sloping upper nose panel which enclosed the engine more tightly, arguably giving the nose a more graceful outline. Providing subtly different separate parts for the upper cowling rather than setting on a compromise is a most impressive testimony about the fidelity of Tamiya’s research. Bravo!
Canopy, Clear Parts and Cockpit
Two clear sprues are provided. The bulged Malcolm hood, inherently difficult to mould due to the “overhang” of its bulged sides, seems to have received special care here. Good. On the main clear sprue we can find blind flying instrument panel and gunsight (two different types, another good point of the kit) which are thoughtfully provided in clear plastic. Going along the same line of thought is the moulding of “clipped” wingtips in clear plastic. This way, the integrated position lights can be easily masked off before painting for perfect results.
I haven’t been able to find out how many styles of rear view mirror are included for the windscreen, but there should be two: rectangular, common with the Mk. V, and later, rounded type, both with different mountings. Please check it for me when examining your kit… Johnson’s JE-J had a rounded one, but many other Spitfires of contemporary production didn’t.
Cockpit interior is another area of complexity, including fuselage frames, side panels, compressed air cylinders, various controls and a multi-part seat assembly. Two frets of photoetched parts in stainless steel are thrown in. The photo of the completed cockpit is included below.
The remaining detail parts, decals and marking options are being discussed in the third part of this review.