Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk. IX – Review

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Tamiya are to be congratulated for producing the Spitfire kit in any scale; don't bother with anything less!

[Tamiya photo]

Product summary

Product Name Tamiya Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXC
Product type 1/32 scale plastic model kit
Manufacturer Tamiya Inc., www.tamiya.com
Availability and pricing Around £100 in the UK

Tamiya’s superb Spitfire Mk IX in 1:32nd scale was sent to me direct from Japan in late 2009, one of the very first kits to come of the production line. I was expecting it to be good – but not this good.

This kit just oozes quality even before you open the box. The large, deep, boxlid has a beautiful painting of Johnnie Johnson and his wingman flying along the white cliffs of Dover with the words ‘Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc in reflective gold lettering. Inside the box you are faced with spue tree after sprue tree of parts plus black ‘rubber’ tyres, photo-etch sheets, metal rods, screws and even a little phillips head scewdriver.

All these parts including a choice of engine cowlings, rudders, tail planes, upper wing cannon bulges, wing tips, undercarriage and cockpit instruments allow the modeller to build virtually any subvariant of the Mk.IX. I was so pleased to see Tamiya has the same philosophy as Aero Imageworks when it comes to reference material. Under all these parts a wealth of quality reference material has been provided for the modeller. You are well advised to read all this information before you start building.

Construction

After reading through all the reference material you can start building the kit by following the easy to follow instructions. All of the parts are crisply molded and will fit together with a level of precision that is rarely seen in a plastic model.

The kit has fine, recessed panel lines and very sutble rivet detail that under a coat of paint looks very convincing. Strictly speaking, the panel lines on the fuselage are slightly inaccurate but a model is a representation of the prototype (full size aircraft) not a duplicate.

When it comes to building the kit care must be taken to ensure all sprue tabs are removed from parts so they will fit together as the manufacturer intended. I found to my surprise that you must use your liquid cement sparingly, the precise fit doesn’t allow much room for cement!

The next photo shows the wing panels being glued into position. A tip here is to apply small amounts of liquid cement and allow capillary action to draw the cement into the join. This will prevent the glue from seeping through to the outer surface and marking the surface.

Instruction Book Notes

Below are my model notes recorded while building this superb kit. It makes reference to the kits instruction booklet page numbers and parts. If you don’t have the kit these notes probably won’t make much sense.

TIP: This is a complex kit. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS and then READ THEM AGAIN

P. 7 and 8 The kit instrument panels decals are inaccurate, in particular the blue coloured artificial horizon. Tamiya has had an each way bet here in displaying the instruments in a mix of static and flying configuration. The kit allows for the model to be built on a nice stand in flying attitude so its understandable why Tamiya did this. Aero Imageworks correction decals solve the problem here but keep in mind that when these instruments are in-situ in the cockpit they are very hard to see.

P.8 The control column for some reason is missing the prominent control cables. These can be added using stretched sprue.

The pilot seat is missing the all important (from pilot perspective) black leather padding that covers about two thirds of the seat back and wraps over the back of the seat. This can be replicated using paper card painted black.

Discard part F48

P.9 drill out holes in fuselage frames F11 anf F19.

P.10 rear of F41 is cockpit green not black

P.13 arm of tail wheel is too long. Recut recess so it will move 1-1.5mm further into fuselage. If modelling the aircraft on the ground, carefully bend the fully castoring tailwheel off centre. The wheel was rarely seen aligned with the fuselage whilst on the ground.

P.17 Flaps can be placed in down position. This was rarely seen as the flaps were quickly retracted upon landing.

P.19 Drill two vent holes directly behind fuel filler cap on top of fuselage.

Drill out undercarriage locking pin tab on G26

P.20 Using sandpaper, carefully sand flat spots on black ‘rubber’ tyres to simulate weight of aircraft.

P. 21-24 Four pages of instructions to build the engine. I can not overemphasise the need to glue all parts precisely and with the minimum of glue and paint. Yes, you need to think about the added bulk paint and weathering gives to parts.

P.25 The engine cowling panels are very thin, flexible plastic that are held in place by magnets.

P.32 This page shows the stencil locations and also the position of the mechanically operated undercarriage indicators that protrude through the upper wing when the undercarriage is down. These can be made from photo etch off cuts, painted red and added using super glue.

Using stretched sprue add wires from mid fuselage to tips of tailplane. These wires were part of the IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) as used on early Mk. IX’s like Johnnie Johnson’s JE-J.

Mask and paint yellow the propeller wing tips rather than using the kit decals provided. They are simply too fiddly to bother with.

War Paint

The kit comes with markings for three aircraft, two wartime RAF including JE-J flown by Wing Commander Johnson and one French Air Force from the late 1940’s. Most modellers will no doubt choose to model ‘Johnnie’ Johnson’s JE-J, EN398 during the second half of 1943 when he commanded the Canadian Kenley Wing.

The markings for this aircraft include a red and green version of the maple leaf marking that was painted below the cockpit on most of the Wings Spitfires. Tamiya has left the modeller to decide which is correct but unfortunately for the modeller neither emblem is correct!

It seems that Tamiya followed Airfix who way back in the 1960’s released their 1/72nd version of JE-J with a lime green maple leaf emblem. Unfortunately, Airfix and many others since have misinterpreted Johnson’s post war comments on his aircraft appearance to mean the maple leaf was a lime or leaf green. What he actually meant was that it was the colour of the aircraft camouflage, Dark Green! His was certainly not the first and probably not the last Spitfire in the wing to have a camouflage ‘green’ maple leaf rather than the more common red. Also, the photographic evidence tends to support the view that the maple leaf colour was the same colour as the surrounding camouflage colour.

Situated directly in front of the maple leaf emblem on the port side was a Wing Commander pennant. The Tamiya version of this emblem is wrongly proportioned and should not be used.

To allow the modeller to build a more accurate depiction of this famous aircraft, Aero Imageworks has produced a simple, easy to use decal with replacement rank pennant and maple leaf emblem. (see JEJ Mini decal Q013202)

Conclusion

This kit was a joy and challenge to build simply because it had so many parts and sub-assemblies. If you take your time you will end up with an absolute masterpiece of a kit. Tamiya are to be congratulated for producing the Spitfire kit in any scale; don’t bother with anything less. I’m looking forward to building a few more of this kit and the soon to be released Mk VIII, in RAAF markings of course!

See also another review of the same kit by Martin Waligorski.

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