AIRFIX


Airfix A5135 1/48 Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIV


Review by David Harvey

 

Review Type

First Look

Scale:

1/48

Price:

 

Contents and Media:

4 x Gray plastic sprues, 1 x clear sprue and 1 sheet of decals

Advantages:

Nice exterior and looks like the actual aircraft

Disadvantages:

Soft detail and flash on various pieces. Possible short shots in some kits.

Recommendation:

Recommended

 

Introduction

The Spitfire Mk XIV was the second operation Griffon powered Spitfire with the MK XII preceding it. It was originally only intended as an interim fighter with the Mk XVIII being meant to take replace it quickly but this didn’t occur.

The Mk XII had a single stage super-charger fitted to it which gave it good low and medium altitude performance which dropped off when it when to high altitude. A two stage engine would solve this problem but not until 1943 was the Griffon 61 which was fitted with the two stage super-charger was made available.

Six Mk VII airframes were modified to take the new engine and these aircraft became the prototype Mk XIV. These aircraft were fitted with the standard Mk VIII rudder which was found to be unsuitable for the amount of power and torque produced by the Griffon 61 and the five bladed propeller and it was replaced by an enlarged fin and bigger rudder. Soon after production commenced the Griffon Mk 61 was replaced by the Mk 65 series engine.

The first production aircraft went in to Squadron service with 610 SQN in early 1944 followed by 91 and 322 SQN’s. The Mk XIV ceased production in late 1945 but flew in the service of other Air Forces until in to the 1950’s at least.

Instructions

The instructions are in the now familiar format that Airfix use of each stage having the components from the last panel highlighted in orange.

The instructions are a bit vague at times about what the options are to achieve and why you are to carry out the actions they require eg steps 18 and 19 covers the changes required to have the canopy open. The confusing part is that it requires you to trim the cockpit sill if you want the canopy shut but it also has a symbol requiring weight when I can see no reason to have any mention about weight.

Another area where I think a bit of extra information could help is the different rudders.  The instructions tell you which rudder goes with which option but they don’t explain the difference or what version of rudder is represented, this is no problem if you have a good knowledge of the aircraft but for the rest of us it could be helpful. I am sure the information is readily available on the various modelling sites on the internet but a bit of extra information would not have hurt.

A few of the colour recommendations I find a bit odd eg the main wheel bay being Humbrol Hu56 Aluminium, I believe it should be either Interior Green or the Medium Sea Grey like the rest of the undersides (but I can be wrong and happy to be corrected). I have also read some information which says they COULD be silver/aluminium as well so I guess you get to make the choice or hopefully have a photo of the aircraft you are modelling to get a better understanding of what colour it should be.


The kit

The plastic parts come in a thick plastic packet and contain four sprues of grey plastic and one clear sprue for canopy components and light lenses which are all packed in the standard red Airfix box.

 

Despite the whining on some model forums, while the panel lines on Airfix kits have been notorious for being trenches rather than lines in past kits, on this kit it has very nicely detailed panel lines that are much better. The panel lines could still use improvement but they look good to me. The overall detail on the exterior is very nice but I am a bit less happy with the cockpit interior as it is very basic and could use a fair bit of detailing or thinning out.

 

The plastic parts are generally well cast on my two kits though there is some flash to clean up, the wheels do need careful clean up to retain the tread depending on which version you put on the kit. I am surprised by the amount of flash on the parts considering the kit is brand new and would not be from worn out moulds yet. There is also a VAST difference is casting as there are kits with large short shots that affect the rudders and cockpit to an unfixable level while other report their kits are in good condition. This poor moulding has been a problem for some time and several kits now so you would think Airfix would have sorted this out by now.

 

I watched a review on this kit by Scale Model Workshop on YouTube which brought up a point that had annoyed me with the Airfix kits I have made lately, the way the parts are attached to the plastic frames. Tamiya and other manufacturers manage to have the parts attached to the frame by a thin gate which is generally easy to cut and then remove any trace of it, Airfix go the opposite way and make it hard to get parts off and then clean up the large connectors.

The kit provides a number of options, these are:

I have not looked at the build reviews out there but one area that does concern me is that Airfix has used inserts for the cockpit like the Special Hobby Spitfire Mk Vc kits. My concern is that the inserts may not fit that well as the plastic could be too thick to fit properly though this can be fixed by thinning the insert if it does turn out to be a problem. The detail on the cockpit walls is basic as always with Airfix kits but it still ‘looks’ better than previous kits they have produced. There is a great deal of missing or ill-defined detail in the cockpit that will need to be replaced, scratchbuilt or updated with after market items. As always though, the level of detail in the cockpit is a personal thing as a fair bit of the time I add a bit of PE, do a little weathering and that is it as it is usually obscured by the canopy or hard to see due to the design of the cockpit.

You do need to do some trimming of kit parts to fit the larger rudder and trim the wing tips to fit the clipped wing tips, none of this should be a problem as the cuts are long panel lines and you trim short and trial fit as you go.

There are several areas that could use some improvement that are easily done with no extra expenditure for the modeller. These improvements include drilling out the litening holes in the frames behind the pilot seat, hollowing out / drilling out the exhausts and very minor clean up and detailing in the cockpit.

Airfix have also tried something different with the fuselage as they have added an insert in front of the canopy (apparently done previously on the Mk Vb) that gives you a clean, join free area that does not need the usual clean up that destroys detail. Unfortunately, you still need to clean up the engine cover due to the cover being split between both sides of the fuselage, I am sure there either is or soon will be a replacement cover for this area if it really bothers you. This part may also not fit the fuselage very well either judging by some builds so far.

Note - I did a bit of test fitting with the fuselage and the insert in front of the cockpit and it was not a good fit. It appears the insert is possibly warped and leaves a gap on one front edge that is fairly large. The insert should sit proud slightly as it does on the real aircraft but the big gap should not be there on the front edge of one side. The wings could also be a problem as there is no location tabs and there is very little to hold the wings in the correct spot as the end area is very thin and does not have a definite edge for the lower section to butt up against. This can be resolved by careful fitting and taping prior to gluing but it could still be annoying.

The spinner is one place where Airfix has done well by the looks of it as it is looking very much like the long, elegant one from the aircraft than the Academy one ever did.

 

The decals

The decals come on one sheet of decal paper and look at the same standard as the latest markings from Airfix. They cover the National markings, serial numbers and a number of the stencil markings for the aircraft, though I am sure there are some stencil markings that are not on the sheet. You are provided a decal for the instrument panel with various colours for the gauges etc which can look the part if done properly. The instrument panel is really the one area I am always happy to use aftermarket Photo Etch sets for as they are generally much better than I can do with decals and dry brushing.

The markings are:

 

Recommendation

This is a long-awaited replacement for the Academy kit and is mostly worth the wait. It is typical Airfix in its soft detail in the cockpit as well as lack of detail in others and short shot components in some kits. The decals look good and well printed though slightly thick but I don’t doubt they will go on well just as the other recent release decals have.

Overall this kit is a good representation of the aircraft and will allow modellers to either build it as is or detail it as much as desired. The kit has problems that brings it down from Highly Recommended to Recommended including soft detail, short shots in some kits and flash but it is still buildable to a nice looking aircraft.

 

Kit courtesy of my wallet.