“This is a very neat kit from Tamiya that simply and elegantly replaces their earlier offering to create a wonderfully detailed and accurate replica of this all-time classic”
In 1993, Tamiya added to their growing range of 1/48 aircraft kits with the introduction of a delicately moulded Spitfire Mk.I. Initially lauded thanks to its excellent production and fine detail, the kit would subsequently come under fire because of a less-than-accurate shape and though it has soldiered on for the best part of 25 years, many modellers have always considered that Tamiya, often regarded as standard bearers where accuracy is concerned, had dropped the ball with not only the Mk.I, but also the Mk.Vs that followed.
Fast forward to 2018 and Tamiya have now made the unusual decision to replace their earlier kit with a brand-new Spitfire Mk.I that not only appears to be accurate in terms of shape and dimension, but also complete in terms of detail and features. Though this progressive marque has often replaced armour and vehicle kits with newer tools, there have been precious few examples of that happening with aircraft so the decision to do this is as welcome, as it is surprising.
With first released, Tamiya’s Spitfire was a very simple affair that comprised little more than 50 parts, contained almost no design flourishes that set it apart and was available at a reasonable price that placed it well-within reach of those used to buying and building kits from competitors closer to home. This new release is somewhat more lavish, containing as it does around 130 plastic parts, a full set of etched-steel details, canopy masks and self adhesive panels for an early pre-war aircraft. That being so, rather than being just another plastic model kit within their range this new Mk.I is a kit that is designed to go head-to-head with Eduard’s range of ‘Profipack’ Spitfires, where all of the items seen here, are seen as standard within Eduard’s kits.
Though the two MK.I kits share a common ancestry, scale and subject, that’s where the comparisons end, so from here on in it is best that we only deal with what’s ahead and leave the past behind us (though for our build feature next month, we will be tackling both kits for your enjoyment).
Moulded in dark grey plastic, Tamiya’s latest 1:48 offering is everything that I’m sure you would hope for and though its approach is simple and much of its production as expected, there are some intriguing inclusions that show us just how clever they can be, even with something that is a superficially basic as this kit.
Breakdown is straightforward, with familiar fuselage halves, one piece lower and twopart upper wings, separate tailplanes, rudder and ailerons. Though the latter are separate, they are designed to only fit in one position, large tabs forcing their location. Some modification to the tabs would enable a degree of deflection to be shown, but only a few hours at the bench will prove whether that is indeed the case on not.
The fuselage is the first point at which we see a clever idea, separate inserts that surround the cockpit being used to allow open or closed canopies. Though superficially the same (in fact, they look identical(!) these inserts differ in width and thus allow the sliding portion of the canopy to sit over a separate rear section of glazing. Should you choose to have the canopy closed, both the rear part and its sliding partner are moulded in one, thus easing the process. Given their innate similarity, please be careful to ensure that the correct parts are used, it being easy to mix them up. Ask us how we know…
Internally, the kit fares very well indeed, being as complete as you could possible wish for. Comprising almost 35 parts along with some additional etched details, the cockpit is truly a work of art and will certainly repay care and attention during the painting process. We mentioned earlier that the kit includes an etched fret and it is here that that comes into play, small items being used around the rudder pedals and compass, upper headrest and of course, the seat straps. The complete picture is more than pleasing as you can imagine and bears testament to the designer’s desire to create as accurate a Mk.I as possible. The instrument panel is decorated with a decals for the dial faces and then you are offered the choice of a pilot, or empty seat, both being embellished further with those aforementioned etched straps. It’s here where we see the second clever idea: a brace that bridges the gap between the seat’s mounting frame and the rear cockpit member. You temporarily drop the brace between the two bulkheads so that you can fix the straps in place without fear of pulling the two parts out of alignment and then remove it once the straps are in place and the glue set. This is such a simple idea, I was left to wonder why it had not been used before!
Moving on, we come to the wings. These are exceptionally simply in approach, a singe span lower panel and then two upper panels taking care of the bulk of their construction. Within the wings, the kit includes multipart wheelbay liners à la Eduard, a box spar that completes the bays and then stiffens the underside of the wing, individual guns and then separate wing-tips and ailerons. The wings are completed with the addition of the undercarriage and it is here that are find our last major innovation: undercarriage legs that are supplied as one single, bridged section. In every Spitfire kit I can think of, the undercarriage legs are supplied as separate parts that need to be carefully aligned to ensure that they are set at the correct angle and rake. Here, that is done for you, the inclusion of a single part that simply drops into a well underneath the main wing ensuring that with a single drop of adhesive, everything is perfectly aligned and sold as a rock. Once in place, two small panels cover the brace before adding the wheels and doors. Genius!
The underwing radiators are another area of the model that combine plastic and etched metal, both materials being used to create intricate sub-assemblies that fit neatly under the wings. Along with those sections, the kit offers wonderfully clear glazing that includes early ‘unarmoured’ and later ‘armoured’ windscreens, along with canopy masks, optional early and late aerial poles, glazed or beaded gunsights, propeller and finally, self-adhesive panels that must be applied to the early pre-war variant’s nose.
Having completed your model, you are now faced with the choice of three different aircraft. The choices are as follows:
- P9495 DW-K, No. 610 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Battle Of Britain, 1940.
- K9906 FZ-L, No. 65 Squadron, Royal Air Force, 1993 – aircraft flown by Roland Robert Stanford Tuck.
- N3200 QV, No. 19 Squadron, Royal Airforce, Operation Dynamo, 1940 – Geoffrey Dalton Stephenson’s aircraft that crash landed on the beach at Sangatte near Calais during the operation to recover British and Allied forces from Dunkirk.
A comprehensive decal sheet supplies all of the national and unit insignia relevant to the three aircraft featured, as well as an A3 sheet of full-colour drawings with Tamiya paint references to help you finish the model prior to decalling. Incidentally, as with all Tamiya kits, no stone is left unturned when it comes to the painting directions within the instructions, every single piece being annotated as work progresses. Obviously Tamiya’s own paints are front and centre, but it will be very easy to cross reference those with other ranges should you so chose.
This is a very neat kit from Tamiya that simply and elegantly replaces their earlier offering to create a wonderfully detailed and accurate replica of this all-time classic. As mentioned, the kit goes a long way to prove that Tamiya can also offer the same comprehensive packages as Eduard, everything that you need to build the model being supplied in the box. I’m very much looking forward to getting started on this kit and seeing what is possible from the contents. Thanks to the Hobby Company for this early sample.