As some of you may know, after my experience building the old Airfix Trimotor, I swore I wouldn’t build another Airfix again… EVER. When Airfix collapsed (likely under the weight of its own mediocre styrene lumps that pass for kits) in the 2000’s, I didn’t shed a tear. I did do a small victory dance, though. Then, of course, came the word that Airfix was now part of Hornby, and that the proud name would once again be resurrected.
Heaven forbid that shelves be mercifully clear of the blight of Airfix kits for good. We can let FROG die, and bid RIP to Aurora and Jo-Han, but Airfix!! Gasp! Surely not! Well, fate had its say, and Airfix resurfaced (Iike a cold sore, or herp… worse). There were promises of newly tooled kits coming, and the TSR.2 kit that came out looked passable.
Then it got interesting: In the last year or two (it’s 2013 as I write this, should future generations read this and begin furiously scratching their heads) Airfix has suddenly started putting out what do, indeed, seem to be nice kits! They seem to be so nice, in fact, that I bought the new Gnat. I then saw their Spitfire F.22, and being a fan of the bubble-topped Spits, decided that I’d get one of those too. Here’s what I found.
A 1/72 Spitfire is a small plane and the box is commensurately-sized. There’s not a lot of wasted room inside the box, but it is a nice compact unit to store. The box is the new-style flashy “red Airfix box”, with very eye-catching colouring and what appears to be a digitally rendered image of a silver F.22 on the box. The art isn’t bad, but it’s a bit lacklustre. It’s not as enjoyable as FROG art, by any means, and compared to the art on Mobile Suit boxes, it’s got miles to go.
Still, the box is full colour, even on the bottom, which is a rarity indeed. In does ooze a slickness and newness that is both palpable and carefully crafted to be irresistible. That explains, perhaps, why I went out and SEARCHED for this kit after seeing one at a local IPMS meeting. Yes, I SEARCHED FOR, AND PINED FOR, AN AIRFIX. The Mayans were right, the apocalypse is here. (Well, the timing was a bit off, but they were close, so give them some credit at least…)
My first thought upon greedily opening my newly acquired little gem was that I should forgive Airfix their past sins and rejoice in that they’ve learned their lesson. Looking through the rather thick and slightly foggy bag at the sprues indicated that the kit therein was excellent.
There were many finely-engraved panel lines, and the cockpit walls had detail on them. The propeller was a separate piece from the front and rear of the spinner, and the tires were pouched! Normally, you don’t expect to see such things in so cheap a kit. And it was cheap, only $11! I used to pay that for 1/72 kits more than a decade ago!
There are two cockpit canopies and it can be built open or closed. There are separate open and closed landing gear doors, and the gear bays themselves have nice detail in them. The cockpit itself is made of several pieces, and isn’t just the usual “tub”. All non-clear parts are moulded in a light grey, with perhaps the faintest tint of blue.
The instructions are, at first glance, very nice, the images are big and clear, and there’s a full-colour painting plan on the reverse of the instructions! Yes, FULL COLOUR! I see they’ve been learning from the Chinese (who learned from the Japanese) that this is a good idea and leaves a good impression. The paint colours are called out on the instructions, too.
There is a decal sheet that’s almost as big as the box, and it has decals for two aircraft. One is a No. 603 Squadron machine (in Silver) from 1951. The other is a cammoed machine from No. 607 Squadron, which can be painted either in normal paint or in the livery of the one that took place in the Cooper Trophy race of 1948.
Closer Inspection: Let Chaos Reign!
This is rare for an OOB review, since I’m writing it just as I start the building process. In fact, I wasn’t going to write an OOB for this thing at all, since there are likely many reviews of it and I’ll have mine built in a few months. However, I couldn’t help myself. Think of this as both therapy and vindication at once…
As soon as I opened the aforementioned foggy bag and began handling and clipping parts, a feeling of familiar nausea gripped me. The plastic, like all old Airfix kits, is SUPER SOFT. It tends to tear rather than cut, as I found out on my fuselage halves. Also, there is a lot of extra plastic in the kit. I don’t mean spare parts, though: I mean very large seams.
Likely because the plastic is so soft, it must flow well in the moulds. This means that the seams on each piece are much larger than on more “solid” kits of harder plastic. All edges have noticeable “burrs” on them, and the sprue attachment points are LUDICROUS. The nibs on this thing are some of the biggest and most poorly defined I’ve seen in years. (Since my LAST Airfix build, ironically…) They are actually an obstruction when it comes to getting some of the smaller parts off the rack, and cleaning the smaller, more delicate parts up is very difficult. The plastic flexes so much that you’re just as likely to break it as you are to clean up the seam, even with a good, sharp knife.
Add to this that the kit is infested with “phantom nibs” (those bits that stick onto parts that look like sprue attachment points, but don’t attach to any actual sprue line), and you can see what I mean by “extra plastic”. On some of the parts, like the cockpit floor details and landing gear legs, the phantom nibs are almost larger than the pieces to which they are attached!
Close inspection shows the panel lines are soft in a number of spots, but thankfully the soft plastic makes re-etching a breeze.
I test fitted the fuselage, to see what I was up against, and nearly blacked out. The fit was terrible. It isn’t much better than some old FROGS and Revells I’ve built, and definitely far inferior to Academy and newer Revell Germany kits. I foresee a lot of work in this thing…
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, you can give a new dog old ticks, it appears. There are a million other puns I could make, but the real fact here is that this isn’t funny. This kit, and the resurrected Airfix, has so much promise and potential that to see it squandered like this gives me both pangs of despair and the excited “tee-hees” of “I told you so!”
If you like the bubble-topped spit, then you’ll want one of these, like me. It’s not a terrible kit, but it’s not up to what its direct competitors were doing even 10 years ago. Basically, if you want a kit from about 1990, then this is your dream come true. It’s a passable kit that can be made fairly well, I think, with a bit of work. I’ll find out, I guess, eh?
I wouldn’t emulate me and go out and feverishly search this kit out, knowing what it’s like once the bag is off. I wouldn’t turn it down if you want one, but maybe refrain from giving it to the more ham-fisted hobbyists you may know (or inexperienced children). The poor fit is liable to engender at least mild miffedness in those folks, and the weak plastic won’t take up to anything except the lightest, most patient, touch.