1/72 Airfix Spitfire F.22 (OOB)

This is the box of the new Spitfire F.22. It looks exciting and the red really grabs your attention. It's a good diversion from what's IN the box.

This is the box of the new Spitfire F.22. It looks exciting and the red really grabs your attention. It’s a good diversion from what’s IN the box. Those dark clouds aren’t just for effect; it’s foreshadowing!!

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.

The Box:

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…)

The Kit:

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.

Here's the cockpit wall, nicely detailed. At this point, things still look good.

Here’s the cockpit wall, nicely detailed. At this point, things still look good.

The landing gear bay echoes the cockpit, and offers promise (undelivered). Those heavy injector marks should give you pause...

The landing gear bay echoes the cockpit, and offers promise (undelivered). Those heavy ejector marks should give you pause…

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.

From here, the Airfix Spit F.22 looks like it should be an Academy-level little warbrid. Don't be fooled!

From here, the Airfix Spit F.22 looks like it should be an Academy-level little warbrid. Don’t be fooled!

The colour painting plan looks nice too, and is one of the few things that Airfix really has improved upon!

The colour painting plan looks nice too, and is one of the few things that Airfix really has improved upon!

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.

Spitfire F.22 OOB 007

This is the decal sheet of the new Airfix Spitfire F.22. This may be the nicest part of the kit, but I can’t guarantee it. While they look nice, the decals could be as disappointing as the sprue upon which they are intended to be placed. Cross your fingers it isn’t so!

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!

Here you can see some of the "phantom nibs"  on the landing gear legs. In cases such as this, I think there's more plastic in the nibs than the parts!

Here you can see some of the “phantom nibs” on the landing gear legs. In cases such as this, I think there’s more plastic in the nibs than the parts!

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…

Conclusions:

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.

5 comments

  1. Andrew · · Reply

    What smug nonsense. For anyone with modelling skills, this is a nice kit and an easy build.

    If the worst problem you ever have is large spruce attachment points, you need to get out more!

    1. Andrew:
      Smugness? Nonsense? I think not, good sir.
      Where did I say that this kit would be difficult to build? I said it wouldn’t be good for a beginner or one who is ham-fisted. I think that is a correct and objective assessment.

      Having just completed the kit, I agree, it is a FAIRLY nice kit to build and it is relatively simple. I never said that it would be unbuildable, but that care would need to be taken above what is normally required, simply by virtue of the nature of the model’s plastic. I doubt you can disagree.

      Where is the smugness and nonsense in the statement that the “phantom nibs” are huge? You can see in the photo that the phantom nibs on the landing gear legs are of much larger diameter than the legs themselves, while the attachment point of the nibs is almost the size of the legs’ diameter. This is proven photographically. This isn’t smugness, it’s unfortunate truth.

      I have photographic proof that the fit of the fuselage and wings is terrible, on my kit. You’ll see this in the full-build review that’s coming. (I’m sure you’re eager to see how I botch it up, but it turned out well, I’m sure you’re disappointed to hear!) It’s not smug to say something has a terrible fit if it does! How many Frogs and old Revells have you built? Do you have pictures of the fit on them? I’d love to compare them; perhaps my assessment was wrong. Prove it to me.

      Most 1/72 WWII aircraft produced within the last 20 years are easy builds, even this one by and large, so saying that as some kind of attempt at disproving my statements is rather pointless. However, I appreciate your OPINION, even though you have not apparently the decorum to do the same for me, ON MY PERSONAL WEBSITE, no less.

      Speaking of smugness and nonsense, I find your statement “If the worst problem you ever have is large spruce attachment points, you need to get out more!” to be the height of both. How does that statement, in any way, disprove what I have posted in my review? Where did I say that was my worst problem? Why would you even think it was? I don’t know what my outdoor activities have to do with writing the truth about a model kit, but apparently you seem to think it does.

      I do realize, of course, that you didn’t mean “get out more” literally, but rather that it was an attempt at some kind of juvenile ad hominem. I find that these are usually the arguments levelled by those who have not the ability to say anything more constructive or relevant.

      In short, the review of the F.22 is a REVIEW. That means it is an OPINION. However, I feel it is a very balanced opinion. I point out the positive and the negative aspects of the kit. You can’t argue with large sprue gates, soft plastic or a nice decal sheet. They are all there. You may not like MY OPINION about Airfix, or how I feel they bungled, but that’s YOUR OPINION.

      I find it sad that you can’t say anything bad about Airfix without people getting all bent out of shape, as if I’d walked up to the Queen and tweaked Her Majesty’s nose! Speaking of those who need to adjust their perspectives as to what is important, I would propose the following: Anyone who gets so upset about a single website having something less than glowing to say about a particular plastic airplane and the company that made it should consider themselves dwellers of the proverbial glass house, before casting stones in anyone’s direction!

      I hope that you will find my final build article interesting, and that I haven’t ruined your day or worse by daring to deliver an OPINION about what is, in essence, a toy airplane.

      Good day, sir!

  2. Jeff Wilson · · Reply

    They’re ‘ejector’ pin marks, not ‘injector’ marks. The name describes the purpose; they ‘eject’ the plastic from the mould. Sorry, but it’s a personal peeve of mine.

    Decals in current and recent Airfix kits are either printed by Cartograf (in which case they’re superb and need no replacement) or, where they are not Cartograf, just apply them with hot water and the usual Microscale solvents and they’ll be fine. Check the fine print on the side of the box for a mention of Cartograf. The old decals, where you could see the dot pattern making up the colours, were absolute garbage. Airfix however, unlike so many other manufacturers, actually listened to the consumer complaints and did something about it. Same thing for their panel lines, which are getting finer all the time. Check out the new Gladiator for an example of a terrific 1/72 kit.

    Regards, Jeff

    1. Hello Jeff:

      I apologize about the “ejector” vs. “injector” marks. You are correct, of course, but I’m so used to hearing it either way that I didn’t even think of it.

      I don’t know who did the Spit F.22’s decals, but they are very nice. I agree that the “dot matrix” decals are terrible!

      I find that the Microscale stuff isn’t even usually required. Just some warmish water and a tiny bit of Future and they’re fine. I find Future is an amazing decal setting agent.

      I still think the Spit’s panel lines are fine. I found a lot worse things to complain about! 🙂

      Thanks for the comments!

      Adam

  3. Hi Mr Adam
    I just got email from Airfix club about new release item
    A D-Day themed 1:72 scale Dogfight Doubles Gift Set featuring a Hawker Typhoon Ib
    and Focke Wulf Fw 190A-8

    http://airfix.hornbynews.com/rp//340/process.clsp?t=2687774F1B34B3862713FF518B2D1BA2F

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