The Spitfire is one of the most iconic aircraft in the world, and is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful of WWII, if not ever. With lines like a thoroughbred racehorse, Reginald Mitchell’s famous fighter is one of those planes that looks like it’s moving, even when sitting on a field waiting for a scramble.
Given the beauty and importance of the “Spit”, then, it’s no surprise that there have been TONS of different models, in different scales, of this famous fighter. However, most of these are of the Spit’s wartime incarnations (of which there are many, admittedly), and finding a model of a post-war Spitfire has always been difficult, especially in 1/72.
It was for that reason that I was extremely excited by the news that the “new Airfix” would be issuing a 1/72 kit of the F.22 version, one of the very last Spitfire types and one of the “bubbletops”; those with a cut-down rear fuselage and Mustang-like bubble canopy. The bubbletop Spits are, to me, the most beautiful, getting rid of the last little bit of “baby fat” on the design and giving the fighter a look of blistering, yet purposeful, speed.
The RAF bubbletops did not see service for long; the advent of the jet quickly overtook them in frontline service, but a number of reserve squadrons operated them into the early part of the 1950’s. Despite this, the Airfix kit comes with two sets of decals for two very differently-painted machines; one in “high speed silver” and the other in the typical grey/green cammo of the postwar RAF.
Normally, I’d explain about the kit here. However, I’ve already done this in my Out of Box Review of the Spitfire F.22. So, if you want to read it, go and take a peek! Be warned, though: If you are an unabashed Airfix booster you may well find my words disturbing. As you will see, I do not have unconditional praise for this newest kit of the bubbletop Spit.
Airfix did a largely nice job of creating an inexpensive and well-detailed kit. It looks as nice as any Academy or even a Tamiya. I know a lot of people whine about the panel lines being too deep, but I actually liked that! I use Testors Model Master Acrylic paints, and these tend to spray on a bit thickly. Thus, a deeper panel line will ensure that I don’t lose my detail, even when using my paints of choice. To that, I say “Cheers!”
However, there were some not-so-great parts about the kit, too.
Building the Spitfire F.22
One of the most significant problems with the Airfix F.22 is that it is, at heart, an Airfix. That means that the plastic is incredibly soft, incredibly prone to melting when glued and very, very poor for any kind of structural components. (Hint: Think landing gear…) While it is easy to sand (which is good, because there’s a lot of sanding on this thing) it is also easy to mar, scratch and bend. Because it has the consistency of mozzarella cheese, it is prone to breaking when stressed, so handling fine components should be done carefully.
The cockpit, though, is very nice. I would have liked a non-decal dashboard, but for $10, what can you expect, right? The kit even has a clear piece for the three signalling lights on the belly. These look nice when painted with clear Tamiya red, yellow and green, and then backed by Bare Metal Foil. The problem is that they don’t stick into the plane very well, and I had mine fall out as I was trying to mask them with Silly Putty. This necessitated some very careful and painstaking tweezer work on my part to recover them without ripping the fuselage open.
Now, as for the fit on this thing… where do I begin? I build a lot of old, poorly fitting kits. I am pleased to announce that Airfix has “bested” them all! The Spit F.22 has a “fit” (if you can call it that) more like an old Airfix or Revell. It is far worse in many ways then most of the Frogs I’ve built! The fuselage halves don’t fit all that badly, although a lot of sanding is required to smooth out the very large seam. Thankfully, the apparently lactose-based plastic does melt together well, so once the fuselage halves are glued, you’re not going to get them apart. EVER.
Now, lest you think that’s the end of the story, don’t get too excited! The fuselage fit is a work of art, a Picasso of precision, if you will, in comparison to that of the wings. To use an overused internet short form or two:
Yes, that’s the best summary I can give. The underwing pan fits only somewhat into the fuselage; that’s a bit of a problem. However, the seam is largley on an edge, so that’s okay. However, the tops of the wings DON’T EVEN GET CLOSE! On neither wing do the gun barrel extensions even attempt to line up, and the wing/body joint is GROTESQUE on the one side, and barely passable on the other.
Now, in the past, I have had Airfix fans deliver all forms of vitriol and abuse upon me for daring to say that this kit is less than a Second Coming. The truth is that I have been bullied, badgered and insulted on several forums, and even this website, by those who find my tongue-in-cheek remarks about the less than Tamiya-like quality of the Spitfire F.22 to be somehow akin to a personal attack. (I know, the irony is so thick you could cut it.) Why am I mentioning this?
It has been suggested that I have the modelling skills of “a three-year old” and that I likely don’t have “any modelling skills at all” by various individuals who remain nameless thanks to the anonymity of the internet. However, regardless of what kind of ad hominem you might like to toss my way, you can’t change the facts: The wings on this kit JUST DIDN’T FIT! All the locator pins were lined up, and I got what you see in the photos. I have been building planes for 24 years, and yet, I’ve never seen something like this on ANY kit.
The good news is that the soft plastic again comes to the rescue by allowing you to “smush” the wings around a bit and generate a bit of a wave of molten plastic that can fill some of the gaps. A bit of CA and Tamiya putty is then all that you need to finish the job. This isn’t really that hard or taxing, and most of us do it on most of our kits anyway. I don’t normally find this to be a deal-breaker on a kit; I only find it so when the opinion at large is that this kit is some kind of miracle about which no negative can be spoken, and that anyone who encounters something like this must be a troglodyte of some kind. The fact is that the wings didn’t fit well, and all I could do was fix it. I hope no one else had this problem. If you do, at least you can see that someone else did too!
Even though the main assemblies (fuselage, wings) don’t fit all that well, the small bits do. The tailplanes go on very nicely, and the landing gear do as well. The exhaust pipes come as two rows, one per side, but they are basic. I used my pin vise to drill them out, and the difference that makes is considerable. I also drilled out the gun barrels. To make the cannons fit better onto the wings, I trimmed off the cannon bases from the wings, and just melded the guns right into the wing itself. Sure, the end result is that the cannons are a tiny bit short, but it was a lot better than having to gouge up the front of the wing sanding the poorly-aligned cannon bases themselves!
The propeller fits together wonderfully, but the attachment method leaves something to be desired. It always seems that models with props try to make you attach the prop BEFORE you paint the body. WHY? It’s an easy fix, though. I glued in the prop mount, and then drilled it out. I also drilled out the prop back itself, and put in a small metal shaft. This allowed me to just pop the propeller on when all was said and done; a far better way of doing things!
The canopy transparencies are very nice and finely detailed, and very clear. They are a big improvement over old Airfixes. See, I can say nice things about an Airfix! They fit very well and look nice when mounted. They don’t distort the interior much and you can close it up or open it; the choice is yours! Unfortunately, there aren’t any seatbelts with the seat, which is a bit of a letdown.
Painting and Finishing the F.22:
I am generally not a fan of silver airplanes, so I immediately went with the much more sinister and violent-looking cammo scheme of dark grey, dark green and light grey undersurfaces. Doing some cross-referencing with the IPMS Stockholm colour charts, it seems that the RAF Dark Grey is very close to Gunship Grey, and the RAF’s dark green is close to the Model Master Dark Green. The light grey on the underside matched closely to Light Ghost Grey. For all colours, I used Testors Model Master Acrylics.
I did the landing gear in Model Master Acrylic Light Grey, with a wash of Gunship Grey over it to darken it up a bit and highlight the details. This made the colour ALMOST the same as the Light Ghost which is exactly what I wanted; a few photos I’ve seen showed the gear legs and door insides as being almost the same as the underside. The spinner and tail band were done in a colour that I mixed up to be as close to RAF Sky as possible; I didn’t have any at the time. I think it came out very well.
All the colours were airbrushed, and I masked the cammo using Tamiya Tape. This was a surprisingly time-consuming job given that the Spit is such a small plane! The cammo pattern is very wavy, and that’s not something Tamiya Tape likes to do well. I painted the grey surface first, but it didn’t look right. While the Gunship Grey was a close match, the completed paint just looked too dark. So, I resprayed the kit using the Testors MMA Dark Grey (F-15), which is a bit more purplish, and a few shades lighter. That was the correct answer!
The entire kit was glossed using Future and then sanded smooth. At this point, I put on the decals. The kit decals on the new Airfix kits seem to be very nice; hopefully, those on the Spitfire F.22 can be considered to be representative. The decals were fairly tough, but not super thick, and they contoured to most surfaces and surface detail well. A bit more Future settled them into most of the panel line son the wing, and once the Future had sunk in a bit, I was able to push the decals into the panel lines much further than before.
After one more coat of Future, some dying time and sanding, I applied a thin coat of my satin coat. This gave the plane’s surfaces a bit more roughness than normal, and made the next step much easier. The chalk pastels I use for panel line highlighting seem to go on much easier and more regularly over a rougher surface. Using the Tamiya fine craft swabs, I managed to get the airframe and the decals post-shaded appropriately. One light dusting of Future to seal it all down and the paint work was pretty much done.
The entire kit was then flat coated with pure Matte Ceramcoat/alcohol mixture to knock the shine down, and then satin coated. Once everything was dry, I unmasked and Futured the canopy and the rest of the kit just fell together. One hard spot was, as I suspected, the landing gear legs, which were a bit wobbly. Once braced by the gear doors, though, everything was fine. Here again, the super-soft plastic did help out with welding everything nicely together. Another trouble spot was the propeller; the blades are, of course, very fine and delicate, and trying to fit the painted spinner over
The Spitfire F.22 is, as you can likely guess, something of a mixed bag. I seem to be the only one in the world who had such problems with fit on this kit, and most people will say that this is akin to a “shake and bake” type of kit. I would say that this is a very nice kit and a great price. However, it is NOT as simple and fool-proof as a Tamigawa kit. There are a few things that people need to consider before thinking this will be a straight walk in the park. Here is a list of the good and the bad, to keep it simple, and so I can’t be accused of biasedly bashing everyone’s favourite British kit maker:
– great price
– great detail
– good decals
– clear instructions
– good moulding
– nice cockpit
– soft plastic
– small parts are extra delicate, extreme care is needed with gear legs and prop
– plastic easily damaged by glue – watch those fingers!
– decal instrument panel
– dire fit (on this example) on the wing halves
– lots of large, clunky seams
– large phantom nibs and attachment points on sprues
So, do I recommend this kit? Yes! Despite my initial horror at how little improvement Airfix seems to have made in quality of materials and fit, it is still a good kit for the pittance you’re likely to pay. I don’t recommend the kit to those looking for a good kit for a beginner, though; it’s too delicate.
If this kit represents the reborn Airfix, then all I can say is that while some improvements have been made (decals and detail are much better than back in the day), there is still a way for them to go. Even considering cost, this new Airfix is something of a betrayal of potential. However, it’s not so bad as to make me not buy another new Airfix: I have the Canberra PR.9, Gnat and Vampire T.11 in my stash as we speak.
If you like this plane and don’t mind a bit of frustration, and you’ve not been misled into expecting the world for a penny, then this kit is a definite must have. It’s a good, cheap impulse buy, too. Just don’t believe all the hype; while it’s good, it’s far from perfect, and this is something that is independent of its cost. Still, I am pleased with mine, and I know lots of others who are pleased with theirs, so go grab one. What’s the worst that can happen?