Trumpeter 1/24 Spitfire Mk. V.b
Model, Text and
Photos by Steve Jantscher
|Plastic Quality:||B+ (Over engineered)|
|Decal Quality:||B ( Very thin, bad code colors)|
When I was first asked to build the new 1/24th scale Spitfire from Trumpeter, I though " my, that's going to be a big one". My last "big" airplane model was the Tamiya Zero that I built shortly after its introduction. I really liked that kit, perhaps the best "over 1/48th scale kit out there" (I know I'll get some disagreement from builders of the Hasegawa '109 series, also an excellent model).
These parts are big, and are made of the soft plastic Trumpeter is known for. One is greeted upon first glance with many tiny rivet holes throughout the aircraft surface. Shades of kits past? These are so small, that I believe they might just look fine after a coat of paint. Definitely a primer and final coat of paint will negate most of their effect for all but the most anally retentive model builder. All the flying surfaces are separate, and made to be move able via photoetch and rod movement mechanisms similar to those first introduced by Tamiya on their Zero kit. The fabric effect on the rudder and elevators seems a bit heavy. I contemplated sanding it down some, but instead have decided to leave it as is to see the final effect once I paint it. The horizontal stabilizers are funny. Someone in China really dropped the ball in portraying them with metal (rivet covered) skin on the under surfaces, and ribbed fabric covered surfaces on the top. I was hoping to be able to flip the stabs over, and swap out the top part for the bottom, and vice versa but the attachment tab and connection to the fuselage prevented this from being. Instead I took both "fabric" tops to the sandpaper, and inside of a minute each, both were smooth. I would have preferred rivet holes (to go with the rest of the plane) but wasn't in the mood to "rescribe" them.
A word about the plastic. I might mention this later in the review, but I must stress that this plastic is very soft, and requires only the lightest of sanding effort to get any job done. As I write these words, I'm at the 80% point in the kit construction (just about to attach the wings to the fuselage) and I'm already looking at rescribing and replacing the rivets. So take this as a warning. A little bit of sanding goes a long way.
Let me begin by saying that there is an awful lot of very good reference material out there today, with beautiful colorful photographs of prototypical and restored Spitfire cockpits. I myself have a handful of them, and even peeked inside them from time to time while I constructed this kit. That isn't to say that I stood by the "real" color schemes, but rather used a mix of representative colors, and those called out for in the instructions. Trumpeter calls out for most of the cockpit green as "dark egg green". I don't know what eggs look like in China, so I instead went with Humbrol #78, "Matt Cockpit green". I think that is what Trumpeter must have meant. They have many suspect color call-outs, and one is well advised to check the photographs carefully before relying on them entirely. As has been mentioned elsewhere on the web, the seat is the biggest problem. I believe it represents a literal copy of the seat from the Battle of Britain Museum Spit Mk.I, which has a wooden block to aid in positioning the pilot mannequin. Trumpeter must have thought that the wood bottom was original equipment! There is also a pad of sorts in front of the seat upright. They do call out for a red-brown color for the seat, representing the "early" (?) bakelite seat that some Spits had. In any case, I didn't want to fiddle around with scratch building another more correct one (follow-on aftermarket subject?). I'd rather show the viewer what is in the kit, and so I painted my seat cockpit green. I also usually like to add seat belts, and I think Waldron might make a set of '24th scale RAF belts. They do make a placards set, which would only add to the kit cockpit.
As far as answering the question, how does the 'pit look? I like it. At first I was a bit apprehensive as I haven't built a 1/24th scale kit since an Airfix '109E many many years ago (long since met its end at the hands of my sons). I believe that to be exceptional, the larger scale kits require an extra amount of detail, above and beyond scaling up what on would find in a smaller kit. This scale demands as much "stuff" in the cockpit as one can find to add. From the photos I can see many wire bundles, and cables. This kit provides just the minimum level of included detail necessary for a kit of this scale. I think it could really shine in the hands of someone willing to put in a bit of overtime, cramming the cockpit full of detail. As some of you will remember, I also built the Tamiya 1/32nd scale Zero. It definitely had enough detail for the scale. The trumpeter kit is just there when it comes to having enough detail. It has enough, but it really needs more!
Much of the detail in the cockpit was painted Model Master Interior Black. For the gun sight I also painted it interior black, with some detail being picked out with a dry brushing of Testors metalizer Burnt Metal. To represent the glass section, I used my Waldron Punch set and cut a circle out of some silver decal stock. This presents a much better circle than I could possibly paint freehand. I saved adding the clear reflecting plate until after the major assembly was completed.
As I neared the final paint prep for finishing the model, I started thinking about trimming, attaching and masking the clear parts. When I examined them up close, they astonished me with their scale thickness. They are fragile, and I anticipate many builders requesting replacement parts for ones crushed during construction. The windshield, canopy and rear window are just above vacuform in thinness and fineness. They flex easily. The rear window fits perfectly. The windshield is another thing. First off, Trumpeter choose to give the modeler the option of including the armored center section as an add-on part, and not as most model companies would do, with another whole windshield. Given the very thin nature of the clear parts, perhaps a second (back-up) piece would have been better. The fit is also not the best. Of course, prior to attaching the clear parts, I gave them a dunking in Future floor polish.
There are many parts to this engine, and I suppose from the artistic point of view, that makes for a nicer engine to look at. I'm generally not one to open fuselage hatches and doors, and have never built a model with an open or exposed engine. It's just not my thing, I think because of the general lack of realism without a lot of work (I have seen absolutely fabulous examples at contests and online). I say that as an adherent to the Shep Paine method of "Gizmology" when it comes to the ability to make something such as an engine look convincing. Gizmology is the process of putting things that "look right" into the model, even if they may not be exact and faithful representations of the real thing. The Merlin engine supplied by Trumpeter has much of the outline and shape of the real thing, with over 30 parts making up the mini-kit. I almost wish Trumpeter would give the modeler an extra set of exhaust shrouds to use; one on a display engine, and one on the aircraft in the "buttoned up version".
Part of the gizmology practiced by me in building the engine is to use as many different shades of steel and aluminum as I could find in my paint box. The instructions call for steel for most of the engine bits, and if taken at face value, it would make for a boring engine. Instead I choose as many different shades of aluminum and steel as I could find, and painted major subassemblies in those different versions of silver. I also like to vary the shades of gloss/flat between different sections of the engine as others. As you can see, I also used an oil wash of Windsor and Newton browns and raw umber to add grime and relief to the surface details.
In the excellent Aero Detail book on the Spitfire it shows a museum Merlin all painted up and on display in gloss black. While I'm not as big a stickler as some are on authentic detail, I have a feeling that the engine on display may have such a paint job to prevent deterioration and oxidation over the future display life. Besides, it gets back to my feelings about painting gizmology, what looks better, an all black engine or a multi-tones steel colored grimy engine?
As you can see, some of the vinyl parts are used to simulate the ignition wiring "pipes". These are very convincing, despite my early skepticism.
The fishtail type exhaust is well done, made up of three parts each. Trumpeter kind of cheats on these as they are just made of the outer side, with no inside of the fish tail to be hollowed out. They look good from the outside, but close examination will show there is no hollow inner pipe where the exhausts overlay one another. I hope some of the photographs show what I'm talking about. I'm sure that sooner or later some aftermarket concern will offer a replacement.
Engine mount and firewall.
This is another of the "different" ways Trumpeter has of doing things, and in all it comes off pretty well. The rear firewall of the engine compartment has a number of cylinders and boxes, all attached by hoses/piping. Trumpeter chooses to model this with one soft vinyl part. After a bit of painting, and by the use of superglue, the part goes down in a realistic representation of this detailed area. One thing I discovered was that to simulate the black rubber hose better than just leaving the vinyl it's black color, I used a Sharpie brand pen to "color" the hoses a nice shiny black. I really like the look!
Onto this firewall rests the engine mount, a structure in three parts. I decided to first attach the mounts to the firewall before mounting the firewall into the fuselage halves (as per the instructions in step #4). As the frames were setting up with model glue, I decided to test fit the frame and firewall combination. Lo and behold, there are pins in the fuselage side that are made to take the frames. I still had enough time to pull the frame rest from the firewall piece and into position to take the fuselage pin. I should say that all this is done without attaching the engine to the mount, as it is a nice "drop in" prior to closing the fuselage halves. I took the opportunity to glue the firewall onto the left fuselage from behind using liquid and super glue. Afterwards I finished up the painting of the frame, again with Humbrol Matt Cockpit Green, #78.
The joining of fuselage sides is never without risk in any model project. Proper alignment now will prevent a bunch of gap filling and sanding later. Always sound advice, the large size of this kit makes it very difficult in practice. I basically joined the sides. Pushed and prodded all the internal components into place, and then started at one end with my "Touch-n-flow" liquid glue applicator, and proceeded down the seam pinching and holding as I went along. This worked out ok, but I'm finding a slight mis-alignment at some points. Time to pull out the gap filling superglue, and sandpaper. The area just in front of the cockpit, and the engine frame top member were the worse areas. I'll just have to buckle down, recontour and rescribe! The rest of the fuselage seam just calls for the normal seam attention of most kits, but be warned, the sheer size of this kit will make consistent gluing more difficult than a smaller scale offering.
Again, I'm faced with the necessity of opening up the many gun hatches that give access to the wing armament. Each wing has two .30 caliber Browning machine guns and one 20mm Hispano canon. These I painted with Model Master "Gunmetal", and they look pretty good. If I were serious, I'd add some charging lines and some different colors. The ammo belts for the machine guns are also provided.
Early on during construction, I jumped ahead and made the ailerons, rudder, flaps and elevators. These utilize a method of attachment similar to the way Tamiya did it with their Zero. Small photoetch hinge pins pass over a rod that is glued to the moving part. Then the part is attached to the wing by trapping the PE hinge into the wing halves. Unlike the Tamiya method, the Trumpeter parts are "handed", and actually have a proper facing, and must be placed into position during wing construction. (With the Tamiya kit, it was possible to attach the moveable parts at the end of construction.) So you guessed it, I didn't pay attention during the construction, and got bit by one hinge being wrong-way-around. Not too big of a fix, just hack at the plastic, but be forewarned, and avoid my mistake. By the way, I found out the hard way (after the glue dried on the left wing) that the ailerons that moved fine (both up and down) prior to attaching the top of the wing, were trapped from lifting any higher than the neutral position. Before attaching the top of the right wing I trimmed both the inner lip of the wing top and the aileron hinge radius. Speaking of ailerons, they also require a thinning , as the trailing edge is quite thick, and didn't match up to a fine edge.
By the way, as you can see in the photographs, the flaps all have very prominent ejector pin marks. I decided not to do anything to fix them, as I plan on leaving mine in the up position. The main flaps extend quite well, however the little "cheek" flaps seem to impinge with the wing, preventing their matching the drooped angle of the main flaps. I do like the photo-etch method of attaching flaps. In the larger scales, this is surely the best way to get realistic looking flaps
.The wing top pieces also show some slight sink marks just forward of the ailerons, as well as the large pin marks under the top piece in the flat area. I didn't trim these up either, however the soft Trumpeter plastic should pose no problem in clean up.
An interesting couple of detail parts included in the wings are dropped landing lights, and detailed flap arm door (the little door above the flaps on the top of each wing). These are nice touches. I painted the light box interior green (except for the front window) before I realized that the whole hosing was of see-through material. Oh well, you should learn from my mistakes. By the way, I didn't find any pictures in my quick look-see through my references of any shots of Spits with their landing lights deployed after engine shutdown. I'll probably show mine deployed just because it is a feature of the model, and not typical of actual use.
The landing gear shows another tip of the hat from Trumpeter to Tamiya's 1/32nd scale Zero engineering. The landing gear struts are two parts each, cast from a harder black plastic, and incorporate an inner spring to give a true weight on wheels effect. I'm at somewhat of a loss to explain this feature on a model whose landing gear is not designed to function (go up and down). I suppose the model could be posed just after takeoff or before landing showing the over extension of the gear, but somehow I doubt it. Looks to me as if this was seen as a "cool thing to add" without determining who the audience would be for a kit that costs over $100. Sure some of us may "fly" the model during construction, but seldom after the kit is done.
I like the fact that the wheels are separate from the tire, thus facilitating easier painting, but again, as I said earlier, Trumpeter supplies the tire as a rubber part, prone to all the possible "melt down" problems we've heard from other kits. I plan to coat the inside of the tire with Vaseline, as well as the inner spring cavity of the gear legs to help lubricate.
As I was approaching the final stages of construction, the painting I started to pay close attention to the markings provided. They are one aircraft of "K" aircraft of No. 303 "Kosciuszko" (Polish) squadron, RAF. This is a typical paint scheme using dark green and ocean gray over medium sea gray undersurfaces. This example sports the squadron heraldic shield, Polish checkered flag nose emblem and the name "rysia" on the tail and "Ever Reauy N" under the windscreen. Quite a bit of personal markings, and I'll be darned if I know what half of it means. The side codes "RF*K" and the decal fuselage band appear to be printed in white, which I believe ought to be sky. The color guide is anything but helpful. Using Gunze Sangyo Mr. Color paint number call outs (the enamel paint series), Trumpeter would have one paint the aircraft Olive Drab (12), and Dark Sea Gray (25) over IJN Gray (35). The yellow wing leading edge identification bands are called out as Middle Stone (21). Ah, excuse me, did these guys not realize what the real colors were? Didn't they know that Gunze offers the correct colors in both of their enamel and water based paint lines? I really feel here that someone at Trumpeter was asleep at the wheel. The mid to late war Spitfire color schemes are pretty well known by everybody. All they had to do was to ask (or better yet, by a book). Jeesh!
I've decided that I'll paint my spinner and fuselage band sky (vice IJN gray). As for the codes, if I were really dedicated I'd cut out a mask, using the decals as a pattern, and then use the mask to spray on the codes in sky. We'll see what I do.
Prior to final upper color painting, I had to temporarily fix the engine cowls in place with white glue. This was the first check for fit of the three parts that cover the engine. As you can see from the photos, the pieces generally fit pretty well. I had earlier had to put the engine top cowl piece under tension to get it to fit better. The soft plastic took this well, and after a week in a Quick-Grip clamp, it was a better fit.
The painting effort is quite a bear for such a simple paint scheme. Not that it was too hard to paint, just that for those of us (like me) who mainly build 1/48th scale models, the large canvas that is the 1/24th scale Spit' is a lot of surface to cover. My trusty Passche "H" served me well, even if I had to "refuel" the color cup a couple of times per color. I used XtraColor through out for the major painting as I like the gloss effect, which saves me a step in the preparation for applying the decals. Just for the record, X1 RAF Dark Green and X6 RAF Ocean Gray on top with X3 RAF Medium Sea Gray on the bottom.
The decals went on rather well, which surprised me to no end. What looked at first to be quite thick, do in fact snuggle down to show all the rivet detail there is underneath. As I pointed out earlier, the color of the letter codes is incorrect in being presented in white. I believe they and the fuselage stripe / band, ought to be in "Sky" color. I applied all of the major decals, only having problems due to contours with the under wing roundels. These just required a bit more slicing, and paint touch up. By the way, I used Solvaset on the decals, but in hindsight I don't really think this was necessary. The white of the Polish insignia is not quite opaque, showing a bit of the bleed under of the red color. Other than those two items I liked the decals much more than I thought I would at first inspection. Good job on the thin decals Trumpeter! I decided not to put the walkway stripes and some other small decals on as I was getting close to the end, and wanted to finish the project. Little did I realize that the Spit would take a two month vacation as I just had to build the Hasegawa '32nd scale Fw190 D-9, then take a fishing trip to Canada. (And they say modelers don't have "lives").
Long after the decals were dry I finally decided that I had procrastinated long enough and started the finishing add-ons, lights, landing gear, prop, pitot tube etc. I attached all that would eventually be flat coated. Following these bits, I adopted a weathering method of a local model builder, and broke out my cheap water color set to highlight some of those millions of rivet holes. I mixed a drop of liquid dish detergent and some of the black water and color mix, and applied it to the many panel lines and rows of rivets. The soap does two things. It allows the color to better flow (using capillary action in places) by weakening the surface tension of the water) and weakens the bond between the dry water color pigment and the XtraColor surface. After letting it dry for an hour or two, I went back to the model with a dry paper towel. In short strokes from front to rear, I gently rubbed the water color paint from the surface of the plane. The dry paper towel removing just the paint on the upper skin, and leaving the recessed detail painted. I needed to use a wet Q-tip occasionally to remove some heavy build up, but then always let the rest of the area dry before I started rubbing the dry water color off the slick XtraColor surface. Besides black, I used some brown to highlight a few fuel prone areas of rivets and panel lines. This process worked pretty well, but I really wanted a weathered model, so I broke out my Tamiya "Smoke" paint and started a light misting along certain panel lines, as well as bringing out some exhaust smoke. I followed all this with a two session of flat-coating the model using Humbrol satin. I think that dead flat models, especially aircraft, look too flat. Real aircraft, even very dirty ones, have some sheen to them when seen from normal distances.
"Goods" and "Others"*
Goods. The clear parts are exceptionally thin and clear. The Merlin engine is quite nice. It certainly does build up to a great looking model, and in the hands of a better modeler (not hard to do) it will really shine. This kit cries out for the careful attention of a patient super detailer. The kit includes plenty of detail, but at this scale, more is always desired. By the way, I kind of like how all those rivets came out. The decals were very thin, even with the wrong colored codes.
On the "Others" side, in keeping with most Trumpeter kits of recent vintage, it is seriously over-engineered. If there is a way of making any piece from two parts vice one, the Trumpeter folks seem to want to err on the side of over-complexity for the sake of accuracy. Their success on this point is open for debate. The engine cowl pieces are the major disappointment with this kit. If you're like me, and generally like a buttoned up plane to model, the fit of the cowl parts leaves a lot to be desired. The wing gun access panels generally fit pretty well. At the price asked for this kit, I would have liked two sets of fuselage pieces, one as shipped and another with all the fuselage panels attached. I'd even go so far as to say ship it with all the panels attached to the fuselage halves, leaving scored lines on the inside surface showing where to cut to make it with it's engine showing. For those of us who like a smooth nose, we could use a stand to display the nicely detailed engine alongside the finished model. The only other minor gripe I have centers around the landing gear stance. I don't think the gear splay out enough. It might have been my construction (probably was) so I'll pass on this observation as a warning for those builders who follow me. I've already addressed the wrong texture for the top surface of the horizontal stabilizers. I saw on the web discussion of how to transfer the rivet pattern from the bottom piece to the top using a photocopy of the riveted piece, and then (after careful alignment) poking holes through the paper with a pin. This might just work! Finally, I would have liked at least one of the three provided figures to have been a seated pilot.
Now that she's done, what do I think of this kit? She looks like a Spitfire, and for not being a "Spitfire" guy, I found myself liking the kit more as I was getting close to getting it done. She looks nice!
* In the Navy, when we came back from a flight, we would always debrief the mission. We would discuss the "Goods and Others" of the mission. It was a nice way of covering what went right and what didn't!
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