A really nice kit, as expected. Also an opportunity to attempt to reproduce a build that inspired me to do better.
The Spitfire Mk.IX was a stopgap variant rushed into production to meet the threat of the Fw 190, which emerged in late 1941. The Fw 190 featured a powerful engine that gave it an advantage over the Spitfire V then in service, especially in climb rate, and while it couldn’t turn as tightly as the Spitfire, extra power often helps maintain high-G turns longer by compensating for the reduction in airspeed. Of course the Fw 190 was also a tough little plane and heavily armed, thus presenting a different challenge to the agile but fragile Bf 109s.
With Spitfire development ongoing, the next production variant was intended to be the Mk.VIII which would incorporate many aerodynamic improvements over the Mk.V as well as the new two-stage Merlin engine. However this version was not yet ready so it was decided to simply mount the new Merlin into a Mk.V fuselage with a few tweaks to accommodate the longer engine. Thus the early Mk.IXs remained very similar to the Mk.V (with many Vs being rebuilt as IXs) while some of the Mk.VIII’s aerodynamic changes (such as the taller tail fin) were worked into later IX production.
Being one of Tamiya’s range of modern 1/32 props, this was expected to be a very nice build. Detail is excellent throughout, everything fits very well, and it build like nothing else on the market. However you can tell that this was an early effort in that range: this was the second after the Zero and released before the Mustang, Corsair or Mosquito.
While the detail and fit are what we have come to expect, the Corsair and Mosquito especially demonstrate a degree of capability in making kits that just go together perfectly that is not yet in evidence here. Particularly around the cowling and engine mounts this one is extremely fiddly in a way that the two Merlins in a similar mounting on the Mosquito are not.
However the kit remains a delight to build and the only replacement parts were HGW seat belts and a set of resin wheels to replace the vinyl ones.
I bought this kit just before Will Pattison made his stunning example. On seeing that, I put it away knowing that I couldn’t come close to that, and that that look was what I wanted. I toyed with the idea of trying to reverse engineer what he had done and attempt to replicate the techniques, but his styles and techniques are different to mine. I eventually settled on trying to recreate some of the effects while using the techniques that I have been developing. That way I would be able to build upon my existing techniques, understand more about how they do or don’t work, and it might open up new approaches.
This kind of cockpit work is something I had never been confident with, which is why you may have noticed I often did closed canopies. However I have been putting a lot of work into them and it feels like that is paying off.
The stripes are always going to be a love or hate thing on this build, and I received plenty of feedback on both sides. Poorly painted, heavily worn stripes which include a top portion are a thing that many in the hobby don’t accept “because they weren’t there very long”. This is true, but based on photos there is evidence for rough painting, there is evidence for top stripes becoming worn, and even evidence for top stripes being refreshed in the short time they were present. I guess the aircraft were flying round the clock and the wings were walked on when rearming them, plus it seems the stripes were applied with a water-soluble paint. So I feel justified in thinking that a Spitfire could have looked like this, and that each of these processes could have happened if not necessarily all on the same plane.
The stripes were made with torn Tamiya tape. This approach worked reasonably well, though it was tricky to not overlap the colours too much, and would have been easier had the tear in the tape been less inclined to wander left and right as it ripped.
By the time I finished the basic paintwork (the camo, insignia, stripes, and chipping) I wasn’t especially keen on the result. I had expected that it wouldn’t live up to what I wanted, but it was still disappointing. The chipping didn’t go very well, with issues of the hairspray not reactivating despite this being a process I have used consistently for some time now. I was also unconvinced by the look of the grey-green camo.
Part of this was because the green came out a little dark (fixed with some light oils in areas that would be exposed to the sun), but also because the processes done in the basic paint tend not to touch the some of the areas which need the most weathering. For example the fuselage grime was barely present at this point except for a subtle shifting created by lightening the marble coat under less dirty areas and keeping it dark on grimy ones. So it definitely helped to lighten the rear fuselage and wing outboards with oils while adding grime and seepage to forward and inboard areas.
The chipping was based on what looked like high-traffic areas, along with a useful bit of information that the underside gun covers on Spitfires were often removed when arming, so those also got depicted worn.
My opinion on the look of this model changed while working on stippling very thinned dark colours onto it using the MAC valve on my PS-770. The stipple really brings this together, giving a random dirtiness that unifies the surface.
Other than oils, grime and seepage was added with AK fuel stains and kerosene stains (which are brown and grey/black enamel products which give a nice trace of streaking). I also highlighted a lot of rivets with silver paint to represent fasteners that had been scuffed. Again, this process gave a really nice effect around chipped areas: the chips give a patch where the paint is fully worn through while the highlighted rivets extend that and subtly show the extent of the walked-on area. That’s the idea anyway.
Overall I really enjoyed this build and it is up there with the Corsair as the most successful 1/32 prop I have done.
Further detail photos