Hasegawa Spitfire IX
Hasegawa's late mark Merlin Spitfires (including the Mark VIII and IX) were typical of that brand's late '90s small scale offerings - crisp recessed panel detail, excellent fit, and very basic interior detail. Many details of the Mk IX changed during production and in service - the kit caters for this with standard and clipped wing tips, early (rounded) and late (pointed) rudders, short and long carburetor intakes, and an optional slipper tank. Also in the box is the Mk VIII's retractable tailwheel and doors (parts D1, D2 and D5) - these are indicated for use on the Mk IX, but instead use part B5, the correct fixed tailwheel and strut.
The kit cockpit includes a featureless instrument panel with a decal for instruments, a seat with cushion detail but no harness, the bulkhead on which the seat is mounted, a nicely moulded control column, and a separate gunsight moulded in clear plastic. Everything mounts to a flat floor - not particularly representative of the largely open framework on the real Spitfire. The fuselage halves feature basic structural detail on the sidewalls, but no throttle or other controls. The area behind the seat bulkhead is completely empty - be sure to paint the inside of the lower wing as well as the fuselage halves, as this area is visible through the cockpit opening. Overall, the detail is adequate for a closed canopy model - Italeri's interior is nicer out of the box, and there are certainly aftermarket sets out there for detail fans.
Out of the box, the kit depicts the C-wing, with 20 mm cannons in the inboard positions, and four .303 inch machine guns in the outer wings. The wing also features bulges over the wheel wells. Though I have not seen a definitive answer on this, it appears this was chiefly a postwar modification for the Mk IX. The landing gear represents the early, internally splined struts (without external torque links), and the wheel wells and covers are appropriate for this configuration. Nicely moulded four spoke wheels are provided. One detail to watch out for on the wing is the kit is that the outboard edge of the ailerons is scribed in two locations. Apparently the inboard line is only correct for the Mk VII, while the outboard line is for the Mk IX
Studying my references, I decided to build MK791, a Spitfire lfIXe of GC I/4 Dauphine. There is a good photo of this aircraft in the les Ailes de Gloire volume on the Spitfire. The photo clearly shows the E-wing armament (two 20 mm cannons outboard of two 50-calibre machine guns), the earlier rounded rudder (although a colour profile of MK791 in the same book shows a pointed rudder), and judging from the wingtip navigation lights, clipped wing tips. Strangely, the instructions for Model Art decals 72/037 state that this aircraft had standard wing tips, and the drawings show a C-wing.
I decided to build the model largely out of the box, looking for a quick project. The only addition I made to the interior was a basic seat harness from lead foil. Note that the harness straps are anchored to the bulkhead at the very rear of the cockpit opening, a bulkhead not included in the kit. I simply left my straps hanging in space. With the cockpit installed, the fuselage halves went together easily. The fuselage seam needed no filler, though I had to recreate the fuel filler detail on the upper cowling as the original is faintly moulded and vanished with a little sanding. Omit part A9, the Coffman starter bulge, which was not present on the lfIX.
The bulk of the work was in modifying the wing. First I scraped and sanded the bulges off the upper wings above the wheel wells. Next, I removed the bulges for the 20 mm cannon breeches. I created new cannon bulges from 20-thou plastic sheet, and installed them in the outbard positions. I filled the four outer wing .303 barrel openings, and their corresponding shell ejection ports under the wings. I cut new ejections chutes under the wing, and moved the spent kit shell deflector bulges to the outboard locations. I removed the kit cannon barrels as well as the rounded fairing from the outboard gun position on the C-wing. For the E-wing, I carved new cigar-shaped cannon fairings, and drilled out the ends of the inboard machine gun fairings.
With the wing changes made, I installed the clipped tips, which fit well, and fit the wing to the fuselage. Fit was excellent. I used a little filler where the trailing edge meets the lower fuselage. The separate lower nose piece fit well to both the fuselage and wing. The version with the longer carb intake (parts F1/F2) appears to be appropriate for most if not all Indochina Spitfires. The separate tail wheel insert fit fine, but the joint between the part and the fuselage does not fall on real panel lines, so I blended it into place with a little Mr. Surfacer. Note that in step 7, the main gear assemblies are shown incorrectly, with the struts and doors outboard of the wheels. In step 8, they are shown correctly.
The canopy is very clear and fits well. Note that the rear fixed section depicts the larger version as used on the Mk. VII - to correctly depict a Mk. IX, mask the lower edge a little higher than the bottom of the moulded part.
The kit prop is probably the weakest part in the kit. The prop blades are too narrow in chord, and the tips are too pointed. I improved the appearance a little by reshaping the tips. The spinner is moulded in two halves, and again the parts do not meet on a real panel line, so some additional filling work was needed.
I used Model Master enamels to paint my Spitfire, usign pre- and post-shading to depict a well-worn finish. I used a Payne's grey watercolour wash to bring out the panel detail, and replicated chipped paint with a Prismacolor pencil. I was disappointed with the Model Art decals. While they are commendably thin, the colours are very translucent. The white on the wing roundels showed the camouflage colours enderneath, and the red was underprinted with a smaller region of white, leaving a halo of dark red around the roundel. The multipart fuselage roundels were better, except the yellow ring was printed almost the same size as the red ring, making at all but invisible on the finished model. The full stencilling provided was well printed, but the carrier film was very matte, and silvered over a gloss coat. I ended up replacing the fuselage roundels with spares, and masking and spraying the wing roundels.
I was really impressed with the Hasegawa kit - it almost falls together. It could use a better detailed cockpit, however with the canopy closed it looks fine. The Model Art decals were a letdown - other sheets by the same manufacturer seem to show an improvement, so this may just be one from a bad batch.
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Last updated 2 June 2010