Thursday, 29 March 2012

Build Review - Academy 1/72 Spitfire Mk XIVc

I love doing these "little" kits. As long as they are decent quality, of course. If your experience of 1/72 scale Spitfires goes no further than the old Airfix toolings from the 70s then think again, there are some amazing small scale kits available nowadays. And this is one of them.

In the box, you get a couple of sprues and a transparency set, but it is immediately apparent that you have some great quality to work with here. Apart from the prop blades - more on that later.

Starting with the cockpit, you get separate parts for all the key elements, i.e. seat, armour, seat back frame, a pretty good representation of the cockpit floor and an exquisite instrument panel. I chose not to use the kit supplied decal for the panel (I rarely do) since the relief detail on the panel is lovely. I simply painted it black, dry brushed with light grey and blobbed some Tamiya Clear into the dials. Looks as good as you will ever get in this scale. I made up some seat belts from Tamiya tape and put the whole lot together. Painted cockpit green, dry brushed with Revell acrylic steel (that is some great paint, by the way - not far short of Alclad for metal finishes) and the "office" was ready.

It all slotted beautifully into the fuselage halves. Had a mild panic when I noticed that the instructions called for the installation of a spinner pin before closing the cockpit and there seemed no way to hold it in place. But I was fooled because it looked like one of those old Airfix "do not glue" pins - it isn't though. Glue it in place and the fixing happens within the spinner. Neat trick - although to be honest I prefer props that can be easily removed after the model is finished.

Next the wings go on, utilising the traditional Spitfire method of single piece under wing and two top halves. On less well engineered kits this can be a nightmare to fit properly, but this one snapped into place perfectly. Tailplane on and canopy masked, on to the finishing. I used no filler to speak of at all, just a light sanding although I trickled a small amount of Tamiya primer in to the wing and tail roots for good measure.

I painted the underside in Tamiya XF-19 (sky grey) and the top in Dark Sea Grey. Blu-tack was used to mask the camo lines and the green added using my own concoction of a mix of Tamiya Black Green and Flat Green which is the nearest I can get to the right shade. This all worked pretty well, although it is fiddly in this small scale. Just a few minutes spent touching up and then I smothered the whole thing with Klear.

When set, I applied the decals, opting to use the kit decals for the roundels and squadron codes, but raided the spares box and used a TechMod sheet for the stencils. The kit sheet contains virtually no stencilling so I always have plenty of such things in my stash. Techmod decals are good for stencils, but their larger decals are horribly thick and don't really respond to decal solution very well - even my Micro Sol.

Decaling done, another coat of Klear preceded my usual black oil panel line wash. The panel lines on this kit are delicate and I was worried that they would not have survived the painting and copious amounts of Klear but fortunately enough of the wash stuck to make it look about right.

While this was all drying, I put together the undercarriage, which is well represented with sharp detail, although I suspect the wheels are a little on the large side. But no matter, I went with them. These bits all slotted in to the body with little protest, just a little wiggling to get the plane balanced and correctly aligned as is normal.

The final part is the prop. This is the only major downside of this kit. The blades are ridiculously wide and I had hoped that this would not be too much of a problem but once assembled it looked more like a turbo fan than a WWII propeller. Too poor even for my relatively laid back approach. So I disassembled the spinner and trimmed and sanded down the blades, re-painted them and they looked much better now. Probably not perfect, but passable.

So in summary, other than the prop blades and the sparse decal sheet, this is pretty much a perfect kit.

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