I’m probably the only guy in the world who thinks this way… but I gotta say it: I’m sort of let down by Eduard’s Spitfire Mk. IX.
I’ve built every injection molded Spitfire Mk. IX in 1/48 scale on the market, and this one has the finest surface detail, the best cockpit detail, and the best shape of any of the other kits, hands down.
But I’ve set my Eduard Spitfire aside for a while in frustration. I’ll let it simmer for a few weeks before I go back to it.
So why am I unhappy with it?
It mostly has to do with how I like to build. I build for fun, so I look for a kit that is simply engineered, and not too fiddly. This kit is a bit fiddly, and some of the engineering decisions leave me scratching my head.
In the cockpit, while it is more detailed than any other Mk. IX in this scale, when I compare it to the Brassin parts, I feel let down. The Spitfire had a very distinct cockpit, and it stayed pretty much the same throughout its life, at least until the Mk. 2x models. There are some key items to look for, and when I see those in the Brassin set, but not in the injection molded set, I feel like Eduard came up short in the injection molded parts, despite how nice they actually are. The same with the IP. The IP for use without the P/E is sad… they just called that one in. The frame around it had some distinctive parts, holes, etc., that they left out.
So overall, it’s a really nice cockpit OOB. But hold it up against the Brassin part, and you can see they short-changed key components that could have been cast in plastic.
The upper cowl is two parts. Usually not a big deal. It’s flat, you sand it down. However, this cowl has some really lovely detail cast into it. But I don’t care if Mr. Tamiya cast it from his special stash of wonder plastic, a seam is a seam and has to be dealt with. And you lose some of that fine detail. It’s too fine to recreate easily. You have to see it in person to believe it, how fine it is. Photos don’t do it justice- trust me on this. But instead of casting it as one pice- which could have been done- they split it. So the whole kit has super-fine rivet detail… and a flat cowl. (Or a cowl with lovely rivet detail and a very visible seam.)
The lower cowl suffers from the same engineering, and then the insult is compounded by splitting the carb intake between the cowl and the wing, making a very difficult area to sand flush. Again- I can’t comprehend the engineering choice made here. If the idea was to have the trailing edge of the carb intake mesh seamlessly with the wing, they achieved that. But it’s at the cost of another seam that is much more difficult to deal with.
The exhaust assembly is about the most ridiculous jigsaw puzzle I’ve ever encountered from a mainstream model. The idea was good- cast some parts to fit inside the cowl to simulate the engine, instead of just some blank slots like most kits. But the way these parts go together is difficult to work out, and I feel it is poorly illustrated in the instructions. To top it off, it’s engineered in such a way that you must fit the exhausts in before painting- creating a problem when it comes to painting & weathering the exhausts later. I’m quite certain a similar approach could have been used that would allow the modeler to insert the exhausts afterwards.
Another odd choice was casting the wing gun tape on the leading edges of the wings. many RAF aircraft had their gun ports taped over before flight. While this tape certainly had some thickness to it. Eduard decided to cast this in, which is a bit overscale. The oddest part though is they also cast in what I assume is supposed to be the machine gun opening- and it’s raised from the tape. Now that is odd… the gun recesses were just that- recesses. If anything, that area should be a small dimple. And having that cast in is a bit pointless, because while the wing fit is good, it’s not good enough not to need to some addressing of the seams with a sanding stick. Once a little sanding takes place there, those raised forts look odd, so I just sanded them smooth. I’ll add my own decals of the tape later- much thinner. (For all the criticism of the Hasegawa kit, it’s gun ports look fabulous, the outboard ones being correctly cast as recessing further into the upper part of the wing.)
The overall fit is very good. I use Tamiya’s more recent work as a gauge, giving it a 100. This kit is a 92 or so. Very good- but not Tamiya. I can already see with test fitting that it will take some work to make the aft wing to lower fuselage join smooth- which will again remove the wonderfully cast detail. Pull out your Tamiya Spitfire Mk. I or Mk. V, or the 1/32 Mk. IX, and put it’s fuselage together. See how it fits? Eduard still has a little work to do. Close, but not quite there, IMO.
I really kept up with all the publicity, read all the reports, watched the blog, participated in the online chat with Vladimir Sulc. It’s weird, but I swear they seem to have been more intent on impressing us with engineering than with seeking build-ability. It absolutely has some of the most amazing detail I’ve ever seen in an injection molded kit. I thought the Tamiya P-47 was incredible, but some of the parts on this kit made my jaw drop. So precise, so tiny- amazing work. Yet as I build it, I feel more and more like it was an attempt to impress with the sprues than to focus on the real product- the final build.
I guess my real disappointment is what I’ve titled the “Criss-Cross-Crash” factor.
When my son was 7 there was a Hot Wheels racing track set called “Criss-Cross-Crash“. It had all of these turns and banking, and the commercial showed the cars racing around, jumping through the air, crashing into each other. My son was just wide-eyed watching it. He spent the months leading up to Christmas talking about it, dreaming about it, writing Santa to please bring it.
So Santa proudly did. 😉
My son was so excited when he opened it up. Jumping around, full of joy. We pulled it out, and built it up. When it was finally ready to run, we turned it on, and put the cars in…
And watched as they launched into space, or got fouled up in the ill-fitting track pieces. If you slowed it down so they did not launch off into space at the first turn they hit, they moved around at a leisurely pace, and if they did collide, it was like two old ladies colliding at 10 mph in the Walmart parking lot. A bump, and both cars just came to stop. Any follow on cars just plowed into them, coming to a stop.
I will never forget the look of disappointment on his face. He tried to bravely act as if it was fun. But I could see his eyes tear up.
This Spitfire is my Criss-Cross-Crash.
I love Spitfires. I’ve built 53 of them. You name a make of Spitfire, in just about any scale, and I’ve probably built it if it’s injection molded. Some go together well. Some not so much. Some have a good shape, some not so much. But I love to build them, and build them a lot.
The Mk. IX is my favorite Mark of Spitfire, by far. And while the Hasegawa kit is nicely detailed, and builds easily, it’s shape is just a bit odd, even for a Barney Builder like me. The Airfix kit, while better shaped, is soft on detail, and thick in places, and falls a bit short. The Occidental/Italeri kit is actually quite build-able, though it lacks in some key detail and has some shape issues also. (I won’t go into detail about the Monogram and Starfix kits.)
(Note- at the time of writing this, May 2013, I inadvertently left out the ICM Mk. IX. So, to rectify that omission- it is a nice kit, but a bit fiddly around the engine, and both examples I’ve built have needed quite a bit of attention in the wing to fuselage fit. Overall, it’s shaped nicer, in my opinion, than the Hasegawa, Airfix or Occidental/Italeri kit. However, in buildability, I rank it below Hasegawa and Occidental/Italeri. ~Jon Bius, Jan 2015)
So I was really, really, really hoping this kit would be “the” Mk. IX. And it sure is nice…. nicer by far in shape and detail than any previous Mk. IX kit.
But it could have been so much nicer with just a few changes. I let my expectations of the kit ruin my ability to enjoy the kit. Like my son and his Criss-Cross-Crash, I sit here building it trying to enjoy it. But I just don’t seem to be able to.
So anyway… it’s a great kit, and people will buy a ton of them.
But for all of Eduard’s wonderful engineering capability, I think they’re losing site of the fact that models are to be built… not admired in the box. And until they fully grasp that, they will always chase Tamiya. Because Tamiya-san understands the real goal: A satisfying build sitting on the shelf of a satisfied modeler.
Y’all excuse me while I go build now… I’ve put the Eduard Spitfire aside for an Eduard I-16 Type 24. A nice kit, well-engineered, that goes together simply, is nicely detailed and fun to build. Just proves Eduard can do it… if they’d stop trying to impress everyone with how fancy their tools are.