Ocidental, made famous for their beautiful 1/48 SNJ Harvard/T-6 Texan
kits, decided to release another kit that has not been represented well
in 1/48, the Supermarine Spitfire IX. While the molding of the kit was
equal to their inaugural T-6 series, Ocidental's first Spitfire, the Spitfire
IXe, had an incorrect 'sloping' nose profile. This was corrected in the
subsequent release, the Spitfire IXc.
Nonetheless, there is still a perception in some parts of the modeling
community that the Spitfire IXc kit is also inaccurate in shape and dimension.
In fact, a friend recently told me that there were some significant differences
when comparing the Ocidental kit to an 'accurate' Spitfire Mk.5 kit. This
sounded like an interesting bit of research to try for myself.
Not being a Spitfire 'expert', I started by rummaging through
multiple references to determine basic dimensions. I found that
the dimensions for the early Spitfire IX was 31.04 ft in length
with a wingspan of 36.83 ft. The revised rudder on the later Spitfire
IX changed the length to 31.38 ft. These dimensions for the early
Spitfire IX translate to 7.76 inches in length and a wingspan of
9.21 inches in 1/48 scale.
Of course, the early Spitfire IXs were nothing more than Spitfire
Vs that were diverted on the production line to receive a new Merlin
engine and revised underwing radiators to cool it. What I needed
was a decent set of profile drawings that would serve as a template
for comparison of shape and size. I decided to use a profile of
the Spitfire IX, as the fuselage of the Spitfire V kits should align
perfectly with the Mk.IX drawing from the firewall aft.
I first scanned the Spitfire IX 3-view image from Spitfire in
Action (Squadron/Signal number 1039). Then I used my graphics editor
(Paint Shop Pro) to resizing the diagram, and printed the diagram
on my trusty Epson inkjet. It took several attempts to get the diagram
to scale out to 1/48. I used the wingspan as the benchmark, and
once it reached 9.21 inches, I cross checked the resulting fuselage
length. The dimensional proportions of Squadron's artwork was spot-on.
We can now look at some kits.
Since there was a previous finding that a Spitfire V kit and the Ocidental
Spitfire IX kit were not correct in length when aligned at the firewall,
I decided to survey the standard Spitfire V kits first. For this exercise,
I examined the Spitfire V kits from Airfix, Tamiya and Hasegawa.
Airfix Spitfire V
kit was THE Spitfire V to build before the Japanese companies started
releasing their Spitfire kits. Laying the upper wing halves and
the left fuselage half on the diagrams left me wondering if the
Airfix kit was used as the basis of these drawings. The shape and
size of the wings are in perfect agreement with the diagram, as
was the left fuselage half when aligned with the firewall of the
diagram. No problems here.
Tamiya Spitfire V
Tamiya Spitfire Vb is easily the nicest Spitfire released in 1/48.
The detailing is more extensive than any other, and includes parts
to build a standard Vb, or the clipped-wing LF Vb. Once again, laying
the upper wings halves on the diagram revealed spot-on dimensions
and shape. The tail appears to be a few scale inches too short,
but not a major problem.
Hasegawa Spitfire V
Hasegawa offering is a little more spartan in detail than the Tamiya
kit, but offers nice, crisp molding, the same choice of standard
'b' wing or clipped LF wingtips, and a choice of the standard 'pointed'
spinner or a blunt (rounded) spinner. Again we placed the upper
wing halves and left fuselage half against the diagrams, and while
the wings were fine, there is a problem with the fuselage. Upon
closer examination, the alignment of the firewall to the aft of
the cockpit opening is fine, but the fuselage is a scale foot too
short between the rear of the cockpit and the tail. The difference
Ocidental Spitfire IX
two Ocidental Spitfire releases provide the top of the cowl as a
separate part, the shape of the fuselage between the two releases
is identical, so this test applies to both. The upper wing halves
and the left fuselage half were laid on the diagrams. The fuselage
shape and dimensions were spot-on, with the exception of the curve
of the underside of the cowl, it appears a few scale inches too
deep. While this is correctable with a little filing and sanding,
the discrepancy is hardly noticeable. The wings were a hair larger
that the others but their shape and proportions were fine.
Old versus the New
it was time for the real test did Ocidental really fix the Spitfire
IX mold? I dry-fit the old and new fuselage halves together. There was
never a problem with the fuselage aft of the firewall, so the halves align
perfectly. What is immediately noticeable is the hole for the prop shaft,
it has been moved up on the new release. If that's the case, there should
be a corresponding difference in the top of the cowl between the two kits.
Putting the two cowl tops together, you can see a distinctive curve as
the top of the nose slopes down from the firewall to the spinner. This
was indeed the Achilles heel of the first Ocidental release. The new cowl
top is properly flat. The Spitfire IXc has indeed been corrected.
MPM Spitfire IXc/e
MPM recently released a Spitfire IXc/e kit with the appropriate bulges,
etc., between the two wings provided in resin. In fact, MPM provides a
nice array of resin parts to dress up the aircraft. Unfortunately, their
release is using the plastic parts from the first (inaccurate) Ocidental
Spitfire IX kit. It is our understanding that MPM is in the process of
developing a resin correction for this kit. We'll keep you posted.
Interestingly enough, I almost overlooked the minor length discrepancy
in the Tamiya kit until I dry-fit the Tamiya and Ocidental fuselage halves
together. Placing the two of them against the diagram revealed that the
Ocidental length and shape appear to be correct and the Tamiya length
may be too short. But now I can now understand how the perception of an
inaccurate fuselage length might have come about with the Ocidental Spitfire
- someone used the Hasegawa kit as the basis of comparison. The Hasegawa
fuselage is definitely too short! The dry-fitting the Ocidental and Airfix
fuselage halves revealed an almost perfect match.
When dealing with dimensional discrepancies of scale inches, this is
nothing more than interpretation differences when the molds were designed
from whatever source diagrams were used. Given the major discrepancies
between the Squadron and Wings of Fame drawings, it is likely that slightly
different results might emerge if other references are used. So when dealing
in scale models, it is safe to discount a difference in a few scale inches.
The industry standard Airfix Spitfire Vb is still the dimensional winner.
Despite its age, it is still a nice model to start with, though you'll
need to add your own detailing. The Tamiya Spitfire Vb kit is still my
favorite in 1/48, it combines excellent detail with fine molding. As far
as the category of Spitfire IX goes, I can recommend the Ocidental IXc
release without hesitation. Like the Airfix kit, it lacks detail in the
cockpit, but like its Airfix counterpart, it offers the detailer with
a fresh canvas upon which to create that 'perfect' Spitfire IX.