The Airfix Spitfire FR Mk XIV: The First Few Days

When I first saw the photos of the Spitfire FR Mk XIV from Airfix, I wanted to build it. The mark fourteen is arguably the best looking Spitfire that was ever produced. The clipped wings, bubble canopy (on the later XIVs), Rolls Royce Griffon in the nose, and 5-blade Rotol propellor made it one of the sexiest aircraft in the sky and deadly at lower altitudes. It was also a quick and stable photo reconnaissance platform, which is what this kit represents.

This is now the fourth Spitfire I’ve built so I have some experience with them. I built the Eduard Mk VIII (1/48) a few years ago as Lonesome Polecat. Then in 2017 I built the Tamiya Mk IXc (1/32) as Pierre Clostermann’s Normandy ride with Invasion Stripes. 2018 saw me build Lonesome Polecat again, though this time with the Tamiya Mk VIII in 1/32.  Airfix’s offering is the weakest out of this bunch, but these other kits are really just outstanding.

The Airfix kit is pretty simple out of the box. It actually is very reminiscent of the “two sprue wonders” – the older, but excellent, Tamiya boxing’s in 1/48. 4 gray sprues (that really should have been 3) and one clear make up the entirety of the kit. The clear parts aren’t as clear as what came in the Airfix Blenheim, however. The gray sprues all have a little bit of flash that I’m noticing to be typical of Airfix. Also some significant ejector pin flash on a few pieces but they were on areas that would eventually be hidden.

The cockpit comprises 17 parts, 8 of which are for the seat alone. Also included with the cockpit assembly is the camera since this is the FR version of the Spitfire. I painted everything with AMMO of Mig “interior grey-green” over a base of black Mr. Surfacer 1500. AMMO paints don’t have the durability of lacquers like Mr. Color or MRP but I like having the ability to touch up areas with a brush and I can also achieve some interesting effects while brushing the paint. I also used metallic colored AK Interactive weathering pencils for some chipping and wiring.

I’m going to be finishing the build in a small vignette of Eindhoven airfield during the wet winter months of early 1945. Some of the photos I’ve seen of Eindhoven show tons of mud on the airfield so I dirtied up the cockpit floor with AMMO “airfield dust” pigments and a mix of oils to vary the final color.

One downfall to the kit is that it doesn’t include belts for the seat. This is fine if you include the pilot, but I don’t think I’ve ever included the pilot in one of my builds. So I purchased Eduard steel belts that also came with their LööK instrument panel. The panel is hard to see in the tiny cockpit but it’s still an improvement over the clunky kit panel. After attaching the belts I added some shading with oils.

As I mentioned earlier, the camera is included as part of the cockpit assembly so before I can close the fuselage, it needs to be dealt with. It’ll be next to impossible to see once closed so I didn’t go overboard. I simply painted the framework interior grey green and the camera black. I used some liquid mask to cover the lens of the camera, which comes as a clear part, just in case it could be seen.

Closing the fuselage came pretty easily. The fit is snug, but there were no real gaps anywhere. I did have to keep pressure on the nose while it dried but that was only to keep everything aligned. I’ll mention this now but didn’t notice it until later, but there is apparently a notable twist in the tail. I’ll go into more detail on that shortly.

Airfix, for some reason, decided to leave the fuel tank forward of the cockpit as a separate piece.  This would have been ok if the piece fit properly, but it doesn’t.  It sits skewed with the whole thing sitting slightly clockwise compared to the rest of the fuselage.  It’s also too narrow.  Holding pressure while MEK setup allowed me to force it a little bit wider, but I still needed some filler along the starboard side where it nears the cockpit.  I used Bondo Spot and Glazing Putty for this job.  I like Bondo because, once dry, it’s very similar to the plastic and, because of it’s lacquer base, it bonds well.  In addition to that, it scribes nicely with only a little bit of pressure.

I cleaned up the seams with CA glue and sanded everything smooth. The lower wing section was attached to the fuselage at this point. I noticed a section of the wing was warped as well. I found this before it was attached to anything so I was able to fix it with some heat and brute force. The joint between the lower wing and fuselage is, again, pretty tight and I had to keep my hands on it while the MEK set up, otherwise the wing would have pushed away from the fuselage. Once it was solid, I test fit the top wing sections before adding the wheel well walls that slot into the lower wing section. The upper wings appeared to mate well with only a small gap and an area at the trailing edge where some filler was needed to make the surface flush.

While waiting for glue to dry between the wing halves, I built the prop and spinner for the Griffon engine. It appeared that the molds for the prop weren’t polished very well and there were some machining marks that transferred to the plastic. With Airfix’s soft plastic it was a little bit challenging to sand the rotol prop without damaging anything. The five bladed propeller looks very mean once it’s together and gives the whole aircraft a rather stunning look.

At the same time I was able to start installing the gun barrels and clipped wing tips.  The shape of the 20mm barrel is a little questionable and it it needed a lot of filler where it meets the wing.  The clipped wing tips come as clear parts and, to attach them, you have to cut the original tips off of the upper wing sections.  I carefully cut the original tips off with a #11 blade and a razor saw. A quick test fit of the tips showed that I had to make the molded-in hole bigger to make the tip piece line up. The tip blended seamlessly into the wing.

This is where the tail twist was found. Because of the shape of the fuselage, the twist couldn’t be seen earlier. But at this point I attached the horizontal stabilizers to the tail. They should sit perpendicular to the vertical stab and they do. The fit is very good here (once you remove some flash from the holes). After getting the stabs located, I sat the plane on my bench and looked at it from the front to make sure they were aligned properly. The twist became clear as day here.

The only way I could think of to try to fix it would be to heat it up and bend it back where it should be. But at this point, with the fuselage glued and everything attached to it, I didn’t think the reward was worth the risk. It’s also not quite as noticeable with the elevator in position. I decided to drop the elevator a little bit just to give the plane a slightly dynamic pose.

I had already sprayed some seam lines with primer to check for seams, but now started putting it down on the rest of the plane. It took a few layers as I always seem to find a spot that needs to be fixed up as I prime. So I fixed the few spots and gave it a quick polish with a buffing stick.

And that’s where we stand. I’m ready to start laying paint which will start with aluminum in strategic areas for chipping. I’m happy to be at this point only a week into the build. It’s a nice change after spending months on my two previous builds. I’ll pick back up with part two once I get painting.

Stay tuned.

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