My thanks to Eduard for providing this kit and my sincere apology for the length of time it took to complete the review. My excuse – I was savoring the building of both aircraft.
By now the terrific reputation of the Eduard Spitfires is well established, they are superbly detailed, accurate and buildable. So I will not cover the same ground by other reviewers, IPMS-USA or elsewhere. With this combo Eduard releases its first bubble top spitfire, providing many more options for late and post war Spitfire Fans and they present a lot of choices, so many so that it is hard to choose which schemes to model. In this package are two complete profi-pack kits, one with the high back and one with the new low back. The plastic of the hi-back kit is the same as their previous Mk IX releases. For the low back, the kit substitutes a new clear sprue with the bubble canopy as well as the low back fuselage. It also includes a new wing with blisters molded in for the late war three spoked tire, which are also included. Like the previous kits, there is no cutting or panel insertion to be done this E wing is ready to go! Additionally, Eduard provides the early E wing, a nice touch. Since I wanted to use the new wing in this review, the spare E wing went into my Mk IXC kit to increase my options when I build it. The PE fret for each kit is different, tailored to the aircraft type. One issue which alarmed me, when I took stock of the kit contents, was the presence of only a single mask. As I mulled this over, I realized that the mask was specific to this set and had the requisite pieces for both planes. There are three decal sheets and the primary one is quite large and contains the aircraft specific markings. The other two sheets are stencils, one new and one previously released in other kits. All are very nicely printed by Cartograf.
Before starting, I had to decide which aircraft I would model, since that would dictate the parts needed. As with previous Eduard Spitfire kits, they provide the parts needed to model every variation of late Merlin Spitfires, so you will end up with a lot of parts in your spares bin.
- For the bubble top, I chose to model the 1949 Elmdon Air Race, because I really like the scheme. These planes flew stock, including armament; just the bombs and gun ammo were left out. This plane requires the new fuselage, the blistered wing (clipped), the round exhaust pipes (as confirmed by the only known photo of the plane), a large cowl, and metal horizontal stabilizer control surfaces. It also carries the bright-colored post-war roundels.
- For the high-back, I chose RR227 Flown by Czechoslovak Squadron Leader Otto Smik at the time of his loss in action over Belgium – I was deeply moved by the courage of the Czechoslovak pilots in the movie “Dark Blue World” and as a nod to Eduard. This builds up like most late Spitfire Mark IXs, except with pointed wing tips; it uses the fishtail exhausts.
What I later came to realize as I researched these planes, is that I picked the two with the lease documentation! As I mentioned there is only one picture of the Racer and documentation on the race itself is scarce. Up to this point profiles showed the temporary fuselage band as yellow, but Eduard states its research points to light blue. Otto Smik’s plane is also not well documented, including the squadron code – there are no pictures. So I put my faith in Eduard and built both planes by their research.
I started with the bubble-top and quickly realized how pleasurable the build was going to be. The parts fit well needing no putty. I especially liked the rollover molding of the leading edge, eliminating that seam. I did find the instructions a bit difficult in the cockpit because the angle of the projection chosen, pictures helped immensely locating small items. I caused my own problems when I departed from the recommended cockpit assembly provided in the instructions. I was able to recover, but I learned my lesson to pay “Czech” the instruction sequence! The bubble top has a canopy retraction mechanism which resembles an angled shelf on the wall of the starboard fuselage. From what I can tell, it is simply a hand crank and chain, and the “shelf” is the chain guard. These pieces are provided in PE. I also opted to use the PE head armor and roller assembly for the shoulder harness – more fiddly, but more petite. All in all, the cockpit is a wonder to construct, though I did find the seat belts too thick and hard to bend into a relaxed look. I used MM RAF Interior Green throughout, with applications of Warpigs black wash followed by drybrushing with Interior Green and MM Non-buffing aluminum to show wear. Since they are pre-painted you can’t anneal the metal. I also liked the socket for the tail wheel, a nice design to prevent it from being snapped off in handling. Closing the fuselage was without incident, the cockpit fit perfectly.
The rest of the construction went smoothly. The wings went together easily with perfect dihedral thanks to the cross member G76. Pay close attention to the wheel well sidewalls as there are differing options. I opted for the clear clipped wing tips over the solid ones; I found them to be easy to use. The fit of the horizontal stabilizers was a solid lock. There is enough play in the horizontal stabilizer to give it the characteristic droop seen on Spitfires in the field. The wing radiators were a pleasure to assemble and I like the option of opening the flap, which I did on this build. I painted the inside of the radiators before attaching them to the wing. I used Model Master Buffing Magnesium and once dried applied a black wash. Once the wash dried I used a slightly damp flat Q-tip rubbed across the raised detail to highlight it and give the illusion of depth. The wing to fuselage fit was tight and needed finessing at the rearmost part of the wing root. Two items were unclear to me – the exhaust subassemblies and the nose intake door position. The exhaust assembly in not intuitive and while I am good at manipulating images in my head, this alluded me for quite some time, until I figured it out. I recommend building assembly “H” (“E” in the other set of instructions) first as the view is clearer. Eduard clearly over-engineered this assembly. The little PE flap is too thick and small to easily bend.
At this point I was ready to paint the plane, so instead I moved to build the second aircraft so that I could benefit from the lessons learned and so that I could paint planes the same colors at the same time. The build of this plane is different and the instruction book has a second section specific to the high-back variant. I frequently found myself lost between the sections and confused in my building sequence until I dog-eared the start of the relevant section so I could easily find my way back. Perhaps it is me getting older… This time I followed the instruction sheet for assembling the cockpit and it went more smoothly. One thing I did on both builds was to glue the cockpit sidewalls to the fuselage – I just prefer that method – and I still achieved a trouble free assembly. I flat coated both cockpits because I find the preprinted PE to shiny. I went back over the IP and put drops of Future in each bezel to restore the shine to the instrument glass. The rest of the assembly of the second plane went together just as well as the first, with the same issues.
At this stage it was time to paint the outside of the plane – I used mostly MM Enamel RAF colors for this build. I chose to paint the exhaust assemblies separately and leave them off, and so I temporarily affixed the engine cowl while painting the camouflage. The Eduard canopy masks fit well provided good protection throughout. I started by pre-shading with flat black. With so much surface details I should have just painted everything black and saved the time. I then painted the underside and lower fuselage Medium Sea Gray. Once done I masked the fuselage band on the bubble-top and invasion stripes on the high-back and laid down a coat of MM Classic White (my favorite white). I also painted the leading edge of the wings and the spinners white. For the leading edge yellow recognition stripes, they are 4 inches total, 2 inches above and below the leading edge. I used an O-scale ruler to measure this width. Next I re-masked and sprayed the top colors of Testors Light Blue (1/4 ounce bottle) for the racer, gloss black for the invasion stripes, Deep Yellow for the leading edge stripes, and red on the spinners. Once the paint was cured, I masked over the various stripes and lower surfaces in preparation for the upper camouflage. After spraying the Ocean Gray, I went back and did some subtle fading. I then made masks for the Dark Green by enlarging the profiles in the back and transferring the pattern onto wide masking tape with carbon paper (yeah, really old school!). Once the Dark Green was dried, I did the same fading technique.
The next step was a coating of Testors Metalizer Sealer to prep for the decals. The decals went down easily, though there is a lot of sharp recessed detail. Eduard thoughtfully provides half codes to replicate where the Blue Band on the racer was sprayed over the existing markings. There was a lot of stenciling and the kit does not provide quite enough of some markings without using the third stencil sheet. Unfortunately, the decal numbers don’t match the new sheet, so I had to do some hunting and comparison. I sealed everything with Metalizer Sealer before a wash and weathering. The crisp recessed detail really takes a nice wash. I used a black wash by Warpigs (no longer in production) and while I am happy with the result, I will try more of a burnt umber next time. As for weathering I applied s a small amount to the bubble top since it was post war, minimizing exhaust staining and paint wear. On the high-back, I chose to show field wear including heavy exhaust staining, dirt spray, and paint erosion to bare metal. In both cases I did not replicate fluid leaks, because I have not mastered a realistic technique, I can always add it later. I finished by applying thin layers of Testors Dull Coat to dull everything.
Final assembly was quick and I added all of the fiddly bits that would have been lost or broken if I had added them earlier. Remember this bubble top has the three spoke hubs and the razor-back the 4-spoke hubs. Eduard molds the hubs separate from the tires greatly easing painting and weathering. The landing gear I painted Testors Old Silver with a black wash. The tires I painted Floquil Faded Black and them drybushed a dusty weathering on. Once the landing gear was in place, I misted more dirt onto the gear doors and hubs of the high-back plane. For the high-back I did add the bombs provided which I painted Testor’s Olive Drab and drybrushed with MM SAC Bomber Tan.
These were great kits and the gold standard for Spitfires in 1/48. There are so many choices of schemes, that I will be looking to pick up more of the bubble-topped Spitfire Mark XVIs. The spares went into my other non-Eduard Spitfire kits. Out of the box, it is hard to not achieve good results while have a lot of fun in the process.