Tamiya 1/32 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXc

KIT #: 60319
PRICE: $159.00 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Andy Abshier
NOTES: Not just the finest kit of a Spitfire ever produced, it is possibly the finest plastic model kit of an airplane ever produced.


In September 1941 the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 was introduced into Luftwaffe service.  RAF pilots in Spitfire Mk. V's encountering the new type immediately found the Fw-190 to be superior to the Spitfire Mk. V in all parameters, and RAF losses in operations over Europe rose dramatically.  The pilots made no secret of the inadequacies of the Spitfire Mk. V, and these reports made it to the highest levels of the RAF, who promptly issued a specification for a fighter that could match the Fw-190.

Fortunately for the RAF, Supermarine had already been testing a new variant of the Merlin engine, the Merlin 61, in response to the RAF's request to develop an engine with improved high-altitude response.  The Merlin 61 placed two supercharger blowers in series with an intercooler, greatly improving performance.  The 61 engine's improvement over the Merlin 45 engine that was then powering the Spitfire Mk. V was dramatic, increasing effective horsepower at 30,000 ft. from 720 hp. to 1020 hp. 

The resultant Merlin 61 Spitfire, the Mark IX, was basically a stop-gap airplane based on the Spitfire Mk. V and using, as much as possible, the Mk. V's structures and planform.  Changes from the Mk. V included revised under wing radiators, revised engine bearers, a longer cowling, and a four-bladed propeller.  Later improvements included a revised under-cowling intake, extended rudder, revised mass counterbalances for the horizontal stabilizers, and revised cannon fairings. Although the Mk. IX was heavier than the "definitive" Merlin 61 types on order, the Mk. VII and Mk. VIII, performance of the Mk. IXc was nonetheless so much improved over the Spitfire Mk. V that the RAF was able to re-establish air superiority over occupied Europe.

The first Mk. IXc Spitfires to enter service were with 64 Sqn., RAF, in June 1942.  The "interim type" turned out to be the most-produced of all Spitfire variants, and the type remained in service until the end of the war.  Spitfire Mk. IXs would also fight for the Israeli Defence Force in the 1948-49 war.


When the kit was first announced in September 2009, sprue photos and built-up test shots were shown at that time, and what was on view was tantalizing.  With the kit now in hand I can say, for myself at least, that what we saw in pictures on the Internet does not do the kit justice. 

Upon opening the large and heavy box, one is greeted with sprues stacked bottom to top, and a lot of them, 26 in total.  In addition to the plastic parts, there is a sprue of vinyl parts for the tires and engine hoses, two photo-etched frets, bags of metal fasteners and rods, magnets to hold the engine covers in place, and the engine covers themselves packaged in a small box within the box, and inside cellophane-wrapped individual trays! 

Molding is superb overall.  In the 26 sprues I did not find any flash, short shots, or improperly placed ejector pin marks.  On the major external surfaces sprue gates run to the gluing surfaces, so that when the areas are cleaned up they won't show on the outside.  Surface detail is all engraved, including panel lines, rivets, and even screw heads.

The wing parts are riddled with openings so that inserts for the "C" wing can be placed; were it anyone's kit but Tamiya's this would be cringe-worthy, but I suspect the inserts will drop right in.  This also suggests that other versions of the Spitfire may be forthcoming.  No guns or gun bay parts are provided, but with the separate cannon covers  already there (both early and late types), I wouldn't be surprised if the aftermarket stepped in to help. 

Interior detail in the fuselage is very comprehensive.  The cockpit, with 66 parts, is all there, including the proper floorless presentation, early and late type gun sights, and photo-etched seat belts (the belts appear to be a Sutton harness, which would be accurate for an early IXc--consider replacement with a Q harness if you're building a late IXc).  You're not going to need aftermarket help, save for one tiny fix, detailed below.

A full Merlin 61 engine is provided.  89 parts make up the engine--and that's not including the six exhaust stacks for each side (both round and fishtail), each individually molded and with realistically hollow ends easily the equal of Ultracast's best work.  The engine can be shown fully opened or fully covered or anything in between, with tiny magnets used to hold the engine covers in place.  Photos of built-up models show that the engine covers fit perfectly when they are in place.

I should mention also that the fuselage halves are molded from the firewall back, again suggesting that earlier Spitfire variants are on the way.  The fuselage also has inserts for the fixed tail wheel on the IX, and certainly suggests that retractable tail wheel variants such as the Mk. VIII are forthcoming. 

Tamiya left no stone unturned on this kit.  Even the wheel wells, usually simplified in most Spitfire kits, get attention here, with the walls of the round portion of the well fully detailed and made up from 5 parts on each side.  Speaking of the landing gear, two complete sets of main gear are provided, so that the modeler can display the completed model gear up or gear down by interchanging the appropriate struts using poly-caps and screws.    

Two pilot figures are included.  One is a seated pilot in full flight kit, the other is a standing pilot in an RAF flight sight, flying boots, and officer's cap.  Both are well sculpted and include separate arms and heads. 

Instructions are very clear, and very lengthy!  They comprise 71 steps start to finish and given the complexity of this model, I would recommend that they be followed implicitly.  There are alternate parts for early and late Spitfire IXs and mounting holes to be opened (or not opened) so decide which version you want to build before starting.  Color callouts are in Tamiya colors, so have a cross-reference handy if you're using paint from other lines. 

A bonus 16-page booklet is provided, printed on full-color glossy stock.  It includes a history of the Spitfire, a nice graphic explanation of the wing types fitted to the Spitfire (a nice primer for the aspiring Spitfire boffin) and reference photos of a Canada Aviation Museum example.  

Few aircraft subjects in our hobby inspire as much passion as the Spitfire and the boffins can be a very tough lot to please.  Since the kit has come out, I've been monitoring the message boards for discussions of this kit.  The complaints, if you can even call them that, about this kit between all of the message boards I've read boil down to these:

1. The decal used to represent the artificial horizon is in color, when wartime artificial horizons were black and white.  Easy fix--cut out the wrong instrument from the Tamiya decal, and use a Reheat or Mike Grant Decals black and white artificial horizon as a substitute.

2. The flare storage rack for the seat (part F48) was fitted only to early Spitfires, not the Mk. IXc--one more suggestion that early variants are on the way.  Easy fix: leave it off!

3.  The early-style cannon bulges came in for early criticism from the photos of the test shots and sprues.  The consensus I've seen is that the Tamiya-provided setup may have been fitted, but it was not the most common type.  I would not be surprised if an alternate early-style cannon cover was done in resin. 

Aside from the early-type cannon bulges, I've seen no complaints about the outline, dimensions, or overall look of the model. None.  Tamiya dead-ass effin' nailed it. 

Two decal sheets are provided, including markings for three aircraft:

1.  EN398, JE-J, Kenley Wing, RAF Kenley July 1943, flown by WC J.E. "Johnnie" Johnson.  Dark green/ocean gray camouflage over medium sea gray.

2.  EN315, ZX-6, 145 Sqn., Polish Fighting Team, Tunisia 1943 (pilot not stated).  Dark earth/mid stone camouflage over azure blue.

3.  TD202, P, GC 1/4 "Dauphine", French Air Force, Nha-Trang, French Indochina 1948 (pilot not stated).  Late IXc clipped-wing variant with the tall rudder in dark green/ocean gray camoflage over medium sea gray. 

Decals are sharply printed and in register. Both red and green maple leaf badges are provided for Johnson's aircraft; use which one you see fit..  The roundels have the proper shades for the blues and the reds for the French and RAF markings.  Yellow ID bands, gunport tapes, full stenciling, and propeller tip markings are included as well.

Tamiya decals get a bad rap, but they work well if you soak them in warm water and use Micro Set for setting.  Micro-sol, except in very small amounts, causes these decals to wrinkle.  That said, aftermarket sheets are out there, or are on the way, so more choices are available.

Paint masks for the canopy parts are provided.  You'll have to cut them out yourself, but they will make your life easier when it comes time to paint.  They are printed on Tamiya tape stock, so they will work well.


As I said in the data block, this may well be the finest plastic scale model aircraft ever produced.  I don't see how anyone is going to top this kit anytime soon, or at all.  Now if Tamiya could just perform this kind of magic on the P-51B or D, many of us would die happy!

Go buy or order one of these models.  Do it today.  Pay full price if you have to.  You will be glad you did!

Review sample provided by my wallet--because you probably wouldn't believe this review if the kit wasn't bought by me!



Price, Alfred: Late Marque Spitfire Aces 1942-45; Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 5, 1995 

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