The 1/48 Spitfire Mk. IX and its twin, the Mk. XVI have been a problematic issue in plastic modelling. Several companies tried to satisfy a seemly large segment in the modelling community with this classic and beautiful aircraft. However, results were disappointing and the quest for the perfect Spitfire IX remained.
I present here my compromises in the attempts to perfect existing models that proved to me that with some skill, the new-and-perfect 1/48 Spitfire kit is not necessary. As usual, since I build a lot of models, my objective was to spend less and get the most of what I had. Bottom line, the Holly Grail exists and you just have to combine two kits to get it. If you kit-bash a Hasegawa kit with ICM fuselage halves you should get it just right. Having said that, I haven't tried this combination yet and the quality of fit between the wings and the fuselage is left for you to discover.
Let me show you how far are different kits offered in the market from the definitive model mark.
The ARII kit (showed with D-Day stripes) is probably the oldest of the lot and surprisingly had a reasonably good fit with respect to dimensions. And although it features recessed panel lines, the detailing is poor and I opted to use Eduard's photoetched set to enhance the cockpit together with other scratch improvisations. In the end, I was reasonably happy with the result.
The ARII kit
The heavily criticized Occidental kit presented here with the exposed engine received a new nose and a spinner to correct for the most glaring errors as well as other new parts, such as wheels, elevators, rudder and engine that I collected from the spares box. In all, the detailing of panel lines and cockpit in the Occidental kit is somewhat on the crude side while the dihedral angle is inherently too shallow and requires a considerable effort to adjust.
The new Airfix kit (shown as a clipped-wing Mk XVI) is another disappointment despite being the most recent in a long line of kits that were thoroughly reviewed and analyzed on the web. Not only that the plastic parts are thick and crudely done, but also the detailing is insufficient upon closer inspection. In practice, I replaced every part that I could get a spare for including wheels, radiators, rudder, exhaust stacks, elevators, propeller blades, bomb carriers and more. Looking on the bright side, the dimensions and shapes of the Airfix kit seem to concur in scale with the actual aircraft.
Another heavily criticized kit originated from Hasegawa. Since the expectations were great, its reputation fell hard as soon as the "rivet counters" got their hands on the kit. Having read the critics, I thought to correct the fault and added a 3mm fuselage plug. However, in the process of decal placement that followed the real example presented by the Old Flying Machine Company at Duxford, it downed on me that the kit indeed is fatally incorrect and you must add the 3mm length at different points along the fuselage to match the scaled aircraft. Hence, I got a long tailed Hasegawa Spitfire. But, having made this effort I realized that building the Hasegawa kit out of the box does not reveal the flaw instantly and it certainly looks good in the display cupboard even among accurate scale Spitfires.
The ICM kit is the closest to the definitive mark and received favourable reviews albeit the lack of fineness that characterizes other companies like Hasegawa and Tamiya. This kit also had other troubling issues that can be dealt with replacement parts, decals and some putty. The end result nonetheless, is a fine Spitfire IX achieved with minimal efforts by comparison to other kits.