by: Tim Hatton [ ]
Pavla's has recently released in their ever expanding range of conversions sets, a set that will transform the Airfix 1/72 Spitfire MkI into a a Spitfire Pr Mk IC, Pr Mk IG or a Pr Mk IV. Included are resin and vac formed parts as well as water slide decals.
Photo reconnaissance aircraft [and their pilots]are a breed amongst themselves when it comes to aircraft, normally developed from fighter aircraft, which swapped armament for cameras. One such recon aircraft during the Second World War was the Spitfire. Pavla have researched, developed and released a set to transform the Airfix Spitfire Mk I into three different PR aircraft:
Mk I PR Type C carried a total of 144 gal (655 l) of fuel and was the first photo reconnaissance aircraft to reach as far as Kiel, Germany. The extra fuel was carried in the tank behind the pilot and in a 30 gal (136 l) blister tank under the port wing, which was counterbalanced by a camera installation in a fairing under the starboard wing. A larger oil tank was installed, necessitating the reshaping of the nose to the distinctive PR Spitfire "chin". This version was also known as the Long Range or LR Spitfire.
Mk I PR Type G was the first fighter-reconnaissance version and performed a similar low-level tactical role to the Type E. One oblique F.24 camera, with either an eight inch or 14 inch lens, was fitted facing to port, between fuselage frames 13 and 14. Two vertical F.24 cameras were also installed in the fuselage. The forward camera, installed below the oblique, could be fitted with a five inch or an eight inch lens while the rear camera could be fitted with an eight inch or a 14 inch lens. A 29 gal (132 l) fuel tank was fitted just behind the pilot. The first PR Gs were converted from Mk I airframes and their Merlin II engines replaced with Merlin 45s. Late PR Gs were converted from Mk V airframes. The Type G was fully armed with 8 × .303" Brownings and retained the armoured windscreen and gunsight.
Mk IV PR Type D had the longest range of any of the early PR Spitfires. It could carry 114 gallons of fuel in its “d” wings, giving it a range of 2000 miles – in one of its first missions, a PR Mk IV reached Stettin, in the Baltic! It entered service in October 1940 (after the Mk VI), and was produced in much larger numbers than any other early PR Spitfire – a total of 229 were produced. She was known as the “bowser” because of the amount of fuel she could carry. The PR Mk IV could carry a wide variety of cameras, each given a letter code:
W: Two F.8 with 20in focal length
X: One F.24 with 14in focal length
Y: One F.52 with 36in focal length
S: Two F.24 with 14in focal length
The parts come in a transparent plastic blister package. The contents are a bit loose inside the blister.
2 x seats one with padding and the other without.
1 x deeper chin.
1 x large Vokes air filter.
1 x wing oil cooler.
1 x insert for oil cooler recess on the lower port wing.
1 x camera access hatch for the fuselage port side.
1 x 29 gallon fuel tank.
1 x wing camera blister.
1 x wing fuel tank blister.
1 x oil tank blister.
2 x 5 spoke wheels.
1 x unpressurised canopy.
1 x pressurised canopy.
The water slide decals are sealed in a plastic transparent package. Pavla provide three marking options:
A) Pr Mk IC, R6903, P/O Gordon Green. Feb 13th 1941. PRU blue overall.
B) Pr Mk IG, R7059, 1. PRU [Photo Reconnaissance Unit], May 1941, PRU pink overall.
C) Pr Mk IV, BR880, “Flying Scotsman”, 681 SEAC Squadron, Camilla, India. PRU blue overall. Pavla have this one marked down as a PR VI, which I think is a miss-print.
Six pages A5 manual.
Both seats are exquisitely moulded with some seat detail such as seat adjustment lever, seat harnesses across the lap and on one seat cushioning on the back rest. The seat with the cushioning also has what looks like a plate of armour attached to it. Each seat comes on a small block. The kits chin needs to be replaced with the Pavla version which is much deeper. This fairing covered the much larger oil tank. The large Vokes air filter is cast onto a deep chin that covered the enlarged oil tank. The intake is recessed and the recessed panel lines are very fine. The oil cooler for the port wing has a recessed intake and outlet and the recessed panel lines are very fine. There is a resin insert for the recess on the Airfix Spitfire port wing where the oil cooler is located. The camera access hatch for the fuselage port side is tiny and designed to fit where the radio hatch is situated. Obviously some surgery is required to fit the new hatch. The hole for the camera is to be filled with “clear fix”. On the block that contains the wing oil cooler, insert for oil cooler recess and the camera access hatch, there is a tiny blister that represents the oil tank blister situated on top of the port wing. There should be one under the wing, but it's covered over by the wing fuel tank blister.
The 29 gallon fuel tank is another lovely piece of casting. This sits directly behind the pilot, fitted to the kit frame. The filler cap, frame hangers and fuel pipe to the engine are easily recognisable. The fuel pipe is very fine and is only joined to the fuel tank at the exit point and where it disappears under the tank, amazing casting by Pavla. So be very careful handling this part. The two under wing blister, contain fuel on the starboard side, and is slightly larger than the blister on the port side. The port side blister has two recesses representing the two cameras contained in the blister. The recesses are meant to be filled with “clear fix”. The recessed panel lines on the blisters are very fine.
The two Pr canopies have the two bubble blisters either side, not the easiest things to create using the vac formed process. The non pressurised windscreen is armoured. The pressurised canopy looks excellent with it's frame less non armoured windscreen. The frame work is very well defined on both canopies. Obviously great care will be needed to separate the components when cutting. As they are, the canopies feel pretty strong, but once cut into they will need some support on the inside. There is a fair bit of plastic between the three elements of the canopy. So that the canopies can be cut with a little excess plast, and this excess can be carefully sanded down. Not an item to rush and use a fresh surgical blade. But they will improve the look of your Airfix Spitfire no end.
The decals are printed by Boa and are excellent. Thin with a tiny amount of carrier film. Colours look dense and registration on my sample is excellent. The decal designations seemed a bit confused with A) PR Mk III and B) PR Mk VII. They should be (A) Pr Mk IC and (B) Pr Mk IG. Option (C) Pr Mk IV is correctly identified. The confusion is not a problem as it's very clear in the instruction what goes where.
The instruction are very thorough with exploded black and white illustrations. There are details of where and what size holes to drill for the various camera positions. The guide for the removal of the oil tank cover is pretty clear if the option you are building requires you to do so. There are colour guides for all the components. Paint references are for Humbrol enamel paints. Painting your chosen subject could not be easier as they are overall PRU blue or pink.
This is an excellent release from Pavla and I am going to have to acquire a Airfix's Spitfire Mk I to utilise this beautifully produced conversion set. I am not a Spitfire expert at all, but this set will appeal to the vast majority of modelers interested in creating something different for their Spitfire flight line. Pavla have been very brave tackling this subject particularly as PR Spitfires are difficult to model as the real things were prone too many modifications when built and in the field. Nice one Pavla.