First frames from new Spitfire Vc tooling
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
Workbench regulars will be pleased to hear that time and tide, as well as Airfix product development, waits for no man and despite the current situation we currently all find ourselves in, we have a blog edition which is bursting with new and exclusive Airfix information for you. Following on from a recent edition where we saw how the latest member of the Airfix development team was handed the iconic Supermarine Spitfire as his first 1/72nd scale new tooling project, we are pleased to tell you that we have a full Spitfire update in this edition, including exclusive images from the first test frames and first test build from the new tool.
In addition to this, we have a further new project update which will delight modellers with an interest in scale Armoured Fighting Vehicles, news on an impending 1/72nd scale Hurricane release which has a unique story behind it and serves to commemorate this year’s 80th Anniversary of the Battle of France, a competition with a pair of Airfix kit goodies up for grabs and how our current home isolation has seen hundreds of lapsed modellers returning to the hobby. All this and more awaits your inspection in this 122nd edition of Workbench.
Designer’s first Spitfire arrives
An exciting time for a young Airfix product designer, assembling the first parts from the Spitfire tooling he designed will probably stay with him for the rest of his life
In the 119th edition of our blog, we introduced readers to the latest young product designer to join the Airfix team, Paramjit Sembhi and how he was introduced to life working on new projects for this iconic brand. For many readers of a certain age and definitely those who spent their formative years working through the myriad of kits in each new Airfix range, we would probably find the pressure of trying to fill some very famous Airfix shoes a little too daunting. Thankfully, those psychological barriers don’t seem to exist in the minds our current team of talented young CAD trained designers, who all appear to have more of a ‘let me show you what I can do’ attitude, as opposed to one of famous brand trepidation, which is perhaps just as well. So, how do you think the development team eased Paramjit into his new role? - by telling him to go and design a brand new 1/72nd scale Airfix Spitfire kit.
Throughout the history of Airfix model kit design and production, there has been something of a symbiotic relationship between Airfix and the magnificent Supermarine Spitfire, Britain’s favourite model kit manufacturer producing scale versions of the nation’s most famous aircraft – a marriage which was truly made in modelling heaven. With heritage such as this, can you imagine joining the Airfix team and being told that your first full project would be to design the latest Spitfire kit in this long line of iconic hobby classics, kits which were familiar to millions of modellers all over the world? Undaunted by such a responsibility, as Paramjit settled into the task, his intention was not only to faithfully represent the classic lines of this handsome aeroplane in his design, but also to try and incorporate innovation into the new kit – oh the youth of today!
In our previous review of this project, we saw how Paramjit had the benefit of calling upon an impressive amount of research information and recently produced Spitfire CAD data at the outset and whilst this would prove significant in the creation of his base skeleton model, each individual part of the new kit would have to be designed from scratch. With the aid of an impressive selection of CAD screenshots and computer rendered 3D images, we also saw how his new Spitfire kit began to take shape, with the unmistakable profile of the iconic Spitfire opening up to reveal a host of individual component parts, an area which is very much the domain of an Airfix product designer.
Unveiled for the first time, these images feature the first plastic frames produced from the new 1/72nd scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc tooling and represent the latest Workbench reader exclusive
In a situation which almost mirrors the unbridled excitement of RAF No.19 Squadron pilots gathered at Duxford airfield awaiting the arrival of the RAF’s very first Spitfire on 4th August 1938, the recent delivery of a box of ‘first shot’ Spitfire kit frames in the Airfix office must have been equally significant for Paramjit. The culmination of many weeks of hard design work, checking with the rest of the team and making numerous fine adjustments, it had all come down to the delivery of a first box of parts from the manufacturing plant and the honour of opening the parcel would be reserved for the designer responsible for the project. Clearly, this would be a big day not just for Paramjit, but for the entire Airfix team.
Regular Workbench readers will now be well versed in the various development stages which make up the production of a new Airfix model kit and that how the delivery of the first test frames from any new tooling project is the first physical manifestation of the design work which preceded it. After conducting an initial basic inspection of the kit component frames, the serious business of review can begin in earnest, a process of assessment which will call upon the combined experience of the entire Airfix design team and one which will require intense concentration. Every aspect of the kit’s design will need to be assessed, from surface detail to checking for sink marks and from the general fit and finish of the model to checking overall design tolerances.
Although we would usually show first built sample images from a new model tooling a couple of editions after revealing the first frame parts, we have so much information to bring you in 2020 that we thought we would give you all a little Spitfire treat. Please note that these images feature the first test build from the first test components and are still subject to change before the tooling can be released for production
Once this detailed component inspection has taken place and a full review report started, the next stage is to continue this assessment on through a test build, where the actual fit of individual components can be checked. This is not only from the perspective of seeing if everything goes together as initially intended, but also that the build order makes sense for the average modeller and that it is an enjoyable experience, two absolutely crucial factors. At this stage, typically two full kit builds will be completed, one to assess the actual fit accuracy of the individual parts and another to check construction order. This information will be vital when producing the iconic instruction booklets which are now such a familiar feature of any Airfix kit and will involve close coordination with our talented and extremely hard working illustrator Richard Petts.
For the first time, Paramjit will be able to get his hands on the plastic parts of a kit he designed and as a committed modeller himself, it is difficult to imagine how exciting a feeling this must have been. Working through the construction of the new kit, he will be well placed to not only assess how his design has been incorporated into the new model tooling block, but also if the build will be an enjoyable one for many thousands of modellers in the years to come. No matter how pleased he is with his work at this stage, there will usually be a list of around 50 improvement recommendations relayed back to the tooling manufacturer before a second batch of test frames arrive in our Margate offices for further assessment.
This final selection of images show a further build using the first components from the new Spitfire Vc tooling, this time painting the components as Paramjit works through the building process
The images we have used to illustrate this feature are the first component frames produced from the new 1/72nd scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc A02108 tooling, as well as the first full test build completed using these components. Never a man to rest on his model development laurels, Paramjit has also supplied us with a trio of images which feature an additional Spitfire build started as if he were making this his latest modelling project. These first images feature construction and painting of the cockpit area, although something tells us that he has probably completed the build by now. We will certainly bring you pictures of the finished model when we have them, along with providing further updates from this project as it continues towards its scheduled release date.
Before we leave this section of the blog, we do have to stress that the images used here all feature development samples from the new Spitfire kit and are still subject to change, before the kit is released for production.
New Cromwell Tank on the charge
An exclusive look at the first test shot build from the new 1/35th scale Cromwell Tank tooling which has been receiving so much attention of late
Since our impressive new 1/35th scale Military Vehicle range was unleashed on an unsuspecting modelling world at the beginning of last year, we have been delighted with the extremely positive reception these models have enjoyed. Allowing us the opportunity to hit the ground running with a relatively mature range of kits from launch, many of the originally announced models have now been released and when we have featured built examples of each new release batch within a Workbench blog, they have been attracting some of our best rolling year readership figures.
The launch of the 2020 model range included a significant development for this series, as it saw the announcement of a completely new model tooling for us in this scale, two impressive versions of the British Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell. As the latest image exclusive for our readers, we are pleased to be able to bring you the first published pictures of the first test shot build from the new Cromwell tooling. The prototype model is in the Airfix office, however with everything that has been going on over the past few weeks and the fact that the Margate offices are now closed means that we will have to bring you pictures of this model in a future edition.
One of a series of fast and relatively well armed cruiser tanks developed by the British during the Second World War, the Cromwell can trace its history back to late 1940 and the decision to find a replacement for the widely used Crusader tank. Unfortunately, a relatively protracted development has dictated that there is generally some confusion with different variants of these tanks, as similar looking machines were named Centaur and various marks of Cromwell. They were all derived from the A24 Cruiser Mark VII Cavalier, the name given to the original intended Crusader replacement programme. The main reason for the different names revolves around three different engine types used to power the different vehicles.
The A27M Cromwell Mk.IV was the most heavily produced version of the new Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII and matched the Centaur hull with the highly effective Rolls Royce Meteor engine (A27Meteor), a development of the Merlin engine which famously powered the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain to victory. This powerful and extremely reliable engine allowed the tank to travel at impressively high speeds. The tank also featured a quick firing 75mm gun, which was a re-bored version of the ubiquitous British 6 pounder gun and allowed the commander to have the option of using American produced armour piercing or high explosive rounds.
An incredibly interesting looking British tank design, these first test build images may still be subject to change, but certainly show us what we have to look forward to a little later in the year. A bit of a battlefield speedster, the Cromwell made its combat introduction during the armoured clashes which followed D-Day
Although originally introduced in November 1943, persistent problems with the new gun’s operation meant that the Mk.IV would not make its combat introduction until actions following the Normandy landings in June 1944, where its speed, mobility and general reliability would complement the more numerous Sherman tanks on the battlefields of northern Europe. Although this was the British Army’s latest tank at the time, the Cromwell does look like it is a design from much earlier in the war, with its tall, angular turret complete with protruding bolts and an almost complete lack of sloping armour.
Without doubt, the most impressive attributes of the Cromwell were within its hull, all of which endowed the tank with excellent battlefield performance. The powerful Meteor engine combined with the tried and trusted Christie suspension allowed the Cromwell to travel at speeds in excess of 40mph on roads and not much slower than this when operating cross-country. It also had a much lower profile than the Sherman and possessed an impressive turret traverse rate which outclassed most of its opponents on the battlefield – adopting a 'shoot and scoot' approach to armoured engagements, the Cromwell was an effective addition to the Allied inventory, especially when they eventually had Wehrmacht units on the run.
During the savage fighting in the narrow, hedgerow lined lanes of the Normandy countryside, the excellent mobility of the Cromwell was somewhat nullified and if they were forced to climb their steep banks to engage in combat, they exposed their vulnerable undersides to potential armour piercing Panzerfaust attack. In order to rectify this situation, the relatively rudimentary addition of a ‘hedge cutter’ blade to the front hull allowed the tank’s commander to scythe through the obstacle whilst keeping his tank level and still able to bring his guns to bear on any potential target. This simple addition could also provide some welcome natural foliage camouflage for the tank as it moved through the countryside, so long as the bushes it acquired didn’t obstruct the commander’s gun sighting optics.
The first test model build images shown above feature the Cromwell with all its hatches in the open position, as well as a representation of the metal hedgerow cutter which proved so effective during fighting in the Normandy countryside in the summer of 1944. A particularly handsome looking tank, this first sight of the new Cromwell model will no doubt be of interest to a great many military modellers and we look forward to bringing you further details from this new tooling project in future editions of the blog, including pictures of the first painted samples.
Hurricanes in the face of Blitzkrieg
In these strange and worrying times when we are all being asked to stay at home for potentially many weeks to come, building an Airfix kit can be a welcome distraction from the rather distressing state of world current affairs. The committed modellers amongst us will no doubt have access to an enviable stash of unmade kits just waiting for some attention, however, for the rest of us, rediscovering a previous passion for modelling, or even attempting a kit for the first time, can prove to be a rewarding way to pass a pleasant few hours.
For those of us who virtually grew up with Airfix, we will no doubt remember the weekly thrill of running to the local model shop on Saturday morning, with pocket money in hand and probably having enough money to buy a Series 1 bagged kit – thankfully, there were plenty to choose from. In those carefree days of our youth, there was no time for standing on ceremony and by teatime on the same day, when your parents finally made you clear the newspaper from the dining room table so you could all sit down to eat, your latest modelling masterpiece was invariably finished. Now, you just had to deal with the disappointment of knowing you would have to wait a full week before you could get your next kit.
In the current Airfix kit range, there are some superb models which still fill this important ‘Pocket money model’ role, even if the 49p price point of 1973 has now increased to £6.99 - most would argue that this still falls well within the region of an average current pocket money figure. Undoubtedly, the current pocket money models are of a much better standard, with better presentation, better decals and much more accurate tooling than the kits from 1973 and whilst still serving as a great project for modellers of all abilities, they remain an ideal kit to introduce anyone to the many creative joys of modelling. A couple of blog editions ago, we featured our magnificent 1/72nd scale Curtiss P-40B Warhawk kit (A01003B) which is scheduled for imminent release and we are delighted to inform our readers that we have news of yet another Airfix £6.99 classic, this time a Battle of France Hawker Hurricane Mk.I.
A01010A – Hawker Hurricane Mk.I L1679 JX-G, Pilot Officer P.H.M Richey, RAF No.1 Squadron, 67 Wing, Berry-au-Bac, Northern France, Spring 1940.
Pilot officer Paul Richey was one of the young RAF pilots sent to France following the declaration of war in September 1940, flying his RAF No.1 Squadron Hawker Hurricane Mk.I from his base at Tangmere to an new base at Berry-au-Bac on Friday 8th September. This redeployment was the result of a long standing agreement between Britain and France that in the event of war, RAF strike aircraft would be sent to France as an Advanced Air Striking Force and positioned as a significant deterrent to any potential future German aggression. Large numbers of Fairey Battle light bombers and Westland Lysander Army Cooperation aircraft were sent to France, which were supported by 4 Squadrons of Hawker Hurricane fighters.
The move was intended to prevent a further escalation of hostilities by basing the aircraft within striking distance of targets inside German territory, however, military planners decided against such offensive actions for fear of provoking Germany into a military response. As a consequence of this decision, when war eventually came, RAF airmen based in France were forced to face the full fury of Blitzkrieg and the most modern, supremely confident air force the world had ever seen.
Arriving in France on 8th September 1940, the Hurricanes of Nos 1, 73, 85 and 87 Squadrons were sent in advance of much of the ground force contingent (and indeed their own airfield support), so the aircraft could fly defensive patrols over the ports as the fully laden ships were being unloaded. What followed next was a strange period of uneasy international tension which became known as the ‘Phoney War’, several months were flight operations consisted mainly of reconnaissance and training sorties. It was, however, during this period that Pilot Officer Richey and his Hurricane fighter would have their first taste of aerial combat – during a patrol on 29th March 1940, he managed to shoot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter after a short dogfight. He was off the mark.
On the 10th May 1940, the Phoney War erupted into what would later be known as Blitzkrieg and the melee of all out conflict. German forces launched a devastating attack through the Ardennes and into the Low Countries, an offensive which would not stop until they marched into Paris five weeks later. For the pilots of No.1 squadron, the actions of 10th May would be the start of a period of intense flight activity, where they would be thrust into combat against overwhelming odds. On 10th May itself, Pilot Officer Richey flew 4 patrols and would share in the destruction of a Dornier bomber. The following day, five Hurricanes of No.1 Squadron engaged at least fifteen Messerschmitt Bf 110 destroyers and whilst Richey was forced to take to his parachute, it was not before he had shot down two of the enemy fighters.
Over the course of the next ten days, Pilot Officer Richey would claim 9 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed, but end this period of intense fighting lying in a hospital in Paris, with a German bullet lodged in his neck. Making his way back to Britain before the fall of Paris, he would be awarded the DFC for his actions during the French campaign.
With an extremely attractive price point and a fascinating story behind the aircraft it is depicting, this magnificent new Hurricane Mk.I kit is destined to become much sought after in the weeks to come
Richey would fly Hawker Hurricane L1679 JX-G throughout much of the ‘Phoney War’ period, a fabric winged, twin bladed Watt propeller variant of the fighter. Although it did not survive the attentions of the Luftwaffe in France, a replica of this aircraft wearing these markings is on display in the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum. The magnificent box artwork accompanying this release shows L1679 in combat with Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters during the early summer of 1940 and is a fine representation of an RAF Battle of France aircraft which fought so valiantly to stem the inexorable tide of the German advance, a prelude to the Battle of Britain to come.
Many modellers like to have a reason behind embarking on their latest build project and this fantastic new Hurricane kit has a further interesting wartime link to call upon. Pilot Officer Paul Richey was a talented writer and he maintained a journal during his time with No.1 Squadron in France. Possessing an engaging writing style, these journal entries would later form the basis of the book ‘Fighter Pilot’ which was first published in 1941 (anonymously at first) and tells of the air battles which preceded the fall of France. It is still regarded as one of the classic books about aerial combat during the Second World War.
A01010A Hawker Hurricane Hawker Hurricane Mk.I L1679 JX-G, Pilot Officer P.H.M Richey was one of the last kits to leave our manufacturing plant before it was forced to close down due to the current situation and should therefore be available in the next couple of weeks. This delightful little kit makes a fitting modelling tribute in marking this year’s 80th Anniversary of the Battle of France air war and the brave pilots who receive nowhere near the same recognition as the ‘Few’ of the Battle of Britain.
Anyone up for a quick competition?
For all those Workbench readers who have been forced to make some unpalatable gaps in their model stashes over the past few weeks, or for those who have been encouraged to take up modelling again after something of a hiatus, we may just have something that might be of interest to you – a competition with some Airfix kit goodies up for grabs.
In view of the current climate, our prize kits had to be selected from existing stocks available in our warehouse, however, we have managed to secure two absolute classics – A08019 Vickers Wellington Mk.IA/C and the recently released 1/48th scale new tooling A04104 de Havilland D.H 82a Tiger Moth. Both of these fantastic models will provide one lucky winner with many hours of happy modelling – as we write this, we can almost hear masses of you screaming at your computer screens “But how do we enter?”
To be in with a chance of winning this Airfix model kit pairing, simply head over to the Airfix Competitions Page of our website, where you will find all the relevant competition details, along with a simple Workbench edition 122 related question for you to answer. The competition will close on Tuesday 14th April so you all have plenty of time in which to place your entry – our lucky winner will be selected at random from the list of correct entries and we will announce their good fortune in the next edition of Workbench, which is due to be published on Friday 17th April.
Good luck to all who enter and remember, you have to be in it to win it!
Some quality modelling time
For one Workbench reader, the stress of being put on furlough was eased slightly by spending some time on completing a model build he started over the Christmas holidays
For most people who are in employment, have busy family lives or other time consuming responsibilities, the chances to find time to spend indulging our passion for model building can often be few and far between and it could be many months between build projects. This has certainly been the experience of Historic Aircraft Collection volunteer and motoring industry professional Derek Rusling, a man who would certainly describe himself as an Airfix fan, but someone who rarely gets the opportunity to make a dent in his kit stash.
Derek’s latest build project was started early in the year and like most of the other twenty(ish) kits he has completed over the past three years, he fully expected this slightly larger model to take him many months to complete, before it could take its place in his display cabinet. Unfortunately, Derek was one of the millions of British workers to discover the meaning of the word ‘furlough’ over recent days and has been forced to spend more time at home recently than he has probably done over the preceding few months. Seizing the opportunity to both maintain his spirits and give his modelling time something of a boost, the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley kit he had started during the Christmas holidays made its way from the darkest recesses of his sideboard and onto the workstation to receive some serious attention.
Derek has been a modelling enthusiast for as long as he can remember and says for him, the enjoyment is not always about the build. Whilst the various sections of the model are drying, he takes the opportunity to use the information provided with the kit and to research a little more detail about the individual aircraft, its parent squadron or even the airfield from where it operated. In the old days, this would usually involve a trip to the local library and many happy hours searching through your favourite sections, but modellers have it easy these days and thanks to the internet, more information than ever before is available on our various electronic devices.
A job well done, Derek has produced a fine scale example of a Whitley bomber and left quite a hole in a model stash which is reducing much more quickly than usual
Although Derek would modestly describe himself as a relatively basic modeller and one who just builds for his own pleasure, looking at the quality of his Whitley build, he might be under-selling himself somewhat. He told us that the model was built straight from the box and was finished using a can of Humbrol spray paint. The entire model was then sprayed with a gloss lacquer prior to the application of decals, before a final coat of matt lacquer saw the model finished – we think it looks rather impressive.
We would like to thank Derek for allowing us to use pictures of his Whitley build in this edition of workbench and to ask anyone who has rediscovered their own love of modelling over recent weeks, to consider sending in pictures of the finished model to our usual email@example.com email address. Although Armstrong Whitworth Whitley A08016 is no longer available on the Airfix website, you may still be able to pick on up through your usual model supplier. Happy modelling to all our readers.
De Havilland classic arrives
A model arrival. Many thousands of modellers will be delighted to know that this much anticipated new de Havilland Tiger Moth kit is now available
We end this latest edition of Workbench by announcing the arrival of one of the most exciting new tooling projects to grace the Airfix range in recent years, our new 1/48th scale A04104 de Havilland D.H 82a Tiger Moth. The evocative image combination featured above was produced by our photographer & retoucher Michael Collins, who has taken one of the built sample images which featured in a previous edition of the blog and placed it within this classic grass airfield scene.
The aircraft featured in the image is a scale representation of an aircraft which is now a much loved performer at many of the events held at the Shuttleworth Collection’s Old Warden aerodrome and wears the colours of a Royal Air Force Central Flying School Aerobatic Team Tiger Moth from circa 1932/33 and the fictitious codes K-2585. An aircraft wearing these markings would have represented the CFS at the annual Hendon Air Pageant during the inter-war period. These massive events were an opportunity for the RAF to display both their flying skills and latest aircraft designs to crowd numbers which regularly approached half a million people and were a source of huge pride between individual squadrons. Resplendent in these markings, de Havilland Tiger Moth K-2585 (G-ANKT) is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive aircraft currently on the UK Airshow circuit and a real Shuttleworth favourite.
We are afraid that’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this firstname.lastname@example.org link to contact us.
In between new editions of our blog, the Airfix conversation continues over on our Airfix Forum Worbench thread, with further discussions taking place on both the official Airfix Facebook page and the Airfix Twitter channel - please do get involved in the discussions and let us know what you think about Workbench.
Whenever you decide to visit, the Airfix website is always the place to be for all the latest model availability information, previous editions of our blog, a selection of modelling tips and much more.
The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 17th April, when we will have more interesting features from the world of modelling.
On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for your continued support our Airfix blog.
The Airfix Workbench Team
© Hornby Hobbies Ltd. All rights reserved.