I think I’d completed three prior builds for Airfix Model World, when Chris Clifford rang me in the Autumn of 2013 to say he had something that he thought would be ‘right up my street’ and ‘would I be interested’. I asked what it was and was told it was a secret that he was unable to divulge at that time, so I did what you never do in the army and volunteered.
As Scale Model World at Telford approached, I was climbing out of my own skin not knowing what the deal was, until finally Chris was able to divulge that Airfix were set to release a brand new ‘super kit’ of the Hawker Typhoon in 1/24. The significance of the kit was two-fold; it was to mark Airfix’s 75th year in business and as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Chris added that the kit’s detail broke new ground and set new standards of production; most significantly, he added that test builds would be on show at Telford.
That clinched the trip to SMW that year and I met the kit and numerous sprues in person, together with the crowds who thronged round the Airfix stand in open mouthed amazement at the complexity and detail on show. I was staggered too. I’d not seen anything like it. I had a bit of a chat to Simon Owen, the designer, a disconcertingly youthful guy, full of charm and brimming with enthusiasm for ‘his’ baby, displayed in various stages of undress around the Airfix stand. “Can’t wait to see the first one fully painted up!” he said to me at the close of our chat. ‘You and me both’ I thought as I wondered how long I’d have to build it. The following January I found out.
Two complete kits turned up at Castle Croydon (in case of mishap – they were clearly warned about me in advance). Chris asked for a ‘flight line’ ready model in ten weeks. I looked at the 230 odd construction steps. I looked at the calendar. It seemed impossible to fit the one into the other but Chris made it clear that ten weeks was all there was, so I added that pressure to the expectations of the Airfix management and design team that I’d do justice to their 75th anniversary baby. I told Chris I felt like I was atop a pyramid. Below me was Chris and the AMW production team, beneath them was the whole of Airfix and Hornby and at the base, the thousands of modellers world wide who were panting to see the Tiffie finished, published and released as a full production kit. I’ve never felt more alone but I nonetheless knuckled down, chopped up my time and set way points where I knew I had to be to complete the thing on schedule.
I grew up on Airfix kits – the bagged ones with the card headers. I remember I would literally run to the shop on the green every Friday, pocket money tightly gripped in hand.
I’d then trot home with my prize and rapidly translate the parts into a Beaufighter that did sterling duty over the channel or a Mk IX Spitfire that knocked lumps off the 109G-6, that it routinely shot down innumerable times or anyone of more kits than memory can now recall. Happy days, steeped for the most part in Airfix plastic; although Frog, Revell and Monogram all made cameo appearances from time to time.
As I sat at the bench, the sprues hung from pins in the wall shelving, I smiled to think of what the small boy would have said to be told that one day he’d get to play with the biggest Airfix gig in their 75 year history.
The amazing ‘oil canning’ achieved in the moulding.
The key to Typhoon happiness is to use the the lower wing section as a jig to align the spars, which in turn brings everything else into line. At that point, with everything dry fitted, you can set it all with glue.
Airscale decals were a life saver, given that no kit decals were available. I was happy to ‘loan’ the spare IP bits to Peter Castle at Airscale, so he could finalise a dedicated set to coincide with the kit’s production release.
Heavy metal. Michael Harding black oil paint was used in thin washes to patina the metal. The MH oils have hand ground pigments – much superior to other brands.
The gun bays do not contain any variant of ‘zinc chromate yellow’ – something I can attest to, having seen inside unrestored bays on the real machine.
The build consumed industrial quantities of masking tape. The long, thin strips ensured square application of the fuselage D-Day stripes.
With the main paint and D-Day stripes in place on the model, it was time for decals.
The model was finished on the last day of the ten week schedule and it was a source of huge pleasure to see it done.
The model was requested by Airfix for display at the Visitor Centre in Margate. I was happy to deliver it to its new home in exchange for a production kit. The model had an appearance on tv, When Simon Owen was interviewed about it.
On the flight line.
The kit was greeted with wild enthusiasm around the globe and with the parts breakdown clearly indicating a ‘car door’ version was in the offing, I crossed my fingers and waited…