By RACHEL MACDONALD
Simon Lodge has a fascination for Supermarine Spitfire fighter planes, the “airborne hammers” that crushed Hitler’s hopes in World War 2.
The shape of them, the sound of them, and the ethos of their history in service to the Allies have always drawn him, he says.
English-born Simon served his apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer in the Yorkshire mines.
However, he also has a strong artistic streak. He made his first model Spitfire when he was aged 12 or 13, and left it behind for his brother when he and his wife, Marion, emigrated to New Zealand.
He has now just completed another Spitfire – a painstakingly crafted work of art that has taken between 80 and 100 hours.
This is no shop-box project. He built it from scratch, starting with a design based on a tiny die-cast children’s toy.
“I started out with blocks of firewood, donated by Ashley Industrial Services. I glued them together and then carved them into a broad outline with a chainsaw. Then I set about hand-finishing it with a chisel and sandpaper.”
The tiny pilot was carved out of automotive bog, then hand-painted. He sits in a cockpit made from a plastic Coca-Cola bottle.
“I discovered these will heat-shrink,” Simon says.
“So I made a model cockpit out of wood, and heat-shrunk the bottle on to it, to give it the right shape.”
The overall result is a one-fifth scale model, with a two-metre wingspan. Word of mouth brought the plane to the attention of Ivan Campbell, who holds the Australasian import licence for 80% to 90%-scale, all-metal, two-seater, dual-control, Mk IX Spitfire replicas.
He offered the model a home at his Campbell Aero Classics’ World War 2-themed airfield, Loburn Abbey, where it now holds pride of place as a display piece.
Before that, though, there was also a serendipitous encounter with Sir Tim Wallis, founder of the iconic Warbirds Over Wanaka event.
“I was towing the model on the trailer, and Sir Tim’s wife stopped me in the middle of the road. He couldn’t get out of the car – he can’t walk, after crashing his own Spitfire in 1992, but he’s still a huge Spitfire fan,” Simon says.
“We talked about me maybe bringing the model down to the next Warbirds Over Wanaka festival next April. If that goes ahead, I’m going to have to have a big think about how to get it down there.”