Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII

Ooops…

Every modeler has built the kit that fought them every step of the way.  But in the end, if you get the replica you wanted, its all good.

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But sometimes the problems go deeper than a tricky kit.  What to do with a totally botched build?

Laugh.

Well at this point that’s really all I can do.  This build is a perfect storm of major errors, of the sort that will cause grown modelers to smirk and call me names behind my back.  I could argue none of these problems were actually my fault!  Except of course, as a modeler, we take some responsibility in knowing what we’re building.  And honestly I didn’t know how badly botched this was for quite some time.

So let me start at the beginning…

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When I got back into modeling in the mid- ’90s it was pretty well known that there was no good kit in 1/48 scale of a late Merlin engined Spitfire.  That means a Mark VII, VIII, IX or XVI.  Basically, those planes that used the 60 series Merlin engine.  Tamiya had recently done a beautiful kit of the earlier Marks; I, V and V trop.  But Tamiya seemed to be in no hurry to continue the line (and they still never have).  So when a new upstart company called Ocidental announced their Spitfire Mk IX there was much rejoicing.  Until the kit was released.  Its nose was pretty misshapen.  To the point it barely looked like a Spitfire.  And I believe the mistake ruined the company.

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Next a Ukranian company, ICM decided to do a Mark IX.  Well ICM kits tend to be over-engineered.   I’ve built some, but they are really aimed at the builders who want to “open up” their models and show engines, armament, cockpit…
As I’ve said a few times, I really like my builds clean.  But if it was the only option, maybe.  But then the initial release came out and the quality was terrible; short shots, molding flaws…
So I was still waiting when Hasegawa announced the whole family of late Merlin Spits!  Now I was excited.  I like Hasegawa and have long experience with them.  They are sometimes complicated builds, but Hasegawa’s engineering and mold quality are always first rate.  I snatched one up as soon as it came out.

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Just a little later, a very large decal maker known as “Aeromaster” came out with a set of beautiful Australian Spitfires. I was drawn to one particular marking on the sheet that was very colorful, and very non-standard.  Now you have to know, with British and Commonwealth subjects “non-standard” can be a very rare and exciting thing.  I’d already built a few pretty standard Hurricanes and Spitfires and the thought of doing such an outrageously marked Mark VIII was very appealing to me.

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So tell me you can see where this is going…

Yes, I built my new Hasegawa Spitfire in non-standard Australian markings.  First thing that stood out to me, it seemed small.  The Mk VIII should be slightly bigger than a Mk V.  It is the same fuselage with an engine that’s a couple inches longer.  But my finished Mk VIII was just a little smaller than a Mk V I’d built.  It didn’t take much research on-line to discover there was a major dimensional problem with the Hasegawa Spitfires.  There seemed to be a lot of dismay, angst and profane language about the subject; but as near as I can tell, Hasegawa used a set of plans for their Spitfires that were broadly known to be flawed.  In particular, they were underscale.  Its not an easy sort of thing either like 5% off.  Its actually got some dimensional errors between frames in the fuselage.

So apparently there still was no good late model Spitfire available.  Oh well, at least mine still looked really sharp…

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The Mk VIII should be slightly larger than the Mk V (at left). Noticeable changes being the four bladed propeller and pointed rudder.

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At one time, many modelers referred to Aeromaster decals as “Errormaster”.  Funny, right?  I’d encountered a few little glitches and interpretations of colors and markings I disagreed with, but nothing really major.  But you’d think I’d know to check other sources before I paint a model from one of their sets without checking references.  Really you should do this with any painting guide.  The very best may pointedly offer speculation and tell you when they’re guessing.  So look at some photos, do a little leg work on any build.

The real thing with pilot and ground crew.

This was great lesson for me, because these colors are apparently just all wrong.  Most Australian Spitfires were painted in Australia’s own jungle camo, which was Foliage Green all over.  A number of them kept a more British looking scheme with foliage green replacing the British Dark Green but retaining the Ocean Grey segments for an Aussie variation on British colors.  But some writers seem to have concluded another color called “Mixed Green” was used on some planes.  This supposed color was much like British Interior Green but a little lighter.  As near as I can tell this claim is completely bogus.  Perhaps some old photos looked a little washed out and suggested some lighter colors?  F/O Norm Turnbull, the pilot of “Hava Go Jo” was recently interviewed by author Peter Malone on the subject of his usual mount’s colors (in Aussie Eight).  He swore his plane retained its original British camouflage (a little different, but not very exciting!).

Most significantly he insisted the elephant was grey, “like any other bloody elephant.”  The name and art work was done by his ground crew, and “Jo” was his nickname.

So now, between a flawed kit, erroneous decals and bum painting guide this model is completely wrong.  Eduard now has a much better late Merlin Spitfire on the market, so I’ll have to give the type another try!  And that may be the most fun part of this hobby.

So for now, let’s say this build is a caricature of a plane flown by Flight Officer Norm Turnbull.  During the summer of 1945 his squadron was based on Morotai, that’s island between New Guinea and the Philippines.  He flew 37 combat missions in this plane without an abort.

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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2 Responses to Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII

  1. jfwknifton says:

    Well, it still looks wonderful to my untutored eyes. I would be over the moon to have made anything as striking as that Spitfire.

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