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Spitfire VIII
Converting Hasegawa's 1/32 Kit

by JD King


Supermarine Spitfire VIII



Hasegawa's 1/32 scale Spitfire Mk. Vb is available online at Squadron





The RAAF received the first of its 410 MK VIII Spitfires in Oct 1943. Their first operational service was in the defence of Darwin in Northern Australia. Here they replaced tropicalised (using the deep Vokes filter) Spitfire VC’s that were struggling to compete due to their single stage Merlins. Other Squadrons joined the push north into the island chains between Australia and Japan. Principally operating with other RAAF and USAF units from the island of Morotai. RAAF Spitfire operations ended with the cessation of hostilities with Japan in late 1945. Large numbers of aircraft were no longer required so those lacking performance (P-40N) and range (Spitfire) were replaced by the Mustang and scrapped.

I am normally a 1/48 scale fan, but every now and then a 1/32 scale aircraft begs me to built it. As an avid modeller of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) subjects (and a glutton for scratch-building and home-made decal punishment) my “top 3” have been the Avon Sabre, F-4E and Spitfire Mk VIII. The controversy over the dimensions of the 1/48 Hasegawa Spitfire Mk IX a while back, gave me the incentive to pull a long awaited project of the shelf, the Mk VIII.



Hasegawa's Kit and the Paragon Conversion


The base kit used was the aging but still very sound Hasegawa 1/32 VB. Other than a complete rescribe of the raised panel lines the kit builds an effective replica with little effort. The conversion used was from Paragon Designs. The set contains a 3 piece 2 stage Merlin cowl with separate exhaust assemblies, tropicalised carburettor intake, spinner, 4 individual propeller blades, four-spoked bulged main wheels, large radiator, pointed rudder, late type elevators, retractable tail wheel, C wing cannon blanks and blisters, and high altitude wing tips (for the modeller keen on a VII). All are cast in a light cream resin, with finely engraved panel lines and little flash.



To give the kit that extra something the relevant bits of Eduard’s photo etched VB interior and exterior detail sets were also used.





I began construction with preparation of kit parts to accept the conversion. The simple instructions show shaded areas that need to be removed, mostly the cowling forward of the fuel tank, fixed tail wheel and small area of fuselage, rudder, elevators and oil cooler. If you intend to rescribe the raised panel lines do this first. I found that with the nose missing, the remaining fuselage lacked some of its earlier rigidity. Once rescribing was completed the cockpit was started.

The cockpit is about half modified kit parts and half photo etched. Most of the work was spent improving the sidewall detail, removing moulded and replacing with photoetched parts. The photo etched seat was found to be too big. It even looked oversized to the naked eye, so it wasn’t used. The kit seat was modified by shaving some of its height off and cut, drilling the slots found in the sides and rear. A small leather seat cushion was made by layering some aluminium foil and cutting to shape. This way the surface rippling could be achieved. The instrument panel and control collum were modified with scratchbuilt and PE parts. Finally the PE Sutton harness was added, including the connecting wires that head toward the radio in the rear fuselage. Humbrol enamels and some oil washes were used to complete the look. The two fuselage halves were then joined with no filler required.


The three piece cowl was then constructed. I found that the join between the upper and lower was not good. The uppers did not have the curve of the lower. The three pieces were taped together before CA glue was inserted into the joins. The assembly was then reshaped and rescribed as required. The fit to the remainder of the of the fuselage was surprisingly good. The only filler required was to where I had butchered part of the original cowl removal.

Now for the wings.

The MkVIII had a C wing so significant work is required to modify the B. The conversion provides resin inserts that are placed inside the original cannon blisters. Once set, these permit the outer wing to be sanded flush. The small oil cooler is the cut out and a symmetrical radiator inserted. Careful filing and dry fitting are essential during this step to avoid a later filling nightmare. Scratchbuilt details are added to the undercarriage bays before the wing halves are secured. Wing vents, spent case ejection ports and landing light panels are then filled along with the outer 7mm of the aileron. The wing is then rescribed as a “C” variant, including leading edge fuel tanks and short span ailerons. Resin blisters and cannon blanks are added and new ejection ports cut. The wing is then mated to the fuselage. Styrene spacers were used the lift the upper wing at the centre in order to achieve a join that required little filler. The remainder of construction is straightforward, less the propeller.


The conversion provides four separate blades and a solid one-piece spinner. The blades are attached to the spinner via a simple butt joint, so a jig is in order to achieve correct alignment, but even that can be muffed so I tried something else. After preparation, each blade had a hole drilled into its base. A corresponding hole was drilled into the spinners locating points. A length of styrene rod was then inserted into each blade and the exposed rod into the spinner. With careful drill size selection no glue was required and pitch and alignment is achieved through simple twisting or a slight bend.



Painting and Markings


The aircraft depicted is HF VIII A58-615 ZP-Y of 457 Sqn RAAF. It is depicted as it was just before it was converted to components in 1945. It carries the final (large) version of the squadron’s famous shark mouth and a white fuselage band that was applied not long before its demise. The finish is Humbrol and Aeromaster Warbird enamels. I wanted to achieve the worn and faded look the aircraft quickly developed whilst operating from the island of Morotai. Pre shading with black on a white primer was used in conjunction with lightened versions of the (RAF) dark green, ocean grey and medium sea grey camouflage. Paint chipping was achieved with Model Master Stainless Steel buffing metalizer applied with a brush.



Squadron codes were made with home made masks placed over the primer before pre shading. Roundels and fin flashes are from Aussie Decals WWII sheet. The “grey nurse” and Ace of Spades are hand painted directly onto the model. If I had my time again I would have used some decal film to pre-paint the artwork before applying it to the model. Serials are from Aussie Decals range of 72/48/32 A Numbers in pale grey.

The shark mouth was painstaking. Firstly the basic shape was masked out and sprayed white. Then teeth were masked out with Tamiya tape cut by hand and placed on individually before a layer of black was applied. Finally the red was masked out and sprayed. A similar method was used for the eyes. A fiddly procedure but not a bad result.





The kit was completed over a period of about two and a half months. This was my first real forte into such a project where major surgery and complete rescribing is required. I found it to be a reasonable challenge and a very enjoyable project that could be completed without necessarily being a very advanced or experienced modeller.

I would recommend it to anybody wishing to build the best looking of all the Spitfire Mk’s particularly with 457 Sqns wonderful markings.

Now where did I put that Sabre...


Text, Images and Model Copyright © 2001 by JD King
Page Created 09 December, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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