Tamiya is not wasting any time in releasing its series of late mark merlin engined Spitfires. Little more than 6 months after releasing their superb Mk IX they have released a model of the most refined merlin engined Spitfire of them all, the Mk VIII. Like the Mk IX, the kit is simply superb and sets a new standard in excellence and quality for aircraft model kits.

There is much in common with the earlier released Mk IX kit but it's not exactly the same. For example, the large upper wing halfs are not the same as those in the Mk IX, these have extra panel lines and detail to delineate the leading edge fuel tanks.

In the picture below you can see all the 'new' parts unique to the Mk VIII kit that include 90 gallon slipper tank, extended high altitude wing tips and rectractable tail wheel parts.

On the side of the box is a nice colour profile of Bobby Gibbes' personal Spitfire RG-V which is one of the kit decal options and will no doubt be a popular marking choice for Aussie modellers.

I've already built 3 Tamiya Spitfire Mk IX's and an VIII so there wasn't much of interest in the major component construction. For further details see my Spitfire Mk IX build. In no time at all I've got the wing and fuselage parts ready to be joined followed by the tailplane and rudder.

Now that I've built a few of these kits I feel I can make a few negative comments about the kit. Yes, its an exellent kit but it's not perfect. I really think Tamiya should have made the exhaust as a two part component rather than as individual stubs that needed to be cemented into place with great care or else they will be out of alignment. It would also be nice to be able to cement them into place AFTER everything else has been done including painting the fuselage. 

As you can see in the photo above,  the kit does need a little bit of filler around the mg ports and cannon fairings part. With some careful sanding to the parts and dry fitting I'm sure you could reduce the need for filler down to almost nothing. After sanding it all smooth apply a grey primer/undercoat. In this case the underside colour of Medium Sea Grey was used.

The camouflage goes on. On the prototype (real aircraft) there was very little feathering at the demarcation between upper surface colours. I don't bother with pre shading of panel lines and all that carry on. A simple, grey primer is all that's needed and then you apply the camouflage colours, lightest first. In my view pre-shading of panels is fine for vehicles and tanks but aircraft just don't look right with accentuated panels. The Spitfire was a sleek, smooth, machine of war and that is what you should be aiming for in a scale representation.

I use 'blue tack' rolled into a long cylinder shape about the size a plump garden worm to mask the camouflage colours. This gives a demarcation with a very slight feathering or overlap. In 1/32nd scale the demarcation is basically a hard edge but I find a bit of feathering is more pleasing to the eye. As you can see in the photo, things don't always go to plan. I didn't mask the camoulflage colours well enough when I applied the white leading edge resulting in a light dusting of white over the camouflage! The camouflage colours were reapplied after this photo was taken. Tip: always take the time to thoroughly mask before air brushing.

We see some pretty heavy weathering to the white leading edge paintwork. This may look a bit over the top but this sort of weathering was not uncommon and took little more than a couple of months to occur. I did this by gently rubbing sand paper over the leading edge until the desired amount of white was removed. I'll add a few areas of silver paint to simulate bare metal near the end of the painting process.

Applying the 'sharkmouth' is a fiddly job, the trick here is to line everything up on the centreline which by good fortune is actually a panel line! Another little trick to allow for greater movement of the decal, is to cut out the centre section of the 'mouth' portion. After the decal has completely dried I'll add the missing black part of the mouth back with a small artists brush. Note the very wide and badly worn wing leading edge.

The eyes have it. This aircraft had four eyes, the extra set were the result of a smaller, earlier version of the sharkmouth that has subsequently been painted over with the large mouth seen here. I'll tone down the earlier 'eyes' with a light wash of the underlying camouflage colour.

Applying stencil decals to the underside. I used Aero Imageworks stencil decals as they are much thinner and will bed down better than the kit stencils. I'll apply a light wash of the underside colour over the decals so they don't stand out so much.

Below: Spinner in place just to see what it looked like. Note the bare metal strip along the full length of the leading edge of each blade. This protective cuff was applied to protect the leading edge from being damaged by stones and debris on unsealed runways. As you can see the exhaust stubs have got some overspray on them and will need to be repainted!

Port wing showing the recently applied walkway stencils. Note how they do not extend over the roundels. As a general rule national markings are never to be compromised by any other markings.

Above photo shows the weathering going on after first applying a coat of clear matt, in this case Tamiya Matt mixed with floor shine (Future). Below photo shows the prominent exhaust mark down the side of the fuselage. I use finely ground pastel chalks applied with a dry paint brush to simulate the exhaust and gun blast staining. After application apply a quick, light dusting of matt finish to seal the weathering onto the model.

Although it is difficult to see in the above photo, the spinner back plate is RAF 'Sky' not white. When the ground crew painted the spinner red they missed painting the back plate. I've used the yellow propeller blade disc stencil as it seems most if not all of the Mk VIII's had yellow rather than red discs. Aero Imageworks decals are the only decals on the market to provide the correct yellow discs for the Mk VIII.

Speaking of decals what's wrong with the kit decals? Nothing really bad, they are Cartograf printed, quality decals that are easy to apply and include 'sharkmouth' markings for RG-V flown by RAAF Ace Bobby Gibbes. As with any sceen printed decal, they are much thicker than AI's Alps printed type.You will need to use a good decal softener on the kit decals to help bed them onto the model and it is an absolute necessity to apply them onto a smooth, gloss finish.

 

Time ticking  down on the competition, just what is the serial and code letter of this noteworthy Spitfire? All will be revealed soon!

Above photo shows the model almost completed. All that remains to be done is some further weathering.

Note the flattened tyres to simulate the weight of the aircraft. Unfortunately  the kit doesn't include Dunlop (Aust) heavy duty type main tyres with a block tread. I made a concession to accuracy by using the kit tyres as I didn't fancy trying to cut the tread into the kit tyres with a hobby knife! Although not shown here, the tail wheel has also been flattened and bent off centre. On the prototype (real a/c) the tail wheel was fully castoring meaning it could rotate through 360 degrees.

I was pleased with the look of the exhaust stubs and exhaust stain down the side of the fuselage. It's worth mentioning that the fuselage staining could have been a much lighter grey than shown here. The light grey almost white exhaust stain resulted from 'leaning' the engine to conserve fuel, a very important consideration when you are flying in the SW Pacific during WWII.

What a kit! Even in the hands of an average modeller like me this kit still builds into one large and impressive scale representation of the most refined merlin engined Spitfire of them all, the Mk VIII.

Below are some photos that show the completed model and solves the mystery of its identity, it is ZP-X, A58-600 the only Spitfire Mk VIII flown on operations by two RAAF aces, Clive Caldwell and Bobby Gibbes.

Here we see the disruptive camouflage scheme used on the Spitfire. Aero Imageworks A013204 'Shark Attack!' decal includes a booklet with a 3 view camouflage diagram that gives a more accurate depiction of the pattern than shown here on the model.

The white marks on the fuselage roundel were the result of paint flaking off to reveal portion of the RAF roundel. Upon delivery, the RAAF altered the original RAF roundel to the RAAF blue/white type by some relatively minor over-painting with white and roundel blue. The yellow surround was painted over with the camouflage colours.

Cockpit interior colour was RAF grey-green even though in this photo the mix of natural and fluro lighting has made it appear more green than it is in reality.

I built this kit basically OOB (out of the box) with no extra bits and pieces other than the AI decals. In my view there really isn't much need to spend extra money on any after market items, the kit has enough detail as it is built OOB.

There are really only a few things about the kit that I don't like;

  • pilot seat lacks the black leather cushion back
  • kit doesn't include Dunlop (Aust), heavy duty main tyres
  • exhaust stubs are fiddly to cement into place with the correct alignment and they can't be added to the model much later in the construction phase.
  • cockpit is a little bit lacking in detail.
  • cockpit entry hatch with its molded on crowbar lacks detail definition.
  • Lacks simple, photo-etch bomb shackle used by RAAF Spitfires (AI decal booklets contain detail diagrams for this to make your own).

Below are some photos of the real aircraft used for reference when building the kit and more particularly when preparing the decal artwork.

Above: AWM photo taken in late March, early April 1945 at Morotai showing the nose of ZP-X A58-600 and five of the squadrons pilots in flying gear. Note heavy weathering to wing leading edge and shark emblem painted on the US B-4 life jackets worn by three of the pilots. The detail of this emblem is depicted on the decal title at the bottom of this page. Another point of interest is the use of gloss paint on the 'sharkmouth' in contrast to the more matt finish of the camouflage.

Below: Stills from film showing a squadron scramble at Morotai in early April, 1945. After this film was taken, underwing bomb shackles were fitted.

Above: AWM photo of ZP-X taken shortly after the end of the war. Note the heavy weathering to the camouflage paint and the unusual 50:50 proportion blue/white fuselage roundel. This change to the roundel dimensions from earlier in the year was due to paint flaking off revealing the original RAF roundel underneath. The beginnings of this process can be seen in the film stills above.

Below: ZP-X at Garbutt after the war.  Note missing 'Ace of Spades' squadron marking from rudder and white fuselage band applied prior to Labaun landings. Under the fuselage can be seen the 90 gallon slipper tank used for ferry purposes only. On operational flights the smaller 30 gallon slipper tank was carried.

 

 

 

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