Aussie Eight Dual Combo - Spitfire Mk. VIII
The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the iconic fighters of World War Two. Entering service at the beginning of the conflict, it was continually upgraded and improved throughout the war. As Japanese Navy air attacks on Darwin demonstrated, the Royal Australian Air Force needed a high altitude fighter to supplement its low altitude fighters, such as the Curtis Kittyhawk (P-40). After reviewing the projected performance of the Spitfire Mk. VIII, the Australian government requested delivery of Spitfire Mk. VIII’s to fulfill this role. The RAAF eventually received over 400 of this version of the Spitfire and operated it in several theaters.
Eduard released a dual-kit of the Spitfire Mk. VIII in Australian service several years ago as part of its 1/48 Spitfire series. Earlier this year, they released a similar dual-kit combo in 1/72 scale. The includes two complete Spitfire Mk. VIII kits, two sets of resin main wheels, two resin tail wheels, a masking set for two kits, two sets of photo-etch, decals and the Second Edition of Peter Malone’s Aussie Eight book. As with many of these sets, Eduard has split the directions into two pieces, one setting forth the construction sequence, the second illustrating the thirty-two options for markings that are provided in the kit. The paint schemes provided range from Foliage Green/Dark Earth to overall Foliage Green to Dark Sea Grey/Ocean Grey/Foliage Green to overall silver. There is even one aircraft in Dark Earth/Middle Stone. Several of the options have shark mouths which range from small thin ones to a couple that cover the entire lower portion of the nose. As there are some subtle differences between the different options, the first order of business is to choose which aircraft you are going to build. I chose JF630 as flown by Flight Officer Larry Cronin in India as it was the only option that had the extended pointed wingtips, and it was the only one in Dark Earth/Middle Stone/Azure Blue scheme.
As with all of Eduard’s new kits, the assembly instructions are very complete and they include option diagrams where different parts are needed for different versions. Since the kit includes two complete Spitfires, I made a copy of the assembly instructions for the one I selected to build first, and then marked out the parts or steps I would not be using. I have found this helps keep me on track.
As with most aircraft kits, construction starts with the cockpit, and what a cockpit it is! There are nine steps dealing with just the assembly of the cockpit before it is inserted into the fuselage. Several of the steps have options as several of the kit parts can be replaced with photo-etched parts. However, pay close attention as many of the larger photo-etch parts will need to be painted before being added. Others, such as the instrument panel are already pre-painted and just need to be assembled. One nice touch is that Eduard has also included a second injected instrument panel with a flat face rather than require scraping off the molded instrument panel detail. This allows simply gluing the photo-etch instrument panel on, taking care to ensure all three layers are properly aligned as you go along. The photo-etch fret also includes two parts that can be assembled to replace the compass mounted under the instrument panel and the round part actually has the compass pre-painted on the top part. If you elect to go this route, take your time folding and lining up the circular photo-etch parts that make up the compass housing so that they line up with each other (all 4 layers) and that the pre-painted compass is on top. I elected to do this, but my alignment was a little off, so I hand painted the compass housing and let the paint fill in the misaligned parts to get a bit more rounded shape.
The colors parts are to be painted are clearly marked in each assembly step, however, the color references are only to Mr. Color and Gunze paints, so I ended up cross-referencing the listed colors online to get approximate matches/mixes for Tamiya paints. I did use an old can of Gunze Russet that I picked up years ago at a paint clearance sale for the Bakelite color on the seat. Pay close attention as you construct the cockpit as there are a number of very small parts that will easily disappear if you are not paying attention to where your fingers are going. The instructions would have you assemble several major subassemblies and then attach them to the two lower cockpit sidewall parts to form a sort of tub and then attach this completed assembly to the cockpit sides. I altered this by painting the interior of the fuselage and the lower side panels, and then I attached the two side panels to the respective fuselage parts. This helped me make sure the side panels were in the right place and allowed me to attach the different subassemblies one at a time to one fuselage half and then closing the fuselage up to hold the assembly in correct place while the glue dried. Once the glue dried, I separated the fuselage halves and added the next assembly and repeated the process.
I recommend that you test fit, but not attach the gun sight as shown in step B on page 3, as it will just get in the way later on. About the only issue I had in the cockpit was with the photo-etch seatbelts, the upper straps seem to be a little bit too long as I had a very hard time getting them to stay in place and then threading the upper end of the belt through the slit in the armor plate behind the seat. Next time I will split the upper belt into two separate straps and thread each one through individually. The attachment point is behind the seat and not visible once the kit is constructed. The only other issue was the mold seam down the center of the gun sight glass. However, as the sight is very small and pretty much disappears in the busy and tiny cockpit, I had a hard time at the end of construction finding the seam.
The kit includes oxygen bottles behind the seat and some other interior details, however, once the fuselage is closed up, not much of this detail is visible, but darn-it, you know it is there! Before you join the fuselage halves, you will need to decide if you are going to display the canopy open or closed as you will need to trim off a little bit of plastic from each fuselage half if the canopy is to be closed. The kit includes two small parts that fair the fuselage into the upper wings and these are supposed to be attached when you close up the fuselage. I left them off until I was ready to attach the wings in order to ensure they lined up with both the fuselage and the wings.
On page 4, you assemble the wings and the kit provides for two different wheel well configurations, depending on which aircraft you are building. The instructions clearly indicate which parts go with which sets of markings, so I made a big black “X” through the configuration I was not using, just to be sure. I did miss inserting clear parts C8 for the underwing lights in this step. If you are more on the ball than I was and get these parts installed, I recommend painting the backside of these parts clear red for the light under the left wing and clear green for the light under the right wing as this will give some depth to the lights in the end. I ended up painting the top of the wing through the little hole after painting was complete and using Krystal Klear for the lights.
On page 5 you bring the wings and the fuselage together along with attaching the appropriate wingtips. Most of the markings have standard rounded wingtips, but one aircraft has the extended pointed tips, which I really liked, so by attaching these tips I was locked into this set of markings. I lightly sanded the mating surfaces for the wingtips to ensure a good fit, but still ended up doing a little filling to fair them in. I test fit the wings and fuselage together and attached the small fillets (parts F7 & F8) discussed above, then glued the wings to the fuselage. The fit was outstanding and very well engineered, so I only had to do a little filling at the leading edge of the wings where the wings, fuselage, and the fillets all come together. This step also provides for the assembly and attachment of the upper engine cover. The attachment arrangement is very well thought out and results in a nice tight fit, however, I ended up with a slight seam down the center of the cover which required filling and sanding. Eduard has since released a resin replacement for this cover and I am strongly considering getting one for the second Mk. VIII. This step also includes the attachment of the ailerons, which could be deflected with just a little bit of work.
Next is the attachment of the rudder and horizontal stabilizers as well as the tail wheel and the tail wheel doors. I left both tail wheel and the doors off until after painting to make painting easier. I also used the resin tail wheel instead of the kit part. The aircraft is now flipped over and the various underwing intakes and coolers assembled. The lower nose section is comprised of left and right halves with one or two small photo-etched grills trapped in-between. Take your time getting the halves lined up to minimize the amount of sanding and filling you will need to do to eliminate the seam down the center of the lower nose section. I found the fit of the lower nose section to the main fuselage to be excellent and did not need any filling as on a real panel line. The design of the underwing radiators is outstanding and if assembled carefully, they look superb, You will need to paint the insides of the parts and the areas underneath them the undersurface color before assembly or you will never get paint down inside. I painted the front and rear faces of the blocks on the wing parts black before attaching the photo-etch grills/filters to help give an indication of depth behind them. The kit includes a centerline prop tank along with photo-etch mounting brackets if you want to use it and there is even a template on the photo-etch fret to assist you in drilling the necessary holes. As a side note, while the instructions do not mention it, the kit also includes two different sizes of belly ferry tanks that could be mounted on the kit, depending on what you want to depict.
Depending on which landing gear well option is chosen, there are two different options for landing gear struts and doors. Once again I used a big black “X” to be sure I had the right ones. You also have the option of using the kit provided plastic scissor links or photo-etch ones. I used the photo-etched ones, but they are so small and end up hidden between the gear doors and the wheels, so I may not do so next time. I left all of these parts off until after painting as the struts and wheels are much easier to paint off the model.
The propeller consists of three parts, the main part of the spinner, the four bladed prop and the rear plate of the spinner. I painted all three parts, decaled them and applied the final finish coat before assembling them.
With airframe complete, I dipped the canopies in Future and then applied the provided masks to prepare for painting. I left off the rearview mirror and the handle inside the sliding canopy hood for ease of painting. The masking set also includes masks for the wheels. I reversed the wheel masks and instead of using the tire mask as shown in the instructions, I airbrushed the hubs first, then covered them with the small circles at the inside of the wheel masks, and airbrushed the entire tire NATO Black. Circular masks are provided for some of the options where the larger RAF roundels had been painted over when the RAAF roundels were applied, resulting in a slightly different color circular surround to the new roundels.
The paint schemes for the various options are set out in the Colour Profiles section of the instructions. As I had opted for the Middle Stone/Dark Earth/Azure Blue scheme, I ended up mixing my own Middle Stone and Azure Blue colors with Tamiya paints. I am happy with the Middle Stone but the blue seems a bit off to my eye. I used silly putty to mask off the camouflage pattern as I have had real good luck with it sticking to Tamiya paint, but not pulling it up when removed. Once the paint had set for a couple of days, I put on two coats of Future and applied the decals. The kit has four decal sheets, one large one with the individual markings for all 32 options, a smaller sheet of various sized roundels and two sheets of stencils, one for each model. The decals are very thin and respond very well to Micro Set and Micro Sol and settle right down over the molded details. Take your time decaling as the decals do have a tendency to want to slide around to the back of the decal paper rather than onto the model if you are not careful and they also have an affinity for sticking to themselves and not coming undone. Fortunately, there are options for the long wing walkway decals on the sheets in case you mess one up. Due to the number of stencils on the decal sheets, I photocopied the stencil guide at the back of the Colour Profiles and checked off each decal as it was applied. I still almost missed the black wing walkway as these are on the corners of the large sheet with the individual markings. Once the decals had set, I washed and dried the kit off to remove excess decal adhesive. The decals were then sealed with a coat of Future and then clear flat on everything but the spinner.
Once the final coat was dried, it was time to add all the odds and ends to the model. I started with the tail wheel and the tail wheel doors. It is not clear just how far the tail wheel extends on the directions, so the detail pictures in Peter Malone’s enclosed book were very helpful in determining the correct height for it. I used the resin main wheels instead of the kit parts as they are very nicely detailed, have molded in flats and best of all are not molded in halves! The landing gear legs are designed to create the classic Spitfire stance when attached correctly. Once they were set, I used slow setting super glue and a piece of glass to get the main wheels correctly aligned and the flats squarely on the ground.
The final step is to remove the canopy masks and attach the rearview mirror, the canopy handle and the cockpit door. As shown in the photographs, the kit builds up into a very nice little Spitfire and the Aussie markings really stand out. My next one will have to be one of the shark mouth options.
As mentioned above, the kit also includes the Second version of Peter Malone’s book on the Mk. VIII in RAAF service. The first two chapters discuss the history of the Mk. VIII in Australian service and the various camouflage schemes worn by RAAF Mk. VIII’s. The bulk of the book contains accounts of the pilots who flew the Mk. VIIIs and whose aircraft are included as options in the kit. There are a lot of black and white photographs of the pilots and their aircraft along with photographs of normal maintenance and operations. The photographs are of very good quality and provide a lot of information and diorama ideas abound.
This is an outstanding set from Eduard as it couples it’s superb Spitfire kit with a wide array of attractive schemes and markings. The book is a great supplement to the kit and it would be great if Eduard were to offer it as a stand-alone item as it is a very good reference. The photoetch parts are outstanding, even if some are very tiny, and make a great addition to the kit. The only thing I would like to see added would be the resin upper engine cover that is now available for the Mk. VIII.
I really enjoyed this build and I look forward to building the second kit, if I can ever decide which of the other 31 options to build!
Highly recommended!! Thank you to Eduard for the review sample and to IPMS-USA for letting me review it.