Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire XVIe

KIT #: 60321
PRICE: Yen 7,700 (US$100.65) at HobbyLink Japan (clearance)
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Lifelike Decals “Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVIe Part 2"  32-011 used.


             Following the introduction of the Merlin-60 series engine in 1942, the Spitfire IX became the most-produced Spitfire sub-type.  To meet increased demand for the Mk. IX in 1944, the Merlin-266 engine was produced by Packard, which produced Merlin engines in the United States under license from Rolls-Royce.  While the original Rolls-Royce Merlin-60 series was built to metric specifications, the Merlin-266 was built to the U.S. measurement system.  Coupled with differences between the superchargers and intercoolers used by the two engines, there was no parts interchangeability.   To distinguish between Spitfires with British and American engines, the Merlin-266 powered Spitfire was designated Mk. XVI.

            The Mk. XVI utilized the taller pointed rudder and the “E” wing with 20mm cannon and 50-caliber machine gun.  Almost all Mk. XVI Spitfires were produced with clipped wingtips to improve low-altitude performance, since the type was primarily utilized by 2TAF in Northern Europe as a fighter-bomber.  The type entered production in September 1944, and fighter squadrons were re-equipped completely with the Mk. XVI since it was impractical to have Spitfires with different engines and spare parts inventories in the same unit.  Beginning in February 1945, the Mk. XVI production introduced a cut-down rear fuselage and a sliding bubble canopy.  1,054 Spitfire XVI of both fuselage types were produced at the Castle-Bromwich Aircraft Factory between September 1944 and July 1945 when production ceased.  Twenty Spitfire IX squadrons had converted to the Mk. XVI by May, 1945 and were primarily used in the close air support role.  The first bubble‑canopy Spitfire XVIs appeared on operations with 74 Squadron in April 1945, a mere three weeks before the end of the war.

             Post-war, the Mk. XVI became the most commonly-used Spitfire in the RAF, since they were mostly “low time” airframes; Royal Auxiliary Air Force that were using the Griffon-powered marks were re-equipped with the Spitfire XVI so the Griffon Spitfires could be used operationally by regular RAF units.  The Spitfire XVI was commonly used for many second-line duties, such as Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Units and as personal transports for senior RAF pilots, until it was retired from service in 1954. 

             A Spitfire XVI appeared in the opening sequence of the film “Breaking the Sound Barrier” in 1952.  Its last major role was when 20 Spitfire XVIs were used in the movie “Reach For The Sky,” the film biography of Douglas Bader, being the only World War II fighter type available in sufficient numbers for the production.   The Mk. XVI also equipped squadrons of the Belgian and Greek air forces during this time period.  There are at least five Spitfire XVIs among the surviving flyable Spitfires in Britain today, and a Spitfire XVI that was owned by the Museum of Flight in Santa Monica is now displayed in the Brazilian Air Force Museum. Spitfire XVI SL721, which was owned by Woodson K. Woods in the United States for 30 years, is now in Canada, where it has been repainted to memorialize a local RCAF pilot who flew Spitfires during the war. (Editor's note: there is also a Spitfire XVI at the San Diego Aerospace Museum)


            This is the third release of Tamiya’s Merlin-60 series Spitfires.  Like the Spitfire IX and the Spitfire VIII releases, it includes a full Merlin engine, in this case the Merlin-266.  There are different parts for the wheel well if one chooses to do the post-war conversion with the blister on the upper wing surface, as well as different parts for the cockpit to fit the cut-down fuselage.  The parts for the engine include the different supercharger and intercooler that visually distinguish the Packard-Merlin-266 from the Rolls-Royce version.  The fuselage differs by providing the cut down fuselage with the sliding bubble canopy. 

            The canopy is the correct shape and amazingly clear, though it has a mold seam right down the middle. For purists, this is easily dealt with:  a light scrape-down with an X-acto blade, sand smooth with 3000 grit sanding pad, then polish out.  Or you can leave it alone since it is not that visible.

            Decals are provided for three different aircraft, along with full stencil decals.


            I began by painting all the interior of the fuselage and the various cockpit parts.  While that was drying, I assembled the wing, horizontal stabilizer, elevators and rudder.  I also attached the side panels of the cowling to the interior frame, getting them attached in perfect position, then gluing each to the respective fuselage half and reinforcing that joint with some Evergreen sheet.  This will considerably ease the assembly of the cowling if you choose not to build it with the engine displayable.

            I then assembled the cockpit, following the instructions closely, then finished by assembling the fuselage.  I then attached the wing sub-assembly to the fuselage.

            I assembled the front plate and the oil tank from the engine, and then glued them to the cowling side panels. I then attached the lower cowling, following that with the upper cowling.  If you take care, you can fit them together perfectly.  I set things aside to set up for awhile, then finished off by attaching the radiators and their housings, the horizontal stabilizers and elevators, and the rudder.


            I had been planning to do Air Marshall Robb’s light blue Spitfire, but at this point I learned from Robert “Mr. Spitfire” Swaddling that Robb’s Spitfire had been modified with different upper panels to the cannon bays that did not have the bulges, and that it had full-span wings from the outset of his use.  This would have requited some major parts removal and changes at a stage where more harm would have been done than good.  With that option closed, I decided to do the well-known silver Spitfire XVI flown by the Central Gunnery School at Leconfield in 1946-47, which is an option on the Lifelike Decals sheet, “Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVIe, Part 2" (32-011).

            I painted the model with Tamiya Flat Aluminum, then masked off the fabric control surfaces and applied a thin coat of Talon Acrylics “Aluminum.”  With a final coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish, this would give a good approximation of “Speed Silver,” the aluminum lacquer paint used on RAF aircraft of the period.  The Spinner and cannon barrels were painted with Gunze-Sangyo “Red Madder,” a glossy scarlet red. The exhausts were painted with Tamiya “Metallic Grey” while the prop was painted Tamiya “Flat Black.”

            I used Lifelike Decals “Spitfire Mk. XVI Part 2".  This sheet includes an addendum sheet with very fine stenciling, which looks better on a silver airplane like this than the heavier Tamiya kit decals.  The Lifelike Decals are very thin and melt down beautifully into the very petite surface detail on this model.  Caution: they are thin enough you must take care not to let them fold up on themselves, and use plenty of water on the surface while moving them into position; blot the water with tissue, then apply a light coat of Micro-Sol and all is well. 

            When decals set up, I washed the model to get rid of decal solvent residue, then applied the coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish to get the final look.


            I attached the exhausts, the main wheels, and the prop.  After unmasking the canopy and windscreen, I mounted the canopy in the open position and then attached the open side flap.  I gave light exhaust staining on the cowling aft of the exhausts with Tamiya “smoke”, as well as a light “oil stain” on the lower wing center section and aft fuselage.


            I still wish that Tamiya followed Hasegawa’s example and did these kits as “curbside” models without the engine.  The kit price would be half what it is (which means I would buy more), and those who want to display an engine could get a resin set for the difference in price of that kit and this one, and all would be happy. I note that several “advanced modelers” have recently admitted that they too have had sufficient difficulty getting the cowling panels to fit and stay in position with the magnets that they have also glued their cowlings shut, so I do not think I am being a Luddite on this matter.

             That said, these models definitely make up into the most accurate Spitfire kits ever released in any scale.  I found that painting this one overall silver, I was far more aware of the surface detail, which is very realistic when compared with the 1:1 Spitfires I have been up close and personal with when they were lodging out at Planes of Fame. 

             The three Lifelike Decals sheets for this model provide some really superb markings alternatives to what is in the kit, and as always Lifelike Decals are highly recommended as some of the very best decals I have ever used.

Tom Cleaver

August 2011

Review Kit courtesy HobbyLink Japan - order yours at http://www.hlj.com/product/TAM60321

Decals courtesy Lifelike Decals - order at: http://www16.ocn.ne.jp/~lifelike/

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