Hasegawa 1/32 Spitfire XII (Conversion)

KIT #: 08052
PRICE: $42.00 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Greymatter GMAA3202 Spitfire seat, GMAA3211 Universal “C” wing, GMAA3221 Spitfire XII conversion set


            Almost all of the developmental history of the Spitfire during the Second World War revolved around attempts to outperform the Focke‑Wulf Fw‑190. In addition to the development of the Spitfire IX, the need to combat the German fighter in its low‑level fighter‑bomber version led directly to the creation of the Spitfire XII, the first of the Griffon‑powered Spitfires.

      In 1942, with the Luftwaffe’s bomber force largely engaged on the Eastern Front, and most of the other bomber units not on the Eastern Front committed to the Mediterranean, there was almost no offensive capability left among the units stationed on the Channel Front. The arrival of the Fw‑190A‑4/U4 Jagdbomber “Jabos” gave JG‑26 and JG‑2 the capability of mounting low‑level raids on southern England as far inshore as London. Each unit had a Jabostaffel, giving a total of 24 aircraft between them for attacking England. These  few airplanes gave the RAF fits, since their tactic was to cross the Channel at wave‑top height, under the radar, and hit various towns and other targets in southeastern England with two to four aircraft per mission.  After dropping their bomb, each Wurger would dive back to wave‑top height and skedaddle at full‑throttle back to northern France. They were called "tip and run" raids. While they did little real damage, the raiders gave the RAF a major headache because of the public outcry over the raids, which forced the RAF to employ a much larger force in an attempt to stop the Jabos.

      Given the short response time between spotting the raiders inbound and their retreat to France, the only defense was to mount standing patrols over southern England.  This required a much larger force of aircraft on these duties than the Germans were using for the attacks. The Spitfire V ‑ the main equipment of Fighter Command at the time ‑ was no match for the Fw‑190 in conventional combat, and was nowhere near fast enough to catch its opponent at low level. In 1942, the Hawker Typhoon was the only RAF fighter with any chance of catching up to the Fw‑190s in a low‑level stern chase once the German fighter was free of its bomb, and even then this only worked if the controllers had positioned them well. Something better was needed, and needed fast.

      The Rolls‑Royce Griffon II engine with single‑stage two-speed supercharger had become available in late 1940, offering a considerable increase in power over the Merlin at low altitudes. The Spitfire IV (Type 337) ‑ later renumbered the Spitfire XX after the arrival of the photo‑recon P.R.IV series ‑ had been developed to use this power plant, with first flight of the prototype DP485 in 1941. Further development was desultory until the arrival of the German Jabos. With the focus on a low‑altitude fighter capable of chasing and catching the Focke‑Wulf, the Type 366 Spitfire XII quickly appeared, this being a Mark Vc airframe powered by a Griffon II. The airplane’s top speed at 5,000 feet was 393 m.p.h., which was fast enough to catch the Fw‑190s. One hundred Spitfire XIIs were eventually built, based on the Mk.V and Mk.VIII airframes.  Originally, these were visually distinguished by having either a fixed (Mk. V) or retractable (Mk.VIII) tail wheel, though all were modified to have the retractable unit during the course of 1943.  The wings were clipped to improve the rate of roll at lower altitude.

      In February 1943, 41 Squadron exchanged its Spitfire Vbs for Spitfire XIIs. For the pilots, the primary difference was that the Griffon rotated in the opposite direction to the Merlin, giving a strong swing to the right on takeoff rather than the previous left swing. The unit was declared operational in April 1943 and moved to Hawkinge in southeastern England. Their first victory was a Ju‑88 shot down off Calais on April 17. That same month, 91 Squadron began their conversion, joining 41 at Hawkinge in May.

      The worst problem the pilots faced at the outset was convincing the Typhoon pilots that the Spitfire XII, which had clipped wingtips, was not a Bf‑109. If the Spitfire pilot spotted the diving Typhoon in time, they could just outrun the big Hawker fighter.

      On May 25, 1943, six Spitfire XIIs of 91 Squadron intercepted a force of Focke‑Wulf Jabos attacking Folkestone and claimed six in the cross‑Channel chase that ensued, two being claimed by the OC, Squadron Leader Ray Harries. By August, Harries had become the first pilot to score more than five victories in the Mk. XII and was promoted to Wing Commander to lead the two squadrons.

      The Wing fought its most successful action on October 20, 1943, when the two squadrons mounted a fighter sweep over northern France. Near Rouen, they were attacked by 25 Fw‑190s and Bf‑109Gs of JG26. In the battle that followed, the Mk. XII pilots claimed eight Germans for no losses to themselves.  Shortly thereafter, 91 Squadron converted back to the Spitfire Vb and then to the Spitfire IX, leaving the limited number of Spitfire XIIs available as replacements for 41 Squadron now that the “tip and run” raids had been stopped. 

      The Mk. XII remained in service with 41 Squadron through the summer of 1944, when it was used against the V‑1 "buzz bombs," where the fact it was the RAF’s fastest low-altitude fighter gave it an edge over the newer Spitfire XIV.  The unit began conversion to the Spitfire XIV in late August/early September before moving to the Continent that fall, but engaged in one final combat on September 11 that saw three Luftwaffe experten of JG 26 shot down by future aces flying Spitfire XIIs.  The last Spitfire XII lost on operations was DB-E/MB862, which crash landed after being damaged by friendly anti-aircraft fire two days after being used to shoot down the next-to-last victory for the now-elderly Spitfire XII.


            Over the years, there have been several conversion sets made to allow a modeler to put a Spitfire XII in the collection.  This being one of my favorite marks of Spitfire, I have done them all: the hack-and-glue conversion using a Hobbycraft Seafire XV and the Classic Airframes set with replacement nose and outer wings in resin - both used with the Tamiya Spitfire Vb - and the Aeroclub full-fuselage conversion for use with the Hasegawa Spitfire IX kit. All of these are for 1/48 kits, which have now been replaced by the excellent Airfix 1/48 Spitfire XII.

            Greymatter Figures markets several resin conversion sets that allow a modeler to create a 1/32 Spitfire XII from the Hasegawa Spitfire Vb kit.  The Hasegawa kit has recently been given a limited release with new decals of current quality, which provide accurate national insignia and stencils.  The Greymatter Spitfire XII conversion includes the complete cowling, fishtail exhausts, 4-bladed prop and correct spinner, retractable tail wheel, radiator housing, carb intake, cannon fairings and wing ammo bulges, and pointed rudder.  Greymatter also provides a “C” wing conversion that is necessary for this project.  The resin seat is also a vast improvement over that provided in the Hasegawa kit.

            The elusive shapes of Griffon prop spinners have frequently eluded manufacturers, but Greymatter has this one right, and also got the even more elusive shape of the Spitfire XII prop blades right.  The cowling is the proper length with the correct bulges for the early Griffon engine.  


             Construction is straightforward, but is complicated enough that this project would not be recommended as a first major conversion.

            First, the outer wings must be cut off the lower center section.  After this is shaped so it fits the resin wings, the wings should be attached at this point so that a strong joint can be created.  The oil cooler has to be cut off the Hasegawa kit and used on this wing, and the radiator housing can be attached at this point. 

            The cannon fairings look good, but they are the later version associated with the Spitfire XIVe.  I used the plastic cannon barrels left over from the PCM Spitfire IX kit used in the Spitfire XVIII conversion project, and used sprue tree for the outer cannon stubs.

            Once the wing is set up, I fitted the cowling in position, then took measurements with one fuselage half to get the right point for cutting off the kit nose.  After cutting off the nose sections of each fuselage half, I proceeded to assemble the cockpit.  I used the Eduard photo-etch detail set for the Tamiya Spitfire IX to add detail to this cockpit, and also used Eduard photoetch RAF seatbelts.  Before gluing the fuselage halves together I cut out the area for the retractable tail wheel.

            With the kit fuselage glued together, I test fitted the fuselage to the wing, trimming where necessary to get a good fit.  I then glued the cowling into position on the wing, then attached the fuselage to that complete sub-assembly.  The fit was close enough, but a solid application of Squadron green putty was needed for all the joints.  When that had set up overnight, the model was sanded down smooth, and the panel lines were rescribed along with all the raised detail on the Hasegawa kit.  I then attached the carb intake, which fit easily in the right position. 

            I found that the plastic rudder left over from the PCM kit fit just a bit better than the Greymatter resin rudder, and so used that; had this not been available, the resin rudder would have been just fine.  I cut off the elevators from the horizontal stabilizers, assembled the stabilizers and attached the elevators in the drooped position, then attached these to the model.

                        With all that, assembly was complete and it was time to proceed to the paint shop.


            After reading about 41 Squadron in the Osprey “Griffon Spitfire Aces” book, I thought it would be interesting to do EB-E as she looked at the end of her time on operations, when she scored the final victories for the type against the Luftwaffe that September, 1944, with D-Day stripes on the lower rear fuselage, and a “dinged” paint scheme, which I proceeded to do. 

            I first “pre-shaded” the model with Tamiya flat black airbrushed on the panel lines, then painted the fuselage ID strip and the prop spinner using Tamiya “Japanese Army Grey” which is a close match to the ID letter decals I planned to use.  I masked off the fuselage stripe then painted a thinned flat white on the lower fuselage, masked that and shot the black D-Day stripes.  While that was setting up, I painted the yellow wing leading edges.  When these areas were dry, I masked them off.

            I painted the Temperate Land Scheme using Tamiya’s new “Sea Grey Medium” (“RAF Light Grey” on the bottle) XF-80, “Ocean Grey” (Ocean Grey 2 - RAF” on the bottle) XF-82, and “Dark Green” (“Dark Green 2 - RAF” on the bottle) XF81, which are excellent accurate colors.  Each color was lightened with Flat White and the area gone over to varying degrees to give the impression of wear on the paint, the airplane being “ancient” by Second World War standards, having been in existence and used operationally for 16-18 months.  When all was dry I unmasked the model and applied a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.

            I used the kit decals for the stencils and national insignia, which went on easily with Micro-Sol.  I used Xtradecal X32021 “RAF serial letters and numbers” for the serial, and letters taken from the Victory Productions Spitfire sheet for the squadron codes.  When set and dry, I washed off the model and applied a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish.


           I “dinged” the airframe with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum” along panel lines and walk ways, then used Tamiya “Smoke” for the exhaust stains on the fuselage side and the oil stains on the wing underside.  I then gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish.

             I attached the landing gear and props, unmasked the canopy and attached the sliding section in the “open” position.

            I used left-over gear doors from the Tamiya Spitfire kit and the 30-gallon “slipper tank” from that kit for greater detail on this model.


            Like the other Greymatter Spitfire conversions, this project demands “some modeling skill required,” and the more experience one has with conversions the better.  That said, if you know what you are doing, it is not difficult if you take your time and think through the modifications and assembly.  The Spitfire XII is still my favorite Griffon Spitfire and looks great sitting next to the Spitfire F. Mk. XVIII and the Spitfire 24 conversions.  Highly recommended for those who like Spitfires and a modeling challenge.

Tom Cleaver

June 2011

Review Kit courtesy of my wallet; Greymatter conversion sets courtesy Greymatter Figures - get yours at www.greymatterfigures.com

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page