Hasegawa 1/48 Spitfire XVIe (conversion)
KIT #: ?
PRICE: $28.00 and cheaper
DECALS: usually three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Mild coversion, Lifelike Decals 48-007 “Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVIe Part 2"


     The Spitfire IX was a “stopgap” fighter based on the airframe of the Spitfire V - which was itself a “stopgap” based on the Spitfire I airframe - to rapidly produce a fighter capable of taking on the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 and the G-series Bf-109, powered by the Merlin-66 series with a two-stage supercharger.  In the end, the Spitfire IX in its various iterations was the most widely-produced version, only exceeding the Spitfire V by a few hundred airframes.

     Given that the mighty Merlin was the engine of choice for many British combat aircraft, as well as at least two American fighters, the limited British production facilities were not able to keep up with demand.  Following the entry of the United States into the war, General Motors received a license to produce the Merlin, which was assigned to the Packard division after the American automobile industry converted to war production.

     The American-built Merlin differed from its British cousin the way American English differs from its British cousin.  Packard modified the design to utilize American dimensions rather than Imperial measurements, to adapt the engine to American production demands.  The result was a Merlin that was similar enough to the original that it could power an airframe designed for it without difficulty, but that could not be maintained interchangeably with spare parts and tools. (Interestingly, the British found the Packard version to be generally more reliable and provide a bit more power than the Rolls Royce version. Ed)

     When the British decided to use the American Merlin in the Spitfire, the result was given a different mark number to distinguish it - Mk. XVI.  The Spitfire XVI started to appear in the last Spring of 1944, and RAF squadrons quickly realized that these airplanes could not be assigned willy-nilly to a unit equipped with Spitfire IXs, due to the problem of the need for different spare parts and tools.  Thus, by the summer of 1944, squadrons were completely re-equipped when they received the Spitfire XVI.  As Supermarine was more and more focused on the Griffon-powered Spitfires, the Spitfire XVI was produced by the Castle Bromwich “shadow” factory and also by General Aircraft.  By late 1944, the Spitfire XVI formed the majority of Merlin-powered Spitfire aircraft assigned to RAF tactical fighter-bomber squadrons in 2TAF.

     Following the end of the war, the Spitfire XVI appeared in various European air forces as their squadrons that had operated with the RAF during the war were repatriated.  Thus, the Spitfire XVI was ultimately flown by the Czech, Belgian and Norwegian Air Forces.  The airplanes also continued in RAF service, equipping squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force into the early 1950s.  While other “American” aircraft left British service quickly due to the need for the British to pay for any Lend-Lease airplane that was kept in service, the American Merlin engines had not been provided under Lend-Lease but rather as “royalty payments” for the licensing rights.

     Spitfire XVIs were also used as “hacks” by various RAF units, where former wartime fighter pilots would keep their hand in, such as the well-known Spitfire XVI flown by the Central Gunnery Establishment. 


     The Hasegawa Spitfire IX series first appeared in 2001, and quickly acquired the reputation of being “wrong” for the layout of the fuselage, which is too long in the nose and too short in the rear fuselage.  I personally don’t blame Hasegawa for this, since the drawings they used were created by a Japanese researcher who is well-respected there; these drawings can be found in the AeroFile publication for the Spitfire IX.  The kit is otherwise excellent, providing a very good cockpit.  Many modelers now use the Aeroclub conversion, which provides an injection-molded fuselage that is correctly proportioned and is a “drop fit” conversion of the Hasegawa kit.

     The basic kit has been re-released over the years as a Spitfire XII, a Spitfire VIII and a Spitfire XVI with differing modifications to wingtips and such, and different decals.


     I have always thought that the well-known Spitfire XVIe “F-JWL” would make up as an interesting model, so when I received the Lifelike Decals sheet 48-007 “Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVIe Part 2," which includes this airplane, I was interested in doing a model.  The sheet is for the ICM Spitfire XVIe, which has been long out of production with consequent reduced availability (this will hopefully change now that ICM is back in business).  Being unable to get the right kit, but being interested in doing the model, I remained frustrated until the local hobbyshop started selling off the collection of a recently-deceased “serious modeler/kit collector.”  Since there were several of these Hasegawa kits on offer at $18.00 (a real bargain nowadays) I decided to bit the bullet and put up with the “wrong” fuselage. 

     The conversion is easy.  I cut off the upper part of the rear fuselage behind the cockpit, then assembled the fuselage per instructions.  I then glued Evergreen sheet in place, then sanded it to shape, and then scribed in the panel lines.  For anyone contemplating a scratchbuilt conversion project, doing a Spitfire like this is easy.  I also used the Squadron/Falcon Spitfire bubble canopy, which is the proper shape for this canopy (only the Academy Spitfire XIVe kit has this canopy right in the box).

     I also used Eduard photo-etch seatbelts for the cockpit.



     I gave the model an overall coat of Tamiya “Flat Aluminum,” then masked off the fabric control surfaces, and gave the model a final coat of Talon “Aluminum,” which looked very much like the Aluminum lacquer used when I gave the model a coat of Testor’s Model Master Clear coat.  The spinner and the cannon fairings were painted with Xtracrylix “RAF Red”


     The Lifelike decals went on without a glitch.  I do think that the “brick red” of the national insignia might be a bit bright, but in the specific instance an argument could be made that it was faded.  In any case, the decals look great when they are finally set, which they do without problem under a coat of Micro-Sol.


     I attached the landing gear, the pitot tube, prop and canopy 


     Hemingway’s comment about cats (“Having one cat leads to another”) also applies to Spitfires.  I am sure that when ICM re-releases their Spitfire XVIe kit that I will do at least one more of these nice markings found on the two Lifelike Decals sheets.

Review Kit courtesy of my wallet.

Decals courtesy of Keishiro Nagao at Lifelike Decals.  Get yours direct at http://www16.ocn.ne.jp/~lifelike/

Tom Cleaver

March 2009

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