Airfix/ICM 1/48 Spitfire XIVe

KIT #:
PRICE: $£36-00 in total
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Frank Reynolds
NOTES: Freightdog decals used


Technology often advances at a great rate during times of conflict.  In the world of fighter aircraft, more speed and more altitude are in constant demand to gain the edge over potential opponents. The Merlin engined Spitfire was a point defence interceptor of ideal specification for the early years of World War 2 with a 1,600 horse power engine and a speed of around 370 mph. The definitive Merlin Spitfire was the Mk.VIII/IX series, development of which peaked in 1943. Supermarine introduced the Griffon engined Mk XII in 1943, an emergency conversion of the  Mk.V, but only 100 were built. A definitive redesign of the Mk.VIII, powered by a 2,000 hp engine first entered service in early 1944 as the Mk XIV. The Griffon engine was a fine example of progressive technology, for although it was barely larger than the legendary Merlin it was 36% larger in swept volume,at 2,239 and in its matured form, drove a much larger 5-bladed propeller. This was a wholly new style of Spitfire, heavier and more rugged, competitive with later generations of the Focke Wulf 190s, approaching par with the P-47 and P-51 and much better suited to the territory – hopping campaign of war in Europe after the D day invasion. The XIV would see post war service in RAF Germany and the Far East and become part of the inventory of the Air Forces of Belgium, India and Thailand.



 This is just one more step on the road of my never-ending project of modelling the Spitfire series in 1: 48 scale. After five years and around 60 kits into it, I now find that I am scrapping and replacing some of my earlier efforts as my finishing techniques change or when newer and better kits come onto the market.

 One variant that has consistently proved a challenge is the Mk.XIV and its close cousin the Mk.XVIII. The XIV was produced in two main versions, the earlier having the original-style Spitfire high back fuselage and a later version with a cut down rear fuselage and bubble canopy.

 The only current mainstream kits of a Spitfire XIV in 1:48 scale comes from Academy, neatly tooled, but rather poorly executed in that the nose area is too bloated and it does not capture the deadly beauty of the subject.

With the recent release by Airfix of their Spitfire PR.19, the full size of which is effectively an unarmed Mk.XIV, this should be a good basis of a more accurate high back Mk.XIV fighter. In this exercise the cannon armed wing that is required comes from ICM’s Spitfire Mk.IX- a kit of good provenance that has the advantage of being very reasonably priced – around £9-99 at some outlets – and even if you only use the wing  and windscreen the remaining parts yield a mighty harvest for the spares box. A dry fit of the chosen fuselage and wing assemblies looked promising and gave me enough confidence to proceed.

 The fuselage of the Airfix kit needs to be stripped of the essential characteristics of the PR version – the unarmoured, rounded one-piece windscreen, the intake on the lower cowl side, under the exhausts, for the cabin pressurisation system and filling the camera ports in the fuselage sides. The drop down cockpit access flap on the port side should be scribed in since this feature was omitted from the pressurised Mk.19.The resultant holes in the cowl side, the aperture for the fuselage camera and some minor sink holes under the edge of the cockpit were filled with Green Putty

 The PR.19 kit has the option to model the canopy open, using a part first introduced on Airfix’s Spitfire Mk.12 fighter, where the fixed rear section and sliding centre section of the canopy are combined into a one-piece unit, although this is very thick and requires some awkward masking inside and out and a small section of the fuselage has to be cut away to accommodate it. I had avoided using it in my previous build of both the Mk.XII and the PR.19, so it was time to experiment. Having an open cockpit was also a useful potential cheat since it would avoid any worries about lining up the ICM armoured windscreen against the Airfix cockpit hood and rear section.


 I first built the wing from the ICM parts, consisting of the one piece full span lower section, left and right upper wing panels and clipped wing tips. ICM provide inserts for the correct cannon bay covers for the “e” wing armament where the cannon occupy the outer of the two wing stubs and the inners are blanked off with two small hemispherical plugs. A further advantage of the ICM kit in this context is the useful alternative parts for the wing tips and ailerons which include the smaller inset ailerons applicable to the Mk.XIV and matching clipped wing tips.  The small infill sections from the ICM carburettor intake were cut away and fixed into the gap in the front centre part of the lower wing.

 For the fuselage, I followed the sequence set out in the Airfix instructions. Commencing with the cockpit interior, the fuselage was assembled and allowed to set hard over a couple of days. When building the interior I used the ICM instrument panel and gun sight and omitted the redundant bulkheads and equipment from the camera bay. Seat belts from an Eduard PE set were used to detail the seat.

 Once everything had set over a couple of days the wing was offered up to the fuselage halves to check where any fiddling and fettling was required. The upper wing joint was pretty good; the lower section required some carving around the sweeping joint of the wing fairings to the rear of the trailing edge. The only dramatic mismatch of parts was a large gap where the cameras would have been on the Mk.19. This could be filled in with scrap plastic and filler – I chose to use an offcut from a spare wing sourced my ever-growing Spitfire spares box, adjusted with a sliver of plastic card and some careful sanding and carving. The Airfix lower nose section and carb air intake could be added unmodified. The tail assembly was all from unmodified Airfix components. The Airfix under wing radiators were blended into the ICM wing, requiring a little fettling along the flanges at the base of the side walls that fair into the wing lower surfaces.

The undercarriage came from the Airfix parts, using the standard main wheels rather than the alternatives that have flats moulded onto the tyres, purely a personal preference. The main undercarriage legs have a new detail, where the outer face of the leg is moulded flat so that the inner face of the bay door has a positive location. The retractable tail wheel assembly is easy to install since Airfix have moulded interlocking base plates that ensure that the doors are correctly aligned – a small point but one that will be appreciated by anyone who has tried to fiddle tiny Spitfire tail wheel doors into alignment on kits that do not have such a feature.  The armoured windscreen and rear view mirror were taken directly from the ICM kit and fitted neatly onto the Airfix underpinnings.


 Fortunately, Freightdog in the UK produce the exact decals that I needed, the subject being “Brits Abroad, the Immediate Post War RAF”, (ref FSD48-001S),  an excellent sheet that includes a choice of two high back XIVs of No 17 Squadron, part of the Air Component, British Commonwealth Occupation Force at Miho, Japan, in 1946, where they served until the squadron disbanded in  February 1948. They feature the less common combination of a high back and clipped wings. They are both in an unusual colour scheme of Medium Sea Grey under surfaces with upper surfaces of Dark Green and Medium Sea Grey – a scheme that is more often associated with RAF night fighters. They also have a rather strangely proportioned immediate post-war style of red/white/blue national markings, featuring a small red dot in the centre of the roundel.  This colour scheme looks, frankly, weird, almost reminiscent of the well-meaning but inaccurate colour schemes that could be found decorating some RAF station gate guards during the 1950s and 60s. This would an unusual combination of features for the collection.

This decal sheet is well worth buying so as to bank the unused subjects for future projects since the sheet also includes markings for a temperate schemed Mk.XVIII of the RAF’s No32 Sqn. in Palestine, 1948, a temperate schemed low back Mk.XIVe  of 11 Sqn., Japan 1948 and a SEAC –style schemed low back  XIVe of No 28 Sqn, Kuala Lumpur 1948. (There are also three options for P-47s – a matter of passing interest since I understand that the RAF may have operated some aircraft other than the Spitfire at some time!) The decal sheet includes full national markings, codes, serials and badges for each option but airframe stencilling and wing walks must be found elsewhere, in my case from Airfix Spitfire XII sheets, although the propeller stencils came from the PR.19 sheet. The wing walk lines need to be longer than those found on most Spitfire paint finishes since the wing roundels are of an unusually small size. I chose the option for No 17 Sqn’s commander, Battle of Britain hero “Ginger” Lacey since it featured the prominent Squadron Leader’s pennant on the fuselage sides forward of the cockpit.

Hannants’ Xtracrylix paints provided the camouflage scheme, applied with my long serving Iwata HP-C airbrush This finish is a little simpler than most camouflaged Spitfires, requiring an overall coat of Sea Grey Medium and then the  upper surfaces shadow shaded in Dark Green. The propeller spinner was an easy exercise since the forward cone is red and the back plate, separately moulded by Airfix, is white, so the two components can be painted prior to assembly. The decals went on well over a coat of Future/Kleer and responded effectively to Micro Set and Micro Sol.


I  have previously tried a similar cross-kitting exercise to produce a Seafire XV from a Spitfire XII and a Seafire XVII. The Mk XIV project was a little more complicated since a certain amount of filling and scribing is necessary and careful work to blend in the rear lower section of the wing to the fuselage. I am reasonably satisfied with the result and  the cost is not too bad compared with the amount of money that is charged for some short-run kits and I found the decals to be excellent. As to the gimmick of the open canopy option from the rather thick Airfix component - I am not totally convinced. It is not bad enough to warrant my tearing it off and replacing it, but I am unlikely to use it on another model.

Overall, I think that the exercise works, although for some weird reason this project left me feeling vaguely dis-satisfied and I cannot quite say why. It may be the slightly strange canopy arrangement; it may be the unusual camouflage scheme that, although correct for the period, puts me so much in mind of incorrectly finished gate guards of the 1960s. It may be the fact that my usually reliable Iwata HP-C airbrush was playing up and needed constant cleaning during the painting process. When in doubt, assume that it was operator error - perhaps it was just an off day.  Yet, this is another tick in the box for the Spitfire and Seafire collection.

 On that note, I set up the XIVe for a photo shoot alongside Airfix’s standard PR.19, just to prove that all Spitfires look the same, except where they differ.

 Compared with the PR Mk.19, the most obvious features of this XIVe are:  An armoured windscreen. Clipped wing tips. A wing featuring fairings and barrels for the cannon.  Yet minimal changes in outline and a different colour scheme give a noticeably different look – all the reasons that the Spitfire series is such a fascinating modelling subject.   I now have an unused PR wing and windscreen– so maybe a PR.IX beckons, who knows?


 Spitfire International by Helmut Terbeck, Harry van der Meer and Ray Sturtivant, Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 2002.

Spitfire, the History by Eric B. Morgan and Edward Shacklady, Key Publishing, 2000

 Aircraft Profile No 246, Supermarine Spitfire (Griffons) Mks. XIV and XVIII by L.J. Bachelor. Profile Publications Ltd., 1972.

Frank Reynolds

April 2013

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