Special Hobby 1/48 Seafire III

KIT #: 48052
PRICE: Approx $32.00
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Fernando Rolandelli
NOTES: Kitbashed with ICM Spitfire IX.


It is a remarkable fact that Royal Navy´s Fleet defence fighter in 1945 was a kind of glorified Spitfire Mk V, a heavier one by the way, the same that the RAF had deemed unsuited for offensive combat operations back in 1942. It is even more remarkable that at that late date, it was still the fastest Allied naval interceptor at low level, and the one with a steepest climb rate. That made it an ideal anti-kamikaze weapon; but it should be said that, fitted with a slipper tank, the machine had an endurance that enabled them for a CAP time of more than three hours, or an useful combat radius for offensive operations. The aircraft was never safe, with operational losses far outnumbering those due to enemy action; that said, by the time of its deployment with the BPC, an acceptable degree of operational safety had been achieved. It might be that only the fact that it could fly and fight kept it in service; in peacetime, most probably, it would have never been considered at all.

NN212, a Seafire L.III, belonged to a batch ordered on 5 January 1943 under Contract B124305/40 and Contract Acft/2605/C23(c), for a total of 200 Type 358 Seafire LIII airframes built by Westland Aircraft.  It was flown by SubLt. Ed Murphy to shoot down two A6Ms and share another on 15th August, 1945, while escorting an Avenger strike package to Kisarazu, in a mission which got famous as “the last combat in the Pacific”, and in which the RN-FAA suffered its last fatal casualty, the formation leader, Lt. Hocksley (shot down, captured and executed later). Of course, that didn´t exempt NN212 to bang its nose on the deck sometime later (it had already hit the ship´s gun director on 03.3.45), as a picture in Osprey´s book testify, and an entry in Sturtivant´s book  confirms, saying “Floated over the barrier, HMS Indefatigable, 22.01.46, Mid.WA Armstrong”


 The rationale of this build was exploring a way (another) of correcting the obvious inaccuracy of the Special Hobby kit (and its model, the Tamiya) which is a short fuselage with a misplaced (too far backwards) wing. Previously, I tried cutting the nose and grafting it into an Aeroclub Mk.IX fuselage; while that worked, it proved expensive (and, in the pre-Eduard uberkit days, a waste of a good IX fuselage). The ICM Mk.IX kit is much cheaper and generally available; there is no apparent reason why the procedure would not work using it. It is dimensionally correct; probably a bit anorexic in the nose (but that would go) and “pointy” in the spine, but everybody knows how to correct that. In picture you can see both SH and ICM fuselages compared, matching the cockpit openings; the ICM already has the nose cut.


 As I always do when heavy conversion or kitbashing is involved, I started with that work; should it fail, all would go to the bin without further ado. I cut the nose of the ICM first, leaving in place the wing fairing; then grafted the nose of the SH kit in. In this procedure the nose loses a couple of millimetres; for all the shortness of the SH fuselage, that problem seems confined to the rear fuselage, the nose being actually correct in length, if considered “forward of the wing´s leading edge” (it should be said that it almost matches the Airfix nose). For some reason this operation was a bit more difficult than it had been with the Aeroclub fuselage, but that might be due to bad executing. Interior was finished as per the ICM kit with as many SH parts as possible; I added a reflector gunsight left over from an Aires cockpit set (it later transpired that this machine would have probably been fitted with a gyro). After that, I presented the wing subassembly to the fuselage, and added the cowling undersurface. The parts fitted acceptably, not worse indeed than SH parts to each other! The wing “tail” was a hopeless fit, so I resorted to cutting those in both kits flush to the flaps; I used the one in the ICM wing, mating it to its own fuselage.

 Then, “navalization” came; the arrestor hook plug went in without much trouble; the vinyl tape fuselage reinforcements seemed a weird idea at first, but it worked (in the past, I have made them of Tamiya tape); the same can be said of the PE hoisting point reinforcements in the rear fuselage; the ones in the forward part are scratchbuilt. Late in the build I realize there were no catapult attachment provided in the undersurface of the wing; I scratch build them (I made a compromise making them solid; they scarcely protrude the slipper tank); the hooks, however, are provided as PE parts.

It must be said that the fit in the SH kit is undistinguished at best, as well as the definition of most small parts. Ailerons are particularly ill-fitting, but that can be masked by posing them with a small deflection. Gun covers require heavy sanding no matter how much attention you put in them. Undercarriage is rather complex but realistic enough (but the detail in the wells has to be scratchbuilt –it is included as a resin piece in later iterations of the kit), and the angle looks correct. Fairing in the radiator, oil cooler and carburettor intakes proved labour intensive, too.


 For the usual British-built FAA machine camouflage of EDSG/DSG/Sky I chose Xtracolour paints. After pondering a lot, I decided against masking and went for freehand applied paintwork; the low contrast between the colours undoubtedly helps to get the fuzzy appearance seen in pictures. That said, floating masks or Blue Tack (or a finer airbrush tip!) would probably render a equally good result, with better definition.

Kit decals were used. They proved a bit fragile, and most of them curled in some dangerous way at some point, but they conformed well to even difficult surfaces with no silvering (just see the picture showing the big insignia conforming to the various reinforcements in the left fuselage). I had a problem with the size of the large insignia: shouldn´t they be all the same size (48 in)? Well, it looks like someone realized the fuselage was a bit short and adjusted the ones going there… something which I missed. The difference is minimal; mine are “crossed”, but you could only notice if looking very intently.


 This was a sweet-n-sour project, tiresome to say the least, which I took as an exercise in kit-bashing, knowing that it would most probably be rendered “obsolete” by new kits rather soon. But the urge to find an use to all those perfectly serviceable sets of wings piled up during years is too big. I cannot prevent wondering why no aftermarket manufacturer has ever issued correct single-stage Merlin fuselages; it has been done with twin-stages, and now someone is even issuing wings to convert Airfix Vbs into Vcs! Fuselages is what we need. Those “conversion sets” would have sold like hot cakes.


-        Supermarine Spitfire – Part I: Merlin Engined”, Robert Humphreys, SAM Publications;

-        “RN Aces of WW2”, Andrew Thomas, Osprey Publications;

-        Seafire vs. Zero”, Donald Nijboer, Osprey Publications

-        “Aircraft of the Royal Navy 1939-1945”, Ray Sturtivant, Air Britain.

-        Supermarine Seafire”, Kevin Darling, Crowood Publications.

 Fernando Rolandelli 

June 2015

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