Hasegawa 1/48 Spitfire XVI (Conversion)






See reveiw


Tom Cleaver


A simple DIY (do it yourself) Conversion


 The Spitfire XVI came into existence because of British use of the U.S.-built Packard-Merlin 66 engine, the equivalent of the Merlin-66 that powered most late-production Spitfire IX's.  Due to the fact the Packard-Merlin was built to U.S. tolerances and required a complete set of its own tools, the RAF determined that it would be easier to segregate the resulting Spitfire by mark number and also by squadron assignment; as a squadron re-equipped with Spitfire XVIs, they would completely re-equip with the newer type.  Visually, the only distinguishing feature of a Spitfire XVI from a Spitfire IX was the serial number and the fact that all Spitfire XVIs used the "e" wing with a 20mm short-barreled cannon in the outer bay and a .50 caliber machine gun in the inner bay. 

The Spitfire XVI first appeared on the Castle Bromwich production line in October 1944; the first unit to take the type on operational charge was 443 Squadron RCAF.  The Spitfire XVI was almost completely used on fighter-bomber operations, since by this time the Merlin-powered Spitfires had been replaced in the air superiority role by the Griffon-powered Spitfire XIV.  Several pilots of Spitfire XVIs did have the opportunity to tangle with the Luftwaffe over northwest Europe in 1945, and demonstrated the airplane was no different from a Spitfire IX when it came to air combat capability.

 In February 1945, both the Spitfire IX and XVI were modified with a cut-down fuselage and the introduction of a bubble canopy providing 360-degree visibility for the pilot, as was also being done at the same time with the Spitfire XIV.  The Spitfire IX was running down production at this time, and most aviation enthusiasts can be forgiven if they identify all Merlin-powered Spitfires with a bubble canopy as Spitfire XVIs.  The first bubble-canopy Spitfire XVIs appeared in 74 Squadron in April 1945, a mere three weeks before the end of the war.

 The Spitfire XVI saw widespread service following the war with squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, prior to its disbandment in 1952, as well as Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Squadrons in Great Britain.  The type was also taken on charge by the Belgian Air Force beginning with units attached to the RAF in 1945 and was only taken off operations in 1954. 

 The Spitfire XVI also appeared in the movies, in the opening scene of "Breaking the Sound Barrier" in 1952, and in "Reach for the Sky," the filmed biography of Douglas Bader; by the time this film was made in 1954, there were no "accurate" Spitfires or Hurricanes left on operations for the filmmakers to have access to.  There are at least five Spitfire XVIs among the surviving flyable Spitfires in England today. 

Air Vice Marshal Sir James M. Robb and Spitfire XVI SL721: 

Most British Air Marshals are allowed their own private air transport.  In 1946, Air Vice Marshal Sir James M. Robb took delivery of Spitfire XVI, serial number SL721.  AVM Robb had the Spitfire painted a special shade of light blue, and used the airplane from 1946-48.  It was sent to a Maintenance Unit following his transfer.  In 1949, he took another active command, and sought out his Spitfire, which was still in the Maintenance Unit.  The airplane was used by AVM Robb until 1951, when it was again sent to a maintenance unit.  The airplane was one of the most distinctive Spitfires flying in England, with its one-off paint scheme and personal markings of its pilot.

 In 1957, the Spitfire was sold off charge for scrap.  In the 1960s, it made its way to the collection of early warbird restorer Doug Arnold, though nothing was done with the airframe other than to store it indoors - an improvement, since it had been stored outside before this and was quite weathered.  In the early 1970s, Arnold sold the Spitfire to and American collector, who sold it on to Woodson K. Woods of Phoenix, Arizona. 

 Woods restored SL721 to flight status and painted it in accurate RAF camouflage and late war insignia, with the his initials WKW.  I first saw SL721 when it appeared at the Planes of Fame air show in Chino in 1978, and it became the first Spitfire I ever sat in - proving to me the truth of the old saying that one does not get into a Spitfire, you put it on.  If you've never had this pleasure, I can assure you that the Spitfire cockpit is a Tight Fit, even if you are as slim as I am. I next saw SL721 at the 1981 Reno Air Races, where Woods put on a very good low-level low-speed air show, that very convincingly demonstrated the legendary maneuverability of the Spitfire.

 In the 1980s, the Spitfire went off the public circuit, and was damaged in an accident in the early 1990s. The airplane was restored to flight status by 1999; Woods' son, Chris, had completely researched the history of the airplane, and was determined to repaint it as it had been during its second tour of duty with AVM Robb in 1949.  After a lot of research, he managed to nail down the color of blue - which I would call a "french" blue, since it has a lot of violet in it - and the airplane was restored in these markings.  The airplane has been sold to a collector in Canada in the past year, and is one of two Spitfire XVIs in North America that is flyable.


Many Spitfire modelers have been disappointed by dimensional mistakes in the Hasegawa Spitfire IX that was released last year. In fact, some of the more vociferous have roundly condemned the kit and Hasegawa for their "crime against history."  For myself, if I can get a kit that is as close to right as this is, and is well-enough designed that I do not have to purchase any aftermarket sets for the cockpit, etc., such a kit is more desirable to me than one that requires the modeler to spend more than the cost of the original kit to obtain aftermarket items that are seriously necessary to get that kit to the "start line" all for the accuracy of 3 millimeters in fuselage length.  Would I prefer that the Hasegawa Spitfire had that 3mm to begin with?  Yes, but I can live with its lack. Quite frankly, the only way I can even notice this is if I see a Hasegawa Spitfire model sitting next to the other one. This is not said to start a war with their Imperial Lordships the Spitfire Boffins, but rather to let the average model builder know that they are not committing some crime against humanity if they buy the Hasegawa kit.  In fact, this one is my third, having done one as a Spitfire IX and another as a Spitfire VIII. (both of which are reviewed at this site if you are interested)


  My decision to make a Spitfire XVI was driven by seeing the ICM kit of this mark, which to me is in the same category as the Spitfire IX from this company - dimensionally accurate and full of sink holes and in need of a lot of aftermarket parts.  When Hasegawa's 2002 release list came out and there was no Spitfire XVI on it - and my Falcon "Spitfire Special" canopy set arrived - I knew what my next Spitfire project would be.  It helped I had a great Phil Makanna air-to-air photo of the restored SL721, taken on a bright sunny day, to use in mixing paint to get that strange shade of blue.

 Past the modification of the fuselage as outlined below, all the rest of the construction was as described in my other two reviews, other than the fact I did not have to remove the post-war wheel bulges on the upper wing, since SL721 has these.

 Fuselage Modification:

 Cutting down the fuselage is easy:  draw a line that starts with the lower sill of the aft section of the earlier canopy, to the fuselage-tail attachment line just ahead of the tail surfaces.  Then cut this away with a razor saw, and clean up the cut.

 I had already painted the cockpit sidewalls and attached the various parts that go there, so I proceeded to glue the fuselage halves together.  I then glued two sheets of .020 plastic sheet that had been cut to the approximate shape of the rear fuselage in planform onto the model.  Once this had dried, I took a rough-grit sanding stick and sanded these smooth in the correct shape.  I then hit them with medium-grit sandpaper, and followed that with a good coat of Mr. Surfacer 500.  After that had dried overnight, I sanded the area smooth with three ever-finer grades of sandpaper, then gave that a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000.  The next day I sanded that smooth with extra-fine grit sandpaper, then rescribed panel lines as appropriate.

 It is interesting to note here that, until the release of the Academy Spitfire XIVe kit, no model manufacturer had ever gotten the subtle shape of the Spitfire's bubble canopy right.  Falcon provides several bubble canopies in their set, and all of these are right.  As is usual with Falcon, they are beautifully clear, the correct size, and very useable. 




 Mixing this shade of blue took about an hour of effort, mixing in various colors and comparing the result with the color photograph.  I started with Gunze-Sanyo H-322 Gloss Phtalo Cyanine Blue, added in some H-338 Light Grey FS36495, found a need for about half the final color to be H-25 Gloss Sky Blue, and then several large dollops of H-49 Gloss Violet.  I finally got a color that was within a shade of darkness of being dead on to the color (which I think is right, since the photo is under very bright sunlight at mid-day).  I thinned this final color 50-50 with rubbing alcohol and painted the model, after first "pre-shading" it by airbrushing Tamiya semi-gloss black over the panel lines.

 The spinner was painted white, then masked and the rear half was painted a darkened Tamiya X-3 Gloss Royal Blue to match the blue of the decal insignias I was going to use.


 There is no decal sheet with this scheme.  I went into the decal dungeon and pulled out national insignia roundels and fin flash from various Spitfire sheets, the stenciling from a Super-Scale Spitfire sheet, the serial number by a cut-and-paste of various serial numbers on various sheets, and the initials from an old Super Scale sheet of RAF lettering.

 Final assembly and weathering:

 An AVM's airplane gets washed down thoroughly after every flight, and I am sure the slightest ding would be quickly repainted.  Thus, there is no weathering on the model.  After the second coat of slightly-dulled Future Gloss (to get a "scale" gloss finish) had dried, I attached the landing gear, prop, exhaust stacks and bubble canopy.


It's the most distinctive Spitfire XVI ever flown by anyone, in a color that - to me - perfectly sets off the Spitfire's classic lines.  The Falcon canopy set should be in the collection of any serious Spitfire fan for their models (it even includes a corrected canopy for the other kit).

Review kit courtesy of Marco Polo Importers

Review canopies courtesy of Falcon.

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