1/32 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VIII

Product #60320  from Hobby Link Japan

Product Article by Dave Johnson on Oct 1 2010


Product #60320 (http://www.hlj.com/product/TAM60320) from HobbyLink Japan (http://www.hlj.com/scripts/hljlist.cgi?rel=nav&GenreCode=Air)

History –

Tests early in 1942 proved that the Merlin 61 powered Spitfire was the answer to replace the outdated Spitfire Mk.V. This couldn’t come sooner as September 1941, saw the introduction on the Fw190 which out performed Spitfire Mk.V. Work began on redesigning the Spitfire airframe to take the a new and heavier and more powerful engine. This work would produce the pressurized Mk.VII and the unpressurized Mk VIII Spitfires. These aircraft were expected to be the answer to the Fw 190 threat. The Mk VIII featured a strengthened fuselage with a retractable tail wheel. Each wing carried a 14-gallon self sealing fuel tank, and the main fuselage fuel tank was increased in size to 96 gallons. These changes gave the Mk VIII the same range as the Mk V, although as this distance was achieved at a higher speed, the Mk VIII could stay in the air for less time than the Mk V. Most Mk VIIIs used a new broad-chord, or pointed-tip rudder. The Mk VIII used the “c” wing armament (four cannon or two cannon and two machine guns) and could carry up to 1,000lbs of bombs. 1,657 Mk VIIIs were produced in all. The success of the Mk IX reduced the importance of the Mk VIII. Although the first production model was completed in November 1942, it took until June 1943 for the first squadron to be equipped with the model. One reason for the delay was that it had been decided to use the Mk VIII in the Mediterranean and Far East, and so the first squadron to use it was No. 145, based on Malta. By the summer of 1943 the crisis in the Mediterranean was in the past, and the Mk VIII saw most of its service during the invasion of Italy, often in a ground attack role.

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The Kit –

Tamiya follows up their ground breaking Mk. IX Spitfire with the Mk. VIII. This is the first time that the Mk.VIII has been injection-molded in 1/32 scale. The box is presented beautifully with artwork of Lt. Bill Skinner’s 308th Fighter Squadron USAAF machine, Lonesome Polecat and the Supermarine Spitfire title printed in embossed shinny gold text. The box contains 16 sprue’s of medium grey plastic; 1 sprue of clear plastic, and one of black which contains the in-flight display stand. Another sprue of black rubber carries the tyres for both options of wheels up and down. All the larger sprue’s are individually packed into their own plastic bags. All the smaller items, being the 2 sheets of photo etch frets, rods for the movable surfaces, nuts, screws, magnets and of course those fantastically moulded engine cowls . But wait! There is more... Also included is a 16 page reference guide, a glossy colour guide for the USAAF machine, 2 decal sheets that contains the unit markings for the 3 aircraft and stencils required for one airframe. Plus a huge instruction guide with 72 construction stages.

I would say most modelers would have seen Tamiya’s first  Spitfire Mk.IX release, there aren’t too many changes within this kit but there is a total of 3 new sprue’s included for this boxing of the Mk.VIII. These sprue’s include the extended wing tip parts, the re-tractable tail wheel and the larger 90 gallon slipper drop tank.

As mentioned before the kit hasn’t changed much but still has all those cool features that was introduced in the Mk.IX kit. The engine cowlings are molded in the incredibly thin 0.4mm thickness again for that scale effect. The removable cowls also keep the magnet feature to hold them onto the model. The newly tooled retractable tail wheel also feature this magnet feature on both options of assembly.

The Merlin engine that Tamiya has include is small project on its own that builds up to a fantastic model by itself. Built straight out of the box offers fantastic detail. Or if the modeler wishes to go a bit crazy and add wiring and plumbing, whether its supplied by a aftermarket manufacturer or added from scratch, the results are well worth the work. There is also no Rolls Royce name plate on the rocker covers, but the aftermarket guys have this covered already. It may pay to check your references, as Packard built Merlin’s did not have the name plate on the rocker covers.

The cockpit detail is superb out of the box, but lacks the wiring and control cables to some of the components, which very is visible in this scale . Some good cockpit reference shots and some building materiel any level of modeler should be able to add these details to the cockpit area. Again the aftermarket guys are offering some great items that are worth checking out if you want to add a bit more. A seated pilot figure in full flying setup is also offered, but the detail is a tad soft on some of the areas of the figure. Some people may disagree with me here, but I found it hard to paint the same figure that is supplied in the Mk.IX kit, due to some of the detail. A standing figure is also included, and which has better detail.

The detail of the kit, has to be one of the best that is on offer on the market today. Tamiya surly raised the bar with this Spitfire tooling. The kit features very crisp panel lines and subtle rivet lines. There is no sign of flash or sink marks, ejector pins have been placed in areas that won't be seen. Tamiya have also added all the sprue attachments on all the major exterior on surfaces that will be will be cleaned up during the build process. The ailerons, elevators and rudder are fitted with metal hinges to make them movable. Flaps may be posed open or closed and alternate parts are also supplied to display the undercarriage retracted or extended. 

The decals are well printed and in perfect register. They also appear to be a lot thinner than the Mk.IX release. Tamiya have supplied 3 decal options for this kit as they did with the Mk.IX, and they are:

  • Wing Commander ‘Bobby’ Gibbes, No.80 Wing, RAAF Morotai Island, Dutch East Indies, 1945

  • No.417 Squadron, RCAF, Marcianaise, Italy, 1944

  • Lt. Bill Skinner, 308th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, 15th Air Force, USAF, Castel Volturno, Italy, February 1944

Overall, this kit is fantastic straight from the box and any level of modeler should be able to tackle the task of assembling this kit. I am currently slowly building the Mk.IX release and it been a joy to build, so far. I am sure the Mk.VII will surely be the same.

I would like to thank HobbyLink Japan (www.hlkj.com) for this review sample.

Dave Johnson

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Photos and text © by Dave Johnson