I have a deep and abiding interest in photo reconnaissance aircraft, and being a great admirer of the Spitfire, I returned to the recce Spits for the second of several helpings (see Modelling Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk. XIX – The Complete Conversion Guide for 1/48 Scale – Ed.). I also like unusual camouflage schemes, so when I read an article about pink Spitfires FR Mk. IX that were flown by No. 16 Squadron during Operation Market Garden in the fall of 1944, I knew I had my subject!. These pink Spitfires were used to take low-level oblique pictures on days when there were some clouds, near sunset or sunrise. Although I do not have one mounted here, these aircraft were also used for dropping pictures and messages to field headquarters by placing them into the old 44 gallon-size drop tanks, and dropping the tank from just above the ground.
Construction begins with a surgery
Thanks to the Spitfire boffins on Hyperscale, I knew the ins and outs of the various 1/48 Spitfire kits on the market when I started this project. I prefer the ICM kits, but having acquired a Hasegawa kit I decided to make use of it. I did not have the desire to do a complete fuselage correction, but I did choose to do most of the length correction on the Hasegawa kit’s fuselage. I used the rear fuselage from an ICM kit to do the lengthening.
To do this, I picked a spot on the rear fuselage of the Hasegawa kit and matched it to a spot on the ICM fuselage where the contours (especially the top and bottom edges) would meet. This gave me almost 1/8” in added length, and proved to be a fairly simple mod. As a buddy of mine recommended, I added the strengthening bits inside the fuselage from a number of small pieces of plastic strip; this was much easier than fitting a single long piece and gave a much stronger joint. Thanks, Gary!
In this particular instance, the reconnaissance modifications were dead simple to do. I drilled out the oblique camera port on the battery access door (visible above) and chamfered the hole from the inside to take a clear plastic cover. I used a camera from one of Roy Sutherland’s resin 1/48 scale Spitfire camera sets.
Then it was on to the interior…
I used many of the kit’s pieces for the interior. I substituted an Ultracast seat with Q-type harness for the kit seat, and added the rear section of the shoulder straps that pass through the head armour, as well as the shoulder harness restraining line. I used the kit instrument panel. I painted the panel in a very dark gray, painted in the instrument dials, and added a drop of clear epoxy to represent the instrument faces.
I assembled the fuselage without further incident and moved on to the wings. I added blanking plates for the outer cannon shell chutes and pre-finished the insides of the radiators, including dropping open the outlet doors and adding new side pieces since this is often seen in photographs of Spits sitting on the ground.
Having visited Duxford a year or so before I started this project, I was keenly aware that Spitfires have a distinctive “hunkered down” stance when fueled up. I haven’t found a 1/48 scale kit yet that gets this right. Mostly, they are modeled with the landing gear oleos fully extended, instead of mostly compressed. Many kits also have the main gear moulded with a lot of sections (different diameters of rod), which does not compare well to photos. I chose to make new main struts from nested brass tubing (1/16” for the main gear and axles, 3/32” for the upper shock struts). These were further detailed with bits of tape, fine wire, and brake lines later on.