One day I came across some magazines from IPMS Greece that provided quite a bit of info on the Spitfires flown by the 335th and 336th Royal Greek Squadrons while in service with the RAF in Egypt and later in Italy. These fighter squadrons were comprised by Greek pilots that evacuated Greece in 1941 after the Germans came to assist the failing Italian invasion of Greece. While under RAF command these squadrons initially operated with Hawker Hurricanes and later in 1943 with Vb and Vc Spitfires. In late 1944 the squadrons returned to Greece and took part in operations against the retreating German forces. The picture that inspired me for the model was during that latter period. It depicts a Spitfire Vc in natural metal finish, black anti glare panel and Greek roundels painted over the British ones. Definitely, not something you see everyday!
A 1/48 Tamiya Spitfire Vb was chosen as the obvious starting point of the construction but the modification of the “B” wing to a “C” was the next puzzle piece to it. Instead of using an aftermarket resin Vc wing which would have been the easiest construction approach I decided to explore my options of kitbashing a plastic “C” wing from what I had in my collection. The closest choice was the 1/48 Airfix Vc Spitfire which provides a new mould “C” wing with the proper big and small oil underwing oil filters. Unfortunately, fit was less than stellar not to mention the quality and detail of the plastic that didn’t exactly match the Tamiya fuselage. Next choice was the ICM 1/48 Spitfire IX “C” wing that is very close to the mould style of the Tamiya Spits though it lacks the small underwing oil filter. Again detail was a bit soft but fit was better overall so ICM’s wing seemed to be a good choice. Still, I also had to try the 1/48 Hasegawa IX “C” wing. Beauty of a wing with crisp detail and great moulding quality that matched perfectly the Tamiya fuselage. But fit was bad, I could say even worse than the Airfix one. While feeling that the ICM wing selection would be the least problematic one the moulding quality of the Hasegawa wing pushed me to think of a different approach in mating wing to fuselage.
Conversion and Other Enhancements
As I studied the differences between the “B” and “C” wings I realized that both their top and bottom halves starting from the wing root are the same except the smaller underwing oil filter. The “C” details come into play in the outer halves of the wings with the different cannon, bulge and machine gun configuration. There are some minor differences in access panels but nothing that would require major surgery but simple rescribing instead. So, basically I had to combine the Tamiya “B” wing root half with the outer Hasegawa “C” part. That would solve any fuselage to wing root fit problems as well as the lack of a small underwing oil filter. Armed with new X-acto blades I started cutting through both wings until I had the appropriate pieces. Cuts were made on existing engraved lines so that made it even easier. Once, I glued the hybrid wings together long strips of plasticard were added for strength internally. I plugged and drilled new cannon and machine gun ports as well as rescribed access and line panels based on the “C” wing plans. Since, a natural metal finish bird was going to be made I needed to be sure of any imperfections in the hybrid wing joints. Thin strips of plasticard were added at tiny gaps adjusting for minor dimension differences between the two wing parts as well as several coats of Mr. Surfacer either airbrushed or brushed on. For sanding I used several grades of Micro-Mesh sanding cloths. Overall, the wing construction took about a month to finish.
The cockpit construction was more straightforward. I replaced the Tamiya seat with the Hasegawa one as I think it looks better and added a home made Sutton harness. For the latter I used lead foil from wine bottle seal and thin plasticard for the buckles. Lead foil was also used to depict the straps on the rudder pedals. For the instrument panel I used the Hasegawa one as I prefer drybrushing the moulded dials than adding decals to the empty Tamiya ones. Before joining the fuselage I separated the rudder so as to glue it in an offset position – same method was employed for the elevators as well as the ailerons. Once the fuselage was joined the wings fit perfectly which was the main focus of the kitbash strategy. For the landing gear I added break lines while for the exhausts I tried to enhance them by thinning and drilling open their ends.
Natural Metal Finish
For the natural metal finish I opted to use Tamiya acrylics. Quite a heretical approach as many of us don’t think highly of acrylic metal paints but have to admit that some of the recent metal colours from Tamiya like Flat Aluminum, Titanium Silver and Metallic Grey can be used with satisfactory results. Since, I wanted to achieve that subtle tonal variety of metal panels for my finish I used all the above mentioned Tamiya metal colours either out of the bottle or mixed. Masking panel by panel, my trusty Iwata provided an easy application of these colours and after they dried I followed with light Micro- Mesh sanding. Flat Black was used for the anti-glare panel and Sky for the spinner. The Greek roundel blue was mixed based on colour chips that were included in the magazines from IPMS Greece. That was sprayed on roundel masks and fin flashes made from Tamiya masking tape. The plane’s serial number was also masked and sprayed with Flat Black. Weathering was kept to a minimum since a NMF plane usually belonged to a squadron leader and thus kept to a more pristine condition. Based on photographs I replicated the proper flow and look of the exhaust stains and fuel leaks mixing together. Last pieces of the construction were the addition of the landing gear, antenna and navigation light painting.
After 6 months of on and off work due to other responsibilities I managed to have a classic Spitfire in my collection but with a twist. I have to admit that the metal finish with the blue roundels creates a pleasing result and so far most of my modelling comrades agree as well. Hope that you enjoy it as well!