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Spitfire Kit

AMT/ERTL 1/48 Spitfire Mk.VIII Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review December 2007 Manufacturer AMT/ERTL
Subject Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VIII Scale 1/48
Kit Number 8881 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Great subject Cons Control surfaces and cockpit transparency molded solid. No mention of what squadrons the 3 scheme options represent
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Spitfire Kit
Spitfire Kit
Spitfire Kit
Spitfire Kit
Spitfire Kit

The British Spitfire was a direct descendent of the high performance racing sea plane that had gained popularity between the first and second world wars. At the beginning of hostilities the British Air Ministry put out a specification (E7/30) in 1931 for a new fighter to replace the Bristol Bulldog. Supermarine’s first proposal met with little enthusiasm, so Reginald J. Mitchell, designer at Supermarine went back to the drawing board and drawing on his experience with the racing sea planes, came up with T-300.

This sleek aircraft incorporated the use of the new Rolls Royce Merlin engine PV-12, which put out 1,000 horsepower. A more detailed specification from the Air Ministry (F37/34) called for four gun armament coincided nicely with the Type-300’s specification, making it a strong contender. After working out some minor shortcomings in the original designs in cooperation with the Air Ministry, REA Farnborough and the engine manufacturers, Supermarine went on to build the first prototype, K5054. Taken to Eastleigh airport in Hampshire on 5 March 1936, the first Spitfire took to the air. It proved an old aircraft adage, if it looks right it will fly right, the Spitfire flew as beautifully as it looked.

That the Spitfire was one of the most esthetically pleasing planes to come out of WWII will only be argued by loyal P-51 fans (and even that started out as a British plane). The Spitfire had an exemplary combat record and made the Royal Air Force (RAF) a strong partner in winning the final conflict with the Axis powers. Indeed, the British public considered the Spitfire as the single weapon that held back the Nazi invasion of their beloved England during the Battle of Britain.

The Spitfire Mk. VII was a pressurized variant and incorporated many changes from the original Spitfires, such as symmetrical air coolers for the oil and supercharger (the original had a round oil cooler under the left wing with a rectangular intercooler under the right). The fuselage was stretched to 31 ft. 6 inches to accommodate longer engine mounts for the revised engine. A retractable tailwheel was added and the “C” span wings had their tips extended. The vertical tail had a tip added to the top.

The Mk. VIII was essentially an un-pressurized version of the MK VII and was used overseas in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters including Australia. The Mk VIII’s used the Merlin 61, 63, 63A, or 66 and 70, depending on the role requirement of the plane. The USAAF and RAAF used the Mk VIII as well as the RAF in large numbers. By 1947, at the end of production, a total of 20,351 Spitfires had been produced in many variants. The plane had an excellent combat record and is still remembered fondly today. There are still some Spitfires flying for special airshows, a testimony to the “rightness” of the design and integrity of the engineering of this beautiful bird.

The kit is a repackaged Arii/Otaki release that comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows two Mk VIII’s strafing a German airfield. The aircraft in the foreground has the fuselage code M (roundel)ZX in red letters outlined in white. It has a white fuselage band and the serial number MT928 in black letters over the fuselage band. There is a white circle on the cowling with a red cross that has a yellow sword across it diagonally. This marking is one of the ones on the decal sheet. 

The aircraft in the background has the fuselage code of N (roundel) ZX in the same colors and the serial number MT817.  This marking is not on the decal sheet.

A side panel of the box has 4 color photos of various areas of a model made up.

Inside the box is a large sealed cello bag that holds 3 medium gray parts trees and the single clear cockpit transparency part. The decal sheet, the instructions and a subscription blank to order Ertl’s “Blueprinter” magazine complete the kits contents.

Blueprinter magazine always was 95% about toys and car models. Next to nil on armor and aircraft. So, I never bothered with it.

The trees in this kit all say that they were molded in Japan. Actually, all there is in Ertl’s home town of Dyresville is a warehouse, because they sent everything elsewhere to be made years ago. Metal molding is done in China for the most part and plastics are done in Mexico and Japan.

If you compare the tooling, you’ll find that this kit is a rebox of the Arii/Otaki tooling. AMT reboxed eight of the Arii/Otaki 1/48 World War II fighters in a series back then, as well as Airfix too. See the table below. In their day, some of these were pretty good, and a few are decent kits for beginners to hone their skills on. I also have been informed that the lower wing part is missing the characteristic gull shape that the Spitfire Mk. VIII should have.

The letter A tree holds: the fuselage halves, the horizontal tail surfaces and the underwing air intakes (6 parts). Control surfaces are all molded solid.

The letter B tree holds the upper and lower wings (the wing bottom is full span, setting the dihedral nicely. Again, control surfaces are solid. (3 parts) The letter C tree holds: the main wheels, propeller and it’s spinner, the belly fuel tank, landing gear and it’s doors, cockpit interior parts, and a ground crewman figure with his hands folded behind his back, the tail wheel and exhaust pipes etc. (32 parts)

The clear one piece cockpit transparency, decal and instructions complete the kits contents.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 6 pages that are 17” x 7 ½” format.

Page one begins with the history of the Spitfire Mk VIII in English, followed by the first 2 assembly step drawings.

Page 2 begins with decal application instructions and some general warnings. Ertl’s address appears in the center and below that is assembly steps no. 3 & 5.

Page 3 begins with the parts tree drawings, with steps no. 4 & 6 below them.

Pages 4 though 6 have one assembly step per page at their tops, giving us a grand total of 9 steps. Across the bottoms of these pages is the illustrations for 3 painting and marking schemes.

  • Spitfire Mk IX with the fuselage code (roundel) WFD in red letters outlined in white and the serial no. JF814. It has a rectangle under the cockpit with alternating stripes across it horizontally in two shades of blue. We are not told what squadron this one was with. It has a wave pattern of medium ocean gray and olive drab above and medium sea gray below
  • Spitfire Mk VIII that is the one on the boxart (marks already described) It is in   the same camouflage as JF84 above. Again, we are not told what squadron this with
  • Spitfire Mk Vc of Wing Commander C.R. Caldwell (squadron not mentioned). It has the fuselage code of CR (roundel) C in white letters and the serial no. A58-464 in black it has a white fuselage band and a ace of spades mark on the tail. It has a number of German kill marks under the cockpit and has RAAF roundels

The detail on this model is of the engraved type and well done. Too bad the control surfaces are molded solid and the cockpit transparency is only one piece. It would take some surgery to open that to show the cockpit interior, which is quite nice – considering this kit is about 30 years old now.

Highly recommended.