Hasegawa 1/48 Spitfire XIV (conversion)

KIT #: Any Hasegawa Spit will do
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Planet Models Spitfire 21 fuselage used


     Development of the Spitfire to use the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon engine began in late 1940, with what was first known as the Spitfire IV, which was to use the Griffon II and was known as the Type 337.  The airframe involved extensive modification to absorb the additional power; at one time it flew with a mockup of no less than three 20mm cannon in each wing.  Before the prototype DP845 flew, it was designated the Spitfire XX to distinguish it from the P.R. Mk. IV.  Plans that all XX-series Spitfires would be Griffon-powered were changed when the interim Mk. XII and Mk. XIV types were introduced.

     The Mk. XII was an emergency creation to deal with the low-level “tip-and run” raids by Fw-190s and involved mating the Griffon II engine to a Mk. Vc airframe. The more detailed development utilized DP851, which was used to develop the Griffon 61 series.  DP851 was further developed into the Spitfire XXI.  In order to gain further experience with the Griffon-61, six Mk. VIII airframes, JF316 to JF321 were modified to take the Griffon engine.  Experience with these airplanes showed it would be possible to create a Griffon-powered high-altitude air superiority fighter in a faster timeframe than envisioned with the Spitfire XXI by mating the Griffon to the Mk. VIII airframe the way the Merlin-61 had been mated to the Spitfire Vc.  Thus, third major development of the Spitfire saw the “interim” type produced in larger numbers and used more widely than the version developed specifically to use the engine change.

     The Spitfire XIV, utilizing a “beefed-up” Mk. VIII airframe with larger radiators, first appeared with the “C” wing, and the first squadron to equip with the new type was 610, a former RAuxAF squadron which had been among to equip with the original Spitfire.  The Mk. XIVs arrived in January 1945. And the squadron entered a long work-up period to get used to this very different Spitfire, in which the prop rotated the opposite of all previous Spitfires and required judicious application of throttle and rudder on takeoff to avoid a torque roll on takeoff, not to mention the new type was far more nose-heavy than the Spitfires the pilots were used to. 610 gave a public display of their new mounts in mid-May 1944 and managed a few fighter sweeps before D-Day.

    The Spitfire XIV was intended to provide high altitude air superiority, to complement the medium-altitude Tempest V.  Both these types delayed their entry into air combat over the Continent following D-Day by the deployment by the Germans of the Fi-103, the first of which exploded in England two days after the invasion.  It was quickly ascertained that the best defense against these robots were standing patrols by the fastest Allied fighters.  Over the course of the anti-diver campaign, which only ended when the launch sites in Belgium were overrun by the Allied armies in September 1944, the Spitfire XIV emerged as the most successful of all Spitfire types in destroying the “buzz bombs,” being flown by two wings at the time, with a third re-equipping just at the end of the campaign. 

     The Mk. XIV arrived on the Continent at about the same time the Jagdflieger were re-equipping with the Langnasen Dora, the Fw-190D-9.  The Spitfire XIV had superior performance above 25,000 feet, but unfortunately, most fights over the Western Front were occurring at lower altitudes.  Thus, as had been the case with the Spitfire since the first introduction of the Fw-190, the new version just maintained superiority over the latest Wurger, with pilot quality (which was declining for the Germans) being the deciding element.

     By V-E Day, 20 RAF squadrons were equipped with the Spitfire XIV in Europe, and the type had arrived in the Southeast Asia Theater.  While Spitfire squadrons quickly re-equipped with the new airplane, the Pacific War came to a fast end before they could enter combat. 


      There is no really accurate kit available of the Spitfire XIV.  The Academy kit, which was released in the mid-1990s, makes up into a fair representation, but the fact that it is overall bulkier than it should be due to a fuselage that utilized incorrect dimensions (being about 4 scale inches too deep overall in side profile, which is noticeable in 1/48) keeps it from being definitive.  The Spitfire XIV is lithe in appearance, and “lithe” is not a term one can apply to the Academy kit. John Adams at Aeroclub makes a limited-run injection-molded fuselage which has accurate dimensions; it is however based on a master developed from the Airfix Spitfire 24, which means the cockpit is not that well-detailed.

      Having bought several Hasegawa Spitfire IX kits from an estate sale at good prices, and having a Planet Models Spitfire 21 resin kit which had a badly-cast wing, I decided I would get a Spitfire XIV the old-fashioned way with a kit-bash.

      The Hasegawa Spitfire would be the definitive Spitfire were it not for the fuselage.  However, the kit has an accurate wing, and the kit cockpit is the best in-box Spitfire cockpit available.  The Planet Models kit uses bits of the Airfix Spitfire 24 - which has an accurately-shaped cowling and spinner - mated to the rear-upper fuselage of the Academy Mk. XIV kit, which means it is too thick in side dimension. 

      I decided to mate the cowling and the tail to the Hasegawa kit.  This was not that difficult for someone who came of modeling age when we had to kit bash three different 1/72 Spitfire kits (Airfix Spit IX and Spit V and Matchbox Spit IX) to get something approximating an accurate Spitfire IX 35 years ago.


      Since the Hasegawa kit is short in the rear fuselage and the Airfix Spitfire 24 is right dimensionally, I used the fuselage of an Airfix kit to show where to cut the Hasegawa kit.  I then had to sand off the remains of the mount for the horizontal stabs.  When I mated the Planet Models tail to the Hasegawa kit, it became obvious just how “off” the Academy kit is, when I had to take almost 1/8 inch off the bottom of the rudder and lower fuselage to mate that up with the correctly-dimensioned Hasegawa kit.  I ended up cutting out the area of the resin fuselage for the tailwheel and inserting the Hasegawa parts.

      Once all this surgery was completed to the fuselage halves, the project proceeded much like any other.  I assembled and painted the cockpit and installed it, then glued the fuselage together.  I ended up using a lot of Tamiya’s “Mr. Surfacer” substitute on the centerline and the joins of plastic and resin, sanding everything smooth and then rescribing panel lines.  I also used the Planet Models resin radiators, which were actually incorrect for a Spitfire 21 but exactly accurate for a Spitfire XIV.  I also made certain to sand off the wheel fairing on the upper side of the wing on the Hasegawa kit, since that was a post-war modification.  I also used the Planet Models prop blades, which are wrong for the Spitfire 21 and perfect for the Spitfire XIV.



      The model was painted with Xtracrylix “RAF Sky,” “RAF Ocean Grey,” “RAF Dark Green,” and “RAF Medium Sea Grey,” with the camouflage pattern freehanded with my Paasche-H using a #1 tip.


      Decals were sourced from the Decal Dungeon to create a Spitfire Mk. XIVc as seen in the first public photos of 610 Squadron’s airplanes.


      The model was given a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish, then the prop blades were attached to the spinner, which was attached.  The exhausts were attached, and the landing gear.  I used a Falcon vacuform canopy.  Exhaust stains and oil stains were applied, but the airframe was kept clean otherwise, since it was new at the time.


      There you have it, a “lithe,” long and lean, Spitfire XIV - my favorite version of my favorite world War II fighter.  It was fun to exercise old skills and discover that kit-bashing is like riding a bicycle: once you know how, you’ll always be able to ride.  For those who would like to get a more definitive Spitfire XIV and don’t want to do it this way, I would highly recommend the Aeroclub conversion.  Use it with the Hasegawa kit instead of the Academy kit.  Dremel the cockpit area nice and thin, cut out the sidewalls from the Hasegawa kit and thin them down, then use the great Hasegawa cockpit.  The radiators can be modified to the proper external shape with putty and a sanding stick.

Tom Cleaver

April 2009

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