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Tamiya + Aeroclub 1/48 scale
Seafire Mk.IIc

by Fernando Rolandelli


Seafire (Hybrid) Mk IIc, LR792, “K”, of Nº 834 NAS, HMS Battler, British East Indies Fleet, Indian Ocean, June 1944. Pilot: Lt. DAE Holbrook


Tamiya'a 1/48 scale Spitfire Vb is available online from Squadron





Realization that it was not enough simply to deploy aircraft at sea, but top-class aircraft as well, came to the Royal Navy quite late, and found it equipped with a motley collection of machines which would have been swiftly swept away by any air opposition. Therefore, the need of having a really first-class interceptor fighter made the Admiralty accept the Seafire, a machine hardly adapted to carrier operations. Giving its pilots a fair chance of shooting down the enemy made fairly acceptable the fact that it would most probably, sooner or later, crash land on returning to its carrier. Nevertheless, its slender shape figure stands out among the rugged, purpose-built, American-made radial-engine fighters which also found their way into the FAA ranks, “like a rapier among scythes”. Interestingly, as soon as the pressure of wartime eased, the FAA quickly got rid of its remaining Seafires, even of a superb machine like the F.47 was, to the point of refusing to have anything to do with its successor, the Seafang.

Development of the Seafire, like all things Spitfire, is a rather crooked, meandering affair. LR792 was ordered to Westland Aircraft Ltd. as a Seafire Mk III, but, due probably to the existence of older Mk II, non-folding, wings, it was completed with one of those, part of a batch of about 30 machines, called (Hybrid) Mk IIc. The aircraft features four-blade propeller but older three-stack exhausts, “c” wing armament and bulges but long cannon fairings, and no blanking stubs. All in all, a very interesting bird from all sides.

The Kit

Well, as the readership may already know, there is no decent 1/48 kit of the Merlin Seafire (according to some experts, neither of the Spitfire V!). There exists a kit from Airfix, their old, old Spit Vb with a new “c” wing and an insert for the arrestor hook (all grossly oversized and/or indistinctly shaped); some conversions by Airwaves (who had a strong, unexplainable preference towards the Arii kit as a donor), and some by MDC, keyed to the Tamiya Spit V kit.



Speaking about kits, you have the aforementioned Airfix Vb (which has staunch supporters), the Hasegawa and the Tamiya ones, in both Vb and Vb Trop versions. If you open the box of the Airfix kit all of a sudden, you’ll discard it almost immediately: it seems a lump of white plastic completely devoid of detail, while the new parts, if sporting engraved panel lines, are very roughly moulded (“spark-corrosion” mold technology?) If you read some reviews and opinions from experts, you’ll learn that it is regarded as very accurate in terms of shape. I honestly wonder. Shape-wise, it has strong and weak points, like any other kit, and the lack of detail is really despairing. Just not to seem biased, I shall quote a statement by John at Aeroclub (in the “instructions” of his excellent Seafire F Mk 17 conversion): “… can still be assembled into a very presentable Mk.Vb if the top of the nose is re profiled, the prop thrust line dropped 1 mm and re-scribing of the raised panel lines”. It is enough to discourage me. Both the Hasegawa and the Tamiya examples also have strong and weak points: a better wing plan form in the Hase, but more consistent detail, a better fuselage and a better cockpit in the Tamiya.

As the best conversions are those by MDC, I naturally preferred the latter. I used the relatively cheap CV 723 Seafire Ib set, together with an Aeroclub four blade prop, P422. An Eduard PE set, Zoom EDFE102, was added to the cockpit, and the mandatory Airwaves RC48068 Spit Vb oil cooler replaced the flattened example in the kit (but I think you could scratchbuilt the opening out of styrene rod).





Who needs a “c” wing?

The heart of the project is not the Seafire conversion (mainly comprising the arrestor hook insert which fits like a glove with only small surgery), but the build up of the “c” wing. Of course, you could buy one of the ready made resin sets, by Airwaves or MDC, but to a cost which exceeds that of the kit. I figured that converting the wing should not be impossible, and there are several ways round it.

I bought the Aeroclub V198 set, having cannon inspection doors with three types of bulges (two-cannon “c”, one cannon “c” and “e”) a most useful and cheap set. It would be then possible to grind down the “b” bulges, cut the appropriate square from the upper wing and install the complete inspection door as required. The same could be done using, let’s say, a spare from any ICM Mk IX kit. I chose another way around, which entailed erasing the “b” bulges and panel lines, smoothing the surface and simply scribe the panel for the inspection doors and add just the bulges. There is a Red Roo set providing just the bulges, but I thought the bulges themselves could be taken out of the ICM panels (solving their shallowness in the process) This procedure, involving a Dremel motor tool, lots of putty and sanding and swearing, was done without incident. But there’s still the lower wing… you must eliminate bulges and panel lines, and perforate the new spent cartridges ejection ports, the most difficult operation. For this, I thinned the inside of the wing in the proper places, build up the “walls” of the port from the inside with pieces of Contrail strip, and then proceeded to perforate them with a pin vise and a sharp blade. The result is not at all bad.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Not necessarily related to the conversion but with making the Tamiya kit more accurate and better-looking, I decided to do something about the trailing edges, which join the “Karman” fairings in a pronounced “notch”, instead of a gentle curve. I glued some tiny crescent-shaped pieces of plastic and built up them with superglue, sanding as necessary as it hardened. Last of all, I moved the boundaries between the inner and outer flaps about 2 mm outwards (they should be precisely where the curve joins the wing). It is amazing how such small pieces of plastic can change the appearance of the wing (and give so much trouble to get right and even!)


Having not for once began the work by the cockpit, I proceeded to install the few PE parts (specially the instrument panel) and some scratchbuilt items. The core work was hollowing the “false floor” provided by the kit. I simply hacked off most of it, exception made of the central “ridge” where the seat is glued, and restored the rudder pedals rods with some Evergreen pieces. Then, to avoid a see-through effect to the wing roots, I placed some suitably painted pieces of paper glued to the fuselage sides; when the wing was presented, they naturally folded to the inside, mimicking the rounded fuselage bottom and blocking the ugly wing roots view. They worked fine.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The kit’s windscreen fits admirably, but I think the rake forward of the rear frame is just a bit too pronounced. Comparing it to the Airfix kit, it is almost the same, though against the Hasegawa and the Aeroclub vac with which I intended to replace the hood there is a noticeable difference. In the end I rather left the windscreen alone and used the kit’s hood, which fitted well over the spine and it is not so thick so as to make a vac replacement mandatory. The fixed rear portion has a brace molded from the inside, which would have been better made as a part of the cockpit assembly. After careful painting, it does not look at all bad, even from the outside. The clear part itself is just a bit wider than the fuselage, though it can be coerced to behave by exerting some moderate pressure.

Seafire specifics

As said earlier, the insert for the arrestor hook fitted perfectly; it is “open”, so you can see through it into the fuselage. I think this was the case with the real thing (may be there was a canvas cover) but I chickened out and glued a blanking plate. The hook itself was missing in my example of the A-frame, a blob caused by a short-shot of resin in its place. I considered adding the hook in the Airfix kit, but it is very over scale and nothing near the angular and complex shape of the original; I resorted to scratch build it.


The catapult spools (their position is clearly shown, but not their “attitude”) and slinging points came in the MDC Seafire Ib set, the one for the L.IIIc provided the “long” cannon barrels. The reinforcing strips and plates were made of Tamiya tape. The reinforcements around the radio hatch were, however, just scribed around it.


Putting it all together

The otherwise perfect mate of fuselage and wings was a bit spoilt by the wing root operations, and some putty and sandpaper work was needed (completely superfluous if building the kit OOB), but the end result justified the trouble. Similarly, the wings ended up being thicker that the separate wingtips (probably due to all the epoxy inside them!) showing some step, which I confined to the underside.

The tail planes also fit great, but it’s my feeling that they are perhaps 1 or 2 mm too far to the rear, but I could not pinpoint the cause.

I drilled a hole in the new location of each cannon barrel and inserted them without mishap; I also puttied and sanded flush the muzzle holes for the machine guns: two had to be relocated, the others were way too big, and anyway I planned to paint the Red tape over them.

The Airwaves oil cooler fitted just a bit proud, but careful sanding solved that. The same can be said about the kit’s own and of course about the radiator. The carburetor intake was faired in with a slight bed of putty.


Painting and Markings


Though built by Westland, it is thought that this machine at last displays the standard FAA Temperate Sea Scheme, most previous production by that factory was finished in RAF Temperate Day Scheme colours! The latter scheme shows a distinct contrast even in B&W period pictures.

In this case I used the Sky Type S and the Extra Dark Sea Gray from the White Ensign line. The quality of these paints is excellent, but the accuracy (if accuracy we can speak of) of the colours is something of a mixed bag: some are great and some practically unusable. These two are of the “great” kind! The Dark Slate Gray came from Xtracolor, for it shows that exact blend of lichen and petroleum hues that makes all others seem just a silly shade of green (well, the WEMM one is also very good).


As usual, I did an extensive preshading (no, I fear not) and then started with the Sky, then the EDSG, and then the DSG, all in very thin and transparent random patterns. A consistently lighter shade was sprayed on the fabric tail flying surfaces.


The standard ETO markings were overpainted in matching colours in the fuselage, and in big DSG disks on wings, mostly free hand. The difference in coat density made the additions stand out, without any kind of colour mix.

Decals came from the "Seafires On Target - Profile nº 5" sheet, from Aviation Worshop Publications Ltd. They are used together to the "On Target Profile nº 5 - Supermarine Seafire Mk.iB - Mk.47", by Jon Freeman, from the same publisher.

This arrangement works fine; the booklet, though containing only profiles and devoid of any photograph, has very useful information on the schemes proposed. However, no specific decal placement instructions are given, nor in the sheet, nor in the booklet! But the schemes on the decal sheet are provided with four-views illustrations will are mostly self-explanatory.

The decal themselves worked really fine. The small BEIF roundels on the wings should center exactly on the "overpainted" ETO ones; mines are a bit off placed.




In my humble opinion, understanding of the differences between the Spitfire Vb and Vc (and, therefore, of the nature of the Merlin Seafire) came late to the model industry. Otherwise, it can not be explained that both Tamiya and Hasegawa had issued a model of the Vb at almost the same time, with no effort to upgrade it to the more interesting Vc. If you look through the pages of the appropriate “Squadron in Action” book, you’ll see just an inaccurate drawing intending to show the differences between a “b” and a “c” wing. The Squadron title on the Fleet Air Arm in its very cover illustration shows a pair of Seafires, which are identified as L.IIc, depicted with cannon stubs added to an unmistakable “b” wing. Even the MDC “c” wing has “b” wing wheel bulges. I understand there was once a Gartex composite kit which depicted the Vc, but I do not know to which degree of accuracy.

I think that the conversion made to the kit is relatively easy, though tiresome. In another take, I would not use resin only to blank the holes in the wing, but a blanking plate from the inside first, to provide support: the flexing of the wing caused the resin to detach, showing again previously eradicated cracks. The conversion is not “definitive”, the elusive wheel bumps on top of the wing and the bulged u/c doors are, or may be, missing, as I could not find solid reference on them. Also, the look of the bulges on the cannon breeches is as good as the ones you manage to scrounge, and mine are not the best. I am not happy with the angle of the undercarriage struts (but comparing it to head-on views seems better); the wheel wells have an unexplainably oval shape; the rear frames of the windscreen are really too canted forward. But the end result is in my opinion both good looking and reasonably accurate (I think that it is more accurate than using either the MDC or the Airfix wings, and better looking than the raw Tamiya Vb).

Of course, we are all still waiting for someone to come up with a good Vc/Seafire, or, at least, an affordable conversion.


Modelling the P-40
Hawk 81, Tomahawk, Warhawk and Kittyhawk
Osprey Modelling 15

Author: Brett Green
US Price:
UK Price: £12.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date:
 January 10, 2004
Details: 80 pages; ISBN: 1841768235
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Text and Images Copyright © 2006 by Fernando Rolandelli
Page Created 11 July, 2006
Last Updated 16 July, 2006

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