Jen Wright builds a prototype floatplane fighter with Airfix’s 1/48 Spitfire Vb and Silver Cloud’s conversion set
It’s often the case that rare things in real life become well represented in modelling terms, perhaps because such uncommon items are by their very nature more interesting to the masses.
The Spitfire floatplane is a case in point, given that just three Mk.V conversions were produced, and these did not serve operationally. This aircraft was replicated in scale terms by combining the well-known and excellent Airfix Spitfire Vb kit with the Silver Cloud resin conversion set. I chose to represent W3760, the prototype, at a later stage of development. Two other aircraft were built, EP751 and EP754 and all three were sent to Egypt with plans to use them at a secret base near Turkey. For various reasons this never happened, and all three airframes were returned to the UK in 1943.
The second conversion of a Spitfire Mk.V to floatplane format was this example, W3760 (replicated by the model in this article). Here, though, it has been fitted with a Vokes filter prior to being transported to the Middle East.
The conversion set in all its glory. Included were the floats with their pylons moulded separately, undercarriage blanking parts, a new spinner and propeller, and a tail assembly. All was supplied in grey resin, with both written and illustrated instructions and a colour painting diagram. www.freightdogmodels.co.uk
Possibly the trickiest part of the conversion, especially for those new to such things, was to be the addition of the new tail. Close inspection revealed the part was modified from an Airfix kit component, so the fit should be good. It would be possible to add the leading-edge extension and ventral fin to the kit tail if preferred.
The cut line for the new tail was along the join where the empennage was fitted on the real aircraft. This is represented by a panel line on the kit, which makes the cut just about as easy as possible. I found that slight chamfering of the extensive casting block, to allow a little wiggle room, helped with the fit.
The stock kit cockpit was very well detailed, but I had a spare Ultracast seat in my spares box, so that was added. Note all parts relating to the operation of the undercarriage were omitted, and the slots and pegs for fitting these were removed or filled as necessary.
Just before fitting the cockpit to the fuselage; the lack of the large black chassis control lever and its associated piping should be obvious to Spitfire fans. Ultracast’s seat had integrally moulded seatbelts…and is a simple yet worthy addition to any Spitfire interior.
The infamous fuel tank cover and windscreen section. It fitted perfectly well on this kit with a little trimming of the edges, but in filling and sanding the join lines, the beautiful and correct raised panel was lost too. This was remedied with Tamiya putty and tape as shown. Once removed, the tape left a slight step, restoring the edge.
Once the fuel tank cover edges were all restored, the raised doughnut-style cowling fasteners were shaved off. The circles were pressed back into the plastic with a beading tool, and a pointed scriber mad a dot in the centre of each. This better represented the flush Dzus fasteners of the original.
During the conversion work at Folland’s factory, the undercarriage areas were re-skinned with thicker plating. In model form, the conversion set included blanking parts for the undercarriage apertures. These were fitted with CA before filling and sanding to remove all traces of the outline.
Internally it was still possible to fit the kit wing braces, so these were glued into position to help the wings bear the not inconsiderable weight of the resin floats.
To reinforce the wings further, and to give the pins for the float struts something to bear against, I filled the interior of the wing with epoxy putty. Magic Sculp was used on this occasion, but Milliput or similar would be equally viable. Frequent test-fits of the upper wing parts ensured excess thickness was not added.
The addition of Master brass cannon barrels entailed drilling a rather large hole in the wing leading edge, after fitting the kit part and snipping off the barrel. The improvement over the kit item is readily apparent, and definitely worth the effort.
Pinning the float struts was carried out with 1mm copper tube. Having initially drilled through the wing from the bottom, with the indent employed as a guide, the struts were fitted in place and drilled from the top of the wing. Finally, the protrusion on the strut was removed as it impaired the fit, and the tube provided adequate location.
The copper surrogate undercarriage was glued into place firmly, and the tops faired into the upper wing surface with CA glue and various files/sanding sticks. Note the still-wet Kristal Klear in the downward ID lamp. This was added to avoid overspray entering the underside of the cockpit area.
Unusually, this aircraft was fitted with the later internally armoured windscreen which, happily, was included in Airfix’s kit. All transparencies were masked with Bare Metal Foil. Primer was not used across the model, but the floats were primed and sanded lightly to remove their somewhat rough surface texture.
Sensing this build was progressing too easily, the editor threw me a curve ball by asking me to use enamels. This is the Colourcoats set supplied by Sovereign Hobbies for the Temperate Sea Scheme, which included Sky, Dark Slate Grey and Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG). As a serial user of acrylics, it’s been years since I used enamels for anything!
I found my ancient tin of Humbrol enamel thinner did not mix well with Colourcoats’ paints, so I used Mr. Color thinner throughout the painting process. Here the Sky has been added to the underside. Some might say it should be yellow, but my own non-scientific examination of reference photos led me to believe Sky was more likely at the time as modelled.
After adding Dark Slate Grey freehand to the rough areas required, AMMO-MIG Camouflage Masking Putty was used to mask for the Extra Dark Sea Grey. Used in the same manner as Blu Tack worms for the outlines, larger pieces can then be formed into flat sections to fill the spaces. This makes the process much faster than when using Blu Tack.
Touch-ups were required after the addition of the EDSG. One definite advantage of enamels is that these can be done with a paintbrush, and in fact they were. The areas on the starboard wing would later be covered by a roundel, so were ignored. One disadvantage of enamel, though, is drying time – the model had to be left for 36 hours between coats.
Tamiya X-22 Clear was to seal the paint and give a pleasing sheen for decal application. No decals were included in the conversion set, so these were pieced together from the kit sheet, spares and other sources. It’s always useful to have sheets of generic decals such as serial numbers and roundels, and these came in handy for this project.
Most of the major decals came from the donor kit and it must be said, they really brought life to that dull colour scheme. Note the grey primer finish on the fin extension and natural metal fillet area, copied carefully from photos of W3760.
Since I was depicting what was basically a new airframe, I decided against any paint shading. This meant all the weathering effects were added afterward via a selection of washes and filters, as shown here. Adding more, or less product ― and different colours ― in this way can produce tonal variation quite successfully.
Without any undercarriage to worry about, the final assembly photo looked rather sparse. Eduard Brassin resin exhausts replaced the originals, with a square rear-view mirror from the spares box. Thanks to extensive test-fitting earlier in the build, the floats simply plugged on to their supports.
The new-tool Airfix Spitfire is a lovely kit indeed, and this was my first build of it. Despite the added complication of employing the resin conversion it went together beautifully; and there are certainly few kits out there that capture that delightful Spitfire shape quite as well as this product. There were no real glitches with the addition of the float set, and it ought to present little difficulty for anyone with a little experience of resin parts. Although obviously quite an esoteric subject, the project was great fun and the finished model makes an imposing yet graceful addition to my Spitfire collection.