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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby Spitfire Mk. Vc "Overseas Jockeys"
1:48 Scale



The legendary Supermarine Spitfire was one of the most consequential combat aircraft of the 20th century – and to many, it was one of the most elegant.  There are MANY 1:48 scale kits of the Spitfire that have been released over the years, and among them is the Special Hobby family of quarter-scale Spitfires that first came out in 2013.  Recently, Special Hobby released a Mk. Vc edition “Overseas Jockeys” with markings for many of the diverse Mk. V operators that served beyond the British Isles.  Let’s take a look.

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As Battle of Britain shifted from its daylight phase, the defense of Great Britain’s airspace had rested on the shoulders of the valiant Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Is and Mk. IIs.  Yet, the Luftwaffe continued to develop improved variants of the Bf 109, and it would not be long until the early Spits would be outclassed.  The airframe and systems were quite sound, but greater speeds, higher service ceilings, and better acceleration was needed.  The Merlin 45 powerplant, rated at 1470 hp, was selected for the new Spitfire mark.  Externally, this new version started out identical on the outside to any Mk. I or Mk. II airframe, but interior longerons were beefed up to accommodate the bigger engine.  Thus, the Spitfire Mk. Va was born in early 1941.  By June of that year, the Spitfire Mk. Vb became the standard production version, fitted with the ‘b’ wing configuration that had four .303 cal. machine guns and two 20 mm Hispano cannons.

The Mk. Vc introduced the ‘c’ or “Universal” wing along with the revised main gear.  A deeper radiator fairing was fitted under the starboard wing and a larger oil cooler with a deeper air outlet was fitted underneath the port wing.  Additional armor plating was added to the bottom of the pilot's seat and the wing ammunition boxes.  The Merlin 50, 55, or 56 engines powered later versions of the Vc.
 
The Mk. V It became the most numerous of all Spitfires with nearly 6,500 aircraft produced and would outfit more than 100 RAF, American Eagle, and multiple Commonwealth air arm squadrons.  Spitfire Mk. Vs also added a blown canopy to improve visibility.  Many mid to late production Mk. Vs were fitted a modified windscreen with armored frames and bullet-resistant glass.  At least three different propeller designs were fitted, differing in width, length, and chord.  Mk. V aircraft were the first Spitfires able to carry “slipper” conformal drop tanks underneath the center of the fuselage.

By mid-1941, the Mk. V was the primary fighter operated by the RAF, and it in some ways superior to the Bf 109F.  As the threat of invasion receded from the British Isles, Mk. Vbs started to make their way into other theaters of operations, serving as a fighter and fighter-bomber from the Mediterranean to North Africa, Greece, India, Italy, and Australia.  The sun started to set on the Mk. V in September 1941 when the Fw 190 made its operational debut.  The Mk. V was definitely outclassed to the point that the RAF was faced with the possible loss of air superiority.  This led to the development of the stopgap Spitfire Mk. VIII and IX, but the Mk. V continued on at the front lines until mid-1942 and in combat until it was completely withdrawn by 1944.

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Special Hobby’s 1:48 scale Spitfire Mk. Vc “Overseas Jockeys” comes on eight injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 104 parts.  A dozen clear parts are found on one clear sprue.  Sixteen photoetched metal parts are included on one fret.  Five cast resin parts are also included here.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over 11 pages.  Markings for five airplanes are provided on the Cartograf-printed decal sheet:

Strengths:  Special Hobby’s Spitfire kits are all quite nicely molded and from what I can gather, they are quite shape- and size-accurate.  Test fitting of the fuselage and wing halves produced a very good fit.  Surfaces are smooth, and all recessed panel lines, screws, and fasteners look great to my eyes.  The quality of the photoetched parts is awesome; some of the parts are very small and fine, so use care when cutting from the fret.  The ailerons and rudder are separate parts and can be positioned as the builder wishes.  Two styles of props are featured here (early and late- Merlin 45 and Merlin 50/55/56, respectively).  There are also plastic parts for the Trop air filter and a resin “Aboukir” dust filter for use on the Yugoslavian aircraft.  The other resin parts provide the alternate three- and six (fishtail-style) exhaust stacks.  The Aboukir air filter looks nicely cast, but it is not as bulbous in profile as my reference line drawings depict.  However, its shape is closer to that seen in the archival photos I’ve dug up, so the resin part in fact looks good.

Cockpit details are okay, but the use of decal instrument panel will add a great deal to the level of detail to the front office.  I also really appreciate the inclusion of the photoetched metal shoulder harnesses and restraints.  To me, separate belts are key, as you can’t do a more accurate looking seat without them.  The instructions are very nicely rendered and easy to read. 

I am also a big fan of these diverse Spitfire Mk Vb markings options – there’s a lot here that goes beyond the dark green/sea gray schemes seen on so many Spitfires.  To me, the Free French and Free Yugoslavian schemes are by far the most interesting and unique.  Several of the airplanes on the decal sheet were particularly historic and flown by aces. They tell rather poignant stories.  The decal printing by Cartograf is drop-dead gorgeous (no surprises there) and the decals are technically flawless.  Color callouts are in the Gunze Sangyo range. 

Weaknesses:  Special Hobby has come a long way in their tooling since this kit was first produced in 2013, and itself based on even earlier tooling from 2009.  Be prepared to see some older-style, 2009 vintage large pour gates and a little flash here and there.  Some extra time in cleanup and parts preparation will be undoubtedly expended.  There’s also a little flash here and there to be wary of.  Cockpit sidewalls are a bit simplified.  The resin exhaust stacks are nice, but the sides of the fishtail stacks appear to have been afflicted by some air bubbles during casting and a few of them are affected by these bubble defects at their ends.

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While most scale modelers will make instant comparisons with the Tamiya kit (which this is not), the Special Hobby Mk. Vc is still a very good multimedia kit and it stands on its own merits.  It represents a very good value for the price and it is at the high-end of what I’d call middle/upper range 1:48 scale Spitfires.  Overall, most scale modelers should find this as a straightforward, enjoyable, and interesting project.    

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample.  You can visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby   

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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** Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.**


 

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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