Aircraft Completed Builds

Eduard’s 1/48 Spitfire Mk. VIII: Merlin Thunder From Down Under

In any modeling genre, there are always kits that people classify as a “must build”. It might be that the fit is particularly good, or that the subject is very interesting. Sometimes there may be certain markings that will define a kit, or perhaps some bit of extra accessory. However, when it comes to Eduard’s “Aussie Eight” boxing of their awesome Spitfire kit, it certainly falls into the “all of the above” category.

The kit itself is solid, based on the very nice Mk. IX kit released a few years ago. But it’s not just rehashed Mk. IX plastic. All of the little details that make the VIII distinct from the IX are present. The kit also comes with a nice set of colored photoetch parts, and gorgeous resin wheels. Markings are astounding – no less than 30 options are included. And on top of all that, a wonderfully researched book is included, detailing the history of the Australian Mk. VIII Spitfires.

And did I mention you get TWO kits in the box?

Paying $100 for a kit may seem a bit much, but when you factor in all of those bits of info, it’s actually a good deal. 

But What About Building The Kit?

This model is my 84th Spitfire build, and 53rd in 1/48 scale. It’s my 7th build of Eduard’s plastic. You can trust me when I say there is no better 1/48 Spitfire on the market than those with “Eduard” stamped on them. (If you’re interested in building a Spitfire in 1/48 scale, you might find this helpful.) The cockpit is nicer than any other in the scale, the surface detail is simply gorgeous, and the shape is superior to anything else available, for any mark of the aircraft.

It’s not without a few minor hitches, which I’ll detail, but those are easy to work around.

The cockpit is a great blend of well cast detail, without being too overly engineered. I have found that it’s easier to mount the rudder pedals early on in the construction, prior to painting, rather than waiting until the point  instructions show the in assembly. If you use an aftermarket seat – I always use seats from Ultracast – you’ll need to modify the part that is under the kit seat. The kit seat is very good, and with the provided photoetch belts, will look excellent, if you decide to go that route. The plastic instrument panel is a weak point, with just plain instrument gauges cast in. A nice photoetch “sandwich” is provided, and a modeler friendly alternative flat IP part is also included to easily mount the photoetch on to. Give the parts a coat of RAF Interior Green, some drybrushing and spots of colors, add a quick panel wash, and you’ve got a nice looking office. You can read full details of the cockpit build here.

Assembling the fuselage is a no drama process, as the fit is very, very good. A little sanding will be needed of course to hide the seam lines, with a touch of Mr. Surfacer here and there to seal hairline gaps. 

One of the complaints I do have about Eduard’s Spitfire line is the upper cowl cover. They chose to cast this part in two halves, split right down the middle. The two parts fit together perfect, and can be sanded down easily to hide the seam. But that’s where I find the problem. In doing so, you will lose some of the wonderful, petite rivet detail. It’s so fine that literally a few swipes from the sanding stick will wipe it out. I’m guessing they cast the part in this way to facilitate the slight overhang above the exhausts, which is accurate. But I’ve never liked that the nice detailing must be smoothed over as a result. While you can restore the detail, it’s difficult to replicate how fine it is.

The other chief complaint I have is the exhausts. The kit parts are very nicely cast, and look great. They look better than some resin replacements I’ve seen over the years. However, the mounting structure is a veritable Rubiks cube of parts. Once you figure out how it goes together, you get an “a-ha!” moment, and from then on you have it. But getting to that point can create some small amount of angst.

To top it off, the exhausts must be mounted during the assembly process, and cannot be mounted afterwards. This makes painting and weathering them a bit of a pain.

Happily, there is an alternative for both issues. Ultracast provides a gorgeous one piece resin replacement part that is truly drop fit, and gets around the cowl problem outlined above. And they also make a replacement exhaust set that is very nice, and allows for the exhausts to be fitted after painting, which is a huge plus. They make both the bulged and flat cowling part, as well as fishtail and round exhausts. You can check out all of their 1/48 Spitfire accessories on their website.

Wing assembly is not a problem, though I do recommend proceeding carefully in assembling the wheel wells. It’s a multipart section, and I’ve found it works best if I only remove parts from the sprue as I need each one, rather than grabbing all the parts at once. The fit is very good, so if something isn’t lined up right, it’s most likely your fault, not Eduards. (I know this from experience! 🙂 ) With the wheel wells assembled, the wing parts come together perfectly, with only a small amount of sanding needed on the leading edges to cover the seams up.

Joining the wings to the fuselage is close to a perfect fit. The only area really needing attention is a small bit of filling and sanding where the aft wing section joins the fuselage on the underside. To be fair, this is a very complicated shape, with some fine detail, so getting it right is not easy. And I’ve not found a single Spitfire in any scale that achieves a perfect fit in this area. (Even Tamiya’s 1/32 Spitfire needs a bit of work here!) Apart from that area, though, the most that is needed is a touch of Mr. Surfacer here and there to close any hairline cracks.

I added the tailplanes, carb intake, and other “dangly bits” that could be added safely prior to painting. The model was then given a primer coat with Badger’s Stynylrez primer. Base colors were Vallejo Model Air Azure Blue on the lowers, and Tamiya’s Deep Green and JGSDF Earth on the uppers. Neither of the latter colors are spot on, but as I outlined in a previous blog entry about painting this model, I’m not too worried about it. Weathering will shift things around to the point that all looks “just about right” by the time it is done with.

Weathering was a multipart process. The dot filter method was employed, then some fading and shading with highly thinned airbrush colors. A gloss coat was applied, and then the wonderful Cartograph decals were added. These are simply the best decals on the market, and aside from a little Solvaset being used to pull them down into the recesses fully, they are “no fuss”.

Another gloss coat was applied, and then more fading and shading with the airbrush. Various stains and streaks were added, using enamel and artist oil products. The process was intended to give a very “deep” look to the finish, though it did not turn out quite as dramatic as I had hoped for, in all honesty. It’s good, but not up to what I envisioned.

I suppose I must do another Spitfire. 🙂

After landing gear, antennas, pitot tubes, and other final bits were added, the whole model was given a coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish.

I’m quite happy with the overall look. While I’d been aiming for a bit more of a constrasty “Spanish” look, the final result is not bad. And even if you go with the kit cowl and exhausts, there’s nothing difficult about the kit. 

If you’ve never built one of Eduard’s Spitfire in 1/48 scale, go get one. Any boxing will do. They make them available in lower cost Weekend Edition kits, which don’t have the photoetch, all the way up to Dual Combo boxing like this one, and other special editions that come with everything but an actual pilot and Merlin engine.

With my 84th Spitfire completed and ready to ship to the buyer, it’s time to think ahead.

What to do for #85? 😀

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