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In-Box Review
148
Supermarine Spiteful F. Mk. 14
Supermarine Spiteful F. Mk. 14
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]


Originally published on:
AeroScale

Background
The Supermarine Spiteful and its naval counterpart, the Seafang, represented the last developments of the immortal Spitfire. The Spiteful retained the Rolls Royce Griffon engine, as fitted to late-mark Spits) and introduced a laminar flow wing married to a redesigned fuselage that afforded a better view from the cockpit, particularly over the nose. The Spitfire's narrow-track landing gear was replaced with an inward-retracting undercarriage to make ground handling easier.

In terms of all-out speed, the Spiteful clearly had an edge over the Spitfire, but this was countered by poorer handling at low speed, and test pilots generally seem to have found the Spiteful far less pleasant to fly, with it giving the impression that it was "about to do something nasty", although it seldom did (and in fact it possessed more benign spinning characteristics than the Spitfire). A number of modifications were made that improved the handling - but all at the expense of top speed - so, in the end, the Spiteful offered insufficient advantages over its predecessor to justify full production at a time when all piston-engined fighters were facing obsolescence with the dawn of jet age.

Just 19 Spitefuls were built (including 2 prototypes), along with 18 Seafangs, and although the aircraft will always be overshadowed by its illustrious predecessor, it nevertheless represents the pinnacle of British piston-engined fighter technology, holding the UK record of 494 mph.

The kit
We've probably all been there - despite all the negative things you've read and heard about a kit , it still nags at you to buy it until it overcomes your misgivings. So it was with Trumpeter's Spiteful for me, with a mixture of curiosity, sheer bloody-mindedness, plus it's very affordable by today's prices. And, above all, it's a Spiteful! - an aircraft that's long been on my wish list - so I was prepared to tackle a few problems if need be.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What do you actually get in the compact top-opening box? The kit comprises:

73 x grey styrene parts
7 x clear styrene parts
4 x etched brass pieces
Decals for 3 x colour schemes

First impressions are certainly good. Trumpeter's notoriously heavy-handed riveter has been retired and, instead, we find a beautifully restrained surface finish. Engraved panel lines are light and precise, while the rivets are just about as delicate as could be moulded. True, the original aircraft was flush-riveted, but as an example of today's vogue in kits for depicting embossed rivets, these could hardly be bettered and should look great under a coat of paint. Detail parts are acceptable - not as crisp as the best of the latest mainstream kits, but quite usable. There's no major flash evident or any sink marks in my kit, and ejector pins have been kept out of harm's way.

Test fit
Dry-assembling the main components shows the Spiteful will be a breeze to build OOB. The wings and fuselage are an excellent fit, while the tailplanes (although loose in their slots) match the roots precisely. The general outline is unmistakably a Spiteful, and it makes for a fascinating comparison with late-mark Spitfires.

Problems...
As those who know me will attest, I'm not much of a "rivet counter", but alerted by reports of the Spiteful elsewhere on the Internet, I went looking for trouble - and sure enough, I found it. I am indebted to our resident Spitfire guru, Edgar Brooks, for providing a wealth of useful references, including copies of original official drawings. With the aid of these, plus all the photos I could gather, I've reached the following conclusions. Note: this is by no means a definitive list, and there may well be other problems - plus, of course, it's only my opinion and you may not agree on all points. But, anyway, here goes, working from nose to tail:

The nose. This is too tapered in plan view. Whereas the rows of exhausts should be parallel, they curve towards the spinner. Another problem is that their locating slots aren't deep enough, so the backing plate for each set of exhausts sits flush with the cowling. The cowl bulges also taper, whereas they should also be parallel to accommodate the Griffon's rocker covers beneath them. While most kits of late-mark Spitfires have separate blisters, making it easier to correct them, Trumpeter's Spiteful has them moulded in situ - but ironically they have outlined them with a panel line that doesn't seem to appear in photos of the originals.

The wing to fuselage relationship. This is where it starts to get really complicated. One fantastic build on Britmodeller includes some serious surgery to move the wings back by approximately 4mm. That gives a much better match of the wing's trailing edge to the cockpit - but, I'm not sure it's the whole answer because Trumpeter actually seem to have got the position of the leading edge just about correct relative to the exhausts.

This leads to the conclusion that either the fuselage is too long above the wing, or the wing's chord is insufficient. In fact, the overall length of the kit's fuselage matches given dimensions almost exactly, and compares well with the plans and photos I have, so the chord looks the more likely culprit to me.

The wing-root fillets - or rather, the lack of them - are the next issue. Whereas photos clearly show quite pronounced fillets, Trumpeter haven't represented them. I think the fillet aft of the trailing edge looks too abrupt as well, so I plan on extending this as part of addressing the chord problem.

Staying with the wings, some reports indicate that the radiators need attention, but I'll wait until I try to fit them to form a firm conclusion.

The undercarriage. It was evident in the first photos of test shots that something was badly amiss with the main undercarriage, and so it proves in the final release. While Trumpeter are correct in that the Spiteful did away with the classic Spitfire gear legs in the course of fitting an inward-retracting undercarriage, the result is horribly clumsy and the geometry decidedly suspect.

The rear fuselage insert and canopy. Perhaps the "nastiest" part of the kit (even for the majority who undoubtedly won't be bothered by possible dimensional problems) is Trumpeter's strange decision to mould the fuselage with an open cut-out behind the pilot's headrest and an undersized plug to fill it. So, instead of riding flush along the top deck of the fuselage, the canopy sits in an unrealistic recess, and doesn't appear to be intended to be displayed open. The area under the canopy is clearly set too low, and the kit doesn't even have canopy rails marked on the fuselage.

The tail. Trumpeter's take on the "Spiteful Tail" has come in for a bit of stick in some quarters, but I have to say it doesn't look too bad to me - while the rudder could arguably be a tad "fuller", it does sit quite neatly over scale drawings that Edgar provided.

A few details
Trumpeter's Spiteful is generally quite a simple kit. For instance, the cockpit comprises just 4 parts, plus a decal for the instrument panel (which doesn't bear close comparison with the layout of the real thing). Strangely, despite, the inclusion of an etched fret, no seat harness is provided, and the overall impression is that the cockpit is too shallow and doesn't really capture the look of the original. For instance, it's clear in photos that the seat was recessed into the floor and set lower than the rudder pedals - a layout I think I've read somewhere that Jeffrey Quill detested. An optional camera is provided, should you wish to open up the port behind the cockpit, and a two part gyro gunsight attaches to the instrument shroud.

The 5-bladed propeller is very straightforward, with the blades moulded as one unit, so there are no worries about alignment, and the spinner shape looks pretty good to me.

The underwing radiators have etched cores, but you might want to add a blanking plate in each to avoid a see-through appearance.

As noted above, the undercarriage will need a fair bit of work to look much like the original, but it will be worth the effort. While no Spitefuls survive, detailed shots of the Attacker (which used the same landing gear) can be found at Prime Portal and will be a great help in sorting things out.

The canopy is thin and clear, and moulded in two sections. You'll need to polish off a noticeable seam on the sliding section. You probably can pose it open, although it may well sit high on the fuselage, and doing so will only draw attention to the weird insert behind the headrest unless you correct it.

Instructions and decals
Trumpeter provide an 8-page assembly guide, with a separate sheet illustrating the colour schemes. The construction is broken down into just 6 stages and everything is clearly drawn and looks very straightforward for even the least experienced modeller.

Decals for 3 aircraft are included:

A. s/n RB518 - one of two aircraft converted to Mk. XVI standard with a Griffon 101 and the aircraft that recorded 494 mph.
B. s/n SU-213 "Black 2" in fictional Finnish markings.
C. "White H83" in fictional Dutch markings .

The decals are thin and glossy with a crystal clear carrier film, but the colours are inaccurate. No stencil markings are provided. Call-outs are given for Gunze Sangyo, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol, so no-one should have trouble finding suitable model paints - but do be very wary of the colours suggested - i.e. "Light Gull" undersides for the RAF option, along with a White (instead of Sky) spinner and fuselage band.

Conclusion
What a tough call to give an overall score! If you're happy with Trumpeter's Spiteful OOB, then it'll be a simple and attractive build, but if you want to do some simple corrections to the exhausts, undercarriage and cockpit area, and replace the decals, it'll undoubtedly look a lot better. If you really want to be ambitious and start tackling the problems that seem to surround the wing, then you're in for some quite complicated work. At least it's affordable enough not to deter those who want to try a bit of radical surgery.

My over-riding impression is of a wasted opportunity, because Trumpeter took the unusual and very laudable step of posting shots of the early pattern-model online and inviting feedback to help perfect the finished kit. Sadly, much of the advice that followed doesn't seem to have made it through to the finished product.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
SUMMARY
Highs: Easy to build OOB and well priced.
Lows: A number of accuracy issues of varying severity. Poor decals.
Verdict: Trumpeter's Spiteful is an attractive model if you don't look too closely, and is straightforward to build if you're happy to live with its inaccuracies - but correcting them will require some serious surgery.
Percentage Rating
70%
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 02850
  Suggested Retail: 19.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 24, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 87.65%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 84.63%

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)
FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2017 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Hi Laurie Please don't shoot the messenger! While I'm quite flattered to be see one of my reviews the subject of a little controversy, I hope the "expert" tag isn't aimed too squarely at me, because that's something I'll never profess to be. Ironically, I very much subscribe to your general outlook, but we have one simple principle for our reviews on Aeroscale - be fair and objective. I never "trash" kits out of hand, but I see it as my responsibility to point out problems when I find them, while recognising the considerable investment in time and money that goes into producing any kit. I probably should stress that I was not involved in the consultation process for this kit that Edgar has described, so there's no question of "sour grapes" on my part. As I stated in the review, I bought it already alerted to the possibility of troubles ahead - although I rather hoped to be able to disprove the worst of them. Still, I really relish the challenge the Spiteful represents. While I have little or no time for building at the moment, it's nagging the heck out of me to get stuck in! It's a subject I've wanted to build for years. The surgery involved could be a disaster - and my attempted "fixes" might end up worse than the perceived problems (I did stress they were only my opinions) - but, then, that's half the fun of modelling, isn't it? All the best Rowan
AUG 27, 2012 - 04:32 PM
Reviews that are not pointing out the flaws of a model are nothing more but publicity and therefore fairly useless (and not worth reading). Obviously, we need to remain fair towards the manufacturers as well as they don't always have an easy job. However, in this age of CAD/CAM, 3D modelling and printing, and with people volunteering to help the manufacturers with all kinds of input, it has become a LOT easier than say 15 years ago to make a perfect prototype before the actual molds are made. Hence, a self respecting manufacturer should not produce a kit anymore with a long list of errors and shortcomings. Maybe 70% overall rating is too much for this kit?
AUG 28, 2012 - 07:19 AM
Cheers Drabslab That's why I wrote that assigning an overall score was so tricky in this instance. The Spiteful is a fine kit in that it will build beautifully - but anyone judging it purely on accuracy will tear it to shreds... So, 7/10 represents my best effort at resolving the dilemma; to mark it lower would be to overlook the kit's good points, while a higher score would ignore the (in my opinion) clear problems. Whoever said reviewing was easy?! All the best Rowan
AUG 28, 2012 - 04:11 PM
Let me paraphrase. 'Wah! Wah! Wah! Don't keep picking on the poor little manufacturer for making second-rate overpriced tat, if we keep criticising thier kits they might not make any more...' If this is the kind of rubbish they are going to pinch off then good riddance. Plastic kits don't have feelings, plastic kit manufacturers don't make these things out of the goodness of thier hearts, they make them in order to take the hard earned cash out of my pocket. The day Trumpeter start giving thier poorly researched ugly junk away for free I'll take dozens, until then, if they want my money they need to to a damn sight better job than this!
AUG 29, 2012 - 07:48 AM
Let me paraphrase. 'Wah! Wah! Wah! Don't keep picking on the poor little manufacturer for making second-rate overpriced tat, if we keep criticising thier kits they might not make any more...' If this is the kind of rubbish they are going to pinch off then good riddance. Plastic kits don't have feelings, plastic kit manufacturers don't make these things out of the goodness of thier hearts, they make them in order to take the hard earned cash out of my pocket. The day Trumpeter start giving thier poorly researched ugly junk away for free I'll take dozens, until then, if they want my money they need to to a damn sight better job than this! [/quote] I don't think that you are right. There is not that much money to earn here. If they invested in other more mundane thing, they could easily make a lot more. And who the devil will make a Spiteful for earning money? The British market is not that big and who else have ever heard about it? Trumpeter needs a little encouragement, but also a review like this one to tell them to do things better. But generally, today to make plastic kits must be because the makers love to make these kits. NPLemche
AUG 30, 2012 - 05:34 AM
I wonder what would be bigger, 100% of the market for the spiteful (where there is only one offering), or, a fraction of the market of the spitfire (which is in the catalog of every producer) The spiteful being the last generation of spitfire, it may have a far greater economical value than we estimate here. Manufacturers usually aim at profit. This goes for the big companies as well as for the tiny garage producers. This does not mean that they are just money hungry sharks with no love for modelling. On the contrary, I am convinced that any manufacturer employs many modelling enthoesiasts who combine their hobby with a necessity of making a living, their is nothing wrong with that, its fantatic that these people exist and we need them badly. The reality is that technology has advanced so much that several stages of the research and development proces for a new kit have become become quite easy: - the internet gives a world of info and often direct access to people who are working with the real thing of the model you want to make. - prototyping has become really easy, just look at the following thread on this forum: LINK This guy is prototyping an MI-6 in scale 1/35 on his computer, using some 3D modelling software and an on-line 3D printshop. He even claims not to be a professional (but is in any case very knowledgeable on the subject). If you have such prototype correct, then that means that the computermodel is correct, which also means that the mold will be correct (at least when you use CAD/CAM). All these technical possibilities are becoming mainstream and financially affordable, also for small manufacturers. Conclusion: there is no excuse anymore for making a flawed kit
AUG 30, 2012 - 06:55 AM
You might find that kind of dedication amongst smaller makers, the aftermarket guys, but rest assured, Trumpeter make plastic kits for one reason, profit, money, dollars in the bank. To believe anything eles would be a delusion!
AUG 30, 2012 - 07:50 AM
True. Many Hasegawa and Finemolds aircraft kits of the past twelve years show what can be done (minus Hasegawa's sadistic Spitfire)... There are also some kits with nothing wrong with them that are quite old. I've even heard that the oldest plastic sailing ships are the best because they were intended for adults right from the start, and went straight to the edge of what was possible in plastic moulding refinement. Some of the 1950-60s mouldings I have seen look incredible in the planking and surface detail, still cutting edge 50+ years later! So they never had any excuses... The build linked on Britmodeller by Rowan seems to have a very good correction idea going. I thought the result looked more correct. Maybe moving the wing back 3 mm instead of 4 woud have been better, but I can't be sure... Now if we coud only get a good Spitfire Mk IX in this scale... Aren't they supposed to be in this for the money? Coud someone hand these people a white cane or something? Gaston
AUG 30, 2012 - 11:10 AM
Good one, Gaston! IIRC, Trumpy did listen to modelers about their 1/32 Wildcat and re-tooled the rivets.
JUN 12, 2013 - 10:32 AM
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