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Modelling Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk. XIX

The Complete Conversion Guide for 1/48 Scale

Part 1 - Conversion

n by Jim Kiker


Introduction

Having been in the reconnaissance business myself, I have a special fondness for “recce” aircraft. Some time after Academy released their 1/48 scale Mk XIV Spitfires, I ran across an excellent walk around of the Swedish S-31 (PR XIX) in the IPMS Stockholm web site archives, and I was off!

Then, one of my local model geek buds found out I was thinking about doing the PR XIX, and he “steered” me to one of the aircraft used by (then) Flt/Lt Ed Powles. During construction, Wally also arranged for me to have a conversation with Mr. Powles; what a kick in the pants to speak with the man who flew the exact airplane you’re building! Flt/Lt Ed Powles led a two-plane detachment from 81 (PR) Squadron, based in Hong Kong in the early 1950’s. His exploits included some early cold-war aerial reconnaissance, as well as taking some of the first meteorological measurements at altitude in that region of the world. And then there was the time he took his PR XIX up to 51,000 ft. Noting a problem with the cabin pressurization, he put the nose down- and darn near went supersonic during the ensuing plunge back toward the sea. He later calculated that he got up to at least .96 Mach before regaining use of his flight controls in the denser lower air (having encountered locked controls due to compressibility near Mach 1), and levelled out approximately 1,500 ft above the sea. To top it off, Mr. Powles is over 6 feet tall and barely fit into the Spitfire with the seat fully lowered. What a great story!

The Kit

Academy produced two Mk XIV Spitfire kits, including both the ”c” winged version and the later bubble-canopied one with the “e” wing, in 1/48 scale. The Mk XIVc kit became the basis for this project.

The Academy kits build up pretty well and feature fine panel line engraving. It has some accuracy issues which will be described below. The interior detail is rather Spartan for my taste, and the propeller looks rather bad. Parts fit is fair, but this isn’t a “shake ‘n bake” kit.

KMC produced a nice resin upgrade set for this kit, and while it’s currently discontinued, it can be found. It provides a complete cockpit, new spinner and props (which is also available as a separate set, I believe), a new upper engine cowling, and new radiators, much of which I made use of to great effect.

The Conversion

Converting the Mk XIV into a PR XIX proved to be deceptively non-simple!

First, let's address the accuracy issues.

In my opinion, the dimensional errors with wings and fuselage would be a very difficult thing to fix. I limited myself to sanding down the forward nose area somewhat on the top and bottom during construction.

The spinner/propeller areas can be corrected by sanding.

Fuselage Tweaks List

The conversion procedure was as follows.

Wings Tweaks List



A shot of the airframe much later during construction. Looking down the wing, you can see the rescribed ailerons and the absence of gun access panels. Also note the dropped elevators and the scratchbuilt scoops, on the engine (the original having been lost!) and the pressurization exhaust just behind the cockpit. Finally, although it’s all but invisible here, you can see the fixed rear portion of the canopy and how my vacuformed piece comes down even with the sliding section rails.

I needed to see how all this work looked before proceeding, so I airbrushed a thin coat of the bottom colour (PRU Blue) on portions of the lower wing to see if things looked right. Also, note that the rear tips of the fuel boost pump fairings have been cut flush with the front of the wheel wells. The tips were added to the landing gear doors to match the originals.

n


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