Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resurrecting an old pile of plastic

Spitfire PR Mk IC (PR Mk III), P9385/76, Nr 8 Operational Training Unit, 1940-41

While looking for a "training" Spitfire I realized I had the remnants of my "bash a Va out of the Tamiya V/I kits" sitting in my junk box.

The Subject

I won't repeat the story of the Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires but in short, just as the war started the two PR IA (modified Mk I fighters) were used from French airfields to look at German forces during the "phony war" period.  Both were modified to PR IB (longer focal lengths) standard and then to PR IC (same cameras differently configured, more fuel) as now they had to operate from England.

During this timeframe the Photographic Development Unit (not yet designated the PRU) was experimenting with color to better "hide" the unarmed PR Spitfires.  Sky, camotint Blue (later aka PRU Blue) and camotint Pink were tested.  I've read that grey, white and purple were also tested, but no documentation such as letters or photos can confirm this that I'm aware of as I would certainly create those schemes as well.

The PR 1C was a modified F Mk I airframe; the guns were removed and the fighter (armored) windscreen was replaced by the curved PR windscreen.  The canopy was also replaced by the PR canopy with the teardrop "bubbles" on each side to aid in seeing the target.

In order to gain more range, two fuel tanks were added.  One under the port wing in a fairing and the other behind the pilot.  Because oil consumption demanded a larger oil tank the chin was enlarged under the engine to make room.

The cameras were in a fairing under the starboard wing to offset the fuel tank on the port side.

The radio was removed to save weight.

This particular subject is a PR 1C operated by Number 8 Operational Training Unit.  It was used to train potential PRU pilots in the steady use of the Spitfire, flying straight and normal in the face of attacks to ensure mission completion.

The Model

This kit started as the Tamiya Spitfire Vb.  I had attempted a modification to the wings to convert it to a Spitfire Ib.  I gave up when AZ Model released their Ib kit and threw the bits into my spares box as it was fairly crude looking.  When I decided to add another PR Spitfire to my shelf I pulled it back out.

The fuselage was essentially complete; the wings had major divots and waves where I'd attempted to sand, cut, fit and make the wing appear to be a "b" wing with fabric ailerons.  I sanded down the bumps and filled and sanded some more, filling and sanding some more (forget how many times I did this) and eventually had a smooth wing top and bottom and enough of the rib detail on the ailerons to call it "done."

I then pulled my Pavla PR 1C/G resin conversion set out and after a bit more cleanup attached the resin fuel tank, camera fairing and chin fairing.  Some primer and additional cleanup required and then I re-scribed panel lines on the PR wing.

The most difficult bit was the canopy and windscreen.  Until this point construction/conversion was really just "basic modeling skills".  I had to put some brainpower to the canopy and windscreen, because while the Pavla set is designed for the Tamiya kit, it did not fit.  The rear portion was too wide and the windscreen is shaped a bit odd.  Luckily the windscreen/canopy is separate from the rear fuselage cover.

My solution was to trim and sand the rear bit until it "fit" with a bit of imagination.  If I squeezed it, the hight met the fuselage spine and the width match the fuselage sides.  Glueing was done via a combination of super glue and Gator's Grip acrylic glue.  I glued one side with Gator's Grip, then after 24 hours of curing carefully squeezed the glazing until it all matched and then added superglue to affix it.  After an hour of curing I then added more Gator's Grip via a wet paintbrush (being water soluble until cured it can be wicked into some important areas).  Giving it a good 48 hours to cure, I then wet sanded it lightly until it was smooth, and then polished it until it was crystal clear.

Now for the obvious issue: fogging.  I coated the clear bits with Future/Klear and let that cure before I started and then "hoped" it would not fog.  It didn't!

Painting.  How to mimic that PRU Pink color, which is really just a dusty off white with a hint of pink to it?  I started by priming the model in Tamiya gray primer (on purpose, instead of white primer).  I then pre-shaded to provide some depth, using a red brown shade.  Then I began layering on the thinned Tamiya white paint (XF-2) that had two drops of red (XF-7) added to the 15ml tin.  After each layer, I put the model under different lighting (natural, sunlight, fluorescent) and repeating layering until I could just see the Pink.

With a blue background and fluorescent lighting, it's white.  The red completely washes out including the pre-shading, resulting in a very flat and white model.  But the depth of the color remains so it looks sort of "natural".  In sunlight it looks washed out but dirty and in natural lighting against a white background the red shows up and it's definitely a Pink Spitfire.

Decals are from the Model Alliance sheet on Merlin PR Spitfires.  Now out of print but can sometimes be found via shows or online auction sites.


I'm quite happy with how it turned out, especially the paint scheme.  I want to do one more pink PR Spitfire, the FR IXc which is what most people model.

Thanks for looking...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, silk purse outa' sows ear kinda' stuff. Well done!