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USAAF 4th Fighter Group Spitfire (Tamiya 1/48 Mk Vb)

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Ok so, a lawyer’s natural prudence counsels caution.  So I’ll begin with some caveats....:blush:


  • I start from a position of not knowing terribly much about the Spitfire (an admission I feel a need to apologise for on this forum) :blush:;
  • I haven't done much (alright hardly any) modelling for a couple of years - as a result of busy life syndrome and a Hawk build wallowing in the heavy buffet just short of flicking and spinning – and so a decent result is far from assured :blush:.


But the chance to contribute a model to the 453rd Bomber Group Museum was an opportunity not to be missed - and so I find myself in possession of a Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire Vb, courtesy of James Clarey (Jim) the proprietor of the Museum; and an enthusiasm build a model that’s been absent for a while (my enthusiasm's been absent I mean…not that the model has been AWOL :banghead:).






@CedB and @Ex-FAAWAFU  and @woody37 have 453rd BG builds under way already – and others are sure to follow


To get up to speed on the Spitfire I’ve a modest number of books and of course the world wide web to refer to.




I’ve had the kit for a week or so now and have already enjoyed myself reading up on the 4th FG and the Spitfire Vb.  There are of course any number of Britmodeller threads containing much accumulated and shared wisdom on the Spitfire – not the least of course from the late Edgar Brooks, but also from many other knowledgeable BM’ers.


I’ve also shamelessly searched BM for build threads to crib from and have to give honourable mentions to @PlaStix and @giemme Tamiya 1/48 Vb threads.


The Tamiya 1/48 Vb kit dates from as long ago as the mid 90’s so it’s no longer state of the art; and I know there are a few shape issues on close inspection (e.g. short fuselage, wing chord too long and a “square shouldered” look to the engine cowling).  But I think it looks more than enough like a Spitfire when it isn’t sat for comparison on a set of accurate plans, so I don’t think I’ll be correcting any of those things.  And I’ll just have to keep my effort well away from any accurate plans! :D


Giorgio also pointed out that the wheel wells are too oval – but like him I’ll leave them as they are.  It’s only noticeable when looking exactly perpendicular at the underside; at any other angle even perfectly circular wells look oval anyway! :D


As to the 4th FG.  Most if not all on BM will know that in late September 1942 the 3 Eagle squadrons (71, 121 and 133) were absorbed in to the USAAF and became respectively the 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons and that they kept their Spitfire Vb’s, albeit only until about March 1943 by which time they’d re-equipped with the P47.  If I’ve got it right the 334th spitfires kept 71 squadron’s XR aircraft codes, the 335th kept 121 squadron’s AV codes and the 226th kept 133 squadrons MD codes.


Jim is sending me some decals (I hope he can get hold of some – I can’t find any Eagle Squadron or 4th FG aircraft decals actually available in the UK at the moment!) and I’ve yet to decide what aircraft to build.  More of which below.


One of the things I’ve learned about the Spitfire Vb is that at any given time they came in all sorts of different modification states depending on where and when they were built and what had been done to them on the squadrons.


Thus any given aircraft may have had (if I’ve got my research right):


  • The old external armoured windscreen or the later internal armoured windscreen.  Most but not all of the 4th FG spitfires seem to have been built at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory (CBAF) and to have the old external armoured windscreen.
  • The older flat sided canopy or the later blown sided canopy.  The blown sided canopy goes with the internal armoured windscreen; but there are many photographs of Vb’s with the old external armoured windscreen that have been fitted with a blown sided canopy (and I’m sure that any fighter pilot would prefer to have a blown sided canopy fitted if at all possible!).
  • Rotol or DeHavilland propellers.  Most Vbs seem to have Rotol propellers and I think that CBAF Vbs were all produced with Rotol propellers.
  • Round or Fishtail exhausts.  I’ve seen photographs of both types on 4th FG spitfires.
  • Covered wheel hubs or uncovered 5 spoke wheels.  Most photo’s show the latter.


For this reason I’m quite keen to build an aircraft that I can find decent photo’s of – so as to get these things correct.


However I’m pretty sure that:


  • None of the 4th FG aircraft will have had the over wing stiffeners fitted.  Edgar posted that this mod was introduced on the production line from 16/7/42 and so whilst they could be and were retrofitted (viz the IWM Mk 1 having them) I don’t think any of the 4th FG aircraft will have been done in late 42/early 43 (I’ve not seen any photographs definitely showing them).
  • All will have had VHF radios and so had the two wire antennas from the fuselage sides to the tailplane, but no wire from the radio mast to the tailplane.


Jim emailed me some colour plates of particular aircraft and I’ve seen one or two on the web; I’ve also seen several photo’s (mostly on the IWM ‘American Air Museum’ website IWM American Air Museum) and the moment amongst the best reference photo’s I’ve seen are the following (all photos from IWM American Air Museum)


BM510 (XR-A) of the 334th which I know was flown by Maj. Gregory A 'Gus' Daymond and Capt. Robert Lee ‘Junior” Piser (pictured here):




BM240 (MD-L) of the 336th which I know was flown by Maj. Carl H ‘Spike’ Miley.




And EN768 (AV-W) of the 335th for which I don’t have a pilot’s name (any idea’s anyone?)





Although there are other aircraft/pilot combinations and so I’ll just have to see what further information I can find.


And so to the kit.  Which probably needs no introduction but which’ll get one anyway.


There are only 3 sprues:





The cockpit detail was probably excellent for the time but ain’t nothing special by today’s standards.






My first thoughts are that the some of the moulded in ribs are useable but the details like the IFF remote contactor, morse key and trim wheels etc. will have to be replaced.


Also the characteristic floorless cockpit isn’t captured at all.




In truth I’ve had one of these kits in my attic for donkey’s years gathering dust.  So at at least I’ve a spare to pinch bits from when it all goes to worms.  Also I found some extra’s I had squirreled away and after blowing the dust orf....


Aires cockpit set.  I like the IP and will probably use the seat (although it needs modification) and selected bits of the rest.  Not going to use the cockpit sides as supplied but might pinch bits from them.


Aires Cockpit Set



Eduard Mk 1 etched set.  Shan’t be using them flaps.  Spitfire’s weren't routinely parked with the flaps down and that’s just way to fiddly-to-far when it’s not even representative .  Crispin is the photo-etch maestro and I aren't interested in competing with him.....





Eduard Mk Vb etched set.  Might use the odd grill or map case from that.





And I’ve just invested in a few goodies:


Master brass cannons.  Saw Crisp’s ones on his P38 thread and thought gotta see if they have Spitfire VB cannons.  They do and they’re awesome.




If the rest of the model turns out rubbish - at least the cannons will look good :)


Quickboost door.  It’s technically for the Mk IX and for the Eduard kit to boot – but if there’s any difference from the Vb I’m not aware of it and it was so cheap I just had to....





Quickboost mirrors.  Again just so cheap.  And the sort of silly detail that can really be eye catching (maybe draw attention away from the poorly filled seam lines?)





HGW Sutton harness.  Ridiculously detailed.  So many tiny parts I’m not even sure I’ll be able to put it together successfully.  But if I can it’ll look great.




Actually this is one thing I’m not going to follow Edgar’s views on.


He argued on BM and elsewhere that with the earlier resin and paper seats the ‘Y’ straps would have gone over the back of the seat rather than inside and through the hole in the back of the seat (as the seats were too weak).  Others argued otherwise.  


There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to the question and so I’m going to go with the visually more attractive ‘inside and through the hole in the back of the seat’ approach.


Plus I know from experience just how important it is in a fighter cockpit to be able to bend forward in the seat to look back over your shoulder;  and I have to say that I struggle a little in principle to accept Edgar’s view that with the ‘Y’ straps over the back of the seat the ‘Y’ could slide down either side of the seat back to let the pilot bend forward.  Of course he may be right.  I'm a self confessed Spitfire no-nowt and what do I know at the end of the day?


Ok.  So.  Fair enough, I’ve still not actually started any modelling!  But I’m definitely closer to it than any time in the last few years!!! 


More in a few days’ time.







Edited by Fritag
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Oooh, first through the door. I've had my second jab so don't need a mask. I'll have a Traquair Ale and a scotch pie please.


Let modeling commence... I'll be waiting


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I'm in, of course :) :tasty:


:popcorn: :beer:



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I'll follow along as well, this should be a piece of cake for you after the miniscule Chipmunk and Provost bar raising builds you have already completed!


    Stay safe                      Roger

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Guess what?


I'm in too, beer's on me this time.


No I am not buying substantial portions of nibbles...


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…and I'm here, of course :) 


How I've missed the Fritag self-deprecation before, and we all know he will do it, a precise, perfect model unfolds before our very eyes…

Looking forward to it Steve. A lot.

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Pint of heavy and a pork pie landlord.

I did this as a one off for someone when it came out (whilst I was still playing with trains), brings back memories.

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You could do one of the following 4th FG/Eagle Squadron  Spitfire Mk Vb's:

BL376, XR-B, flown by Duane Beeson

BL255, MD-T, flown by Don Gentile

EN982, XR-K, pilot unknown

EN918, AV-X, flown by Donald Ross

serial u/k AV-R, flown by Donald Willis (See blelow)


No serial, but a neat photo that shows the externally armored windscreen and the 'flat' canopy



Just for starters!






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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, 72modeler said:

You could do one of the following 4th FG/Eagle Squadron  Spitfire Mk Vb's:


Thanks Mike,


I’ve actually been thinking about some of those you suggest. (great minds and all that.....) :)


Neil’s doing Don Gentile’s P51B so I don't think I’ll do a Spitfire of his.


I couldn't find any photo’s of BL376, XR-B although there’s a nice colour plate kicking about.


I did find one photos of an XR-K, which I was quite tempted by as it has the internal armoured screen which I prefer the looks of; but that one was on the IWM site listed as EN783 flown by Spiros ‘Steve’ Pisanos and Eugene Potter (who was later KIA in a P47) but I guess that must be a different airframe (squadron markings were applied to more than one aircraft at different times).


There's also quite a nice photo of EN918, AV-X with Donald Ross standing by it: EN918 AV-X Photo That airframe was apparently crashed on operation on 5 February 1942 and the pilot, ‘Wild Bill’ Kelly (ex 121 [Eagle] sqn) was killed.  Depending on what decals (if any!) I can get hold of I’ll definitely bear that one in mind.


I like that photo of AV-R.  The IWM has that listed as BM590 and I’ve seen photos of BM590 AV-R as a 121 sqn aircraft nicknamed ‘Olga’.  However there’s different nose art on the photo with Don Willis in the cockpit with USAAF markings so it may be a different airframe.  BTW - I thought this was an example of an external windscreen with a ‘blown’ sided canopy not the flat sided one (and also the canopy on EN918 AV-X in the linked photo above). Am I wrong?




Photo Credit - IWM


In other news; through general reading of BM and other forums that have popped up on google searches I've come across the Spitfire Plans drawn by the (rather incredibly talented) Japanese modeller Jumpie Temma - Jumpie Temma Spitfire & Plans. Stefano @steh2o has been using them on his exceptional 1/72 XIVe build; and so far I've read nothing but praise for them.


In any event I've started to use JT's plans to help me alter the upper wing wheel 'bulge' and the internal stiffening on the kit (of which more later) - so I hope they're accurate.....(actually - at least as far as the wheel bulges/internal stiffening goes - JT's plans reflect Edgar's comments on those things and that's good enough for me.....

Edited by Fritag
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6 hours ago, Fritag said:

I thought this was an example of an external windscreen with a ‘blown’ sided canopy

I think you are right, but maybe @Graham Boak could tell us for sure. I sure do like Wills' AV-R, too. BTW, he's either a very tall fellow, or he's standing in the cockpit in the closeup photo. BTW, when we were stationed at Wiesbaden, Germany in the mid sixties, one of my high school classmates was Steve Pisanos' son- got to meet his famous dad and was starstruck, as I had recently read Grover Hall's 1,000 Destroyed. A very nice man and a real class act- his story is a very fascinating one, and you can read some of it below. The AVG/23rd FG ace Bruce Holloway was a general at that time, and I also got to meet him, as my dad was on the USAFE IG team and had to brief him. Wish now I had taken photos! Good luck on your project- any Eagle Squadron/4th FG Spit you choose to do will be a great tribute to any one of those great combat pilots!




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Posted (edited)
On 4/13/2021 at 3:57 PM, 72modeler said:

Good luck on your project- any Eagle Squadron/4th FG Spit you choose to do will be a great tribute to any one of those great combat pilots!



Thanks Mike - hope so. There were some great characters in the Eagle squadrons.  In fact that probably goes without saying....


Ok, so I have actually warmed up my modelling muscles and started.......with the wings.  Obviously.  Doesn't every one?


Actually I thought there were a couple of issues with the wing that would make a nice mini-project to get me started.  I'm talking about the upper wing wheel bulges and wing stiffners and the internal stiffening to the wheel wells.


This is the Tamiya upper wing surface; and you can see the over wing stiffening strips and to the left of it a large moulded blister/bulge representing the bulge in the wings to accommodate the retracted wheel (which lay at an angle in the wheel well so that the top of the wheel required a bulge in the upper wing surface).




And this is the detail inside the wheel well that shows the not untypically depicted  'H' shaped stiffening.




But.  There's always a but isn't there? ;)


I don't think it's controversial that the over wing stiffening strips wouldn't have been fitted to the squadron Mk Vbs at the time the 4th FG flew them (the mod only went in to production as I understand it (so I've read) in July 1942 and all of the Vbs I'm thinking of making pre-date this - and whilst the stiffeners were retro-fitted they don't appear on any of the contemporaneous photos I'm working from.  So they have to be removed which is at least a nice easy job to begin with.


The question of the existence, shape and size of the Spitfire wheel bulges is all a bit more difficult.  It's prompted at least 2 discussion threads on BM.  In 2011 Here and in 2014 Here.  And as far as the Mk Vb goes the (or at least a) answer seems to be this from Edgar in 2014:


Well the bulge on the Tamiya wing can't really be decsribed as a smallish, kidney-shaped bulge.  And Edgar also speaks of the early marks of Spitfires having a 'K' rather than 'H" shaped internal stiffening so as to leave room for the bulge.


As it happens there's a photo in the SAM Datafile of the wheel bay of the BBMF Mk V which clearly shows 'K' shaped internal stiffening - but I don't suppose I can post a copy for copyright reasons.  But I can post these pictures which do show a smaller(ish) Kidney shaped bulge on the top of ther wheel wells:


IWM Mk 1A (ignore the wing stiffeners - they were a later retro-fit)




Unknown Mk 1(?)




And for good measure the Jumpie Temma Spitfire Vb plans Here have what seems like an accurate shaped bulge and also show the K reinforcement.  Works for me.


Using a cut out from the plans I sketched out the easy wheel bay mod:






Soon done with a chisel, micromesh and some 0.5mm sq rod.  Of course no-one will ever see - it but it got me back into the swing of things:




As to the top of the wing.  Working from the plans this is the shape and position of a smallerish Kidney shaped bulge.





So began a somewhat laborious process of making some replacement resin bulges....(Now this is the sort of thing that I'd like to have a 3D printer for :whistle:)


Copied the kidney shape from the plan onto 1mm card and cut it out:




Used that to make a few left and right male bucks in casting resin.  Plasticine is perfectly adequate as a female mould material for this.




So I now had left and a right flat topped bucks, which I then had to file and micromesh into a bulge shape.  I used a sharpie to colour the bucks so I could see where I was filing/shaping.






And then used those bucks to make yet more female moulds and cast several left and right bulges.




Resin casts from plasticine always have a slightly rough finish but micromesh-up just fine.




All feels like very analogue modelling in the era of 3D printing don't it? :blush:;)


And after thinning down - a bulge fixes here: (I've also filled off the over wing stiffeners - obviously!)




And after a bit more refining - and what will no doubt be the first of several applications of Mr Surfacer - I have this:








One down - one to go.


A small modification but one that does change the look of the wing rather noticeably so I think worth doing; but not really deserving of such a long post :blush::blush: -

 but hey I haven't posted any modelling for such a long time...... :D

Edited by Fritag
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You must be feeling a bit lightheaded after all that work Steve.  Need a lie down?


Nice intro back into the world of plastic worrying, and up to the usual standards we've come to expect (and missed) from you

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I guess I shouldn't be surprised by your attention to detail at this point Steve, but that is a surprising amount of attention to detail! The wing looks fantastic.

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Blimey, I think that deserves a 2 week skiing holiday at the very least!

Careful Steve, don't want to overdo it! :D



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58 minutes ago, hendie said:

You must be feeling a bit lightheaded

I am feeling a bit lightheaded!! Crisp @Ex-FAAWAFU and Tony @TheBaron simultaneously cracking out paint on their builds, and now Steve doing some actual modelling!! :frantic: :frantic: 




BTW, when I made this model, this wing bulge issue had totally escaped me....


Great job so far :clap:



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1 hour ago, Fritag said:

All feels like very analogue modelling

You mean this thread is only available in black & white in some regions, and closes down at midnight after playing the National Anthem?


Loving the vibe here already Steve - good luck with this build. :thumbsup2:

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1 hour ago, TheBaron said:

You mean this thread is only available in black & white in some regions, and closes down at midnight after playing the National Anthem?


Loving the vibe here already Steve - good luck with this build. :thumbsup2:

Steve presumably only models in black tie.  Doesn’t everyone?

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Just found this Steve. Went for a quick lie down in a darkened room to get over the shock of:


a. Seeing some actual modelling take place from your very skilled hands

b. It's a Spitfire

c. It's 1/48

d. I don't think you ever flew one (you may have)

e. I appear to be in on page 1


Seriously. I am looking forward to this, it could be rather good


By the way, this statement made me smile........


On 4/11/2021 at 11:19 PM, Fritag said:

One of the things I’ve learned about the Spitfire Vb is that at any given time they came in all sorts of different modification states depending on where and when they were built and what had been done to them on the squadrons.


To explain - I may have mentioned before, that in my youth I worked in the MOD project office which "handled" the Jaguar's entry into production and ongoing modification status. You could easily apply that statement to RAF Jaguars, even shortly after they had entered production. But you may well have known that!


Following this build with much interest.




PS. Don't paint it red, white and light aircraft grey will you?

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8 hours ago, Terry1954 said:

Don't paint it red, white and light aircraft grey will you?


Bu**er...and one doesn’t embrace change at my age neither....


8 hours ago, Bedders said:

Looking forward to this. In the meantime you might find the following websites useful for references:


Thanks Justin

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Good innit?


You know, open a box.

Examine contents and begin sifting through the pieces, noting the nice bits and preparing to attack the baddies.



And then begin making a model, adding sublime mods along the scented way, petals strewn around you, as we begin our customary slide into gob-smacked-ness.



Good innit?







This already is...

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Ah, he's back. All is right with the world… :D 


On 13/04/2021 at 09:47, Fritag said:

Depending on what decals (if any!) I can get hold of…

I'm surprised Giorgio didn't suggest this but you could always paint the markings?

Just the idents of course, the serials are too tricky.

And maybe the stars (Cookie can help!)

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50 minutes ago, CedB said:

I'm surprised Giorgio didn't suggest this but you could always paint the markings?

The guy has just come back to actual modelling, I didn't want to put him in shock.... :rofl: 


But yes, painting the markings (idents and stars) shouldn't be too hard, and at this scale, it's worth giving a try even at the serials. :whistle:



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