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1/48 Airfix Spitfire FR XIV “Race 80”

Supermarine Spitfire FR XIVe TZ138 was delivered at Aldermaston on February 23, 1945 and sent to Rolls Royce at Hucknall for modification for cold weather testing. Prepared in June 1945 by No. 47 Maintenance Unit at Sealand, it was shipped to Canada aboard the S.S. Alder Province, arriving on November 11, 1945. After being transported to Edmonton, Alberta, by train,it was assembled and test flown, then assigned to Northwest Air Command where it, along with other British and American aircraft, underwent cold weather testing while assigned to the Winter Experimental Establishment. It was displayed in Edmonton on May 5, 1946 and flew in the Calgary Airshow on July 9 after the engine was replaced in June at Ft. Nelson, B.C. It was grounded in Penhold while enroute to Winnipeg July 9-11. Further testing stopped in October and resumed in December 1946. Further trials began on January 13, 1947 and it was returned to Churchill, Manitoba on January 28, 1947.

During February 1947, while based at Churchill, TZ138 broke its composite/wood prop landing at The Pas for fuel. A new prop was installed, but taxi and take off for the narrow track Spit proved a serious problem, the fear being it would tip onto its nose and damage the new prop. A set of de Havilland Tiger Moth skis were modified with cradles for the Spit’s main gear and it was found that it could taxi by using extra power. The normal Mk. XIV take off speed was too high and set TZ138 bouncing, so it was determined that it would need to lift off at just above stalling speed. On February 28, 1947, TZ138 took off successfully from The Pas and flew to Churchill, becoming the only Spitfire to ever take off using skis. The skis dropped away and were later recovered from a nearby snow covered lake.

With cold weather testing completed, TZ138 was struck off charge with 150.15 hours total time on the clock and assigned to the War Assets Administration in Edmonton for disposal. Ken Brown and Flight Lieutenant James McArthur (one of the Dambuster pilots) bought it for $1,250.00. The Spitfire received civilian registration CF-GMZ on August 25, 1949 and a Department of Transportation certificate of serviceability, approved for Class “F” racing. The Spitfire was then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where some of the locals remember it being stuck in the corner of a hanger housing a local ice rink while it was turned into a racer with the airframe stripped to natural metal and all unnecessary equipment including the guns were removed. A new engine was installed, and with sponsorship by Edmonton’s Imperial Oil Ltd., it was assigned race #80. It was to be the first foreign- built aircraft to race in the National Air Races at Cleveland since Michelle Detroyat flew the Caudron C.460 to victory in the 1935 Thompson Trophy race.

McArthur qualified #80 at 370.110 mph, good enough for the Tinnerman Trophy Race, but too slow for the Thompson. The 1949 Tinnerman included Ben McKillen flying the F2G-2 “Sohio #57,” Cook Cleland in F2G-2 #94, Wilson Newhall in P-51K #65, Anson Johnson in P-51D #45, James Hannon in P-51A #2, Jack Hardwick in P-38L #34, J.P. Hagerstrom in P-38L #14, H.S. Gidovlenko in P-38L #25, and mcArthur in Spitfire XIV “city of Edmonton” #80.

The race was flown on September 4, 1949, with a race horse start after which four of the competitors (Hannon, Cleland, Gidovlenko, Johnson) were forced to pull out. Ben McKillen’s winning F2G #57 took first place at 386.069 mph with Wilson Newhall’s second-place P-51K #65 at 379.735. McArthur’s 359.565 mph was good for third ahead of Jack Hardwick in P-38 #34 at 328.470 mph. McArthur won $1,050.

On September 5, McArthur left Cleveland at 0600 hours with the winnings, without announcing his destination, and flew the Spitfire to Miami, where it was sold to Richard McNally’s I.B.A. Trading Corporation for $1,000 on February 9, 1950. Registered as N5505, it was sold December 14, 1951, to a company in Hollywood, Florida, controlled by Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista for $3,000. Batista’s company applied to the State Department on January 25, 1952 to export TZ138 for sale at a price of $7,500 in the Dominican Republic, which was likely a way to get it to Cuba, which was under U.S. embargo for military equipment at the time. The alleged “sale” never happened, and the Spitfire was found with its propeller sabotaged and the airplane abandoned at the Hollywood airport in June 1952, where it was seized by U.S. Customs. Rumors abounded at the time that Cuban opponents of the dictator (who may have been associated with Fidel Castro) were the ones who sabotaged the propeller to prevent the sale. Since the title had never been transferred, it was returned to the I.B.A. Trading Corporation, who kept it until it was sold to Robert Geoffery of Orlando, Florida, January 6, 1958.

After that, “Race 80″ had many owners, including three in Minnesota. During early 1960, it was listed with Lloyd Milner of Minneapolis. On February 22, 1960, it was with former racing pilot Lee Fairbrother of Rosemount, Minnesota. It was then sold to Charles H. Leidal of Fergus Falls, Minnesota on November 4, 1968 to be restored, which was completed in 1970. It’s first post-restoration flight was on March 2, 1969. In May 1970 it suffered a crash landing when the engine overheated due to a coolant hose rupture while flying to Harlingen, Texas where it was to be operated by the then-Confederate (now Commemorative) Air Force. The forced landing damaged the right wing and crushed the radiator. During the 1970s it was sold to owners in Ontario; Colorado; Michigan; Connecticut; Florida; and Texas. In 1979-81 it was loaned to the Bradley Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, registered as N138TZ. After being sold to Knowles Knapp of Fort Lauderdale, where it was re-registered as N5505A, it was sold to the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston in November 1988 and displayed in 1990-91. It was then traded to noted air racer Bill “Tiger” Destefani of Bakersfield, who trucked it to California in January 1992. It was put into restoration by Liberty Aero Corporation on May 13, 1998, and was test-flown by noted warbird engineer and pilot Bruce Lockwood at Van Nuys, California on January 5, 1999. It was then sold to Robert Jens of Richmond, BC, on May 18, 2000 who registered it C-GSPT in a spurious “RAF camouflage scheme.” In 2006 it was donated to the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Vancouver, where it is displayed today.

The kit

Airfix’s Spitfire XIV is the first really accurate 1/48 Spitfire XIV released, and is clearly superior to the Academy kits issued 20-some years ago. The kit can be turned into the F.XIV, F.R. XIV or F.R. 18 without difficulty.

Construction

Several modelers have complained about the difficulty of building the kit without use of putty and with loss of detail. There is a very easy way to assemble this kit, such that one will have perfect fit and will use no putty or other filler in the process. Here it is:

1. Before assembling the fuselage, glue some Evergreen strip inside along the lower join line for the gas tank. Assemble the fuselage without attaching the cockpit. This allows you to work the fit of the gas tank to the fuselage from inside and out to get a perfect fit. If you take care in attaching the fuselage halves, you will only have to scrape down the centerline joint to have a smooth result. Before attaching the fuselage halves, cut open the side hatch if you want to pose it open on the finished model.

2. Assemble the cockpit. Cut off the ferschlugginah “gun sight” and make a Mk.14 sight, which is easy since it’s a cube with an adjusting wheel on either side. All Spitfire XIVs used it and it solves the one “mistake” in the kit. (There are photos of the gunsight to be found on the net, google “photos of Mark 14 gyro gunsight”) I only used Eduard photo-etch seatbelts, the rest of the cockpit looks fine when it’s viewed inside the fuselage.

3. Insert the cockpit into the fuselage, it will “click” into position, then glue it in place.

4. Assemble the main gear wells to the lower wing part, then glue the lower wing to the fuselage.

5. Carefully make sure that the inner edge of the upper wing part will fit perfectly to the fuselage, smoothing off the sprue nubs. Attach the upper wing by starting with the wing-fuselage joint, then glue the upper part to the lower.

6. Attach the horizontal stabilizer. Cut the elevators apart. Attach the plug in the vertical fin, then attach the elevators as you wish them posed.

7. Assemble and attach the radiators and housings and the carburettor intake. If you flood the area where these parts will be attached with liquid glue, it will fill any gaps and you will not need putty anywhere.

You now have a perfectly-assembled model, ready for paint.

For this model, I took advantage of the fact that Airfix has “Race 80″ in their sights for a future release, as evidenced by the scoring on the inside of the wings to allow a modeler to cut out the guns, and the wing leading edge plug on the sprue. I also filled the interior of the cannon cover bulges with C-A glue, then sanded them off the wing. I also sanded off the fairing under the cannons on the lower surface and filled in the shell ejection chutes. This Indian plastic is very soft and it took every scratch by the sanding sticks. After all that was done, I used several increasingly-fine sanding sticks and sanding pads, followed by a healthy dose of polishing, to restore the wing surfaces, after which I rescribed the panel lines. I decided to keep the cockpit flap up, to allow the stripe decal to go down the side unimpeded. It turns out, one can attach the canopy without gluing it if you do that, so you can slide it open or closed to display the cockpit as you feel fit. I kept the elevators and rudder off, since they would be painted differently. I attached the landing gear at this point because it would also be painted overall aluminum.

COLORS & MARKINGS

I gave the model an overall primer coat of Tamiya Gloss Black, thinned 50-50 and “misted” on until it gave proper color, to keep the surface as smooth as possible. I then shot the model overall with Vallejo “Aluminum.” I used Vallejo “White Aluminum” as the aluminum lacquer color for the fabric-covered tail control surfaces. The spinner and the canopy framing was painted with Tamiya Gloss Blue X-4. I painted the white tips of the propeller blade, masked them off, shot the prop black, then hand-painted the red tips. It was important to have the surface as smooth as possible and to apply the NMF aluminum perfectly, since there would not be a lot of markings and such to distract the viewer of the completed model.

The decals came from the Academy “Special Release” Spitfire XIV kit that came out in 2005 that were printed by Cartograf. I’d kept those very interesting decals (Spitfires of the Belgian, Indian and Thai air forces in addition to “Race 80″) over the years in hopes Airfix would finally do the intelligent thing and release a good Spitfire XIV, as they have now done. The “Race 80″ decals went on without problem under a coat of Micro-Sol. I notice from the “race” photo that the decal for the number on the wing is wrong-sized. Oh well…

I assembled the prop and attached it, the main landing gear, and the exhaust stacks. I unmasked the canopy and put it in position; it slides back and forth without problem.

Conclusions

The bubble-top Spitfire XIV is the most “racery” looking Spitfire of all. If you put it on floats, it would definitely recall the S.6B Schneider Trophy racer that began the line. Doing it in one overall color, without weapons, brings out all the shapeliness of the Spitfire as the most beautiful single-seat piston-engine fighter ever built.

It’s pretty certain with everything Airfix includes in the kit, that modelers will be able to do “Race 80″ in a future release. It’s easily one of the most elegant Spitfires of all.

Thanks to George Henderson, for reminding me with his “Race 80” model that I had these decals.

14 additional images. Click to enlarge.


13 responses to 1/48 Airfix Spitfire FR XIV “Race 80”

  1. Talk about a checkered career! I’ve long admired this colour scheme Tom, & you have certainly done it justice. Looks fantastic!

  2. Beautiful racer, Tom! The only issue I’ve got with the kit was positioning of a fuel tank which resolved with gluing pins from inside the fuselage (actually the same as you’ve described). All the rest goes fine.

  3. Beautiful rendition of an immensely beautiful aircraft! Thanks for sharing the build tips too, Tom. I love your “Facts” section of all your builds. I always learn new information about my favorite topic … airplanes.

    I have this kit and will use your modified directions to make it. “Race 80” is surely an interesting aircraft. From the last photo, taken in 2006, I’d assume, it’s great that this beauty still lives on to thrill the folks lucky enough to get to see an airshow where she is flown and/or displayed. I personally LOVE the square ‘tip Spitfires and agree that this may just well be “the most beautiful single-seat piston-engine fighter ever built” as you said!

  4. Great story and tips Tom. I’ll definitely be using them with the rest of my Airfix kits. I built the Academy version of this kit when it came out and the decals were great

  5. Another winner out of this kit, Tom!

  6. ‘Liked’

    What a great (hi)story…a narrative fit for such a thoroughbred beauty. A great build, Tom – inspired choice.

  7. Nice build and story Tom!

  8. Good work, TC….I like it.

  9. Great looking Spitfire!!

  10. man…that’s pretty

  11. Looks even more sleek in that livery – very nice!

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