Build Report: ICM’s 1/48 Spitfire Mk. VIII

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When it comes to building the Spitfire Mk. VIII, there are really only two choices to build right out of the box in 1/48 scale. It’s either Hasegawa or ICM. (Although Eduard will be releasing a Mk. VIII soon!)

The Hasegawa kit is the easiest build, but the ICM kit has the better shape. Because I’d just completed the Hasegawa Mk. VII kit, I decided to go with the ICM kit.

I’d built the ICM Mk. VII several years ago, and had discovered the quirks of the kit. So I thought this time around I could make the build go a little smoother with the lessons learned.

The cockpit on the ICM Spitfires is very nice. It’s one of the better detailed examples. The only real weakness is the shape of the control column grip, and the seat. A Spitfire’s control column grip was a round handle. ICM’s version is more of a square. There are several ways to correct it if you’ve a mind to- aftermarket, spares box, or scratch build- but I decided to just leave it as-is and move on. The seat is another matter- it’s comically undersized fore to aft in the seat pan. I suppose if a pilot had really wide, child bearing hips, it might work. 🙂 However, with a box full of Ultracast seats with belts already molded in, I opted for the aftermarket route for the seat. The Ultracast seats look great, and work on any Spitfire. I order them by the half dozen because I know I’ll use them!

One of the benefits/quirks/curses of the ICM Spitfires is that they have a full engine you can build up. It looks pretty good out of the box, but it’s very fiddly to get assembled, installed and aligned. And once in place, it is almost impossible to get the cowl panels on and closed up. I’d read several solutions- mostly just building it in place, sanding away the parts that interfere, and then gluing the cowls on. But I thought “there has to be an easier way.”

Turns out there is.

I’d discovered with the Mk. VII build that you can simply leave the engine out. I used that same line of thinking on this build. Essentially, you assemble the fuselage as you normally would up to the cockpit, but leave everything forward of the fuel tank unglued. Once the fuselage is dried and set, slide the forward firewall in place to set the width properly. (This may require a little sanding.) Be SURE and have the wings at least taped together to test the fit. With the forward firewall in place, add the part that the prop mounts to, being sure to get that lined up evenly. Allow that to dry. The add the upper cowl part- and you have it. I know, you’re asking about the exhausts…. turns out you can simply “hang” them on the lower edge of the side cowl piece. The part that the exhaust stacks mount to prevents see through, and there is a small groove for alignment. It’s a bit fiddly- but works.

The fuselage fit is good overall. And the wings assemble nicely too. But it’s the wing to fuselage fit that can cause issues. I’d had quite a few problems with this on the Mk. VII, so the bumps and scrapes I received in that build would help out on this one. (I hoped.)

The first time I mated the wing to the fuselage, sure enough, there were large gaps, especially towards the rear of the join. I begin to really examine what the problem was, and I found that if you carefully cut away portions of the cockpit that extend below the fuselage bottom, it greatly improves fit. Also, some careful sanding of the joining edges to make sure there are no projections also helps. These two things made for a quite decent join, under the circumstances. It still needed some minor sanding and filling, but nothing near as bad as I’d experienced on the Mk. VII.

Once the wings were on, it was smooth sailing from there. Paints were a mix of brands. The undersides were painted with Vallejo Azure Blue, and the uppers painted with Tamiya Dark Green 2 and Gunze Dark Earth. Weathering was accomplished with various artists oils for washes and streaks, and additional weathering was done by airbrush. The decals were from Aeromaster’s “Aussie Spits Part 4” (48-780).

In the end, I was very happy with the results. While the ICM kit is a bit fiddly to build, the low price and wealth of parts in the box makes it a very attractive option. Given the release of the Eduard Mk. IX, I’ve actually seen prices on the ICM kit for less than $12. It does take a bit more work, but if you’re on a budget, it builds into a great Spitfire!