Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV Conversion

Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV Conversion

Spitfire Mk XIV History

As early as 1939, preliminary investigations were undertaken to see if the Spitfire could be fitted with the new Rolls Royce Griffon.  The Griffon was a bulky engine and it seemed unlikely that the installation would be successful.  However, Rolls Royce worked hard to reduce the frontal area and rework the camshaft and supercharger drives.  When finally mounted in the Spitfire Mk XIV, it would add an additional 3 feet in frontal length.  In addition, the Griffon rotated in the opposite direction requiring the pilot to correct in the opposite direction on take-off from the conventional Spitfires.  The increased length and horsepower also required a five bladed prop and larger vertical stabilizer.  The different firing order gave the Griffon its distinctive bark.

As much as it was an interim design based on the Spitfire Mk VIII, the Spitfire Mk XIV was the first large scale production of a Griffon powered Spitfire.  Early production aircraft had a “C” wing while the balance of Mk XIV production used the “universal” “E” wing.  Use of an intercooler required two underwing radiators that were larger than previous Merlin Spitfires.  Fuel capacity was increased with the addition of a 13 gallon leading edge fuel tank in each wing.  By late 1944, Spitfire XIVs were fitted with an extra 33 gal in a rear fuselage fuel tank, extending the fighter's range to about 850 miles.

One problem which did arise in service was localised skin wrinkling on the wings and fuselage at load attachment points; although Supermarine advised that the Mk XIVs had not been seriously weakened, nor were they on the point of failure, the RAF issued instructions in early 1945 that all F and FR Mk XIVs were to be refitted with clipped wings.

The initial Mk XIV’s used the conventional Malcolm Hood while the later units were produced with a cut-down rear vision canopy.  Late in 1944 a number of high-back full-span Mk XIVEs were converted by the Forward Repair Unit to have a single camera fitted, facing to port or starboard; a conversion identical to that used on the FRU-converted FR Mk IXC. To achieve this a new hatch, similar to the radio hatch on the port side, was installed on the starboard side, and both hatches were fitted with camera ports in streamlined blisters.  Otherwise this version of the FR Mk XIVE was essentially the same as the standard aircraft.  Later, purpose-built conversions, also known as the FR Mk XIVE, had the later cut-down rear fuselage with its tear drop–shaped canopy, port and/or starboard camera ports (without blisters), and an additional rear fuel tank of 34 gallons which extended the Spitfire's range to about 610 miles (980 km) on internal fuel. Because it was used mainly at low altitudes the "production" FR Mk XIVE had clipped wingtips.

In total, 957 Mk XIV’s were built, over 430 of which were FR Mk XIV’s. After the war, second hand Mk XIVs were exported to a number of foreign air forces; 132 went to the Royal Belgian Air Force, 70 went to the Royal Indian Air Force and 30 of its reconnaissance variant went to the Royal Thai Air Force.  In the end, the Mk XIV was flown by 37 RAF squadrons, some well into the post-war era.  It was the only Griffon powered Spitfire to be used in quantity during WWII.

Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV Specifications
Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV 610 Squadron

Spitfire Mk XIV In Service

The Mk XIV was used initially by the Air Defense of Great Britain in anti-V-! missions, but the type was also used by the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Europe and in the Far East during the closing stages of WWII.  It remained in RAF service until 1955.

The first squadron to receive the Mk XIV was no. 610 Squadron, who received their machines in early 1944.  This was followed by Nos. 91 and 322 Squadrons in March of that Year.  On June 13, Germany began launching V-1’s against London.  Defense against the V-1 was anti-aircraft guns , barrage balloons and fighters. Initially the Mk IX’s and Mk XII’s were used to counter the new weapons, but they were soon supplemented by the new Mk XIV.  A few of the Mk XIV’s were modified to run on 150 octane fuel, which boosted their top speed to 400 mph.  By September, the Mk XIV’s were released from anti-diver operations and Nos. 41, 130, 350, 403 Squadrons began front-line high altitude air defense of Great Britain.

Also in September, Mk XIV’s began arriving in Europe to join the 2nd Tactical Airforce with 130 and 402 Squadrons.  At the end of December, two more groups, Nos. 41, 350 and 610 Squadrons arrived.  Meanwhile 430 Squadron had begun operations from Holland.  During the air operations over Europe, the Spitfire Mk XIV pilots would find themselves in competition with the Tempest V units.
Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV 402 Squadron 2nd Tactical Airforce

Building the Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV Conversion

The basis for this model is the 1/48th Airfix Spitfire FR Mk XIV.  When it was first known that Airfix was working on a new Mk XIV, many modelers, including myself, hoped that we would finally get a decent Mk XIVC.  Much to our chagrin, Airfix continued its fascination for the more obscure, as well as ariel recon, giving us the FR Mk XIVE with a cutback canopy.

The planning for a suitable conversion to restore the original Malcolm hood began flying around the modeling bulletin boards.  I investigated using two methods of kitbashing.  The first method involved using the fuselage from the Airfix PR XIX and the “E” wing from the new kit.  This proved more trouble than it was worth because the “gull wing” contour of the trailing edge was nonexistent in the Airfix PR XIX, making it necessary to rework the fillets.  And even after that, you would still have to adapt a conventional hood in place of the pressurized hood.  I thought about grafting in the spine and canopy section from an Airfix Spitfire VB kit, but in the end, you would still have the same ill-fitting section over the forward fuel and oil tank along with its own set of alignment issues.  All in all, it seemed to me that the easiest solution was to just use a spare canopy and create the spinal addition as shown in the animation below.  This solution utilizes some of the most basic modeling skills and techniques.

Airfix Spitfire Mk XIV Conversion Sequence
camera port has been filled
Fuselage has been cut back
the wood spine is in place
the basic Spitfire Mk XIV conversion is complete

If you want to build this kit, I highly recommend you watch my review.  The review is a two-part complete build-up of the kit and will give you some ideas of things to watch out for. (Airfix Spitfire FR Mk XIV Review: Part 1, Part 2).

The following video walks through a simple method for converting the Airfix Spitfire FR Mk XIV to an earlier conventional Malcom hood Spitfire F Mk XIV, using basic modeling skills.

Airfix Spitfire FR Mk XIV Conversion to Early Spitfire F Mk XiV