Buiding For Others, Part I

(A Pair of WWII British Aircraft) 

by Massimo Santarossa



It seems that lately I cannot build anything for myself. Not long ago I completed a DC-6B for a co-worker, which I am told he still looks at nostalgically as he passes by it in the living room. That same friend asked me to build a couple of models for his uncles who both flew in the Second World War; a Liberator GR. VI for one, and a Spitfire and Defiant for the other. This article will look at the latter pair of aircraft, while Part II will concentrate on the Liberator.

When choosing which kits I would use for this project I went for the easy build, which meant a 1/48 Tamiya Spitfire V. I used the Trop version of this kit, but chose to build it as a UK based aircraft. All the parts are included to do either a tropical or standard Spitfire, though the instructions are for the desert version. This is not a problem because the difference in construction is simple to figure out, though the aircraft serials in the decals would have to be changed. Initially I hadnít planned on building a Defiant because you canít find one in 1/48 easily (Classic Airframes did make one years ago). However, I found an Airfix Defiant in 1/72 scale and decided to give it a go, even though the two were different sizes.

I built the Spitfire as per the instructions, substituting the desert parts for standard ones. I also chose to use the extended wing tips; the kit provided the clipped options as well. This is my first Tamiya kit, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was basically a shake and bake model, which is a good thing because I did not want to spend a lot of time making corrections to it. There were only a few minor areas to watch out for. There is a slight gap between the centre portion of the underwing assembly and the fuselage, both at the front and rear. Also, the seat back sits a little too high, keeping the aft portion of the canopy from sitting down completely. I found out that a friend of mine had the same problem, so it appears to be a kit fault. The rest of the kit was a dream to build. Some might say that this is constructing and not modeling, but because the base kit is so well engineered it allows one to go that extra step and do some complex weathering and detailing.

I painted the Spit using MM enamels. Because it was going to a Canadian pilot, I decided to give it the markings of an RCAF unit. I settled on WaterMark Decals, which provided the markings for George "Buzz" Beurlingís Spitfire when he served with 412 Squadron, though I used the kit decals for the standard items like roundels. The kit is not weathered as I felt it would look better as a "factory fresh" airplane, after all the plane is to be viewed kind of like a trophy

The Defiant kit was not a shake and bake kit. Surprisingly, though, it did go together fairly easily. All the detail is raised (no shock there), with most of the plane covered in rivets. This detail was not lost in the sanding portion of construction because there is little or no detail along the seams of the kit. A little scratch building was needed on the ailerons as they were shorter than the spaces in wings where they would sit. The extra length was made up of a couple of pieces of laminated sheet sterene that were then filed to the correct shape. There is no interior except for the pilotís seat, and quite frankly I wasnít worried. Once the painted canopy was on, very little would show up from inside

I painted the kit with Testors flat black, but after the decals were on, I sealed it with Poly S satin finish. A gloss black night fighter would look like a plastic toy, and a flat black one would look bad on display. Remember, I was going for the trophy look. The markings were a combination of kit supplied decals and bits from an Arrowgraphics set.

The base that these two planes sit on is in no way my own idea. I took a piece of pine, routed the edges, and stained it cherry; hardly original. A friend on the coast showed me how to use EnviroTex Lite to get the gloss finish, and my wife suggested gluing green felt to the bottom. I am glad I listened to them both as I doubt I would have come such a good, and simple, idea on my own.

My only regret about this project is that, again, I canít keep these planes for myself. In total, I spent 30.5 hours on these two fighters. I did enjoy building them, the Defiant a little more so, and working with my first Tamiya kit made feel more comfortable about tackling my own kits without the fear of ruining a pricey model. In Part II, Iíll discuss the building of the Liberator GR. VI.



  • Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire Mk. Vb Trop
  • Airfix 1/72 Defiant NF.1
  • WaterMark Decals Canadian Spitfires #48004
  • Arrowgraphics Decals Spitfire Mk. IX #B-89-72
  • EnviroTex Lite
  • Fleco Varathane Elite: Diamond Wood Stain

Massimo SantarossaPhotos and text © by