The Supermarine Spiteful and its naval counterpart, the Seafang, represented the last developments of the immortal Spitfire. The Spiteful retained the Rolls Royce Griffon engine, as fitted to late-mark Spits) and introduced a laminar flow wing married to a redesigned fuselage that afforded a better view from the cockpit, particularly over the nose. The Spitfire's narrow-track landing gear was replaced with an inward-retracting undercarriage to make ground handling easier.
In terms of all-out speed, the Spiteful clearly had an edge over the Spitfire, but this was countered by poorer handling at low speed, and test pilots generally seem to have found the Spiteful far less pleasant to fly, with it giving the impression that it was "about to do something nasty", although it seldom did (and in fact it possessed more benign spinning characteristics than the Spitfire). A number of modifications were made that improved the handling - but all at the expense of top speed - so, in the end, the Spiteful offered insufficient advantages over its predecessor to justify full production at a time when all piston-engined fighters were facing obsolescence with the dawn of jet age.
Just 19 Spitefuls were built (including 2 prototypes), along with 18 Seafangs, and although the aircraft will always be overshadowed by its illustrious predecessor, it nevertheless represents the pinnacle of British piston-engined fighter technology, holding the UK record of 494 mph.
We've probably all been there - despite all the negative things you've read and heard about a kit , it still nags at you to buy it until it overcomes your misgivings. So it was with Trumpeter's Spiteful for me, with a mixture of curiosity, sheer bloody-mindedness, plus it's very affordable by today's prices. And, above all, it's a Spiteful! - an aircraft that's long been on my wish list - so I was prepared to tackle a few problems if need be.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. What do you actually get in the compact top-opening box? The kit comprises:
73 x grey styrene parts
7 x clear styrene parts
4 x etched brass pieces
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
First impressions are certainly good. Trumpeter's notoriously heavy-handed riveter has been retired and, instead, we find a beautifully restrained surface finish. Engraved panel lines are light and precise, while the rivets are just about as delicate as could be moulded. True, the original aircraft was flush-riveted, but as an example of today's vogue in kits for depicting embossed rivets, these could hardly be bettered and should look great under a coat of paint. Detail parts are acceptable - not as crisp as the best of the latest mainstream kits, but quite usable. There's no major flash evident or any sink marks in my kit, and ejector pins have been kept out of harm's way.
Dry-assembling the main components shows the Spiteful will be a breeze to build OOB. The wings and fuselage are an excellent fit, while the tailplanes (although loose in their slots) match the roots precisely. The general outline is unmistakably a Spiteful, and it makes for a fascinating comparison with late-mark Spitfires.
As those who know me will attest, I'm not much of a "rivet counter", but alerted by reports of the Spiteful elsewhere on the Internet, I went looking for trouble - and sure enough, I found it. I am indebted to our resident Spitfire guru, Edgar Brooks, for providing a wealth of useful references, including copies of original official drawings. With the aid of these, plus all the photos I could gather, I've reached the following conclusions. Note: this is by no means a definitive list, and there may well be other problems - plus, of course, it's only my opinion and you may not agree on all points. But, anyway, here goes, working from nose to tail:
. This is too tapered in plan view. Whereas the rows of exhausts should be parallel, they curve towards the spinner. Another problem is that their locating slots aren't deep enough, so the backing plate for each set of exhausts sits flush with the cowling. The cowl bulges also taper, whereas they should also be parallel to accommodate the Griffon's rocker covers beneath them. While most kits of late-mark Spitfires have separate blisters, making it easier to correct them, Trumpeter's Spiteful has them moulded in situ
- but ironically they have outlined them with a panel line that doesn't seem to appear in photos of the originals.
The wing to fuselage relationship
. This is where it starts to get really complicated. One fantastic build on Britmodeller
includes some serious surgery to move the wings back by approximately 4mm. That gives a much better match of the wing's trailing edge to the cockpit - but, I'm not sure it's the whole answer because Trumpeter actually seem to have got the position of the leading edge just about correct relative to the exhausts.
This leads to the conclusion that either the fuselage is too long above the wing, or the wing's chord is insufficient. In fact, the overall length of the kit's fuselage matches given dimensions almost exactly, and compares well with the plans and photos I have, so the chord looks the more likely culprit to me.
The wing-root fillets - or rather, the lack of them - are the next issue. Whereas photos clearly show quite pronounced fillets, Trumpeter haven't represented them. I think the fillet aft of the trailing edge looks too abrupt as well, so I plan on extending this as part of addressing the chord problem.
Staying with the wings, some reports indicate that the radiators need attention, but I'll wait until I try to fit them to form a firm conclusion.
. It was evident in the first photos of test shots that something was badly amiss with the main undercarriage, and so it proves in the final release. While Trumpeter are correct in that the Spiteful did away with the classic Spitfire gear legs in the course of fitting an inward-retracting undercarriage, the result is horribly clumsy and the geometry decidedly suspect.
The rear fuselage insert and canopy
. Perhaps the "nastiest" part of the kit (even for the majority who undoubtedly won't be bothered by possible dimensional problems) is Trumpeter's strange decision to mould the fuselage with an open cut-out behind the pilot's headrest and an undersized plug to fill it. So, instead of riding flush along the top deck of the fuselage, the canopy sits in an unrealistic recess, and doesn't appear to be intended to be displayed open. The area under the canopy is clearly set too low, and the kit doesn't even have canopy rails marked on the fuselage.
. Trumpeter's take on the "Spiteful Tail" has come in for a bit of stick in some quarters, but I have to say it doesn't look too bad to me - while the rudder could arguably be a tad "fuller", it does sit quite neatly over scale drawings that Edgar provided.
A few details
Trumpeter's Spiteful is generally quite a simple kit. For instance, the cockpit comprises just 4 parts, plus a decal for the instrument panel (which doesn't bear close comparison with the layout of the real thing). Strangely, despite, the inclusion of an etched fret, no seat harness is provided, and the overall impression is that the cockpit is too shallow and doesn't really capture the look of the original. For instance, it's clear in photos that the seat was recessed into the floor and set lower than the rudder pedals - a layout I think I've read somewhere that Jeffrey Quill detested. An optional camera is provided, should you wish to open up the port behind the cockpit, and a two part gyro gunsight attaches to the instrument shroud.
The 5-bladed propeller is very straightforward, with the blades moulded as one unit, so there are no worries about alignment, and the spinner shape looks pretty good to me.
The underwing radiators have etched cores, but you might want to add a blanking plate in each to avoid a see-through appearance.
As noted above, the undercarriage will need a fair bit of work to look much like the original, but it will be worth the effort. While no Spitefuls survive, detailed shots of the Attacker (which used the same landing gear) can be found at Prime Portal
and will be a great help in sorting things out.
The canopy is thin and clear, and moulded in two sections. You'll need to polish off a noticeable seam on the sliding section. You probably can pose it open, although it may well sit high on the fuselage, and doing so will only draw attention to the weird insert behind the headrest unless you correct it.
Instructions and decals
Trumpeter provide an 8-page assembly guide, with a separate sheet illustrating the colour schemes. The construction is broken down into just 6 stages and everything is clearly drawn and looks very straightforward for even the least experienced modeller.
Decals for 3 aircraft are included:
A. s/n RB518 - one of two aircraft converted to Mk. XVI standard with a Griffon 101 and the aircraft that recorded 494 mph.
B. s/n SU-213 "Black 2" in fictional Finnish markings.
C. "White H83" in fictional Dutch markings .
The decals are thin and glossy with a crystal clear carrier film, but the colours are inaccurate. No stencil markings are provided. Call-outs are given for Gunze Sangyo, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol, so no-one should have trouble finding suitable model paints - but do be very wary of the colours suggested - i.e. "Light Gull" undersides for the RAF option, along with a White (instead of Sky) spinner and fuselage band.
What a tough call to give an overall score! If you're happy with Trumpeter's Spiteful OOB, then it'll be a simple and attractive build, but if you want to do some simple corrections to the exhausts, undercarriage and cockpit area, and replace the decals, it'll undoubtedly look a lot better. If you really want to be ambitious and start tackling the problems that seem to surround the wing, then you're in for some quite complicated work. At least it's affordable enough not to deter those who want to try a bit of radical surgery.
My over-riding impression is of a wasted opportunity, because Trumpeter took the unusual and very laudable step of posting shots of the early pattern-model online and inviting feedback to help perfect the finished kit. Sadly, much of the advice that followed doesn't seem to have made it through to the finished product.
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