I really like the Spitfire. I’ve built almost as many of them as I have F-4 Phantom IIs. So, when the opportunity came to build a Seafire for a review, I volunteered. Does begging and pleading count as volunteering? Anyway, I got the new Sword Seafire Mk XVII, and Brian Baker got the Seafire III.
The Seafire was a much desired aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm dearly wanted a high-performance fighter for their carriers. Because production of RAF Spitfires was a much higher priority, they got Blackburn Rocs (which were insufficient), Wildcats (Martlets), and Hellcats. The first Seafires were modified Spitfire Mk Vs. As Spitfires evolved, the Seafires changed, too.
The Mk XV Seafire had the Griffon engine, but had some problems which were fixed on the Mk XVII. The biggest problem was fixed by strengthening the landing gear and changing the rebound on the oleos in the gear struts. This prevented the prop from “pecking” the deck when the arrestor hook engaged and also reduced bouncing over the arrestor wires and into the barrier. There’s also a frame which prevents the tail wheel from catching in the wires, which could rip the wheel off – another undesired event. The upgraded gear also reduced the tendency to swing to the left when power was applied for take-off, even with full opposite rudder.
The kit is not very complicated, with one big sprue for the wing and small parts, one for the fuselage halves, a clear sprue, and two sets of resin parts with the exhausts and cannons. The injection-molded parts are not as crisp and flash-free as many newer kits because Sword uses less expensive, lower pressure molds. This allows them a lower break-even point on a kit, which means they can do less popular aircraft since they don’t have to sell a bazillion kits to make a profit. So they can do a Seafire instead of another Spirfire Mk V or IX.
Of course, the extra flash and less crisp edges mean a little more work in the assembly. OK, if that’s what I have to do to get a Seafire, that’s acceptable. As a friend once said, “Is this a pragmatist’s hobby?”
There’s a nice interior, which goes together well. I had some trouble with the glue not wanting to work on the plastic. I finally wound up using Testors Liquid cement, which worked pretty well. I had to do a little trimming to get the fuselage halves to fit around the interior. Test fit, test fit, trim, test fit again, then apply glue is a good rule to use on this kit.
The nose of the fuselage requires some trimming, cutting, and test fitting. In order to get the correct Griffon engine shape on the cowling, the top of the nose is two separate parts. There’s also a slot for the exhausts, which has a box inside the cowl to hold the exhausts. The box is blocked from fitting by a large extension inside the fuselage halves. After cutting this off with a razor saw, I still had to sand down the slots on the cowls and the edges of the boxes to get the exhausts to line up. The exhausts are certainly lovely bits of resin, though – well worth all the work to get them in there.
After a couple hours work to get the cowl and exhausts right, I ran into another “craftsman’s moment” with the wings. There are no locating pegs, pins, slots, or indicators where the lower wing fits to the fuselage. I did my best to get this part aligned, but I should have test fitted the wing tops to the fuselage/lower wing before the glue set. The wing tops and bottom also had to have those pegs removed before they’d fit. As it is, I went back 30 years to the old technique of putting a gob of putty on the wing/fuselage joins and making them fit by sanding the joint smooth.
The horizontal stabilizers also require care and alignment. There is no slot or tab, just a small place to fit the stabs to. The instructions tell you that these parts are at 90 degrees to the vertical stabilizer. I wound up using CA on these, with a Lego block to keep the parts perpendicular until I could apply accelerator.
Once I had the fuselage mostly done, with the wings and stabs installed, it was time for paint and decals.
I chose the aircraft from No 1833 RNVS at Bramcote in 1949 because it was the one that wasn’t a training aircraft. It was pretty simple to paint, as the whole underside and sides were Sky, and the top of the wings, fuselage and stabs were Extra Dark Sea Grey, which is also Gunship Gray FS 36118. Paint the sky, mask, add the gray. The spinner is red, the props are black with yellow tips. Spray the whole thing with Future to give a gloss finish, and it’s ready for decals.
The decals are very thin and somewhat fragile. I had no trouble with the roundels, the underwing serials, or the “Royal Navy” markings on the fuselage. But when it came to the 151 on the fuselage sides, I managed to fold and tear both decals. OK, fixable. Scan the instruction, print new numbers on laser decal film, and it looks OK. If you look closely, the 151s are a little less intensely black than the BR on the tail. The decals went on and snuggled nicely with Micro Scale’s Micro Set. Another coat of Future to even out the glossiness of the decals versus the aircraft, then I applied a coat of acrylic flat. There was no difference in glossiness between the paint and decals, even when viewed at an acute angle with the light.
I always leave off the prop, landing gear and small parts until I finish decals because I usually manage to destroy something while doing decals.
The canopy fit was excellent. I almost forgot the gun sight, but it went in and the canopy fit over it cleanly. The canopy is thin and clear, but not fragile.
I had to work to get the wheels and gear legs to go together, as there’s just a slight depression where the gear legs go instead of a deeper hole. CA is my friend. I also had to use CA on the deflector in front of the tail wheel.
The prop and spinner assembly was far easier than I feared. The blades each have a little pin at the base, and there’s a corresponding hole in the base of the spinner. At last, locating lugs and holes! It allowed me to get the prop pitch correct on the first try.
Recommended. It’s not a quick and simple kit for the novice. On the other hand, it’s absolutely the finest kit of a Seafire Mk 17 available anywhere. It requires extra work and care, but the results are worth it. Even the average (or slightly below, like me) modeler can turn out a good representation of a rare bird with this kit.
Thanks to Sword Models and Squadron Products for providing the sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.