Tamiya Spitfire Mk.VIII Build Report 2: Merlin Build-Up

One thing most nations discovered during the course of World War II was that engines mattered. A lot. In fighter aircraft especially, the choice of engine could decide whether a new airframe turned into a war-winner, or got relegated to secondary theaters and lesser allies.

The Spitfire never had to worry about that. It started the war with perhaps the most famous piston engine of all time – the Rolls-Royce Merlin. While versions of the Merlin would eventually find their way into everything from the Avro Lancaster bomber to the American P-51 Mustang, it’s proper home was and always will be beneath the cowl of a Spitfire.

Building Up the Merlin

The extremely detailed Merlin engine Tamiya provides with their Spitfire VIII spans over two entire sprues, with additional bits scattered across the rest of the kit. Overall, it makes for a built that’s complicated in process, but straightforward in execution. Save for the exhaust stacks, whose mounting stubs could have been better designed and went in with an Eduard-like “god I hope I get these aligned right” feeling.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Initial buildup went fast, even with the Barracudacast rocker covers (purchased for the embossed Rolls-Royce logo). I started to use Eduard’s PE set on the engine, but found it needlessly fussy and not to my liking, so apart from a bit here and a piece there, it sits unused.

Basic Merlin buildup from Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk.VIII

Once initial buildup of the engine, carburetor and supercharger were complete, I painted them all semi-gloss black using a mix of Tamiya X-1 and XF-1 blacks. I got the red lettering of the Rolls-Royce logo by painting the area red first, masking, then drybrushing on top with Model Master Semi-Gloss Black enamel.

Initial test-fitting with the engine mounts proved a very perfect fit.

While I prepped and painted the firewall, frame, and other attachments RAF Interior Green, I did a bit of detailing on the engine. Next time around, I’d probably forgo this step, since the wiring is all but invisible once the outer frame and exhaust stacks go on.

Slowly but surely, everything came together. The bare metal bits were painted with Tamiya AS-12 Bare Metal Silver, then Alclad Aluminum. The exhausts were painted with a 50/50 mix of Alclad Steel and Exhaust Manifold. Everything got a raw umber oil wash, followed by some selective pigments…mostly Black Smoke, Africa Earth, Europe Dust, Russian Earth, and Burnt Steel Blue, all by MIG.

Here’s the end result…

Regarding the rest of the aircraft…it’s been primed. The wings and prop tips just got their coat of yellow tonight (MM Deep Yellow), and the gun fairings and propeller cap got shot up in Model Master Insignia Red. A few more details to see to, and then it’s hardcore into the painting. Stay tuned!

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