The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during and after the Second World War. The Spitfire was built in many variants, using several wing configurations, and was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be a popular aircraft, with approximately 55 Spitfires being airworthy, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums all over the world.
The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928). In accordance with its role as an interceptor, Mitchell designed the Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wing to have the thinnest possible cross-section; this thin wing enabled the Spitfire to have a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the development of the Spitfire through its multitude of variants.
During the Battle of Britain (July–October 1940), the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes.
After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlin and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW); as a consequence of this the Spitfire’s performance and capabilities improved, sometimes dramatically, over the course of its life.
Mk V (Types 331, 349 & 352)
Spitfire LF.Mk VB, BL479, flown by Group Captain M.W.S Robinson, station commander of RAF Northolt, August 1943. This Spitfire has the wide bladed Rotol propeller, the internal armoured windscreen and "clipped" wings.
Late in 1940, the RAF predicted that the advent of the pressurised Junkers Ju 86P bomber series over Britain would be the start of a new sustained high altitude bombing offensive by the Luftwaffe, in which case development was put in hand for a pressurised version of the Spitfire, with a new version of the Merlin (the Mk VI). It would take some time to develop the new fighter and an emergency stop-gap measure was needed as soon as possible: this was the Mk V.
The basic Mk V was a Mk I with the Merlin 45 series engine. This engine delivered 1,440 hp (1,074 kW) at take-off, and incorporated a new single-speed single-stage supercharger design. Improvements to the carburettor also allowed the Spitfire to use zero gravity manoeuvres without any problems with fuel flow. Several Mk I and Mk II airframes were converted to Mk V standard by Supermarine and started equipping fighter units from early 1941. The majority of the Mk Vs were built at Castle Bromwich.
The VB became the main production version of the Mark Vs. Along with the new Merlin 45 series the B wing was fitted as standard. As production progressed changes were incorporated, some of which became standard on all later Spitfires. Production started with several Mk IBs which were converted to Mk VBs by Supermarine. Starting in early 1941 the round section exhaust stacks were changed to a "fishtail" type, marginally increasing exhaust thrust. Some late production VBs and VCs were fitted with six shorter exhaust stacks per side, similar to those of Spitfire IXs and Seafire IIIs; this was originally stipulated as applying specifically to VB(trop)s. After some initial problems with the original Mk I size oil coolers, a bigger oil cooler was fitted under the port wing; this could be recognised by a deeper housing with a circular entry. From mid-1941 alloy covered ailerons became a universal fitting.
Spitfire VC(trop), fitted with Vokes filters and "disc" wheels, of 417 Squadron RCAF in Tunisia in 1943.
A constant flow of modifications were made as production progressed. A "blown" cockpit hood, manufactured by Malcolm, was introduced in an effort to further increase the pilot’s head-room and visibility. Many mid to late production VBs – and all VCs – used the modified, improved windscreen assembly with the integral bullet resistant centre panel and flat side screens introduced with the Mk III. Because the rear frame of this windscreen was taller than that of the earlier model the cockpit hoods were not interchangeable and could be distinguished by the wider rear framing on the hood used with the late-style windscreen.
Different propeller types were fitted, according to where the Spitfire V was built: Supermarine and Westland manufactured VBs and VCs used 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) diameter, 3 bladed de Havilland constant speed units, with narrow metal blades, while Castle Bromwich manufactured VBs and VCs were fitted with a wide bladed Rotol constant speed propeller of either 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) diameter, with metal blades, or (on late production Spitfires) 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m) diameter, with broader, "Jablo" (compressed wood) blades. The Rotol spinners were longer and more pointed than the de Havilland leading to a 3.5 in (8.9 cm) increase in overall length. The Rotol propellers allowed a modest speed increase over 20,000 ft (6,100 m) and an increase in the service ceiling. A large number of Spitfire VBs were fitted with "gun heater intensifier" systems on the exhaust stacks. These piped additional heated air into the gun bays. There was a short tubular intake on the front of the first stack and a narrow pipe led into the engine cowling from the rear exhaust.
The VB series were the first Spitfires able to carry a range of specially designed "slipper" drop tanks which were fitted underneath the wing centre-section. Small hooks were fitted, just forward of the inboard flaps: when the tank was released these hooks caught the trailing edge of the tank, swinging it clear of the fuselage.
With the advent of the superb Focke Wulf Fw 190 in August 1941 the Spitfire was for the first time truly outclassed, hastening the development of the "interim" Mk IX. In an effort to counter this threat, especially at lower altitudes, the VB was the first production version of the Spitfire to use "clipped" wingtips as an option, reducing the wingspan to 32 ft 2 in (9.8 m).The clipped wings increased the roll rate and airspeed at lower altitudes. Several different versions of the Merlin 45/50 family were used, including the Merlin 45M which had a smaller "cropped" supercharger impeller and boost increased to +18 lb. This engine produced 1,585 hp (1,182 kW) at 2,750 ft (838 m), increasing the L.F VB’s maximum rate of climb to 4720 ft/min (21.6 m/s) at 2,000 ft (610 m).
VB Trop of 40 Squadron SAAF fitted with the "streamlined" version of the Aboukir filter, a broad-bladed, 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m) diameter Rotol propeller, and clipped wings.
The Mk VB(trop) (or type 352) could be identified by the large Vokes air filter fitted under the nose; the reduced speed of the air to the supercharger had a detrimental effect on the performance of the aircraft, reducing the top speed by 8 mph (13 km/h) and the climb rate by 600 ft/min (3.04 m/s), but the decreased performance was considered acceptable. This variant was also fitted with a larger oil tank and desert survival gear behind the pilot’s seat. A new "desert" camouflage scheme was applied. Many VB(trop)s were modified by 103 MU (Maintenance Unit-RAF depots in which factory fresh aircraft were brought up to service standards before being delivered to squadrons) at Aboukir, Egypt by replacing the Vokes filter with locally manufactured "Aboukir" filters, which were lighter and more streamlined. Two designs of these filters can be identified in photos: one had a bulky, squared off filter housing while the other was more streamlined. These aircraft were usually fitted with the wide blade Rotol propeller and clipped wings.
Triumph Spitfire Mk I Roadster
The Triumph Spitfire is a small English two-seat sports car, introduced at the London Motor Show in 1962. The vehicle was based on a design produced for Standard-Triumph in 1957 by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. The platform for the car was largely based upon the chassis, engine, and running gear of the Triumph Herald saloon, and was manufactured at the Standard-Triumph works at Canley, in Coventry. As was typical for cars of this era, the bodywork was fitted onto a separate structural chassis, but for the Spitfire, which was designed as an open top or convertible sports car from the outset, the ladder chassis was reinforced for additional rigidity by the use of structural components within the bodywork. The Spitfire was provided with a manual hood for weather protection, the design improving to a folding hood for later models. Factory-manufactured hard-tops were also available.
The Triumph Spitfire was originally devised by Standard-Triumph to compete in the small sports car market that had opened up with the introduction of the Austin-Healey Sprite. The Sprite had used the basic drive train of the Austin A30/35 in a light body to make up a budget sports car; Triumph’s idea was to use the mechanicals from their small saloon, the Herald, to underpin the new project. Triumph had one advantage, however; where the Austin A30 range was of unitary construction, the Herald featured a separate chassis. It was Triumph’s intention to cut that chassis down and clothe it in a sports body, saving the costs of developing a completely new chassis / body unit.
Italian designer Michelotti—who had already penned the Herald—was commissioned for the new project, and came up with a traditional, swooping body. Wind-up windows were provided (in contrast to the Sprite/Midget, which still featured sidescreens, also called curtains, at that time), as well as a single-piece front end which tilted forwards to offer unrivaled access to the engine. At the dawn of the 1960s, however, Standard-Triumph was in deep financial trouble, and unable to put the new car into production; it was not until the company was taken over by the Leyland organization funds became available and the car was launched. Leyland officials, taking stock of their new acquisition, found Michelotti’s prototype hiding under a dust sheet in a corner of the factory and rapidly approved it for production.
Spitfire 4 or Mark I (1962-1964)
Engine1,147 cc (1.1 l) I4
Transmission4-speed manual with optional overdrive on top and third from 1963 onwards
Curb weight1,568 lb (711 kg) (unladen U.K.-spec)
The production car changed little from the prototype, although the full-width rear bumper was dropped in favour of two part-bumpers curving round each corner, with overriders. Mechanicals were basically stock Herald. The engine was an 1,147 cc (1.1 l) 4-cylinder with a pushrod OHV cylinder head and 2 valves per cylinder, mildly tuned for the Spitfire, fed by twin SU carburettors. Also from the Herald came the rack and pinion steering and coil-and-wishbone front suspension up front, and at the rear a single transverse-leaf swing axle arrangement. This ended up being the most controversial part of the car: it was known to "tuck in" and cause violent over steer if pushed too hard, even in the staid Herald. In the sportier Spitfire (and later the 6-cylinder Triumph GT6 and Triumph Vitesse) it led to severe criticism. The body was bolted to a much-modified Herald chassis, the outer rails and the rear outriggers having been removed; little of the original Herald chassis design was left, and the Spitfire used structural outer sills to stiffen its body tub.
The Spitfire was an inexpensive small sports car and as such had very basic trim, including rubber mats and a large plastic steering wheel. These early cars were referred to both as "Triumph Spitfire Mark I" and "Spitfire 4", not to be confused with the later Spitfire Mark IV.
In UK specification the in-line four produced 63 bhp (47 kW) at 5750 rpm, and 67 lb·ft (91 N·m)of torque at 3500 rpm. This gave a top speed of 92 mph (148 km/h), and would achieve 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 17.3 seconds. Average fuel consumption was 31mpg.
For 1964 an overdrive option was added to the 4-speed manual gearbox to give more relaxed cruising. Wire wheels and a hard top were also available.
Text regarding the Supermarine Spitfire aeroplane and Triumph Spitfire Roadster has been taken from excerpts of Wikipedia articles on each model.
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB aircraft and 1962 Triumph Spitfire Mk I road car have been modelled in Lego miniland-scale for Flickr LUGNuts’ 79th Build Challenge, – ‘LUGNuts goes Wingnuts, ‘ – featuring automotive vehicles named after, inspired by, or with some relationship to aircraft.
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