At the end of World War II, crated Spitfire MkXIVs had been sent to RAF squadrons in Burma. Fighting ended before they could be uncrated and made operational. Rather than bother shipping them home, the Spits were simply buried as the RAF went home.
Spitfire warbirds are among the most popular airshow attractions. The Spit’s clean lines and the purr of the fantastic Merlin engine have serious devotees on both sides of the Atlantic.
But the MkXIV, while still a Spitfire, is a very much different bird than what we picture from the Battle of Britain and other popular culture.
By late 1941, the early Spitfires were becoming outclassed by later Bf109s, and the Fw190. There was a finite limit to how much power the Merlin engine could provide. So Supermarine and Rolls Royce turned to the much larger Griffon engine. The larger engine, with greater torque, required a new, 5-bladed propeller, larger tail surfaces, and a larger fuselage to accommodate much greater fuel capacity. The Griffon sucked gas much faster than the Merlin, and just to maintain the Spitfire’s already modest range required stuffing gas tanks in all sorts of odd places.
Personally, I’m something of a fan of the Griffon powered birds. Some folks might call me a heretic for that. But the late model Spits show just how right the original Spitfire design was. Only a fundamentally sound original design would be so capable of such evolution.