9. Messerschmitt Bf 109 - 1935
Adolph Galland - Eduard
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Kit: 1/48 Eduard Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4
Decals: Straight out of the box
Date: Sep 2012
History: The Bf 109 may well be the most kitted aircraft in the scale modeling world today. Virtually every version of the ubiquitous fighter is available in every scale. In a plastic model version of an arms race, different manufacturers have been steadily introducing new Bf 109 kits all the time, each one always trying to outdo the other.
They wouldn’t make the kits if they didn’t sell, so I think it’s time we modelers admit we have a problem - and by that I mean a Bf 109 addiction. I’m not one to talk. In the last few years I have built four different Bf 109s, yet in that time I have not built a single Mustang, Thunderbolt, Mosquito, Fw 190, Corsair, or Hellcat, just to name a few. Like I said, it’s time to admit I have a problem.
I was on my way to solving that problem when Eduard came out with a brand new 1/48 Bf 109E-4. And as the saying goes, so much for that.
The Kit: A couple of years ago Eduard launched an all new line of 1/32 Emils that have been generally well received, albeit not without some gnashing of teeth by modelers on other websites. Within the last year Eduard started a new line of 1/48 Emils, the first offering being an E-1 that appeared in January. They followed that up with a Royal Class release in April that provided all of the parts needed to build two Emils in either E-1, E-3, E-4, or E-7 guises. This kit is thus their third 1/48 Emil release, and upon opening the box, there is a lot to like. There are four sprues of finely molded parts in Eduard’s typical olive-beige plastic, one sprue of transparent parts, two frets of photo etch (including one color set which includes precisely printed instrument panels, seat belts, and cockpit sidewall details), a set of yellow “kabuki” tape cockpit masks, and two sheets of decals - one for stencils and one for the markings for five different Bf 109E-4s. Amongst those plastic sprues are the parts to build a nicely detailed DB601a engine and the machine gun bay above it, as well as the separate cowling panels needed to display them open if desired. Other options include separate leading edge extensions, flaps, ailerons, and the rudder. Two different windscreens are included, as well as two different prop spinners. The fuselage and wing surfaces are sublimely molded, with row after row of tiny, recessed rivet heads that should look great under a coat of paint and some weathering. The instruction booklet provides very detailed, full color painting instructions for each of the five aircraft that can be built out of the box.
I decided to build my Emil as a replica of Adolf Galland’s famous Werknummer #5819, and started to build.
Construction: Construction began with the cockpit as usual. The seat, rudder pedals, control stick and other details all fasten to a floor plate while the instrument panel builds into a separate assembly. I airbrushed those two subassemblies and the cockpit sidewalls Testors Acrylic RLM 02 Grey, then followed that up with a wash of MIG Productions Dark Brown. I then began adding the various parts, plastic and photo etch, as prescribed by the instructions, painting each by hand as I went until the cockpit was completely built up and painted. I finished it off by using some tiny amounts of Vallejo Chocolate Brown to create a paint chipping effect.
The next step is to build the engine, and it’s here that you have to decide if your Emil’s engine compartment is going to be buttoned up or naked for the world to see. I went the former route, and you have to follow the instructions carefully as in this case the engine serves primarily to hold the exhaust stubs in place (which by the way have noticeable ribs molded onto them – do not file those off!)
Before you can close up the fuselage halves you have to build and paint the very delicate tail wheel. I next glued the cockpit tub onto the starboard fuselage half, as well as the instrument panels, the plate behind the pilot’s seat, and the radiator assembly under the engine. Closing up the fuselage halves required some attention as you have to make sure all of those items line up nicely as well as trap the engine in such a way that the exhaust stubs snake through their respective slots in the fuselage halves. Ultimately the fit is very good, but make sure you do some test-fitting beforehand. The only real seam work I did on the fuselage was on the underside of the nose.
Up next I attached the various cowling panels around the engine. Once again the fit is very good, but you do have to some test fitting and fiddling. This may turn off those that want a “shake n’ bake” kit, but I like where Eduard is going with this. Once assembled the collection of different cowling panels all sit just a tiny bit proud of each other, which to my eye looks more realistic. Another neat feature revolved around the gun barrels in the nose. Eduard provides a single piece containing both barrels that fits into the upper cowling section. The hollow tips of the barrels are very finely molded inside and out, so there is no need to drill them out – a process I often bungle.
With the fuselage complete I turned my attention to the wings. Again the detail of the parts is impressive, and the fit was flawless. The ailerons, flaps, and leading edge slats are all separate parts and can be posed open or closed, up or down, or anywhere in between. As with the nose Eduard provides hollow gun barrel stubs for the wings. Very quickly I had the wings assembled and the very minimal seams sanded. I went ahead and glued them to the fuselage. The fit was excellent – I held them in place with tape and then ran some cement into the joints to make a solid assembly; no filler needed.
Up next I attached the rudder and horizontal stabilizers, and followed that up with the transparent canopy windscreen and aft parts. I applied the masks that came with the kit, masked off the cockpit opening, and headed for the spray booth.
Painting and Markings: A primer coat of Tamiya Surface Primer was sprayed on first, followed by some Tamiya XF-2 White on the areas that will be painted yellow, which in this case were the nose and rudder. I preshaded the panel lines with some Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black and then I painted the aforementioned yellow areas Testors Acrylic Insignia Yellow. That was masked off using Tamiya’s masking tape and then I airbrushed Testors Acrylic RLM 02 onto the wings and upper fuselage as the first camouflage coat. That was followed by Testors Acrylic RLM 71, per the well-known RLM 65/02/71 early war camouflage scheme. For RLM 65 I mixed a 50/50 batch of Tamiya XF-23 Light Blue and XF-2 White and airbrushed it onto the undersides of the airframe as well as up the fuselage sides, carefully mottling it with the RLM 02/71 that was on the aircraft’s spine.
Galland’s 5819 had a good amount of RLM 02/71 mottling all over the RLM 65 Light Blue, so to I replicated that using the kit’s instructions as a guide. I also had to mask off a portion of the rudder and spray that with my RLM 65 mix to display Galland’s kill markings. Once everything was dry I sprayed Future onto the whole model in preparation for the decals.
I used the kit’s decals and they behaved beautifully. Very thin, a little bit of Walthers Solvaset was all that was needed to get them to snuggle down nicely. I have to say, I think they were the best aircraft model decals I’ve worked with in the recent past. Once they were dry I airbrushed another layer of Future over them to seal them.
Final Weathering: When the Future had cured I used a small brush to apply a pin wash of Mig Productions “Dark Wash” to all of the panel lines and the rivets. As promised those subtly molded lines of rivets look excellent with the wash - just drawing enough attention from your eye without looking too dominant. Up next I airbrushed a coat of Testors Lacquer Flat Finish onto the whole model. I diluted the Flat Finish with just a few drops of Lacquer Thinner and then used the Turquoise Aztec tip instead of the Beige tip that I usually used in the past. I found the results to be excellent with this technique - the Flat Finish sprayed more finely and smoothly than in the past. I’ll be using the Turquoise tip for this task from now on.
I post-shaded the panel lines with a very dilute mix of 50/50 Tamiya XF1 Black and Tamiya XF64 Red Brown, keeping it subtle as I didn’t want the model to look too dirty. I used the same mix to add fairly grimy engine exhaust streaks on either side of the fuselage. I added some very subtle paint chips around the nose and the wing roots using a Silver Berol pencil. My final weathering step was to simulate some dust and dirt on the undercarriage using some beige pastel powder.
With the weathering finished all that was left was to glue the final fragile parts in place. I posed the canopy in the open position and attached it in using Testors Clear Parts Cement. The mast was then added, and I used EZ Line to simulate the antenna wire. The landing gear went on without a hitch, as did the prop. I added the tiny aileron mass balances and Pitot tube, and then painted the wingtip lights Tamiya Clear Red and Blue respectively. And with that, the model was done.
Conclusion: This kit is an absolute gem. With all that Eduard provides in the box, you won’t need to buy a single aftermarket item, save for maybe decals. The level of detail is very high and the quality of the molded surfaces is superb. For US $40 this kit represents a fantastic value and Eduard is to be commended; they just keep getting better and better. I can’t wait to tackle some more of Eduard’s recent offerings – and I dream about what they have in store for us in the future.
- Osprey Publications, Aircraft of the Aces #11, “Bf 109D/E Aces 1939-41”
- Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft in Action #44, “Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Action, Part 1”
- Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft Walk Around #34, “Messerschmitt Bf 109E”
- Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia