Kit Preview: Airfix’s 1/48 Messerschmitt Bf109E-1/3/4

Steve Budd (Agape forum member Dances with Wolves) provides us with this very thorough examination of Airfix’s newly released “Emil”. And it sounds like it is a great kit to build- if you can get your hands on one! Thanks so much for this review, brother Steve!

Review References
Histoire & Collections Messerschmitt Me109 Volume 1 ‘From 1936 to 1942 by Anis Elbied and Andre Jouineau. SAM Publications Modellers Datafile No 9 The Messerschmitt Bf109 Part 1: Prototype to ‘E’ Varients by Lynn Ritger.

Prologue
As iconic to the Germans as the Spitfire is to the British, Willy Messerschmitt’s compact and hugely distinctive little fighter remained in service throughout World War II, proving the durability of its core design principals.

Kit Manufacturer:Airfix
Kit:Messerschmitt Bf109E-1 / 3 / 4
Kit Number:A05120
Decal Options:Three provided in the kit
Price:£13.99

By the time Germany stood on the North Coast of France and looked across the Channel towards Britain, its Luftwaffe was already fielding the latest production version of the 109 – the ‘Emil’. Mounting the new Daimler Benz 601A direct fuel injection engine, producing 1100hp, necessitated increasing the nose length by some 25cms over the 109 ‘D’. The air scoop under the front fuselage was made shallower and a pair of radiators either side of the lower center section appeared.

The inevitable penalty in all this, as well as changes to the armament packages, was increased weight and the Emil tipped the scales some 360kg heavier than its Dora cousin. Pilots reported a hardening in the control commands and a widening of the turning circle at combat speeds.

The Boxed Variants

Airfix list the E-1, E-3 and E-4 as options straight from the box and endorse this with their three decal choices by giving markings for one of each variant.

Now, I’m no 109 experten but I believe (given the parts in the kit) that you can, if you have decals to match, build the following –

  • E-1 DB601A1 engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two in the wings.
  • E-3 DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings (may sometimes require a small scratch built canopy mirror)
  • E-3B Fighter-bomber version ETC500 rack and an SC250kg bomb. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings.
  • E-4 Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.
  • E-4 Tropical Air filter modified. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.
  • E-4B Fighter-bomber version ETC500 rack and an SC250kg bomb. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.
  • E-4N DB601N 1200hp engine fitted using C-3 fuel (96 or 100 octane). Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.
  • E-7 DB601A or DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat. 66 gallon (300 litre) drop tank fitted.
  • E-7 Tropical DB601N 1200hp engine fitted using C-3 fuel (96 or 100 octane). Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat. Air filter modified. Mauser Kar 98 rifle installed in rear fuselage in case of forced landings.
  • E-7B DB601A or DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat. Fitted with ETC50 rack and four SC50kg bombs.
  • E-8 Long range fighter. DB601A engine fitted. 66 gallon (300 litre) drop tank fitted, together with E-1 type canopy.

That’s eleven variants perfectly possible, straight from the box with the proviso that you may need to scratch up a rear view mirror depending on your references. To my knowledge and understanding, that’s never previously been offered within a single boxing before, so very, very well done Airfix on providing a product that can draw from pretty much every aftermarket Emil sheet ever produced and at a very affordable price too.

The Parts
The following is merely my personal, very much ‘non-expert’ opinion and is in no way intended as any kind of deal breaker – quite the opposite in fact.

The Propeller
The blades give the impression of being a little lacking in width and their chord, compared to close up photos of crashed Emil front ends, is a bit narrow. This doesn’t bother me and a decent coat of RLM70 won’t exacerbate the feature either.

The one prop feature that is very prominent (and insufficiently represented), are the pitch adjusting cuffs at the foot of each blade. They sit proud of the spinner cut-outs and while an attempt to depict them has been made it’s not emphatic enough.

The undercarriage legs
A commentator elsewhere indicated that the legs appeared to be too long and demonstrated this by the brilliantly simple expedient of simply laying the legs in the wells of the lower wing piece. Sure enough, the axles were too far outboard. Looking at the legs to me suggests that the slider / torque scissor combo is modelled in the ‘unloaded’ state (i.e. aircraft off the ground) and that the slider needs shortening by some 2/3rds.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘how did he know the wells are the correct length’? The SAM Publications plans verify the shape, position and size of the wells and so appear to bear out the test. With the exception of the apparently unloaded oleos I’m not sure it’s an issue beyond simply that, so my build will just replace the slider with a piece of rod suitably reduced.

The legs are very helpfully fitted with square pegs for alignment and security and Airfix provide clear diagrams to assist in rake and splay, although I believe the pegs are a very tight fit and so may need to be slightly slackened to facilitate adjustment.

Wheels
These are gently weighted with good realism and have separate outer hubs for crisp painting. Tread is recessed and ‘wraps’ over from rim to rim (it’s the same in the Tamiya kit) but my photos show tread only in the contact area with the ground. Tyres which appear to show wrapped tread are instead seams that are slightly raised. So, either leave ‘as is’ (I did in my Tom Meyers E-3 build of the Tamiya kit) or fill the tyre sides or fill completely and replace with fine stretched sprue.

Fuselage
Knowing that the Tamiya kit is in error on this point, I checked the fuselage stations (the vertical panel lines from the rear cockpit back to the tail) to see if they were equidistant from each other. They weren’t and are therefore correct – full marks Airfix. Surface engraving is very well handled and will respond perfectly to your favourite weathering and accenting techniques. A more ambitious depiction of the DB601 engine (compared to Tamiya – that’s just a simply block) is moulded into each half and comes with separate bearers on the sprues if you intend to leave the upper cowl off. It’ll look ok ‘as is’ but if this is your preference it’d benefit from as much scratch building as you can throw at it – or better still, cut out the relief moulding and shoe-horn a resin engine into the space that comes with ammo boxes and MGs.

Slats and control surfaces
They’re all separates. Better still, Airfix have rounded the contact areas to make them genuinely positionable – great for a more animated pose, just make sure your rudder and stick match.

I believe the slats were spring loaded and only deployed close to the stall, so your parked 109 should theoretically depict them deployed.

Wings Detail
Matches the fuselage beautifully and the word on the street is there’s absolutely no gap to the root. Marvelous.

Cockpit
Thirteen parts end up here and will build up into a great pilot’s station – speaking of which, Airfix supply one! The instructions show him with a right jolly expression of carefree happiness – clearly Goering’s just told him the RAF will be a push-over and 30+ plus miles of cold sea each way will never be an issue with the fuel gauge against the stop. By the time our pilot appears in plastic, his expression has changed to more properly reflect the reality of the task ahead. I think I’m going to use him.

Beyond that, the oxygen bottle is somewhat anemic but a bit of thin card cemented over it and suitably drilled will bulk it out to proper dimensions. The IP will benefit from some of Mike Grant’s superb cockpit instrument decals (the sheets also provide placards too) so do your lovely Emil a favour and get some.

Ordnance
With ETC50 and ETC500 racks in the box you can dress your Emil as a Jabo raider with four SC50, one SC250 or one SC500 bomb. With so much in the box you’ll have supplies for the spares box that can also be added to the Tamiya E-3s, 4s and 7s as well.

The clear bits
You get four front windscreens, armoured and unarmoured, including that adapted to accommodate the telescopic sight Galland used to identify targets at distance (rather than in the cut and thrust of combat). There are two centre sections and two rear sections – the E-4 centre canopy has a bracing frame across the middle of the top panel and sides, which I believe was copied by Airfix from the Hendon Emil that has (I think) a ‘G’ mid section canopy, presumably retro-fitted during the restoration as an expedient. Some sanding and polishing will cure it – the panels are flat and as amenable to this kind of work as you could hope for so don’t sweat it.

Miscellaneous
Parts will need careful removal in some places but happily there is a tool available on Micromark in the US that will make that much easier in many cases – I know because I have one . Called a Tweezer Sprue Cutter, it can access very narrow, hard to access sprue gates with ease. Highly recommended.

Decals
First up, a Bf109E-4N flown by Major Adolf Galland, Geschwader Kommodore of Stab JG26, Audembert, France in late 1940.

Second option is the hapless Bf109E-3 of Johann Boehm, 4./Jagdgeschwader 51 ‘Molders’, France, 8 July 1940 – the first Luftwaffe fighter to be shot down over the UK, crash landing at Bladbean Hill in Kent.

Lastly, a Bf109E-1B, pilot unknown, from II (Schlact) Lehrgeschwader 2, Calais-Marck region, France, September 1940.

The decals are backed up with a superb four view glossy colour guide for each aircraft, presented on a single sheet that also includes a very high quality parts map.

The markings have a matt finish and no comments on their performance are possible at this stage as they’re yet to be tested. I’m sure they’ll be fine and while commentators elsewhere report something of a ‘dot matrix’ finish this is not discernible to the naked eye. In any event, aftermarket decals exist by the bucket load, so there’s acres of choice beyond the box options.

Conclusions
Airfix deserve great credit for doing such an all encompassing, ‘belt and braces’ job on their quarter scale Emil. Proof of its success lies in the fact that Airfix sold out in short order following its release – I never even saw one at Hannants in Colindale they flew out again so fast! I only found my one at Modelzone in Croydon by chance, tucked away and none too obvious – and very glad about it I am; it won’t be my last.

That success is owed to four main factors I believe:

  1. It’s a perennially popular subject
  2. The Airfix rendition is incredibly well appointed and the box overflows with variant options and equipment fit.
  3. The price is very competitively placed.
  4. The quality overall is truly excellent.

With many kits achieving stratospheric prices, the Airfix Emil will undoubtedly continue to make an absolute killing. Manufacturers that offer quality and realistic pricing will emerge triumphant from the madness we’re currently witnessing. There will always be a percentage of modellers able and willing to ignore whatever ‘high end’ price is on the box but I sense a groundswell of support for this kind of intelligently marketed and presented product that will hopefully result in some manufacturers and importers having to rein themselves in.

Support Airfix and buy with confidence – just don’t blame me if you can’t decide which marking options to choose; just buy more Emils!

Kit Manufacturer: Airfix

Kit: Messerschmitt Bf109E-1 / 3 / 4

Kit Number: A05120

Scale: 1:48

Decal Options: Three provided in the kit

Price: £13.99

Review References: Histoire & Collections Messerschmitt Me109
Volume 1 ‘From 1936 to 1942 by Anis Elbied and Andre Jouineau.
SAM Publications Modellers Datafile No 9 The Messerschmitt
Bf109 Part 1: Prototype to ‘E’ Varients by Lynn Ritger.

Prologue: As iconic to the Germans as the Spitfire is to the British, Willy
Messerschmitt’s compact and hugely distinctive little fighter remained in
service throughout World War II, proving the durability of its core design
principals.

By the time Germany stood on the North Coast of France and looked
across the Channel towards Britain, its Luftwaffe was already fielding
the latest production version of the 109 – the ‘Emil’. Mounting the new
Daimler Benz 601A direct fuel injection engine, producing 1100hp,
necessitated increasing the nose length by some 25cms over the
109 ‘D’. The air scoop under the front fuselage was made shallower
and a pair of radiators either side of the lower center section appeared.

The inevitable penalty in all this, as well as changes to the armament
packages, was increased weight and the Emil tipped the scales some
360kg heavier than its Dora cousin. Pilots reported a hardening in the
control commands and a widening of the turning circle at combat speeds.

The Boxed Varients: Airfix list the E-1, E-3 and E-4 as options straight
from the box and endorse this with their three decal choices by giving
markings for one of each variant.

Now, I’m no 109 experten but I believe (given the parts in the kit)
that you can, if you have decals to match, build the following –

E-1 DB601A1 engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two in the
wings.

E-3 DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs
in the wings (may sometimes require a small scratch built canopy mirror)

E-3B Fighter-bomber version ETC500 rack and an SC250kg bomb. Two
MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings.

E-4 Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified
canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.

E-4 Tropical Air filter modified. Two MG17s over the engine, two MG
FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s
seat.

E-4B Fighter-bomber version ETC500 rack and an SC250kg bomb. Two
MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and
armour plating behind pilot’s seat.

E-4N DB601N 1200hp engine fitted using C-3 fuel (96 or 100 octane).
Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy
and armour plating behind pilot’s seat.

E-7 DB601A or DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the
engine, two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour
plating behind pilot’s seat. 66 gallon (300 litre) drop tank fitted.

E-7 Tropical DB601N 1200hp engine fitted using C-3 fuel (96 or
100 octane). Two MG17s over the engine, two MG FFs in the wings.
Modified canopy and armour plating behind pilot’s seat. Air filter
modified. Mauser Kar 98 rifle installed in rear fuselage in case of forced
landings.

E-7B DB601A or DB601Aa engine fitted. Two MG17s over the engine,
two MG FFs in the wings. Modified canopy and armour plating behind
pilot’s seat. Fitted with ETC50 rack and four SC50kg bombs.

E-8 Long range fighter. DB601A engine fitted. 66 gallon (300 litre) drop
tank fitted, together with E-1 type canopy.

That’s eleven varients perfectly possible, straight from the box with the
proviso that you may need to scratch up a rear view mirror depending
on your references. To my knowledge and understanding, that’s never
previously been offered within a single boxing before, so very, very well
done Airfix on providing a product that can draw from pretty much every
aftermarket Emil sheet ever produced and at a very affordable price too.

The Parts: The following is merely my personal, very much ‘non-expert’
opinion and is in no way intended as any kind of deal breaker – quite the
opposite in fact.

The Propeller The blades give the impression of being a little lacking in
width and their chord, compared to close up photos of crashed Emil front
ends, is a bit narrow. This doesn’t bother me and a decent coat of RLM70
won’t exacerbate the feature either.

The one prop feature that is very prominent (and insufficiently
represented), are the pitch adjusting cuffs at the foot of each blade. They
sit proud of the spinner cut-outs and while an attempt to depict them has
been made it’s not emphatic enough.

The undercarriage legs A commentator elsewhere indicated that the
legs appeared to be too long and demonstrated this by the brilliantly
simple expedient of simply laying the legs in the wells of the lower
wing piece. Sure enough, the axles were too far outboard. Looking at the
legs to me suggests that the slider / torque scissor combo is modelled in
the ‘unloaded’ state (i.e. aircraft off the ground) and that the slider needs
shortening by some 2/3rds.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘how did he know the wells are the correct
length’? The SAM Publications plans verify the shape, position and size
of the wells and so appear to bear out the test. With the exception of
the apparently unloaded oleos I’m not sure it’s an issue beyond simply
that, so my build will just replace the slider with a piece of rod suitably
reduced.

The legs are very helpfully fitted with square pegs for alignment and
security and Airfix provide clear diagrams to assist in rake and splay,
although I believe the pegs are a very tight fit and so may need to be
slightly slackened to facilitate adjustment.

Wheels These are gently weighted with good realism and have separate
outer hubs for crisp painting. Tread is recessed and ‘wraps’ over from
rim to rim (it’s the same in the Tamiya kit) but my photos show tread
only in the contact area with the ground. Tyres which appear to show
wrapped tread are instead seams that are slightly raised. So, either
leave ‘as is’ (I did in my Tom Meyers E-3 build of the Tamiya kit http:/
/agapemodels.com/?p=3602 ) or fill the tyre sides or fill completely and
replace with fine stretched sprue.

Fuselage Knowing that the Tamiya kit is in error on this point, I checked
the fuselage stations (the vertical panel lines from the rear cockpit back to
the tail) to see if they were equidistant from each other. They weren’t and
are therefore correct – full marks Airfix.
Surface engraving is very well handled and will respond perfectly to
your favourite weathering and accenting techniques. A more ambitious
depiction of the DB601 engine (compared to Tamiya – that’s just a
simply block) is moulded into each half and comes with separate bearers
on the sprues if you intend to leave the upper cowl off. It’ll look ok ‘as is’

but if this is your preference it’d benefit from as much scratch building as
you can throw at it – or better still, cut out the relief moulding and shoe-
horn a resin engine into the space that comes with ammo boxes and MGs.

Slats and control surfaces They’re all separates. Better still, Airfix have
rounded the contact areas to make them genuinely positionable – great for
a more animated pose, just make sure your rudder and stick match.

I believe the slats were spring loaded and only deployed close to the stall,
so your parked 109 should theoretically depict them deployed.

Wings Detail matches the fuselage beautifully and the word on
the street is there’s absolutely no gap to the root. Marvellous.

Cockpit Thirteen parts end up here and will build up into a great
pilot’s station – speaking of which, Airfix supply one! The instructions
show him with a right jolly expression of carefree happiness – clearly
Goering’s just told him the RAF will be a push-over and 30+ plus miles
of cold sea each way will never be an issue with the fuel gauge against
the stop. By the time our pilot appears in plastic, his expression has
changed to more properly reflect the reality of the task ahead. I think I’m
going to use him.

Beyond that, the oxygen bottle is somewhat anaemic but a bit of thin
card cemented over it and suitably drilled will bulk it out to proper
dimensions. The IP will benefit from some of Mike Grant’s superb
cockpit instrument decals (the sheets also provide placards too) so do
your lovely Emil a favour and get some.

Ordnance With ETC50 and ETC500 racks in the box you can dress your
Emil as a Jabo raider with four SC50, one SC250 or one SC500 bomb.
With so much in the box you’ll have supplies for the spares box that can
also be added to the Tamiya E-3s, 4s and 7s as well.

The clear bits You get four front windscreens, armoured and unarmoured,
including that adapted to accommodate the telescopic sight Galland
used to identify targets at distance (rather than in the cut and thrust of
combat). There are two centre sections and two rear sections – the E-4
centre canopy has a bracing frame across the middle of the top panel and
sides, which I believe was copied by Airfix from the Hendon Emil that
has (I think) a ‘G’ mid section canopy, presumably retro-fitted during the
restoration as an expedient. Some sanding and polishing will cure it – the
panels are flat and as amenable to this kind of work as you could hope for
so don’t sweat it.

Miscellaneous Parts will need careful removal in some places but
happily there is a tool available on Micromark in the US that will make
that much easier in many cases – I know because I have one – http://

www.micromark.com/TWEEZER-SPRUE-CUTTER-DESPRUING-
TWEEZER,8012.html Called a Tweezer Sprue Cutter, it access very
narrow, hard to access sprue gates with ease. Highly recommended.

Decals: First up, a Bf109E-4N flown by Major Adolf Galland,
Geschwader Kommodore of Stab JG26, Audembert, France in late 1940.

Second option is the hapless Bf109E-3 of Johann Boehm, 4./
Jagdgeschwader 51 ‘Molders’, France, 8 July 1940 – the first Luftwaffe
fighter to be shot down over the UK, crash landing at Bladbean Hill in
Kent.

Lastly, a Bf109E-1B, pilot unknown, from II (Schlact) Lehrgeschwader
2, Calais-Marck region, France, September 1940.

The decals are backed up with a superb four view glossy colour guide for
each aircraft, presented on a single sheet that also includes a very high
quality parts map.

The markings have a matt finish and no comments on their performance
are possible at this stage as they’re yet to be tested. I’m sure they’ll
be fine and while commentators elsewhere report something of a ‘dot
matrix’ finish this is not discernible to the naked eye. In any event,
aftermarket decals exist by the bucket load, so there’s acres of choice
beyond the box options.

Conclusions: Airfix deserve great credit for doing such an all
encompassing, ‘belt and braces’ job on their quarter scale Emil. Proof
of its success lies in the fact that Airfix sold out in short order following
its release – I never even saw one at Hannants in Colindale they flew out
again so fast! I only found my one at Modelzone in Croydon by chance,
tucked away and none too obvious – and very glad about it I am; it won’t
be my last.

That success is owed to four main factors I believe: 1. It’s a perennially
popular subject / 2. The Airfix rendition is incredibly well appointed and
the box overflows with variant options and equipment fit. / 3. The price is
very competitively placed. / 4. The quality overall is truly excellent.

With many kits achieving stratospheric prices, the Airfix Emil will
undoubtedly continue to make an absolute killing. Manufacturers that
offer quality and realistic pricing will emerge triumphant from the
madness we’re currently witnessing. There will always be a percentage
of modellers able and willing to ignore whatever ‘high end’ price
is on the box but I sense a groundswell of support for this kind of
intelligently marketed and presented product that will hopefully result
in some manufacturers and importers having to rein themselves in.

Support Airfix and buy with confidence – just don’t blame me if you
can’t decide which marking options to choose; just buy more Emils!

7 comments

  • I agree totally. I was really impressed when I opened mind.

    Now if Airfix only paid this much attention to their Mk I Spitfire. Oh well.

    Bo Roberts

  • The Mk. I was actually done by the “old” Airfix, and when Hornby took it over, they basically had the kits complete and ready to go. It did have a few “opportunities to excel”. 🙂

    The old Airfix was planning to release a 70th edition set in 1/48 of the then new-tool Mk. I and Mk. IX, and the very nice Mk. 22/24. They did release the five kit 1/72 set, which thankfully I was able to snag. 😉

    I’d love to see what Airfix under Hornby could do with a Mk. I! I’m looking forward to the planned Mk. XII- that will be the first 1/48 Spitfire under the “new” Airfix. (Or the Seafire Mk. XVII, whichever comes first.)

  • Yeah, u’re correct Jon. This is really a nice kit and hopefully they will contiune making some excellent kits.
    Hey!! I know!! How about a P-40B/C in 48th scale??

    Bo Roberts

  • You read my mind! I almost ended my comment with that! 🙂

  • Excellent and honest review Steve! I wish they were all this informative. Thanks!

  • Steve, great write up. I must thank you…now I have to have one.

  • Great review. This kit seems to be getting a lot of positive feedback, and the anniversary of the Battle of Britain will help the sales!

    As to the possibility of an Airfix P-40B/C, it’s a good suggestion. Airfix have always concentrated more on RAF types, and the early RAF Kittyhawks were virtually identical, so it could be worth asking Airfix direct. If you go to their website http://www.airfix.com there is a section where you can suggest new kits. If they get enough requests, they’ll have to consider it!

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