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!
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.
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:||Messerschmitt Bf109E-1 / 3 / 4|
|Decal Options:||Three provided in the kit|
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Matches the fuselage beautifully and the word on the street is there’s absolutely no gap to the root. Marvelous.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- It’s a perennially popular subject
- The Airfix rendition is incredibly well appointed and the box overflows with variant options and equipment fit.
- The price is very competitively placed.
- 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!