Bf-109E-4, Part 1
If asked to name a fighter aircraft that served in WWII, most everyone will mention Messerschmitt before they begin counting on their second hand, and they generally are referring to the Bf 109. The Bf 109 actually earned its iconic position in the late 1930s, when the E model entered service with the Legion Condor in Spain, and then went on to etch its place firmly in history during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. It’s no surprise, then, that the E has been marketed in all popular scales by almost every plastic model kit manufacturer. Now Cyber Hobby (AKA Dragon) has added one more to the list of kits to choose from when interested in building a Bf 109 in 1/32 scale.
The Cyber Hobby kit is labeled Bf-109E-4, with box top art featuring Adolf Galland’s aircraft and including markings for five different well-known E4s. However, a quick look at the numerous sprues confirms it also includes parts that would be needed to build a Bf 109E-7. A centerline bomb rack, bomb, and drop tank are included, but they are not needed for the subjects on the kit’s decal sheets, as they were not standard on the E-4 in 1940 (they were introduced during E-7 production and retrofitted later to many E-4s). They and a number of other optional parts on the sprues can be added to the spares box…but, more about that in a minute.
The kit is highly detailed and includes a very complete Daimler-Benz 601 engine (first introduced in Cyber Hobby’s predecessor 1/32 Bf 110D-3 kit). Like the Bf 110 kit, this one should be welcome by those who enjoy a challenging (AKA complex) build with many, many detail parts packaged in one box. The cockpit alone is made up of 51 parts (it’s something of an education in itself). The parts are nicely rendered…details abound, and accuracy can be assured with the knowledge that Dragon enlisted the help of Jerry Crandall, Mark Proulx, Rowan Baylis and Neil Page when they began their research for this kit.
The kit’s contents are impressive. You get about 67% more parts in this kit than Eduard provides in their version. There are eight gray plastic sprues (packed in individual sealed bags) containing a total of 245 parts (again, not all needed to build a model for the particular markings provided), 10 clear parts, 42 photo-etch parts, and 2 soft flexible “DS” plastic inserts for the wheel bays. See the photos below. There are 2 sheets of decals for five aircraft as they appeared in 1940, and an extensive multi-foldout instruction sheet that suggests a building sequence even experienced builders will want to study and digest before going very far with this one. Colors for many of the assemblies are called out in Gunze Sanyo Acrylic and Acrylic Lacquer paints, but some are left for the builder to research and/or guess at (a few color photos of cockpits in preserved aircraft will be of help in that area).
The decals were produced in Italy by Cartograf. They are crisp, and printed in register with readable fine lettering on thin carrier film that has a matt finish. Black and white Balkenkreuz, unit marks, and kill marks are provided on a large sheet, with a second sheet of colorful personal markings, unit insignias/badges and stencils, etc. It is worth noting that no Swastikas are included with this kit. They will have to be sourced elsewhere.
Markings are provided for aircraft flown by five aces while serving in France in 1940. They include:
- Oberst Adolf Galland – JG 26
- Hauptmann Rolf Pingel – I./JG 26
- Hauptmann Gunther Lutzow – I./JG 3
- Oberleutnant Gerhard Schopfel – 9./JG 26
- Major Helmut Wick – JG 2
The gray plastic is rather soft but the molding is very crisp. Recessed panel lines are appropriately thin and deep enough to be recognized under an average coat of paint. The fabric texture on the control surfaces is restrained and raised details are delicate. There's no flash to be found and ejector pin marks are located in areas that will not been seen on a finished model. Because the plastic is not brittle, parts can be removed from the sprues easily and sprue attachment points smoothed quickly, if necessary. It is commendable that sprue gates are located along the backside of parts that are expected to mate.
This kit compares favorably with the recent offerings from Eduard. Some may say it is even better. The Cyber Hobby parts appear to have some better-defined surface detail. A major variance from Eduard’s 109 kits, however, is a general lack of overall rivet detail found on the Eduard kits. Modelers who desire rivets will have to add them with a riveting tool or a needle in a pin vise. And, Cyber Hobby does not provide the paint masks that are included in the regular Eduard boxings.
It’s almost cliché, but assembly begins with the cockpit, and, as noted above, the process involves attaching and painting 51 plastic and photo-etch parts. In spite of the fact that some of the cockpit details are provided on the photo-etch frets, the instrument panel is not one of them. In an era of typically sandwiched metal and film instrument panels, Cyber Hobby chose to mold the instrument panels in plastic and (instead of providing decal instrument faces) invite the builder to detail the raised features with paint. Not an impossible task…just a time consuming one. Seat belts and rudder peddle straps are photo-etch, but the rest is rendered in multiple injection molded parts…and, I do mean multiple. (One point that needs to be mentioned here is that the instruction sheet tells you to use photo etch parts MB 10 for the rudder peddle straps. However, the small photo-etch fret mislabels the parts for the straps. Do not use parts 10 on the MB fret. Instead, use parts 11.) Before attaching the seatbelts, I toasted the p/e pieces over a candle to take out some of the brass’ rigidity, crinkled the belts a bit here and there, and attached them with super glue. I think the resulting belts look much more convincing with a few wrinkles.
Because there are so many parts involved in the cockpit, a reference book or photo (or two) will be helpful in fully understanding where parts should fit and what color they should be painted. On the plus side, since Cyber Hobby provides so many details as separate pieces that are to be added to the floor, instrument panel and sidewalls, many can be pre-painted before attaching them. Most parts get a coat of RLM 02, with the appropriate ones painted black or a metallic shade (steel, aluminum, etc.) and handles and knobs picked out in yellow, white and red. The cockpit assembly actually does go along pretty smoothly…most parts tend to fit well and their locations are clearly indicated in the instructions. However, I was uncertain about how to install parts F43 and F44 correctly…they just don’t seem to fit where the arrow points along the edges of the cockpit floor. Since they seemed to foul sidewall parts, I left them off.
Another part I chose to leave off was F30, the center panel below the lower instrument panel. That panel was only installed on fighter-bomber versions of the Bf 109E-4 and during production on the Bf 109E-7, so it would be incorrect for the versions that are provided on the kit’s decal sheet (obviously, later in the build, I also intend to leave off the bomb/fuel tank rack…more good stuff for the spares box).
As the photos below show, the completed cockpit tub looks very nice and, when combined with the detailed sidewalls, the result is a good replica of the actual aircraft’s cockpit. However, the highly detailed DB 601 engine, engine bay and bearers, intake housing, exhaust pipes, cowl gun platform, guns, and surrounding panels all have to be assembled, painted and attached to the front of the firewall of the cockpit assembly before the fuselage sides can be closed up. This is where a lot of test fitting will be needed to assure everything fits and aligns. From indications so far, it will be best to decide at this point whether to assemble all of those details and display the model with the engine panels off, or leave off some so that the panels will fit in the closed position. It doesn’t appear everything will fit in the engine bay if the panels are to be closed up (and a check of some reviews on the Internet suggest that grinding cowling panels thin and deleting some parts is almost mandatory if the nose is to be finished with panels closed up). I intend to finish this one with the engine panels on, so I’ll continue with that and describe how it goes in Part 2.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that I am not enjoying this kit. To the contrary, it is an enjoyable build…just one that may slow you down enough while thinking through the assembly steps and test fitting the numerous parts to allow you to, shall we say, savor the experience a little longer than we are typically accustomed to these days, with the availability of aftermarket resin cockpit tubs that almost drop in place. Actually, it might be better to point out that a little more than $50 will buy you many hours of enjoyment. I’ll share the rest of the building experience with you in Part 2.
So far, I can recommend this kit to anyone with a little experience in plastic model building who wants to add a highly detailed 1/32 Bf 109E-4 to the collection. It is a kit that will reward a builder who takes the time to test fit and assemble the many highly detailed parts with a modicum of patience. The result promises to be a beautiful replica.
My thanks to IPMS/USA and DragonUSA (Cyber Hobby) for the opportunity to review this kit.