Messerschmitt Bf-109E 'Royal Class'
The cry goes out, do we really need another Bf-109E? Well I’ve built almost every 1/48th scale Bf-109 out there and after building this one I say, HELL YA! OK spoiler alert, this is the best 109E in any scale anywhere. I loved it from beginning to end. Back to our unbiased review of a super expensive kit.
The 1/48th scale Eduard Bf-109E comes on the tails of their lovely 1/32nd scale kit. That kit had some minor issues and if you were wondering if Eduard listened to the modeler and rivet counter then I have to say yes they have. The biggest issue with the 1/32nd scale kit was the slats being too big. Well Eduard went back and corrected their mistake. The same thing happened with the canopy, which was initially mis-shapened, but later fixed. After all those things were fixed then the matter comes to what do you get in the box and is it worth the price of admission.
What do you get?
The first thing you know is that this kit is not cheap. At $150.00 USD, it is easily the most expensive kit I’ve ever had the pleasure to build. But is it worth it. I’d have to say it is very much worth the price of admission. You get nine sprues of RLM 02 color flash free and perfectly molded pieces. Then you get four clear sprues which provide the canopy parts. Then comes the photo etch parts, which Eduard is known for. You get a pre-painted fret, which if you haven’t seen an Eduard pre-painted fret, they are superior to anything you can paint or even decals. I love them and use them whenever I can. You also get three frets of nickel plated parts. All the parts are perfectly formed and make an excellent addition to the model. You also get an Eduard mask set for four different canopies.
On top of that you get two sets of resin within the Brassin range that has the wheels and tail wheels included. While the kit plastic wheels are nice, the Brassin wheels are notably better. I liked the kit tail wheel as much as the resin one, but the main wheels are far superior to the kit supplied plastic ones.
OK that sounds nice but is that all? Not by a long shot. The kit also includes a ¼ scale Bf-109E instrument panel. The panel includes an instrument panel, clear parts and photo etch parts for the instrument panel and gunsight.
The decals for the kit include TWELVE markings for E-1s to E-7 Trops. Literally every version of the Emil can be built with this kit. The decals are printed by Cartograf and are literally the best in the world. They are perfectly in register and in color density.
The instructions are beautifully rendered on high quality paper. They are relatively easy to understand. You have to be cautious about which version you are building and what options you want to include. I had some issues with the instructions and this seems the best time to mention them. First off the wing guns are not represented on the instructions. It is best to add them before the wings are put together. I didn’t detect that little nugget of information until later in the assembly sequence. Also be careful when doing the engine closed. The instructions are a little more difficult to follow with the cowlings on. Be careful. Also be careful when opening the holes for the under belly equipment, such as the bomb rack and drop tank. Know which ones you are opening. The instructions are not very helpful here.
Really two kits and an instrument panel, is that it. No way, the piece de resistance (OK my French sucks) is a serial numbered 109 mug to drink your favorite beverage from.
Ok with that all noted it was time to get to work. The very first thing you need to do is decide which aircraft or two that you are going to do. Since this was a review I decided to build one with the engine opened and one with the engine closed so that I could figure out all the nuances of the kit. I decided I needed to build an E-3 of Werner Molders and an E-7/Trop of Werner Schroer. I mean come on my last name is Werner, it was inevitable. Now that I had the subject aircraft it was time to get started.
As with most model airplane kits this starts in the cockpit. There are some things that Eduard gives you to replicate in photo etch that I thought looked great in plastic so the call is yours as to whether or not you want to include the PE or leave the plastic alone. Most time I used the plastic parts over the PE parts, this had as much to do with the time constraints of the build and personal preference. The kit cockpit was painted up with Gunze RLM 02 which was weathered with a sponge and Model Master Aluminum and a wash of artist oil Burnt Umber. This would be highlighted with a silver and a #2 pencil to replicate the chipping.
I found nothing that was out of the ordinary and the parts fit perfectly. Get ready to hear that alot. The seat was brought to life with the PE parts. The instrument panel gives you three options to use. One is plain, the other is with a decal and the final, and best, is with the pre-painted PE parts. Some may ask about the pre-painted parts and how to work with them. I assemble mine with super glue and when in the proper position I hold the parts together with tweezers until the glue sets up. Then I spray the assembly with a flat coat. Then finally I take a toothpick and Krystal Clear and dot the instruments to replicate the glass dials. This also has the added bonus of helping to keep the parts together.
The forward oil cooler is added at this time as well. Make sure you decide if you have the flow divider or not. Sometimes you can’t see it and you can use your best guess as to add it or not. I built one with and one without. It really didn’t make any difference and fit like a champ either way.
Now comes the time where you either have the engine open or closed. Building the engine and the accessories is quite simple and the results phenomenal. If building the engine closed follow the small instruction block. Be careful removing part E48, an oil tube, from the sprue, I ended up breaking it both times. I had to replace the part with some tube. The core of the engine was painted in NATO black with a dry brush of Model Master Aluminum to replicate the Dark Iron.
If you are closing the cowling, go to the final page of the instructions. It is now time to add the exhaust stacks, BEFORE installing the engine. There are some parts to remove prior to adding the cowlings.
Again it is important to figure out which engine intakes to use. I’ve never noticed that the Trop version had a slightly different shape to their intake, or at least Eduard has it depicted that way.
Closing up the Fuselage
Now is the time to decide whether or not to use the Brassin tail wheel. I elected to use it both times and loved the results. I did elect not to put the guns on at this time as I figured I’d find a way to break them off. I left off the exhaust pipes as well, at least for now.
Adding all the sub-assemblies to the fuselage halves and bringing it all together reveals that the fit of this kit is phenomenal. It literally was perfect and required no filler anywhere. Simply the best fitting kit I’ve ever built.
There is one thing that I didn’t like about the kit. The fuel filler port on the left side did not look to be correctly positioned to me. I filled the kit port and then used an Eduard rescribing tool and made new ports about 1.5 mm aft of the panel line. This is the only thing about the kit that I wasn’t exactly happy about.
The wings are simple enough to do and the fit is, well perfect. The instructions do not mention adding the wing guns so be sure you don’t miss that part.
There is one thing I would ask from Eduard in the Brassin range of parts and that would be the wheel well inserts with the wheel well covers already installed. I used my Small Shop Brass Assist Roller Set Mk ‘MC’ to help me with forming the liners. I’m not sure how I would have done it without the roller. Actually I used my Small Shop folding tool throughout this model. You get the option of having the ailerons, flaps and slats in any configuration, either up or down. I elected down for visual interest.
The tail surfaces were added at this time and they fit…do I really need to say it? Perfect. The wings were offered up to the fuselage and the fit was, yes you guessed it, perfect.
Wheels and little things
I added the landing gear at this time. Be careful when adding D-21 the brake line as there isn’t a lot of bonding surface. I lost one of mine, thank God I had another kit to rob it from. The under wing things can be added at this time. Again this is where you can either add the PE or leave the plastic pieces. I did both and found that the PE was more to scale but leaving the plastic wasn’t that big a deal. There was one area I did not follow the instructions and that was the nose lower access panel. I elected not to use the PE part and rescribe the panel with an Eduard scribing template designed for the 109E.
Since I was going to have one model with the engine open I had to fold some serious PE parts to replicate the framework. This would have been damn near impossible without the Small Shop Brass Assist Roller. With it the chore was easy and the fit was perfect.
Eduard offers you some wheel chocks to add to the kit as well. The parts go together easy enough and look very interesting on the finished model.
The closed cowling fit perfectly. Just make sure you add the guns before you add the forward cowling. The instructions would have you assemble the cooling fins for the plugs but I installed the plastic pieces instead for the closed cowling. The open one utilized the PE parts.
Now is a good time to add the exhaust stubs. This proved to be no problem as the fit was perfect.
You have to decide what canopy to add. Since I was building and E-3 and an E-4 I was forced to use both styles of canopy. Using the masks provided in the kit I was able to finish this painstaking chore with minimal time expended. The masks were…perfect. I added the front and rear part of the canopy for painting and left the hinged part off until later in the assembly.
OK as a recap, still no filler used anywhere on either kit. The fit is perfect.
The start of the painting process starts with washing the whole model with grease cutting dish detergent and warm water. Left to air dry, when done the model is wiped down with Polly-S Plastic Prep to get rid of the dust and oils. It also imparts an electrical charge that repels dust throughout the painting process.
I painted the canopy area with RLM 02 since it was going to be visible through the clear parts. Then after that the whole model was primed with Alclad Grey Primer and Microfiller. Since there was no filler there was no additional clean up. Both models were pre-shaded with Tamiya NATO black. I not only pre-shade the panel lines I also use the black on the panels in a random pattern. This really is the first step of weathering.
I’ll break the painting down now to individual models. First I will paint the desert scheme. This was started by painting the flat white theater markings. Once allowed to dry overnight it was time to add some camouflage. While stationed in Germany, myself and Dr. Georg Menke, mixed Tamiya paints to all the colors in the Monogram painting guide and some of those colors were the Italian colors. The early 109Es were painted in the Italian colors until the Germans were able to develop the desert paints of RLM 78/79/80. So with my Iwata and Tamiya airbrushes I was able to paint the Italian sky grey, followed by the tan. My research showed that the tan did not extend up to the fairing. It looks like the wings were painted and that is where the color demarcation line is not on the wing fairing as the instructions show. Your mileage may vary. All the colors were applied free hand. Each color was lightened with a couple of drops of white and additional thinner. This aircraft would be well worn because the harsh desert conditions, especially the top sides. Once I was happy with the results I set this model aside and started on the next one.
Molders machine was originally painted in RLM 65/70/71. I used Gunze paint for the RLM 65. This was weathered with some flat white. The whole upper surface was painted in Tamiya XF-61 Dark Green. Then using an out of production mask set from Cutting Edge I masked off the areas and then painted Gunze H65 RLM 70. Since the upper surface was going to be over painted with RLM 02 I elected to not weather the RLM 70/71. A coat of Gunze RLM 02 was over sprayed just like it was done back in 1940. The pictures look as if the markings were carefully masked off with very little overspray, except for the stencils which were all over sprayed.
Now that the camouflage was on it was time for a coat of Alclad Aqua Gloss for a gloss coat.
The decals all went down perfectly. I had to overspray the wing walk markings on Molders machine, but because both machines had been repainted I didn’t have to do any other stencils. The decals were over sprayed with the Aqua Gloss and an Alclad Flat in preparation for weathering.
As I said the weathering started with the pre-shading, now comes the fun part for me to add life to the model. I’ll start with the desert aircraft. Using techniques from my armor friends, yes I have friends who build armor, I started with a grey filter for panzer yellow. This would tone down the markings and replicate the dusting present in the desert. Left to dry overnight I then added a burnt umber was to the panel lines and select rivet lines. This really made the kit pop. Once that dried, I added some African Dust to the upper surface which added tonal differences to the model.
Silver pencils were used to add some chips. I also used a sponge and Model Master Aluminum to the well worn areas.
The exhaust stains were replicated with Tamiya weathering pastels, mostly black and rust. This is the first time I’ve used this item and they worked perfectly. Some pastels were added to the exhaust stubs as well.
The belly was then treated to some oil stains with burnt sienna, lamp black and burnt umber artist oils.
The final bit of weathering was the addition a highly thinned coat of Tamiya Buff over the upper surfaces. This blended the model with the earth. With that the weathering was done.
Molders machine was weathered similarly but not quite to the same extreme.
Final bits and bobs
I added the wheels which were weathered with MiG Pigments and an airbrush. I added the cowl guns for the open cowling and found that they fit perfectly. The drop tank was weathered and added at this time. Removal of the canopy masks showed how good these things were. The hinged part of the canopy and the antenna was added with EZ Line. The rest of the pieces were added such as the mass weights and pitot tube. The lights were added by painting the nubs with silver and then clear red and green on the wing and a drop of white glue to the tail.
The models were finally done and they looked great, at least in my opinion.
The fit was the best I’ve ever seen on any kit, bar none. The big question is was it worth the price of admission? Absolutely. I’m not sure if I would have built the kits if it wasn’t for review. That had more to do with the resale value of the kit than a lack of desire to build it, but since I did have to build it I really enjoyed the entire process. This is by far the best kit that Eduard has produced yet. I didn’t build the instrument panel. I’ll save that for another day. Perfect fit throughout, including the open cowl version, great decals with plenty of color options. The variety of underwing stores makes this kit a fun build with lots of flexibility. Simply a beautiful kit. Was it perfect? No, not quite but it is as close as I’ve seen from any manufacturer in a while. In my opinion, it is the best Bf-109E in this scale. I’ve already bought the E-4 kit and will buy more as they come out. Of course the best part of the kit is enjoying my favorite beverage of Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial Pale Ale to celebrate the completion. Great job Eduard. Can’t wait to see what is next.
Thanks to Eduard and IPMS/USA for the review copy.