Hobbycraft 1/48 Messerschmitt Bf-109 C

Model and Text by: Fernando Rolandelli

Photos by: Marcelo Soria

 

INTRODUCTION

Already old kits, Hobbycraft's family of early 109s has the merit of introducing decent models of them before the resurrection of the interest in WW2 subjects which preceded the appearance of the bunch of Hasegawa and Tamiya's kits.

THE KIT

On opening the box you can find unmistakable similarities between Hobbycraft's kit and Hasegawa's family of 109Es. They have the same part layout, with an advantage of the Hasegawas on detail and finesse of the parts, added to a usable, three part canopy. On the other side, though Hobbycraft's 109s canopy is a single, thick and non-too-clear piece of plastic, their interior resembles the one found in an early 109E's Verlinden resin set, comprising decent sidewalls, seat and floor.

This similarity conspires against accuracy in the case of Hobbycraft's 109B/C/Ds, for the shape of the fuselage, especially in the top-decking area, certainly resembles more of a converted 109E than a proper Jumo-powered 109. The presence of a nose undersurface radiator and two bladed propeller, however, gives the model an unmistakably Jumo look.

This project grew with time: at first, I wanted a rather uninvolved almost-out-of-the-box project, adding only a resin interior (from High Tech) and a vacuformed canopy (Squadron); the Hi Tech set included the control surfaces and wheels. Then, an Eduard photoetch set was deemed necessary, mainly to cope with the radiator's vast inner expanse. Later, an Aeroclub metal radio set found its way into the rear fuselage (with the additional scratchbuilding of the rest of the accesories and fuselage's internal structure); and finally, as one of the 109C's characteristics is the machine-gun wing armament, opening the wing panels to show the gun bays and the MG 17s seemed aproppiate. It did not stop there, as we shall see soon.

FUSELAGE

First, I prepared the radio hatch opening, laboriously thinning the fuselage (a Dremel tool would have made this operation infinitely easier). I made the internal structure in stretched sprue, and build the radio and associated accessories imitating an Aires 109E superdetailing kit. It did not photograph well, however.
Then, I turned to the interior, adding some cables and levers from thin wire and stretched sprue to the resin set. I kept the resin instrument panel though it seems too shallow (I did not have the Eduard PE at that time).
Comparing the kit's rudder with some plans in the Scale Aviation Magazine International, I found its shape to be somewhat inaccurate. The resin part was, however, much better, so I cut the rudder to its outline, filling the former hinge line.

YOU DID WHAT?

When the Eduard PE set to arrived on the mail, I saw that it included the big, movable cooling louver found in the rear part of the radiator bath. I immediately cut the plastic to show it opened, only to find that most of the underside of the engine would be visible through the opening! No Jumo 210 engine is available anywhere, so, I took the bold, insane, decision to scratchbuild it. Information on the subject is scarcely more available, and I finally found a schematic drawing and a photo (a front photo!) in the Monogram's Bible, the book on "German Aircraft Interiors". Okay, it is an inverted-V 12-cylinder engine, so I built a "gimmick" composed of two parallel rocker covers, some gadget-looking accesories in the middle of them plus a rather impressive hose carrying the cooling liquid up from the radiator, this being a piece of guitar string. Exhausts had to be made, from Contrail tube turned oval through pressure. When looked from the radiator bath opening it seems quite convincing, but it does not photograph well.

The kit's exhausts, besides being the "flush hole" type found on 109Bs and early Cs, are the wrong shape, for they are depicted as rectangular, when they should be oval. Again, the Eduard set comes to the rescue, providing the correct exhaust plates. Only then was I able to close the fuselage's halves.

WINGS

I began working on the wings. Several things had to be solved. The length of the kit's ailerons did not coincide with the resin pieces, and, according to the plans I had, the latter were correct. As it would have involved modifying the wing's trailing edge as well as the kit's flaps, I thought it more sensible to reduce the lenght of the resin aileron by a couple of milimetres; it is not accurate, but nobody will notice. The kit's wing depicts a 109B one; therefore, you have to make the shell case ejection ports, which are not even marked. Gun throughs in the wing's attack edge are, but misplaced; watch your references. They are disproportionately big holes; on their insides I put blast tubes made from Contrail tubing.

Then I set to build the open MGs' bays. Of course, I found information on this to be extremely scarce, as most of the available is dedicated to the MG/FF's bays of the 109E-3 onwards. I managed to find some drawings of an E-1's bays in a Japanese publication, which forced me to stare at drawings and symbols looking for a clue to many questions, such as where the ammo magazines were placed! I scratchbuilt the wing spars, and, to close the bays, I simply cut them tall, hoping to trim them as I glued the wing's upper surface. I found that this could not be accomplished until you fix them to the fuselage, but once it was all firmly set, it was simply a matter of sanding the protruding "walls" flush to the wing's surface. The interior of the bays was filled with some detail and, of course, with the butts of the guns themselves (the barrels went to replace the kit's cowling guns, which are awful)

The undercarriage is quite acceptable as it is, but having PE torque links I replaced the moulded ones, and added detail to the legs themselves via Tamiya masking tape. Something had to be done to the wheel wells, it seemed to me, and I covered their inner, rounded walls with moistured tissue paper to mimick the canvas covers in the real ones. This attempt was not entirely succesful, however. The small oil radiator housing in the wing undersurface should not be left completely empty, either, and I placed a short rod for the actual cooling surface.

PAINTING

I painted the model at this stage, having the wings and fuselage assembly properly glued, puttied and polished without too much pain, but the control surfaces, u/c legs and doors, propeller assembly and canopy as separate beings. I wanted to make a particular 109C from JG 71 in 1938/39, with a prominent Haifisch (Shark) marking and a nice, early looking unit's shield (probably in mockery of Mr. Chamberlain). I had to stick to the kit's decals, as no aftermarket source supplies decals for exactly this machine. I do not use the kit's decals as a norm, and just the idea was enough to make me somewhat nervous.

The scheme was a standard RLM 70/71 uppers and 65 lowers, with a very low demarcation line. I primed the model light grey (FS 36440) and then preshaded it black. Then I painted a very light coat of 65 (Aeromaster acrylics, another defunct line) stressing the panel lines and filling the middle of panels in a mottle fashion; next, I masked the model and in came the 71, on the same lines. I masked the model again (a long work) and painted the 70, trying to keep it as light a coat as possible, to make use of the lighter 71 base as an instant fading (this technique, though precluding easy, relaxed, uniform freehand painting, gives extraordinary results)

In the control surfaces, I tried a completely different approach. The resin replacements had a nice rib detail; I presumed that the fabric directly on the ribs would fade quicker than the portion clinging in the middle (anyway, I felt it would give a nice, real thing look). So I chose to airbrush the base color lightened with white first, mask the rib detail afterwards and then proceed with the color in full density. Finally, masks were removed and a translucent full color coat was lightly airbrushed to even out the difference a little. This tiresome procedure was repeated thrice, once in 65 (undersurfaces), then in 71, finally in 70. The kit's flaps did not have any surface detail, but a quick look at my references let me see that they also showed a complex rib detail. I had no choice but to replicate it in paint shade difference only. I find the effect quite impressive. I was at last able to gloss the model.

DECALS

The kit's decals were rather stiff, but they were glossy and adhered reasonably well. I cut a portion of the undersurface Balkenkreuz which had to be placed on the aileron itself. I wasted the stencils, for the model was not properly glossed where they should be located (I tend to overcoat only the parts I know will carry the main decals); but, after glossing everything again, used an Aeromaster 109E stencil sheet to good effect. The swastika was a complex affair, being placed on the separate rudder/fin hinge line; I also borrowed an Aeromaster example which, to make things more difficult, came in separated white/black parts! The big Haifisch mouth was cut in several longitudinal parts, applied and dressed up in Humbrol Insignia Red (initially a perfect match, it turned darker when dry!) I oversprayed it with the same Red mixed with Light Grey 36440, to even out things. In the end, I could not prevent some silvering here and there, but I was able to touch it up with the original colors, with a fine tip brush and a steady hand.

FINAL ASSEMBLY

Having painted everything as "subassemblies", I now faced the task of the final assembly of the various, not-too-homogeneus components. Final result was far from perfect. The resin surfaces posed new problems; indeed, none of them match perfectly. The vacuformed canopy, an example of which I had previously tried on a Hobbycraft 109E, proved problematic, as was the method of making the frames with thin decal strips, formerly my favourite method! All in all, I would say the project suffers of "overengineering": too many parts from too many different sources. Maybe it is better to refrain superdetailing a bit, and obtain a tidier looking kit; but such is the adventurous side of modelling! However, the model certainly looks the part, and you would be hard pressed to make an accurate early 109 without taking some of the risks.


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