Eduard 1/48 Bf 109E-3 Legion Condor Build Review
|Date of Review||May 2016||Manufacturer||Eduard|
|Subject||Bf 109E-3 Legion Condor||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||1140||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch, Resin|
|Pros||Decals, subject, detail||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$54.95|
I don’t usually write histories on iconic aircraft such as the Mustang, Zero or Messerschmitt unless I am trying to reproduce a particular aircraft and the narrative adds to the subject matter. On the Spanish Civil War 1936 to 1939 I will make an exception. It was the first foray into the newly modernized Luftwaffe in a pseudo-secret war while being the first modern conflict to transition from biplane technology to the more cutting edge single wing fighters and bombers. Although both were present, the biplane was going extinct quickly. Many famous leaders of World War II got their early experience in this arena. Names like Molders, Galland and Trautloft filled the rosters.
Many of the combat tactics, command structure and policies developed in Spain were used during World War II. It became a proving ground for the Junkers Ju-87 and, the omnipresent, Messerschmitt Bf-109. The first prototypes of the Bf-109 were quickly modified and sent directly into combat with fantastic results. A propeller change and a few technical tweaks followed quickly from the A model through to the E model first seen over European skies on all fronts until the very deadly Bf-109F model replaced it.
The plane I am modeling is the Bf-109E-3 flown by Oblt. Hans Schmoller-Haldy during March of 1939. Although he did not score a single kill during the Spanish Civil War, he did go on to have a career with JG 54 in Poland and even survived the war. His aircraft had attention-grabbing markings. The yellow nose Bf-109E-3 with a Mickey Mouse emblem of 3 Staffel J/88 and a beer stein with the small CP initials for the Belgian drinking club “Cardinal Piaf” makes for an interesting color scheme and was my choice of four very nice schemes supplied with the Eduard kit.
The Legion Condor kit is a combination kit including two complete airplane kits. The first is the Roden He-51B (which will be the subject of another article) and the Bf-109E family of models by Eduard. The trees come with extra parts such as bomb racks and ammunition, drop tanks, and an extra set of wings depending if you are modeling the E-1 or E-3 version. A parts tree breakdown is at page 7 of the excellent directions booklet. There is also a color breakdown for Gunze colors in their Aqueous and Mr. Color lines of paints. You also get two photo-etch frets. One is Eduard’s Zoom pre-painted interior set and the other is the unpainted exterior fret.
The directions are printed on high quality glossy paper with clear 30° isomeric exploded view of the parts. You need to follow the directions to the letter during some of the build and ignore it for other parts of the build. I will try to make it clear which path I followed. Where I went wrong and what I did that was better than the directions guide you to. Page 8 starts the build for the Bf-109E.
As usual, I started in the cockpit and pulled out my Iwata airbrush and ModelMaster RLM 02 for all the interior colors. The side panels were airbrushed and the photo-etch parts were attached with superglue. The molded in circuit breaker panel on the right side fuselage had to be smoothed out before adding the photo-etch part. Honestly, a good detail painter could do a better job than the Zoom photo-etch. The rest of the construction was straight forward.
Now while the fuselage halves are apart, it is time to install the forward oil cooler. It was a bit confusing but you need to take a look at how it fits in the front of the fuselage and see how it is assembled and it will make a bit more sense. After putting the photo-etch cooler faces and the splitter plate on, I was unsure how it actually sat in the fuselage. You get an unsure feel for where it is supposed to be. I glued it in with white glue and then temporarily put the fuselage halves together to assure that the radiator settled down in place where I wanted and locked it into place with superglue to make sure it wouldn’t move.
You really will not have any problems finishing the assembly of the cockpit. When it came time to put the seat belts on, there is a photo-etch part (PE16) that is a small faring around the slit the seat belts go through on the backrest of the seat. A pair of tweezers shot it across the time-space continuum so it is now lost in time and space. The foot petals are another area that you really don’t need the photo-etch. Just a little detail painting and they will be just fine. A few pieces of photo-etch seemed to complicate the build at a few points. This was one of those points.
I didn’t install the gun sight yet or the photo-etch landing gear handle. I do like the photo-etch instrument panel but I have never liked the colors they come in. They seem off to me so I should have repainted it flat black while being careful to go around the edges of the instruments. I usually glue the instrument backer to the panel using Future Floor Polish. This gives the instrument a layer that replicates glass very well. The instrument panel goes on to part D38 and that is glued to the gun mount platform. This caused problems later when fitting the cockpit windscreen at the end of the build. I am not sure how to verify that the instrument panel will fit under the windscreen at this point of the construction. Maybe a dry fit with just the D7 firewall assembly and tape the fuselage halves together.
I was worried about the engine causing problems with the engine cowl which I wanted closed and it did. The cowl interfered a lot with the machine gun mount platform. So I had to trim off the mounting points for the machine guns. The engine carburetor, which I broke off and threw away, was another problem area. I used the kit engine mounts and didn’t bother with the turbine intake or all the other engine details that would never be seen. Here is where I made my biggest mistake. I didn’t glue the machine guns to mounting area right in front of the instrument panel. This caused problems later in the build. We will cross that bridge when we get there.
The better method would have been to use some stock plastic to replicate the engine block and propeller mounting point. Finish and paint the plane then put the exhaust stubs on or put the exhaust stubs on now and worry about painting them at the end of the build. I painted them on the sprue tree and waited till the end of the build. You will see the #2 stub on the left side would not go into place. I almost broke the whole nose off the plane trying to get it into place. I got to the point where it is what it is. You will notice that the first exhaust stubs are a different shape than the rest of the exhaust stubs and this causes the stubs to have to be put in place in a reverse order to make them fit. Something I wish I would have been aware of at the time. Lesson learned.
There is a tiny ball-screw part #D23 that has to be glued into place in the fuselage tail. It is kind of a strange part. You don’t get a good feel exactly how to do it. It just kind of sat funny in its little notch. It is meant to represent the elevator trim part you can barely see in the tail. You also have to put the tail wheel strut in at this time. I did not put the tail wheel on or the other side of the tail wheel strut. The part is fragile and it was a small miracle that I did not break it off during the build. The cockpit went in and the engine subassembly all got glued into place. The fuselage went together with no problem. It does not have alignment stubs so you do have the ability to tweak it all you want. The engine seemed to knock everything out of whack by a millimeter. The lower cowl didn’t line up that well but a little of putty and it was not a big deal to me at all.
The wings were no problem either but you need to make sure that you pick the right wings for the version you want to build. For the Bf-109E-1 you want the B tree. For the Bf-109E-3 you want the C tree. The wheel wells do not have a positive placement but rather seem to slide into place. It is a little unnerving but you will see how they go in with some nice fit when you put the upper wings on. I left off the leading edge slats and machine gun barrels along with the flight control surfaces. Now here is my technique and I can see pros and cons so do what works for you. I glued the upper wings to the fuselage first. One at a time and walked away to make sure they were perfect in alignment with the wing root each time. Then the next day I put the bottom of the wing on slowly working the dihedral to the right angle. Once it was all dried, I put the radiator scoops, photo-etch and covers on. They seemed to fit a bit loose to me.
Now for the cowling. I put those long rectangle pieces on the cowl, enhancing the two mount screw holes a bit with a scratch awl then began fitting it to the fuselage. I got the smaller side cowls and upper gun cowl in place then started the fight with the large cowl. It would fit perfect one direction and be off on another. I had to trim off the front top of the engine block to help the fit too. Page 15 of the instruction book covers what you need to do to make the cowl fit better. Something I wish I would have read ahead to study first. It took clamps in three different directions to get the cowling put into place. So I used Tamiya liquid glue and let capillary action draw the glue into each of the seams. I was happy with the alignment and let everything set over night. Don’t forget the little wedge intake, part D34, that goes on the left side of the cowl. And that is when I noticed that I left the machine guns out! Eduard even supplies you with a smaller set of barrels for those who want to keep the cowl closed and I missed it. More on this at the end of the build.
I left the rudder, the photo-etch rudder cables, and tail struts off at this time and took care of any puttying and sanding. Then when it was ready for paint, I tried to do a black and white patch pattern. This was to just give small tonal changes to the paint. I wanted it so slight that you could not even pick it up on the pictures but see it in person. I had never done this kind of pre-shading so it was something new to me. I taped off the wing tips that were pre-painted white along with all control surfaces for painting later.
Here is where research gets involved. There is still a lot of information out there. One of my sources said that the top color that was being used was RLM 63A which looks almost like RLM 02. I did some test on white card stock and found that my old PollyScale RLM 02 matched this RLM 63A paint chip from Michael Ullmann’s Luftwaffe Colours 1935-1945. So I went for that. I did discover the PollyScale to be extremely finicky. It should be thinned with just a tad of water or alcohol. It also didn’t like the Tamiya X-2 Gloss White that I had pre-painted with. I had to soft sand using 8000 grit and repaint those areas to get it to cover. I also tried another trick I had seen somewhere. I painted the spinner pink first then yellow. It seemed to make the yellow look better, brighter and a slightly more pleasing yellow that is not so toy like. The black exhaust area along the front of the engine and along the wing root was a pain to tape off. It took a few tries to get it right. A coat of MM Acryl Gloss Clear and it was ready for decals.
I actually liked all the choices that Eduard offers. I picked 6*123 because of the colorful Mickey Mouse and it had a stein of beer on the side. Who doesn’t love a stein of beer? Anyhooo, it fit what I was looking for but you will be just fine with any of the choices for sure. The decals were outstanding! They went down well, worked with Micro Scale’s Micro Soft and Micro Sol with no problems. Once the flat coat went down, they looked painted on!
While I was waiting for everything to dry solid, I started on all the little bits and pieces. The gear was the first thing to tackle. Now this build is an 'Out Of Box' build so I only used what came with the kit (except for antenna wire but the plastic came from scrap sprue from the kit). I would add loop brake line here if I was not building strictly OOB. The wheels are fantastic! I don’t see why you would need Eduard’s Brassin wheels. The kit’s wheels were amazing in their precision casting to the point that they were almost snap fit! I wouldn’t waste my money on aftermarket wheels. For other manufacturer’s kits, I could see it but not this one. When it became time to install the landing gear, I did not get a good feel for the placement at all. I had to trim off a bit of the little block stub so it would fit in the wing and even then, I had to set the spread, rake and trail of the gear to get it to set right.
There are two small little struts that go in the intakes for the radiators on the bottom of the wing. Both of them joined their photo-etch brothers in the time (space) continuum and had to be replaced with small scratch sprue from Evergreen Plastic. Flaps, flight controls, tail struts, tail wheel all got installed. The propeller had some sink marks on the backside of the blades. Five minutes with a putty knife and sand paper cleaned it up. A layer of RLM 71 Dark Green and Floquil Old Silver for the hubs and they were ready for installation. They are a little on the anemic side. If you want, there is a plethora of companies making aftermarket props for the Bf-109. I ended up chopping off the machine gun barrels, holding the plane upside down and sliding the barrels into the cowling. A drop of Tamiya liquid glue wicked up into the inside of the cowl and had the guns sitting in place. I couldn’t do anything about the barrel covers that are supposed to be there (Parts D18/D20).
Next was the wing machine gun barrels glued in place with just a dab of white glue. This allows me time to align the guns to the wing and gives just a little flex if you happen to brush up against them while handling the model. It was looking very nice.
The clear parts were not so clear. They had a strange almost silica look to them. I ended up sanding them with 12000 sandpaper and Novus Plastic Polish #2 Fine grit to get them to “glass up” and look a little more transparent. The masks supplied with the kit make the tedious task of masking windscreens a lot more palatable. When I went to fit the front windscreen on, it simply did not fit. The instrument panel was in the way. I did some very tactical filing and fitting for the next few hours getting it just right. Also the instructions on page 14 show armor plating being put in the canopy but I have a clear picture of this particular aircraft without the armor plate so it was nixed and thrown in the parts bin. But I did add the opening handle and the cable to the canopy frame from the photo-etch fret to finish up. Stretched sprue for the antenna wire with a drop of white glue for the insulator and it was done.
I have talked to a few people who didn’t like this kit and said they would stick with their Hasegawa or Tamiya kits. I, on the other hand, went out and bought the Eduard Bf-109E-7 Trop and can’t wait to build it! I really enjoyed this build. Now armed with the knowledge of how to handle that front cowling with machine guns, I can say that I am really looking forward to building another one. This kit looks great and is a fantastic representation of an early Bf-109E. I would recommend this kit to intermediate modelers because of some of the details you have to tackle. It would be a great kit to learn more and develop your skills a little more. Any frustrating moments were self-induced and except for a few little sniggles like the clear parts, undershot propeller and landing gear placement, I liked learning about the Spanish Civil War and was happy with the end result.
My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!