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Bf 109E-3 Kit

Matchbox 1/32 Bf 109E-3 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review September 2008 Manufacturer Matchbox
Subject Bf 109E-3 Scale 1/32
Kit Number PK502 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice older kit of Bf 109 variant in 1/32nd scale, that is just about the only kit of it in that scale Cons Way oversized packaging. No cello bags on parts. Kit is actually an E-4 and not E-3
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Bf 109E-3 Kit
Bf 109E-3 Kit
Bf 109E-3 Kit
Bf 109E-3 Kit
Bf 109E-3 Kit
Bf 109E-3 Kit

In 1934, design work began on the aircraft which was to become famous the world over – the Messerschmitt Bf 109E. As a production order was not expected, a compromise was made by the designers to production and therefore the design made full use of the most up-to-date techniques available. It included a fully enclosed cockpit, stressed skin construction, slotted flaps, automatic Handley-Page slots, retractable undercarriage and the then high wing loading of 24 lb per sq. ft.

When tests were carried out, the superior performance and handling shown by the Bf 109 converted even the most skeptical opponents and in the definitive evaluation trials in 1936 the Bf 109 was chosen as the new Luftwaffe fighter. Early mark numbers were used in the Spanish Civil War by the Legion Condor. These models were powered by the Jumo 210 GA engine, driving a 2-bladed propeller, but were not fitted with armour plate. However, experience showed that some protection was necessary, and with the introduction of the more powerful Daimler-Benz 500 and 501 fuel-injected engines, modification was made and the Bf 109E became available in 1938. The E-3 introduced 80 lb of armour plate, while the E-4 provided a modified canopy and armament of 2 fuselage mounted 7.9 mm MG 17 guns and 2 wing mounted 20 mm cannons. The Bf 109 was a formidable fighter and it’s inspired design made it an aircraft which was in the forefront of it’s class for many years.

Matchbox is a diecast toy brand currently owned by Mattel. In the past, the Matchbox/Lesney factory was a major employer in Hometon, East London, before the company relocated to Rugby in Warwickshire in 1990.

Although Matchbox is best known for its die-cast cars, around 1972 it bought the AMT Corporation, the dominant American plastic model kit manufacturer, and set up its own plastic kit division in the UK. Concentrating on 1:72 scale military aircraft and 1:76 military vehicles, it competed with the then-dominant Airfix Company. The Matchbox kits had a distinctive appearance, the parts in each kit were produced in two or three colors compared to the single color plastic of Airfix. The boxes were also more colorful and included clear windows so the contents could be seen. In addition, unlike Airfix's military vehicle kits, the Matchbox military vehicle kits all came with a small diorama base.

Matchbox also continued AMT's extensive line of 1:25 scale cars and trucks. Other kit ranges included 1:32 and 1:48 aircraft, 1:700 ships, 1:32 cars, 1:12 motorcycles, and the still well-known 1:72 'Flower' class Corvette. The Matchbox kits were well made, with modern tooling and techniques, but critics felt that the kits were too coarsely detailed in comparison with other models on the market, and too "toy-like". Yet they were still just as complex and time consuming to construct as any other kit, which limited their appeal to more casual model builders. The company was unable to fully satisfy either the casual or serious model building market, and was one of the first companies to abandon model kits when the hobby started its decline, selling AMT to the Ertl Company and shutting down its own kit division less than twenty years after starting it.

While the Matchbox-branded kits were not a success, the same was not true of the AMT line. By the 1970s AMT had 20 years' experience tooling car kits, and the only difference European ownership made was a somewhat broader selection of subject matter than had been seen from them before or since. Original Matchbox model kits are highly collectible.

The Matchbox model kit molds were acquired by Revell Germany in the early '80s, which continues to sporadically re-issue the old Matchbox kits, now under the Revell label. Recently, a number of the most desirable Matchbox kits have made re-appearances, to the delight of modelers: In 1:72nd scale, The H.P. Victor, the Supermarine Walrus, and Handley-Page Halifax, and in 1:48th Scale the A1-E four-seat Skyraider. Many modelers are also looking forward to a re-release of the Mk II/Mk IV Hawker Tempest, the English Electric Canberra, RR Spey Phantom. Revell has confirmed that it will be re-releasing the much sought after 1:32nd Scale Spitfire Mk. 22 with Griffon, and the 1:32nd Scale DeHavilland Venom.

The model comes in a large tray and lid type box. This box is very miss-leading!! It is actually TWICE as long as as the contents. Half the box is VOID!! This had to be a ploy by Matchbox to fool modelers into thinking they were getting something really huge in the box!

The next thing is that the box says the model inside is a E-3. However, this is wrong – because the canopy provided is the type introduced on the E-4. The E-3 and earlier marks had a canopy that had a rounded top. The E-4 introduced a canopy that had a flat top and that is what’s in the kit. So, only an E-4 can be built with the parts.

The boxart shows a Bf 109E-4 taking off against an all white background. It is in the markings of Adolf Galland. It is in a camouflage of a splinter of black green and dark green above and light blue below. The sides are mottled with black green over the light green. It carries squadron marks for JG 26. This consists of a white shield with a red letter R on it just in front of the windshield and Galland’s personal “Mickey Mouse” insignia below the cockpit. The fuselage cross has a double black chevron in front of it and the yellow number 16 behind it. The rudder is yellow and has 83 kill marks.

The underside of the cowl is also yellow. This is while he was in France in 1941.(this marking is on the kit’s decal sheet). Next to this, is a line drawing of the cockpit interior. A side panel repeats the boxart smaller and has two color illustrations of the engine compartment open and the cockpit interior. The other side panel has 3 color profiles of the Galland aircraft, an aircraft of JG 52 of the Slovakian Air Force, Russian Front (Southern Sector) 1942 and with ¾ JG 2 “Richthofen”, Le Havre, France 1940.

Inside the box is a tree of green parts, two trees of light tan parts, a tree of jet black parts, a clear tree, the decal sheet and the instructions.

The instructions consist of two large sheets that are each folded over twice to fit the box.

The first large sheet is the assembly instructions. The two sides of it give a total of 18 assembly steps. It is mentioned that technical information and assistance for the kit was supplied by the RAF Museum. The cockpit can be posed open or shut, the outer wing flaps and rudder are separate and can be posed. The cowling can be left off to show the engine inside. Each step has the part numbers at the bottom of the illustrations paired up with whatever other part they join to.

The second large sheet has individual illustrations of all the parts in the kit that need separate painting. These are labeled with alphabet letters that correspond to a paint listing on the page. Below this is decal application instructions and a slip to cut out with a scissors, to send to Matchbox with any complaints. Half the page has the paints listing. These are called out in six languages, including English and indicate Humbrol brand paint numbers. Below this is the history of the Bf 109E in the same 6 languages. The other side of the sheet has three 4-views of schemes for the model.

  • Adolf Galland’s aircraft. Already described above. The illustrations shows the stencil markings and where they go
  • A Bf 109E with JG 52, Slovakian Air Force, Russian Front (Southern Sector) 1942. It is in a camouflage of a splinter of dark green and black green above and light blue below. It has a yellow fuselage band and yellow wing tips below the wings. The Propeller spinner is white. The national crosses have a red circle in the center of them. The illustration shows the stencil marks and where they go
  • A Bf 109E with 3/4 JG 2 “Richthofen”, Le Havre, France 1940. It is in a camouflage splinter of black green and dark green on the wing tops and high on the fuselage spine. The sides are a base of the dark green with a heavy mottling of the black green spots. The underside is light blue. On the left side of the cowling is an insignia of a yellow circle with a black mosquito on it. Just below the canopy is a white shield with a black letter S on it. There is a white number 4 in front of the fuselage cross and a horizontal white wavy line aft of it. The propeller spinner is divided in half, horizontally, with the top half being azure blue and the bottom being black. This illustration also shows all the stencil placements

There are no parts tree illustrations in the instructions. The trees have part numbers on them and some of them are alphabetized. However, the alphabet letters are not called out with the part numbers in the assembly steps. Also, you will have to try and locate the parts on the trees using the assembly drawings, which will make for extra work. Bad move Matchbox!

The first tree is the dark green one. It does not have an alphabet number on it. Which really isn’t necessary as, like already mentioned, the instructions never mention an alphabet letter. It holds: the fuselage halves, the rudder, the pilot figure (who is in four parts – his front, rear and separate arms), the underbelly air scoop, propeller spinner, cowling parts, underbody central wing section etc. (23 parts)

The first of the light tan trees is labeled as letter B. It holds: the upper wing halves, main wheels and tires, cockpit floor, individual propeller blades, tail wheel, outer wing flaps, horizontal tail surfaces, cockpit decking and foot pedals etc. (41 parts)

The second of the light tan trees is labeled as letter C. It holds: the lower wing halves, the landing gear doors, the rudder, pilot seat, cockpit details, engine bearers and engine parts etc. (31 parts) Again, I have removed and assembled some of the engine parts from this tree also.

These multiple colored parts trees was always a trademark of the Matchbox kits. Some of them had even more colors of trees in the box and – when assembled and before painting looked like Granny’s patch-work quilt…ha ha. The jet black tree may present problems with painting it later. I had one experience, with a jet black tree in a kit before. The black pre-shaded the colors that I put over it and it took several coats of paint to tame it down.

The clear tree holds 3 parts of the canopy. As previously mentioned, it is of the E-4 type with a flat-topped center section. So, the kit cannot be built as an E-3, like the box says, by using this canopy.

None of the parts are in cello bags in the kit. This means, with half the box being VOID, that the parts slide around and the poor clear parts get scratched! Another, bad move by Matchbox.

The decal sheet holds the 3 marking options, already mentioned and a lot of stencil markings. It had a cloudy sheet on it’s face to protect it at one time, but the sliding of parts has removed this – making it’s purpose useless. These decals are old now, and may very well need replacing. The markings on the kit’s decals may not be actually what appeared on E-3’s. The illustrations never say what mark of E they represent. So, consult other references that may show these exact markings.

The engraved panel lines on this kit are a little over-pronounced, but a coat of paint will help there. The kit is darn nice, considering that it is 31 years old. Recommended, if you can find one.

The jet black tree is labeled as letter D. It holds: engine parts, the wing cannons, another air intake scoop, reflector gun sight, cockpit consoles, landing gear legs, exhaust pipes, instrument panel etc. (35 parts).