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He 51C Legion Condor Kit

Eduard 1/48 He 51C Legion Condor Build Review

By Kelly Jamison

Date of Review October 2016 Manufacturer Eduard
Subject He 51C 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

Build Review

This is the other part of the Legion Condor Combo pack Eduard produced.  You can find the Bf 109E half of the build here.  The He 51 is a Roden mold with Eduard photoetch and painting masks.  I found the assembly order a little different than the instruction sheet calls for and had I realized the complexity of the rigging, I would have modified the assembly sequence even more.

The kit is cast in a medium grey and had very little flash that didn’t really hinder any part of the construction.  If you want to look at what you get and assembly instructions you can download a PDF here. You also have the choice of four different decals that come with the kit.  There are a few aftermarket decal sheets out there too.  Here is what Eduard offers for schemes:

  • He 51C-1, 2*23 of Oberleutnant Hannes Trautloft 2. J/88, Avila, Spain, Autumn 1936
  • He 51C-1, 2*64 of Hauptmann Harry Harder 1. J/88, Brunete, Spain, July 1937
  • He 51C-1, 2*102 of Dr. Heinrich Neumann Medical Battalion San/88, Spain, 1938
  • He 51C-1, 2*78 of Adolf Galland 3. J/88, Calamocha, Spain, Spring 1938

As with most kits, I started with the cockpit.  I decided to use my own Evergreen plastic rod to build up the cockpit cross-members.  The kit parts were out of round due to mold shift and it was just easier to use the Evergreen rod.  I added small control cables, push-pull rods, throttles and knobs along with some thinned putty to texture up the floor boards. To busy up the area I ran a few strands of brass wire along the cockpit floor and squished a section of aluminum tubing to replicate the fuel tank, which unfortunately sat right below the pilot to improve the center of gravity.  I also added small ammo cans made from scratch plastic and used the photoetch seatbelts and instrument panels that came with the kit.  The whole assembly got a coat of Polly Scale RLM 02 and a thinned umber wash.  It was a bit difficult finding information on a He 51 cockpit so keep your eyes out for pictures wherever you can find them.

He 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor Kit

I picked up the Vector detail set for the He 51 which had a much improved front cowl, extra cowling bulges, carburetor intake, wheels and a beautiful set of exhaust stacks.  This high quality resin set is well worth the money but is becoming harder and harder to find.  You can really see the improvement over the stock cowling, exhaust stacks and wheels.

He 51C Legion Condor Kit

Step E is the first deviation I made and would have done differently on hindsight.  I temp installed the part E19 and E9 to the fuselage halves. They would sandwich the E13/E23 exhaust stacks but you would not be able to paint behind them.  Looking back, I should have razor sawed off the stacks, glued the lug in behind the panels and then blended parts E9/E19 with the rest of the cowl on both sides.  It would have made painting and final fit and finish much better.

He 51C Legion Condor Kit

In Step G, the kit part (part C3) machine gun lug, fit perfect in the Vector cowling replacement part A3 shows the superior engineering of Vector products once again.  Step H assembly point says not to glue the prop shaft into part E18 front cowl.  I don’t usually run around the house making motorboat sounds with my models so I glued it into place.  The cowl front needed some careful fitting and blending.  In Part J, I didn’t bother using the radiator photoetch, Part PE63, because I liked the deeper relief of the molded Part E7 better than the flat photoetch part.  The rest of the fuselage assembly was standard up to the one piece landing gear inner struts.  It took a lot of work to get them setting just right and glued into place.  The fit was not well here but from what I have heard it is still better than the older Classic Airframe parts.  You need to address the trailing edge of the landing struts, alignment of the gear pants and aligning the bottom of the fuselage with the bottom of the gear leg assembly is tricky and needed lots of filling and sanding.

I assembled the bottom wing and wheel pants, without the Vector resin wheels at this time.  It was easier to paint with them out but when it came time to put them in, I had to sand the wheel axles to get them inside the wheel pods.  More divergence from the instruction sheet occurred at this time.  While the lower wings and fuselage was drying I worked on the solid upper wing and lower wing ailerons.  This is where I wish I would have known what was in store for me in the rigging department in the near future.  I didn’t realize that at this point I should have drilled holes and superglue in the rigging wires.  It would have made the assembly of the kit so much easier.  (More on this later.)  I have been using scratch plastic to make building jigs with that have become really handy.  Easier to handle the plane during construction and cheap too since they are made from scratch plastic glued into the exact jig shape I need.  They can be thrown away later.  The rudder would be painted white with black stripes so I saved it for final assembly.

One of my main sources of information is a Classic Colours Luftwaffe Colours Volume One Section 2 Jagdwaffe “The Spanish Civil War”.  It comes with a page of color swatches.  I matched up my best colors with this swatch.  It turned out that my old Polly Scale colors matched the best.  They call for RLM 70/71/65 for Adolf Galland’s 2*78.  I chose a scheme that was a bit different from the others not to mention an early aircraft of the future General.

The kit got cleaned and sprayed Tamiya Primer right out of the rattle can and left to dry.  I spent this time cleaning up the wing struts and preparing to paint the white for the wing tips and stripes.  I have been using Tamiya Acrylic paint with Tamiya’s Lacquer thinner.  No other lacquerer thinner will work with their paint system (Mixing Acryl and Lacquer paints that is.)  It is formulated to work with Tamiya’s Acrylic paint.  So the wingtips got a coat of white along with the top of the high wing and bottom of the low wing.  After I masked the white areas off, I sprayed Tamiya Semi-gloss black and cut two circles out of Tamiya masking tape for the upper and lower Spanish markings.

He 51C Legion Condor Kit

Then I used Polly Scale RLM 71 Dark Green to cover the fuselage and upper wing surfaces.  This paint separated from the edges of the tape in a strange chemical reaction.  I ended up having to spray the entire kit down with a thin layer of Future Floor Polish and respraying the RLM 71 again.  I used Polly Scale RLM 70 Black Green for the contrast color and RLM 65 for the light blue bottom of the fuselage and wings.  The propeller was sprayed Tamiya Buff.  I used a medium brown with a fan brush to drybrush a wood texture on and then masked off areas that were to be the raw wood color and then airbrushed a reverse wear pattern so the woodgrain would show through.  It came out very realistic in scale and I am happy with the results.  Wheels, exhaust stacks, tail skid and other sundry parts were added.

He 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor Kit

Again a thin layer of Future Floor Polish was sprayed to cover everything and then it was time to remove all the masking and assemble the wings.  Something that I had been dreading.  When I glued the fuselage struts and then the wing struts on with liquid glue to give myself a little working time, I was surprised to find that it went on well.  My fears of the bi-wing were not founded.  But my fear of rigging was!

He 51C Legion Condor Kit

Since I painted on all the circles and stripes, all I needed to do for the rest of the decals was the Mickey Mouse, the word “Lemon” and the side numbers and Pate’ style cross.  The Eduard decals were just fine and went down with Micro Sol with no problems at all.  I painted the drop tank with the new Vallejo Metalic Silver Acrylic paint. I really liked this paint a lot. It reminded me of the old Alclad Silver without all the lacquer smell.

He 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor Kit

Had I predrilled those holes and rigged before painting, I would have saved myself a lot of grief. I tried to find the smallest diameter plastic rod I could but it was just too out of scale.  I went ahead and rigged it anyway and it looked awful.  I ripped it all out and cleaned up the glue marks.  Then I got some .013 guitar string but it was too big too.  I tried stretched sprue but it was next to impossible to keep taunt, lined correctly, glued in proper place, etc.  So I settled in on Shakespeare 6 lb test OmniFlex Monofilament to use for rigging.  I would loop the string around the backside of the wing strut then put a dot of superglue on it.  A shot of accelerator hardened it up and repeated the process….over and over…..and over.

Now for the part that really hurt.  I had to drill into the already finished paint with my smallest bit and fed the rigging into each hole, then sealed it with a drop of extra thin superglue and accelerator.  Those areas had to be cleaned up and repainted to blend.  The rigging sagged here and there which caused me further grief.  Advice from my local club gave me the idea to heat a small section of brass tube, held with tweezers, over a tea candle.  I held the heated tube near the rigging and it tightened right up.  What a great idea!  Something WWI guys probably came up with in the 60’s or 70’s.  I am still learning new things!

He 51C Legion Condor Kit

I put small Evergreen sprue pieces to replicate stabilizing struts in the rigging and tacked them down with superglue.  The rigging got painted with Vallejo Matte Black after touching up the drilled out areas with my airbrush.  There is another set of wires that form a Y above the pilots head.  The wire goes from the tail to just behind the pilot and then off to a center point near the wing tip to be attached to tiny little posts.  It was just too much.  You couldn’t pick up the model without breaking some rigging somewhere.  I say just build the model and don’t worry about rigging or preplan what you want to do and brace for it.  Dealer’s choice.

After I put the windshield, pitot tube and cockpit door on, I thinned out some tans with turpentine and slowly dirtied up the bottom of the plane to replicate the Spanish sandy landing fields.

He 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor KitHe 51C Legion Condor Kit

It was a long and drawn out process of building.  Take each step one at a time and decide early if you want to tackle the rigging or not.  If you want to tackle the rigging, make a plan on how you want to sew those wings together.  It will pay off in the long run. I enjoyed the Bf-190E-3 side of this combo kit.  I didn’t enjoy the He 51 side as much but they look fantastic together on the shelf.  Don’t get me wrong, the Roden He 51 is a good kit but does not fall together like a Tamagawa kit would.  It still makes a fine representation of the last of the biplane fighters.

My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!