The Airfix Kit in 1/24 Scale
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3
|B a c k g r o u n d|
The model featured here is the Airfix 1/24 scale Messerschmitt Bf-109E-3. With many good references on the Emil at my disposal, I decided from the start to make whatever adjustments the kit required to accurately represent this mainstay of the Luftwaffe during the early years of WW 2. To meet this end, I chose to make some important corrections to the wings and little touches here and there as described below. The end result is a BIG hunk of plastic, which will grab the attention of anyone familiar with the Battle of Britain.
|C o n s t r u c t i o n|
After reviewing many references it was clear that the wings were going to need modification. The Airfix kit has the flaps molded "up", while I wanted them "down".
Also, the wheel wells and oleo tunnels were nothing more than open holes in the bottoms of the wings. Youd think that a model of this size and detail would include these features. The only solution is get out some new Xacto blades, some Evergreen stock plastic, the Dremel and prepare for surgery!
Partially scratch-built lowered flaps were added to the wings. This was accomplished by cutting out the existing flaps and building up their leading edges using ¼" diameter plastic tube, cut and shaped to roughly fit. One difficulty here is that there are four distinct sections with transitions to their leading edge. After much puttying and careful shaping, the separated flaps looked good on their own.
The resulting holes in the trailing edges of the wings were filled and sanded to match the flaps. A Dremel tool with a fine grinding cylinder was used to thin the upper wing trailing edge down to the correct thickness.
The second major modification to the wings was around the landing gear bays. Being simple openings in the lower wing surface, they needed a lot of improvement. I used .020" thick sheet styrene to blank-off the wheel wells and create walls for the oleo tunnels with my 1/48th scale Hasegawa Emil as a guide.
To accurately model the variable contour of these tunnels, I took more ¼" diameter styrene tube and split it down the middle, tapering the cut outward after a couple inches. A heat gun (OK, a blow dryer) was used to gently soften and smooth these to match the oleo tunnel contours. After much careful sanding to match the right and left tunnels, they were glued into place and puttied. As a check, the kit landing gear was periodically placed within the new bays to check fit. As a final last touch to the wings, some thin strips of styrene were added to the wheel bays to simulate the two stringers visible from underneath.
Many other small touches were added to the kit. These included relatively simple but effective items including hollowed-out gun barrels, opened engine exhausts and air intakes.
One area where the Squadron book really came in handy was when I had to re-scribe the panel lines missing from the lower fuselage center section. A nice ink drawing of the Emils lower surface helped in scribing panels in their proper locations. Copper wire was painted black and used to simulate hydraulic lines and straps on the main gear struts.
Last but not least, Waldron seat belts, dial gauges and an oxygen hose were added to the cockpit interior.
|P a i n t i n g a n d D e c a l l i n g|
The model features a Battle of Britain paint scheme patterned after Adolf Galland's Emil. Artwork for this scheme appears on the cover of Squadron/Signal Publication's Messerschmitt Bf 109 In Action, Part 1.
The paint on this model was shaded and oversprayed to appear weathered and sun-bleached to represent the war-weary Emil. The underside was painted with a combination of Model Master aircraft gray and French light blue enamels.
Each panel was accented with slightly lighter color in their middle to subtly help the wear effect.
The upper surfaces were painted with a combination of Model Master Medium and Dark Gray enamels over AeroMaster Light Gray acrylic. The pattern on the wings and horizontal empenage surfaces was painted with a "soft splinter" pattern. This was achieved by masking the darker areas with 5-10mm tall stand-offs.
The fuselage was given an undercoat of light gray acrylic and permitted to dry a few days. The soft splinter pattern on the top of the fuselage was then airbrushed on; first with the medium gray, and then the dark gray. The sides of the fuselage were painted with a mottled combination of dark gray over-sprayed in spots with the base acrylic. Spraying light gray between the stringer rivet patterns gave the panels a sun-faded effect. After a few days of drying, Future floor polish was used to seal the paint. When the decals had been put on, additional light gray was sprayed onto them to give them a faded effect.
The kit decals were used in a combination that best represented Gallands aircraft during the Battle of Britain.
Setting solution was used to soften these thick but fairly well printed decals during application. Due to the raised rivet patterns and deep panel lines, a cotton swab was used to gently roll the softened decals flat into and around the surface features. The result was very pleasing - the decals almost look painted-on. Future was thinly brushed on to each decal to seal it and make any film disappear.
As noted above, a light dusting of the black crosses with light gray gave them a more realistic appearance.
|F i n i s h i n g|
The model was completed with a few final weathering touches.
Small amounts of tan acrylic were rolled onto the wheels to simulate the mud seen in many photos of the Emil. Engine exhaust and panel lines were duplicated with Tamiya "smoke" applied very thinly. Several coats behind the engine exhausts were required to achieve the effect. Paint chips and small areas of wear were speckled or dry brushed with chrome enamel. The panel lines were washed with a burnt umber water-soluble paint that was thinned with a tiny amount of liquid soap to reduce its surface tension. Finally, the rudder control rods and the radio antenna were made from stretched sprue, painted and glued in place with crazy glue.
|C o n c l u s i o n|
This Emil really drew some comments when finished and parked in my office. Its sheer size begs to be noticed and if the modeler is inclined, he can "go to town" adding as much detail to this as he wants.
Its not a difficult model to build, but some level of extra effort will be required if the modeler wishes to correct the many small flaws.
The end product will be an enjoyable addition to any collection.
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