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21st Century Toys' 1/32 scale
Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2

by Brett Green

 

Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2

 


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Introduction


Background

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 F was a major transformation of the famous Augsburg Eagle. The airframe was streamlined with a newly designed engine cowling, large spinner, rounded wing tips, revised flaps and many mechanical modifications compared to the earlier Bf 109 E.

The Bf 109 F entered service in 1941, at around the same time as the RAF introduced the Spitfire Mk.V. RAF Fighter Command also switched to offensive operations over France and Belgium during this period, creating a new challenge for the Luftwaffe.

The new Spitfire was superior to the Bf 109 F in most respects, and it would not be until early 1942 with the general introduction of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 that a Luftwaffe fighter aircraft would gain a temporary upper hand.

Despite this see-sawing combat on the Channel Front, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 F achieved stunning success over the grassy steppes and frozen tundras of Russia, and the harsh desert of North Africa during 1941 and 1942.



21st Century Toys' 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109 F

21st Century Toys has been making a name for itself in the collector's market with their large-scale, pre-assembled and painted aircraft and military models. Now, 21st Century Toys has expanded into plastic construction kits.

This first generation of 1/32 scale kits includes a Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2/F-4.

We have been waiting for a Friedrich variant of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in 1/32 scale for a long time. Revell's 1/32 scale Bf 109 F from the 1960s displayed some fatal accuracy issues, and Hasegawa seems to be in no rush to expand their excellent 1/32 scale Bf 109 family.

So do we finally have a decent 1/32 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109 F?

 



21st Century Toys' Messerschmitt Bf 109 is nicely detailed; offers useful options including drop tank, bombs, workable undercarriage and slats; fits together well and is simple to build. On the other side of the equation, clear parts are quite thick, recessed panel lines are wider and softer than we would normally see on a mainstream kit, and there is some ambiguity about exactly which variant this model represents.

Even so, at around USD$10.00, it is an indisputable bargain.

Straight from the box, the kit actually best depicts a Bf 109 G-2, as suggested by the panel arrangement, closed tail wheel well, style of oil cooler fairing, supercharger intake and wide propeller blades. Some extra work will still be required for total accuracy. A full list of these modifications, plus a closer inspection of the parts in the box, may be found in my detailed review elsewhere on HyperScale.

I decided to finish my kit as a Bf 109 F-2. I gathered the various accessories and conversion parts needed for the task.

 

Construction

 

Cockpit

In my initial review of the 21st Century Bf 109 F, I thought that the cockpit was a bit underdetailed. I quickly changed my mind after I started working on the kit. The finished cockpit looks very good with only minimal extra work.

I decided to simply add harness straps and rudder toe straps.

The harness is the flexible resin item from Cutting Edge The toe straps are strips of lead foil. There was an ejector pin circle on the armour headrest that I covered with Mr Surfacer.

The only other addition was a length of fuse wire to complete the fuel line on the starboard sidewall (the front part in front of the inspection tube is not moulded to the sidewall).

 

 

I spent a couple of hours painting up the cockpit. The results were better than I expected. The sidewall detail looked shallow when unpainted, but was very convincing after painting and weathering.

I added a few placard decals from MDC and Reheat before sealing the paint job with Polly Scale Flat.

With the cockpit finished, construction of the main components could take place.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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Airframe

As I was building my model as a Bf 109 F, I cut open the tail wheel well before joining the fuselage halves. This does not effect the fit or functionality of the tail wheel strut, which is secured inside the fuselage.

Before assembly, I painted interior components including the wheel well and inside of the rear fuselage plus the landing gear legs in Gunze RLM 02. While the airbrush was loaded up I also sprayed the inside of the gear doors.

Inside the wings, the radiators are blanked off with raised plastic sections. The front of these were painted black to hide the lack of radiator faces.

The main undercarriage legs must be installed before the wings are assembled. A plastic plate is screwed over the gear legs which, in theory, allows the gear to be retractable. I am not willing to test this as the legs are held very tightly in place. Perhaps the softer plastic of the pre-assembled kits makes this easier. I can advise that the legs are very secure, and sit at the correct angle, when they are installed.

The leading edge slats are moveable, and these must also be installed before the top wings are glued in place.

Next, the tail sections were added to each fuselage half. I figured that this order of assembly would provide the best alignment along the panel line. I was right. Before gluing the tail sections to the main fuselage halves, however, I first cut off the rudder. I have a spare tail section from a Hasegawa Bf 109 G, and I decided to adapt this better-shaped item to the 21st Century kit.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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The tail wheel strut was now mounted on its pin, the cockpit tub was placed between its locating tabs and the instrument panel installed on one fuselage half. The panel is located securely in slots inside the fuselage resulting in a very positive fit.

The fuselage halves almost snapped together. A tiny bit of fiddling was required to align the cockpit and instrument panel, but the locating pins along the fuselage provided a strong and accurate fit for the fuselage halves.

I faithfully followed the instructions and inserted the three screws in their holes on the fuselage sides. However, these made very tight going and I was eventually worried that I would damage the plastic. I gather that this method of construction was designed for the softer plastic of the pre-assembled kits. As it turns out, Tamiya Liquid Cement was perfectly adequate for the plastic seam lines, so next time I will not bother using the screws at all.

At this point I smugly ignored the instructions, and glued the full-span lower wing to the fuselage. I should have followed the instructions, as I wound up with a gap at the wing root on one side when test-fitting the upper wing halves. I cut open the joins at the lower front of the bottom wing, and glued the top halves in place before re-securing the bottom wing to the fuselage. The result was a perfect fit at the wing root, the lower wing at the rear fuselage, and very good at the lower front wing section.

You can save yourself this extra step by simply following the instructions and assembling the wing before offering it to the fuselage.


 

Additions and Modifications

With the basic assembly done, it was time to make a few changes.

The moveable leading edge slats are a nice idea, but I thought that they looked a bit clunky due to the see-through effect behind the slats into the interior of the wing. 

I decided to blank off the area behind the slats. This would mean that the slats would no longer be workable, but I could live with that.

I measured and cut two lengths of plastic strip to fit over the mounts, creating a diagonal blanking plate. I test-fitted the blanking plates in position then, when satisfied, ran a bead of liquid glue along the upper and lower joins while it was still in place.

I think these blanking plates improve the finesse of the model in this area. 

 

 

Now it was time to deal with those pesky plugs covering the screws. There are five of these plugs, and the fit varies from okay to poor. Regardless of the fit, however, they all need to be filled and sanded. I like to use Milliput White for this type of job. Milliput is a two-part epoxy putty that remains workable for at least a half-hour. It also has structural strength. Best of all, the hardness when dry is about the same as styrene, so you don't have to be Charles Atlas to sand the putty down the the level of the surrounding plastic.

I mixed up a small batch of Milliput by briskly kneading and rolling two equal-sized balls. The heat generated from this mixing process also makes the putty softer and easier to work with.

The putty was then selectively pressed into the gaps and recesses, then the excess removed (to make the job of sanding easier). While I had the Milliput mixed, I used the leftovers to fill the unecessary hatches and redundant locating holes (eg, for the DF loop and the cannon gondolas).

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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My model was destined to be finished as an "F", so I sliced off the four scoops on the nose and the raised pips under the canopy (these are to mount an umbrella on tropical versions).

I filled these small scars with Milliput too. I also added a small amount of filler to the join line on the engine cowl, where the top cowl meets the main fuselage. There was no separate panel here on the real aircraft.

The only actual gaps left during construction were at the bottom rear of the engine cowls, and one side of the leading edge of the wing root close to the fuselage.

Overall fit was very impressive, especially the traditional trouble spots of the fuselage seam lines and where the bottom of the wing meets the fuselage. There were no gaps whatsoever in these areas.

I left the Milliput to set for about three hours. By this time the putty is hard enough to sand without sinking.

I started by sanding the bulk of the excess putty off with 400 grit sanding paper, followed by wet sanding with MasterCasters' purple then blue sanding sticks. These look like traditional sanding sticks at first glance, but they have a flexible core in the middle. They work well and are very durable.

My original plan was simply to cut the rudder off my spare Hasegawa tail and glue it to the 21C kit fuselage. It was not quite that straightforward. When test-fitting, I found that the Hasegawa rudder was too tall for the 21C fin. Comparison to drawings suggest that the 21C fin was around 1mm too short and between 1 and 2 millimetres too narrow.

I first cut off the top of the 21C fin, as the antenna mast is a bit clunky anyway. Next, I glued plastic strip of the appropriate width on either side of the fin, and a single wider strip to the top of the fin. These were shaped tio conform with the kit part using a sharp hobby knife and a small sanding stick.

The Hasegawa rudder, including the top panel of the fin, was then glued on to the 21C tail. 

The resulting fit was quite good. A swipe of Tamiya Surface Primer (similar to thick Mr Surfacer) was all that was required to blank off some tiny see-through gaps at the hinge line.

 

 

With the surgery to the tail complete, I added the four thin reinforcing strips to the rear fuselage from fine styrene.

I brushed a layer of Tamiya Surface Primer over the sanded-down Milliput to make sure that all the tiny imperfections were filled. 

Last year I built a 1/32 scale Bf 109 G-2 using Hasegawa's kit and a few pieces from the Aires Bf 109 F conversion. This meant that I had the narrow supercharger intake, shallow oil cooler housing and appropriate propeller blades left over.

I was delighted to find that the oil cooler housing and narrow supercharger intake fitted almost without modification. The only surgery required was to cut off the rear locating pin from the intake.

I drilled a small hole in the leading edge of the oil cooler housing and installed a fine piece of wire to represent the actuator rod. 

I also decided to use an Eagle Editions spinner.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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The entire model was sanded once more with the blue Mastercaster sanding stick. Several rounds of sanding smoothed the very slight orange peel texture of the plastic.

Various missing and relocated hatches were scribed onto the fuselage using a thin stainless steel template.

The Aires propeller blades and the corresponding area on the spinner were drilled out. Brass tube was glued into the ends of the propeller blades to ensure a robust fit.

I also used one of the spare vacform canopies from Aires' 1/32 scale Bf 109 F conversion. This is thinner and offers a more "in-scale" appearance than the rather chunky 21 Century canopy. The distinctive side quarter windows in the bottom of the windscreen are much better too. I did use the 21st Century rear canopy section though, as it was a perfect fit with the kit's fuselage spine.

The Aires canopy was quite cloudy, but a bath in Future Floor Polish made it sparkle. Some extra hardware was added to the clear parts, including grab handles for the top corners of the windscreen and a canopy release handle, all formed from brass rod and strip.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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With the kit's surface now prepared, the cockpit and landing gear was masked and the model given an overall coat of Tamiya's Grey Fine Surface Primer straight from the can.

 

 

Painting, Decals and Weathering

 

Paint

All paint was applied with my Testor Aztek A470 airbrush fitted with the fine tan coloured tip.

My model was destined to wear the striking colours of Lt. Max-Hellmuth Ostermann, Staffelkapitan of 7./JG 54 in Autumn 1941. The kit supplies markings for this aircraft.

One of its prominent features is a yellow nose and fuselage band. However, I often have trouble getting yellow paint to cover properly. I also find that acrylic yellows take a long time to dry and are very prone to fingerprints and damage even weeks after application. Recently I have managed to avoid these problems. I started with a coat of white primer on the nose, mid fuselage and lower wingtips. This was lightly sanded and polished before spraying a coat of Tamiya Spray TS-34 "Camel Yellow" on the area. I decanted a quantity of this gloss yellow paint from the can into a disposable container and applied the paint using my Aztek airbrush. This acrylic lacquer still needed two coats over the white primer, but it dried fast and coped well with subsequent handling.

 

 

Once thoroughly dry, the yellow sections were masked using Tamiya masking tape.

I based my painting and markings on a colour photograph on page 13 of Monogram's old Messerschmitt Bf 109 F Close-Up. This photo is clearly captioned as Ostermann's Bf 109 F, and shows the aircraft with a narrow yellow fuselage band in front of the Balkenkreuz and the number in front of the band. Note 1 However, there are some key differences between this colour photograph and a good quality three quarter rear view wartime photo of Ostermann's Bf 109 F which shows the fuselage cross painted directly over a wide yellow fuselage band, and the large number 2 immediately forward of the cross. This conforms with the kit marking guide and decals. Unfortunately, I did not receive this image until after the model was finished (I am grateful to Goran Edkvist for sending this photo).

The first camouflage colour was Polly Scale RLM 76 Light Blue, applied to the lower surfaces and fuselage sides.

Next, Polly Scale RLM 75 was applied to the top of the wings, tailplanes and fuselage spine with the Testor Aztek airbrush fitted with the fine tan coloured tip. A first-pass mottle of RLM 75 was also sprayed onto the fuselage sides and fin. Similar to the treatment of the RLM 76, a paler shade of RLM 75 was mixed. Small, random streaks were sprayed over the base colour.

This was followed by a disruptive coat of Polly Scale acrylic RLM 74 Grey Green. The camouflage pattern on the wings was masked using paper held off the surface of the plastic with tiny blobs of Blu-Tack. This technique delivers a slightly feathered edge.

I painted the irregular fuselage mottle according to the colour photograph in the Monogram Close-Up on the Bf 109 F. In this photo, the yellow rudder also appears to have been mottled with RLM 75 around the victory marks. I roughly masked the area to receive the panel of victory marks and sprayed a soft mottle around it.

I also used the colour photo as a reference for the spinner. The front of the cap appeared to be "thirded" in white, with the rear part of the spinner was a constant dark colour. I chose RLM 70 Black Green and white for the forward section, and black for the rear. Propeller blades were painted RLM 70 Black Green.
 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

[../../photogallery/photo00026148/real.htm]

Decals

The model received a coat of Polly Scale Gloss acrylic before the markings were applied. I find that the Polly Scale clear finish can be more easily controlled than Future when spraying, does not run on horizontal surfaces, yet still delivers a hard, shiny finish ideal for decals.

I used the 21st Century kit decals, which are very thin, perfectly opaque (even the large white numbers) and settled down beautifully into panel lines.

The completed paintwork was sealed with a two thin coats of Polly Scale Flat acrylic.

The finishing touches were now applied, including the canopy, pitot tube (from brass tube and rod), wing tip lights (small resin coloured "bulbs" covered with a "lens" of two-part epoxy glue), aerial wire from nylon monofilament and resistors formed using small blobs of Krystal Kleer.


Note 1: The fuselage number is almost completely obscured by the wing in the colour photograph on page 13 of the Monogram Close-Up. However, the bottom right hand side of the number can just be made out. It is white with a narrow black outline, but it is curved. This would suggest that the number is not "2". Digits with a curved bottom right corner might include 3, 5, 6, 8 or 9. So is this the same aircraft repainted, or another of Ostermann's mounts? I would be interested if anyone has additional information.
 

 

Conclusion

 

We often speak of scale aircraft modelling as if it is one hobby. In fact, there are as many different interpretations of the hobby as there are modellers.

In my opinion, there is no single "correct" goal, whether it be accuracy, artistic attractiveness, or something as simple as finishing a model that looks vaguely like the intended subject aircraft. If the individual modeller is satisfied with their result, that is enough.

There has been much discussion recently about factors that will bring about the death of our hobby. The long list of these fatal influences includes Mike Grant's "smoke ring" decals, Spitfire fuselage lengths, the rise of die-cast collectibles, video games and the emphasis of surface detail on particular kits. Without doubt, 21st Century Toys' new inexpensive kit line will be added to this Doomsday list.

Even so, I believe that this model will be appreciated by an assortment of people for different reasons.

My seven year old son loves the recent series of 1/72 scale Hobby Boss aircraft kits. We have sat down and built a few together. It won't be long before he is building these simple kits himself. I can see a time in a few years where he would be delighted to be able to buy 21st Centurys' 1/32 scale Bf 109 with his own pocket money, and build it in one afternoon. Thinking back 37 years to myself at 10 years old, that scenario sounds kind of familiar.

Similarly, for modellers coming back into the hobby after college and family, these kits will represent a way to create a nice model with basic skills, and encourage our new recruit to try something more ambitious next time.

Even the more experienced modeller might feel jaded sometimes. This kit could represent a refreshing sorbet between heavier courses. Or if someone prefers painting to construction, this artist might use 21st Century's Bf 109 as a plastic palette for their penchant.

There is no doubt that, in a side-by-side comparison to Hasegawa's 1/32 scale Bf 109 family, the Hasegawa kits are clearly superior in terms of surface finesse, detail and finish. Despite this, there is an important place for the 21st Century kit for less experienced modellers and, with a sticker price of around USD$10.00, modellers on a budget.

21st Century Toys' 1/32 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109 F will be ideal as an entry-level large-scale kit, or a "slammer" to test your painting skills, or a low-cost alternative if finances are tight.

I also enjoyed spending the extra time and effort making the model to a more accurate replica of the Bf 109 F. I think that 21st Century Toys has admirably captured the overall look and feel of the Bf 109.

I already have the 21st Century 1/32 scale Corsair and Stuka kits, and I am looking forward to see what is next in the pipeline.

Thanks to 21st Century Toys for the sample.


Photography

The model was photographed in HyperScale's studio using a Nikon D70 digital SLR. Illumination was via two studi flash units - one Bowens 250 and a generic 100 flash - on stands and illuminating from a high 45 angle from each side of the front of the photography table.

The camera was fitted with a Micro Nikkor 60mm lens.

ISO was set to 250, and the manual shooting settings were 1/100 of a second at f.29. The high aperture ensures good depth of field.

The model was placed on a base of static grass in front of an enlarged photograph of sky. The images were optimized (brightness and contrast) in Photoshop CS, resized to 700 pixels in width and saved as 75 dpi .jpg files using Photoshop's "Save for the Web" option.

 

 

For the images with the extended grass foreground, the model photo was merged with a photograph of grass taken at Bankstown Airport in Sydney's south-western suburbs. The colour and tone of the grass in the airport photo and the model photo were matched using Photoshop's "Hue and Saturation" tools. The demarcation between the model static grass and the real grass in the foreground was merged using the Clone Stamp tool.

The hangar in the background of the title image was one of a series of photographs of buildings at Berlin-Gatow Airport, now a museum on the outskirts of Berlin, that I took last year (thanks Andreas, and all the members of Hans Grade Model Club). This was added as another layer in Photoshop.
 


Model, Images & Text Copyright 2007 by Brett Green
Page Created 13 June, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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