It's hard to believe that I first built Hasegawa's 1/48 scale Emil way back in the late 1980s! It marked something of a step for me in modelling terms, representing pretty much the state of the art by the standards of the day, with engraved panel detail and including what were then new-fangled etched parts. Heady days! The original boxings came in for some criticism from '109 experts (Tamiya also came a cropper with their first attempt at the Emil) and Hasegawa redesigned the fuselage parts. Comparing the new moulding with some leftover parts from an original shows some differences in the rear fuselage, with repositioned panel lines, tailwheel and refined details, but the most noticeable change is to the nose, now shorter and with slightly deeper contours and a new cowling. So, twenty years on (give or take a partial redesign along the way), how does this classic kit stack up? While undeniably simple by 21st century standards, it still looks pretty good in my opinion.
The attractive conventional box contains just three sprues with the main parts bagged separately and the transparencies packed on the reverse side of the decal sheet. The kit comprises:
51 x grey styrene parts ( 5 not needed)
4 x clear parts ( 1 not used)
5 x etched metal parts
Decals for 3 colour colour schemes
Despite being in almost constant use over the years, with regular re-releases, the moulds are still in good shape. There's a touch of flash starting to show around the mainwheels, but everything else is still looking very crisp, with a highly polished surface and no sink marks or other flaws. The engraved panel lines are backed up with a few raised details and subtle fabric surfaces that won't look out of place alongside modern CAD-produced kits. Test fitting shows no problems, with the main parts lining up well and a nice tight fit at the wing-roots.
The cockpit is standard for the period, with a separate seat, rudder pedals and control column, but arguably is a bit spartan compared with some recent kits. The separate sidewalls looked quite impressive in the '80s, but you may well want to dress them up a bit, adding some scratch items or the aftermarket sets that are now available, and the seat has a moulded-on harness that could benefit from replacing. The instrument panel has raised bezels and the kit also includes decals for the instruments. Overall, the cockpit is probably one of the areas of the kit that Hasegawa could justifiably improve if they were to revisit the kit.
The wings feature separate leading-edge slats and flaps and a simple, but effective landing gear with unweighted tyres. The sprues double for both an 'E-4 and 'E-7, (including a bomb, not used for the decal options) and the instructions show a drop tank fitted. According to my references, this wasn't introduced until the 'E-7 - the lack of range being one of the critical tactical limitations of earlier Bf 109 models, particularly in the Battle of Britain. The propeller comes complete with a choice of standard or the later pointed spinners, while the 3-part late-style "square-frame" canopy is crystal clear and can be posed open.
And the etched parts that seemed so radical twenty years ago? The seem quite modest now, with inserts for the radiator faces and an armoured headrest to install in the canopy.
Instructions and Decals
With a relatively simple kit, the clearly drawn assembly diagrams can't go far wrong and everything looks very straightforward. As usual, Hasegawa recommend Gunze Sangyo model paints throughout.
Decals are provided for:
1. III./JG3, flown by Kommandeur Hauptmann Wilhelm Baltazar, September 1940
2. Green 1 I, III./JG3, flown by Kommandeur Hauptmann Wilhelm Baltazar, August 1940 - the same a/c as above
3. Yellow 1 I, 9./JG26, flown by Staffelkapitän Gerhard Schöpfel, August 1940
The decals look very good quality, with a silk finish and minimal carrier film. Swastikas are provided, but one point that I find a little frustrating is that the "kills" are printed as one with the yellow rudders, meaning some careful trimming will be needed if you prefer to paint the rudder.
Hasegawa's classic Bf 109E is still a fine kit that can justify its place in any Luftwaffe collection. It's quite a simple model that is the ideal basis for some extra detailing, but its simplicity also makes it a good choice for newcomers to cut their teeth on.
Hasegawa's Messerchmitt Bf 109E-4 was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan. Visit HLJ for Japanese kits at Japanese prices.
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