by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundWhen Eduard released their original quarterscale Bf 109G, they did so with one of the most elaborate and ambitious marketing campaigns ever seen in the modelling world. Elements were revealed in stages in a carefully orchestrated countdown to the launch, with a group of modellers around the world selected to work on early mouldings as soon as they were ready.
If it had worked, it could well have set the standard for many future releases... but, tragically, it backfired - because, even as it was in full swing, increasing doubts began to set in about the accuracy of the kit. This wasn't a case of "rivet counters" arguing the toss over microscopic problems; there really were some errors that seriously damaged the way the kit was received and undermined its success.
Of course, Eduard aren't the first manufacturer to have tripped up with the '109; Tamiya and Hasegawa both dropped the ball and had to rework their first 1:48 Emils (and Hasegawa's Bf 109F/G/K series often comes in for criticism), so you could say Eduard are in company with the best of them. And, to their credit, while many companies notoriously choose to ignore criticism of their kits, Eduard have bitten the proverbial bullet and gone back to the drawing board to make the necessary corrections.
With the new kit planned as the basis of an extended series of Bf 109Fs and 'Gs, Eduard have a lot riding on getting things right this time - hence it being worthwhile taking the costly decision to invest in a major rework.
The New KitThe retooled kit is packaged in a typically stylish ProfiPACK box, with the main sprues together in one bag, and the clear parts and accessories wrapped individually. Everything arrived perfectly intact in the sample kit, despite two trips through the post to reach me. The kit comprises:
118 x dark grey styrene parts (with another 68 not needed)
7 x clear styrene parts (plus 7 unused)
46 x photo-etched parts, some pre-coloured
A sheet of kabuki tape painting masks for the canopy and mainwheels
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The large number of spare parts are because Eduard will use the same core sprues as the basis of future versions. So, for instance, you have four types of mainwheels included, only one of which is needed, two spare propellers, plus a selection of bombs that will help stock up the spares box.
The first thing to say about Eduard's reworked kit is that it's clearly different from its predecessor; comparing new against old, both the rear fuselage and wingspan (two main points of concern) are shorter. Placing the new parts on Kagero's scale drawings, the areas are a very close match now. Perhaps the acid test for many modellers is how they compare with Zvezda's Bf 109F, which has been widely lauded as the most accurate yet; again, Eduard's new kit holds up well - although the rear fuselage is a tad deeper. Which is correct? I'm not in a position to judge, but I'm more than happy on the basis of this quick check.
With the new kit being very much an exercise in correction, as against starting with a clean slate, it's no surprise to find that most of it is similar if not identical to Eduard's first attempt. There are some changes, though: the wingtips are no longer separate pieces (good news in my book), and the cowling inserts are handled differently. It's a little disappointing to find the pitot tube still moulded in situ, just asking to get damaged during assembly, and it would have been nice to have the option of clear navigation lamp covers.
The moulding is generally excellent. The parts are crisp and flash-free, and any ejector-pin marks look to have been placed thoughtfully. I did find a couple of small sink marks, though, but they are very minor and will only take a moment or two to deal with.
The exterior finish is a mix of delicate engraved panel lines and embossed rivets on the metal areas, with rib-tapes and stitching on the fabric-covered control surfaces. I have to say the latter is a bit heavy for my tastes and I'll reduce it a fair bit.
A quick test fit of the fuselage and wings shows they fit together beautifully, promising a really straightforward, trouble free, build.
A Few DetailsConstruction begins with a very nicely detailed cockpit, built up from around 40 parts if you go for the most complex form. In true ProfiPACK fashion, Eduard have provided a mix of styrene and photo-etched parts, so you get excellent pre-coloured seat harnesses, plus alternatives for the instrument panel, rudder pedals and fascias for the oxygen regulator and control boxes. The styrene parts are very crisp, though, and there are beautifully crisply printed decal faces for the styrene instrument panel.
Two styles of tails are provided for the colour schemes offered - an original-style and a later "tall tail".
The wheel wells are nicely handled, depicting the protective covers inside, and complete with well-defined wheel bulges moulded integrally. The main gear legs have been replaced, and now lack the rather over-scale hydraulic brake lines of the original release and, more importantly, look to have had their mounting lugs adjusted. This should correct the "sit" of the finished kit, which was previously a concern.
All the control surfaces and slats are separate parts and can be positioned as desired.
The radiators have optional (although they aren't shown as such) metal faces, and the flaps are designed to be dropped.
Two styles of windscreen and "Erla" canopies are included to allow for a pressurised cockpit and different radio masts. The transparent parts are superb quality - absolutely crystal clear, and the canopy can be posed open with an etched support to display the cockpit. Inside the canopy, Eduard provide etched latches and grab-handles, plus head armour.
The spinner looks good to me, as does the paddle-bladed propeller, and a neat touch for a diorama is the inclusion of a handle for the inertial starter.
The final stage deals with external stores. There are two styles of drop tank included, plus underwing 20mm cannon gondolas.
Instructions & DecalsThe construction guide is very nicely produced as a 16-page A4 booklet printed in colour throughout on glossy stock. The diagrams are very clear, and the recommended sequence is pretty logical. Colour call-outs are for Gunze Sangyo paints, with RLM codes where appropriate.
Decals are supplied for five interesting Gastavs:
A: W.Nr.160303, flown by Hptm. Friedrich Eberle, the CO of III./JG 1, Volkel, November, 1943
B: W.Nr. 15729, flown by Obstlt. Hermann Graf, Stab./JG11, Jever, early 1944
C: W.Nr. 411960, flown by Hptm. Franz Dörr, the CO of III./JG 5, Gossen, Norway, May, 1945
D: W.Nr. unknown, flown by Oblt. Kurt Gabler, 8./JG 300, Jüterbog – Waldlager Air Base, Germany, July, 1944
E: W.Nr. 165350, flown by Lt. Anton Hafner, the CO of 8./JG 51, Tilsit-Ost, August, 1944
The decals are supplied on two sheets and look excellent - thin and glossy, and printed in perfect registration. There's a comprehensive set of servicing stencils provided, and swastikas have been included (in the sample kit, at least) in both full and "sliced" forms. A nice touch is that the very fine "squiggle" pattern for the rudder of scheme D has been provided as a decal, because it would be daunting to airbrush correctly in this scale.
ConclusionNo doubt some of the "Luftwaffe Experten" have their knives ready to slice Eduard's new Gustav to pieces - reading some of the comments ahead of its release, you got the impression that some folks will be determined to find fault, regardless of whether it's justified. But 99% of modellers should be absolutely delighted with it. It looks set to build like a dream while still being beautifully detailed. I'm certainly looking forward to tackling it as my first new build to celebrate returning the workbench after carpal tunnel surgery. Recommended.
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