by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
I think Dragon could have been forgiven for being disappointed by the reaction in some quarters when they announced what is, in many respects, a scaled-down version of their excellent 1:32 Bf 110. Far from being greeted with open arms, it was more a question of "Why? We've already got a perfectly good '110 in this scale." It's undoubtedly testament to just how highly regarded Eduard's kit is that the new model was dismissed as almost redundant before its critics had even seen it. I should declare a minor interest in this kit, since I joined Dragon's existing advisers and offered some last-minute suggestions for additions, but I'm pleased to say that, for me at least, Dragon's quarterscale Bf 110D more than justifies its release; it's a beauty and, in some aspects represents an advance on all previous mainstream kits of this aircraft - in any scale.
But back to basics. I've probably already confused some readers by referring to Dragon when the kit is by Cyber-Hobby - one of Dragon's sub-brands. You've probably noticed the "bonus" sticker on the boxtop artwork. This is for the initial production run and is (currently) limited to North America and Japan. And the bonus? - a pair of beautifully detailed miniature DB 601s that are almost kits in themselves. The kit comprises:
339 x grey styrene parts (two not needed)
14 x clear styrene parts (one not needed)
16 x etched brass parts
1 x length of wire
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The first thing that's apparent on examining the parts is that they are very nicely moulded indeed - just a wisp of mould lines here and there, no sink marks that I can find, and ejector pins have been positioned out of harm's way. The detail moulding is among the crispest I've seen. The exterior finish on the main components comprises neatly engraved panel lines, plus some raised details. On the fabric areas there's a needless "texture effect", but neatly depicted rib tapes on the control surfaces, although strangely not on the flaps.
The flaps? Yes, that's the first of the kit's "firsts"; not only are the flaps separate to allow them to be modelled raised or lowered, but Dragon have recognised that the originals were partly fabric covered - something missed in previous kits of the aircraft.
While we're on the subject of "firsts", of course the other major one is the inclusion of separate leading edge slats. As we've joked previously on Aeroscale, we should christen these "Steffen slats" after our own Steffen Arndt, who has bemoaned their absence in previous Bf 110 kits. The way Dragon has tackled them is rather neat; thanks to their late inclusion, the slats are moulded closed (which makes for an easy build if you don't want them open), but there are cutting guides on the wing's interior to fit the movable slats, rather like an aftermarket set.
Test fitThe main parts slot together very positively. Test fitting both a pre-release model and the final product, I found a tight fit at the wing roots and there's a substantial "spar" to lock everything together. With a lot of this kit's design being so similar to its big 1:32 predecessor, I've read concerns about the fit, particularly of the interior (although I have to say, having built the fuselage of the largescale Bf 110, I didn't hit any particular problems there myself...). Anyway, back to the present kit - there seems to be plenty of room to fit the "office" and although, with the parts only taped together, there's a degree of flex to the wing assembly, it looks very much as though a no-filler joint at the wing roots is easily achievable.
Some detailsConstruction begins with the cockpit, which is very nicely fitted out with a over 70 parts. The instruments and radios are particularly crisply moulded, as are the cannons and rear machine gun which feature hollowed-out muzzles thanks to the slide-moulds used. The gunner's seat is a bit chunky, but the pilot's is much better, and etched harnesses are provided. These are a little simplified, but should look quite acceptable with careful painting (and, of course, aftermarket alternatives are widely available). The sidewalls and consoles are well detailed and, all in all, the kit has the makings of an excellent "office".
The nose gun compartment is similarly well done, with delicate machine guns (again with hollowed out muzzles), ammunition feeds and compressed air bottles. At first glance the way the gun cover opens looks odd. In fact, the nose is designed to be built two ways - either as a closed unit (which will hide the interior details), or with a separate top cover. The latter entails removing the moulded-on front section and substituting a replacement part which joins to the removable cover to form the one-piece assembly as on the full-size aircraft. A slightly odd way of doing things, but it'll work OK.
The undercarriage is nicely detailed with full mainwheel wells. The way the gear legs attach to the firewall is simpler and more robust than in the Eduard kit, and should be straightforward for less experienced modellers while still looking authentic. Staying with the nacelles, the complex exhausts are crisply moulded (but aren't hollowed out), and the propellers are multi-part affairs with separate blades with nicely detailed hubs.
It's clear that more versions are planned and the lengthened tail cone (which housed a life-raft in the real aircraft) is a separate sub-assembly, with the exterior lanyard represented by a length of pre-shaped wire.
The kit comes with a selection of external stores. The belly-mounted ETC 500/IX rack is made from two parts to give real depth and the accompanying bombs have nice thin tail fins. There's a choice of two styles of drop tanks - the ribbed variety, and the huge and distinctive 198 litre type. There's no fuselage auxiliary oil tank provided, but this wasn't always fitted to the full-sized machine.
Finally, in the standard kit, are the transparencies. These are thin and crystal clear. The canopy is supplied in two forms - closed for an easy build, or with the pilot's and gunner's hatches separate to show off the interior.
Bonus partsThose lucky enough to get one of the first US/Japanese production run are in for a real treat in the shape of a pair of beautifully detailed DB 601s. Each engine assembly comprises 25 parts and the moulding and detail are quite exceptional for this scale. The potential for servicing dioramas and vignettes is obviously huge, and it's to be hoped that Dragon may yet release more 1:48 figures and ground equipment to accompany their aircraft kits.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly diagrams are well illustrated with part-shaded line drawings. Each stage is pretty clear, but do pay attention to the numerous "info views" set into the main illustrations - although they sometimes clutter the layout, they are important.
Assembly is broken down into 10 stages (the bonus engines are an alternative Stage 6) and I have to say that I think experienced modellers will probably soon substitute their own construction sequence once the interior is completed; as it is, what follows seems more for convenience of drawing than assembly, with the wings (complete with engines, gear and drop tanks) not being added to the similarly finished fuselage until the very last stage. Apart from inviting parts to get knocked off during assembly, it's a guaranteed painting and nightmare.
Talking of painting, Dragon have keyed Gunze Sangyo paints to most of the details. They've gone for a "home brew" which I presume represents RLM 66 for the overall cockpit interior, whereas I would have thought RLM 02 is more likely for a 'D.
The exterior painting instructions are a big improvement over some of their previous kits and it's very welcome to see RLM paint matches included. Two colour schemes are offered:
1. M8 AP, 6./ZG 76, Greece, 1941.
2. 4./ZG 76, Raschid, Iraq, 1941 - with Luftwaffe markings over-painted with Iraqi national insignia.
Two sheets of decals are included, custom printed by Cartograph with a silk finish. The quality is excellent, as we've come to expect from this source, with pin-sharp registration and minimal carrier film. A really nice touch (and an answer to one of the few significant criticisms of the original 1:32 '110s) is the inclusion of a very comprehensive set of stencil decals along with placement guides. As usual with Dragon kits, no swastikas are included, but aftermarket items are easily found.
ConclusionDragon (Cyber-Hobby) look to have produced a really good quarterscale Bf 110, and it's great to see them paying attention to modellers' wishes to add features and correct shortcomings in previous efforts. Of course, the big question for many modellers who may already have one or more Eduard kits in the Stash is whether they can justify adding another Bf 110 to the collection; despite a slightly vested interest, I can honestly say I think the answer is "Yes" - I think there's enough that's different here to warrant it. I'd definitely try to grab the first production version though, because the inclusion of those bonus engines really does make the kit a bit special.
With such a high parts count, this is obviously not a model for absolute beginners, but the excellent engineering I've found so far indicates that it should present few problems for modellers of average ability. Once I've cleared some current projects, I'm going to get this onto the workbench at the earliest opportunity, so watch out for a full-build report.
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