In a market awash with kits of the Bf 109, few have been as enthusiastically received as Zvezda's 1:48 Friedrich, widely acclaimed as possibly the most accurate kit yet of any '109 variant. It's been over two years since their original Bf 109F-2 was released, so there was understandably a good deal of excitement recently with the announcement of the new 'F-4 boxing.
The kit arrives in an attractive box that holds a surprise; under the conventional lid is another corrugated flip-top cardboard box. It's an excellent idea that works really well and provides almost double-protection for the contents in transit. The new model uses most of the original version's parts, so there's a fair number of unused items, but introduces the later rounded wheel wells, revised tail, broad-bladed propeller and a comprehensive set of stores for a total of:
208 x grey styrene parts (plus 39 spare)
6 x clear parts (plus 6 unused)
Decals for a single aircraft
The original kit was reviewed in detail HERE
by Jean-Luc Formery, so I'll try not to cover too much of the same ground. The moulding remains generally excellent, with very crisp detail and finely engraved panel lines (on the wings' upper surfaces too, this time) that put many mainstream kits to shame. Fabric surfaces are lightly depicted, but the kit shares the small error of the original release in that the underside of the ailerons is left blank (Vector's excellent resin upgrade reviewed HERE
corrects this oversight). There's no real flash evident on the review model, just light mould lines to clean up here and there, and the only shallow sink marks I've spotted are on the reverse of the new propeller blades and on the exterior of the tailwheel well. Neither case is serious and they'll only take a minute or two to deal with.
The fuselage halves line up perfectly and the separate tail is a snug fit. However, anyone wanting a quick and easy build may be a little frustrated by the entire nose being separate and made up of individual cowl panels. The instructions indicate that you do have to install the basic engine (whether you want to display it or not) to support everything, but perhaps, with care and a bit of ingenuity, you can get away without it. The wing is unusual in that it includes some interior detail outboard of the wheel wells. This may seem superfluous as none of it will be visible on the completed model, but it does serve a useful purpose in supporting the separate optional lower panels designed for the different armament options. The wing tips are separate too, which in some other kits can cause problems getting a neat fit, but these match the thickness and airfoil very nicely. The fuselage/wing-root and tailplane joints are so precise, they won't need any filler.
Details and options
Over 200 parts for a small fighter is quite a lot, so you won't be surprised to learn the kit is reasonably complex. This is largely accounted for by the fact that it can be built in 3 main ways:
1. In flight - a pilot figure is provided, and an optional display stand is available separately.
2. With the undercarriage down, but otherwise all closed up.
3. With the gear down and the cowls and canopy opened.
For the latter option Zvezda provide a very detailed 56-part engine and nose guns sub-assembly, followed by a further 25 parts devoted to the cockpit. The DB601 is very complete and, unusually for this scale, even the lower cowl is separate to allow the oil cooler to be displayed. There's obviously extra "plumbing" that can be added - spark plug leads are an obvious example - but the completed nose bay should be a real gem. A very nice touch is the structural details moulded on to the interior of the cowlings.
The cockpit is a similar story, with a choice of seat styles and plenty of detail overall to form a suitably busy "office". The main instrument panel can be represented simply by a decal or a far superior moulded version. The instructions suggest laying the whole decal over the moulded details, but a better option would be to punch out the individual faces to position them. If you don't use the pilot figure, you'll want to add a seat harness but, otherwise, the cockpit will look excellent straight from the box.
The undercarriage is well moulded with nicely detailed wheel hubs and tyres. The mainwheel wells are neatly done (although there are a couple of irritating seams on the liners) and the gear doors are nice and thin. The tailwheel is separate from its fork.
The canopy is crystal clear and comes with a choice of windscreens that offer a top ventilation scoop and separate exterior armour. The flare port is absent from the starboard side, but that's easy to add.
The kit comes complete with a generous selection of crisply moulded stores on the new sprue that offers the following options:
A 300 litre drop tank
A pair of underwing MG 151/20mm cannon gondolas
A centre-line ETC 50/VIId pannier with 4 x SC 50kg bombs
A centre-line ETC 900/IXb rack with a SC 250kg bomb
Instructions and Decals
The instructions are well drawn and break the construction down into 26 main stages plus a number of sub-assemblies. With so many options for how you want to build the model, the assembly guide needs to cram a lot in and the result is a bit cluttered, so I recommend reading it carefully to get a clear idea of what you're doing. Painting suggestions are keyed to most details and matches are given for Humbrol and Zvezda's own brand of model paints. I've never had a chance to try Zvezda's paints, but some of the suggested Humbrol matches look pretty wide of the mark and, overall, I'd have to say the painting instructions are probably the one weak point of the kit.
Markings are provided for just one aircraft. This was flown by Oblt. Max-Hullmuth Ostermann, of 8./JG54 in Siverskaya, Russia, in the spring of 1942, and is shown in both summer and winter camouflage:
The decals are printed by Begemot in their usual almost dead-flat finish. There is minimal carrier film and the registration looks very good on most items, although green of the famous Grünherz
unit insignia is a tad off in my kit. There are a number of stencils provided and they look perfectly usable, but the printing is a little "soft" compared with the best available. Zvezda provide swastikas but, in what might be seen as political correctness in overdrive, they have broken each one down into four
parts to overcome political sensitivity in some countries. To be honest, with aftermarket alternatives so widely available, I doubt I'd have the patience to assemble the kits versions.
Like its predecessor, Zvezda's Bf 109F-4 is a superb kit, and it's great value for money. However it is reasonably complex, so it might be wise to have a little modelling experience before tackling it, but if you want an accurate 1:48 Friedrich, this is the kit to go for. Highly recommended.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE