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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby Messerschmitt Me 209V1 -- 1:72 Scale



The Me 209 holds a number of distinctions in history, including as a speed record-breaking experimental racing aircraft.  In its day, the Me 209 was the fastest airplane in the world.  Despite its historic nature, interest in the Me 209 by mainstream kit manufacturers has been limited and inconsistent.  In 2018, Special Hobby has released a new-tool 1:72 scale Me 209V1 kit.  Let’s see what we’ve got.  

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By the late 1930s, the Germans had their eyes on building the fastest airplane in existence.  The Nazi state was trying to demonstrate their prowess and nationalistic “superiority” in the world of aviation, so Heinkel and Messerschmitt entered into a competition to build a plane to break all previous speed records.  Drawing on their successful experience with the Bf 109, a quick look at the Willy Messerschmitt’s design for the Me 209 would leave the impression that it shared quite a bit of “DNA” with the mass-produced fighter – perhaps looking as if a 109 had a love child with a rifle bullet.  Yet, the only thing truly in common with the Bf 109 was the DB 601 powerplant, though in this case the engine was steam-cooled and only had enough water onboard for about 30 minutes of flight.  This small, low-winged racer was maximized for speed.  The cockpit was set far back on the fuselage just in front of its unique cross-shaped tail.  The Me 209 also featured a wide track, inwardly-retracting main gear mounted in the wing and tail skid on lieu of a tail wheel.

While Heinkel was working on their design, the Me 209 also took shape, but the Messerschmitt design lagged behind.  Three were ordered by the RLM, and the first Me 209V1 (W.Nr. 1185) flew on the first of August 1938.  The V1 and V2 prototypes both experienced extensive issues with its ground handling, flying characteristics, engine, and cooling system.  Then, the Heinkel He 100V8 broke the world speed record.  Undeterred, Messerschmitt kept working on their airplane, convinced it would be faster than the He 100V8.  By 26 April 1939, many of the glitches had been worked out, at least provisionally. The Me 209V1, flown by test pilot Fritz Wendel, indeed took the airplane to a new world speed record of 469 MPH.  It was a major boon to German propaganda for years.  This record was not officially broken by another piston engine aircraft until 1969 by Darryl Greenamyer's highly modified Grumman F8F Bearcat.  In terms of absolute speed records, the Me 209’s accomplishment held for a mere 18 months until a rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 bested the Me 209V1 by nearly 200 MPH.

The idea of adapting the Me 209 racer to the fighter role gained traction during the Battle of Britain when the Bf 109 failed to maintain superiority over the RAF’s latest Spitfires.  As fast as it was, it was quickly apparent that the Me 209 design was ill-suited for combat.  Most airplanes of this era had plenty of room in their wings for cannons and machine guns.  The Me 209 used that space for the engine's liquid cooling system and therefore prohibited installation of armament.  Further, since the Me 209’s design was completely focused on speed, and it was hard to fly and not terribly maneuverable in a dogfight.  The idea was eventually abandoned, as various modifications were unsuccessful, one after another.  In 1943, the Me 209 designation was recycled for an unrelated Messerschmitt development project which was to be an uprated “Super Bf 109.”  Today, only the unrestored fuselage of the record-breaking Me 209V1 survives, unrestored, in the aviation museum in Krakow, Poland.

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Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Me 209V1 kits consists of 57 gray injection-molded plastic parts on two sprues.  In this version of the kit, 14 parts will go unused.  One clear part is provided on a single clear sprue.  The instructions guide assembly over eight steps.  Markings for two Me 209V1 schemes are included:

Strengths:  It is nice to see a good-quality injection-molded 1:72 scale Me 209V1.  This kit is simple, small, and quite nice.  As far as I can tell, it is quite accurate, too.  It falls in the “weekend” category as the kind of kit that you can complete over a fairly short period of time, thanks to its low parts count and relative simplicity.  The kit itself is very nicely molded and features finely recessed panel lines.  I snipped off the fuselage and wings and found near-perfect fits (though see below).  The cockpit is quite nicely detailed and well-appointed for a 1:72 scale kit.  The main gear wells are basic, but still nice.  The landing gear look good.  Other molded details, such as the wheel hubs, instrument panel, exhaust stacks, cockpit sidewalls, propeller blades, and spinner are very nicely done and very crisply molded.  The markings options are great, and the decals were printed in-house by Special Hobby.  Colors are solid and opaque.  Carrier film is thin and restrained, and everything is in register as well.           
Weaknesses:  There are not too many negative observations to offer for Special Hobby’s Me 209V1.  As a limited run injection-molded kit, do note that there are no alignment pins or tabs for the fuselage and wing halves.  I would use a slow-setting superglue so as to ensure that you can find that right fit and alignment.  There are no shoulder harnesses or lap belts.  The sprue gates are a little large, and so there will be some extra cleanup for some parts.  Also, the windscreen and canopy are a single clear part.  If you wish to display the canopy open, break out your razor saw.  There are no rivet/fastener details on the surface of the kit – but I’m not sure if any rivets or fasteners would have been seen on the airframe, as one might assume they were likely puttied over and sanded smooth to reduce drag on the original aircraft.      

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This is a neat kit!  It will represent a simple, fast build of a historically significant and really fast piston-engine racer.  I am a big fan of this little kit.  It has lots of promise.  Also note that Special Hobby has released a 1:72 scale Me 209V4, and your options for more Special Hobby 209s just keeps expanding.      

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby/CMK for the review sample. You can visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info  and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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