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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH48189
Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann "Panzerjagdstaffeln"
1:48 Scale



The Luftwaffe operated a wide range of aircraft, from some of the most iconic airplanes in history to lesser-known but still intriguing airframes such as the Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann.  Originally designed as a trainer, it was employed in a variety of roles during World War II.  At the very end, some were even pressed into the ill-fitting role of ground attack.  In this review, we’ll take a look at one of these presumptuous and improvised Panzerjagdstaffeln tank buster Bestmanns by Special Hobby in 1:48 scale.       

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By the late 1930s, the Luftwaffe required a new primary trainer.  Drawing upon the long line of interwar German sport and aerobatic airplanes, the Bücker Flugzeugbau company developed a low wing monoplane design that featured fixed landing gear and tandem seating for the student and instructor pilot.  The front end of the fuselage, including the cockpit, used a tubular steel frame construction while the rear fuselage, tail, and wings were wooden.  The prototype sported a civilian registry number on the fuselage and first flew in February 1939.  Shortly thereafter, it passed its evaluation by the Reich’s Ministry of Aviation with flying colors.  Production began in 1940, and it was named “Bestmann” which is a term for a deck crewman on a naval ship.

By war’s end, more than 3,400 Bü 181s had been produced, some by Bücker in their factory near Berlin and others under license by Zliner Flugzeugwerke, Fokker in the Netherlands, and Hägglund & Söner in Sweden.  The Bü 181 logged many thousands of hours in the roles of primary trainer, courier and liaison duties.  A total of eight variants were produced, most being of the -B and -C variants.  Differences between any Bü 181 were very minimal.  The -B and -C were powered by a Hirth HM 500 A or B powerplant, respectively.  Primary differences between the B-1 and C-1 and the B-2 and C-2 sub-variants was the presence of pitot heating and cabin/anti-collision lights in the Dash-1 versions while Dash-2s lacked an electrical system and associated lighting and heating features.

In the final, desperate days of the war for Germany, Bü 181s were converted either into so-called tank busters fitted with four Panzerfaust anti-tank grenade launchers mounted to relatively crude wing-mounted launchers.  Others were modified for a more generic ground attack capability carrying three 50 kg bombs. These Bü 181s had short careers. Unsurprisingly, their survivability was very poor.  They were extremely vulnerable to ground fire and nearly all were shot down.

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Special Hobby’s Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann Panzerjagdstaffeln is a multimedia kit. It contains 54 gray injection molded plastic parts on three sprues (10 are not used), two clear parts on one sprue, 27 photoetched parts on one fret, five cast resin parts, and one decal sheet.  A decal sheet for three airplanes with covering markings and the few airframe stencils worn by the Bestmann is also provided.  The schemes included are:

Strengths:  This is a great little kit based on Special Hobby’s earlier Bestmann that featured the trainer variant (see our review HERE).  Overall, the kit is relatively high quality, well-fitting, and simple-to-build.  The fidelity of surface detail is great and subtle where it should be, particularly on the fabric-covered surfaces of the wings and tail surfaces.  To me, what makes a big difference here are the photoetch metal parts for the seat belts, rudder pedal foot stirrups, and other cockpit details which really enhance the otherwise basic cockpit, just as the photoetch detail parts can be used to provide some subtle and pretty cool touches on the airframe exterior.  
The Panzerjagdstaffeln version in this issue of the kit includes four Panzerfausts.  This was a recoilless anti-tank weapon that shot a shaped charge intended to defeat heavy armor.  It is famous, of course, for its use as an infantry weapon, but at the end of the war, they were adapted here for the Bestmann with crude hardpoints fitted to both the tops and bottoms of the wings.  The Panzerfausts in the kit look just fine to me, and their mounting points were basically just wooden blocks and are represented here as well.  The markings are also well-chosen and the story behind Yellow 10 is interesting.  The crew defected to Switzerland in April 1945 and the airplane remained there and flew as a Swiss Air Force trainer until 1956. 

Weaknesses:  I cannot offer any really substantive critiques regarding this offering.  However, as an observation, some builders may wish to note the control surfaces are not separate positionable pieces, and the canopy is a single piece and cannot be displayed open just out-of-the-box.  There are also no locating pins or tabs, so you can make your own using strip styrene (that would be my route) and test fit your part alignments.  You also may want to look at a detail in the box art.  You’ll notice a mounting ring passing through the top of the Panzerfaust mounting block to secure the weapon to the wing. The kit lacks that detail, but one could very easily replicate that with a little lead foil or thin plastic strip.   

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This is a great little kit by Special Hobby that stands to be a very fun, easy, and straightforward build of a unique subject.  The resin and PE parts add quality, too.  It also fills in a long-vacant niche in 1:48 scale injection molded kits, and among the few Bü 181 kits that have ever been produced, it is far and away the best in any scale.  I remember the 1:48 MPM Bestmann coming through my hobby shop many years ago, and that Bestmann did not impress.  Special Hobby’s kit is light-years better.

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample.  You 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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