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KIT REVIEW


Tamiya #61117 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 -- 1:48 Scale

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is one of the most legendary of all the warplanes of WWII.  It has been the subject of hundreds of injection-molded kits in all scales.  While the market may seem flooded, some 109s are better or more accurate than others.  Following their most recent new release of a new-tool kit in the form of their 1:48 scale F-14A Tomcat, Tamiya is now poised to release a new 1:48 scale BF 109G-6 in early 2018.  We just received a pre-release sample of the kit here at Detail & Scale, so let’s take a thorough look at this new Gustav.

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The Bf 109 was one of the two premier single-seat German fighters of the Second World War.  The prototype flew in 1935, beating out the predecessor of the Fw 190.  The entire 109 production run churned out 33,984 airframes spanning dozens of variants and subtypes.  In the mid-1930s, it was perhaps the most advanced fighter of its era, featuring an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear.  As a testament to the versatility and capability of the design, Bf 109s were still deadly opponents ten years later as the war came to a close and jet fighters came onto the scene.

The most numerous variant of The Bf 109 was the G-model, also known as the Gustav.  More than a third of all 109s produced were Gs.  This variant was initially an evolutionary development of the Bf 109F-series.  Externally, 109Gs were quite similar to their predecessor.  Internally, the wings were reinforced, the windscreen was bulletproofed, and the fuel tanks surrounded by light armor.  Other changes included outer wheel bay shape changes and the addition of air inlet scoops on both sides of the forward engine cowling that held the new Daimler-Benz DB 605A engine.  Increasingly, the 109 G-series filled a greater diversity of roles, and in the process, the airframe evolved.  In early 1943, the G-6 saw the previously standard 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns replaced by 13 mm MG 131s.  Due to the MG 131’s larger breechblock, bulged gun covers were fitted to the cowling, leading to the Bf 109 G-6 being nicknamed Die Beule (The Bulge).  More than 12,000 G-6s alone were manufactured (including 11 sub-types) by the time G-6 production came to an end in 1944.  Many flew on to the final days of the war.       

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Tamiya’s new-tool Bf 109G-6 consists of 186 medium grey plastic parts on five sprues, eight clear parts on one clear sprue, and two bags of hardware (three metal washers, 10 poly caps, and two small magnets).  The instructions guide the build over 37 steps.  Decals are provided in two sheets (one for airframe markings and insignias, and another for stencils and small unit badges and other details).  Markings are provided for three Bf 109G-6s:

Strengths:  It’s an often-heard saying:  “Great, that’s all the hobby needs…another 109…”.  It’s not an altogether inappropriate critique.  Indeed, there are a ton of 1:48 scale Bf 109s, but as mentioned earlier, not all 109s are equal.  Before this release, I considered the possibility that the retooled Eduard Bf 109G-6 was probably the best in this scale (see our review HERE).  Indeed, Eduard’s re-tooled Gustav is objectively excellent.  Yet, this new offering from Tamiya offers something unique and different.  Comparing the two, it’s something of a toss-up depending on what you’re looking for.  More on this philosophical point in the concluding remaks.

Tamiya’s Bf 109G-6 demonstrates a production quality, molding fidelity, and detail that is both outstanding and exquisite.  They keep pushing the envelope of injection-molding, and they really make something to admire in pretty much every part, spanning the wings and fuselage to cockpit details, the DB 605A powerplant (minus only the plumbing), guns, cannons, tire tread, the two air intake styles, and the aileron-mounted mass balances.  The canopy can be positioned open or closed, and leading edge slats, radiator flaps, and landing flaps are positionable.  Depending on which airplane of the three you are building, there are correct alternate engine air scoops, 20 mm cannon gondolas, antenna masts, a loop antenna, and tail wheel fairings.  The engine cowling can be positioned opened or closed. While the rudder is a separate part, the large mounting tabs force a straight-in fit.
I’ve seen plenty of 1:48 scale 109s over the years, and everything here looks for all intents and purposes perfect – from size, shape, proportions, and every major and minor detail that I can think of.  Of course, I am a “fan” of the Bf 109 and not admittedly among the ranks of the very specialized Bf 109 subject matter experts (you folks know who you are!), so if I am missing something, let me know.

The Tamiya 109 has a few very notable features.  It is clear that some very intelligent people designed and engineered this this kit.  You’ll appreciate the rather straightforward and sweet parts breakdown that will make for a trouble-free build.  Even beginners in the hobby can take on this kit and really enjoy themselves.  The mounting “spar” for the engine permits for a perfect alignment of powerplant to airframe.  One can choose to have an open upper cowling by way of the ingeniously molded single-piece upper left and right cowling panels (part F21), or you can build an alternate closed cowling.  Yet, through the use of small magnets, these assemblies are interchangeable and can be swapped out at will.  The way the cockpit assembly swings up and mounts from the bottom is as effective as it is a little unconventional.

Other parts are equally designed to promote a perfect fit the first time you place it on the model.  For example, the way the cannon barrels fit into the cannon gondola halves forces a flawless alignment of the cannon.  The mounting tabs for the canopy do the same.  Further, I’ve long considered that perhaps the trickiest part of any 109 build is getting the angle of main landing gear correct. I’ve judged many, many 109s at competitions over the last 20 years or so, and landing gear alignment is one of the things I eliminate those that fall in the ‘first cut.’  Here, the design for the main gear mount into wheel well ensures a perfect fit and angle. It’s really impressive.  Another thoughtful feature is the extended fairing for the windscreen, making attachment and any seam filling a lot easier.  The clear parts, incidentally, feature exquisite optical quality – they are perfectly crystal clear.  The pilot figure appears quite nice, too.  Also, Tamiya reminds the builder not to fill the intentionally molded recessed seam running along the spine of the airplane.  That was a distinct panel line on the Bf 109, after all.  I did a little test fitting of the fuselage halves and wings, and the fit was perfect – just airtight.

The markings options are nicely representative of Bf 109G-6 colors and schemes.  The decals are perfectly printed and are of a very high quality.  The self-adhesive masking set for the clear parts is also a helpful touch, though, these are not pre-cut masks.  The builder has to do that on their own, but it’s not too much work. 

Weaknesses:  There are only a few observations to note.  First, the clear fuel pipe that runs through the cockpit is there, but it is integrally molded as part of a gray plastic part.  There’s a few ejection-pin markings in some inconvenient places such as the inside of the cowling doors, gear well ceiling, and cockpit sidewalls.  However, most or all of the ejection pin blemishes on the cockpit sidewalls should be covered over and disappear behind other parts.  I wish the elevators were separate parts just as with the flaps.  Of course, I am not a huge proponent (or at all, really) of decal seatbelts, but this feature is honestly aimed at the novice scale modeler or the builder who otherwise wants to represent shoulder harnesses and lap bets but does not wish to use photoetched metal parts.

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This is a fantastic kit that receives my highest praise.  It is an outstanding Bf 109 and instantly renders obsolete all other 1:48 scale Bf 109s with the exception of the re-tooled Eduard kit.  The thoughtful, smart, and straightforward engineering of the Tamiya Bf 109G-6 outdoes the Eduard kit in many respects and further, Tamiya’s 109 will be inviting to a wider range of skill levels and abilities.  It appears to be very easy to assemble.  Yet, the Eduard kit has some more intricate detail (e.g., surface features that in places are superior to the Tamiya kit).  Deciding between the two kits really comes down to what you are seeking for your 109 build, but if you go for this new-tool Tamiya, you’ll be in for a genuine treat.  Tamiya’s Bf 109G-6 kit hits the streets on January 20th 2018.  As of this writing, the New Year is not here quite yet, but 2018 has its first contender for “Kit of the Year.”
 
Many sincere thanks are owed to Tamiya America and George Canare for their generosity in sharing this review sample with us. You can find them on the web at https://www.facebook.com/TamiyaUSA on the web at www.tamiyausa.com.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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