by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
My excitement over the arrival of Dragon’s 1/32 scale Messerschmitt Bf 110 was tinged with understandable misgivings at what I might find. After the mauling their P-51D Mustang received from most quarters, chiefly on account of its clumsy detailing, I was prepared for the worst…
Happily, all such fears were groundless and the Bf 110 and Mustang kits are as different as chalk and cheese! Gone are the ghastly overscale rivets and coarse texture – instead, the surface finish here is simply superb! It’s hard to believe the Bf 110 originates from the same toolmakers, because they’ve produced a real stunner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to basics: the box. It’s massive and built like a battleship. The surprise, though, is how much empty space there is inside. The sprues are packed in so they are squeezed together depth-wise, but with loads of room each end. I know there must be cost savings in using a standard box, but that extra space could have been partitioned off to protect the clear parts which, as it is, are buried in the middle of the other sprues.
That said, everything arrived safe and sound and as you take each separately bagged sprue out of the box, you begin to realise just how large and detailed this new kit is, comprising:
409 x grey styrene parts (12 unused)
21 x clear styrene parts
10 x etched brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The parts are faultlessly moulded, without a trace of flash or any sink marks. The surface detail consists of delicately engraved panel lines, some raised panels, and really subtle embossed rivets and fasteners. The fabric surfaces feature rib tape, stitching and even drain-holes but Dragon, like other manufacturers, have missed the part-fabric covered landing flaps (although they have included the drain-holes on them).
Preparation for a test fit is a little more involved than usual, because the sprue attachments on the major parts are actually on the mating surfaces and sometimes extend a little distance into the rear of the parts (e.g. the wings and tail). This is a minor inconvenience, as the stubs are easily removed with an etched razor saw - but the plus-side is a flawless exterior.
The fit of the main parts is excellent. The fuselage and wing halves line up perfectly and the wings have superbly thin trailing edges. The wings have internal strengtheners to preclude any chance of warping and there’s a sturdy double-spar/cradle to attach them to the fuselage. The fit at the wing root is spot-on. This is a kit devoid of gimmicks, so none of the control surfaces are moveable and the leading edge slats are moulded closed.
It's clear that more versions are planned - apart from the unused parts on the sprues for underwing drop tanks, the fuselage features the cabin air-vent that was introduced on the Bf 110D. The instructions indicate that this must be removed, but they don't mention the nearby oval oxygen filling hatch, which is also applicable to the 'D and should be filled and re-scribed as a circle for the 'C.
I'm always wary of relying on scaling up plans on domestic equipment, but I enlarged those included in Kagero's Bf 110 Vol. 1 and the kit's main parts match them happily enough.
A few detailsDragon’s Bf 110 is rather reminiscent of Eduard’s quarterscale version – that means plenty of detail, and over 60 parts go into a really well appointed “office”. The main instrument panel is finely detailed, along with throttles and consoles, radio faces, cannon mounts and ammunition, gunner’s position and an excellent MG 17. Etched seat harnesses are provided that are a bit basic for this scale, so you may wish to raid an Eduard set or go the whole hog and make up a harness from foil and separate etched buckles.
The nose gun-bay is neatly detailed too, with finely moulded machine guns and ammunition feeds, but surprisingly the nose fairing is intended to be fixed in place, hiding it all.
The kit includes a pair of 25-part engines, that attach to well detailed wheel-well inserts. Whether or not you’re interested in displaying the engines, you’ll need to at least partly construct them to support the propellers and cowling. The undercarriage dispenses with the Mustang’s gimmicky springs and vinyl tyres – instead it’s conventional and very crisply moulded, with sturdy main gear legs to support this large kit, and separate wheel hubs for the un-weighted tires.
External stores comprise a very nicely done ETC 500 rack, built up in two layers to give depth to the mechanism inside, plus wing racks for the SC250 and SC500 bombs provided.
The transparent parts are thin and crystal clear and the multi-part canopy is broken down into 7 sections to allow it to be posed open.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly diagrams are well drawn and make clear the quite complex sub-assemblies. The construction sequence is mostly logical, although most modellers will probably want to leave the canopy off until last and also try to see if it’s possible to fit the main gear after attaching the wings (caution: I haven't tried that and it may not be possible).
With so much internal detail, the kit cries out for detailed painting instructions and here is the real surprise, because (apart from the camouflage guide) there are none provided at all! It's such a bewildering oversight in a kit of this quality, I'm sure it must be a mistake. Modellers probably won’t be too worried if they have sufficient references (or an Eduard kit to raid the painting instructions from), but Dragon really should try to include at least basic painting suggestions for the interior details in future releases.
Decals are provided for a pair of aircraft along with a camouflage guide that lists RLM numbers and Gunze Sangyo model paint matches:
1. SP L9, 6./ZG 1, Russia 1942
2. LN IR, 1.(Z)/JG 77, Norway 1941
The decals are printed in perfect register by Cartograph and the items are thin and glossy with minimal carrier film. Sadly, no swastikas are included. While good quality, the sheet is a little basic - apart from first-aid markings, there are no stencils, fuel servicing symbols, propeller manufacturer marks etc. provided, and in this scale the airframe will look rather empty without them.
Luckily, Eagle Editions (Jerry Crandall and Mark Proulx acted as consultants for Dragon on this project) are preparing a series of Bf 110 aftermarket sheets that will be available very shortly, so we can hope they’ll fill in the gaps along with providing some exciting colour schemes.
ConclusionDragon’s new Bf 110 looks set to build into a really beautiful model. They’ve more than answered all the critics of their first efforts in this scale and produced a kit that is almost certain to be the definitive large-scale ‘110 for many years to come and deserves to be a huge success for the company.
Beginners should be aware that this is quite a complex kit, but on the basis of the test fit, modellers with a bit of experience should find it a really enjoyable and challenging build. You’ll need plenty of space too – the Bf 110 is a surprisingly large aircraft and in this scale it’s bound to be a head-turner at model shows everywhere. Highly recommended.
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