by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Airfix's original 1:72 Bf 109G was one of their earliest kits, apparently dating right back to 1956. Along with the Spitfire Mk. IX it was the first model I ever built (around 1965) and, certainly for a generation of schoolkids in the '60s, it was the star of many a back garden dogfight. Times change though, and with the increasing sophistication of models as early as the 1970s, the old Airfix Gustav really should have been retired - and yet somehow it still soldiered on, despite the fact that it was looking increasingly crude and really was very inaccurate.
So, a real surprise came this year with rumours of a new-tool Airfix Bf 109G. Sure enough, sat on the shelf of my local hobby shop was a striking new-style red box and, despite 1:72 not really being "my scale", the temptation to see what inside was irresistible!
The first impression is that the box is almost bursting - and this is due to the most enormous set of instructions I've ever seen for such a small kit. They really are overkill. The kit itself comprises:
39 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
My model is very cleanly moulded, with no signs of flash. The detail is fairly heavy, a bit soft in places, with engraved panel lines and a fabric effect on the control surfaces, but this should knock back a bit when painted.
But the important thing is, with the old Airfix Gustav so notoriously inaccurate, how does the new kit shape up? Well, comparing the main parts quickly with Kagero and Squadron plans, it's really not bad at all. Detail is very simplified - the "cockpit" consists of just a pilot figure and seat (which seems almost a throwback to the old days), the exhausts dont look much like the originals and lack a shroud, and the undercarriage legs are moulded as one with the doors, but the basic shapes are pretty encouraging - certainly, it's incomparably better than its predecessor. Interestingly, the tip of the fin and the rudder stand slightly proud, so it could mean there's a tall-fin '109 on the way...
Despite the overall simplicity, there are a plenty options included. The undercarriage can be modelled raised or lowered (but no stand is included for the former) and there's some wheelwell detail, there's a choice of standard or Erla (Galland) canopies, standard or tropical carburettor intakes, and the stores comprise:
Drop tank or bomb for the centre rack.
20mm cannons or 21cm mortars under the wings. (The slots are ready-opened, so you'll have to fill them if you don't want under-wing weapons).
The canopies are crystal clear with crisp framing. On the downside, they seem a tad shallow and there's a prominent locator pin at the front that may be visible after painting.
Instructions and Colour schemesAs I wrote above, the instructions are colossal - 5 pages of A-4 with a further 2 blank pages for "notes" (although quite what you'll need that much space for on such a simple kit, I have no idea...). The diagrams are clearly drawn and construction is split into 11 logical stages with Humbrol paint numbers keyed to most details. The main instructions are backed up by useful full-colour "How To..." illustrations on the sides of the inner box.
The colour scheme painting instructions are separate and printed in colour. The diagrams are excellent, but some of the recommended Humbrol paints are approximate matches at best (H145 Medium Grey looks very dark for RLM 76 for a start...).
Decals for a very interesting trio of Gustavs are provided:
A. MT-422, flown by SSgt. Bjore Hielm of 2/HLev 31, Suomen Ilmavoimat, 1948.
B. << -, flown by Maj. Kurt Brandle, II./JG.3, Luftwaffe, 1943.
C. 4-70 of 23 Gruppo, 3 Stormo, Regia Aeronautica, St. Cerveteri, August 1943.
Sadly the decals in my kit are a little out of register, but they are thin and glossy with very clear carrier film - and, importantly, the colours aren't printed as a pattern of small dots as in similar recent Airfix sheets. No swastikas are provided for the Luftwaffe machine.
ConclusionThis is a very simple kit, but its pocket money price and overall presentation indicates that it's aimed at younger modellers and newcomers to the hobby, so that's perfectly acceptible. The main thing, though, is that Airfix have got a new-tool Bf 109G in their catalogue that is basically accurate - and simple, decent kits at affordable prices are exactly what we need to encourage the next generation of modellers, so I welcome it wholeheartedly.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.