The E-3 was the sister version of the E-1, developed from the prototype Bf 109 V15. The "Emil" was the first version where the DB 601 replaced the Jumo 210 of the earlier types. Standard armament of the E-3 comprised twin MG17 machine guns above the engine and 20mm MG/FF cannon in the wings (both the E-1 and the E-3 were produced simultaneously, differing only in the wing armament). There was a total of approximately 6000 Emils built. Compared to its adversaries (Spitfire, Hurricane, D520), the E-3 enjoyed an advantage in climb rate, armament, stability as a gun platform and having fuel injection. Its main drawback ended up being short range, allowing only a few minutes combat before the pilot needed to break off and head back to his home field. Shortly after the Battle of britain, the Bf 109 E-3 and E-1 were replaced by later E and F versions.
(Source: kit's instructions)
Eduard's new 1:32 scale Bf 109 E-3 is the third boxing of this kit. The two previous ones being the Bf 109 E-1 (n°3001 - review here
) and the Bf 109 E-4 (n°3003 - review here
). As you can imagine, the content of this new offering is very similar, if not identical in most cases, to the first two, so this review will rather focus on the differences of this version.
In fact, to do the E-3 version, Eduard have included the parts of the E-1 kit and have replaced the wing sprue by the one of the E-4 kit. Indeed, the E-3 is identical to the E-1 except for the addition of one 20mm MG/FF cannon in each wing, resulting in the presence of underwing bulges. It is to note that it would have been easy for the Czech manufacturer to design an underwing part with inserts and not to bother with the production of one more sprue. But the policy of Eduard is to offer to the modeler a fuselage or wing parts for each variant, rather than let them struggle with optional parts or fill uneeded panel lines.
The content of the E-3 kit is the following:
- Six sprues of pale olive styrene parts.
- One sprue made of transparent plastic.
- Two photo etched frets of which one is pre-painted.
- One sheet of die-cut painting masks.
- Two sheets of decals for 5 marking options stencils.
- One instruction booklet.
The overall quality of the kit is very good. The parts are well protected, within two plastic bags, in a rather large top opening cardboard box. Mouldings are crisp with only very faint traces of flash or sink marks. I found one on part G9 (see red arrow on accompanying photo) and two on the upper wings parts, over the locator near the wing root (yes, one has to look very closely to see them). However, it is nothing too dramatic I think. The representation of the fabric surfaces is indeed a little heavy but this is a matter of taste. I think it is better when it is overdone rather than the contrary, as it is easier to reduce such an effect with some sanding than to add details which are missing.
Two small photo etched frets are provided in the box, one pre-painted with cockpit details (instrument panels, levers, seatbelts etc...) and the other with various details (rudder pedals, cockpit parts, radiator grills etc...). A sheet of masks is also present to make the painting of the clear canopy parts easier.
The instruction booklet is typical Eduard and comes in the form of a 16 pages A4 size booklet printed in color. Included are one page of history text, one page with the parts layout and the color chart, 9 pages dedicated to the construction diagrams, 4 pages with painting and decal guides and one page with a stencil data guide.
The areas of concern
When Eduard released the kit in the E-1 and E-4 versions, two areas of the kit made the modelling community scream to a point that the people at Eduard had to adopt a defensive attitude first and then agree that they had done a poor job: the late style canopy and the wheel hubs. I won't talk about the clear parts in detail since the problems aren't affecting this particular variant of the aircraft which was fitted with an ealier style of canopy. So, to be clear, in this kit, the transparent part are perfect, shape and moulding wise.
The wheel hubss were identical in both E-1 and E-4 kits though, and while not really inaccurate, they were so simplified that they had little in common with the real thing. Well, I'm happy to report that Eduard have reworked sprue F to offer better looking wheels. They are now made of 3 parts each (only two in the previous boxings) and look very convincing when compared to photos of the real ones. The end result on the finished model should look very nice and no aftermarket replacement parts should be needed anymore.
Decals are provided for five marking options:
A - Oblt. Josef Priller, Staffelkapitän 6./JG 51, France, Autumn 1940.
B - 3./JG 51, Mannheim-Sandhofen, Winter 1939-1940.
C - 1./JG 2, Bassenheim, Germany, May 1940.
D - Obstlt. Hans-Hugo Witt, Geschwaderkommodore JG 26, Dortmund, Germany, April 1940.
E - Uffz. Karl Wolff, 3./JG 52, Pihen/Calais, France, August 1940.
The markings are interesting in that they constitute an historical summary of the camouflage changes of the Luftwaffe fighters between 1939 and 1940. In chronological order:
B - A machine with a RLM 70/71 upper camouflage and RLM 65 (though it is written 76 in the instructions) underside. This very dark defensive paint sheme was carried in the earlier days of WWII during the "Phoney War". An interesting feature of this aircraft are the very large renderings of the wing crosses.
D - On this machine, the paint sheme has been modified to a more "offensive" (lighter) one with a RLM02/71 on RLM 65 (though it is written 76 in the instructions) camouflage. Unusual is the fact that the demarkation line between the darker upper colors and the lighter under color is located at mid-fuselage.
C - This Bf 109 carriers the standard camouflage sheme of that time consisting of RLM02/71 on the upper surfaces and RLM 65 (though it is written 76 in the instructions) lower surfaces. The demarkation line between the camouflage colors is located very high on the fuselage sides.
A - The previous camouflage having the tendency to reveal the aircraft on the ground too easily, it was decided to tone down the lighter RLM65 color of the fuselage sides by applying mottles of RLM02 and RLM71. On this machine, the older dark RLM70/71 camouflage has even been ligthened with an irregular pattern of RLM02 on the wings. The nose and rudder are painted in RLM04 yellow. A very colorful Bf 109 E-3!
E - This aircraft has a standard RLM02/71 over RLM65 (though it is written 76 in the instructions) camouflage with white paint on surfaces such as the nose, rudder and wingtips. The full instructions for this sheme aren't present in the kit's instruction so you will have to download them on Eduard's website: see here
The decals are very nice and printed by Cartograf. Two sheets are provided: one very big with the national markings, unit emblems and aircraft numbers and a smaller one with the stencils.
This is an impressive kit! Plastic is very good, additional photo etched parts are a nice touch, the marking options cover most of the Bf 109 camouflage shemes of that period and you get some masks for the canopy. And if this isn't enough, Eduard have listened to the complaining crowd and have changed the wheel hubs accordingly.
This kit is a big improvement over the old Matchbox and Hasegawa ones in the same scale and in my opinion far from the "garbage" comments I've read elsewhere on the internet. Out of the box it can't be build into a very nice and reasonably well detailed replica and with some extra detail work into a real stunner for sure. Highly recommended.
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