Cyber-Hobby/Dragon | 3222: 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3
Reviewed by Kevin Williams
I'll start out here by saying that in my opinion, this is the definitive Bf 109E kit available in this scale (along with the E-4 & E-4B). I've heard various stories regarding the Eduard kit being out of whack here and there, but without one of those kits, a direct comparison is obviously impossible.
I really can't say that I'm too impressed with the box art of this kit, especially not when compared to the E-4 and E-4B kits, but it's still acceptable. I can only hope that Revell will re-release this kit, as they have already done with the Dragon Bf 110.
Dragon has taken a certain amount of care in the packaging of the parts trees, usually confining one or two trees per bag, including two separately bagged clear parts trees. I think it's also worth mentioning that some photos are indeed duplicated here, as they better help to illustrate separate areas of the air-frame.
(Since this is more of an in-box, look-see review than a build review, I have no photos of assembled sub structures, so my inputs should be considered more of a cursory overview of the various areas I thought might be of interest, rather than an analysis of any accuracy issues, if indeed any are inherent.)
Instructions are depicted in the by now typical pictographic way, making assembly a fairly straightforward process. Much to my happiness, a complete parts chart is provided within the provided instruction booklet. The usual disclaimers/warnings are also included; don't stick sharp objects in your eye, don't sniff the glue, don't feed the parts to your child, etc.
Markings are provided here for no less than nine E-3 air-frames, those being:
- Bf 109E-3, Yellow "7", III/JG 3, 1940, Pilot: Uffz. Heinz Grabow
- Bf 109E-3, "Black Chevron", III/JG 26, 1940, Pilot: Major Adolph Galland
- Bf 109E-3, Red "1", JG 27, 1940, Pilot: Oberleutnant Gerd Framm
- Bf 109E-3, Yellow "11", JG 27, 1940, Pilot: Oberleutnant Werner Schuller
- Bf 109E-3, "Black Chevron", JG 26, 1940, Pilot: Major Hans Hugo Witt
- Bf 109E-3, Captured subject, unknown British unit, but marked DG200, 1940, Pilot: Unknown
- Bf 109E-3, Black "5", I/JG 52, 1940, Pilot: Helmut Bennemann
- Bf 109E-3, Black "1", V/JG 51, 1940, Pilot: Horst Teitzen
- Bf 109E-3, Black "11", V/JG 3, 1940, Pilot: Uffz. Fritz Mias
Decals appear to be in register, quite opaque, and well detailed, with plenty of stenciling and great color density. Printed by Cartograf, they're bound to work a treat, for those that opt to use them. The various stencil data will certainly help, regardless. One of the choices is pretty bizarre, at least to me, being a captured example, flown by the British. The other eight schemes do certainly make up for that though, and offer up a pretty decent variety of German options. (I'm particularly drawn to the JG 51 & JG 52 machines, if for no other reason than the great squadron insignias.)
Note: Within the illustrations of the various schemes, in at least two instances (meaning two different aircraft), mention is made of color H4, but H4 is not mentioned at all in the paint chart itself. This color (H4) is in fact RLM 04 Gelb (yellow).
Two small sheets of brass photo etch are provided with the kit. These items cover things like lap and shoulder belts, rudder actuator rods, hinges, etc.
Major Kit Sprues
Offered up here, are a selection of major sprue components, with more detailed photos in the categories to follow. The overall level of detailing is quite remarkable. Having already worked heavily on the E-4 version of the kit, I had no reason to doubt that this kit would be any less well detailed.
Fuselage Major Components
Major fuselage components are represented above. Proportions and detailing are done to a very high level indeed; quite breathtaking, really.
Wings & Wing Armament
Once again, wings are very well detailed, and to a high standard. A word about the wheel well inserts: While I have heard numerous reports of problems with these flexible inserts (the two on my E-4 were badly distorted and brittle as potato chips), the two in this kit, one of which is indeed somewhat distorted, at least have retained their flexibility, so installing them should be a breeze. Obviously, injection molding these could have been easily accomplished, but then would have left seams to deal with, so this is a thoughtful inclusion on the part of Dragon.
Outer wing guns (drum fed), are works of art unto themselves, but unless opening up a lot of panels, only the muzzles, which are hollowed out, will show, a real shame.
One large and rather nice looking centerline bomb and associated rack with hardware is provided, but once again is not to be used on the E-3, so very handy to have as spares for some other use.
Flying Surfaces, General
Flying surfaces are again, done to a high degree of quality, with the rudder looking especially good to me. The ribbing on the fabric areas may be a wee bit overdone, but a few swipes with a Scotch-Brite pad, will swiftly take care of that, but otherwise are quite nicely done.
All in, the cockpit would appear to build up into quite an acceptable representation of the real McCoy, as-is, based upon the somewhat confusing and conflicting data that I've seen thus far. If the builder can be content with the seat (which seems a tad narrow at the top) and P.E. belts, then those should work out pretty good. I tend to prefer seats with the belts molded on, so I'll be replacing mine with a resin AM item.
There is no pilot figure included in the kit, though perfectly suited pilot figures are easily obtainable, for those that may desire them.
Canopy & Clear Parts
The clear parts are exactly that, crystal clear. Clarity is astounding, as the photos readily attest.
Two windscreen options are offered, one standard E-3 type, and one that's a carryover from another kit and is of the E-4 type, which has a monocular gun sight opening, probably for the E-4 of Adolph Galland, as his E-4 was so equipped, at his request. Two armored headrest options are also provided, either of which can be used on the E-3. Additional exterior armored glass is also provided, but I have no idea if the E-3 was ever so equipped. In any case, the additional armored glass was an extremely poor fit on my own E-4, so bad, in fact, that I just left it off entirely.
One rather nice centerline fuel tank type and pylon is provided, and looks quite acceptable to my eye. Instructions do not call for its use, but I'd imagine the E-3 could carry it, so checking your references will certainly be of help here.
Landing Gear, Wheels/Tires & Bays
Landing gear is actually reasonably well detailed, with the main wheels themselves looking exceptionally good. Main tires are of the reverse ribbed variety, so if others are desired, they'll need to be sourced elsewhere. The main landing gear doors are actually rather nice, consistent with the other aspects of the kit. MLG also is provided with seperate hydraulic lines, to include the quite accurate looping of the line, a real nice touch, I think. The tail wheel assembly, with wheel/tire being provided as seperate pieces, is also very nicely done, and once painted properly, should look quite spiffy.
Engine, Prop, Spinner & Cowl
A complete Daimler-Benz engine is included in the kit, and really looks quite excellent. Obviously a carryover from the Bf 110 kit(s), it's actually marked as such, and done with a forward looking eye toward the eventual release of the Bf 109E series. Some parts will of course not be required here and can be chucked into the spares box. Four different spinners are provided, but instructions only refer to two of these, one with nose cap, and one without. Prop blades look good to my eye, capturing the length, chord and twist rather nicely. Cowling pieces are another work of art here, capturing the flowing lines of the nose area quite well.
One reported recurring problem with this kit, is the poor fit of the aft upper cowl piece (A1), over the upper deck MGs. I had this exact same issue with my own E-4, in fact, so some grinding here and there may be required to get everything to line up and fit correctly. Once that has been done, overall fit is superb. If one intends to leave the upper sections off, reveling the quite nice MGs and associated hardware, this will, of course, not be relevant.
As is somewhat typical for me, I ended up with a few photos for which I have no convenient category, some being Bf 110 specific parts, so I've just dumped them all here, as most are undoubtedly relevant to the finished kit (I assume).
All in all, I think this is a very commendable effort from Dragon, and I am very pleased with what I've found so far. I anxiously await the opportunity to begin working on my example. I also expect that the AM folks will jump on when and where needed (and in fact already have to a large degree, with 'pit sets, guns, photo-etched sets, wheels/tires, exhausts, bombs, etc., not to mention the myriad selection of decals/schemes), to provide us with additional enhancements for this cool kit. I'd also like to make the point that the contents within, constitute the great kit quality that I have grown to expect from Dragon, (aside from their somewhat butchered Mustang). A handsome kit indeed, and is quite desirable as a consequence, as well as unquestionably being the best 1:32 E series kits on the market, in my personal view.
This kit is highly recommended by this reviewer, for overall aesthetic appeal, and for giving us another choice by which to display the brute force, and yet elegant appearance of this truly iconic aircraft.
Kit provided compliments of my own poor, beleaguered wallet.
© Kevin Williams 2020
This review was published on Saturday, October 10 2020; Last modified on Saturday, October 10 2020