Dragon 1/32 Bf-110D
|NOTES:||Aftermarket items: Eduard JX091 canopy masks (£7-20); Quickboost resin exhausts 32051 (£4-40); Airscale generic instrument decals AS32LUFT ( £4-25),Techmod 32042 decals, price £11-70.|
In 1972, the noted aviation historian, Dr. Alfred Price wrote “In the history of aviation there can be few aircraft that have been maligned more unjustly than the BF110”. The type had a twofold deficit in the minds of aviation historians in that it suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Britain and it served on the losing side in World War Two. Yet it was a rugged and versatile aircraft that served throughout that war.
The Messerschmitt Bf110 was designed to meet a requirement of the German Air Ministry in 1934, calling for an aircraft capable, “of the pursuit of enemy formations operating over the Reich or returning over their own territory”. It first flew in May 1936 and was designed to utilise the then-new Daimler Benz DB600 engines. Although never expected to be as agile as single seat fighters of the period, its level flight speed of over 310mph was impressive. Progressive flight development and testing quickly evolved the Bf110B-1 with two DB600A engines of 960HP and the impressive punch of a six-gun forward armament comprising four 7.9mm MG17 machine guns in the nose and two 20mm MG FF cannon in the belly under the cockpit, capable of being serviced and reloaded by the rear gunner who was also provided with a flexible 7.9mm MG 17 machine gun for rear defence.
The availability of a more promising 1,100hp fuel-injected engine, the DB601, led to the Bf110C, the definitive version to equip the Luftwaffe’s elite strategic fighter Zerstorer units and 195 of the type served in a close support role during the invasion of Poland in 1939. 350 of the type were employed during the invasion of France, by then at the peak of the legend of Germany’s Blitzkrieg tactics.
Late model 110c’s featured underwing racks for a bomb load of up to 1,100lb of bombs a feature continued in the progressively improved 110D series that also benefited from improved range, over 700 miles with drop tanks.
Compared with single seat fighters of the period, which were essentially short range point defence interceptors, the Bf110 was capable of ranging far and wide, with adequate fuel for a reasonable loiter time and was ideal for Luftwaffe operations in the Arctic Circle, The Baltic, Mediterranean, North Africa or the Steppes of Russia.
The 110 was to become a workhorse of the Luftwaffe, employed in an almost bewildering range of variants, heavy fighter, ground attack/tactical bomber, night fighter, reconnaissance. It remained in production until early 1945. As the war turned against Germany the Bf110 might be seen to be antiquated and outclassed, yet in its early years was a powerful, rugged and effective machine with an awesome armament.
I approached this kit with some trepidation. It is, by a country mile, the
most expensive kit that I have ever attempted. The scuttlebutt on the web is
contradictory, some say the kit is sublime, others that it is a swine. It is
certainly complex and repays slow, steady work.
The plastic parts are sensational. Crisp, clean, sharply moulded, with subtle panel line and rivet detail, there was no flash, no distortion, no sink marks, it would almost be a shame to cut them from the parts frames or risk disfiguring them with a cement spill.
By comparison, the decal sheet is a disappointment. Some 7in by 3.5in in size, it only provides the main national markings and code letters for two aircraft. For a kit of this size and complexity, the absence of airframe stencils is a major negative and in the context of the premium price, unacceptable.
The instructions are brief enough, a multi-folded sheet in grey scale and half tone providing six A4 pages of exploded views, and two of half-tone camouflage drawings. Again, for a kit of this price and luxurious tooling, exploded views for just twelve stages of construction are below standard. Each stage covers all of the parts in a particular area of the airframe, sometimes unhelpfully. For example stage 4 covers the installation of a substantial wing spar and belly fairing to be attached to the joined fuselage halves. Yet that same stage also shows the installation to the underside of the fuselage of the direction finding loop, belly aerials and crew access ladder. I defy anyone but the most fastidious of modellers to install those delicate external parts even before the wings, engines and tail section have been attached. I find that the best solution is to use a highlighter pen to mark up those parts that will logically be added at the end of the build. The instructions are also sloppily edited since some of the illustrations show under wing tanks that are not applicable to the kit and none are provided in the box.
Conscious that the instructions were confusing and contradictory I spent much time in pre-planning each stage of the build. I began by washing all of the parts frames in clean water to which a few drops of washing up liquid were added, then rinsing and left to dry overnight.
I had decided that the airframe would be closed up; that is, no exposed engines or armament compartments. The engines supplied would merely serve to hold the exhausts and radiators in place, so all of the engine ancillaries and pipework would be omitted. These parts were removed from the frames and bagged along with parts marked “not for use” – they were all kept close by during the build in case I had got it wrong and needed to put them back into use.
Next, an unscheduled clean up of the parts and not for the usual reasons. The components are beautifully moulded because they accurately fill the moulds, and many parts have tiny moulding pips to ensure that the flow of plastic is complete. Each pip must be cut from the relevant part with a pair of side cutters. How many I do not know, I lost count at about 100. Any tiny tags left behind from this process must be carefully trimmed away at the assembly stage. This is necessary since some of the pips are close to, or on, the joining surfaces and could prevent the parts from mating properly. A quick pass with a sanding stick will do, it just requires determination and patience.
Construction begins with the interior and the base colour chosen was RLM Grau 02, Tamiya Acrylic XF-22. The long cockpit assembly consists of a full length floor, with side walls and a rear bulkhead. The instructions suggest building up the whole cockpit tub and then trapping it between the fuselage halves. I ignored this and went for the internet consensus that the side walls are best fixed separately inside the fuselage halves with the floor and seat assembly attached to one half and the allowed to dry. The interior is satisfyingly detailed. The pilot’s cockpit consists of an instrument panel moulded in deep relief with separate side consoles, throttle box and foot pedals. The bucket seat has separate side frames and seat belts are added from the kit’s PE fret. The rear cockpit is delightfully complex with the main spar framework intruding. It is detailed with the floor mounted MG FF cannon and associated ammunition drums. The gunner is provided with an amidships forward facing seat to enable him to tend to the main armament and a rear facing seat for the flexible machine gun. Again seat belts come from the PE fret. Assorted “black” boxes within the cockpit were picked out in contrasting dark greys from the paint locker, while the guns and ammunition drums in Tamiya XF-36 Metallic Grey. The various instruments throughout the cockpit were picked out with generic decals from an Airscale sheet.
The forward nose consists of two half bulkheads and a horizontal floor for the quadruple MG 17 machine guns. I cut off the gun barrels, which can be added later at the external painting stage.
The fuselage halves were joined, needing a minimum of fettling and adjustment, but I had no real problems with the fit. The canopy can now be added and it is a work of art. The pilot’s section can be modelled open, with or without retracted sliding windows to the side glazing. The rear gunner’s hood has alternative sections allowing it to be closed flush or cranked open. The substantial rollover cage is separately moulded. The inside of the canopy was masked off using a vinyl mask set included with the aftermarket decal sheet from Techmod, and the internal framing painted RLM Grau 02. There are 54 sections of canopy mask required for the interior of all the canopy glazing and another 54 for the exterior, so plenty of time should be allowed for accurate masking and to ensure that the edge of each mask is burnished down with the point of a cocktail stick to avoid paint leakage. I chose to fix most of the canopy sections closed, leaving just the rear gunner’s position open. Do not forget to remove the internal canopy masks before the glazing is fixed down to the fuselage.
Next are the engines and their nacelles. I simply built up the engine blocks and their bearers, using just enough parts to support the exhaust and propellers. The parts for the engine nacelles were carefully identified and, when removed from the parts frames, carefully labelled with their part numbers. Most parts are handed, but the instructions are not clear as to which goes on the left engine and vice-versa. So they were dry assembled at least twice each, using low tack putty and small pieces of masking tape until I was satisfied. The nacelles are as comprehensively detailed as the fuselage structure and consist of a wheel bay roof, engine firewall, upper and lower cowl fairings and inset upper and lower panels that fit around the exhaust outlets. There is plenty of scope to go wrong so the panels were built up carefully, edge to edge, curve to curve, over about a week. When finished, each nacelle consists of a power egg with an extended platform to the rear that forms the wheel bay roof, to which an eight-piece main undercarriage leg is attached. The leg must be added at this stage since the whole unit is clamped between the upper and lower wing sections. The leg assemblies and nacelle interiors were painted in Grau 02, with a dark colour wash to accentuate the detail. At this stage the main and tail wheels were assembled, for installation later in the build. Separate wheel centres are provided, useful since the tyres can be painted without masking. The tail wheel is a six part assembly, with separate wheel forks. Tyres were painted in Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black.
The dry assembly technique is then repeated before installation of the under wing radiator units, which again are handed and tapered to fit the wing profile. The radiator components were painted Aluminium Silver, with a thin dark colour wash for contrast. The upper and lower wings are then joined, trapping the power eggs in place. I found that these substantial units lined up reasonably well, with a minimum of fettling. While they were drying, the tail surfaces, nose cone and rear fuselage cone were installed and also left to set.
The substantial centre section assembly provides both front and rear spars that lock positively into the wing roots and provide a strong joint for what is by now becoming a weighty aircraft. The tail section similarly slid into place along two locating tongues. Tube cement was used for these joints.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The basic airframe was now ready for painting. The cockpit glazing had already masked externally using an Eduard canopy mask set No JX091, specifically produced for Dragon’s Bf110D. While I had the vinyl mask set in the Techmod decals, I prefer the flexibility of the Kabuki-style yellow tape in an Eduard set compared with the relatively stiff black vinyl from Techmod. The open rear cockpit, engine and radiator inlets and undercarriage bays were blocked off with pieces of tissue paper stuffed in place, then the airframe was washed and primed with grey auto primer from a rattle can. I was pleased to find that no filler was required anywhere.
Lower surfaces were sprayed in Xtracrylic XA1202 Hellblau RLM 65 in two thin coats, while the undercarriage doors and small underside detail parts were sprayed while still on the parts frames.
Now here is a strange thing. At this stage the airframe was transferred to the Shelf of Doom in my hobby room and stayed there for over a year. And I have no clear idea why. It may be that the ‘110 came after a run of nine Bf109s in 1:32 scale and I was beginning to tire of Luftwaffe camouflage. But there it sat waiting for further inspiration. Then one day it caught my eye and back on the workbench it went.
The blue undersides and fuselage sides were extensively masked using masses of Tamiya tape in varying widths, then the upper surfaces received two thin coats of Grau 02. Further masking of the upper surfaces allowed the final colour of the splinter patter camouflage to be applied, RLM 71 Dunkelgrun, using Tamiya XF-61 Dark Green.
The propellers were treated as separate sub assemblies with the blades and spinner back plates painted RLM 70 Schwarzgrun, ( Tamiya XF-27 Black Green), the spinners XF-2 Flat White and the hub details picked out in Aluminium Silver. They would be fitted at the end of the build.
The masking was steadily stripped away and any small defects in the paint were touched in. The whole airframe was flicked over with an Ultra Fine sanding stick to blend in any minor ridges between the colours.
The airframe was prepared for the decals with two brushed coats of Future/Klear.
This after market sheet came from Techmod of Poland and the package is good value. An A4 sheet of well printed matt decals with good colour density and most importantly, the airframe stencilling. The sheet offers a choice of two finishes for ‘110Cs from the early war period and the option I chose, a BF110D from I./ZG 52, France, May 1940. The excellent instructions include five full colour A4 pages, including one of detailed stencil placements. Colour call outs are for RLM and Federal Standard numbering. Also included is the bonus of those vinyl masks for the internal and external cockpit glazing.
The decals went on easily and settled down well with a little help from Micro Sol and Micro Set. The whole airframe was sealed with an airbrushed coat of Xtracrylic Flat Varnish.
The main wheels and tail wheel assembly were installed. It was now time to track back and install the small parts highlighted on the instruction sheet, the belly aerials, mass balances to the control surfaces and to pay some attention to the exhausts. These items were the only small limitation in Dragon’s excellent overall mouldings. The very distinctive cranked, handed, rectangular section exhaust pipes are moulded in solid. Fortunately Quickboost have come to the rescue with superbly cast resin replacements that have hollow ends. They are a direct replacement for the kit parts and simply tacked in place with a dab of superglue. They were painted Red Brown XF-64 with a dark over wash from the Citadel range. The propellers were simply pushed onto the shafts.
Finally the entire airframe was slathered with a medium Mud Brown wash from the Promodeller Weathering Wash range. This was left to dry overnight then carefully rubbed away with a soft cloth and a moistened Q tip. This subtly highlights Dragon’s superb mouldings and the differing depths and widths of the recessed panel lines.
One final coat of Xtracrylic flat and it was time to remove the canopy masks. This was a hold your breath moment since I had no idea whether the tack adhesive on the masks might have degraded over the year that it had been in place while on the Shelf of Doom. But there were no problems, so I can confirm that some canopy masks can stay in place for a year and still be removed effectively without leaving any residue behind.
I was impressed with the quality of the plastic parts, there were no sink marks, no distortion and the kit required no filler. The surface detail is subtle and looks great under a coat of paint.
This is a premium product that I would rate at 90%. The mouldings are excellent and in my opinion on par with anything in the market place. The kit is let down by inadequate decals and weak instructions. I was unimpressed with the need to spend another £27-00 on aftermarket products. That said, it is a fine piece when completed and could be further enhanced by those who have more talent than I do.
It takes a pride of place in my collection.
War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters Vol.1, By William Green. Macdonald & Co. 1961
Famous Fighters of the Second Wold War, by William Green. Macdonald & Co 1957
The kit came from my LHS, Spot on Models and Hobbies, of Swindon, England. All of the aftermarket items from Hannants.
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