Eduard 1/32 Bf-109B (conversion)

KIT #: 3401
PRICE: $39.95 MSRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver

Alley Cat Bf-109B conversion: 32009C, MSRP: 22.50 Pounds, Decals for Three aircraft


            Messerschmitt began work in 1933 on a four‑passenger light “sporting aircraft” of cantilever low‑wing monoplane design, with retractable landing gear.  The BFW M.37 was completed in the spring of 1934.  Later redesignated Bf‑108 Taifun ("Typhoon"), it was entered in the fourth Challenge de Tourisme Internationale. While it did not win any of the events, its performance impressed the Reichluftfartministerium sufficiently to earned the Bf-108 a production contract.

            Before the Bf‑108 had made its first flight, Messerschmitt learned the RLM was about to issue a new specification for a modern fighter, to be powered by the Junkers Jumo 210 and to be capable of at least 280 mph. Officially, most German aircraft manufacturers were invited to submit designs; unofficially, only Arado, Heinkel, Fieseler or Focke Wulf could expect serious consideration.  Erhard Milch, who hated Willi Messerschmitt and had done everything he could to destroy Messerschmitt's business, did not even inform the company of the competition.  However, unknown to Milch, Hermann Göring, had sent a confidential message to Messerschmitt, ordering him to develop "a lighting‑fast courier plane which needs only to be a single‑seater." It was obvious to Messerschmitt that Göring wanted to see him produce a fighter.

            The design team at BFW's Augsburg factory - Robert Lusser, Richard Bauer and Hubert Bauer ‑ commenced the design of a single-seater that would incorporate the Bf‑108's features: a monoplane with retractable landing gear, enclosed cockpit, leading‑edge slots and trailing‑edge flaps.

            The Bf‑109V1 was rolled out on August 5, 1935, powered by a 675‑hp Rolls‑Royce Kestrel engine in place of the unavailable Jumo.  Evaluation flights began at Rechlin and revealed the Bf-109 to be in advance of anything else flying. The Bf‑109V2, which appeared in October, introduced the 610‑hp Jumo 210A as well as a strengthened undercarriage, while the Bf‑109V‑3, delivered in June 1936, was the first to be armed with an engine‑mounted 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun.

            Luftwaffe pilots were at first afraid of the airplane, and the thoroughly-pedestrian Heinkel He-112, with a low landing speed and an open cockpit, appeared to be the winner until Ernst Udet flew the Bf-109V2 and declared it superior to all others in the competition. Ten pre-production Bf‑109B‑0s were ordered in the summer of 1936, followed shortly by two events that would affect the Bf‑109's fate.

            In June 1936, the same month that the Bf-109 entered pre-production, the Royal Air Force announced production contracts for 600 Hawker Hurricane fighters and 310 Supermarine Spitfires. The threat posed by those new British fighters added urgency to Germany's fighter development efforts.

            The other major event was the revolt of conservative elements under General Francisco Franco y Bahamonde against the Republican government of Spain in July, 1936, followed by the dispatch of German aircraft to Franco's aid.

            That November, Luftwaffe volunteers were assigned to the Condor Legion to fight for Franco's Nationalists.  At about the same time, the Soviet Union sent aircraft and pilots to aid the Spanish Republic, including the Polikarpov I‑15 biplane and the I‑16, the world's first low‑wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear and an enclosed canopy.  Both Soviet fighters completely outclassed the Condor Legion's Heinkel He‑51 biplanes.

            As a result, the Luftwaffe rushed the Bf‑109V‑4 to Spain in December, 1936, followed in January by the V3 and V6 prototypes, and 15 Bf-109A fighters, the first of which left the production line in February 1937.  In May, the first of 55 Bf-109B fighters arrived. 

            The Condor Legion's first operational unit to fly the Bf-109, 2. Staffel of Jagdgruppe 88 (2.J/88) commanded by  Oberleutnant Günther Lützow, began receiving the new Bf-109s in  March, 1937.  The unit was initially plagued by accidents, but the pilots soon met the challenge of taking off and landing on a narrow‑track undercarriage in an airplane that tended to drop its left wing, applying plenty of compensation with the rudder. 2.J/88 commenced operations over the Brunete salient on July 10, 1937. 

            The Bf‑109B and its principal rival, the I‑16, were closely matched. The Bf‑109B was faster in level flight and in a dive, while the I‑16 had a superior climb rate and maneuverability. Republican ace Andres Garcia Lacalle stated in his memoirs that the I‑16 was superior up to 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), but from that altitude upward, the Bf‑109B's performance was superior to that of the I‑16.

            The Bf-109B drew first blood on July 8, 1937, when Leutnant Rolf Pingel and Unteroffizier Guido Höness claimed two SB‑2 bombers, though the Republicans gave only one of those two losses to a Bf‑109, the other falling victim to a C.R.32. A series of air battles fought on July 12 resulted in the downing of two Aero A‑101s by Höness, an SB‑2 by Pingel and three I‑16s by Pingel, Feldwebel Peter Boddem and Feldwebel Adolf Buhl. At the same time, Höness became the fist Bf-109 casualty.  The victor was  when he was shot down and killed while attacking another SB‑2 by an I-16 flown by Frank Tinker, an American flying for the Republic. 

            Perhaps the outstanding Luftwaffe pilot to fly in the Spanish Civil War was Oberleutnant Werner Mölders, who arrived in Spain in early 1938 to take command of 3.J/88. During the second Ebro campaign, between July and October 1938, Mölders developed the most significant fighter tactic, he called the Vierfingerschwarm ("four‑finger formation").  This combined two Rotte, the basic two‑man element within a Staffel, into a loose but mutually supportive team, creating an infinitely flexible offensive and defensive unit, which has been used by every air force ever since.  When Mölders left Spain at the end of 1938, he was the leading ace of the Condor Legion, with 14 victories.

            Guided by lessons learned in Spain, Messerschmitt produced a rapid succession of improved Bf-109s. 19 Bf‑109C's, with a fuel‑injected Jumo 210Ga engine and four machine guns, arrived in Spain in the spring of 1938, followed by 9 Bf‑109D's in August, which combined the Bf‑109C's four‑gun armament with the Bf‑109B's carburetor‑ equipped Jumo 210Da engine.  In early 1939, just before the end of the Civil War, 44 Bf109Es, powered by the new Daimler-Benz DB 601, arrived.  Following the end of the war, those Bf-109s which had survived were given to the Spanish Air Force, where many served into the 1950s.


            Eduard's Bf-109E-1 “Weekend Kit” is the earlier Bf-109E-1 first released in 2008, minus the photo-etch, and with only one decal option.  The kit retails for approximately half the price of the “Profipack” version. (Here is a preview of this kit. Ed)

             Alley Cat has released three different conversion sets, to allow a modeler to create the Bf-109 prototypes or Bf-109a, the Bf-109B, and the Bf-109C and D.  The masters, research, and artwork for the sets have been done by Phil Edwards. The first two sets include the longer-span leading edge slats of the early Bf-109s, with a resin part to fill in the area of the leading edge of the kit wing where the wing armament would be, and includes both the wooden prop and the later Hamilton Standard constant-speed prop. These are designed to be used with either the Bf-109E-1 or Bf-109E-3 kits, though the E-1 makes for an easier conversion since the modeler does not have to get rid of the underwing cannon bulge.  Each of these kits provide decals for three different aircraft, printed by Fantasy Print Shop.


            The conversion is designed to replace the cowling, prop, wing slats, flaps, and underwing radiators of the Eduard kit. 

             I began by cutting the various resin parts off their molding blocks and sanding them smooth.

             I then started the conversion by cutting the wings as instructed and assembling them.  I puttied in the area of the wing leading edge under the slats, since I planned to correct the wing without the usual “edge” on the wing, as I did with the Eduard Bf-109E-4.

             I then cut the cowling off the fuselage and assembled the fuselage halves.  I attached the cowling to the fuselage.  Be very careful to insure you have aligned the nose so it is straight. I found that marking the centerline with a pencil was a real help in doing this, something I discovered the hard way when I found later I had the nose “off” by about 2 degrees. 

             While I attached the radiator cowling to the wing, I would suggest as the result of experience that you attach this to the resin cowling, and mount the entire assembly to the fuselage.  This insures everything fits.  Be very certain to cut off the residue little “plug” in the section that will glue into the wing, because if you don't you will find the wing will not fit to the fuselage (ask me how I know).

             I assembled the cockpit and added a set of photo-etch seatbelts.  Since the kit does not have the photoetch instrument panel, I did mine with an instrument panel decal from the decal dungeon.

             Fitting the wing to the fuselage requires a lot of test-fitting to get things right.  Because of having made the mistake of not fully assembling the nose, I ended up using more putty in the assembly than I might have otherwise.

             While not as easy as a “crop fit conversion,” this conversion does not present any difficulties to a modeler who has built at least a couple limited-run Eastern European kits.

             Once the model was assembled, it was time to head for the paint shop.



             Alley Cat's instructions call for the Spanish Civil War airplane to be painted RLM65 Hellblau on the lower surfaces, with a disruptive scheme of RLM 63 Hellgrau and RLM62 Lichtgrun.

This is wrong.  The first Bf-109Bs - of which 6-o-39 is one, were supplied by the Luftwaffe in the standard 70/71/65 factory scheme.  This paint faded badly during the operations over Brunete in the summer of 1937, to the point that by that fall they could have been mistaken for airplanes painted in 62/63/65.  That winter, they were in fact repainted in overall RLM 63, which was more appropriate to the Spanish environment. I am indebted to “Mr. Bf-109,” Lynn Ritger, for providing me a photo of 6-o-39, which clearly identifies it as being in the darker scheme of 70/71/65.  I decided to do a very faded scheme, using Tamiya “Dark Green,” “Black Green” and “Light Blue”, and doing the “hard-edge” scheme by masking with drafting tape.

             After applying the white rudder and wing tips, I masked those off, then pre-shaded them model with flat black over the panel lines.  I then applied the RLM 65 “Light Blue” and then “post-shaded” that with Light Gull Grey added to the original color.  This was masked off and I applied the RLM 71 “Dark Green.”  I then went over that with Tamiya “Khaki Drab” to start the fading process, adding in a drop of Tamiya “Desert Yellow,” then Tamiya “buff” and finally some “Sky Grey” as I went over the paint and “faded” it.  I ended by thinning the paint 70% with thinner, adding in a brushful of white, and going over these painted areas so that the end result was not so “Extreme Spanish School” in its look.  I then masked these areas in the standard pre-war camouflage pattern, and applied the RLM 70 “Black Green,” which was then faded using Tamiya “Deep Green” with progressive applications of light grey, followed by thinning it as I had the other color, and adding in a brushful of white, to tone down those areas.  The spinner was painted with Black-Green and left unfaded, since this airplane would have been originally equipped with a wooden prop, with the controllable prop upgraded toward the end of the summer of 1937.

             Everything was unmasked, and the model was given several coats of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.


             I used the markings provided by Alley Cat, and the kit decals for the stencils and walkways.  Everything went down without problem.


            I first applied exhaust stains and gunshire stains with Tamiya “Smoke,” then “dinged” the kit at various places to show wear.  I shortened the oleos of the landing gear 1/16 inch, since the Eduard kit comes with the gear legs at maximum extension.  I then attached the landing gear and prop, and aileron mass balances, and set the canopy in the open position.


             I now have all the major versions of the Bf-109 - from the Bf-109B to the S.199, in 1/32 scale.  Hopefully, this collection will end up in a glass case out at Planes of Fame next to their 1:1 Bf-109E.  In the meantime, the collection looks pretty good on the shelf.  For those who want an accurate early Bf-109, this kit by Alley Cat is well worth the price and the effort, with the result looking like it was an injection-molded kit from the beginning.   Highly recommended. 

Tom Cleaver

November 2010

Review Kit courtesy of my wallet.  Bf-109B conversion courtesy of Alley Cat Productions.  Get yours at

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