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1/24 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 - Then and Now

n by Rafi Ben-Shahar

How does a state-of-the-art kit technology of the 1970s hold up to the best of today's standards? Here is a comparison between two kits of the same kind that I built two years ago and some 30 years back.

A Blast From the Past

The 1/24 Bf 109E was issued by Airfix to join a popular line of early WWII aircraft. I bought the first kit as a teen while on visit to London. What you see in the photos is a model which is exactly in the state I built and painted it back then. The only exceptions are some modifications that I made later on to fill in the missing main undercarriage housing with scratch parts and also reinforced the the tail wheel with a nail to support the weight of the model after some heavy landings.

Of particular interest are the Humbrol "Authentic Colours" that I applied at the time using a brush. These paints that are long gone seem to provide the best colour rendition of early Luftwaffe camouflage schemes when compared even with today's offerings. On the scale of time, the availability of War relics closer to the period of service made the job of replication much easier. I took advantage of the then, field application practice to over-paint the pale fuselage sides with RLM 71 using a paint brush.


Thirty years later, I bought a similar kit. Upon examination, the shapes and surface detail still hold up, and the interior detail, where lacking, can be fairly easily complemented with some scratchbuilding. I decided to make two significant changes. The first was to further detail the engine, sawing off  all control surfaces and replacing them with scratch parts in off-neutral positions. I utilized the ample advice and information in the classic Airfix publication and lavished on the model's large scale. The second was to airbrush the paintwork in line with what was practiced with the real aircraft.

While the dealings with the thick and coarse moulded-in detail wasn't exactly a delight, the surface detail and overall accurate dimensions of this kit more than compensated for the effort. I say this because large scale aircraft that are made today starting from 1/32 scale suffer from in-accurate surface detailing, such as holes representing rivets!

Bottom line is represented by the small hoverfly that landed one morning on one of the models. While the scale of time has may have something to do with the improvement of modelling skills, the actual model scale and the respective detail representation is what really matters in modelling.


Additional images, click to enlarge


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