Hasegawa | 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4
Reviewed by Tony Oliver
107 parts in mid grey styrene, 11 clear, and 4 poly caps.
Hasegawa's family of large scale 109s continues to grow with their latest release the 'Kurfurst' the final version in the Bf 109 lineage. Its possibly one of the most wanted Bf 109 variants to make it into large scale kit form and with the evergreen popularity of late war Luftwaffe subjects, a logical choice.
The origin and development of the K variant is a protracted one and hinges around the development and subsequent availability of the Daimler Benz DB605D. Other factors such as the war situation, dispersal and parallel production of other 109 marks all serve to confuse the modeller and researcher alike, but then that's nothing new when it comes to late war Luftwaffe aircraft!
Indeed the other major variant that was designed to give the aging Messeschmitt design an extended lifespan, the G-10, also planned to utilise the DB605D, but amidst the general confusion G-10s and Ks began to arrive at units simultaneously. The major difference in the these two aircraft of similar performance was that the K-4 was in essence a new aircraft, whilst the G-10 was often a retro-fitted older airframe or repaired G model rebuilt to G-10 standard. Whilst this helps the modeller understand a little better the minefield that is the late model G series, it doesn't help much when it comes down to working out what a K should look like.
Boxed in Hasegawa's standard packaging with the trademark beautifully rendered artwork on the boxtop, The whole kit minus the decals and transparencies are contained in a single bag. The sprues for this kit are an indication that Hasegawa have done their best to get as much mileage from the moulds as possible, and who can blame them when the external differences between G-10 and K-4 are not that prominent.
The major change in the design of the components with this kit is the break point chosen for the fuselage/tail section. In previous releases, Hasegawa chose the sensible route and separated the tail at frame number seven. Thereby allowing relatively straightforward tail swaps and possibly mirroring real practice.
However some of those differences in the new K fuselage threw up the option of retooling the entire fuselage to incorporate the moved gyro compass hatch, the removed oxygen filler cover and other sundry small access cover changes; or chopping the entire fuselage immediately behind the cockpit (frame number one). Unfortunately they chose the latter and in doing, have incorporated a uniquely odd looking shape to the fuselage cross section, more of which later.
A quick overview before delving deeper into the box shows that this is really a no frills kit with what is now 'industry standard' crisp engraving, economical rivet/fastener detail obvious only where they stand out on the real aircraft and a logical, well engineered approach to construction. A beginner to large scale modelling couldn't do much worse than pick this or any one of Hasegawa's 109s as a starting point.
Breaking down the kit from front to back is probably the best way to go in looking at this kit in a little more detail, so here goes, tighten those belts and keep your heads up…
The fuselage is broken down into five parts to allow the asymmetric cowling of the K-4 (earlier Ks had a symmetrical faired cowling powered by the DB605AS with a smaller impeller) to be portrayed. The kit reproduces this feature well but incorporates a strange lip on the rear edge of this part C17 that after much searching of references isn't visible in any of my photos. The general fit of this area isn't too good either and some careful sanding might be in order to get this part to sit correctly and avoid a step at the forward edge.
The intake scoops on the forward part of the nose continue to defy photographic proof for their positioning and as with Hasegawa's other 109Gs are staggered instead of being parallel. However the revised position of the annular oil tank filler caps are correctly positioned further up the cowling. Further evidence of adapted earlier moulds is in evidence when the rather bland moulded in cockpit sidewall detail of the G-6 is covered by an equally uninspired insert (part D7). To be honest cockpit detail is really only lifted by the nice instrument panel and the entire area has already received the attention of the aftermarket industry.
I mentioned the rear cockpit / fuselage joint earlier and to be honest there is little photographic evidence to suggest just where Hasegawa got their inspiration from here. The photos illustrate the flattened profile and correcting this area is going to give 109 modellers something to scratch their rapidly thinning hair about!
The wings and centre section follow the same construction sequence as seen on Hasegawa's other 109s with the wings joined by a centre section that carries a spar arrangement. The instructions illustrate the method of constructing the fuselage assembly and then sliding the completed wing halves onto the spar. This is a great solution for ensuring correct dihedral on an aircraft that relies on its poise and stance to look authentic.
The tail again falls prey to small inaccuracies of detail, the main one being two bumps above and below the horizontal/vertical stabilizer joint. The Kurfurst had redesigned control runs and these small bumps are not evident on reference photos.
Going back to that centre section for a moment highlights another small point that distinguishes the K from its predecessors. Most G models carried the MG151/20 as main armament, (the infamous 'motor cannon' beloved of small boys of my generation). This weapon didn't eject its spent cases overboard, but collected them in a bin under the gun's breech. The K-4 was designed to carry the RB MK108 30mm cannon with a 36 round ammunition tank above the gun and an ejector chute below. Hasegawa mould the earlier centre panel complete with the breech exhaust gas louvre ala G-6/10/14.
References indicate that there are instances of K's being retrofitted with MG151s, as the MK108 was notoriously difficult to operate efficiently. However this is one of the K's salient features and the 151 fit was probably an exception to the rule. Again altering this detail is down to personal choice and just how much of this can be seen on the finished article is open to argument, but then needs must when accuracy drives….
The wing surface detail is superbly done and flying surfaces have a lovely fabric stitched effect but then small defects raise their heads again in the shape of ejector pin marks on the flap and radiator flap inner surfaces. As with the G-6/G-14 the wheel wells need opened out to convert the openings that were last seen round on the 'Friedrich'. To be honest this is called out in the instructions, but the K's outer doors are yet another point which can handle a bit of extra detail in the form of the door retract mechanism and main wheel operated bumper.
Moving swiftly on and in no particular order, the crystal clear canopy is well crafted with the Erla hood and its incorporated armour looking particularly nice. There's also an internal frontal armoured glass insert but the windshield is missing the prominent spray bar, which supplied de-icer to the windshield in an attempt to cure the K's canopy fogging problem.
Wide blade VDM9-12159A series blades are included and capture the blunt stubby look of the real thing but the spinner is another of those small areas that by now are adding up to make this 109 a bit of a 'curates egg'.
The final point (for this in box review at least) that marks out the K from its siblings is the retracting tailwheel. Hasegawa have again ( their 48th kit ) elected to mould the doors in the open position and are non-too thin at that.
You'd be hard pressed to find more than a handful of K images with the doors open and operationally it is often stated that they were either locked up or discarded. In this case there is also evidence of the short fixed tail wheel being fitted.
Finally the decal option and well frankly there's only one, the red tulip nosed machine from JG52 and reputedly based at Deutsch Brod, Czechoslovakia in May 1945. It is possible that Hasegawa by this point in the game had put their coats on and gone home in the belief that the aftermarket decal industry would produce a myriad of schemes for this aircraft. It's still nice to have at least one choice, guys…if only from a novice modellers viewpoint.
Whilst picking out the obvious is an easy enough task armed with a little knowledge and at least two reference books, it shouldn't be overlooked that this is really an excellent kit from the viewpoint of it being a dimensionally accurate representation of the last of the Messerschmitt breed. I don't believe in or advocate the use of scale drawings as the sole way of determining how accurate a kit is, but this one does look very nice.
The current emphasis on 100% accuracy can at times lead to a blunting of the modelling appetite and a kit with a few vices is to be regarded more as a challenge than a no-hoper. Critically, large-scale modellers have long been starved of new kits and the flurry of recent issues has brought about a whole new experience in terms of accuracy and expectation.
Balanced between price, content and subject matter, Hasegawa's Bf109K-4 is a worthy rendition of this sleek warbird. I'm sure that there's plenty of other details that will catch the eye of the purist but I for one am completely happy that this looks every inch a Kurfurst.
A dimensionally accurate and well engineered kit with great surface detail, adequate cockpit detail and what looks to be a straightforward construction.
Minor detail flaws, lack of decal options and areas of poor research coupled with the main fuselage/cockpit section problem let this kit down.
Messerschmitt Bf 109K JaPo publication
Bf 109K Monogram Close-Up 16
Flugzeug profile Bf 109G/K
Bf 109K-4 Flugzeug Handbuch Workschrift2
Article by Vincent Kermorgant on correcting the K-4 Belly.
© Tony Oliver 2004
This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Tuesday, June 11 2013