Here's a first look at Special Hobby's new-tool Emil.

Kit #SH72439 - Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4. Price: 16.20 Euros

Kit #SH72439 - Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4. Price: 16.20 Euros

Special Hobby caught many people off guard with their announcement of a new-tool 1:72 kit of the Bf 109E. Inevitably, some modellers may question the need for a new kit of the  Emil, but Special Hobby have really gone to town on the subject, teaming up with Eduard to produce a very impressive model, and what looks set to be arguably the best kit of this version of the '109 yet in this scale.

The first boxing in what is clearly going to be an extended series of Emils features the Bf 109E-4, the definitive sub-variant in many eyes with its redesigned "squared-off" canopy. The kit arrives in a very attractive and sturdy top-opening box, with the main parts and accessories bagged separately. My model came direct from Special Hobby and survived the journey perfectly.

The 'E-4 comprises:

80 x grey styrene parts (plus 8 not needed)

4 x clear styrene parts (plus 3 not needed)

Decals for 4 x colour schemes

The spare parts give a clear indication of what else is to come; apart from the 'E-3 already announced, there's a drop tank, plus an armoured windscreen and one ready to fit Adolf Galland's famous telescopic sight.

The moulding is excellent on the sample kit, as you'd hope with a new-tool model. There's a whisper of flash here and there, but I haven't found any signs of sink marks and, importantly, Special Hobby have done a fine job keeping ejection pin marks out of harm's way.

The instantly outstanding aspect of the kit is the surface finish, which represents a quantum leap for Special Hobby with its beautifully delicate embossed rivets. Basically, the finesse with which they're done is on a par with Eduard's recent kits. Coupled with delicately recessed panel lines, they should look excellent under a coat of paint. The fabric surfaces feature ribs and even rib-tapes - which are probably a bit prominent for this scale, but you can always knock them back to suit your taste.

The kit also includes something I can't remember having seen on a Bf 109 model before - detail inside the wing roots. Obviously, this will be a boon for anyone planning a diorama of a factory or servicing scene.

I've dry-assembled the fuselage, wings and tail, and the fit is excellent. The wing roots are beautifully tight, so there should be no need for filler there. Special Hobby have handled the nose radiator differently to any other '109 kit I've seen, including it as part of the wing. Again, the fit is excellent - but just be careful to blend out the seam.

The ailerons, flaps and rudder are all separate, and Special Hobby have included separate leading edge slats.

A Few Details

Apart from the surface finish, where Special Hobby have really gone to town is on the level of detail they've included. The sidewalls are very neatly moulded, ready to accept an 18-part cockpit assembly that includes decals for the instrument faces and seat harness.

The firewall features ammunition storage for the nose-mounted machine guns, which are provided in two styles - simplified barrels, or fully moulded to display with the cowlings removed. 

Up front, Special Hobby have included a surprisingly well detailed DB 601 engine, comprising 13 parts. There are even decals for the serial number provided. Both the main cowl and side panels are separate, so effort spent on the engine and guns will be rewarded. My only regret with the engine is that the designers didn't include the top as a separate piece instead of simply moulding the engine in two halves. As is stands, there'll be an awkward seam to remove. Still - just having a detailed engine at all in this scale is remarkable.

The canopy parts are thin, with precisely moulded frames, and can be posed open or closed. Two types of head armour are provided, and Special Hobby have even moulded the tiny handles for the sliding panels in the canopy sides.

The propeller is provided with three styles of spinner and a neatly detailed hub and backplate, while the main undercarriage features moulded-on brake-lines and crisply detailed wheels.

Lastly - and I think this is a first for a '109 kit in this scale - there's a starting crank which will add a nice touch for a diorama or vignette.

Instructions & Decals

Special Hobby have printed the assembly guide as a 12-page colour booklet on high quality glossy stock. The diagrams are very clear, and the assembly sequence is logical. I can't foresee any particular pitfalls, so the kit should be suitable for modellers at pretty much all levels of experience. 

Colour matches are given for Gunze Sangyo paints with RLM codes.

Decals are provided for 4 colour schemes which offer a nice variety of camouflage schemes:

A. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 1", flown by Oblt. Gerhard Schöpfel, III./JG 26, France, 1940

A. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 1", flown by Oblt. Gerhard Schöpfel, III./JG 26, France, 1940

B. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 2", flown by Oblt. Helmut Wick, 3./JG 2, France, 1940

B. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 2", flown by Oblt. Helmut Wick, 3./JG 2, France, 1940

Helmut Wick's well-known aircraft features very dense stippled mottling and Special Hobby have designed decals to replicate this which are available separately (Item #K72031).

C. Bf 109E-4, "Black Chevron", flown by Hptm. Wolfgang Lippert, II./JG 27, Greece, 1941

C. Bf 109E-4, "Black Chevron", flown by Hptm. Wolfgang Lippert, II./JG 27, Greece, 1941

D. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 8", III./JG 52, Romania, 1941

D. Bf 109E-4, "Yellow 8", III./JG 52, Romania, 1941

The kit's decals are excellent and include a comprehensive set of stencil markings. The thin and glossy items are printed in precise register, and the colours look good, with a nice deep yellow for the individual markings. Swastikas are included with separate centres.


As I'm sure it's clear, I'm very impressed by Special Hobby's Bf 109E. It's an important release for the company, signalling a real move away from their short-run origins, and is produced to a standard that rivals any mainstream manufacturer. 1:72 isn't normally "my scale", but this little Emil is an absolutely gem and has got me itching to build it! So, watch out for a project in the new Forum soon. Thoroughly recommended.

Many thanks to Special Hobby for kindly providing the review sample.

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