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In-Box Review
Trumpeter Bf-109E-3
Messerschmitt Bf109E-3
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]

Originally published on:

The Bf 109 was the workhorse of the Luftwaffe with over 34,000 built, and the E (“Emil”) is perhaps the most-recognizable version of this iconic fighter aircraft that reached its apex during the Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain. Developed by the legendary Willy Messerschmitt, the 109 was at the cutting edge of technology when brought out in the 1930s with its powerful 1179 HP Daimler-Benz 12-cylinder engine and four MG-17 machine guns (2 in the nose and one in each wing). The Emil served on all fronts, from the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War right up until the end of WW II and even into the 1950s in the air forces of Spain and Switzerland. The E-3 was the most-produced variant of the Emil, which swept the outmoded air arms of Poland and France from the skies over the battlefields during those campaigns.

Yet with the start of the Battle of Britain, it was evident that technological developments had eclipsed the Emil. The wing-mounted MG-17s were upgunned to the heavier FFs, and an underbelly fuel tank was added, but the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes still had the edge. Gradually the Emil was shifted to other fronts, including a Tropen (“tropicalized”) version for North Africa that featured a sand filter for the supercharger, and then into a fighter-bomber role. By 1944, the Emil was relegated to the role of trainer.

Kits of Bf 109 Emils have been arriving on the market regularly lately, with two major releases by Eduard. The Eduard releases have sparked controversy over the shape and configuration of the canopy. Now Trumpeter has entered the Emil wars with the release of the E-3, the most-produced version of the Emil (4,722 units). Trumpeter has been building a stable of 1/32nd aircraft, including several variants of the ME-262 jet, and the pricing for their release offers modelers a real choice over Eduard.

The kit
The kit contains:
seven sprues of Trumpeter's signature light-gray plastic parts
two sprues of clear parts for the canopy
a large fret of PE
a bag with three vinyl tires
painting guide
two sheets of decals

the review
According to the sources I've seen, this is not a re-working of Trumpeter's 1/24th kit, but an entirely new tooling. While I am not a Bf 109 “propeller head,” I carefully checked the kit against Squadron's Messerschmitt Bf 109E Walk Around and found the it conforms well to the surviving Emil in Munich's Deutsches Museum, including details like the starter crank port, under-wing blisters for the 20mm cannon ammo drums (called Trommeln), the proper placement of the aerial ground just forward of the rear fuselage access panel, etc. The engine accessory bay air outlet just aft of the starter port is handled with PE, and the L-strips for the engine cowling are well-handled with recessed lines. The kit designers apparently did not fall into the error of basing their work on the surviving Emil in the Dübensdorf, though the kit does offer modelers the option of a Swiss Air Force version with extremely colorful red & white markings.

Overall, detailing on the styrene parts looks very crisp, with the panel lines gently-recessed and the riveting subdued and in no way overbearing. The linen control surfaces are nicely-rendered, though of course not as delicately as with the resin upgrades Eagle has released. The cockpit looks well-detailed, but the instrument panel looks as though it could be improved by one of Eduard's pre-painted PE sets, which frankly are hard to beat. The kit contains its own PE fret for the control pedals, radiator screens and wheel well interiors, so other than the instrument dials (handled with decaling), this kit looks as though it could be built OOB with little or no need for upgrading. Certainly the day when you had to buy a resin cockpit for every plane kit you purchased seems to be fading into modeling history, and none too soon.

The interior details are a real advantage in my estimation, with things like the radio and oxygen bottles aft of the cockpit included even though they largely won't be visible on the completed kit (something Trumpeter does on their armor kits quite often). Also present is the structural bracing in areas that aren't usually visible even with the side-access panel left open. The wing-mounted 2cm FF cannons are complete and not just barrels. The housing for the underwing-mounted ammunition drums are in clear plastic should you want to show them off, though they were, in fact, not clear on the real thing. If you plan on using AM brass barrels, these cannons are very useful in the spares box. The tires are vinyl (a minus for me), but they are a common pattern, and there are AM resin replacements if you wish.

The options for the kit include three nose cowls, though only the open-nosed version is correct for the E-3. The original intention was to mount a 2cm cannon in the propeller shaft, though to my knowledge, this was never done. The closed-cowl nose cone and a sharp-pointed variant are for other Emils (the sharp one for the E-7 Tropen. Field modifications like the 8mm armor plate behind the pilot's headrest or the 58mm bulletproof glass added to the front of the canopy are not included.

decals & painting
The decaling offers three options:
Joseph “Pips” Priller, JG51, Autumn 1940
Feldwebel (equivalent to “sergeant”) Heinz Bär, JG 51, 1940
Swiss Fliegerkompanie J-371, early 1940

The colorful red and white stripes of the Swiss version are really a bold departure from conventional aircraft modeling for anyone looking to think “outside the box.” Stencils appear to be spelled correctly (a problem lately with some Trumpeter armor kits), and swastikas are provided in two-part combinations. The decals appear to be in register.

There's a natural tendency to seek out “the best of all possible kits.” The discussion and debate about the Eduard Emils will likely start up now about the Trumpeter versions, especially given the prejudice against Trumpeter in some quarters. In terms of value-for-money, this kit strikes me as an excellent choice for modelers looking to minimize the need (and expense) of after-market upgrades. Given all the decal choices now available, it looks to be a kit that will cover almost any Emil situation.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Crisp molding, excellent PE, generous decals.
Lows: Vinyl tires.
Verdict: Eduard has some serious competition in the 1/32nd scale category.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: 02288
  Suggested Retail: $50
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Feb 06, 2010

About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2021 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Rowan and I have had some back & forth about the kit, and there are some internal details that may be suspect. I have checked those and other details against the "Walk Around" as I could, but I have found three things about these books: 1.) They never seem to take pictures of the areas I want to see, LOL! 2.) The photos they do have are usually limited to a surviving museum relic that may or may not be restored to perfect accuracy (the BF110 G-4 in the RAF Museum, for example, has the bomb pod on the belly as if it were still a Zerstoerer configuration). 3.) The photographers had limited access to the internal detailing, usually with some cowls popped open, but not really scouring the insides. That's not their fault, it's just what they were allowed access to. I looked over this kit very carefully, but until I build it (and until it is compared to plans and schematics), I won't know what areas are suspect. But it looks pretty damn good. It's not perfect; few kits are. Rowan wondered if the Swiss variant in the kit meant that Trumpeter used the aircraft in the Swiss Air Force Museum at Duebendorf. I looked at that version and the kit, and found that it did NOT, at least in the detailing, follow that variant. In fact, if you want to build the Swiss variant, you will need to modify the kit in some areas. As for using other builds on this site, Keith, I mean no disrespect to those modelers, but the only reference we should use in evaluating this kit is historical photos, schematics or at the very least, surviving examples.
FEB 11, 2010 - 04:50 AM
I totally agree Bill with your comments, however since I bought this kit I also bought the Kagero Bf 109e pt 1, while I know theres always controversy about different publications there are some cockpit interior shots which show a different layout. Also the after market cockpit producers while not doing a one specific to the E3 do show the other configuration. Even the old Airfix 1:24th beast that loiters unloved in my loft does. Still if everything was perfect, we'd all be bored and the aftermarket manufacturers would be starving, for the money this really is a good kit, just a shame its flawed in the first place most people peer. K
FEB 11, 2010 - 05:41 AM
Keith, I plan to compare the cockpit in more detail and see if there are major discrepancies. Frankly, I've seen so many different cockpits over the years, I don't know sometimes where the manufacturers and AM folks are getting their information, LOL! UPDATE: I compared the cockpit as laid out in the kit instructions and some parts over lunch and checked them against the Walkaround book I reference in the review. It seems the areas of possible difference are mostly about what's along the cockpit walls. The starboard side of the cockpit looks pretty close, though there is a console with some nodes along the upper edge. This looks like a console in the actual plane, though the console is covered in the photos. The port side of the cockpit has some modules that are not in the photos of either the E-3 in the Deutsches Museum in Munich nor the Swiss Air Force Museum in Duebendorf. I would like to see what other reviewers and experts will have to say about this.
FEB 11, 2010 - 05:53 AM
Is rather suprised none of the Axis builders have picked up this thread at all?
FEB 14, 2010 - 07:11 AM
I'm waiting to see you build this one Bill. Even with it's inaccuracies it looks like a great kit, and at $50.00 it's still priced below many comparable 1/48 scale kits. Hermon
FEB 14, 2010 - 11:51 AM
Hermon, I think you've hit the nail on the head: it's a very good kit for the money. The Eduards are running $20+ more, and have been reamed out by the experts for inaccuracies. This one isn't perfect, either, but it looks to be very pleasurable. The Tamiya Spitfire, for example, is $112, 3x the price. Is it 3x the kit? I don't know the answer to that question.
FEB 15, 2010 - 03:28 AM
Yes, it definitely is! Jean-Luc
FEB 15, 2010 - 05:13 AM
I'm 80% in agreeance with you Jean-Luc but for £100.00 I was somewhat surprised to find no weapons or gun bay detail under all that beautifully engineered work and I think personally the wheelwells could have been done better. Saying that it is a beautiful piece of work...I just hope my lack of ability doesnt hash it up too bad And Bill, you know as well as I do, that us Modellers are a spoilt bunch and never happy with anything these days. It seems the more maufacturers improve, the more we expect. Sure maufacturers make some awful cockups but are they that critical sometimes. A kit being a mil to long or slightly different profile.....when so much is sketchy, shouldnt have it lambasted around the community like it had plague....comments on improving hoping the manufacturer may retool some parts for future releases are good and to point to the aftermarket community possible markets but not to flame those that give us the chance to build it in the first place. Lets think back a few years to what we used to do chopping changing reprofiling things to make a truly awful kit accurate without complaint, just thankfull we had something to save us scratching a whole aircraft. Oh how times change This isnt pointed at anyone...or any manufacturer Keith
FEB 15, 2010 - 05:50 AM
Yes, it definitely is![/quote] Well, I'm def going to have to purchase it, then.
FEB 15, 2010 - 06:40 AM

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