Antares 1/48 Messerschmitt Bf-109 TL

Kit #ANT-29                                            MSRP $65.00
Images and text Copyright © 2007 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
        In 1943 the Messerschmitt Me-262 program was still under development and experiencing some problems. Some German leaders wanted to get the new jet technology into a viable aircraft as soon as possible and instructed Messerschmitt to explore converting the existing Bf-109 to jet propulsion as an interim solution until the 262 could become operational. Messerschmitt engineers proposed to use the Me-155 fuselage which was based on the 109 (a 109G rear fuselage with a new nose housing two Mk 103 and two Mg 151/20 cannons) combined with the undercarriage of the developmental Me-309 and the wings of a planned future development of the 109, the 409. They worked on this idea for about two months before concluding that the problems of mating all these components would consume more time, energy and materials than to simply continue to resolve the developmental issues that existed with the Me-262 project. At that time the Bf-109 TL project was cancelled and all efforts were directed into the 262 project.
        As with so many of the paper projects created by the German air industry one has to wonder just what would have happened should the decision have been to go ahead with development. How many of these interim aircraft would have been produced, where would they have been deployed and what kind of combat performance would they have demonstrated? Now we are moving into the realm of science fiction or ďThe Twilight ZoneĒ.

The Kit
        Antares is developing quite a reputation for producing resin kits and conversions of Luftí 46 projects and this is just the latest from their shop. This is a resin multi-media kit that includes photo etched brass detail parts, acetate instruments, white metal landing gear struts and vacuformed canopies. Everything comes tightly packaged in a small medium duty cardboard box with packing peanuts included to keep things from rattling around. All in all a very tight little package with everything you need for a complete aircraft build.
        Beginning with the resin pieces they are cast from a dark tan resin that displays a nice smooth finish and delicately recessed panel lines. There are no noticeable micro bubbles in the castings, they appear to be straight and true with no warpage or sink marks. Pour blocks are not overly large and larger pieces are taped together for shipment. The tape does present a slight issue with adhesive wanting to stay on the parts and they will need to be cleaned with Goo-Gone or other nonsolvent based cleaner before being washed with soap and water. Each engine is a two piece solid cast affair with the aft section separate from the main engine body. The cockpit area of the main fuselage has very thin walls and has a single pack peanut taped inside to help prevent breakage. Separate detailed side walls are included as well as a detailed floor pan and optional seats. The tail section of the fuselage is cast separately from the rest of the fuselage and the rudder is a separate piece. The fuselage is very heavy and I am concerned about this being a tail sitter. There is nowhere to install weights in the solid nose so I am electing to bore out the aft section of the fuselage to lighten it somewhat.
        The main landing gear struts are white metal to support the weight of the completed model and they show some soft detail. Other items in the white metal package include detail items for the cockpit and landing gear bays. The two sets of vacuform canopies demonstrate good clarity and fairly well defined raised frame lines. The photo etched brass fret includes the instrument bezels and seat belts. There is also a set of acetate instruments to mount behind the brass bezel. Overall the kit contains thirty one resin pieces, twelve white metal parts, two vacuformed canopies, eleven photo etched pieces and two acetate pieces for a total of fifty seven pieces in the box.


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Decals and Instructions
        Kit instructions consist of a five page A-4 sized pamphlet that opens with a true historic profile of the aircraft type along with some tips towards working with resin parts. There are three pages of assembly instructions comprised of five exploded views and a single three view drawing. There are some basic paint codes and color call-outs included but the modeler may want to revert to some more detailed Bf-109 interior painting instructions for inspiration. Exterior painting instructions are given for four different fictitious aircraft with full color profiles and decal placement instructions.
        The kit includes a small sheet of water slide decals printed by Condor Decals. They include the basic markings needed to decorate the four aircraft shown in the instructions but lack any service stencils or warning markings. The print registry seems to be good but color density is a little weak especially in the black areas. I have not tried any of these decals yet so must withhold judgment as to their compatibility with setting solutions. On paper they do not appear to be thick so may snuggle down without any issue.

Conclusions
        This looks like a fun kit to build but is not for those weak of heart or in the pocket book. The parts count is small but everything necessary is included. Instructions are adequate and decals cover the very basics. It is a full resin kit so previous experience with resin would be a good idea before jumping into one of these. There are no aftermarket items for this kit however there are plenty of things aimed at the more conventional Bf-109s and Me-262s that might be employed here like the Aires Jumo 004 engine kits or other cockpit and wheel detail sets. Really it does not look like it needs anything extra other than some service stencils and warning markings. Since we are dealing with totally fictitious aircraft here it seems this would be a good time to explore the spares box for additional markings and have some fun. I give this kit a good recommendation with the consideration that some previous resin experience is required.



Construction
        As I start working on this build my first concern is that it is most likely going to be a tail sitter. To combat this issue I began construction by drilling out the aft fuselage. Using a large diameter bit in my Dremel I worked from the aft section drilling out the interior and opening it up. While doing this I managed to snap off the forward section of the fuselage as it is extremely delicate around the cockpit area. No big deal, a little super glue will fix this but first I want to check the overall balance of the kit. I tape the fuselage together and tape the wings in place. Now I locate the mounting point of the main landing gear and place a small red dot on the upper wing surface. Now I can balance the model on a knife handle and check to see if she is a tail sitter. Sure enough, even with the aft fuselage drilled out she still sets that tail down with a thud. Off comes the tape and I drill out the forward fuselage. This may at first seem contrary to the plan but once I have a good opening in the forward fuselage I can superglue several lead fishing weights in there and finally get the nose down. The broken halves of the fuselage are glued back together with a quick application of medium superglue and accelerator and I can get painting.
        The interior of the cockpit is dealt with first getting an overcoat of RLM-66. I found that the kit did not have a throttle quadrant so I spent a little time examining the interior pictures I have of the Me-262 with the assumption that since we have the same power-plant lay-out we should have a similar throttle lay-out. A piece of plastic stock and some leftovers from the photo etch graveyard provided all my detail pieces. With some additional pieces of plastic stock I also built a fuse panel for the right sidewall. The kit offers two options on the seat and I elected to use the later model. The instrument panel went right together with the acetate panel matching up perfectly. A couple of Mike Grant placards were used to dress up the interior and some red, white and yellow Testors enamels added detail. The kit does not provide a reflective gun sight so I made one from scrap pieces of plastic and clear card. This did require the use of a 15 power magnifying glass because my old eyeballs just donít see that small anymore.


You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures

        Note the red dots on the wing in the middle picture above, thatís my balance point. The cockpit pieces fit right into the fuselage with only some minor adjustment. I removed the locator tabs that were molded inside the fuselage and everything went just fine. The wings were assembled off the fuselage to get an even dihedral then attached. I had a bit of a gap at the aft of the wing/fuselage joint that was easily filled with superglue, hit with accelerator and sanded smooth. The engines had large casting blocks that had to be removed. I donned a N-95 dust mask and loaded a heavy sanding wheel into my Dremel and got busy. I was careful not to sand the machined edge on the engines and in the matter of an hour or so both engines were ready to be put together and placed on the wings.
        I did need a little Mr. Surfacer 500 at the wing root and engine seams but it was minimal and sanded smooth quickly. It may sound like Iím rushing through the description of this build but Iím not, it went up that fast. The rudder and elevators were glued in place and I was ready to start painting. Well, almost ready. The cockpit and gear bays were loaded with damp tissue then the model was primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000 cut 50% with lacquer thinner. A quick check for surface defects and I was ready to proceed. Since this is a fictitious aircraft I feel pretty safe creating my own paint scheme. I saw a Bf-109 model not long ago with a white nose and rudder and really liked the scheme so Iím stealing that idea here. I also like the desert camo idea and will employ that as well. First some thinned black is used to preshade the nose and bottom. The nose is then painted flat white, allowed to dry and masked off. Next the lower surfaces are done with RLM-65, allowed to dry and masked off. Now the upper surface is done entirely with RLM-83 dark green. This is allowed to dry then I start dabbing liquid masking material across the surface. As this dries the model looks like it has a serious skin condition but I think a good dose of German sand will fix that.
        The entire upper surface is done with German Sand and allowed to dry overnight. Once dry I rubbed each spot of liquid mask gently with a pencil eraser and the mask rolled right off. Landing gear were attached and gear doors were put in place. A few little touch-ups with a fine brush were needed and she was ready for some decals. Thing went awry at this point, after applying a good coat of Future to the model I started to use the kit provided decals but they really suck. Color density is not good and they want to silver up as they dry Ė real bad. After seeing this development I rewet the decals that I had placed and carefully removed them. I went to my spares box where I had most of a Third Group Bf-109E decal sheet left and started borrowing those along with a few other marking from the spares box. The only kit decals I ended up using were the kill markings on the rudder. Decals were allowed to dry then sealed with another coat of Future which was also allowed to dry. Now the model is weathered with a sludge wash made from Grumbacher Paynes Gray and some water soluble Higgins ink. Once this has dried and been wiped down the model is sealed with Polly Scale Clear Flat thinned heavily with Windex.

        The canopy was removed from the carrier with a scalpel then dipped in Future. After it had cured overnight I cut the three sections apart and masked them with strips of masking tape. They were precoated with RLM-66 then over coated with German Sand. A couple of RLM-83 splotches were added and the masks were removed. I added forward wind screen bracing struts from scrap photo etch material. A canopy release lever was added from the spares box and the canopy fore and aft sections were attached with clear parts cement. The center section was attached with medium super glue and treated with accelerator to prevent fogging. The antenna is invisible thread drawn across a permanent black marker and attached with spots of super glue. The insulators are more super glue painted white. Some final weathering detail was added with ground pastel chalks applied with a womanís makeup swab to simulate gun blast staining and oil spills. As a last effect I took some Tamiya X-19 Smoke and oversprayed the aft ends of the Jumo engines to simulate heat stress. There it is, itís done. Did that seem to go fast? Well it did, this entire build, start to finish, only took me five days and three of those days were only a couple of hours in the evening. Even with all the work I did to ensure that this sits on the nose the balance is precarious. It takes very little to make it sit down on the tail end.



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        Iíve built a few resin kits and until this the easiest I have encountered were from Planet Models but this one now takes that position as the easiest resin kit to date. If you want to try your hand at full resin models take a look at what Antares Models has to offer, you will not be disappointed.





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