The release of Unimodels' Gustav caught me rather by surprise and I only spotted it by chance while browsing Model Hobbies' online catalogue for something else. Attracted by the low cost, and with my curiosity thoroughly piqued, I wasted no time ordering one, which arrived promptly and safely a few days later.
The kit is packed in a solid conventional box. The artwork is a little misleading, depicting a Bf 109G-6 armed with underwing cannon, but these aren't included in the kit (Unimodels market a separate weapons and stores set). The parts are sealed in a single plastic bag, and the transparencies are left to rattle around with the other sprues. Surprisingly, they didn't seem to be scratched in my kit, but that's not the end of the story with the clear parts (see below).
The kit comprises:
121 x grey styrene parts (22 unused)
16 x clear parts (5 unused)
Decals for 2 colour schemes
The immediate impression is one of déjà vu, because the parts are very similar to ICM's Bf 109F (as reviewed
by Jean-Luc Formery). Similar, but not identical; even allowing for the different version modelled, the parts breakdown and design is slightly different, although the kits seem to share the same root design. (Unimodels' Gustav is obviously just the first in a planned series of '109s, with unused parts for a tall tail and an 'F-style canopy.) Happily, despite the seemingly shared heritage, some of the aspects of the ICM model that caused concern aren't present, so Unimodels' kit is rather better moulded, with a cleaner surface finish and a more subtle and consistent fabric effect on the control surfaces. The panel detail is engraved - a little heavily, but it'll work well for weathering - and the rivet detail on the ICM parts isn't included here. The styrene used is quite soft and there's a bit of flash evident, but the moulding is generally quite clean and I only found one or two shallow sink marks that should be easy to sort out.
The fuselage is modular, with optional tails and the entire nose is separate because, just like the ICM 'F, Unimodels have included a detailed engine bay that can be modelled with the cowl covers open. The wings follow the ICM route too, with irritating separate tips. I must admit I groaned at the sight of these, because they were a poor fit on the earlier kit, but they seem a lot better this time - although the integral pitot tube is best replaced. The design of the kit makes it hard to do a test-fit, but the fuselage / tail assembly lines up well and the wings seem like they'll be fine once the detail inside the wheel-wells is trimmed slightly - once again, shades of the ICM Friedrich.
In terms of dimensional accuracy, the parts compare well with Kagero's plans - better, in fact, than the market-leading Hasegawa kit which is shorter in the fuselage. While Unimodels' Gustav can't compete with Hasegawa's in terms of crisp moulding and easy assembly, it looks like it may have the edge in accuracy in some aspects on the basis of this brief examination. The one part that really doesn't look happy is the propeller, which seems too pointed.
So, with the parts quite nicely moulded and the kit promising plenty of detail, everything's looking good? Well, not quite. The real fly in the proverbial ointment is the transparencies. Having survived their journey unprotected, it was a real disappointment to find they're moulded with an almost frosted finish - you can actually feel the texture on them. It's a real shame, because they seem pretty accurate and thin and have crisply marked frames. They might be salvageable with careful polishing and a dip in Future/Kleer, but Unimodels will really need to address how they mould such parts. Luckily, excellent aftermarket canopies are available from Falcon/Squadron which should fit, although they're not designed for this particular model.
The kit is impressively detailed and construction begins with a 35-part engine and cowl gun assembly. The cockpit is also quite well kitted out, with 11 parts including rudder pedals, control column trim wheel and a seat-pan. The detail on the sidewalls is fair (although rather basic on the starboard side) and there's no seat harness included, but the office should look quite decent when completed. The sidewall detail is moulded straight onto the insides of the fuselage, which gives a better scale thickness to the walls, but leaves an unrealistic gap at the base when the floor is fitted, as the sides flair out to form the wing roots.
Unlike ICM, Unimodels have opted to mould the instrument panel in clear styrene with a decal for the bezels. Oddly, the instructions show the decal applied to the front surface, but I think the designer's intention was probably to apply it to the rear, Accurate Miniatures-style, with the panel painted to leave the dials clear showing the decal instrument faces behind.
Unlike almost all other 'G-6 kits, Unimodels' has the wing bulges moulded integrally. This is nice, because it means the bulge is also visible inside the wheel-well and there are also no unsightly locating pins to hide. The mainwheels have rather basic hubs, but the wheels match the dimensions in the Kagero plans and the wheel covers are nice and thin.
As noted earlier, there are no underwing cannon gondolas; the only stores included are a centreline drop-tank and ETC rack. The tank is the blunt-tailed variety with prominent weld-seams.
Instructions and painting
The assembly diagrams are well drawn, but they still manage to be quite confusing in places. To be fair to the artist, this is largely down to trying to cope with the complex interior and show the model built with or without the engine exposed, but the sequence is rather muddled and badly laid-out on the page. The diagrams of the engine need careful study - and watch out... the supercharger is shown mounted on the wrong side.
Humbrol paint matches are keyed to the assembly and there's a separate full-colour sheet for the pair of decal options:
1. Bf 109G-6/R3 W.Nr. 163269 "White 7", 4./JG51, Bulgaria, 1944.
2. Bf 109G-6/R3 "Yellow 9", II./JG26, Lille, France, March-April 1944.
The decals seem to be printed by Begemot. The carrier film extends quite a long way beyond each design and is very matte, which is a little disconcerting for anyone used to glossy decals, but they seem good quality, being thin and in very good register with good colour density. The decals are supplied on two sheets - the second providing a comprehensive set of stencils.
I'm sure many people will wonder whether we really need yet another quarterscale Bf 109G. Well, I'd say a qualified yes; Unimodels' Gustav scores over the well-established Hasegawa kit in a number of areas. With its more complicated construction, it's not a kit for beginners, and it's let down by the clear parts. But anyone prepared to put in the extra work to make the most of the detailed engine bay and add an aftermarket canopy could produce a cracking little low-cost model. If Unimodels could sort out how the mould transparencies they'd really deserve to have a winner on their hands.
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