Airfix's recent 1:48 Bf 109E has been generally very well received by Luftwaffe aficionados and Airfix devotees alike. The overall level of detail, generous supply of options and, above all, keen price make it a good choice for average modellers.
Of course, it also makes a perfect canvas for aftermarket upgrades, and two of the first to appear have been released by the Czech firm Pavla. Both sets deal with the kit's exterior and the parts are largely straight replacements for the Airfix originals.
The new underwing radiators are cast complete with the cores already in place and are designed as "drop-in" replacements for the Airfix originals, attaching in an identical way to the originals, complete with the separate "lump" for the landing flaps. The big difference is that Pavla have included separate cooling flaps to allow them to be posed open if you wish.
The new cannon and machine-gun barrels are much more delicate than the kit parts and feature drilled-out muzzles.
The wheels for the Airfix kit always look odd to me with their clumsy "tractor-tread" tyres (OK - maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but they do remind me of the wheels on old-fashioned die-cast toy cars...). Pavla's look much better, both in the style of the tread and its heaviness. I think the new wheels are possibly a tad slim, and I'm a little disappointed that they are unweighted (but of course that's a matter of taste), but they are a very good quick fix.
While all the above are straight replacements for the Airfix parts, fitting Pavla's new exhausts will require some careful surgery. The reason is that Airfix moulded the exhaust shrouds integrally with the sides of the nose, with the exhausts themselves as separate drop-ins. Rather than just supply new exhaust pipes, Pavla have cast them complete with the shrouds, so it will be quite a tricky little job removing the originals and getting a clean fit for the resin parts. Pavla's replacements do look much better with their drilled-out exhausts, but beginners should certainly exercise caution before hacking off the originals.
U48-35 Bf 109 E - Control surfaces
This set replaces all the Airfix control surfaces - ailerons, elevators, landing flaps and rudder. No surgery is needed because the originals are separate parts already.
How to depict fabric covered surfaces on kits is a constant bone of contention. For instance, how should you indicate the underlying ribs, and how much "sag" should be included? Airfix have gone for a soft look - no sharply defined ribs or tapes, with a bit of sag, which may not be to every taste. Pavla, by contrast, have taken the opposite route with drum-tight fabric and crisply raised ribs. For me it's a classic "six of one and half a dozen of the other" situation - the taught surface looks more convincing to my eyes. but I'll definitely want to reduce the ribs a fair bit for a more subtle appearance. The new control surfaces all have thinner trailing edges for a more true-to-scale appearance, but what is rather disconcerting is that a few of the ribs seem crooked, so Pavla may want to double-check their masters before making fresh moulds...
The new rudder has added a small fixed trim tab added that Airfix missed, but Pavla have run into the classic conundrum often associated with any replacement parts - i.e. to keep things simple, they have to fit the kit they're intended for (sometimes at the expense of accuracy). Therefore the new resin rudder keeps the odd bloated cross-section at the front edge in order to match the Airfix fin.
Pavla's upgrades for the Airfix Emil will make subtle but worthwhile improvements over the standard kit, though which style of control surfaces you prefer is really a matter of taste. What I'd really like to see is Pavla's pattern-makers turn their attention to the cockpit, because some of their replacement "offices" have been quite exceptional.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Nicely detailed and faultlessly cast.Lows: Some ribs look crooked on the fabric surfaces.Verdict: Pavla's parts offer useful alternatives to the Airfix originals. Most items are direct replacements, but you'll need to do some careful surgery to fit the exhausts.
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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...