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Zoukei-Mura Bf109 G-14/U4 SWS-18


BlrwestSiR
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The Messerschmitt Bf109 doesn't really need any introductions. It was a low wing monoplane single engined fighter that first saw combat during the Spanish civil war and stayed in service through the full duration of WWII. Some variants even served long after that if you count the Hispano built planes. 

The G-14 was a late war variant that was introduced by the RLM in an effort to standardize many of the changes the plane had undergone during its long production and service. The U-4 was a subvariant that had a further change in armament with the motor cannon being swapped to a 30mm Mk108 instead of the previous 20mm one. 

Zoukei-Mura has entered what some would say is the crowded late Bf109 market with this all new kit. The biggest differentiator to the existing kits is their now standard approach of including full interior details from fuselage bulkheads to wing spars and ribs and all the equipment contained within. Some feel that much of this is a wasted effort as very little is seen once the wings and fuselage are closed up but it is part of the company's ethos. Personally I like it even if I rarely build planes with open panels and exposed compartments. 

This review is going to be in two parts. This initial entry is an in-box review highlighting the contents. I will then do a build review of the kit and hopefully find and point out any potential issues with the build. A few have already come to light so I will focus on those as soon as I can. 

Carl

 

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Upon opening a fairly sturdy box,  you are greeted with 12 sprues of grey and clear plastic. As a bonus to this release, there is also a resin figure of Erich Hartmann, the highest scoring ace in history. There is an instruction booklet, decals by Cartograf, and a small sheet of vinyl paint masks. 

The kit is labeled as a G-14/U4 but there are several unlabeled additional parts included which would allow the builder to do other variants of the 109. I'll try to point them out as I go along but please check your references for what would be applicable to your particular subject.

Compared to previous ZM kits, the plastic is a a bit softer in feel. It's not as hard or brittle feeling like in some of their earlier kits. One welcome change is that they are no longer in different shades of plastic and just a fairly neutral grey. 

Sprue A

Starting in order, Sprue A covers the fuselage and tail.

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The fuselage detail is nicely done, with restrained consistent engraving of all the panel lines. The fuselage doesn't suffer from an overabundance of rivets. The surface is not completely smooth however and has a very slight texture to it. It will be interesting to see how that impacts the final finish. 

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The horizontal tailplanes are moulded in a single piece that spans across both sides.

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This means the vertical tail is split in half which allows for a short and a tall vertical tailplane option. Both are in the box. 

The main wing has separate fillets on this sprue. Hopefully this won't complicate the fit.

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Sprue B 

Next up, the wings are on Sprue B. More precisely, the outer wing skins are. 

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Again, the engraved detail is nice and restrained. The builder has the choice of having the slats and flaps up or down. 

On the underside of the upper wings, there is moulded on detail for the roof of the MLG bays. 

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Sprue C 

Sprue C covers the inner wing structure including parts of the MLG bays, rads and various linkages. 

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Again, the detail is nice and sharp.

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ZM use a fair number of small stubs that need trimming off parts presumably in an effort to reduce ejector pin marks. Thankfully the instructions have scrap diagrams showing where they are and what to trim off.

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Sprue E 

Skipping over D, we go to E for engine. 

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This is probably the best sprue that epitomizes ZM's philosophies behind their kit design. 

In their typical fashion, they include the engine pistons and rods which you'll never see again. 

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There is a multitude of thin plastic pipes for cooling and oil. Even the spark plug wiring is moulded here. 

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If you are building a closed cowl, odds are much of this can be left on the sprues saving one the trouble of painting and fitting it. It's unfortunate that ZM don't include a dummy block that a modeler could use instead. After all, they do include an engine stand but it would look odd empty. 

Sprue F 

The tail is next up. 

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The vertical tail surfaces are on Sprue F as are the first set of MLG wheels. There's a very restrained fabric detail to the rudder here. There are parts for a tall and short tail but only the short one is mentioned in the instructions.

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Various oxygen tanks and the methanol tank are here as well 

Sprue G 

Time for the cockpit. 

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The detail.on these parts is truly fantastic. A replacement AM cockpit set would be hard pressed to improve upon what's here already  Well, except for some seatbelts. In previous ZM kits they would give you the option of a seat with moulded on belts or one with none.  In this kit, there's only the no belts option. Perhaps they want you buy their forthcoming PE set that has belts on it. 

Back to the kit parts, many of the control linkages are included here 

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Oddly since most of the detail is nice and sharp, there is one moulded bundle of cables where the detail just fades out midway. It is disappointing to see especially when the adjacent detail is so sharp.

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There a cannon on here as well. I suspect it's the earlier 20mm that's not used for the kit version.  

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Lastly, the engine bearers are on this sprue. They look to be very fine and in scale. Hopefully they are up to the task of holding the engine in place especially during all the handling during painting. 

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Sprue H 

Sprue H covers the prop and MLG.

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The legs are moulded in a single piece so they should be suitably durable. They do mount to the fuselage in a prototypical manner so hopefully the kit doesn't suffer the same fate as many real 109s did and have the gear collapse. 

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There are two additional sets of wheels on here. 

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The brake lines are provided as well.

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The propeller has nice hub detail and the blades look suitably thin. 

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Not mentioned in the instructions are what looks to be open and closed shutters for the supercharger 

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Sprue I 

This small sprue is composed of parts primarily for the Mk108 cannon. 

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Much of it goes into the cockpit and entails the breech and it's mount. 

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Sprue N 

This sprue is primarily the engine cowls. 

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There are two different sets on here.

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As there is the option to pose them open in a butterfly position, they are detailed on both sides. 

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The gun covers are split in half which could possibly make for some challenging seam work.

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The first of two instrument panels is here. This one has the dial faces moulded in situ. So get out the steady hands and a fine paint brush.

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Sprue O & P 

The clear parts are split into two small sprues. The parts are very thin and clear with no visible distortion.

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There is also a clear fuel line that goes in the cockpit. 

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The clear IP has no dial faces moulded on it so you can put the decals behind it for a glass effect. 

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There are two options for the canopy. It looks like the difference is in the aerial mount(?).

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The instruction booklet sticks to the standard ZM presentation and is made to look like a service manual. 

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The inside is in full colour and has helpful notes to assist in construction.

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There are photos of completed assemblies to help out and show painting instructions. Vallejo and Mr Color paint numbers as well as paint color names are provided. 

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The decal sheet is printed by Cartograf which is usually a sign of good quality. There are a full set of airframe stencils and the instrument dials are provided as both a single piece and as individual dials.

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The paint guide for the camo is in full colour and a nice 2 page spread. There are two marking options in the box. The first is for Erich Hartmann's plane and the second is for when the same plane was flown by Anton Kellmayer and had some additional markings added to it. 

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Lastly, there is a resin 2 piece figure of Erich Hartmann. It comes in a box very similar to the one McDonalds used to pack their apple pies in. 

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The sculpting looks very nice. There are nice looking folds and creases in his uniform. 

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Summary

Overall, this is a great looking kit in the box. There's lots of details and it sticks to the ideas that Zoukei-Mura has for their kits. The price of the kit is well in line with comparable kits from the likes of Tamiya and the recent GWH Curtiss Hawk 81. The forthcoming Kotare Spitfire is similarly priced and it doesn't have an engine. 

A bit of a letdown is the lack of an option to do a closed cowl around an engine blank which would allow you to display the engine with all its complex detail beside the finished model. GWH do this in their Hawk kit. Maybe they'll consider it for future releases. 

The big challenge is for the potential buyer to decide if having all that internal detail is worth it to them plus the attendant complexity and fit challenges that potentially come with it. 

Carl

 

 

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Here's the start of the build review. I may jump around a bit but I will go through every step and use all the parts in the kit rather than simplifying things.

Going into this project one thing I've been very curious about is the fit of the cowl over the engine and upper guns. The Dragon and Eduard 109 kits are basically impossible/ extremely difficult to build with a closed cowl and all the interior details in place. 

So step 1, the engine block. . You can see the moulded in pistons and con rods. Last time you'll see them. 

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The fit of the parts is good. Tolerances are a bit looser which can very easily lead to fit problems. Here's the cylinder banks to show what I mean. 

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It's a bit too easy to get a misalignment if you're not paying attention. 

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The same parts lined up correctly and glued together. The plastic responds well to Tamiya Extra Thin so that helps. 

The basic engine block together along with the intake manifold and supercharger.

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The ignition leads are more durable than I expected which is a good thing for me. The mould seam lines are fairly fine and easily removed with an knife blade. 

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I painted the block using Tamiya Semi-gloss Black and the silver parts are Mr Color.

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With the supercharger in place and the intake manifold. You can see the impeller detail in the snail of the supercharger. 

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This bring me to the end of the first two pages. 

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Thanks Gary! Your build has been the one paving the way and I'm using the hurdles you have had to see if there's a way to find possible solutions and help others. 

I actually considered building the kit with no paint at all. I remember there used to be a hobby magazine that did that. All their reviews were build reviews with no paint or filler. Just glue and plastic. 

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1 hour ago, BlrwestSiR said:

Thanks Gary! Your build has been the one paving the way and I'm using the hurdles you have had to see if there's a way to find possible solutions and help others. 

I actually considered building the kit with no paint at all. I remember there used to be a hobby magazine that did that. All their reviews were build reviews with no paint or filler. Just glue and plastic. 

I will be referring to the info from you and Gaz whenever I decide to build mine. :)

I remember that model magazine and still have some copies somewhere.🙄

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Nice review, Carl!  Exactly what I had in mind!

Maybe check for a few typos in your text.  It looks like you’re the victim of autocorrect. I started to, but after one, I figured I didn’t want to screw with your text.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, JohnB said:

I will be referring to the info from you and Gaz whenever I decide to build mine. :)

I remember that model magazine and still have some copies somewhere.🙄

That's the idea behind the build review. See if I can find hangups or problem areas so folks are aware of what to watch out for.

I think the magazine was called Military Model Review? I wish I still had my copies. 

Edited by BlrwestSiR
Fix typo
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Continuing on with the engine, the engine bearers are next up. 

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I've painted the parts in Real Colors RLM 02 1941. 

First up are the machine gun mounts. They're N-9 and N-10. The instructions give you a nice sized scrap diagram to show you where they go. In fact, the part in the drawing is bigger than it is in actuality.

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How that looks on the model. 

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Instead of using my usual Tamiya Extra Thin cement, I've been using the regular Tamiya cement but with the finer brush from the Extra Thin bottle. I've found that this gives me better working time to get the parts together and reduces any wicking and cement getting where I don't want it. 

The kit has a lot of very fine piping in it. The softer plastic helps with removing it from the sprues and not having it break. There's a bit more spring in it. To further reduce the chance of a breakage, I use a fine diamond file to sand down the attachment points. I find a diamond file to be less grabby and therefore helps reduce the chance of breakage. 

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The Tamiya PE file is good for this, if a bit on the finer side. 

There's a small arm (E-33) on the backside of the right engine bearer. Don't forget it and once you have it in place, be careful not to knock it off.  The alignment is not the most clear even after flipping forward to see where it goes so hope for the best. At least they show you where it is supposed to go on the firewall. 

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Part E-20 then needs to be threaded through the right side engine bearer. There's a diagram in the instructions showing how it goes but here it is with the actual parts.

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Here's the engine bearer in place. You can see how E-20 runs. 

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The upper tip goes into the moulded housing on the top of the engine. 

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The bottom end of it is attached to the exhaust shroud E-14.

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At this point, I wanted to check out how the engine fit to the firewall. I removed and cleaned up G-12 to see how the engine bearers attach to it. 

At the top, the mounts are keyed to fit into some hook shaped cutouts on the upper edge.

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It looks like they sit flush with the backside. 

At the bottom, there is the smallest of tabs on the ends of the engine bearers. This hooks onto the bottom corners of the firewall.

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To say that this is delicate is a bit of an understatement. There is more piping to add which may further strengthen the connection but I thought this would help give folks an understanding of how they go together. 

Out of curiosity, I broke out a Dragon 109 (actually the HGW rebox) to see how they do the same connection. 

Here's the end of their engine bearer. It's a bit thicker than the ZM one. 

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The connection point on the firewall.  The bearers go into the large slotted holes at the bottom and the holes in the square recesses. That obviously helps to keep thing aligned. 

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ZM have obviously gone for scale fidelity here so here's hoping it holds up. 

 

 

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Wow Carl, the best review is a build review and you are up to a fast start. You put yourself under considerable pressure not only doing a review, but one of a ZM kit and even more demanding a 109, with so many Messerschmidt nuts around :D
At least you failed in one aspect, by painting up the parts, no all grey plastic 109 anymore or does that only count for the external sight.

Cheers Rob

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Carl

Terrific build review and what a review should be - how the kit actually builds. I'm following every step and taking notes as I am with Gaz's build. I'm learning as you both are progressing through the builds.

I'm more in the camp of how the kits looks after she sits on the display case shelves and I have my fingers crossed that there will be enough strength throughout not to have to worry about failures down the road.

Will be following all the way. :popcorn:

   

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11 hours ago, BlrwestSiR said:

Thanks Ernie! I tried to proofread this as best I could but I did everything from my phone. Should have used a laptop. 

I can go back for you I’d you wish, but then my name will be tagged at the bottom and I’d prefer not to look like I was messing with your text. That’s how rumors get started. 

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Carl, the little nubbie hanging off the landing gear attach point looks like an injector nubbie that needs to be rubbed out by judicial use of force, Semtex, or sprue nippers, your choice. 
😎😚

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1 hour ago, Clunkmeister said:

Carl, the little nubbie hanging off the landing gear attach point looks like an injector nubbie that needs to be rubbed out by judicial use of force, Semtex, or sprue nippers, your choice. 
😎😚

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For that sort of precision, det cord is my go-to. :lol:

 

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1 hour ago, Clunkmeister said:

I can go back for you I’d you wish, but then my name will be tagged at the bottom and I’d prefer not to look like I was messing with your text. That’s how rumors get started. 

I went through it last night and corrected  what I hope is all of the errors. Thankfully there weren't too many. 

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Thanks everyone for the feedback. This is my first proper review so I'm glad it's worked out like I hoped. 

This has been such a highly anticipated kit and from what I've seen online, garnered a fair bit of criticism, not all of which is unwarranted that I felt a proper review should address those issues rather than just be the more typical "it looks good in the box". I mean, my cat looks good in a box :lol:.

The plan is to build it OOB, and painted accordingly. The only addition. I am going to make is a set of seatbelts. I will even use the decals and not paint masks. 

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