Erich Hartmann’s BF109G14 Black << by Paul Adams
I am delighted that Paul has put together these notes telling us the background to this model and how he went about constructing it…..
so it begins
So, by now, you will all have seen it: “a car modeller doing aircraft – what ever next” I hear you cry!! Hopefully you have liked the finished model and despite years of car modelling behind me, and a total lack of aviation experience, I haven’t offended anyone!
My interest in this particular subject began in 1998. The article `The Blond Knight’ in Fine Scale Modeller drew my attention to winter camouflage schemes, something until then I hadn’t seen on a model. Further articles in TMMI convinced me that I should attempt something in the future, be it armour or aviation. My appetite for car modelling continued apace until 2 years ago when flicking through some old magazines I stumbled upon the TMMI article once more, the result of which you will have seen in my first winter scheme effort – the M4A3 Sherman. At the time I was pleased with my model, but couldn’t help wondering about doing the Blond Knight scheme.
A visit to last years Farnborough model show to drool over the The Black Cross Societies Luftwaffe models and, of course, the Romsey Modellers Spitfire project further engaged my interest and after a reasonable build of the MkVb, the project was go!
For those not acquainted with the name Hartmann, (I would imagine about only 10% of the club!) – Erich was nicknamed `The Blond Knight’ be because of his hair and apparent dashing looks. He was the most successful fighter pilot of WWII. By the end of the war his kills numbered 352 – all on the Eastern front; an astonishing tally given the short life expectancy of pilots. His mounts are easy to spot – he often flew with a tulip pattern (though not exclusively) on the nose of his 109’s, seemingly irrespective of the camouflage scheme used. Towards the end of the war Hartmann was assigned duties on the Eastern front with JG52, and flew this winter scheme in February 1945. Shortly after he returned to Berlin to defend the Reich. Hartmann survived the war and the Russian camps and lived out his life until the mid nineties.
In the last few years, interest in large scale aircraft kits has increased almost to the point now that most new major releases are in 1/ 32nd or 1/ 24th scales. It seemed natural to build a 1/32nd kit after the 1/48th Spitfire build and (wouldn’t you believe it!) Hasegawa’s issue of several very nice 109 kits made the choice even easier. And so after crossing some palms with silver, a Bf109 kit was ordered and duly delivered (thanks Phil). This was followed by hours of internet time, surfing aircraft modelling sites and endless Google searches for “Hartmann” and “Bf109”!!
What you discover when crossing disciplines is the vast array of aftermarket accessories available, quite daunting in fact. The choice seems endless. With that in mind and to keep the build simple (!?), I purchased some pre-painted etch seat belt hardware and a set of decals and left it at that. The flash resin stuff will be for next time. What you also discover is the huge amount of reference available, again daunting, and almost bewildering. I had reached information overload! I decided to take some reference from 3 books that Pat had lent me, a nice built up 109 in the same scheme by an American modeller and the very useful guide sheet that came with the decals. Jerry Crandell (who’s artistic mastery caught my attention in the FSM article) provided plenty of accurate(ish) information in the EagleCals decal set and, importantly, two valuable photos of the actual aircraft. With all this information surely I couldn’t go wrong. It was then I made a third discovery… I’d bought the wrong kit!
In my haste to get my hands on a kit I had overlooked some major details with black ‘<<‘. Jerry Crandell’s info sheet stated that Hartmann might have flown a G14, not a G6. The subtle difference was enough to convince me to study my references further. I had completely missed the fact that it had a `Galland’ hood, not the 3-piece style arrangement of the early machines, and the one seen on my G6 kit, in which there is just one style of hood. My Tamiya Spitfire came with two – so why didn’t the 109? Oh well! And so a G14 kit was purchased which had the correct hood and larger tail. The G6 will be the subject of another build up when time permits.
Ok – so I had the kit, refs and decals. But no paints! A few emails later and Pat kindly did the honours with Hannants and some new green and grey shades entered my paint box. I planned to use Hannants new range of acrylix paint along with some from the trusty Polyscale range.
on with the build.
Without any great surprise I started with the cockpit. The kit provides a basic interior, which looks a little sparse in comparison to the real thing, so I decided to add some cabling here and there just to busy things up a bit. The cabling is yellow in colour and its omission would be apparent even to the casual viewer. A quick check of the resin interiors and you’ll see huge amounts of it running through and around the cockpit. I used cable wrap purchased from Maplins many years ago – the reel has lasted years! I added the cable to the left side of the cockpit – enough to make it look like there’s something going on. The kit provides some add on parts: the switch box and prominent fuel line and filter that runs just beneath the sill and some gauges. The pilot’s seat is again very basic but satisfactory and this along with pedals, joystick and other controls were glued in place on the cockpit floor ready for painting. The instructions call for RLM66 black grey for the interior colour – correct because late 109’s used grey, early 109’s (the E and F) used RLM02 light grey/green. The parts were airbrushed followed by some slight panel shading using grey with a little white added. This was followed by 2 coats of Johnsons klear. A wash with a mix of black and brown oils was sealed with Xtracrylix flat varnish, then dry brushed using Tamiya marker pen chrome to give the cockpit a used look. I know some modellers tend to dry brush greys with a light grey colour but I prefer the look that silver gives – nice and metallic. I picked out some details using enamels and followed this with gentle use of Mig Productions `Dark Mud’ to the cockpit floor and pedals. The first of the seat belts were added followed by another coat of varnish to remove the shiny look of the etched parts. A little further dry brushing with silver to created freshly worn areas and it was done. Despite being basic in appearance the cockpit now all looked fairly convincing. Who needs resin?
The dash was next for painting. I airbrushed Tamiya semi gloss black and drybrushed the gauges with silver and then two coats of Johnson’s Klear. Here’s the clever bit: I masked off the gauges with small blobs humbrol maskol and then airbrushed RLM66. More drybrushing and flat varnish, remove the Maskol and hey presto, glossy gauges contrasting nicely against the flat grey panel! Ok, so it’s not all that clever, but I thought so at the time! There are gauge decals in the kit but I think painting the dash gives are far more realistic, used look. This part would be fitted later. (Exercise some care here, the ammonia in Maskol may dissolve the Klear beneath.That is why it is risky to use Maskol when masking canopies that have been dipped in Klear).
The two fuselage halves could now be mated. The kit cleverly provides the tail section as a separate piece enabling Hasegawa to issue versions of the 109 without major retooling. I assembled these parts along with the wing halves using Humbrol liquid glue. I use this product when the parts I’m attaching are of a good fit. The fit of the Hasegawa parts are exemplary. The parts were held together while the glue cured with tape, and clothes pegs and left overnight to dry. (If you find the clothes pegs ping off due to the curvature of the kit parts, put a strip of Tamiya tape on the parts beforehand so the jaws will slide as far as the tape and then stop).
The good fit of the main parts means the modeller has less work to do when cleaning up the seams. This tedious job was completed in a short time, though I did need to add some filler here and there and re-scribe some panel lines. I added the dash and cockpit floor to the fuselage and I could then get to an exciting bit. Adding the wings! Hasegawa provide outriggers to help secure the wings and give strength to the whole assembly. Excellent I thought…nice and secure. (Are you sure it’s strong enough Paul: most aircraft modellers would make sure that bit is really, really strong, just in case….)
With the wings in place I worked on other parts. The rear stabilisers, propellers and spinner, adding the machine gun bulges and engine cover (a choice of two in the kit) to the fuselage. I also prepared the flaps and landing gear, as these parts would need painting along with the fuselage. The distinctive shape of the 109 was now evident -and what an imposing sight it must have been during the war.
I decided to try Alclad’s airbrush-ready grey primer on this model, mainly because I was keen to retain as much surface detail as possible and I had read good reports. After two coats it look great. Next job was to begin the weathering process by airbrushing thinned flat black into the panel lines and various nooks to help create some shading and break up the final colours. This really works well if you airbrush your camouflage colour on thinly, building the colour and just getting the shading to show through.
My plan then was to paint the white nose first, then the yellow tail band and lower engine cover, mask off and begin applying the dapple/splinter undercoat scheme. I used Hannants Acrylix white for the nose, building the colour slowly to match roughly the density seen in the photos. I then masked up the nose. While doing this I had to re-position my first masked line. In doing so the white paint was lifted together with the pre-shading and primer. Further test showed the primer had not bonded to the plastic and would simply break off when
masking tape got anywhere near it! Using a tirade of expletives, some I believe I invented…the whole aircraft was gently wet sanded and recoated with Halfords grey primer from a can and re-pre-shaded (another new word!). The white was redone and next on went the yellow – Polyscale RLM04, again in thin coats; letting some pre-shading show through once more I’ll try again with the Alclad another day. The model was now ready for its fading winter paint scheme.
With all the excitement over it was on with the main scheme. With this particular model I wanted to apply the full camouflage scheme and then apply the white wash over that – just like the real thing when painted in the field. I planned to let some of the scheme show through here and there which hopefully would add to the realism. First the light blue Polyscale RLM76 colour was applied sprayed at 15psi and thinned about 60% paint to thinner. I used Halfords cheap distilled water for thinning. This colour was applied to the underside and up the fuselage sides to a rough line just beneath the cockpit sides. Some areas underneath were shaded further by applying more blue in the panel centres. The undersides areas were then masked and then the RLM75/76 colours went on. I used the new Xtracrylix paint, thinned at 50% paint to thinner and shot at around 12psi. Grey was follow by masking for the splinter pattern and then the green, starting with the wings and stabilisers. The fuselage sides were then masked using Blu-tack to create the semi-feathered edge. Thin `sausages’ were applied from the nose to the tail and then the grey was gently airbrushed on. After allowing the grey to dry, further masking was done for the green sections. The masking was removed immediately following painting to ensure that no residue was left from the sticky Blu-tack. I then applied the `dapple’ to the fuselage sides using the same colours. I struggled a little here with the airbrush, as the cheap double action type I had did not want to do small lines and spots. It was at the limit of its usefulness!
Now onto the white wash. I thinned down some more of the white I had used on the nose – around 70/30, thinner to paint and added a drop or two of grey to take the edge off of the white. With the masking for the tail band, nose and engine cover still in place, a cloudy random pattern of spray was employed to impart a hastily applied look. I airbrushed at 12PSI to give myself time to build up the colour slowly, accentuating the panel centres. The rear stabilisers and upper surfaces of the separate flaps were all done in the same session for consistency. I did about 3 applications of white before I was happy, with the underlying scheme just showed through here and there. Once happy, I was able to remove the masking and plan the next stages of painting and weathering. I then spent two evenings slowly chipping the white away, along the wing roots and in various places that wear would occur; service personnel and the harsh conditions in the field would soon remove the tenuous nature of the white wash. The wheel wells, landing gear and inner faces of the flaps were painted with a green/grey colour, RLM70 which I particularly like, the same colour in fact used for interiors on early 109’s.
I decided at this stage to paint the Hungarian theatre `V’ found on the underside of the left wing. This marking is found in the decal sheet, but didn’t quite match the yellow I had used elsewhere on the model. I made another mistake here in the I did not mask up the surrounding areas sufficiently to prevent overspray and realised after there was a faint yellow line 2 inches or so from the `V’. Doh! More blue followed…..worse happened though, as when I removed the masking tape I pulled just at right angle (that would be along the wing) for the wing to come off! At this stage I put the kettle on and considered taking up another hobby….
In the field sources indicate that the various markings were painted on roughly and this fact applied to the white and black crosses found on this aircraft. Areas were blocked out with green to allow the white markings to show against the winter camouflage. To make the model look convincing enough I had to do this on Black `>>’ and I approach the whole thing with some trepidation. I was keen not to obliterate the winter paint job! I photocopied the decal sheet and cut out the markings. These were used a stencils. After tacking them into place I airbrushed RLM75 around the edges, which gave me an outline and once the mask was removed I painted in the space. This worked ok on the fuselage sides but not on the wings. The green area was too big and would need tidying once the decals were on. I used this technique on the tail and realised after that I had put the swastika on at the wrong angle….more tidying with the white was needed. Finally, I masked off the cockpit surround and airbrushed black/grey to match the rest of the cockpit interior.
Next went on the Johnson’s Klear, a base from which the decals and washes could be applied. When doing this it is best to apply some light coats at first (spraying at 25psi), then build up the gloss by airbrushing heavier layers. Don’t worry about the coats looking thick when wet, because once dry they tend to `thin out’. You need to achieve a smooth surface otherwise the decals will silver. I trimmed the decals right back, removing the carrier film where possible, including the Swastikas. I found the white parts of the Eaglecals decal rather thick and not very responsive to Microsol. The crosses on the wings were cut out and applied individually, one `corner’ at a time. The aircraft had little in the way of markings due to the temporary paint and so the decaling was completed in just a few hours. I mixed a dark grey wash from black and white oil paint, thinned with white spirit and applied this to all panel lines, external fittings, rivets, in fact anything that the wash would cling to! The wash was for me the most satisfying part of the weathering as this really brought out the detail in the kit engraving and all my hard work in pre and post shading. I added some oil streaks and stains again with oil paint and the model was left overnight to dry and then followed up with several coats of flat varnish of all of the painted parts – I sprayed the Xtracrylix XA1F flat varnish undiluted at 25psi – the manufacturer recommends thinning it but I found it didn’t dry very flat when doing this. It was now all of the various mediums to create this paint scheme, blended together.
At this point I had a rather amusing conversation with my partner Lynne. During a conversation about the model I remarked at my intention to in some way pay homage to the brave WWII pilots, be they Allied or Axis when building them. Lynne then asked, “Are those swastikas on the back there”. “Yes love” came the reply. “Do you mean this is a German army plane your building”…”German Luftwaffe, yes love”…”well it’s very nice dear, but I thought all those crosses meant you were building something to do with the Red Cross!!!”…I showed remarkable restraint at this point not to collapse with laughter. “Erm, well most of the people that came across them (the Germans) probably would have ended up being helped by them – so there is a connection!!”
Next on the agenda was to finish the details parts and in particular the canopy. I had omitted to paint this while doing the rest of the model and as the front windscreen was also partly camouflaged with the white this wasn’t advisable. The instructions stated black for the `Galland’ hood, however, in the reference photo I had the hood and screen looked dark green and logically with the surrounding cockpit camouflage in dark green, it was painted accordingly. I masked the green area on the screen and added the white to match what I had on the fuselage. I used the masking from the outside of the `Galland’ hood on the inside and airbrush flat varnish to make it appear that the hood was also painted on the inside. The shoulder belts to the cockpit were added and touch in by brush where necessary.
The exhausts had their outlets drilled out and were sprayed with Humbrol polished steel. After buffing they were weathered by brush with Mig Pigments, dark and light rust and black smoke. Once in place I carefully added the exhaust covers. I had previously thinned the plastic on these for an improved scale effect by simply thinning the outer edges, indeed more savings over costly etch parts! These had been painted along with the rest of the fuselage parts and given the white wash. Once in place I then set about weathering them further. Being subjected to heat from the exhausts, the paint would soon flake off. Using a fine brush I `chipped’ the paint using Humbrol Metalcote polished steel. The paint finish was left as it dryed; the exposed steel on the real aircraft would displayed a different sheen from the white wash. I applied more exhaust staining using the Mig black smoke, around the exhausts, covers and back along the fuselage. I was conscious not to carry the staining too far back to avoid visually cutting the aircraft in two.
The wheels were next – I sprayed the centres with semi-gloss black and applied some gloss varnish for the decals followed by a coat of Xtracrylix satin varnish. I then dry-brushed with chrome silver and masked off in order to paint the tyre. I mixed a suitable tyre colour from semi-gloss black, dark grey and red brown using Tamiya acrylics in the ratio of about 60/30/20. Tyre black should just be on the greyside, never black. After assembly and some more weathering with Mig pigments they looked the part.
I was on the final stretch now. The prop blades were chipped with a Berol Carismacolor silver pencil and the spinner attached to the model. White overspray was added to the blades, a very prominent detail from the real 109. I must point out that during the various stages of painting and assembly I broke the cone away from the spinner back 4 times….car modellers eh!
The `Galland’ hood could now be fitted and after weathering and adding the pilot’s armour plate, on it went along with the final small detail parts and the aerial wires and I could finally (gasp) declare the model complete.
The model took around 8 weeks to complete, not the 4 I had originally envisaged. The Hasegawa kit is first rate, and while only an upscaled version of their 1/48th kit, the detail holds up very well. The sheer size of the model is enough to demonstrate the purposeful design of this aircraft.
So it’s now back to car modelling for a while. I have enjoyed this model and plan to do some more in the near future. Above all I have had fun (and some frustration) and learnt something about 109’s…more aircraft models will follow. Keep watching the skies! Enjoy your modelling.