After turning their attention to 1:48 for while, Dragon have returned to their impressive 1:32 Bf 110 and re-released it in a new "2-in-1" nightfighter boxing. The new release offers parts for both the Bf 110D and 'E, but it's important to note that this isn't a double-kit - you can only build one model.
Nevertheless, the box that arrived in the post is pretty colossal and very sturdy. Almost all the sprues are bagged separately, and the accessories are taped in individual bags to a sheet of card to protect them. The first impression is the sheer number of sprues - and it does get a bit confusing because quite a few of them share the same letter (for instance, there are 5 x "Sprue N"s) but it all makes more sense when you look at the sprue chart provided in the instructions and see they are actually moulded as one large runner and just separated for packing purposes. Even so, there are still 13 main sprue groups on the diagram, so it's clear this is going to be a reasonably complex model and, all in all, Dragon's Bf 110D/E comprises:
405 x grey styrene parts
20 x clear styrene parts
13 x etched brass parts
33 x metal wire parts
3 x metal tubes
Decals for 5 x aircraft
Let me start off by declaring my small involvement with the preparation of this kit, joining Dragon's existing advisers Jerry Crandall and Mark Proulx in supplying links and references etc.
I won't go into great detail describing again the parts that are shared with Dragon's previous largescale Bf 110C
and Bf 110D
. The main items are unmodified from the previous versions, so although the later Cyber Hobby 1:48 models have introduced worthwhile features such as separate leading edge slats and landing flaps, it's been uneconomical to retro-engineer them into their big predecessor. Nevertheless, the standard of moulding is still quite exquisite, with not a trace of flash and a level of surface detail that, 2 years on from its initial release, still looks fantastic with its crisp and subtle panel lines and restrained rivet detail, along with very nicely done fabric surfaces. The cockpit detail is excellent and the kit features a pair of very nice DB 601s.
So, what's new?
Before describing the nightfighting equipment, the most obvious additions are new fins, wheels and nose intake for the Bf 110E, which I have no doubt will appear in its own right before long. The fins are moulded in the same style as the originals and feature rudders with enlarged trim tabs. The undercarriage has been updated to include larger diameter mainsheels with new style hubs. The hubs are very well detailed with moulded-on brake cables. A new tailwheel is provided with, again, a larger diameter tyre plus an oleo scissor. The undercarriage details seem to match that described by John Vasco in his excellent book on early-variant Bf 110s very well, and although the drawings he includes show treaded tyres, photos of operational Bf 110Es mostly appear to show smooth tyres as provided by Dragon.
The nose air intake is provided as a separate part that matches the contours of the original nose precisely. One welcome change is that the nose has been modified slightly with the addition of an engraved cut-line on the inside to allow you to separate the top section correctly. The internal trunking isn't provided, so you'll have to make that from scratch if you want to model the nose open to reveal the nicely detailed guns.
Seeing in the dark
The kit includes a number of new parts specific to the nightfighter variants. Flash suppressors are provided for the nose guns in the form of short length of metal tube. Only 3 are included, the remaining MG 17 in the staggered arrangement not projecting from the nose. Some photos in John Vasco's book show a small unidentified item under the nose between the 20mm cannon ports and this is also included by Dragon.
The major addition is an impressive set of radar aerials and the FuG 202 set. The aerials are provided in two forms - styrene or metal. Both share a nicely moulded set of main "antlers" and mounting bracket, but you have the choice of moulded styrene dipoles or individual metal items, ready cut to length. The receiver is very nicely moulded and seems an excellent match for the unit shown online HERE
Instructions and decals
The assembly guide takes the form of a large fold-out sheet of instructions. This is a bit cumbersome on the workbench and I would have preferred a booklet-style, but the 12 stage assembly is clearly drawn and seems to follow a mostly logical sequence. Where I'd take exception is over the wisdom of attaching items like the canopy and many smaller external details prior to completing the basic airframe. Colour details are picked out in most cases during assembly with a chart showing Gunze Sangyo and ModelMaster matches.
One of the few areas open to criticism with Dragon's first 1:32 Bf 110s was the complete lack of any stencil markings, so it's great to see that the designers have taken that on board and this time have included a very comprehensive set along with a placement diagram. The stencils, along with the rest of the kit's decals are printed by Cartograf to their usual very high standard, with perfect registration and minimal carrier film. The finish is very flat, which is unusual for Cartograf decals in general but what they always seem to produce for Dragon and, as usual with Dragon kits, no swastikas are provided.
Markings are included for five aircraft, all sporting an overall black finish:
1. Bf 110D, G9 FM, 4/NJG 1, St. Trond, 1942
2. Bf 110D, G9 DR, 7/NJG 1, St. Trond, 1942
3. Bf 110E, 3C EN, 5/NJG 4, France, 1942
4. Bf 110E, 3C LR, 7/NJG 4, Mainz-Finthen, 1942
5. Bf 110E, 3C AR, 7/NJG 1, Holland, 1942
Dragon's new Bf 110 nightfighter looks set to build into an excellent, striking, model that stand out in any Luftwaffe collection. It's obviously not a beginner's kit, simply on account of the large number of parts and the level of detail included. That said, I've been surprised by some reports I've read online where modellers tackling the earlier kits in the series have complained of difficulty actually squeezing everything together - although leaving London forced me to abandon my own build of the Bf 110C, I'd completed the fuselage and hit no real problems and test-fitting the wings didn't indicate any pitfalls ahead. Highly recommended for fans of Luftwaffe aircraft with a bit of experience and plenty of room on their display shelf.
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