1/48 Hobbycraft
Messerschmitt Bf-109 K-4
GERMANY, 1945  

by Caz Dalton



Model Subject: Messerschmitt Bf-109 K-4

Kit Used: Hobbycraft, kit. No. HC1539, 1/48 scale

History of the aircraft modeled:

Appearing in October 1944, the Bf-109 K-4 was essentially a refinement of later versions of the older G (Gustav)-series of 109s. It standardized the newly developed Daimler-Benz DB 605 D engine, developing 1,800 hp for take-off and driving a three-blade VDM 9-12159 propeller. Armament consisted of one 30-mm MK 108 engine mounted cannon with 65 rounds and two 13-mm MG 151 machine guns, each with 300 rounds. 

All models of the K-4 were standardized on the one-piece Erla canopy with shoulder and head armor. A new instrument panel was also fitted and most were equipped with FuG 25a (Erstling IFF) and FuG 16ZY radios. All K-4s were fitted with the tail vertical tail made of wood or metal. Most K-4 standardized the lengthened tail wheel, which came complete with a retractable capability, the first series of 109 to feature such since the F-series. It was also the only 109 to have fully covered main gear doors, utilizing two outer retractable doors. 

The fuselage of the K-4 was essentially that of a Bf-109 G series, except the location of the access hatch on the port side, relocation of fuel filler points, and relocation of the direction-finding loop. 

The K-4 was equipped for a number of Rüstsätze (auxiliary apparatus) items, including: 

Bf-109 K-4/R1 - One ETC 500/Ixb or Schloss 503 bomb rack. 

Bf-109 K-4/R2 - One Rb 50/30 reconnaissance camera. 

Bf-109 K-4/R3 - One 300 liter under fuselage drop tank. 

Bf-109 K-4/R4 - Two MG 151/20 underwing cannons. 

Bf-109 K-4/R5 - One Rb 32/7X9 or Two Rb 12.5/7X9 cameras.  

Bf-109 K-4/R6 - One BSK 16-gun camera in the port wing. 

Messerschmitt performance figures for the K-4 indicate that, when fitted with the DB 605 DCM engine incorporating a MW 50 hp boosting with C-3 fuel (96 octane), a maximum combat speed of 416 mph (670 km/h) was attained at the maximum altitude of 29,515 feet (9.0 km), which made the aircraft 23 mph faster than the similarly equipped Bf-109 G-10/U4. 

Total production of the K-series is unknown, but best figures put it at around 750 examples before Germany collapsed. 

The model represents a Bf-109 K-4/R3 from 14/JG 53, denoted by the black band around the rear fuselage. The wiggly line in the band indicates the plane belonged to IV Gruppe.


Building the model:


Everything is out of the box, except for using my paper printed seat belts and harnesses and masking tape rudder foot straps. The cockpit was painted RLM 66 and various control boxes painted flat black. After glossing the painted finish, I applied instrument gauges using disks of white decal trim film and Reheat Models Instrument Panel Gauge decals. Some Reheat Control Placard and Data placards decals were applied also to spruce up the cockpit. After the decals had dried, all received a sealant coat of clear gloss and after that had dried, I applied my ink washes. Once the inks were cleaned and dried, I applied three misty coatings of clear flat. 
Click on images below to see larger images
Instrument gauges were lastly finished with drops of FUTURE and my paper belts and harnesses applied as a decal using a watery solution of Elmer's glue, blotted out using a cotton swab, positioned to my liking, and allowed to dry. The rudder foot straps are nothing more than leather painted masking tape.

The armor-plated glass was masked with masking tape and painted RLM 66. Masking was removed from the glass area and it received a brushing of FUTURE. After the FUTURE had dried, I finished the armor-plated glass's framing with RML 66 painted strips of clear decal film. The gunsight was painted semi-gloss black and the reflector polished and coated with FUTURE.



The kit exhausts were used and they were done very well. They were first painted flat black, and then the individual exhaust stacks brushed painted burnt iron. Once the burnt iron was dry, the stacks received a heavy wash coat of rust and the stack ends were brush in black. My only complaint is that the exhausts must be inserted into the fuselage halves before closing up the fuselage, which makes for tricky masking. I pre-painted the exhaust area in the paints required and it enable me to make strip mask for the exhaust and not have any seepage on them.
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Again, straight out of the box, excepting the spinner's cannon port, which was done with a cut piece of styrene rod that had been thinned with a drill bit. The kit's spinner was rounded and had a hole for the cannon port, which would be too wrong, as all photos of K-4s I have show the port protruding from the spinner. I also added the small whip wire to the FuG 25a underwing antenna from a piece of stretched sprue. Aerial wiring for the FuG 16ZY radio was done using 0.006-in smoke-colored invisible thread, a thin nylon monofilament. Insulators were done with drops of Krystal Kleer painted graphite after the glue had set. The kit's MG 151 barrels ends were drilled out and worked out with a Dremel cone-cutting bit held in a pin vise. These along with the cannon port were first painted black, then gunmetal. They were applied in the final assembly with a small drop of Elmer's glue. The propeller was painted RLM 70 black green, with the hub painted bright silver. The propeller spinner and backing plate were painted black. 
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Painting and decaling:

Since I always like to prime my models with the appropriate under surface color, I primed the model with RML 76. Canopy and windshield were masked with bare-metal foil, with the windshield being permanently attached with Krystal Kleer and the 'Erla' canopy being held in place with strips of two-sided Scotch tape. I had previous painted and masked the exhaust areas, but I hummed and hawed over what to paint the landing gear wells and the gear struts. Thanks to Vincent and Lynn at the 109 lair, I knew they were not RLM 02. Although some struts borrowed from other 109 series may have been RLM 02 (the main struts were interchangeable from the prototype 109 up through the K-series). So I ended up leaving them RML 76, since about every B & W photo I have of a K-4 shows the struts as a light color matching the underwing. Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Click on images below to see larger images

I enlarged the wing camouflage pattern from the kit instructions and ran off the fuselage patterns one to one, as they were already in the proper scale. I masked the undersides and fuselages sides where appropriate and painted the uppers RLM 81 brown-violet. Once dried, I cut patterns from my prints and masked off areas to remain RLM 81. I then shot the exposed areas with RLM 82 dark green. All masking was then removed saving the Bare-metal foil on the canopy and the model was given two coats of clear gloss for decals prep. 

I used the kit decals exclusively, except for the spiral on the propeller spinner (rifled from an Aeromaster sheet) and the vertical tail swastikas (the kit's were split into) taken from a Hasegawa sheet of swastikas. For kit supplied decals, I'd have to rank these highly; they went on with no problems, were opaque and in register, easy to slide and achieve correct placement, and they reacted well with setting and solvent solution.

After the decals had dried, I gave the model two sealant coats of clear gloss. When dried, I applied my ink washes to the control and access recesses. When the ink had dried, I finished the model with three misty coats of clear flat. The Bare-metal masking was removed from the canopy and the glazings polished with Meguiar's Mirror Glaze #3 before given a brushing of FUTURE. Navigation lights were first covered with Bare-metal foil, and then painted clear red and clear green on the port and starboard lights respectively. Once the clear paints had dried, I brushed a little FUTURE over them to further heighten the effect. The rear flying light on the rudder was done with a drop of chrome silver paint and a drop of Krystal Kleer after the paint had dried.  


Hobbycraft gets a bad rap too often, but I found this kit to be a pleasingly simple out of the box build. Sure, I would have loved having optional flaps and radiator doors, but one gets a great fitting kit and a really nice set of decals for five K-4s for half the price of those major brands. A special thank you to Lynn and Vincent of the "The Messerschmitt 109 Lair" http://therapist109.tripod.com/ for the quick responses to my queries. 


Photos and text © by Caz Dalton