Tamiya 1/48 Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a
Model, Text and Photos by: Tony Bell
Quite a bit has been written about the world's first operational jet fighter, the Me-262. So much that it would be pointless to regurgitate it here. Suffice to say that it represented a revolutionary quantum leap in performance that was squandered by the Nazis. Fortunately for us.
Ahhh, Tamiya (spoken like Homer Simpson). There was a lot of bellyaching on the internet discussion boards when Tamiya announced their Me-262. Why re-do a subject already covered? Why aren't the slats/flaps dropped? Etc., etc.
I have the Italeri release of the Dragon/DML kit, and comparing the two reveals that the level of detail of the older kit is not too far off Tamiya's. Tamiya has a better cockpit, in my opinion, but Dragon offers more petite surface detail. The real difference is in the fit and engineering. The Dragon kit is a notoriously difficult build, whereas Tamiya's is, well, Tamiya. Of course Tamiya also includes a superb little Kettenkraftrad, if that sort of thing turns your crank, as it does mine.
The Aftermarket Bits
Why on earth should I buy a $40 state-of-the-art kit an then spend the same amount or more on aftermarket resin and decals? Because I'm a modeller, that's why! It's a sickness, really.
Having been sufficiently impressed with the Cutting Edge resin cockpit that I used earlier in the ICM MiG-3, I went out and bought their Me-262 replacement cockpit on spec. I also elected to purchase the Cutting Edge resin slats, flaps and control surfaces as well as their replacement main wheels. Oh, and Eagle Strike's Me-262 Sturmbirds, Part I (48-007). And their Too Little, Too Late, Part II (48-063). And yes, all this did cost me more than the original kit. Please don't tell my wife.
The Cockpit Let me just start by saying that the stock kit cockpit is already very good. If you were to add nothing but a seat harness, you would still end up with a really nice cockpit. The Cutting Edge cockpit, on the other hand, is really, really nice. The upgrade set is cast in a strong dark grey resin and includes a replacement seat with molded-on harness, rudder pedals, a more detailed control column, improved side consoles (including oxygen hose), a multi-part instrument panel and a nicely detailed Revi gun sight.
Some other fiddly bits are also provided, including the headrest armour mount, canopy release lever, a replacement gun sight mount with an accurate cross-brace, and the canopy jettison lever.
I chose to sand the back resin instrument panel until the gauges became holes and used the acetate instrument faces. I also added bits of fine wire to instrument bodies on the rear of the panel. The cockpit was painted Tamiya RLM 66 dark grey and subjected to the usual wash and drybrush. The details were picked out in red, yellow, silver and black. The seat was painted overall RLM 66 followed by XF-60 Buff for the harness. The belts were then given a wash of burnt umber oil paint, followed by a light drybrushing with white. Finally the buckles were picked out with Humbrol 11 silver.
The bottom of the cockpit tub is also the inside of the main wheel well. This was painted Alclad II aluminum along with the insides of the fuselage, and detailed with some wire and fine solder. To pick out the lovely detail in this area, I applied a "wash" of Polly Scale clear satin mixed with black and brown inks and thinned with water.
The Four-Gun Nose
Somewhat put off by the boring (to me anyway) Me-262A-2a fighter-bomber schemes, I wanted to do mine up as the four-gun A-1a variant. I could have bought the Eagle Parts or Cutting Edge replacement nose, or I could actually do some modelling and perform this minor surgery myself. Using a pin vice, drill bits, X-Acto knife and needle file I opened up the upper gun ports on the kit part. I backed the holes with Evergreen tubing and fared them in with Mr. Surfacer 500.
The kit comes with only two MK108 cannons, so I put out a cry for help on the internet and some kind soul came to my aid, graciously donating some spares. The cannons were painted a dark semi-gloss blue-grey and then drybrushed with Humbrol Metal Cote steel. The upper ammo chutes were pinched from the Italeri/Dragon/DML Me-262 kit, and all the chutes painted Tamiya RLM 66 with Humbrol steel paint chipping. The rest of the gun bay was sprayed Alclad II aluminum with the same Polly Scale wash as the fuselage interior. Wire and solder, along with some Reheat placard decals finished the detailing in this area.
This was one area of the kit where the fit was slightly less than perfect. The fit of the piece with the gun ports and the access panels was improved by shimming the aft edge of the former and the bottoms of the latter with strips of 0.010" styrene. A bit of light sanding and some test fitting resulted in a flawless join. So flawless in fact that the access panels were press fit in place to mask off the gun bay for painting.
The real Me-262's construction was typically Messerschmitt, in that there was a join line running along the top and bottom of the fuselage. In order to duplicate this, I eased the edges of the fuselage halves by gently sanding them at a 45° angle. To join the halves together I ran liquid cement along the inside of the fuselage so as to avoid melting the panel line.
Before gluing the fuselage together, the gun bay, nose weight, forward gun bay bulkhead and cockpit module were all fitted without any glue. The tolerances in this kit are so tight that none of these parts had any play in them once the fuselage halves were joined together.
The fit of the horizontal stabilisers was also perfect. The elevators were cut off and replaced with the Cutting Edge ones, which fit exactly. These were attached in the "stick aft" position, this being the most common seen in reference photos.
The Wings and Engines
The slats were removed from the kit parts by gently scoring with an X-Acto blade until they could be snapped off. Following the Cutting Edge instructions, I thinned the edges down to accommodate the resin inserts. I decided not to use the resin flaps and so left the kit ones alone. The upper and lower wings were assembled and the engines added. With a tiny bit of trimming and dry fitting the fit of the wings and engines was flawless. The engine intakes and exhausts were painted aluminum and washed with tinted Polly Scale satin.
To obtain a perfect wing to fuselage fit, the aft edge of the lower wing fuselage insert was shimmed with some 0.005" sheet styrene. Once this was done the wing was attached to the fuselage with liquid cement. Again, no filler was needed.
I carefully trimmed and fitted the resin slat inserts and fixed them in place with superglue. These are best installed after the wings have been assembled, as they can interfere with the fit of the engines.
Painting, Weathering and Decals
After a dip in Future, the canopy parts were masked inside and out and the interior framing painted RLM 66. The front and rear canopy parts were then attached with liquid cement and the hinged portion tacked on with masking liquid.
The model was primed with Gunze "Mr. Surfacer 500" thinned with automotive paint reducer (a less volatile lacquer thinner). After the usual minor surface imperfections were addressed, the whole model was rubbed down with 1500 grit wet 'n dry sandpaper and liberal amounts of water.
After a wash and a dry the panel lines were pre-shaded with Tamiya semi-gloss black. The undersides were sprayed with Polly Scale RLM 76 light blue, allowing the pre-shading to barely peek through. The top side RLM 74 dark grey and RLM 75 grey violet were mixed up from Tamiya paints. The 75 was sprayed first, followed by the 74 using masks cut from heavy paper onto which the splinter pattern from the Aero Detail book had been photocopied. These masks were held a few millimetres off the model surface by little rolls of Blu Tac to provide a slightly feathered edge. Tamiya paint thinned 90% with rubbing alcohol was used to spray the mottling.
The slat inserts were masked and painted RLM 02, and the resin slats painted to match the splinter pattern on the wings. The yellow fuselage stripe was masked and sprayed Tamiya yellow with a touch of red mixed in. Because the national insignia were so simple, I cut masks from frisket using the kit decals as guides and sprayed the markings.
At this point, a coat of Future floor polish was sprayed on prior to applying the decals. The Eagle Strike decals went on easily and flawlessly needing only a light application of Sovaset to get them to conform.
A light wash of Windsor and Newton burnt umber artists' oil paint was applied to the upper surface panel lines and some light paint chipping applied with a fine brush and Humbrol 11 silver mixed with burnt umber.
After attaching the slats with superglue, the whole model was sprayed with Polly Scale flat and the exhaust "onions" were airbrushed with a grey/brown colour mixed from Tamiya paints and thinned 90% with rubbing alcohol.
The hinged portion of the canopy is moulded with overscale lugs to allow it to be attached in the open position. I removed these and drilled small holes in the hood and sills to accept small pieces of steel wire. The canopy retaining cable was simulated with nylon thread and a tiny spring was made by wrapping copper wire around a no. 80 drill bit.
I threaded insulators made from sections of stretched styrene tube onto a piece of nylon thread which was superglued into holes drilled in the canopy and tail. The aerial was tightened up with hot air from a paint stripping gun.
The pitot probe was made from two sizes of hypodermic tube nested together and attached with white glue.
The main landing gear oleo cylinders were shortened by about half by cutting them off at the top and reinserting them into holes drilled into the upper half of the landing gear leg. I painted all three wheels Aeromaster tire black for the tires and Tamiya satin black for the hubs, with silver details. The brake lines were fine solder painted black. The landing gear and wheels were all glued together with five minute epoxy to allow time to get the alignment right.
The final touch was to add a drop of five minute epoxy to the gun camera opening at the tip of the nose.
This model kit was so well engineered and so well detailed that you would really have to build it with a hammer in order to screw it up. By paying attention to the basics of seams, alignment, painting and weathering, a real stunner can be produced right out of the box. If you are so inclined, between Cutting Edge, Eagle Parts, Verlinden, Eduard, Eagle Strike, Aeromaster and others, there is enough aftermarket stuff out there to go absolutely nuts.
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