by: Tom Cromwell [ ]
Originally published on:
The Tiger tank was produced from May 1942 through August 1944, and quickly achieved legend status on both sides of the European conflict. Designed as a breakthrough tank with enough armor and firepower to crush enemy defenses it proved to be both costly to manufacture and difficult to transport. Numerous changes occurred during production (nicely outlined by month in Jentz & Doyle), and this kit represents a Tiger produced between February and June 1944. These were seen on both the eastern and western fronts from April 1944 onwards.
Web-based reviews of this kit are hard to find, and only say that it is a re-release of the older kit no. 293 with a fret of photo-etch added. While this is true, the reviews don’t bother to look at the actual kit, so buyers cannot compare it to late-war Tiger kits from other manufacturers.
Opening the box there are three sprues of parts for the body and turret of the tank, as well as two identical sprues of link-and-length tracks and wheels adding up to 314 plastic and 14 photo-etched parts. There is a decal sheet with markings for two tanks, but the “knight” figures for the Abt.505 tank both face the same direction, where the real things both faced the front of the turret. This is unfortunate because the rest of the kit is surprisingly good value for money, especially if you find it on sale for less than £20.
The parts will only build a “late” Tiger with zimmerit, steel wheels, and the Panther-style cast cupola. The kit accommodates most of the potential changes prior to June 1944 (when the turret roof was redesigned) by clever use of “blind” mounting holes for separate details, so removing a detail is as simple as not drilling out the holes. This was particularly useful on the mantlet, where the single hole for the later monocular gunsight was already open, but the second hole for the earlier binocular sight was part-molded from the back so the modeler could open it if desired. There is a single-piece engine that begs to be detailed, with an engine access hatch that opens in an engine-deck panel that can be removed just as on the prototype.
While the hull has no interior details, the turret features a complete (if crude) breach, crew seats, and very basic details on the side walls that are supplied as low-relief blocks. Two details I noticed were not included are the rear gun-barrel travel lock (added from November 1943 to February 1944) and the three rooftop derrick mounts added to turrets after June 1944. Since neither of these was widespread the omissions don’t cause too much trouble. Slightly more annoying is the omission of the coolant-heater blowtorch access cover on the rear hull plate, since all the Tigers built at this time had them. The lack of periscopes for the turret is another problem, but oddly the driver & radio operator hatches in the hull both have periscopes. The PE adds wire grilles for the engine deck (missing from the earlier release) and offers replacement fenders and exhaust shrouds that can be dented like the real thing.
Italeri kits are what I consider “craftsman” models to borrow the model railroading term for rough-hewn kits needing some scratch-building, so expect to have to modify and improve some of the parts. The areas to watch are the troublesome fit of the hull panels, the main turret components, and the gun mounting. The zimmerit sheets that wrap the turret take some careful fitting and clamping. And all the edges of the zimmerit panels need trimmed back flush after assembly, since the real stuff was just a thin coating that followed the form of the underlying steel box. The straight mantlet lets in a lot of daylight around the gun mount, so the mount needs built up with plastic sheet to fill the turret-front opening. Missing turret periscopes and spare track hangers also need to be scratch-built. Purists will note that the kit turret sides are symmetrical when viewed from above, where the real thing was wider on the gunner’s side. The difference was only a few inches, and nobody got it right (or even recognized the problem) until recently, so this kit is no worse than other pre-Dragon Tigers by the likes of Tamiya and Academy. Oh, and the tools are Italeri’s mixed bag of middling to poor, but aside from the jack they are tolerable. Compared to Tamiya and Dragon kits, details can seem a bit “soft” – this is a perennial problem with Italeri moldings. Fortunately my example had very few sink holes – the other usual Italeri complaint.
Two vehicle markings are included. Set A is tank 300, a command vehicle from 3 Kompanie, sPzAbt.505 in Russia, delivered in April 1944. The distinctive “charging knight” emblems are both for the left turret side so replacements are needed. The other set, B, is for tank 221 of 2 Kompanie, sSS-PzAbt.101 in Normandy around June/July 1944.
Italeri gives quite a few choices in this kit to match different production batches. For the Tiger-maniacs out there I decided my model needed the following:
Binocular gun sight
No track toolbox
Spare tracks on the turret (5 on left, 3 on right)
Close-defense device on turret roof
AA machine gun mount (but no gun)
Full skirts (as a newly delivered replacement tank)
Turret-ring protective collar
Rear-mounted gun-barrel travel lock
Coolant Heater blowtorch access plate
In terms of work, the biggest job was padding out the gun mantlet so it filled the hole in the turret. As supplied you can see straight through! I added sheet plastic to the turret sides, and a strip of thin plastic (0.015” x 0.250”) on the top and bottom of the mantlet.
Brackets for the spare track links are molded as strips of four, when the real ones are individually welded to the turret. Also, Italeri only gives the top mount, so I needed to make up bottom brackets from plastic strip. I cut the brackets apart, glued them and the links in place, and added the lower brackets after. Note that the indy links on the turret shouldn’t have track pins, so the molded-on pin ends need to be trimmed off.
While on the turret I added hasps and padlocks to the stowage bin from Evergreen plastic strip stock. I also made simple periscope heads from strip stock since Italeri doesn’t offer any to fill all those holes in the cupola. The AA gun ring has mounting holes in two of the periscope hoods, but that places the ring lopsided. Instead, I trimmed off the pins and glued the ring along the edges of the hoods, using plastic strip to cover the holes. (These can be seen on some cupolas as brackets to connect the ring to the hoods.) A few scraps of plastic made the locking handle for the moveable gun bracket. The only other new detail was the curved brace for the loader’s hatch.
Italeri chose to make the hull sides with separate ends, so there are vertical seams to deal with just inboard of the sprockets and idlers. However, neither is terribly visible if the side skirts are fitted, so that’s ok. It does mean that there is a risk of misalignment that will affect the fit of all the other hull plates, especially at the front, so I prepared all these pieces in advance. Then, when I glued on the sides I could add the nose plates and “wiggle” it all into place while the glue was still soft. The top deck poses similar challenges, since it is thin enough to bow when squeezing the sides. If I did it again I’d add cross-wise stiffeners first.
The tracks are link and length, so I did the trick of slipping all the wheels on without glue before fitting the tracks. Once all the glue dried, I could gently pry the whole wheels-and-tracks assembly off for separate painting. (Kind of like those 1:87 scale Roco Minitanks where the wheels and tracks are a single part...)
Aside from adding details as per instructions, I added a field-expedient rack for two jerry cans (taken from the Italeri jerry cans set, of course!) on the left rear. This was mainly to fill a big blank space, but such modifications appear in WWII photos. I had to add a new handle to the terrible jack – Italeri has never got this right, but I couldn’t bring myself to source a replacement. I plan to cover it with soft stowage to hide the horror...
Considering that all the steel-wheeled tanks had the blowtorch access plate on the rear hull (below the left-hand exhaust) it is odd that Italeri forgot it. I made a new one from an oval of 0.040” x 0.125” plastic strip and a cone shaped from 0.125” (2.5mm) rod, with a couple of bolt heads from 0.030” hex rod. Owners of Italeri’s Sturmtiger will need to do the same.
Mine was actually the earlier release without photo-etch (purchased a decade ago), so I needed to make the wire mesh covers for the grilles. A while ago I found some plastic lace doilies in the wedding favors section of Hobby craft, and for the princely sum of about two quid I now have 8 square feet of nice 1.5mm plastic screening that can be cut to shape and secured with plastic glue. The screens were edged with strips of 0.010” x 0.030” plastic, except the curved bits that were cut from 0.250”-wide strip.
The biggest piece of work was the gun travel lock. Not many tanks had these, to judge by the photos, but the one I chose did. After looking hard for pictures on the internet I took the few grainy images and worked out the most likely shape. Then out came the strip stock. It looked like the clamp was a large bicycle-style chain similar to those seen on Panthers, so I made one from thin strips laminated together. Some day I will need to compare it to the Dragon kit part...
Because I was modeling mine on a real unit, I chose a well-known photo of tank number 312 to set my pattern. That dictated a broad brown-stripe camouflage scheme, and meant that I did not need too many decals.
As usual I started with a primer coat of Games Workshop’s Chaos Black from the rattle can. Then came several coats of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by the stripes of Red Brown on everything above the fenders. I chose to add the yellow stripe to the barrel sleeve for the unit numbers (glossed & decaled, and matte-coated with Pollyscale Flat Finish) before masking it for the yellow & brown, but when I took off the masking tape it lifted the matte coat and the numbers! Some lessons need to be re-learned once in a while...
The gun barrel was painted Tamiya German Grey over the black primer, and then given a “rusty” wash of Pollyscale’s Boxcar Red and Grimy Black cut with “wet” water (a jar of water with a few drops of Ilfotol photo-wetting agent – Kodak’s Fotoflo will do just as well...) to warm up the piece and settle in the crannies. This represents a field-replacement barrel still in its Krupp factory heat-resistant primer, as sometimes seen in photos. (By the way, those “sooty” muzzle brakes seen in German pics are actually the grey primer, and often indicate a replacement barrel that was painted in the field with the canvas muzzle cover on.)
The distinctive “charging knight” emblems were added using a Lion Roar stencil set, but because the etched stencil did not lie flat on the turret (with all that molded zimmerit to complicate things) there was considerable fuzziness where the spray bled out. The stencil is two parts, the first being the black outlines, and the second being the colored areas. There is some debate about the colors and their meanings, but I went with a website that suggested they used red for 1st Company, yellow for 2nd, green for 3rd, and white for Headquarters. Since my tank was to be numbered 303 (the only combo I could make with the available decals) it needed green. Archer does a rub-down transfer set for these, but I’m not sure how they’d cope with the zimmerit.
I was aiming at a “recently issued” look for this tank, as it would be in April 1944, so the weathering was kept subtle. Weathering of the turret and hull consisted of various “dirt” and “grime” washes of different strengths (including pin washes to highlight details), followed by dry-brushing of Pollyscale’s Earth. In particular, the “dirt” wash settled into the zimm to really blend it all together. (“Dirt” wash is based on Pollyscale Earth with hints of grey or brown, while “grime” is based on Pollyscale Grimy Black with Boxcar Red and/or black added. I mix a big jar at heavy wash strength, and then decant some into another jar to dilute for thin washes. That way I can wet an area with the thin wash before adding pin washes of the thicker stuff around details.) After I had it all settled, I lightly over-sprayed the lower areas with thinned Tamiya Earth to represent road dust.
The wheels were again given washes, while the tracks were first brush-painted Pollyscale Rail-Tie Brown before getting washes and a final dry-brush of Vallejo’s Gun Metal. If I did it again I’d want to add pigments or plaster to build up the mud seen on everything in the Russian spring.
*Note* The kit does not include crew figures – these were scrounged from Tamiya and Dragon sets.
This kit can be a real stunner if you build it with reference to specific photos. By comparison the Tamiya, Academy, and earlier Dragon offerings have no Zimmerit (only the latest Dragon/Cyberhobby one has it), and they are roughly twice the price. For an affordable late Tiger this kit is mighty tempting – just be prepared to put in some modeling graft to bring it up to standard
Ford, Roger, 1998, The Tiger Tank, Spellmount Limited
Jentz, Tom & Hilary Doyle, 1993, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45, Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard series no.5