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Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Initial Production 's.Pz.Abt.502 Leningrad 1943'

DML 1/35 Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Initial Production Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review January 2005 Manufacturer DML
Subject Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Initial Production s.Pz.Abt.502 Leningrad 1943 Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6252 Primary Media 756 parts (395 in grey styrene, 180 "Magic Track" links, 113 etched brass, 22 "DS 100" plastic/vinyl, 14 aluminum, 12 turned brass, 11 clear styrene, 8 white metal, 4 bent wire, 1 spring, 1 turned aluminum barrel)
Pros Most complete kit of this tank in one box on the market, all major multimedia pats included, options abound for all parts and sections of the model Cons "Another Tiger" (see text)
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $31.95

First Look

The Germans puttered around for several years before the war on a heavy tank design, originally dubbed VK 36 (For 36 metric tons design weight) and later bumped up to 45 metric tons as VK 45 when the prototype Rheimetall 8.8 cm tank gun would not fit on that chassis. Two competing prototypes, VK45.01 (P) from Porsche and VK45.01 (H) from Henschel, competed for the final design. Krupp designed the turret that wound up on both tanks, with Henschel eventually winning the competition. Part of the incentive to get the tank out and into service was the shock of running into the Soviet T-34 medium and KV-1 heavy tanks, which only the 8.8 cm FlaK gun was shown to be able to consistently master.

But the tank was more than a bit over the design weight, coming in at 56 metric tons or around 62 short tons combat ready. Nevertheless it entered production in the summer of 1942 as the Sd. Kfz. 181, Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E – better known as simply the Tiger. Early production models were sent to Russia in the fall of 1942 and operated with s.Pz.Abt. 502 (heavy tank battalion) near Leningrad. One tank was lost in the fall of 1942 and later, in January 1943, one was captured after a dogged fight by the Soviets.

In that battle the Soviets claim the Germans lost the Tiger, five Pzkw. III tanks, and 200 infantry in an attempt to get it back. When the Soviets got to the Tiger, they found it stuffed with explosives so that it could be destroyed in place (it had broken down). After the Germans were chased out of the area, the Soviets yoked five T-60 light tanks together (!) in order to drag it to a place where heavier vehicles could be engaged to tow it back to their rear area.

This unit was equipped with some of the first 25 Tigers built, which were much less refined than later models – no fender skirts, no stowage bins, no turret escape hatch, dedicated left and right tracks, and a number of other detail variations on "standard" production tanks. Anyone interested in the "blow by blow" is directed to Osprey/New Vanguard #5, Tiger I Heavy Tank, by Tom Jentz, Hilary Doyle, and Peter Sarson to follow the detail evolution of the tank.

Before I proceed any further, let me state up front that I personally hate Tigers. I find them to be a tiresome subject, long espoused on by SGFs as the most wonderful tank ever made, a wonder weapon, best tank of the war, etc. None of that is true, but you cannot get the faithful off message even when their myths are exposed.

However, and ignoring the fanatics, the Tiger I is hands down the most popular single armor modeling subject ever – period. More different kits of this tank have been made in more scales over the years than just about any other subject, with only the Sherman running a close second. Andpersand Publishing even has a complete book dedicated to modeling the Tiger, covering every one of the major kits out at the time of its release. Kits of it exist in scales from 1/700 to 1/4 and in just about any medium you can think of, from plastic to various forms of metal.

Most of us still stick to plastic, and the most popular current scale due to the compromise between size and detail is 1/35. Over the last 15 year a number of companies have released new kits of the Tiger I - Tamiya, Italeri and Academy being the main competitors. Each one tried something different – Tamiya with different crew figure sets and options, Academy with a full interior, and Italieri with optional "zimmerit" paste panels to install on the outside of the hull and turret.

Now – 15 year after their first kits were released, – Dragon is entering the Tiger "fray" with a new series of kits. The first one is the "Initial Production" model as used by the aforementioned s.Pz.Abt. 502 in Russia, and it comes with an absolutely stunning array of parts in one box – grey styrene, clear styrene, vinyl, brass, aluminum, and steel plus a new design of track link set. The kit has "wraparound" box art (bottom, too!) that shows and explains nearly every one of its special features, so the buyer gets a good idea of what awaits inside the box.

The first two major features DML cites on this kit are its use of "Magic Track" and "DS 100" vinyl. The former is something many modelers will like – separate link track with no sprues and ready for assembly. To be sure, there are light ejection pin marks on the inside of each link, but they are ready to go. These snap together to permit assembly and installation, and the directions recommend a touch of liquid cement to each one after they are joined and in position to set them in place. As is correct for this particular version of the Tiger, they are "handed" – set Y is the right side and set Z is the left side – so modelers will have to pay close attention to them when assembling the tracks as the bags are not marked. (They are separate and the directions show which way they go and which way they face, but it will require a bit of concentration to get them on right.)

"DS 100" is the new trade name for a vinyl/styrene plastic DML is marketing that is unique. DS 100 permits DML to mold the figures in the manner of vinyl ("rubber soldiers") figures but takes cement and paint like styrene. The details are much crisper than regular styrene (and DML is about the best in styrene figures) and they also permit a bit of "wiggle room" to install the figures in a vehicle. However, these are "bonus" figures and comprise a propaganda team - one man with still camera, one with a 16mm movie camera. If you want a crew, you will still have to get them separately.

The kit proper comes on 17 different sprues, two bags, a vacuformed box and the now-standard DML card with attached bagged details. It fills the box to the top (the one thing I have problems with for a review is getting out all the bits and then getting them back into the box – DML did it, but most of the time I can't!)

The kit states it will produce three different models. This is basically true. It can faithfully reproduce (based on photos) tank 100 from s.Pz.Abt. 502 with twin lateral turret bins, tank 121 with a Pzkw. III style bustle bin, or a straight early Tiger I with the snorkel erected. Three different style fenders are including in etched brass (and one in styrene) as well as three different mantelets (one with and two without the rain guard over the gunner's binocular sight apertures). Other parts with options include metal or plastic smoke grenade launchers, metal or plastic tow shackles (two styles in white metal with aluminum pins are provided), and two muzzle brakes and three different barrel options are included.

For whatever reason, DML has included the somewhat "Mickey Mouse" feature of a recoiling spring-loaded gun barrel like AFV Club used to provide with its kits. But the gun does come with a breech assembly; there are two basic seats as well, but no other turret interior detail.

The hull comes with some interior elements, but not a complete interior. It includes the torsion bar assemblies, bow gun assembly, hatch details, and radiator bays and trunking at the rear of the hull. The rear engine deck grilles (parsts P11/12 and P16/17) have the curved louvers found on the original, and based on the use of the snorkel may be shown open or closed.

The hull top comes with a set of tools that have etched brass clasps included, as well as a jig for bending the clasps to shape prior to installation.

The turret is quite unique, as it consists of a one-piece asymmetric section with the base, kit locking tabs, race and complete sidewall construction less pistol ports. The commander's cupola can be built up from component parts or a one-piece unit, complete with view slits, is also included.

The snorkel comes in one piece but all of the special covers and blanking plates are also provided to set it up correctly by the manual.

The kit also comes with a plethora of small details: a brass bucket with separate handle and base, 12 turned brass rounds, 12 styrene rounds (24 etched brass bases with headstamps are included for them; there are 4 brass and 6 plastic empty casings and 8 brass and 6 plastic full rounds), three "jerry" cans with etched brass center fold, and two crates for the ammo plus two "DS 100" spare crew jackets.

A decal sheet and painting directions are included for the two s.Pz.Abt. 502 tanks, but the generic one with snorkel is left Panzer Grey.

Overall, this is a stunning model of the one main version of the tank that no one had kitted up to this point. And even though it's a Tiger, I'm impressed!

Thanks to DML for the review sample.