At the risk of seeming incredibly ancient, I have to admit that the last time I built a Tiger must have been around 1972! Tamiya kits were just making a name for themselves and their remote-controlled 1/35 scale tanks were a young modeller's dream, so a miniature Wittmann trundled around a certain South London back garden merrily picking off any unfortunate plastic Sherman that got in his way.
At the time, that Tamiya kit seemed almost unbelievably sophisticated, but proof of just how much kit technology has progressed arrived this week in the shape of Dragon's new late-model Tiger I w/Zimmerit.
The sturdy box is stuffed to the brim with sprues - and one look at the parts was enough to convince even a confirmed Aeroscaler like myself that it was time for a modeller's equivalent to a busman's holiday. The presentation is excellent, with the main sprues bagged separately, and smaller sprues, etched frets and decals bagged-up and taped to a cardboard liner. A final touch is that the metal grills are packed inside their own box and the flexible tracks are sealed in cardboard channels to prevent them from being distorted in transit.
The kit comprises:
• 552 grey styrene parts (plus a number of unused parts)
• 15 clear styrene parts (plus 6 spare)
• 2 soft plastic tracks
• 99 etched brass parts
• 6 metal parts (etched grills, a spring, wire and pressed shovel-holder)
• 2 lengths of braided wire
I'll say straight off that don't have the necessary references to risk making any calls on accuracy - that's best left to our Tiger Experten - so I'll simply concentrate on what the kit offers.
The moulding is excellent with crisp detail and no sign of flash or any sink marks. Ejector pin marks are mostly kept to a minimum and tucked out of sight as far as possible, but I did find some whoppers lurking under the front decking that need trimming off, because they interfere with the fit. As with Dragon's recent 1/32 scale Messerschmitt Bf 110, small parts are entirely free of pin marks thanks to numerous moulding "pips". These are a bit of a bore to trim off, but a small price to pay.
The kit makes extensive use of slide-moulds which allow a degree of detail otherwise unattainable. So, zimmerit wraps around the turret with only faint seems to disguise, detail crosses right-angled corners, machine gun barrels are hollowed out... all very impressive indeed.
Along with new parts specific to this Tiger version, Dragon have made use of a number of existing sprues. Some of the parts will presumably be familiar from previous releases, with sprues labeled "Tiger 1", "Tiger 1 Late" and, finally, just one "Tiger 1 w/Zim" so your spares box is in for a field day - hull sides and rear, and no less than three styles of gun mantlet are all unused. What's left still allows for two distinct options, with different styles of road wheels, turret roof, cupola etc. Some of the differences are subtle to an untrained eye like mine - e.g. the centre of the steel rimmed road wheels displays a different spacing of the bolts. You need to decide early what option you're building, and rather than tell you which parts to use in the construction sequence, the parts required are listed with each scheme in the painting guide. This is the opposite of how I'm used to seeing things done, and I must admit I find it a bit odd, but it works. Some optional items don't appear in the lists (e.g. Parts # D6/D10, which I presume are two styles of turret ventilator?), so a good set of Tiger references will be undoubtedly valuable.
The zimmerit is very crisply defined and has a suitably random quality to give the effect of being applied by hand. Some modellers are questioning the accuracy of the zimmerit pattern itself, but I'm not qualified to comment on that. What is apparent though, is that Dragon have opted for a "factory fresh" appearance - there are no patches of damage or chips in the paste. That's probably just as well, because it avoids endless identically damaged Tiger models, but depicting areas of exposed metal might be tricky. If you aren't happy with the zimmerit as provided, you could always apply your own to alternative parts that would otherwise be discarded, except for the turret - you'll have to live with that (or simply buy Dragon's Late Production Tiger and work from there).
The main hull is a one-piece moulding and, as supplied in the review sample, bows inwards toward the top, with the result that it's somewhat narrower than the top decking. Slotting in the hull-rear and front armour forces the sides apart, creating a good fit all round. The glacis is actually such a tight fit that it has a tendency to spring out, so you'll probably need to clamp it in place while the cement dries. The zimmerit finish also interferes slightly with the fit of the upper glacis, but running a file along the joint soon helps.
A Few Details:
The 88mm gun is all styrene. There's a choice of muzzle brakes and the barrel is made up of 8 parts in total, with a further 9 for the breech. Hatches are separate with neatly detailed inside faces and they can be posed open, but the amount of interior detail is limited. In the turret, aside from the gun's breech, there are gunner's and commander's seats, plus small items attached to the underside of the roof. The main fighting compartment is empty except for the torsion bars, which slide through the hull and lock in place to set the angle of the suspension arms. At the rear, the radiator housings are quite impressive multi-part affairs built up from a mixture of styrene and etched parts, with fans and filters, separate hinged louver covers and etched grills.
Sprinkled throughout the kit are a number of working features - the jack can be made to extend, the driver's visor is moveable and the 88mm gun incorporates a spring to allow "recoil". Whether you see such things as important or gimmicks, they don't look like they'll affect scale accuracy.
Clear prisms fit into viewing ports in the cupola and hatches. Tow cables are provided in two forms - moulded styrene and as braided wire with plastic end pieces. A neat touch is that the pioneer tools (axe, shovel etc.) come in two forms - complete with brackets ready moulded-on, or clean to allow them to be shown in use or mounted with etched brackets, for which a styrene former is provided to bend them to shape on. Perhaps the most daunting etched items are a set of four tiny 7-part padlocks for the turret stowage bin.
The tracks are cleanly moulded in soft beige plastic. Although soft tracks may not be to purists taste, these "DS" tracks are very impressive with crisp detail on both sides and the edges and pieced teeth - certainly a far cry from the "rubber bands" I remember of old. The spare track links are moulded in styrene and the instructions indicate that full sets of individual link "Magic Tracks" are available as upgrades. Comparing the two styles, it's no surprise that the styrene links are better, with deeper, slightly sharper detail, and I expect they'll drape over the wheels more realistically, but the DS tracks are still excellent and I believe many modellers will welcome their inclusion.
Instructions & Decals:
The construction diagrams are pretty clearly laid out, but they are worth reading through a couple of times to get a feel of what goes were because they are quite "busy". Assembly is broken down into 19 stages and the sequence seems quite logical, although fragile exterior details are added earlier than I would have expected - but that just might be my aircraft background showing. Colour matches are provided for Gunze Sangyo paints.
Painting/marking options are included for six vehicles:
• "134" - 1./s.Pz.Abt.102, Normandy, 1944
• "221" - 2./s.Pz.Abt.101, Normandy, 1944
• "933" - 9./Pz.Rgt.3, "Totenkopf", Poland, 1944
• "242" - 2./s.Pz.Abt.102, Normandy, 1944
• "112" - 1./s.Pz.Abt.101, Normandy, 1944
• "1" - s.Pz.Abt. 102, Normandy, 1944
The decals look excellent quality. Printed by Cartograph in perfect register, they are satin finished. Quite how well they'll snuggle down over the Zimmerit is open to question, even with a lot of help with decal softener. Dragon seems to have recognized this and included optional Zimmerit-free sections to insert into the front plate and hull rear where unit markings are positioned. I don't know if that was common practice on the full-sized vehicle, but it still leaves the national insignia and turret numbers to sort out, so I guess the real answer is painting masks/stencils, or a deft bit of freehand brushwork.
Dragon's Tiger I w/Zimmerit looks an excellent kit. Beautifully moulded, it should build into a stunning model straight from the box. The box states that it's suitable for 14-year olds, but that might be a bit ambitious - particularly if you use the etched details etc. Modellers with a bit of experience should find it a challenging, but very satisfying build, and in skilled hands it could be a real show-stopper. Recommended.
Rowan has started a Build Log
on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.