by: Russ Amott [ ]
Officially called the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E, the Tiger tank must be on of the most iconic armored vehicles of WWII. With only 1,347 tanks built between 1942 and 1944, when production switched to the larger Tiger II, it saw extensive service on all fronts. The Tiger tank was the largest and heaviest tank in the world when it was introduced, mounting an 8.8cm main gun and featuring vertical front hull armor 4 inches/100mm thick. Unfortunately, it was overcomplex to build and maintain and was succeptible to transmision failure. Nevertheless, it was greatly feared and served particularly well as a defensive weapon. The Tiger tank went through numerous modifications throughout production but is generally sorted into early, mid- and late production variants primarily identifiable by changes in the turret and use of rubber or steel rimmed road wheels. Almost every model manufacturer has released a kit of the Tiger tank in one form or another. Zvezda now offers their own release of the Tiger I, the early variant.
For my part, I first built a Tiger tank (the Tamiya offering, don't recall which one) some 34 years ago. I have thought about building one but they were never in stock, or priced well out of my budget range. I have built several of Zvezda 1/72 kits and have their excellet 1/48 BF109 in my stash and based on the quality of those kits, I jumped at their tiger. The price was good ($34 US from Hobbyeasy including shipping) so before long it was enroute to my home.
The large box arrived undamaged. The box top, featuring artwork of a Tiger I going in to action at Kursk, slips off to reveal a completely enclosed cardboard box with a fold up top, further protecting the contents. There are four large sprues, a lower hull and an upper hull, molded in tan styrene, one small clear parts sprue and two vinyl sprues with two single length track sections. The parts appeared to be well made with no shorts, but there are some sink marks present. Most are on the rear surfaces, such as those on the suspension arms, and will not be visible. I did not see any flash. Detail is generally good, but a bit soft.
The upper and lower hull parts comprising Sprue A have most details molded in place, including headlight brackets and power connection, with weld lines well textured. The front mud guards are also molded in place to the upper hull plate. The parts were, however, warped. The lower hull sponsons were bent downwards on both sides. The upper hull deck was significantly bent at the front, curving up like a ramp, as well as being warped laterally, creating a slightly domed appearance. I contacted Zvezda customer support and a replacement parts were sent out, arriving about a month later. Zvezda informed me at that time that the issue had been addressed (parts were not allowed to cool sufficiently before being boxed as I understand it) and they will take care of customers who, like me, bought the first run. One other issue present with the lower hull is on the upper left side, where there is a wavy appearance again from indents in the plastic due to molding. The attachment points for the track guards are molded in place, so it may be difficult to putty and sand the side smooth without removing the bolt heads. The wavy appearance was present in both the initial warped hull and the replacement I received. The dimpled appearance extends to the lower hull along the openings for the suspension arms.
Sprue B has the main turret components, with the turret being molded in two halves. The turret features a decent looking interior, though there are some ejector pin marks that must be cleaned up. The turret roof has the brackets for the spare track links molded in place. There are large square placement holes for the lower spare track brackets that may prove challenging to fill. The main gun comes in two halves. The turret interior is decent looking and with wires and cables added will shine nicely, but the pistol port has no interior surface. The cupola is also in two halves. The turret bin has the two lids molded in place. The outer face of the turret bin is a separate piece.
The C sprue has both exterior and some interior parts. The armored hull plate that houses the driver's vision block and the hull machine gun has the same wavy surface appearance as the lower hull and again will require some filling and sanding to get smooth. The tow and track cables are thin and generally well detailed, about as good as you can get for plastic molding. The air cleaner ducting has subtle texture present. There is an interior brace that would be present behind the driver's station, and the radiator and fan assembly for the engine compartment, which comprise the only interior detail on the lower hull. The jack block has no wood grain detail, and the tool box and jack are somewhat simplified. Everything else looks pretty good.
The tracks, parts D, are again, "rubber band" style single length tracks in two parts. Molding is really quite good, as good as any I have seen in other kits, but does require the locating pins to be melted with a knife or screwdriver head. This has been replaced in the more recent boxing’s with link and length tracks that look quite attractive. All of the guide horns on those are molded separately and it appears there are some ejector pin marks to clean up, at least in photos of the sprues at Lucky Model. There are also many aftermarket options available in individual link track sets.
The suspension parts are on two identical E sprues. There are turret interior details such as water bottles, gas mask containers and small fittings, the fans for the radiators, s mine launchers (molded solid, they will need to be drilled out) and smoke grenade launchers which may also need some drilling. There are caps for the exhaust stacks which I thought was a nice touch. The road wheels are hollow on the back where detail won't be seen unless the tank is upside down. The wheels feature the 18 bolt rims. The drive sprocket is of the star pattern. There are hubs that can be placed alone if the outer wheel has been removed for transport or due to damage. There are individual track links to be placed as spares, which again feature good detail. The suspension arms look decent on the outer surface but again have sink marks on the inner face, not visible. The tires are embossed with "Continental".
The clear parts, F, are very well done, with no flaws visible.
Not included in my kit but present in the more recent boxing is a figure set from Tristar to crew the tank with.
The decal sheet appears to be in good register markings for two vehicles, including unit symbol. The carrier seems to extend a bit from the sides of the printing but they look thin.
The instructions are printed in line drawings and in a fold out pamphlet form. I understand that in some kits they are in booklet form, appearing out of order. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, with some parts shaded to help in placement order and position. Painting is called out during assembly by color and number in Zvezda own paint line and Humbrol. Assembly is in 22 steps, with options presented in open or closed hatch mode.
A paint guide is provided for the two vehicle marking options. First is in overall dark yellow, "332", 503rd tank batallion, the other in dark yellow with brown overspray, "114", 505th tank batallion, both at Kursk.
The kit includes no etch. Generally this is not an issue but for the Tiger the engine deck screens are a basic, major component of the vehicle. They will have to be provided via aftermarket vendors.
I am not a Tiger expert. I am just a modeler who enjoys random subjects and picket out a Tiger kit to build. As such, I cannot expound on the accuracy of parts or placement of details. As a model kit, it appears generally to be a good offering, especially for those who, like me, are limited by budget. The major shortcomings of the kit are as indicated above, the wavy surface appearance of the hull on the left side and the front armor plate. Wood grain texture can easily be created on the jack block. The tracks may be an issue for some. I don't know how the barrel will look when assembled. There are no etch screens for the engine deck. I don't know how the kit will go together other than a test fit of the upper and lower hull portions, which show some work may be needed at the join in the front hull. There is a lot of good to offer in this kit, and while some experience is needed it should not be beyond the average modeler, and much easier to assemble than the offerings of other manufacturers. I don't know how widespread the molding issues are, though in online discussions I have read they seem to be fairly consistent with the left hull side. With care this kit will build up to a very nice looking model, as most anything can.
I purchased my kit as mentioned, from Hobbyeasy. It is widely available online and should be in the inventory at brick and mortar shops as well. Look for the best price.