Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausf. E Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger I “131" Early Production - s.Pz.Abt. 504 Tunisia - Smart Kit
Dragon, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
|Stock Number and Description||Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale ‘39-‘45 Series Kit No. 6820; Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausf. E Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger I “131" Early Production - s.Pz.Abt. 504 Tunisia - Smart Kit|
|Media and Contents:||759 parts (699 in grey styrene, 29 etched brass, 21 clear styrene, 6 DS Plastic)|
|Price:||price US$79.99 via Dragon USA Online|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||"Personality” kit of one specific tank a nice idea; plenty of options in this kit for other early production tanks|
|Disadvantages:||Only comes with DS Plastic track (see text)|
|Recommendation:||Highly Recommended for all Tiger I fans and fans of preserved armor|
While most modelers are familiar with the large number of different Tiger I kits offered by DML, this kit is a bit different as it focuses on one specific Tiger I whose history is well documented and which is still extant: Tiger I number 131, captured by British forces in Tunisia. The only other one with a similar “pedigree” is Tiger I number 712, also captured in Tunisia but by American forces and currently being rebuilt at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Originally known as Fahrgestelle 250122, this tank was built in early 1943 and was among those shipped to North Africa. On the night of 20/21 April 1943, it was moving forward to attack British forces when it was ambushed and suffered three hits from 6-pdr guns. One jammed the turret race, one jammed the gun elevation mechanism, and the third hit the loader’s hatch. The German crew abandoned the tank and the British forces captured it.
The tank was repaired using parts from other Tiger I tanks knocked out or abandoned and was later sent back to the UK for evaluation and testing at Bovington. It was turned over to the Tank Museum in 1951 and spent the next 39 years as a display.
Looking a bit peaked and in consideration that a restored and running Tiger I could be a draw, the tank started to undergo rebuilding in 1990. But with no flow of funding this took place in fits and starts over the next 13 years; when Peter Brown and I visited the restoration shops in 1995 the hull was nearly completely empty with all of the parts strewn around the shop. But in 2003 the tank was able to be shown complete once more and eventually (using the engine from a Tiger II as the original had been cut open for demonstration purposes) it became a runner. In its restored form it is the centerpiece of the annual “Tankfest” demonstrations at Bovington which are still being carried out.
DML has taken a number of bits and sprues from its previous Tiger I released and added a few new or tweaked parts to match 131 as captured back in 1943. There are fewer parts to this kit than some previous releases as it uses fewer etched brass parts and also comes with DS Plastic track runs vice single link or multiple piece single link tracks. As previously noted modelers either love or hate these tracks, so it is to the individual modeler if that is a good or bad idea.
This kit uses the original wheel arrangement of single wheels forming sets - a recent one matched the 1/72 scale kits with linked wheel sets but this did not find favor amongst diehard Tiger fans. It comes with the separate torsion bars/road wheel arms and not molded arms found on at least one previous entry. (Note that 131 was missing its left front road wheel when captured.)
Care must be taken as there are a large number of holes that must be drilled out for this specific vehicle and also some parts must be trimmed or modified. Note that in Step 4 the small drawing on the directions is showing how to attach the brackets above the left track run at the rear. Also the items in blue are to be shaved off the rear mud guards.
This kit - as it is an early production Tiger I - comes with the complete “Feifel” air cleaner package but the 131 option uses some different bits than in the first Tiger I Early kits. The headlight fittings also differ among the three tanks offered for construction in the kit so care must again be paid to the directions.
Most of the rest of the construction is pretty straight forward but the stub barrel for the turret machine gun surprisingly was not “slide molded” and will need to be drilled out.
Technical consultants on this kit were David Byrden, Tom Cockle and Gary Edmundson.
As noted three different tanks (with detail differences called out in the directions!) can be built from this kit: s.Pz.Abt. 504, Tunisia April 1943 (red 131, sand and green camouflage); s.Pz.Abt. 502, Second Battle of Lake Ladoga, Russia, March 1943 (whitewash over grey, white 01); s.Pz.Abt. 505, Ukraine Spring 1944 (sand/green/red brown stripes, black 121). A small sheet of targeted decals is provided by Cartograf.
Overall the idea of picking a specific Tiger I with a long history is a good one - alas, since Tiger I 712 was visually destroyed as a “cutaway” in the late 1940s it is unlikely it can receive similar treatment.
A 29 Tiger I - 8.8 cm gun, details
B 40 Tiger I - driver rears, idlers, exhaust, hull details
C 39 Tiger I Late - exhaust shrouds, skirts, drivers, details
C 39 Tiger (P) - turret roof, cupola, details
C9 4 DS Plastic
D 13 Tiger I Early - upper hull/roof, engine grills, details
E 52 Tiger I Early - hull sides, rear plate, hull details
F 21 Tiger I - upper glacis, turret hatch, jack, details
G 26x2 Driver faces, road wheel arms, details
G 36x2 Tiger I Early - rubber tired road wheels
H 3 Tiger I 131 - turret shell, trim
H 26 Turret parts, mantlets, loading hatch, details
J 40 Tiger I - fuel tanks/air ducting, fan faces, hatches, details
K 59 OVM, external fittings
L 12 Clear Styrene
M 24x2 Spare track with separate teeth
M 26 Feifel fittings, details
N 26 Tiger I 131 - Feifel canisters, turret race, details
P 24 Tiger I - torsion bars, erected snorkel, details
Q 1 Clear styrene
R 15 Bustle bin mounts, hatches, body
S 8 Clear styrene
T 1 Hull pan
V 30 Tiger - Feifel fittings, small details
V 30 Tiger I - turret fittings
W 4 Feifel hoses
Y 10 Radiator air ducting, details
Z 2 DS Plastic track runs
MA 25 Etched brass
MC 4 Etched brass
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.