Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Initial production 1.Kompanie s.Pz.Abt.510 DAK “3-in-1”
by Frank De Sisto
1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 515 styrene plastic parts
(including 11 clear), one bag of Magic Tracks, three photo-etched brass
frets, one turned aluminum and 19 turned brass parts, 11 stamped brass
parts, 16 metal parts, one steel spring, one bucket, one piece of woven
cloth, two pieces of braided wire, four formed wire parts, three decal
marking schemes and ten pages of instructions in 22 steps.
The third kit to be released in DML’s ground-breaking Tiger I series
will allow modelers to construct a replica of one of the early vehicles
assigned to, and specially modified by, 1.Kompanie, s.Pz.Abt.501. This
particular unit was assigned to the Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) and first
saw action in December of 1942 in Tunisia. Much of what I say about this
kit can be taken from my earlier review of the first kit in this series,
the Initial Production Tiger I, as follows.
The kit consists of parts molded in the typical DML light grey styrene
plastic. The kit’s designers have taken extra care to ensure that
there are only a bare minimum of knock-out pin marks, while using slide-mold
technology to provide an unprecedented level of detail in certain areas.
Options include styrene parts to replace nearly all of the various metal
bits, four mantlet variations, head-lamp mount variations (including “plugged”
Bosch light sockets and alternate mounting brackets) and road wheel variations
(the front stations have the outer wheel left off, to be replaced by a
hub cap). Accessories in the form of three multi-part jerry cans and three
8.8cm ammo boxes, with plastic full and spent rounds are included for
diorama or vignette use.
Among the almost 90 new parts are superstructure side plates, track changing
cable and fenders; hull rear plate, mud flaps, tool box, exhaust pipe
cowls and shields (in styrene or stamped/etched brass); complete Feifel
air filter system including choice of woven cloth or styrene hoses and
choice of manifold styles; revised upper hull and engine access hatch
to accommodate Feifel system and new tool and cable stowage layout; new
glacis plate with tread-plate pattern (as well as original plate with
three optional etched brass tread plate patterns), new outer drive sprocket
halves along with revise hubs for depicting a missing outer road wheel,
and finally, a new turret bustle storage locker.
There is a modest amount of interior detail included as well. For instance,
in the turret there are the commander’s and loader’s seats,
as well as basic gun breech and pistol port details. All hatches are fully
detailed inside and out, while the outstanding one-piece commander’s
cupola includes view slits and drain holes around the outer rim, as well
as separate clear glass block inserts for the interior. Beneath the engine
deck, the engine cooling fans, fuel tanks and radiators, which can be
seen through the grills, are included. The two rear grill sections are
separate and can be fixed in the opened position for a better view of
the fans. Unlike the Initial Tiger I kit, there are stamped/etched brass
engine deck screens included in this kit. The internal torsion bars are
included and can be made to work. The bow MG34 is broken down into multiple
parts and includes the internal mechanism complete with sight, head pad
and ammo sack. There are clear inserts for the interior of the driver’s
The tracks are the earlier version, which did not have the small cleats
on them, but, unlike those in the Initial Tiger I kit they are of the
style that had the same links on each side, therefore they are not “handed”,
which would mean that each track run was positioned facing in opposite
directions. Mold limitations dictate that the guide teeth are not hollow.
And since these are “Magic Tracks”, there are no sprue attachments
to clean up. But, this means that each link has two knock-out pin marks.
The modeler that wishes, will only need to clean the outer marks, as the
others are effectively covered by the wheels. Another feature of these
tracks is that they fit together due to friction. However, they will not
take to rough handling; gluing them as soon as possible is something I’d
recommend. There is a jig to help shape them for attachment to the drive
sprockets and idler wheels. I would also recommend that the modeler does
not glue the idler wheel arm to the hull until the tracks are fitted.
This will allow for any gap to be covered by simply adjusting the idler
wheel (after removing the small pips that position it at a certain angle),
much like on a real tank.
The road wheels are beautifully rendered and include crisp bolts, nice
texture and excellent weld beads. The tire manufacturer’s name,
“Continental” is purposefully misspelled as “Continentau”
to avoid copyright infringement. The modeler can change the “U”
to an “L” with a careful swipe of a knife blade, but it is
extremely difficult to make out without magnification, so I will not even
bother. The suspension swing arms can be mounted in such a way as to leave
them workable, but the modeler must take care with the
The hull’s belly plate is representative of an early Tiger I and
includes the scalloped flanges that are used to connect the upper sections
to the lower sections. To this is added separate front- and rear-side
panels so that later tow hook mount variations can be made by substituting
parts. Likewise, the upper hull outer-side panels are also separate so
they can include the mounts for the provided side skirts, as well as locating
holes for the small track mounting cable (which is in plastic or a combination
of plastic, metal wire and etched brass). Excellent weld and interlocking
plate detail is given all around. There is a choice of front plates either
with or without the front mud flap bases. To these bases, the variations
of photo-etch tread plate are to be fixed. The lower glacis plate features
spare track racks and a part to be used as a template to properly place
the brackets. However, 1.Kompanie Tiger Is did not use these.
The upper plate features separate parts for the bow MG34, including the
option of either a cloth dust cover or deep-wading seal (although the
small wing nut/bolts to fix the cover are absent from this newly re-worked
part). The driver’s visor is broken down into separate parts and
can be positioned opened or closed. All vents and tools are separate,
but it would appear from reference photos that the tool fit varied on
these DAK vehicles. The driver’s and radio operator’s hatches
are completely detailed inside and out and include locking levers and
clear periscopes. The peculiar Bosch head-lamp mounts favored by this
unit are represented with styrene, etched brass and formed wire. The hull
roof has the proper weld layout (a first) as well as a newly-tooled separate
engine access hatch, which has fittings to mount the Feiffel system parts.
The re-tooled hull rear panel features new cowlings for the exhaust pipes,
as well as the unique sheet metal covers in either plastic or photo-etch.
There are also mounts for spare track links as seen on the lower edge
of the plate, a new tool box and new mud flaps with the characteristic
curved edge seen on these Panzers. The multi-part Feifel filter system
is fitted and includes a choice of styrene or very nicely-done woven cloth
hoses. There are two sets of pioneer tools (including a newly-tooled,
slide-molded jack block). One set has basic clamps molded on, while the
other set contains bare tools to which three-part photo-etch clamps are
attached. DML has provided bending guides for the photo-etch clamps on
the sprue that contains the bare tools, which ought to make things easier
on the modeler.
The turret features four mantlet variations (for 1.Kp. use the version
without the rain gutter over the binocular sights) and optional turned
aluminum or plastic gun tubes. Both the aluminum and the plastic gun tube
options can be built with an internal spring to allow recoil. All options
feature the small faceted locking collar seen inside the muzzle brake.
The muzzle brake is molded using slide mold technology for a hollowed-out
bore. As an aside, there are sets of foundry casting numbers on the sprue.
The modeler can cut these off and place them where appropriate. There
is a rudimentary gun breech and a separate co-axial MG34 insert.
The turret shell itself is a one-piece affair created from a five-part
slide mold. This results in two faint seams towards the rear, which will
easily disappear after a light sanding; some molded-on detail will have
to be removed in order to fit the turret bustle storage locker peculiar
to this unit. The turret sides are properly asymmetrical in shape, featuring
the dual pistol port layout. These are separate parts, with separate internal
plugs. The roof plate clicks into place and has a separate vent that can
also be configured in the standard manner or set up for deep wading. The
one-piece, slide-molded commander’s cupola features well-shaped
view ports, water drainage holes around the circumference of the rim and
a multi-part hatch assembly. The loader’s hatch is also separate
and completely detailed inside and out.
As is my custom, I assembled the major components in order to see if
there were any fit problems. It would appear that DML tweaked some fit
problems noted on the Initial Version Tiger I kit. For instance, the upper
glacis now fits much better to the hull. There may still be a slight gap
where it meets the upper hull sides, so be careful when you mount the
two outer side plates. The lower hull rear plate still needs a bit of
trimming on either side of the upright section of the “T”
The instructions, although clearly rendered in the traditional drawn
style, are extremely “busy”. This may lead to some confusion,
so study each step carefully before applying glue. The variations are
pointed out, but again, it will be up to the modeler to keep track of
what’s going on. The crisply-printed decals from Italy’s Cartograf
will allow for the three schemes given in the markings and painting section.
All options are for Tigers of Heeres s.Pz.Abt. 501 in Tunisia in late
1942/early 1943. The markings feature large white outline Tac numbers,
as well as balkenkreuz national insignia. Published photos confirm the
markings in the kit, but note that tool stowage did vary, so do check
your references. Also, more importantly, note that these Tigers would
have been factory-finished in the “Tropen” scheme in effect
from March of 1942, which consisted of Braun RAL 8020 and Grau RAL 7027.
The instructions say to paint two of the Tigers (Tac number 142 and 141)
in a dark grey color (RLM grey 02), and the other one (112) in “middle
stone”. This goes counter to recently un-earthed evidence compiled
by Jentz and Doyle. Also, just in case you are wondering, there is still
no documented evidence (although there is some of the anecdotal variety)
that any of these vehicles were finished in “Olive Drab from captured
The only problem with this kit is that it is billed as a limited-production
item, and is only available through DML’s Cyber-Hobby web site.
This may make it problematic for some die-hard Tiger fans to acquire it.
But, I believe the extra effort will be worth it.
Reviewer’s note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books
for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish
to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain
an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews
DML/Cyberhobby kits are limited-run items and are available exclusively
via their web site at: www.cyber-hobby.com.