The long awaited DML Tiger I Late Production is finally here! First rumors about this release appeared long before the Tiger I Initial kit hit the shelves and that excellent model only increased appetites of modelers waiting for THE Tiger – the late production one. For the last several weeks DML teased us on their website revealing more and more information about Tiger I Late kit and the list of features looked really impressive. On Dragon website however we were only shown computer generated CAD drawings. Now we can finally show you the plastic!
While reading this article you should remember two things: first is that I don’t know much about German WW2 armor, as I’m mostly interested in modern armor. I know what are the major differences between various Tiger I types, but that’s basically my whole knowledge. The second thing to remember is that I currently help DML in a couple of future model kit projects as consultant, but I do my best to keep the review unbiased. This is also the reason why I decided not to post any formal rating in this “first look” article.
The kit comes in a big box with excellent illustration by Ron Volstad on the lid. The sides and even the bottom of the box are decorated with computer generated pictures of kit parts – known from DML website. Inside the box we find large number of individually bagged light gray plastic sprues plus a lot of other goodies. There are 26 grey plastic sprues in the box, plus individually bagged hull, main turret part, two types of cupola and individual link Magic Tracks molded in the same material. We get two clear plastic sprues and no less than five (!) photo-etched parts frets. Also included are two lengths of metal cables of different thickness and a box with a lot of additional metal parts. These metal parts are: machined aluminum barrel, a spring for the barrel recoil mechanism, preformed brass exhaust shields, engine intake mesh screens and side skirts (schuerzen), three types of brass ammo rounds (two pieces of each) plus six spent shells (two types), two types of towing shackles (four pieces of each), antenna container, brass bucket and several other small parts. And finally we of course get Dragon’s usual folded instruction sheet and decals printed by Cartograf. The instructions are generally quite clear, but because of the large number of parts (according to the information on the box there are 1166 part in the kit!) and limited space available on Dragon’s folded instruction sheet, the amount of information squeezed into each page is big and it is quite easy to get lost and omit some construction step. This means that in this kit it is particularly important to pay close attention to instructions and study them carefully before using any glue!
The kit is another DML’s 3-in-1 release and it includes parts to build standard late type tank, late command tank and final configuration tank. Differences between late and final type tank are relatively small (slightly different road wheels and commander’s cupola), but the command version is more noticeably different with several antennas, antenna container at the back of the hull and rearranged tools. Decal sheet includes a variety of tank numbers in several colors giving quite large number of possible combinations. Included are also several unit badges and other symbols. Instructions show how to use provided markings to build one of 24 standard tanks from sPzAbt 101 (including three tanks commanded in different periods of 1944 by Michael Wittmann) plus two command tanks from the same unit, and a few final type Tigers from sPzAbt 508.
The molding quality is excellent with plenty of very crisp details and with extensive use of slide molding technology to add details impossible to mold with standard two-piece tools. There are very few shallow pin marks that require any attention. Even those on the track shoes which were quite noticeable on previous Tiger kit parts, here are barely visible (and are all “proud” type, not recessed, what makes them easier to remove without using putty!). There are no sink marks on parts, but I have noticed some minor flash on some of small parts, like the star antenna (but we also get photo-etched parts to use instead) and very thin radio aerials.
Surprisingly few parts in the new kit are being re-used from earlier Tiger I Initial model. For example the bottom hull was fully reworked with new late type details on the bottom – and at the same time the torsion bars and suspension arms were redesigned. These parts were separate from each other in previous Tiger kit, but now were molded together, what should make it much easier to build fully workable suspension. The road wheels in the kit are of correct late full metal type and we get two types of idler wheels – earlier large ones and later smaller type. We also get two very slightly different types of drive sprockets. Of all these suspension parts only one type of idler wheel, idler wheel arm and final drive housing come from earlier kit – all other parts are new molds. Similar situation repeats in all other areas of the kit, where majority of parts are new and only some details were inherited from Tiger I Initial model. Actually even some parts that could have been re-used without changes were modified with more accurate details. Even the brass bucket included in the kit is different from the one present in previous Tiger kit! The new one is significantly smaller.
The kit includes large number of options and actually only a few of them are related to three variants included as part of 3-in-1 package. One type of options is selection between metal and equivalent plastic parts and here the choice is easy and depends on preferences of a modeler. In fact almost all metal parts have their plastic equivalents. Some examples of such parts are side skirts, which are provided as individual brass parts and also as one piece plastic units or exhaust shields that can be made from preformed brass parts or plastic equivalents. Pioneer tools are provided in two versions – with plastic clasps molded on them or without these details, but with photo-etched brass clasps given instead. Even for the included figure of Michael Wittmann we get optional plastic and metal parts for details like shoulder boards or insignia on a cap and uniform.
The other type of options is related to various subtle differences between Tiger I tanks and here unfortunately the information provided in instructions is not quite clear as it is not always obvious which part should be used for each of the featured tanks. Only careful examination of the painting diagrams can help in making decisions, as all the differences in details are shown there. Such details are e.g. two types of muzzle brakes, two types of mantlet (with one or two gun sight holes) etc..
Tracks in the kit are provided as Magic Track individual links that require no cleanup whatsoever and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. The guide horns in these tracks are solid and lack the lightening holes present in real things. DML provided a solution for those who want to have more accurate tracks and they now offer a set of tracks with separate guide horns with holes molded in them. These tracks can be purchased separately and in the Tiger I Late model we only get 56 such track shoes to use for spare links on the hull and turret. These more accurate tracks require more cleanup as they are attached to standard sprues and of course there is additional work needed to attach separate guide horns. To make assembly of tracks easier DML provided two plastic jigs to get proper shape of truck runs around idler and sprocket wheels. Here however I noticed a problem – the kit includes two idler wheels of different diameter, but only one jig! And it is not shown in instructions which of the idler wheels the jig is designed for. I compared the size of the jig to idler wheels and it looks like the jig in this kit is designed for the newer small idler. This is good news for modelers who also have the Tiger I Initial kit as they can use the jig included in that kit if they decide to attach larger idlers to their Late Production Tiger model.
Clear parts in the kit are provided for both hull crew hatch periscopes and for driver’s front visor plus for all commander’s and gunner’s turret periscopes. Also for Bosch headlight we get clear lenses.
Included figure of Michael Wittmann is based on a pose from the famous photograph of this Tiger Ace. The figure is molded from regular gray styrene and to make it as detailed as possible it was split to 15 parts! The slide molding was used to add details to shoe soles, but in my kit the mold sections were misaligned and the sole pattern is only partially reproduced. It can hardly be considered a problem however. As I already mentioned earlier some optional photo-etched parts are provided for the figure.
The kit contains so many details and interesting features, that I will not even try to describe them all... I’ll just quickly mention some more interesting ones: positionable escape hatch in the turret, optional brass front fenders with photo-etched workable hinges, tiny padlocks with slide molded details and separate photo-etched “loops”, aluminum gun barrel that moves to simulate recoil travel, two types of metal tow cables with plastic eyes, tiny photo-etched wing nuts etc.. Just take a close look at photos of parts to discover some other interesting details!
One thing that is not included in the kit and in my opinion should be is the Zimmerit coating. It is not even mentioned in instructions, but it was a standard feature of late Tiger I kits and it would really be nice if DML provided it. Ron Volstad’s box art illustration clearly shows how the late Tiger should look like – fully covered with Zimmerit paste. Maybe for experienced WW2 German armor modelers adding Zimmerit themselves is a full norm, but modelers who only occasionally build WW2 kits (like myself) would be more happy to get some form of the Zimmerit representation in the box, for example as optional additional parts with the texture molded on.
To sum up – DML have delivered another impressive product. With well over 1000 perfectly molded parts and plenty of options it should make every German WW2 armor modeler very happy. Extensive use of slide molding allowed for the inclusion of details not possible to reproduce in plastic ever before and addition of many metal parts leaves really little space for aftermarket product manufacturers. One area where they can add to this model to make it even better is the Zimmerit coating. For me personally the lack of Zimmerit is a serious disappointment and in this one aspect I feel that the Tiger I Initial kit had the advantage over the new kit. That previous release included everything needed to build very accurate model of the prototype. This time we get truly excellent model, which however still needs some additional work to be fully accurate.
Many thanks to the Dragon Models Ltd. for the review sample!