Dragon's Tiger I, Initial Production SpzAbt 502 3-in-1
By Dave Edgerly, Originally published September 2005
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First off, let me just say WOW!!!!!! This kit is
wonderful. I know, the German Tiger is the
Armor modelerís equivalent to the bf109 as far
as really needing another new kit made of it but,
HOLY COW, this puppy is a Grand Slam and in
my humble opinion, puts Tamiya to shame.
Most everyone knows what the Tiger was so I
wonít go into detail about the real item. The
initial version was deployed in late í42 to the
Leningrad area of the Russian Front. OK, thatís
it for the prototype data. There are plenty of
references available if more tank specific data is
required but this is a model review after all so
Suffice it to say that there is a boatload of parts
in this kitís box. (If you really care about or need
to know the exact number it says on the box.)
The materials are plastic, steel, brass and vinyl.
Weíve got link-to-link, handed and already
separated track, one turned aluminum and two
plastic main gun tubes, three mantlets, brass
and plastic 88mm rounds and spent casings,
very accurate jerry cans (gas and water), two
styles of the unique 502nd stowage boxes,
fording gear, clear vision blocks and headlights,
two sets of toolsóone with molded-on
clamps and one without, three different pattern
front fenders, glacis plate with and without
fenders and even nifty alignment jigs for assembling
the tracks. There is much more but
you get the picture, Iím sure. Basically, you
could build it all plastic or using the multimedia
parts and either way youíll have a very full
spares box with the left overs.
Building is pretty easy but for a couple of minor
glitches. Iíll mention them as I go along but Iíd
like you to realize that they are probably modeler
induced. The instructions are typical of
Dragonóthorough and clear. The first thing
youíll need to do is decide which SpzAbt 502
tank you want to build. Remember that only the
502nd had these initial production Tigers.
Choose turret number 100 or 121 with or without snorkel
equipment. I chose number 100 with the two side mounted
stowage boxes but without the fording gear.
The hull is the first part tackled so thatís what I did. The
instructions show how to make the suspension work so I tried
it their way on four of the torsion bars and the result was a low
rider Tiger. So, I lined them back up with the unaltered torsion
bars and glued them in place. No harm, no foul. You could, of
course, follow those instructions and glue them into whatever
pose you wish and that is a nice feature. I suggest that the idler
arm not be glued at this time as it helps tension the tracks. I
opted for omitting the forward-most outer roadwheel as that
looks so cool. I donít know if they ever removed it from Tiger
100 but itís my model so my commander had it removed to keep
mud from jamming the drive sprocket. I didnít affix the wheels
at this time for painting purposes. I then deviated from the
instructions by not placing any of the upper deck stowage and
glad that I didnít because here is my first glitch.
The vertical plate (part F20) is glued to the upper deck piece
(part K12) and this assembly is mounted to the lower chassis.
Well, F20 has this forward jutting locking tab or some such that
gets in the way of the horizontal glacis (part G19 or P8). If you
do it in that order you will say some words that your spouse or
children really shouldnít hear. My suggestion is to install the
upper deck with the bow plate (F20) first and then the horizontal
plate (G19 or P8). After that, things smoothed out and I
followed the instructions again.
As an aside, the multipart jack is very nice and can be posed
extended if youíd like to put it in a maintenance scene.
On the main gun assembly, I chose the aluminum barrel as it
looks pretty darn good and you donít have seams to worry
about. I suggest that you forgo the goofy spring action for your
models mighty 88mm recoil. It is kind of stupid really. The
breach assembly looks very convincing through the loaderís
and commanderís hatches; even with figures installed. Those
figures are not included in the kit but others are.
The turret goes together well. I used the brass launcher tubes
which are easy to assemble and look much better than the
plastic due to the thin wall thickness. You could load them if
you wish. It really is easy!
Now, I didnít use the very nicely molded kit tracks only because
I had some metal Fruilmodelissimo early Tiger track on hand.
You really donít have to go that route as the kitís tracksdonít
need much in the way of clean-upóonly minor ejector pin
marks on the inner surface of each link. I think the clean-up and
assembly times would be similar between the Fruil and the kit
tracks. The kitís tracks are already separated and bagged by
each side: Y = right and Z = left. Nifty, eh? But you know, those
20 pounds worth of metal tracks...drooooool! (Imagine Homer
Simpson and Doughnuts.)
Now, for the painting. Ca. 1942 pretty much means Panzer
Gray, whatever that actually is. I chose the Polly S version as my
basis. But first, primer is applied. I used Tamiya gray figure
primer for the job. Next up is pre-shading with black. Once it has
dried overnight, I come along with the Panzer Gray and a lighter
version of the gray for panel fading. At this point, I gloss coated
with Testors acrylic gloss and let dry overnight. (Actually about
a week!) Next, I applied the decals. They are thin and lie down
very well. I suppose that the white is a bit translucent but heck,
it is, after all, a tank and the unit markings were usually field
I used a burnt umber/Paynes gray wash and set it aside again to
dry. Now for the accessories! The Jerry cans are for fuel and
water you can tell by reading the markings molded into the
parts. There is a photo-etched piece that is sandwiched between
the plastic halves that represents the welded seam of the real can
to great effect. Unfortunately, the alignment holes do not match
so you must cut off the pins and use the old super glue. It all
works out in the end and they look great. The turned brass 88mm
ammo is of different functionality and have separate bases with
the appropriate markings also. The plastic ammo does not by the
way. The nifty bucket/pail is a nice addition and the only work
required is to drop the bottom into it, level, glue and paint it your
color of choice. I havenít quite figured where to hang it as this
initial production model doesnít have a whole lot of practical
spots to hang one.
The two provided figures are of that funky vinyl that big D has
decided to use now. But aside from the difficulty cleaning the
mold seams and the attachment point nubs, they will glue
together using the Testors glue in the black fine tip bottle.
Tamiya figure primer sticks just
fine also. I tried Vallejo paints
exclusively on these figures.
Since I canít paint figures worth
a darn I really canít comment on
their finer points but they cover
very well as long as you shake
the bottles for a fair-thee-well
before trying to use them. The
figures themselves are not Panzer
crew but tourists! Theyíve
got a movie camera and still
camera instead of any weapons.
So, I made them into propaganda
photographers chatting up the
two Tamiya Stug. III G crew
members and dog. There are a
pair of boots and two coats, one of which is a tankerís coat. Oh,
the boots have hobnail detail on the soles, by the way.
Back to the Tiger and I covered all the vertical surfaces with
dabs of all sorts of colors of oil paint. At this point my wife
walks in, takes one look and walks out laughing her head off. I
mean really! A flat clean brush moistened in Testors thinner is
gently dragged from top to bottom until the colors all mix barely
leave a trace of their existence. This gives a filtered effect and
kills that uniform look to the gray. If you want more just do it
again. The flat coat will lessen the effect so keep that in mind.
I also did a bit of dry brushing using a very light aircraft gray.
Since the Tiger is new, I think that the weathering would be
light. Now the whole tank except for the tracks was flat coated
using Testors acrylic flat.
OK, here come the Fruil tracks. I cleaned them up and assembled
96 piece per side track runs. They arenít really that
long but I wanted more than enough to start with for peace of
mind. I then soaked them in vinegar for 24 hours. After they
(Tiger One continued) were dry, I brushed on Blacken It and they looked pretty darn
good. I then painted with a black and earth mixture, dry brushed
with a dessert tan and hit all the cleats and guide teeth with a
medium sanding stick followed by a fine sanding stick to bring
out the shine of used metal. Finally, for the tracks anyway they
were adjusted for fit and
permanently attached to
At this point my courage
was assailed by the collection
of MIG pigments
Iíve been collecting.
Scary indeed but I had to
try them. Not too long
ago I noticed that Kingís
Hobbies had a how-to
clinic on the use of this
product given by John
Seaman so I thought Iíd
show up and listen for a
change. It was very good
and it gave me the courage to try it. A little goes a long way so
take your time and make sure that you use completely dry
brushes. They donít have to be pretty but they MUST be dry.
You do not have to apply another flat coat if youíre not going
to play with the tank on the floor but if you do flat again,
remember that it will lessen the affect of the pigments. Experiment
on scrap plastic before you do anything to the model.
So I added to the figures some refreshments for the soldiers and
dog and draped the tankerís jacket over a thumbprint I left on the
bow. Tiger 100 will be in a diorama with a Kubelwagen from a
Panzer Propaganda Company and a couple more figures that
will be called: ďOne more for the folks back homeíĒ
Finally, I suggest that you ignore the fact that this is a Tiger tank
and key in the fact that it is a joy to build this model. BUY IT
AND BUILD IT!!! I say again: Do not just toss this one into the
ďIíll build it somedayĒ black hole.
I wonder if the Academy interior will fit in the next
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