Sd. Kfz. 182 KingTiger
Dragon Kit # 6848
For the first look review, click here
The King Tiger entered production in January, 1944, according to The Modeler's Guide to the Tiger Tank, by Patrick Stansell. The initial dozen or so were very different from the remaining 38 King Tigers that had the initial version turret (commonly called the "Porsche" turret, even though it was made by Krupp). Some of the differences included a snorkel cover on the engine deck, heat shields around the exhausts similar to the Tiger I, and a drive sprocket with 18 teeth instead of 9 to drive the early type of tracks that had four separate parts for the interconnecting link (King Tiger tracks had a main link and a smaller interconnecting link). The hull extensions at the front and rear were missing the later cutouts for the tow shackles, the turret ring guard had not yet been introduced, and the later mesh guards to seal the shot trap under the rear turret overhand were also absent. There were numerous other small details between the first few King Tigers and all the rest.
Several years ago, by mistake, I purchased a set of Fruil early King Tiger tracks - the ones with four parts for each interconnecting link. I stashed these away in a drawer and forgot about them until I started building this kit. I pulled them out, braced myself for what I thought would be weeks of track assembly, and decided to backdate this kit to one of the first dozen or so King Tigers to come off the assembly line at the Henschel factory.
At the same time, since I figured I would be doing a fair amount of extra work, I decided to add an Aber barrel, ET tow ropes, and after market tool clamps to mix. The vehicle would be finished as one of the 12 King Tigers from s. Pz. Abt. 503, stationed in France in late May, 1944. These were the first King Tigers to see action.
I started with the road wheels. The King Tiger used all-steel wheels, and unlike the Tiger 1, they were overlapped but not interleaved. This greatly simplifies things for the modeller, because (a) you don't have to worry about painting the rubber on the wheels, and (b), it's a lot easier to attach the wheels than on a Tiger 1 or Panther. There are nine sets of roadwheels on each side, four inner and five outer. Each set is made up of two wheels. This comes out to a total of 36 individual wheels that need to be cleaned up. Dragon actually gives you forty wheels, so you end up with four spare inner wheels when you're finished.
The idler is made up of three parts. The mold for these parts is from Dragon's original Shanghai Dragon King Tiger kit from around 1999, and consequently, a fair amount of clean up is needed. Fortunately, the detail is not affected, and is very crisp.
Although I planned on using the metal drive sprockets from the Fruil tracks, I assembled the kit drive sprockets as well for comparison purposes. These went together without much fuss.
The next step involved the lower hull and suspension arms. As I mentioned in the introduction, the early King Tigers did not have the notches on the hull extensions for the tow shackles. Consequently, I filled these in. I cut 0.060" plastic strip to approximately the correct shape, cemented them in place, and then slapped on a generous portion of putty. I let that dry for 48 hours, and sanded away the excess. Both the front and rear hull extensions had notches to fill.
The front hull extension and final drive is separate from the hull tub. When the hull extension is attached, there is a gap that needs to be filled. Not all of this gap needs attention, as most of it is covered by the final drive. The picture below was taken when the final drive was test fitted to see which gaps needed to be filled.
The torsion bar arms clean up and fit into the holes in the lower hull without any issue. There are keyways and slots to ensure that they stay aligned. However, you should still check alignment as there is a bit of play in the keyways. The idler mount does not have any keyway or slot, and can be mounted at any angle. If i was using the kit individual tracks. I wouldn't have glued the mount in place, as I would attach it after the tracks were assembled to ensure there is no gap in the tracks. However, since I was using workable Fruil tracks, I didn't have to worry, so I cemented the idler mounts angled slightly to the rear.
The road wheels are held onto the torsion bar arms by hard plastic caps. While these work, there is very little tolerance between the arms and the cap. I sanded the arms to make it easier to get the caps on. Note that, because of the small tolerance, if you plan to add the roadwheels after you paint the hull, care should be taken to ensure that paint does not get onto the shafts or inside the holes of the caps, or you probably won't get the caps on when you're finished.
Construction moved onto the rear of the hull. The kit gives you the choice of plastic or photo etch jack brackets. The photo etch brackets are too long, and are way under-scale in thickness. The plastic brackets are too thick, but a bit of sanding corrected that. However, thinning the jack brackets meant that they needed some filler where they attach to the hull.
I scraped away the zimmerit behind where the jack block mounts, so that it would mount flush with the hull. I filled in the mounting holes for the tow clevises as they would be visible when the clevises were mounted. I also added the missing rods on the jack brackets from 0.020" plastic rod.
The earliest King Tigers had heat shields around the exhaust pipes. These shields were mounted to four pads per shield. I scraped away the zimmerit where the pads should go and cemented in 0.030 x 0.080 plastic strip, cut 0.080" wide (so that they would be square. I then mounted 0.010 x 0.080" plastic strip as the flat part of the shields, and used 0.005" plastic sheet for the shields. I curved the plastic sheet using a roller set normally used for photo etch. It curved the plastic enough that I could then cement it in place. Some punched hex bolt heads finished things off.
Before starting work on the hull top, I cut plastic sheet to block off the vent openings, since I had nothing underneath except empty space. I painted the top side of these sheets black before cementing them into place.
The hull machine gun was assembled,. I marked the diameter of the kugelblende on the hull, scraped away a bit of the zimmerit so that it would lay flat, and mounted it. I then mounted the machine gun to the hull. The fit of the machine gun mount to the inside of the kugelblende is very loose. I modified the mount and added some scrap plastic to make a more solid mount.
The hull hatches represent the later type with two handles per hatch. The early King Tigers only had one handle per hatch, so I filled in the extra holes with plastic rod and MR dissolved putty.
The hull periscopes were masked with masking tape and installed. The kit offers periscope guards in plastic or photo etch. The plastic was very thick, and the photo etch was too small. I ended up deciding to just make my own guards using plastic strip. I cut and attached the sides to the hull, then attached the top. I filled in the gaps and edges where the plastic meet with MR Dissolved Putty. Once dry, I sanded the edges to make them sharp.
The Notek light and bracket were mounted. The King Tiger has a very noticeable cable running from a junction on the hull roof to the Notek light. I added this with brass wire. The junction box and the back of the light were drilled out, a piece of wire was measured to the correct length, and then glued into the junction box using CA glue. It was bent 90 degrees, up over the lip of the hull front, and into the light socket. The upper hull was then attached to the lower hull. It fit perfectly.
The engine deck was the focus of the next step. The kit comes with very nice photo etch screens that fit perfectly. These were attached using CA glue, and the center engine hatch was assembled and installed.
The hatch handle is smaller than the holes it fits into, so filler was used there. Filler was also necessary for the lifting brackets, as they are narrower than the slots they fit in.
The first dozen or so King Tigers were equipped with a telescoping snorkel so that they could ford rivers deeper than the height of the hull. An armored cap was fitted on top of the snorkel, with a vent opening on top. There is a drawing of this cap in Achtung Panzer No. 6 - Panzerkampfwagen Tiger by Mitsuru Bitoh. I scratched the cap from a couple of pieces of plastic tubing, some plastic strip for the wings, and nylon mesh that comes in many Tamiya kits (it's the first time I found a use for that nylon mesh).
This step in the instructions also says to install the turret ring guard, but I left that off, since it wasn't present on the earliest King Tigers. If you are installing the guards, note that there is an error in the instructions. The pieces should be G15 and G16, not G5 and G6.
The kit comes a with a few photo etch tool clasps, but not enough. I decided to use Voyager clasps instead. These are very fiddly, but I've come up with a method to deal with that. To construct these, I did the following:
1. Put a piece of masking tape down, sticky side up.
2. Bend the bottom part of the clasp and put it on the tape.
3. Bend the top part and test fit it to make sure it's bent properly
4. Glue the tool to the bottom part (note that I removed any molded on clasp before this stage).
5. Glue the upper part to the bottom part
6. Glue the handle on.
Once dry, you can carefully lift the tool off the tape and glue it in place on the model. All of the tools on this model were done the same way. Note that the shovel does not come with the holder that the head is supposed to fit into. I made one out of 0.005" plastic. This was cemented to the shovel, and then the shovel was cemented to the hull I used some MR Dissolved Putty to blend the holder into the zimmerit.
The tow ropes fit into the brackets used to hold the gun cleaning rods. Unfortunately, these brackets are solid, so the only way to get the ropes in is to replace the brackets or carve out the space for the ropes. I chose the later. At the same time, I drilled holes in the ends of the gun cleaning rods. I used ET Model tow ropes for this, but I used the kit rope ends rather than the resin ones that came with the ET kit - I think the Dragon ends are better defined. The ends of the ropes fit into rectangular brackets. The kit supplies these, but they are very thick. I made some from sheet plastic instead, and added wing nuts left over from a Dragon Panzer III kit.. I also made my own brackets for the rear of the ropes from strip plastic. By the way, the instructions say to cut the cable for the rope to 240 mm. This is wrong. Cut it to 195 mm. Similarly, the instructions say to cut the thin rope (I think this is for changing tracks) to 430 mm, but 405 mm works better.
For the thin rope, I used the ET Model cable, but the Dragon plastic ends and the photo etch that comes in the kit. I used 0.020 plastic rod for the rods that the cable ends attach to.
Before starting on the turret, I pulled out the Fruil track set and thought about how I would assemble these tracks without losing my mind. Each link is made up of five parts plus a wire rod. The first thing I did was ditch the wire that comes with the tracks and use 24 gauge wire purchased from Michael's in the beading section (if you are shopping at Michael's, look online for a coupon first - they routinely have 40% off coupons, and if you pay full price, you likely paid too much).
As with all fruil tracks that I've used, you need to drill out the holes, as the molding ends up with some blockages. I did this first, for all 900 pieces that I needed to use (x2 holes per piece). Yes, I set this project aside several times while I was working on this, as drilling 1,800 holes tends to get kind of boring.
With the holes drilled, I tried several different ways to assemble these tracks. I finally came up with using blue sticky tack to hold the pieces in place while I insert the wire rod. This worked like a charm. Of course, I had almost one track run assembled before I stumbled across this method, but at least I finally figured out a way to stay sane.
I test fitted the tracks to the hull, and found that 90 links on each side worked well. I left the last link unhooked so that I could feed the tracks through the hull after painting and then connect them on the bottom. It also made it easier to paint.
Because I kept stopping at this stage for weeks at a time, the track assembly took me almost 8 months to complete. However, I think I retained what sanity I started with. With the tracks completed I went to work on the turret.
The kit barrel is a two piece affair with a molded muzzle break. I know that other Dragon King Tigers with Porsche turrets had turned metal barrels, but Dragon must have forgot to include that in this kit. To correct their lack of a decent barrel, I used one from Aber. I've found that sanding the barrel makes primer and paint stick to it better, so I sanded it. The barrel is actually for the Tamiya kit, and therefore does not have the ring that protrudes slightly from the mantlet. The plastic kit barrel has this ring molded on. I solved this dilemma with a plastic tube, thinned on the inside to the appropriate diameter using a round file. This also helped to hold the barrel in place in the mantlet.
I decided not to assemble the gun breach, as it wouldn't be seen. That saved me a whole step (and after spending months on the Fruil tracks, I needed to make up the time). However, because I left off what would otherwise be a counterweight for the metal gun barrel, I cemented the gun at a fixed angle rather than leaving it to move up and down. The rest of the turret went together rather easily. Note that K13 and K14 are reversed in the instructions, but this should become obvious when you try to fit them.
I didn't install the clear plastic periscopes in the commander's cupola. I also didn't attach the cupola to the turret at this time. After painting the cupola, I inserted the clear plastic parts and attached it to the turret. In hindsight, it would have been easier to add the clear parts during assembly and mask them.
Note that the instructions incorrectly advise that track support brackets be attached to the turret sides. I combed all my references and could not find any pictures of the initial production turret with the support brackets. They certainly were not on the King Tigers used in Normandy in the spring and summer of 1944.
I primed the model with Tamiya dark brown. I did this so that I would have built in shadows when I painted the subsequent lighter colors. It also gave me the opportunity to notice any defects before I proceeded.
The model was then given an overall coat of Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow. I then lightened the dark yellow with a few drops of XF-2 White and painted highlights in the center of all panels and hatches. I added a few more drops of White and did this again, staying closer to the center of the panels and concentrating on the horizontal surfaces that would receive more light. I find this method gives a nice modulation effect.
The three-colour camouflage pattern was painted with Tamiya XF-58 Olive Green and XF-90 Red Brown 2 (the first time I used this color). I did the same modulation effects with these two colors as I did with the dark yellow.
All of the tools and two cables were then hand painted. I paint the tool handles using dark yellow, and then later on go over them with raw sienna and burnt umber oils to get a wood grain effect. I also paint the exhausts dark yellow and later on use a mixture of Vallejo Oxide Rust, various earth tone pigments, and some graphite from a sharpened 6B pencil to get the rust effect. The metal parts of the tools, machine guns and tow cables were painted Tamiya XF-56, washed with black oil paint, and finally get a bit of graphite applied to give them a metal sheen.
I coated the model with Future and applied the decals. The kit comes with just a few decals. These are very, very thin and set really well. However, they are not that easy to apply over the zimmerit. Two of the schemes included in the instructions are for a King Tiger in Normandy in June, 1944, which would suit my mode. One scheme includes a large white number 12. I was going to use this, but found that when I slid it off the backing paper, it split in the middle of the number 2. I realized too late that I should have separated the 1 and 2 into two separate decals. Instead, I opted for the first scheme with number 114, but based on pictures in Tigers in the West book, I placed the numbers at the rear of the turret, not the front. For these, I separated the two numbers 1 and the number 4 into separate decals and dealt with them one at a time. Because of the rough zimmerit surface, even with the future finish, these did not lay down flat. I put a lot of Microscale Microsol on the decals and left them overnight. They settled into the surface of the zimmerit really nice.
With more Future on top of the decals, I started the weathering with various oils. Because this model represented a relatively new tank that had not yet seen any fighting, I went light, just showing some rain streaks and a bit of wear on some of the edges where the crew would grab things. I simulated that wear with an 8B drafting pencil (i.e. a really soft lead).
The tracks were painted Tamiya Red brown (XF-64) and then received a heavy black oil wash. I then drybrushed XF-56 on the raised parts to simulate wear. I also drybrushed this on the parts of the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers that contact the tracks to simulate wear. The model was then sprayed overall with Tamiya Flat Clear (XF-86). I then used the 8B pencil to go over the edges of the roadwheels and the raised parts of the tracks at the front and rear.
I added some dry pigments ( a mixture of several earth colors) to the lower hull, and then added the roadwheels and tracks. I also added a bit of the dry pigment mixture to the lower front and rear hull, but again, kept it to a minimum.
Finally, I added the blue station keeping reflector to the rear of the hull. The kit gives you a clear piece that you can paint with Tamiya Clear Blue (or another clear blue paint). However, by the time I was at this stage, I had lost the clear piece, so I cut a piece of 0.47" round plastic strip to size and painted that with the Tamiya Clear Blue. Because the plastic strip was white, the coating of clear blue actually looked right. Dumb luck, I guess. After I attached it, I dusted it slightly with pigments to blend it into the rest of the rear hull weathering.
That's it. An early King Tiger in France, part of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, waiting for the D-Day invasion.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced build - some of the photoetch work may be too much for beginners.
Thanks goes out to Dragon USA for this review kit.
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
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