by: Karl Flavell [ ]
The King Tiger was the last of the panzers to be produced by the Third Reich and created more fear amongst Allied tank crews than its predecessor the Tiger 1 had previously. With a longer more accurate 88mm main armament and thicker armour it could engage enemy tanks at far greater ranges and was nigh on indestructible. It was however grossly underpowered and more were lost due to breakdowns than in combat so not the tide turner the German High Command had hoped for.
Up until the last couple of years the only King Tigers on offer were the two Tamiya offerings, one with a Henschel production turret and the rarer Porsche turret (only about 50 produced). Both of these build up to be quite nice representations in typical Tamiya fashion. Now it seems that the market is awash with King Tigers from Dragon, Meng, Takom amongst others. Dragon alone does several different releases so the buyer is spoilt for choice.
I was excited to receive this one (6840) to review as the King Tiger is one of my favourite tanks plus it already has zimmerit applied which is a major bonus if like me, you've tried doing it yourself and failed miserably.
On opening the box it is jam packed with sprues in a light grey plastic. There is also a transparent sprue and a small etched metal sprue. The one thing I was expecting to see there had been left out by Dragon. I was expecting there to be PE side skirts as you frequently see period photos of sections missing and thought (mistakenly) they'd be supplied. No metal barrel either which given the price of the kit I was also expecting.
There are two turrets supplied. One with an all over covering of zimmerit and a second turret which is to be used for s.Abt 505. The unit cleared a large square of zimmerit on their turrets to paint on the unit insignia which was a knight charging on horseback. Each company had a different coloured knight for ID purposes and all three options are included on the decal sheet.
TURRET-There are two turrets supplied as mentioned previously. The zimmerit is very nicely done and looks to be the right depth. Very cleanly done and good surface detail. There are two options for the turret rear door, which was for removing the main gun, breech et al. One has a horizontal zimmerit the other a circular pattern. There are some nice detail parts for the turret like the grenade launcher which unfortunately you can't see. There is the option of having the grenade tube open or closed on the outside of the roof. Clear periscopes are included for the commanders’ cupola, unfortunately you can't really see them. It was at this point I realised that Dragon seemed to be working in reverse. Things that you can't see were there but things that you could see weren't! The breech of the gun is basic to say the least. No levers, guard etc, just a square block. What struck me as odd was there are two occasions where it tells you to shorten the barrel, inside and outside with a saw. That presupposes that you have one! Not everyone has an extensive modelling kit with saws, files etc so some people will stall here and have to buy some tools. At the rear of the turret there are no shell racks. The rear door is well detailed so was begging to be left open but without the racks there I couldn't do that. Even the ancient Tamiya kit has those. The instructions are typically Dragon. Parts are miss-numbered, missing completely or extremely vague as to how things fit. I realised at this point that this was not going to be a straightforward build
HULL- Both halves have nice crisp detail and the areas that tools attach to have spots clear of zimmerit to give a decent surface to mate to which had been a concern. The standout part of the kit here is the bow machine gun. This is a kit in itself and looks superb. There is even the headrest which sits on the gunners head so he can peer through the sight easily. You can see some of it through the open hatch but as there is nothing else in there, not even a seat, there's not much point in having the hatch open. When I put the two halves together, the upper hull was too wide at the front so had to be sanded to fit. When I attached the two parts that the towing eyes attach too I realised to my horror that they were completely wrong. They're miles too small as you can see from the photo in the blog. It was at this point my suspicions of this being a Frankenstein kit were confirmed. Dragon appear to have used sprues from a number of different kits but not checked that they work together. Fortunately I had a scrap Tamiya KT and took the parts off that to remedy the situation. There is no other solution unless you fabricate your own somehow.
WHEELS & TRACKS- This was another sore point. Detail is crisp on the wheels but unfortunately they don't fit! The hole in the centre of the wheel is smaller than the swinging arm so each wheel had to be filed out with a round file and reamed out with a number 11 blade. While this isn't complicated I shouldn't have had to do it to 20 parts. It was the same with the bosses that go in the centre of the wheel. They all had to be reamed out and filed as the hole was too small. There's a photo in the blog that shows how much I had to ream them out which was quite a lot. How something as simple as putting the wheels on could be turned into such a time consuming task was annoying to say the least purely because it shouldn't have been necessary. I shouldn't have to alter 40 parts to make them fit.
The tracks are individual links in two separate bags so no removing them from the sprues and apart from a small ejection pin mark on the inside are sharply moulded and go together well. No clean up required. Unfortunately the instructions don't tell you how many you need so it's trial and error. Make sure you look at photos to gauge how much sag you need.
ETCHED METAL- The grilles to go on the engine deck give a nice finishing touch. As I mentioned earlier there are no PE side skirts which to me would have been the most obvious thing to include. The instructions tell you to use PE brackets on the turret for the spare track links. If they'd been welded on to a real KT at that scale they'd have been torn off by the weight of the track. As it was there are plastic ones that the instructions tell you not to use which I did instead. The tool clamps are extremely fiddly due to being so small but that may just have been me. There are brackets for the tow cables which while a nice idea you can't use them. The cable appears to be the same sort of wire cable that's used for my scooters gear cables! It is so rigid it can only be bent at right angles and can't be bent back which is no use to anyone. I'd got some spare cables off the scrap Tamiya King Tiger so used those instead. Why they didn't use cable like Eureka do I don't know but it shows that noone has tried to use it at Dragon HQ as it's useless and mine went in the bin.
Please read the blog for a full run down of the issues with the kit as it's evidenced with photos throughout of the various problems and you can make your own mind up about the kit.
With this kit you have an option on the turrets. The markings are for Schwere Panzer Abteilung 505 which was a Wehrmacht unit. By this stage of the war heavy tanks such as Tigers and King Tigers were in independent Heavy Tank Battalions which were Korps assets and not permanently attached to a division therefore could move from division to division according to where they were needed. All three sets of markings denote tanks of this unit serving on the Eastern Front. One peculiarity of this units King Tigers is that they cleared a square area of zimmerit on the turret for their unit insignia a charging knight on horseback. In the kit there is a turret with complete zim coverage and also one with the square cleared.
Yes, I'd made a start then realised I'd not taken a photo of the turrets together. The area that's been cleared looks to be the right depth scale wise when you look at the thickness of the zimmerit in profile. I've decided not to build the 505 version but to mark it as a 1 SS Panzer Korps KT so am using the fully zimmerit turret. Not only because I tend to model more Waffen SS stuff but I just prefer the full zimmerit.
I decided to build the turret first which is not how the instructions tell you to do it but I find DML instructions quite confusing as a rule and it should be the quickest part to build. Parts are nicely moulded with a minimum of flash. There are a lot of sprues (twelve) and some contain three sprues in one so familiarise yourself with them. One thing I have noticed while building the turret is that parts that you require are on about 4 or 5 different sprues rather than being grouped logically on one. Makes me think I need a bigger desk. The instructions look easier to follow than I'm used to with DML but we'll see.
One thing I did notice at this stage is that if you attach TJ1 (the turret hatch arm) to TJ6 (a barrel inside) you can't have the hatch open anymore. I've left it. I plan on having the hatch open but always dry fit hatches when airbrushing so when I've finished I can glue it in place with the right colour sprayed on.
I've given the inside of the turret a quick coat of ivory (Tamiya XF55 Deck Tan White) just as a base coat There's a rather nice flare discharger (I think) in the turret roof which just needs a cord to finish it off. Unfortunately you can't see it. This however means you get two choices on the hatch on the outside of the turret. One open and one closed.
Inside the turret roof as there is the hydraulic mechanism for the loaders hatch. Now this was my first problem. If you attach it as per the instructions it doesn't match up with the connection to the hatch if you want it open. There's a nifty little PE bracket to attach to the end which wraps around the crescent shaped bracket on the hatch. You have to move it quite a way forward. In the photo the circle denotes where it should be as per the instructions. Beware of this part as it's very fragile and mine bent while cleaning it up and didn't want to bend it back for fear of snapping it. As it won't be seen and it now lines up with the hatch bracket I wasn't too bothered about the angle etc. The fit was more important here. I've painted underneath what I assume to be a ventilation cover before attaching the top to make sure I cover it.
One thing I have just noticed is that there are no racks in the rear of the turret for ammunition or seats in the turret which means my crew will have to levitate when I install them. I have to admit I'm quite disappointed at that as looking at the rear turret hatch it's quite nicely detailed and even the old Tamiya kit has these. Although the turret hatch was primarily for removing the barrel for a replacement if it was worn out/damaged, because there is a gap between the racks ammunition could be passed between them making reloading faster in the field so that's one diorama idea scuppered. You would think though for the price that they'd be there. One to bear in mind when doing comparisons. Obviously if it's buttoned up or if you have no plans to open the rear hatch it makes no difference but it's nice to have the option.
I have encountered my first problems which although minor are annoying. I'm still working on the turret which is pretty basic. I started on the main gun, which as you can see is basic to say the least.
For some reason the part that carries the breech has to have about a centimetre cut off the end. Straightforward but it asks the question why not make it a centimetre shorter? What if you've not got an x-acto saw? It goes together nicely without any problems but I can't help feeling that they could have done more here. The Tamiya kit has the shield on the side of the breech to prevent empty cases going astray but nothing here. The breech has no detail at all. Admittedly you won't see a lot of it even with the hatches open but they've put a nicely detailed grenade launcher in the underside of the roof that you won't see at all so why not detail the main gun! They could have added the sights, the guard, even a working breech and really made it look the business! They've done a really detailed bow machine gun so why not here? I don't understand their logic here at all. As you can see it fits together quite nicely and when I put the gun support arms into their place on the turret base they went in with a nice resounding click.
When I attached the base to the turret it was a good fit although it kept pulling apart at the front so I cheated a bit for speeds sake and used some CA. The turret front has a good solid square locating ridge which fits snugly into the turret. It's a little short on one side so a bit of filing with an emery board is necessary to get it to look right with the turret side. Be careful doing this otherwise your zim will flatten out. The alternative which I'll look at when I start painting is use some filler to level it out and do some zimmerit lines while it's still soft. I'll decide later when I come to that. Sticking some paint on always shows it up better.
I added the lifting hooks and the gunners periscope. The thing that struck me as odd here was it is a straightforward piece of grey plastic. There are transparencies for the commanders’ cupola where you can't really see them that well but not one here. This was the first bit of etched metal in the form of the periscope guard. Bizarrely there are two holes to locate it but none on the PE so there must have been a plastic guard at some stage. No problems attaching it with CA.
There are two options ref the rear door on the turret. Slightly different zimmerit patterns as you can see. The picture shows how many of those annoying little plastic tags are on it but having said that there's not that many as a whole. Some DML kits I've had to take off hundreds. You'll need to do a bit of clean up to the back of the door as these leave quite a chunk on the back once you cut them off.
The difference in pattern's quite noticeable with one being circular the other straight. I've gone for the straight one. There are quite a few bits involved in the assembly of the rear door. The etched metal piece is a bit of a mystery. The instructions for fitting it are really vague and as you can't see it anyway I left it off. Everything else went together nicely. The part that is the inside of the turret door needed it's edges filing a bit to make it fit properly as it was a bit wide but only needed a bit doing to it. Now this is where Dragon has done their usual trick. You can see where the handle should go on the door.
On the instructions (the reds my pointer) you can see K31/K7 pointing to the handle. K31/K7 is actually the alternative doors. What number is the handle and more to the point is there one? Until I've got further on with the build I'm not going to know as they've not said what part number to use. They'd done really well with their instructions so far as well. I wondered how long before it went uber-vague.
Having said that building the turret has been straightforward and the zimmerit looks good. It looks to be the right depth and is sharp in detail. I like the choice of back door as I would imagine that's useful if modelling a specific vehicle. One thing you'll need to keep an eye on is when you put the front and rear of the back door together, check that the separate centre is aligned properly with the pattern on the turret as mine moved slightly. All it takes is twisting it slightly back into its original position which fortunately I noticed before the glue set. I did notice something after I'd glued it all together. When I was working on it I saw that there is a small hole in the rear of it and next to it on the sprue was a small eye bolt. It didn't tell me to put it in so I didn't and with it being out of sight it didn't make any difference anyway. It turns out that the eye bolt does go there and is attached by a chain in reality so the port can be opened and left open dangling on a chain. I would imagine looking at the size of it that empty shells would be thrown out of it to save the turret floor becoming covered in combat. If I'd realised that was what the eye bolt was for I'd have added it, left the port open and attached some PE chain also adding a few spent shells to the engine deck. Oh well my fault I suppose for not knowing but as usual Dragons instructions strike again!
The turret is all together apart from the hatches which I'm leaving open anyway so they won't go near the turret again until I'm ready to paint. The individual periscopes in the commanders’ turret are a nice touch but in reality you can't really see them unless you look up close.
As you can see they look quite good on the inside of the turret as does the grenade launcher and bracket for the loaders hatch. Shame you can't see any of it. You can however see the breech of the gun which is just a block with no detail. I don't understand the rationale on this. Seven individual periscopes that we can't see but no detail on something we can?
As you can see in the photo the weld lines on the turret top are nicely done and the zimmerit looks pretty true to scale. Zimmerit is something I only tried doing once and decided never again. I'm glad that DML are adding zimmerit to some of their vehicles as a) it makes things a lot easier for us, it means that the zimmerit is to the right scale and no messing about with adding after market zim. I used some Eduard etched metal zimmerit on a couple of Stug IV's a while back and once the paint was on you could hardly see it due to its lack of depth. The only drawback I can see so far is that there are no flat areas to add the track hooks to. I'll see if that's a problem when I get to it.
Onto the lower hull. Some quite nice detail on the underside if you were planning on having the KT overturned or on its side as seen in some period photos. The arms for the wheels are nicely moulded and have a locating lug to mate with the hull holes so that they go in at the right angle. No problems here at all. A little bit of play in the arms but if you turn them all to the same point they'll all line up properly. A separate piece of zimmerit is glued to the hull front here like on the old Italeri Panther but as you can see it all fits together snugly.
While this was drying I decided to start adding bits to the upper hull. It was all going smoothly until it came to this part. As you can see there is an option D7 in plastic or MA18 in etched metal. Firstly there is no explanation as to why they're different (a bit like the cupola that I forgot to mention but I'll do that in a minute). It's all well and good giving alternatives but if you're not an expert on the King Tiger (I'm not) you won't know which one to put on. It gets worse. Both pieces are flat. So why has the hole that they are supposed to cover got a lug in it? That leads me to believe that there should be another piece that goes in there. I've got a Tamiya KT I've been redoing so had a look at that.
The same piece but raised up from the engine deck. From memory when I've looked at real King Tigers at Bovington and La Gleize it is raised. Have DML simply forgotten to make a part to raise it up or have they just neglected to put it on the instructions like the handle on the rear hatch? It's not as if it's something small that's hidden away. It's smack on the engine deck! The underside of the plastic part has four indentations which leads me to think that there should be a part with four pins that it glues to yet I can't find anything like that.
The next stage is getting the airbrush out to spray the lower hull and wheels before I attempt the tracks. Yes, they're everyone’s favourite. Individual track links. Admittedly German tracks are a lot simpler than something like a Sherman’s tracks but the part of a build I dread. I'll get the airbrush out, do some spraying and be back later.
The cupola while I remember. There are two options which initially I couldn't see any difference between them. It was only when I'd assembled it and painted it before I put the periscopes in that I noticed that it has two grooves in it. As you can see the other is plain, Unfortunately it was too late to do anything about changing it as it was glued but which one is which. There is no mention in the instructions as to why there are two different cupolas to choose from. Someone on here will know why but it would have been nice if DML had given us an explanation. Were they different models, were they manufactured at a different factory? Are DML deliberately trying to confuse us? It's not particularly noticeable, especially once a figure goes in the turret, but it would be helpful if there was an explanation as to the options. To me, this is my logic, if there is an option then the manufacturer should point out why ie a different Mark, parts for a particular theatre, upgrade at a point in time say December 1944 it changed etc but DML? Nothing.
I realised I needed to get the grilles on the engine deck first so they could be sprayed. Hopefully with spraying them they shouldn't get clogged up. As I was doing the top it was time to tackle the bow MG. If there's one part of this kit that really shines it's this. It's the full works even down to the plate which rested on the gunners head while he looked through his sight. The instructions are bit vague however. Yes, it shows where the individual parts go but not in what order. With this being such a fiddly assembly it would have helped a lot if they'd broken down the assembly into stages. The MG34 itself comes in two parts. Barrel and top cover to the receiver. Detail is very nice and there is even a guide underneath so that it slots into the MG plate (?) at the right angle. As you can see the detail on the various parts is sharp, adding to the overall look of the weapon. As you can see with it partially assembled, it does look like the real thing. I did have some problems after this stage and had to shorten a flat piece that comes off the side of the headrest part. I couldn't work out if it was supposed to go under the MG34 as a support or go inside the MG on the feed tray. Either way it didn't fit so I cut it right back and glued it to the side. You can't see it anyway as the gap is so small between the two parts. I left the ammo bag off as I can use that on something else with it not being visible.
As you can see it builds up into a fairly accurate rendition of the bow MG after a lot of swearing and sticking it to my fingers. Due to it being fiddly and the locating points not being very strong I used CA as liquid poly was taking too long to dry and parts were moving into the wrong position. It really is fiddly but does look good. The sad thing is you can't actually see much of it once it's in situ. Now it's in place firmly I can finish off painting it. I haven't bothered painting the periscope inside the tank as you can't see it although I will give the inside a coat of ivory to hopefully get a bit more light in there. Given the fact that they've put so much effort into the MG it would have made sense if they'd supplied a rudimentary driver and radio op/gunner position. Just a couple of seats would have been enough as it does look very bare with the hatches open.
The front headlight's a bit of a strange one. It's nicely detailed and even has a clear plastic insert to go inside to show through the narrow slit. Only trouble is if you put that inside the front and back of the headlight won't mate up so I ditched it. You can't really see it anyway as the slit is about 1 millimetre in height. The bracket that holds it has the housing for the electrical cable and on the front deck there is the corresponding opposite so that if you choose you can add the wiring. I used a piece of fuse wire to do this as I find that with it being such soft metal it lends itself ideally to making electrical conduit and once bent doesn't spring back.
I've just noticed on the second photo it's a tiny bit short going to the headlight but I'll leave it as it took a few goes to get the length right and the gap is negligible. Here's the front end once the bow MG is fitted and the cabling is done. There are three pieces holding the MG in the back of the bulge. The ball mount has a groove for the MG's ridge to fit into. You'll find that once you put the ball into it's mount it will probably turn so I used a cocktail stick to rotate it back into a level central position before attaching the MG. Once that was done it fitted snugly into the back of the bulge. There's even a tiny hole in the ball mount for the gunner to look through his sight then through the hole. Nice touch as some manufacturers forget about this.
The last thing I did was to attach the grilles to the engine deck. There's quite a bit of PE to attach during the build but some of it I'm not going to use as it would look wrong. The hooks on the sides of the turret for spare tracks are supposed to be PE according to the instructions but in reality they would be so thin that they'd bend so I'll use the plastic ones which are technically spare parts. I don't see the point in using PE just for the sake of it. As I mentioned earlier the periscope guard for the loaders position looks too thin to me with PE. Plus because it's so thin the join between the turret roof and the guard is very weak. If I find a plastic replacement then that's being changed. I'll know when I've thinned the parts out if there's an alternative.
The grilles closest to the turret are actually covered by a large frame with another grille in the middle but they can't go on until I've got the first lot of paint on. You won't be able to see much of them once the second grille's over the top however. I like the fact that the grilles are enclosed as that saves us money. In the past PE grilles have always been an added extra and to be honest I don't think a model looks right without them. I'm quite surprised that DML haven't included PE track guards. When you consider that the kits got individual links, you would think if they've gone to that length then PE guards would be natural. Especially with the amount of photographs that show either missing sections or damage to them. I've got a set knocking about so I may use them instead of the kits all in one piece guard. I'll decide when I get to it.
As you can see these are very nicely done, infinitely better than the plastic gauze on the Tamiya kits. They do a PE set for their King Tiger but for some reason don't include these two? Attaching these was no problem as the recess for them is well defined so a bit of CA sparingly applied and they sit in nicely. Bending the edge over was straightforward enough but make sure that it's seated properly otherwise you'll have problems. Now this was done the airbrush could come out and I could put a first coat on. Once it's all together then I'll give it another coat of dunkel gelb to cover any bits I may have missed. I noticed that a couple of the holes in the grilles were blocked with paint (my fault entirely from being heavy handed) but sorted that out quickly with a cotton bud and some isopropyl alcohol. Quick rub and it was gone allowing me to recover it. As you can see now it's got a coat of paint on it, the zimmerit is nicely defined. It also shows up "bald patches" where I assume cables and tools are going which I'd not noticed before. I was wondering how I was going to stick those to an uneven surface but DML had obviously thought of that. You'll notice that I'm building totally out of sequence to the instructions. Two reasons for that. Firstly it's a DML kit so the less you look at the instructions other than for part numbers the better and secondly I think my sequence makes more sense. It does to me anyway lol.
Onto the lower half of the hull. Thankfully the KT has steel wheels with no rubber. Hoorah! That's the one thing that drives me mad about German tanks, the rubber tyres. Not because they're difficult to paint, just because it's monotonous painting so many on something like a Panzer IV. The detail on the wheels is nice and sharp and to all intents and purposes looks right. I'm not a rivet counter so I assume they're right. The King Tiger is unusual where it comes to German tanks as by this stage of the war they'd given up on the idea of interwoven wheels due to the problems that they caused on operations. Snow and ice getting packed in between them and worst of all if one wheel needed to be changed due to damage it meant taking off other wheels as well to get at the back ones. Not something you'd want to be doing when time is a precious thing. I'd already put the swinging arms on so that they were dry before I put the wheels on. The holes for the swinging arms have a small notch on them that fits into a cut-out in the hole for them. There's a little bit of play so make sure you turn them all to the full extent one way so they’re all lined up properly.
This is when the problems started. I'm used to putting a bit of liquid poly on the swinging arm's end then sliding the wheel on. Not with this King Tiger. In fact I've not used any glue at all on either the wheels or the bosses (I’m not sure what their real name is) in the centre of the wheel they were that tight. In fact they were that tight I've had to enlarge the holes on all of them with both a round file and a number 11 blade! The outside of the wheels aren't too bad but when the two halves are put together I thought it prudent to enlarge the holes on both sides. It's a bit of a balancing act as I didn't want to make the hole so big that the wheels were sloppy so left them as a very tight fit which I twisted onto the swinging arms. Be careful doing this as there's the possibility of snapping them. It's really your judgement call as to how much you want to enlarge the holes. If you want them to just slip on then obviously you've got more sanding or reaming to do but that's probably the safer option. Fortunately that didn't happen but I was very conscious of that happening. I thought that would be it now the wheels were on. Wrong! The hole on the bosses was too small to go over the swinging arm as well! I found myself having to do the same thing again for all 18 of those. You can see in the photo below just how small the holes actually are and how much I had to ream them out.
While straightforward to do I wasn't very impressed that I was having to do this. They went into the outer wheel straightforward enough but I'd already reamed them out. Now some may say that because I'd put a layer of paint on first that's why they were tight. Not at all. The paint on the swinging arms was very thin, more a touch than anything as they were going to be covered up so I didn't put much on. You can see form the above photo just how small the holes were before I opened them up. Even after I'd altered them they were all still a very tight fit to the extent that no glue was required. In fact after a dry fit I couldn't get them back off so left them as they were. Thankfully I'd painted the running surface of the wheels before I tried fitting them. I've painted them with gun metal as being in contact with the tracks they'd wear the paint away in no time and be back to bare metal. I'll deal with chips, rust etc once it's finished.
As you can see they look nice once on although there's not a lot of clearance between the front and back wheels and they are right to the back. The final wheel was a problem in itself due to DML's infamously crap instructions. They give you no clue as to what angle the wheel goes at or clearance with the last of the road wheels. As usual with their instructions I went for the best option and consulted the net for photographs of the real thing to check on its angle. Armed with the correct info I glued them on (yes I finally used glue on the wheels) adjusting them to the right height etc. I've just checked a Tamiya Porsche King Tiger in my stash and that has a plug in the same hole so you can only put the arm in one way which makes a lot more sense. That's where I am now. Whilst it's shaping up to be a nice looking kit and the zimmerit looking great, this is not a kit for someone with no patience. It's not a good thing when you have to alter 55 parts to get them to fit properly. That's every part of the wheel assembly. If I drank I'd say I deserved a few after that fiasco lol.
Next thing up is the tracks. Whilst not a fan of individual track links these come in two separate bags all ready to put together. No nipping off of those irritating little plastic nuggets left from the injection process, no having to file off attachment points. In theory this should be straightforward. I say in theory as nothing has been straightforward so far. Contrary to my earlier cynicism about the individual track links I have been pleasantly surprised! I'd never have believed that possible on a DML build but it's happened. Sometimes with DML kits, especially the Sdkfz 251 range, there is an option of tracks. A pack of track parts off the sprue in a Ziploc plastic bag and the traditional tracks on the sprue that usually have hundreds of little tin can sized bits of plastic attached to them which must be removed then the part cleaned up. Incredibly tedious. As there is only the sprues in the bag for the King Tiger I've had to go for that option. I was shocked! (The bags aren't full above as I'd made a start). No clean up required. There is however a small lump in the centre of the larger part of the links inside but as the finished kit is destined for a diorama and will have muddy tracks (I need to invest in one of the many paint on mud gloops on the market now so any suggestions as to which ones you've used and found to be good please let me know) I couldn't face sitting and sanding a couple of hundred track links when the offending lump won't be seen. It'll probably be hidden by the wheels and shadows anyway.
As you can see the detail on the links is very good. Nice and sharp. The recesses that the male part of the track fits into are a good depth so no vague fitting here. A bit of liquid poly and they slot into place with no bother. Every so often I'd put a metal rule across the tracks, the blade edge on, with a little pressure just to check that they were seated properly. No problems at all, very impressed. I actually found it quite relaxing if I'm honest and could have sat there all day doing it. The two lengths pictured here are running across the bottom of the road wheels and are just about to make the turn upwards so I'll do the top run next.
I didn't time it but I reckon it probably took about 30 minutes to do the two lengths which for individual links is incredible. As you can see when they're built up they do look good. What I'll do next is build the top lengths and work out how many links I need to join the two lengths together at each end. I'll airbrush the longer lengths and paint the other links by hand prior to assembly. That way I won't get paint all over the wheels and once they're in place I can touch them up then weather them. I know I have an unusual way of doing things that some modellers will cringe at but doing it this way works for me. As you've noticed I paint things as I'm going along as I'd make a complete hash of it if I waited till it was altogether. I admire the guys who can build a whole kit then paint it all at the end but it wouldn't work for me. Also I can see my progress so I don't get too disheartened when things aren't going as planned. I know doing it this way that I get full paint coverage. That's my weird style explained. Once the tracks are on then it should be plain sailing from there as I've already built the top of the hull,bar the tiny parts I worry about knocking off, which according to the instructions should be started after the wheels and track go on.
There's quite a bit of PE that will come into use once the two hull halves are together. This is not only for the tools but wing nuts and the hull turret hangers for spare tracks. Having looked at these I'm going to go with the plastic ones in the kit. That's a positive in there being generic sprues. The PE ones would look too flimsy and I'm sure that they would bend in reality having felt the weight of track links smaller than a King Tiger's.
I'm still undecided whether to use the kits skirting or use some PE ones I've got. I suppose with it being a review blog I should use the kit's parts but I'll decide when I get there. It's still a way off yet. I'm going to crack on with the tracks so that I can make a start on the final assembly.
I'd decided to build the tracks up into top and bottom lengths using liquid poly so I could shape it around the sprocket and end wheel, leaving a gap to fill when I was ready to mount them. The advantage of doing it this way is it means that I can paint them and weather them before I put them on the tank. I gave them a coat of dark iron, followed by a dark brown metallic I'd mixed for tracks. Once this had dried I applied a weak rusty coloured wash and to finish them off dry brushed the raised part of the track with metallic grey. I also dry brushed the guide teeth inside the track to show wear on them where they rub against the road wheels. I tried not to overdo it as I thought subtlety worked better.
As you can see the detail on the tracks is nice and sharp and they do go together very easily. Putting them on was a bit trickier than I'd anticipated as you only need one wheel to be slightly out and you end up wrestling with the tracks. Due to this I took the easy option and used CA as I worked my way along so it would hold them in place. There's nothing in the instructions to tell you how many links you need either side so it's a question of guesswork. Fortunately my guesstimation had worked and I only needed to slip three track links in. To make this easier I clipped off the mating lugs and glued end to end. Unorthodox but it worked okay.
With the tracks on it's now beginning to look like a tank. Final stage before mating the hull was to add the back plate. There's some very nice detail on here with the numerous nuts and bolts. Construction of this was straightforward without any problems as such. If you look at the plate on the left you'll see a small bar halfway up. It makes absolutely no mention of this part K2 in the instructions but as I don't trust the instructions I tend to look at parts left and see where they're likely to go which paid off in this case. The instructions tell you to use PE parts for the jack bracket which I ignored and used the plastic ones the instructions tell you not to use which are probably off another kit. The reason being tank jacks are heavy beasts by the very nature of what they've got to lift. The PE parts would bend and snap eventually carrying that weight scale wise and are way too thin when compared to the real thing. PE for the sake of it again by the looks of it. It also tells you to use B8 as the tow cable hooks. Oddly enough it tells you to use the same part on the front but there are only two B8's. There is however a B15 which is the same part so pas de probleme. Does anyone actually check these instructions before they send them to the printers? It certainly doesn't look like it with the amount of inaccuracies as well as vagueness. That's three mistakes on one section!
I've left a few bits off until after I've sprayed it fully. Next step was attaching the top of the hull. It was going together well until I tried to get the front end down. It didn't fit. Fortunately this was a simple fix as I just sanded the edges with an emery board until it slotted in. I attached the mudguards and sat back to admire it. Then realised that the front end looked completely wrong! My immediate thought was "How've I managed to do that?" then realised it wasn't me it was the kit. As you can see there are huge gaps, not only on the glacis plate but at the sides where the mudguards are. My immediate thought was filler and very thin plastic card to rectify it, groaning at the same time. I'd just checked this one against a Tamiya one I'm redoing to see how it should look and remembered I'd got a scrap Tamiya King Tiger in the cupboard I could use to solve the problem. Out came the X-Acto saw and cut off the two raised parts that hold the towing eyes and attached the two liberated Tamiya bits. Not only did they hide the glacis holes but also the side of the mudguard as they should. Not only are they the right size but they look more substantial. The thickness of the original ones looked like the thickness of something you'd find on a Panzer I or II not something as big and powerful as a King Tiger. As you can see it's miles too small. How could they make such a glaring mistake? How many people globally have bought this kit and found that they either can't finish the kit as they've not got the skills to make a replacement or have not been as fortunate as myself to have something in the cupboard that can be cannibalised to fix it. This to me is totally unacceptable. This should have been picked up preproduction which leads me back to the question has anyone at DML actually built this kit. Not as a test piece but as a retail kit. If they had it would have gone back to the literal drawing board. I've got to wait for the glue to dry on this before I can give it a touch up before I carry on and I've reached a natural break.
The last couple of sessions have been pretty straightforward as it didn't involve the instructions or having to glue anything. Yes, I finally had chance to start painting it. There are still a few little bits and bobs to put on like tool clamps, turret hangers etc but I can paint these and add them as I go along. I'd already given it a base coat of dunkel gelb so gave it another coat allowed it to dry overnight (I'd had enough and was tired) then onto the camo scheme. I'm not 100% where I'm having the vehicle yet as I'm going to use it in a small dio. I've got a pile of MiniArt buildings so may as well use one of those as a backdrop. Possibly Hungary 1945 or a German street scene rearming and refuelling late 1944. I've got four buildings completed for a German street I had planned which so far has had three different changes of usage so this may end up on there. I've got to finish the bloody thing yet. Alternatively I may place it in the Ardennes December 1944 transporting Fallschirmjager. There are a couple of classic photos that I can work to on that one. I resprayed the Tamiya King Tiger that I've been revamping at the same time so I can do a couple I suppose.
I used Tamiya paints for the spraying. I tend to use Tamiya quite a lot as they're ideal if you're having to work on a low budget and you get good coverage with them. The colours used here are Tamiya XF67 NATO Green and XF68 NATO Brown which I think work quite well together. Panzers sprayed in the field vary a lot in shade depending on what was used to dilute the paint which came in a thick paste form. In theory it should have been thinned with petrol but in reality was thinned with whatever was available. Oil, water, wine, urine are all supposed to have been used at some point prior to painting which resulted in widely varying colours. I need to do some touching up like the tracks as there's quite a bit of overspray and then make a start on the weathering.
I've had to make a handle for the rear hatch as there was nothing to suit in the left over bits so another piece missing because they've put the wrongs sprues in. Straightforward enough as I used a piece of fuse wire bent around a pair of tweezers but it's not the point. It should be there when you open the box to build it. Another anomaly on the rear deck is the small tie down hooks. They obviously got bored part way doing the instructions or went for lunch here as they don't bother telling you to attach all of them despite them being visible in the instructions.
All that was really left to do was attach the smaller parts such as tools etc which I thought would be straightforward. First call was the turret as I decided to put the AA mount on. One oversight in the kit is that there is the mount but no MG34 which I thought was odd. The actual bracket that the MG34 locks onto via a pin is grossly over scale as you can see in the photo below. If there was an opportunity to use PE this would have been it yet there's loads of PE which is completely unsuitable for its intended use. I used an 8B pencil on the AA mount ring to show wear where it had been moved round engaging targets. As there was no MG in the kit I used a Gen2 MG34 out of one of my figure sets. I've got to say even though it's not part of the kit, these Gen2 machine guns are really nice and really finish off a panzer. Because it's higher up you can actually see the hollowed out muzzle.
I did a bit of chipping on the turret roof and the hatches to show usage but haven't gone mad as you can see. One thing you will need if buying this kit is some Micro Sol and Micro Set. As the zimmerit is quite pronounced, unless you use these two the decal will not adhere to the surface due to the ridges. I gave it a liberal dose of microsol to the surface, applied the decal, liberal application to the decal, let it soften for a couple of minutes and then gently pressed it on using some tissue. I found that the decal had softened enough to now go into the ridges and give it quite a realistic look. Although not a great photo it does show how much the decal sinks into the ridges giving it a painted on appearance.
Another omission was seats inside the turret. If you wanted to put crew standing in the turret they would have to levitate as there are no seats for them to stand on. Fortunately the scrap Tamiya KT supplied two so my intended crew did not have to perform feats of magic. Basic but they do the job. You won't see them as there'll be a crewman standing on them but considering just how many really good panzer crews DML have released over the years, you would think that they'd realise that modellers actually like to crew their vehicles, maybe not?
Onto the cables.DML have provided two lengths of cable of different thickness to make the towing cables. Separate ends are provided with a recess to glue the cable into, great idea. One drawback is this. The cable they've provided is completely unsuitable for the job. You can't bend it into anything but straight angles due to it's rigidity. It actually looks like the gear cables on my Vespa! It's the same thickness and behaves exactly the same. I've used the wire and separate ends type cables before made by Eureka XXL and found them to be superb. The metal is soft enough to bend easily and will retain the shape/curve that you've bent it into. With this cable it has no flexibility at all. I have a feeling that the Eureka cable is copper whereas this appears to be steel. I couldn't be bothered to wait for cable if I'd ordered it so just used the cables off, wait for it, the scrap Tamiya King Tiger. Surely someone in the design or production team must have tried using this cable but then again if they had they would have known that it's rubbish and can't be used. I kept the loops for future use and ditched the cable as it's no use for anything. There were etched metal fittings to attach the cables to the side of the tank but as I wasn't using the cable supplied they've gone into the spares box.
The next thing was attaching the tools. Now this was an area that left me quite baffled. There are two sets of tools. Some on sprue TA don't have the clamps moulded on as there are PE clamps to be made up to use. On the other hand some of the tools that you have to use already have them moulded on. I could understand it if there was a full set without but there isn't. There are two shovels. One with and one without but there is no PE clamp for the shovel blade so you have to use the one with moulded clamps anyway. In the end the only things I could use the PE clamps for were the axe and the sledgehammer. There were three sets of wire cutters. Two without clamps and one with moulded on. Great I thought I can use a PE clamp. Wrong! The instructions tell you to use the one with the moulded clamp and there's no PE clamp for the others anyway. It just smacks of inconsistency. The clamps however are tiny and very fiddly. To show just how small they are I put a 1/35th scale PPK next to them to show a size comparison. I found it impossible to build the clamp as per the instructions as my fingers were too big so ended up making them on the tool. Not a great job at all due to the size but they just about pass muster. Considering quite how long it took me to do I did wonder if it was actually worth it in the end. Not especially happy with them but it was the best I could do unfortunately. After the tools it was just a case of tidying up really. I added two crewmen as I intend to use this in a dio. I've marked it up as King Tiger 233 which is the subject of numerous photos in Budapest 1945. I went for a Wehrmacht panzer in the end. The aerial and ring sight on the MG were out of my spares box.
You'll notice that I've used the plastic track hangers. The instructions tell you to use the PE ones but they would not hold the weight of a track in real life as they would snap off at the weld on the turret they'd be that thin.
My thoughts on the kit. Hmmm...where do I start. When you open the box there are a lot of sprues but there's also a lot of stuff that you won't use as they're sprues from other King Tiger kits that DML have released. The transparency sprue is a bit of a waste of time really. It tells you to use one transparent part for the headlight but if you put that in you can't get the front on so I ditched it. You wouldn't be able to see it anyway. The periscopes in the commanders’ cupola while a nice idea, unless you actually pick the kit up and squint inside the periscope guards you won't see them.
The PE? Complete waste of time. There's very little that you can actually use. The crews’ periscope guards are PE but I couldn't help thinking that they were far too thin. There were no options on this. As I mentioned, the instructions tell you to use the PE brackets for the spare tracks on the turret. They're far too thin and would snap off in real life as they wouldn't take the weight of a single track link. The tool clamps area is inconsistent Some tools are with, some without so you end up with a mix of PE clamps and moulded on clamps. To me it would have made sense to have one or the other not mixed. The grills are the only piece of PE that is genuinely useful. The largest grilles that go under the back of the turret had to be bent to shape but not a real problem. I think I read somewhere that some of their other kits have these preformed which would have made things easier.
What would have been useful and to me is the really obvious thing to put in as far as PE is concerned would have been the mudguards and side skirts. How many photos do you see where KT's are missing part of their skirt? I'd hazard a good percentage but no you just get plastic ones which takes for granted you've got an X-Acto saw if you want to do a modification. Having said that there were two instances early in the build where you have to cut about a centimetre off the gun mount and the end part of the barrel. What happens if you buy this as a gift for someone who's just started modelling? You shouldn't need a saw to build a kit out of the box. As it is the two parts that needed cutting could simply have been made shorter! As far as PE is concerned I think they just put this in the box so they could say "contains PE" irrespective of whether you can use it or not.
The body work? Generally good. The turret went together with no problems. I was disappointed that there were no ammo racks in the back of the turret as I'd have liked to leave the back door open but as there weren't it had to be buttoned up. There was no pedestal/seat for the turret crew to stand on which would have been useful.
Initially the front of the hull wouldn't fit together so I had to file down both sides to get it to fit but it would now appear that DML have used all sorts of bits and bobs from different kits to make this one so it's not surprising that there was a fit issue.
The issue of the two front towing hooks is one of the worst errors I've seen in a kit in all the years I've been modelling. They were miles too small leaving the modeller with huge gaps and two inaccurate parts which made the front end look stupid. If I'd not had a scrap King Tiger from one of their competitors I don't know how I'd have got around that. If it was slightly small it could be forgiven but as you saw in the photos they're tiny compared to the correct size. Unforgivable mistake!
The instructions are the usual DML gibberish. Whoever puts these instructions together has obviously not built the kit. There are pieces that aren't featured on the instructions, items numbered incorrectly, pieces missing or never been on the sprue not lost. These days I find it a lot easier to work from a photograph of the real thing as I work at my PC desk it's easy to do. That way I can work out how parts fit. If all the other manufacturers can get it right why can't DML? It's not as if they're a new company that's finding its feet. They've been about for about 30 years and still can't do clear instructions.
The individual tracks are nice but may put some people off however they are already off their sprues and reasonably clean. A minor lump from the moulding process but easily filed off. The tracks fit together nicely so no complaints on those.
The decals are sharp and give you the option of three different vehicles from SPz Abteilung 505. Each of the three different companies has a different coloured knight so the decals contain the three to give you the option of which you want to use. I didn't use the decals but having used their decals before they go on very smoothly and the printing and colour definition is superb.
As a finished kit it does look good and does appear to be accurate. The surface detail is sharp and the nuts on the back plate look like nuts rather than blobs as on some kits. The zimmerit is a nice depth and looks right.
There was the issue of the instructions to start off with. They're vague, give wrong part numbers, miss parts out completely even though you can see them on the sprue and also fitted in the instructions. How can they get the instructions so wrong? Does noone at DML sit down and build one of these to check the instructions make sense before they release it to the great modelling public?
Then there was the issue of parts not being with the kit despite them being neccessary for an accurate representation. Or parts that were completely wrong! It would appear that the reason for this is down to them mish mashing a kit out of others. A couple of sprues from this one and a couple from another one. You can interchange parts on a weapon (sometimes) but it has significantly less pieces than a kit. Mixing up lots of bits from several kits is asking for trouble.
In my opinion what DML should have done here is released the turret as a separate complete kit then if someone wanted to build a KT as one from the 505th they could just buy the earlier zimmerit one and add the new turret. Instead they've released a badly put together package of sprues. It's not a kit per se just an assortment of sprues that you can build a kit out of as there's only the turret that's dedicated to the box.
Would I build this kit again? I often build kits more than once as sometimes I like to have a couple of the same vehicle in the same dio ie refuelling, rearming, conversations between crews, that sort of thing. This kit does not fall into that category. At times it became a chore rather than enjoyable due to the various issues. I actually saw this kit on ebay for sale at £19.99 as a start price. Needless to say I did not bid on it cheap or not. I wasn't going through this again!
If you're thinking of buying a King Tiger in the future think long and hard about what you want from a kit and balance up what they offer you for the money. Lets face it there are enough out there to choose from now. This has a retail price around the £50 mark in the UK and I know that if I paid that much for it I would be both angry and disappointed. As a kit it's nothing special in regard to features. It's a pretty basic King Tiger and if it didn't have the zimmerit it would be roundabout the level of Tamiya's old King Tiger (but with issues). With that kit at least you know it will fit together properly.
I've not had a look at the Takom or Meng King Tigers in real life but as they're around the same sort of price with a complete interior I'd be leaning towards that.
In summary I can't recommend this kit as it has too many serious issues. I'd been looking forward to building this and was very disappointed with it. It could have been a great kit if DML had thought about it and hadn't just thrown it together using sprues from other kits. As it is they've released a badly thought out, untested kit that will annoy more people than it will please.
Would I recommend this kit? No I wouldn't. There are too many issues with fit, parts being unsuitable for use, parts being completely wrong and above all it's a nightmare to build due to all those reasons. A build is supposed to be enjoyed not dreaded. It does build up (eventually with using another manufacturers parts!)into a nice King Tiger but I'm sure that there are plenty of others on the market that will do that with no hassle at all. This was problem after problem and not all were easy to resolve. When you have to use another manufacturers parts to complete it it does make you wonder what's going on. It would appear that Dragon have used sprues from the other King Tigers in their stable but haven't done a test build to see if it actually works as a kit. If they'd checked it they wouldn't have released it. There are a pile of parts left over including some for the Porsche variant so it's definitely a Frankenpanzer. I don't like writing off a kit but to me the whole point of a review is to be completely honest about the subject reviewed which is what I've been. What Dragon should have done is released the s.Abt 505 turret as a seperate kit so those who wanted that particular turret could buy the normal Henschel zimmeritted version 6303, which I'm told goes together with no problems,and just swap the turrets.
Thanks to Kitmaker for giving me the opportunity to review this kit. If anyone has any questions about the kit that I've not covered or I forgot to mention please feel free to ask as after all this review is for your benefit and to help you make a decision on which King Tiger to buy and build.