Tamiya 1/35 King Tiger w/ Porsche turret
KIT: Tamiya 1/35 King Tiger w/ Porsche turret
KIT #: 35169
PRICE: $ 44.00 MSRP
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Jeff Brundt
NOTES: Used Cavalier resin Zimmerit set

HISTORY

The German King Tiger Tank was introduced in early 1944 and was the most powerful tank during World War 2. With its powerful 88mm gun and an almost impenetrable front armor, it was one of the most feared weapons of the war. Up to the end of the war, the allies had not introduced any effective means to counter the threat. The Tiger II combined the heavy armor of the Tiger I with the sloped armor of the Panther. The design followed the same concept as the Tiger I, but was intended to be even more formidable. The very heavy armor and powerful long-range gun gave the Tiger II the advantage against virtually all opposing tanks.

Development began as early as 1937 with the German Armaments Ministry issuing a specification for a new heavy tank to Daimler-Benz, Henschel, MAN and Porsche. The project however was ignored as the Panzer III and IV had so far proved effective tanks and served well in combat. It was not until spring 1941 that the project was revived after Hitler was impressed with heavy allied tanks, such as the French Char B1 and British Matilda 1 during the campaign in the west

Although the designation implies that the Tiger II is a succession of the Tiger 1, it is in effect a completely different tank. The main gun specification of the King Tiger was to be a variation of the 88mm anti-aircraft gun. Although the 88mm was initially designed for an anti aircraft role, it proved to be an excellent tank killer. Originally, the intention was to mount an 88mm Flak 41 into a turret for the Porsche VK4501 (P) chassis. The turret had been originally designed by Krupp to hold the 56 caliber 88mm KwK 36 gun of the Tiger 1. After much experimentation and debate, it was decided in early 1943 that it was not possible to mount the 88mm Flak 41. Krupp had then been contracted to design a new turret that could mount their own version of a 71 caliber 88mm Kwk 43 gun that could fit in both the chassis for Henschel and Porsche. The length of the barrel itself is over 20 feet long while the rounds weighed almost 20kgs. It is in effect a much more powerful gun than the Tiger 1.

For the development of the chassis, two firms were contracted to come up with the designs; Henschel and Sohn of Kassel and Porsche of Stuttgart. Both firms were responsible for only the chassis and automotive designs. Turret design was awarded to Krupp of Essen.

The Henschel version used a conventional hull design with sloped armor resembling the layout of the Panther tank. It had a rear mounted engine and standard interleaved road wheels mounted on transverse torsion bars in a similar manner to the original Tiger. To simplify maintenance, however, the wheels were overlapping rather than interleaved as in the Tiger I.

The Porsche hull design had a rear-mounted turret and a mid mounted engine. The suspension was the same as on the Jagdpanzer Elefant. This suspension had six road wheels per side mounted in paired bogies sprung with short longitudinal torsion bars that were integral to the wheel pair; this saved internal space and facilitated repairs. The Porsche version had a series-hybrid power system where the gasoline engines powered electrical generators which in turned powered electric motors which turned the sprockets. This method of propulsion had been attempted before on the Ferdinand prototypes and in some U.S. designs, but had never been put into production.

Henschel won the contract, and all Tiger IIs were produced by the firm. Two turret designs were used in production vehicles. The initial design is sometimes misleadingly called the "Porsche turret" due to the belief that it was designed by Porsche for their prototype. In fact this turret was simply the initial Krupp design for both prototypes. This turret had a rounded front and steeply sloped sides, with a difficult-to-manufacture curved bulge on the turret's left side, to accommodate the commander's cupola. Fifty early turrets were mounted to Henschel's hull and used in action. The more common "production" turret, sometimes called the "Henschel" turret, was simplified with a flat face, no shot trap (created by the curved face of the initial-type turret), less-steeply sloped sides, and no bulge for the commander's cupola.

The track system used on the Tiger II chassis was a unique one, which used alternating "contact shoe" and "connector" linksóthe contact shoe link had a pair of transverse metal bars that contacted the ground, while the connector links had no contact with the ground.

The Tiger II was developed late in the war and made in relatively small numbers. Like all German tanks, it had a gasoline engine. However, this same engine powered the much lighter Panther and Tiger I tanks. The Tiger II was under-powered, like many heavy tanks of WW2, and consumed a lot of fuel which was already in short supply.

Officially designated Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz 182, the King Tiger was placed into service early 1944. It served in the western and eastern front notably in the battle of Normandy, operation "Market Garden" in Holland, and the offensive in Ardennes. It also served in various other operations in Poland, Hungary, Minsk and a small number also defended Berlin in April and May 1945. With its great firepower and thick armor, it proved to be more than an opponent for any tank the allied forces could field. However, the size and weight of the King Tiger had its share of problems. It suffered mechanically with many breakdowns and had poor maneuverability. Many roads and especially bridges were not suitable for a tank this size and the fuel requirements were enormous. Many were abandoned due to lack of fuel rather then being destroyed during the offensive in the Ardennes. Production also suffered with the bombing of the Henschel factory and there simply werenít enough of these around. The King Tiger was a case of too late and too few in number to make a difference in the outcome of the war.

However, the great firepower and armor of the King Tiger created the impression of a powerful armored force with almost invulnerable tanks. Able to destroy enemy tanks at extreme ranges and impervious to those same tanks made the King Tiger more than a match for any allied tank. Indeed for the allied forces, the sight of a King Tiger on the battlefield was terrifying and did great physical and morale damage to the enemy. This fame and almost mystical fascination helped it earn its reputation as the most feared weapon of World War 2. For the German forces, it was the hallmark of German armored might and restored morale even in the last days of the war. Due to the havoc it wreaked during the
Ardennes offensive, the allies advancing into Berlin would fear the King Tiger up to the very last day of the war.

THE KIT

Tamiyaís King Tiger is of early 90ís vintage and has crisp molding, no flash and very few ejector pin marks. This particular boxing has the ĎPorscheí turret. It comes in the standard Tamiya tray and lid style box with the sprues molded in the tan coloring. Two sprues are molded in black for the spare track links. The tracks themselves are vinyl but can be cemented together rather than using the clumsy Ďheat rivetedí method. Tamiya also makes an individual track link set that is basically 8 or nine of the spare track sprues included in the kit. If you plan on building the model without the fenders the flexible track can be glued to the road wheels for the proper sag without any trouble. The separate links really arenít needed unless youíre a die hard. There is only one figure included; the tank commander. Even though you can pose the separate hatches open or closed there is no internal detail. If you want that then youíll have to scratch build it or find an aftermarket set. This model wasnít motorized so there are no holes in the lower hull that need filling. You also get a piece of mesh material for the intake screens on the lower hull along with some double sticky tape to attach the screen with. Poly caps are included for the main drive sprokets and return wheels.

 Most all King Tigers had zimmerit applied (especially the 50 Porsche turreted ones). The instructions tell you how to apply the zimmerit coating using Tamiya putty. Unless youíre comfortable with this it can be a daunting task. You can build the kit sans zimmerit but it will look odd to the true armor fan. I managed to get a resin zimmerit set for the Porshe turreted King Tiger made by Cavalier. The set is nicely done, is thin and flexible. It also has portions where the coating has broken or worn off. You get parts for the sides of the hull to do with or without the fenders. The Cavalier set fits the kit fairly well with just a small amount of trimming needed. Some of the fender bracket fittings on the set donít line up with the kit molded in ones. They initially line up at the forward end but get progressively off as you move towards the rear. There is a small resin part for the MG port on the glacis, a resin gun mantlet and a replacement resin rear turret hatch. There have the zimmerit detail applied and are direct replacements for the kit parts. 

CONSTRUCTION

Construction begins with the turret and gun barrel. I had thought of using a turned aluminum barrel but the kit one cleans up nicely. You need to trim the attachment stub on the breech to fit the replacement resin mantlet since the hole for it isnít as deep as the kit one. I left this off anyway until final assembly after painting. The zimmerit resin is attached with thin CA. I did one section at a time; taking special care with the curved section of the commanderís cupola. The seams were touched up with Mr. Surfacer 500 brush applied. The resin rear hatch replaced the kit furnished one. It had some pinholes and voids that needed a bit of touch-up with putty.

 The lower hull begins with the road wheels, drive sprockets and return wheels. The drive sprockets and return wheels have poly caps so you can put them on later with the treads. The rear hull plate has to have some of the molded detail removed to accommodate the resin zimmerit piece. This removed detail is duplicated on the resin.

 The upper hull zimmerit resin parts are now placed. Since I was going to model the tank with the side fenders I chose the appropriate parts from the Cavalier set. The seams where the resin zimmerit pieces meet are on natural join lines of the hull. I scraped the seams flush with an X-Acto then coated them with Mr. Surfacer followed by a few swipes with a sanding stick. Itís not very difficult. The resin has the same location indents for the tools and tow cables as the hull so when you get to the point of attaching those items itíll be easy. 

COLORS & MARKINGS

 At this point I had to paint the road wheels and sprockets (they would mostly be covered by the fenders and difficult to paint later). They were sprayed with Tamiya acrylics (XF-60, XF-64 & XF-61) then hit with a light coat of XF-2 for whitewash. The wheel rims were then painted steel with a fine brush. Before attaching the fenders I had to install the track (you wonít be able to do this later with the fenders in place). The tracks were painted steel, then gun metal followed by an oil wash of burnt sienna. Then they were dry brushed on the tracks with steel to show wear. The road wheels, sprockets and return wheels were then painted in a 3 tone cammo scheme followed by a white wash (more on that later). The tracks were glued together and then installed. I had to use some crumpled tin foil to hold the track to the upper part of the road wheels and glued it in place thus duplicating the sag. Itís a shame it wonít be seen with the fenders on but thatís how it goes sometimes. The fenders were then attached completing the lower hull and making it ready for paint. I purposely left off the tools, tow cables, cleaning rods, etc. I usually paint those separately and glue them on later.

 I wanted to do a winter scheme. Of course you may say thatís easy since itís all white. Not so fast. Usually the white applied was a temporary white wash job that could be removed relatively easier later. You could also see vestiges of the original cammo scheme underneath. So I set out to do a rough 3 color cammo job followed by a white wash. I used Tamiya acrylics for the entire job (same as the noted colors before). The white was a very thinned down mix of Tamiya XF-2 and sprayed very lightly. You can see the original cammo peeking through. I tried to concentrate a heavier white on the upper surfaces and less on the lower areas of the hull.

 By now I have a rather bright (relatively speaking) white tank. Too pristine for a battle hardened veteran. I hit the engine intake and cooling exit areas on the rear deck with some grimy black. The recessed panel lines are taken care of with black and burnt sienna oil washes. The tools and tow cables needed a lot of  cleaning up to remove the mold seam lines. These are all painted then attached to the hull with CA. I also built up the spare track links and painted them but with not as much wear. The spare track sprue also provides brackets for hanging the links on the turret but for some reason the instructions never mention how to assemble or install them. The textured zimmerit was cut/scraped away from where the brackets were to be mounted and they were CAíd in place. Thereís no need to be that accurate on placing the brackets as these were applied in the field where convenient. The spare tracks were used to supplant the armor as well. Once everything is in place I hit the entire model with some more wash. I mix up some Grumbacher burnt sienna and night black oil washes and started applying. These washes really make the zimmerit texture pop out. The road wheels were hit very heavy and the wash brings out the molded details nicely.

 After letting the wash dry itís time to apply the decals. Tamiya includes markings for a winter scheme. Since they are going over the rough zimmerit I hit them with the Solvaset and the decals snuggle down nicely. Once theyíre dry a final coat of Testorís clear flat acrylic and weíre done. 

CONCLUSIONS

 For a kit that I picked up at a show for $15 and another $20 for the resin itís not too bad. The King Tiger is one mean looking tank. I can see why it would strike fear in the hearts of Allied troops that encountered them. The kit is typical Tamiya quality and highly recommended for armour enthusiasts.

 Jeff Brundt

June 2008

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