tamiya_logo.gif (3269 bytes) German Tiger I Early Production - Display Model
1/16 Big Tank Series No.3 - Item 36203
Well, firstly it has to be said that Tamiya have surpassed themselves with this kit. Obviously the large scale affords a high degree of detail - but the moulding is of the highest standard, excellent die-cast drive wheels - and the brass shafts are engineered to a very high standard indeed.

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Even though compared to the R/C versions, the number of parts is small - it still comprises of way more loose parts than your average kit. Getting a store cabinet is is a wise move.

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Photo 1: The suspension arm supports are attached to the inner chassis and the tension pulley assembly is fitted at the rear.

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Photo 2: Once the inner chassis is attached to the lower hull, fitting the torsion bars is next (a little tricky). You have to thread the bars through to the opposite side, but only enough so that you can engage the suspension arm, then turn the arm hard 90 degrees (causing the torsion bar to twist) and then force it fully into the chassis so it snaps into place - after a couple of goes it gets easy.

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Photo 3: Gear box & switch is mounted onto the unit. Sprocket shaft is fitted onto the drive shaft.

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Photo's 4&5: The side skirts have to be thinned to scale thickness (one of the very few cases in the whole kit). The use of the power tool makes this an easy job. (wear safety glasses & mask doing this). Of course, with the plastic thinned to wafer thickness, battle damage can be added easily. Make sure you don't thin right to the bottom edge, doing this perfectly simulates the lip of the sheet metal. The picture below illustrates before and after this process - just be careful not to go too thin, or holes will appear in the plastic. If this does happen, you can either modify it as battle damage, or fill it with putty.

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Photo 6: A chamfered hole was created on the stowage box, and filled using 'Muliput'. Also, using one of the small shaping attachments on the power tool - groves and dents can be effectively sculpted onto area's that would be likely to get damaged.

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Photo 7: One scratch detail I've added so far is the steel cable conduit's for the Bosch headlights. Working from the scale print out from the Tiger I CD - at 1/16th scale, this can be made from 20 gauge copper wire. I then used a rather unorthodox method to make the fixing bracket, by hammering some of this wire flat and grinding it to shape, then bending it to fit the conduit.  A little tricky but it seems to work quite well.

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Photo 8: This is the kit with pretty much most of the construction work done. Next stage will be the painting. Note the metal parts have been primed gray before using the enamel base coat.

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Photo 9: Decided to try something I've never done before. Instead of pre-shading in a darkened base colour or a black undercoat - I sprayed it in brick red. Hopefully this will  add to the to pre-shading effect, but because of the large scale, it will also simulate the actual red-oxide primer applied during construction at Henschel & Sohn. This may also allow the simulation of worn paint, especially on the cast wheels .

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I spent a long time deciding on the type of camo to use on this project - and must confess that appearance is more important to me than historical accuracy. I'm going to use a scheme similar to the Russian campaign in the Summer of 1943 - but am not going to get too stuck on correct unit numbers, ensign or 100% accurate colouring. The reason for this is two-fold. I simply don't have access to all the accessories & materials I'd like in the building of this. But also,  I want to end up with (all going well) a good generic representation of an early production Tiger, basically, if it looks good, I've done it. Determined not to allow super-detailing to obscure my development of this hobby. This attitude may be considered heresy in some quarters, but its pointless trying to achieve too much too soon. If I get hold of the right materials & after-market stuff for future kits, I'll certainly use them.

But, notwithstanding, I've have tried to make some modest changes to the 'out-of-the-box' kit - something I've done very little of to date. The size of the kit not only allows this, to some degree you've no choice.
Here's a list of the custom modifications I've made on this kit - some are pretty elementary. 
  • Opened up the MG barrel.
  • Cut-away the tow-ropes from the barrel cleaning tool's and shaped & drilled them, also made the tie-down's from scrap plastic. Having the tow-ropes in the stowed position on the Tiger has never really appealed to me - it looks too neat and symmetrical. Besides in practice, they were normally fitted to the hooks for quick vehicle recovery.
  • Made conduit for the head-lights from copper wire - at 1/16th scale, it looks terribly vacant without adding this detail. IMO this is the main scratch built extra that has to be added to a Tiger I.
  • Drilled holes at the back of the smoke-launchers. Then drilled a hole next to each  bracket on the turret roof. Then using 20 & 24 gauge copper wire, bent into shape the electrical cables used for operating the launchers & the steel conduit that protected them. Its not 100% accurate, but it a good impression, and its certainly better than doing nothing.
  • Thinned the fender's to scale thickness and added some battle damage.
  • On a side fender I removed a bolt head and drilled a hole, to represent a missing bolt. This must have happened on occasion on the real thing.
  • Drilled out the cuffs of the commander figure
  • Added cables for headphones


Photo's 10&11:.
As mentioned earlier I gave an under-coat of brick-red to simulate the primer used by the Germans in WW2. On top of this was added a 'pre-shade' coat of dark green. Approximately: 35% Tan (hum. 93) - 25% Yellow (hum. 99)  - 10% Dark Green (hum. 102) - 30% matt black was made up. This mix was then sprayed over the whole model, but ensuring full coverage on recessed areas & panel lines. I refrained from spraying this colour on the tops of the exhausts - retaining the red-oxide colour. Quite a period of time elapsed between these two coats to allow each coat to cure fully - this is for a particular technique I'm gonna try later on. On top of this dark coat was a similar mix as above (a lot is needed for 1/16th scale), but with no black and a good bit of white added. Used the well established technique of spraying from the panel centre's & main hull sections - but backing off at the edges or corners so that the darker undercoat shows through. In places I deliberately allowed the 'primer red' to show through , I'm sure in reality the primer undercoat was more thoroughly applied than the base coat (recessed areas for example).
I wanted a light yellowy base coat instead of the traditional dark-yellow base - main influence was the scheme shown on the Tamiya CD of sPzAbt 502.

Another technique I tried at this stage was to temporarily fix the stowage equipment (Shovel's etc) before spraying the lighter base coat. What this achieves is a silhouette of the equipment in the previously applied dark undercoat. Once the area around this equipment had been sprayed, they can be removed for detailed painting later. These darkened areas were then sprayed to lighten them to a faint shadow of the equipment. If this is done right, it gives a nice effect under the stowage equipment - but if too prominent, it looks as is the equipment was sprayed around, rather than being removed during the painting process.

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Photo's 12&13:
The next step was to spray the camo lines. I decided to use the pattern supplied with the instructions, circa 1943. I deliberately added some white to the dark green colour. This tie's the camo lines to the base colour. This avoids the step most modeller's take of misting a coat after the camo has been applied to 'bind the colours together'.

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When the main painting work was complete, it almost looked as if I wouldn't have to do too much more. The reasoning behind this was partly my satisfaction with the application of the base coat and camouflaging (being somewhat loath to spoil it) but also the scale of the kit meant that the shadows are actually real, not simulated. I spent a number of days deliberating on how best to proceed with the finishing of the kit, but eventually overcame the urge to leave it more or less in pristine condition. However, I was determined not to proceed with the conventional two step process of wash & dry-brush.
As mentioned earlier, I under-coated the kit in brick-red. So I started to remove the base/camo paint by very very gently brushing areas of high wear with wet/dry sandpaper. This theoretically can remove; Camo line, Base coat, pre-shade coat, red-oxide and finally expose the plastic or primer/metal part. At this scale it works very well, you can actually see the layers of paint - allowing each coat to cure fully helped this process. It's very easy to rub too hard and actually expose the plastic, however, all that needs to be done is to paint this area in a gun-metal colour. Provided it's not over done, this can be very effective.

Another break from convention was my refusal to use the supplied decals. I scanned the decal sheet, then using a photo editor, cut out the markings I wanted, i.e. Ballencruz, and unit ensign. For the numbers I made up '144' and scaled it down by about 80%. These were then printed on a sheet of transparency using a standard Laser printer. (you need a couple of each)
It was then simply a case of cutting out the shapes using a sharp craft knife, then using magic tape to hold them in place, holding the airbrush perpendicular to the surface, spray over the stencils in the correct colour (dulled down accordingly). I used quite a thick consistency and a lower than normal pressure. This in effect splatters a reasonably thick coat of paint onto the surface of the tank, helping to avoid the paint running under the stencil. This worked very well. I also cut thin strips of the magic tape, for masking the kill markings on the barrel.

I decided to modify the base colour by using a series of techniques to gradually build up the weathering effects, basically this cautious approach ensured that I wouldn't ruin the paint job in one fell swoop. Firstly, I used an extremely thin mix of artist oils (Cinnamon & Peat Brown) similar in principle to FM's Filter's. This did 'tone down' the colours somewhat. Next I applied some 'spot-washes' using a dark brown mix, working on bolt heads & weld seams etc. I then gave another wash with the previously applied Cinnamon/peat mix. These coat's were applied using a generous sized brush, then quickly removing the excess with a large soft flat headed brush. Working on the turret & hull separately. One thing to note, this was all done without a prior application of a clear matte coat.  This is normally a golden rule for most modellers, but if you work quick the base coat will not be damaged. I also felt that the number of coats applied and cure time aided this process also.
I still felt that there was room for more, so I moistened a cotton cloth with the mix, and gently rubbed it onto the kit, again if small amounts are used the base coat will be fine. (in retrospect, this step could have been skipped).
Finally I decided on one more coat, this time, using a slightly heavier mix of the above, but again working as quickly as possible and ensuring the brush wasn't overloaded and brushing off the excess liquid.
This progressive approach worked well on a 1/16th kit, gradually building up to the required level of darkness - basically too dark can look over-worked, too light is unrealistic. Having never worked on this scale before, the drying time for each application allowed me the opportunity to decide if further coats were necessary. Of course, if a heavily weathered kit is desired, then this cautious approach is not necessary.

Once I achieved the level of colour variation I was happy with, I then used 'liquin', this is a  medium for aiding the application of oil paint by artists. It a gel that can be rubbed on using a cloth. I've used this before, and it really does give a good sheen to the painted model, making the kit look as if its metal, rather than just painted plastic. During this whole weathering process I continued to use the wet/dry paper in places to remove the paint coats - again this ensures that it is not overdone in one session - doing a bit, then stopping, is always the best policy. Also used a craft knife for scratches & chips. Once the liquin was dry (about an hour), the painted stowage equipment was attached to the hull, and  a coat of earth colour was misted onto the running gear and lower hull to simulate dirt and dust.  I then decided to stop -  even though more could be done. Because of the scale, I'm reluctant to over do it - with 1/35th, you have to use technique to fool the eye into thinking its looking at a real tank - but I've resisted doing this here. So I'm going let it sit for some time, can always return to it and add more - but only if I'm certain that its necessary.

Unfortunately,  due to the cautious nature of the weathering process, I didn't take shots at each stage - but go to the AFV Gallery for pics of the completed kit.

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For an intro to this project: click here

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