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  1. Tiger I Initial Production (BT-014) Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E s.Pz.Abt.502 Leningrad Region 1942/3 Winter 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Tiger tank was part of Hitler's obsession for bigger, heavier and stronger, which drove him to extraordinary and dizzying heights of impracticality at times, but in this case served him reasonably well. The goal was to mount the extremely powerful and accurate 88mm cannon used in the Flak 36 in a tank with sufficient armour to withstand any artillery round then-fielded by the enemy. This series of objectives were achieved, but at the cost of reliability and a prodigious thirst for fuel. It also made for some nervous bridge-crossings, as the finished article weighed in at almost 60 tonnes, which was too much for many smaller bridges of the day. A deep-water fording kit was created to get around that issue, allowing the tanks to ford streams and smaller rivers where the bridges or culverts wouldn’t take their weight. A competition was held with only two contenders, and it was the ignominy of the filmed breakdown of the Porsche designed prototype and subsequent fire on his birthday that decided Hitler in favour of the less ambitious Henschel design which became the Tiger, and then the Tiger I after the King Tiger or Tiger II came into being. When it first reached the front it caused panic and heavy losses for the Allies, being capable of almost everything it was designed to do, including knocking out tanks long before the enemy's guns were able to bring them within range. Even when the Allies could get their own guns within range, it wasn't until they got much closer, almost to point-blank range, that they had any measurable chance of crippling or destroying the mighty Tiger, especially during frontal engagements, where a shot might just ricochet off harmlessly. Many of the early Tigers were lost to mechanical breakdown due to excessive strain on the transmission caused by the weight, and had to either be dragged off the field by Famo half-tracks under the cover of darkness, under armoured protection, or failing that, destroyed by demolition charges to prevent them falling into the enemy's hands. The Tiger underwent constant changes throughout production to improve performance, fix problems, simplify and cheapen construction, but these are generally lumped together into early, middle or late productions for the sake of the sanity of us modellers. If you want to get maximum accuracy of fit and finish, check your references for certainty. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Border Model, and while some may be thinking “do we need another Tiger?”, other people’s Tigers don’t make any money for Border, and it’s a popular subject. This boxing represents the first production of the vehicle, before the Feifel air filters were installed on the rear bulkhead, and other early equipment and appendages that were later dropped altogether, or amended in light of experience, or the need to simplify construction to get more into the fight sooner. It arrives in a top-opening box, with a painting of a camouflaged Tiger in winter terrain, backed-up by a short-barrelled Panzer IV, as often happened in the field, as there were often insufficient Tigers to create a full squadron. Inside the box are thirteen sprues and the lower hull in grey styrene, some of which are joined together in the box to confuse the numbers, a clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a length of flexible braided wire, a turned aluminium barrel, two sprues containing a pair of figures, a simple decal sheet, and the instruction booklet that is printed in landscape A4 on glossy paper, with spot colour throughout, and colour profiles on the rear pages that have been penned for them by AMMO, using their paint codes. Detail is good, and it is an exterior-only kit, with no evidence that an interior is planned, although it’s always possible. The surface detail is crisp and well-moulded, but they have elected not to depict the subtle rolled-steel texture that is often seen on armour, possibly because a great many German tanks were covered with Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste, or because it’s fairly easy to depict it yourself with some basic tools and liquid glue, allowing you to be as subtle as you like with the texture. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a pair of circular inspection hatches added into recesses under the rear, two torch-cut towing eyes at the rear of the hull sides, which have overlapping joints for strength, then the rear bulkhead with a few holes drilled in it, and the torsion bar suspension with swing-arms and stub axles glued into the end, which lock in place in sockets on the opposite wall of the hull. The front portion of the hull walls are detailed with armoured surrounds to the final drive bell-housings, then the road wheels are started, adding the innermost layer in a similar manner to the real thing, layering them to spread out the ground-pressure. If you are depicting your Tiger in transport configuration, the outermost wheels are left off and the next layer have different caps with a PE spring-clip in the centre, although at this stage the reason for leaving them off isn’t mentioned in the instructions. The final drive housings, next layer of paired wheels and towing loops are next, followed by another set of paired wheels and the spoked idler wheels at the rear, then the optional outer layer and (non-optional) drive sprockets to complete the drivetrain. Tracks for this kit are link-and-length, taking advantage of modern moulding techniques to shorten the process of creating a realistic-looking track run by moulding the straight sections as a single part on the top and bottom runs. The instructions show the two curved sections front and rear, using 25 links at the front, and 20 in the rear, with each of the single links having two guide-horns glued in place before they are installed. The instructions show a few guide-horns being added to the top and bottom single-part runs, but inspection of the parts shows they already have them moulded-in. I’m confused. The completed runs are added to the road wheels once complete, although its probably best to drape the runs around the road wheels while the glue is setting, in order to obtain the correct shape and sag where appropriate. Attention then switches to the upper hull, which must first have a collection of holes drilled out from inside, and the hinges for the forward hatches glued inside the cut-outs, adding the hatches with their clear periscopes once the glue is dry. Flipping the assembly over, armoured covers are added over the periscopes, the heavy cast grilles at the back of the engine deck are installed and backed up with interior flat covers, and a choice of two styles of central cover in the middle of the deck. A mushroom vent and pair of wire cutters are fixed to the roof of the forward deck, adding more tools around them and in the shadow of the turret sides. The twin headlights have a clear lens at the centre, and their conduit snakes away into the hull, bravely adding an aerial on the right deck before joining the upper and lower hull together. The headlight conduits are fixed in place by a pair of PE clamps, and four PE mesh panels are glued over the large grilles to keep dust and grenades out of the engine compartment, adding the rear mudguards, Notek convoy light, towing eyes and the start of detailing the rear bulkhead. Turning to the front, the top glacis plate with driver’s vision slot and bow gun socket are applied before it is slipped into the hull, adding a pair of appliqué plates over the hull sides to give it additional thickness, which makes me wonder if alternative boxings with Zimmerit may be in the pipeline, as all horizontal sides are separate parts. The twin exhaust stacks are made up using a series of alternative cylindrical parts depending on which decal option you are planning, building the jack from nine parts plus two more brackets, then fitting the assemblies on the rear bulkhead, plus the armoured bases and thinner shrouds, and a number of brackets that run down the sides of the deck to hold the two towing cables, which are made up from the length of wire plus styrene eyelets and tie-down brackets, although no lengths are given, but could be divined by laying the eyelets on the deck and looping the wires through the tie-downs and back again. More pioneer tools are nestled around the towing cables, and a cap or wading trunk is installed in the rear of the deck, with the jack block attached to the bulkhead on the left using PE straps to hold it on, and adding two PE supports under it. At the front, the remaining horizontal(ish) section of the glacis is put in place, using one of two alternatives, the larger part having a pair of PE mudflaps laid over the ends. The bow machine gun port is surrounded by an armoured bezel before slipping the barrel into the ball-mount, and the driver’s vision port is up-armoured by a four-part assembly with a bullet-splash shield fixed in front on the deck. Two short lengths of spare track are applied to the lower glacis on a pair of C-rails doubling up as extra armour, although it wasn’t really needed at this time of the war. Having said that this is not an interior kit, the initial steps of building the turret from the lower ring and two halves includes adding a pair of seats around the rim, and creating a basic breech for the main gun. The gun itself is supplied on the sprues in styrene, but you can use the turned aluminium barrel in the box to avoid any seam filling and take advantage of the crispness of the metal part. It fixes into the inner mantlet and is locked in place by a clip, with the basics of the recuperator around the inner end, to which the breech block and brass-catcher box-frame are added, gluing the assembly in between the turret sides and installing the two-layer outer mantlet and cylindrical sleeve that is moulded as a single part by sliding it over the barrel. The muzzle brake is assembled from three styrene parts and fixed onto a keyed peg at the end of the barrel, then the turret roof with loader’s hatch and a choice of fume extractor at the rear of the roof. The complicated commander’s cupola is built on a clear castellated circular base, adding five clear lenses over the raised sections, and then lowering the toroidal styrene outer over the top and making up the hatch with three locking ‘dogs’ on the inside, pull handle and hinge on the outside, with the option of leaving it mobile by applying the glue to the four-part hinge sparingly. A rack of three smoke grenade launchers are fitted on brackets on each side of the mantlet, adding a pair of grab handles and pivot plugs nearby. One decal option has a pair of additional stowage boxes on the sides of the turret, looking like a pair of ‘jug ears’, which are each made from a single shell, two-part lid, and four attachment brackets, duplicated on the opposite side. The other decal options and most Tigers had a bustle box at the rear, although these early boxes were more complex than later variants, but it is made up from only three parts. My example had suffered some damage to the brackets, so check yours when you get it. The turret is a drop-fit onto the hull, so remember that next time you get the urge to look at the underside. Figures There are two figures included in the box, which I suspect may be limited to the initial pressing, as they aren’t mentioned in the instructions. Both figures are standing and pointing, dressed in padded winter uniforms with hoods, one of whom is the commander of the tank with a peaked cap and headphones, holding a pair of binoculars in his free hand. The other figure is infantry, as evidenced by his rifle, steel helmet, gas mask canister, day bag, water bottle, and the webbing moulded into his torso. Sculpting is excellent, with sensible breakdown of parts, and splitting the hood into a separate part between the torso and head gives extra detail. Even though there are no instructions with my example, the parts’ locations are self-evident, and this is reinforced by the presence of pegs and slots that differ in shape and size between the parts, so you can’t get it wrong unless you really try. Common sense and referring to the picture on the front of the box should see you through, as well as help you with the painting of the figures once complete. Markings There are four options included, but they relate to three vehicles, with one option being a camouflage variation that was applied to the same vehicle at some point. As mentioned, the profiles are drawn by AMMO, so the colours and suggested additional weathering materials are all available from AMMO, however the colour names should be sufficient to allow you to use your preferred brand of paints and weathering potions. From the box you can build one of the following: S.Pz.Abt.503, Tosno, September 1942 S.Pz.Abt.502, Mishkino, February 1943 S.Pz.Abt.502, Leningrad Sector, September 1942 S.Pz.Abt.502, Leningrad Sector, September 1942 The decals are all white apart from two black number 3s, so registration isn’t an issue, and the sharpness and colour density should be suitable for your use. Conclusion There are many Tiger kits out there, and this is the new offering from Border. It ticks most of the boxes unless you wanted an interior, and is more detailed than many out there, but not the most detailed or complicated. It’s a good mainstream kit, and the link/length tracks should be less time-consuming and fiddly than individual links, which could tempt some adherents away from rubberband tracks. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
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