15 Feb 2011

August 1942

Tiger I, Initial (Tiger 111, sPzAbt 502)

The first production build of this run incorporates mainly items from Dragon 6252, Tiger 1 Initial Production, Leningrad 1943.  The actual AFV it depicts is possibly a composite, but will represent one of the very first production versions (Fgst 250001 to 250010) produced in August 1942 as it has ‘mirrored’ left & right handed tracks, exhaust flappers and a special sPzAbt 502 tool configuration.  The build is a facsimile of the second Tiger in MMiR’s ‘The Modeller’s Guide to the Tiger Tank’ with one or two differences; the tank will have battle tracks, rather than transport tracks.

The finish of the kit includes base-colour tactical number (111) with white outlines on left and right aspects of the turret and the large sPzAbt 502 mammoth on the rear of the turret (and a smaller mammoth on the front right of the bow plate).  There is no turret bin on this build

Features of this build include;

  • Early, atypical tool configuration (five longer cleaning rods, two 1200mm crow bars, tool stowage on the rear plate, which will be a modification of the kit)
  • Hull mounted twin Bosch light mounts
  • Circular armoured wiring hubs for the hull light wiring points
  • KGS 63/725/120 mirror tracks
  • Very early style mantlet with binocular sights, but without reinforcing rib or shield
  • The final drive area still had a cut-out for the Vorpanzer, however, the pivot aperture was welded shut as the additional glacis plate armour was now defunct
  • Relatively featureless external starter guide plate, mounted diagonally
  • Lack of jack & block (there will be some mounting for the jack on the rear plate only)
  • Lack of exhaust shrouds
  • Antenna mount on the right upper rear plate
  • Lack of side-skirt mudguards and the final appearance of the locking fillets on the hull sides, front and back
  • No track changing cable
  • Early simple bent metal track front mudguards & rear (fixed removable fender secured by six bolts to a base plate)
  • Early-style fume extractor (without cap, which was dispensed with whilst in combat to assist clearing toxic cordite fumes from the crew compartment after firing the gun)
  • Exhaust hinged flappers (note the angle of mounting)
  • Presence of toggle bolts to attach wading guard to the bow MG port
  • KFF2 periscopic sights for the driver above the driver’s visor
  • Factory-installed smoke grenade launchers on the turret
  • Initial style welded loaders hatch on the turret
  • The commanders cupola was a drum version and had rain shield mounting rods
  • Two asymmetrical armoured pistol ports in the rear of the turret
  • Both outer front road wheels will be removed to reduce the risk of fouling due to the extreme terrain during time of deployment on the Leningrad front

Note on the kit; I understand that there is one omission in the instructions relating to the underside of the tank.  The early Tigers had two circular bolted engine access plates, one of which is moulded into the lower hull, the other (part F19) needs to be added, however, is not mentioned in the instructions.  I also note that the bolt alignment is suspect and I will need to check my references (or leave it as a minor unresolved issue if I can’t face such minutiae – this and bolt alignment of the sprocket wheels, however, I may give that a miss).  In comparison to late versions marketed by Dragon this kit has relatively few spares.  The OVM tools are offered with or without moulded brackets (which is useful for the two crowbars), however, there is not much ‘fat’ in the kit, such as unused Feifel or hollow guide horn composite spare trackage, unlike later versions (including the CH Fehrmann Tiger).  One bonus, however, is that this kit offers very early-style sprocket wheels and a full set of rubber-tyred road wheels, which can be deployed or swopped with an alternative set for a hybrid version or mid-version simultaneously with an off-the-shelf Tiger such as the Kurzmaul Tiger 1, late.

The turret right-hand rear pistol port has been inversed as I understand that Tiger 111 had asymmetrical pistol ports, as with several other Initial Tigers.  To do this I used the kit part ‘not for use’ as it was easier to modify, however I still used the armoured plug intended for the original part as it fitted especially well once the inverse piece had been modified.  In order to get a correct fit I drew a template around the part for use when dry-fitted so that the inverse piece would sit in the same place (you can see some pencil markings here).


The Dragon Tiger 1 early cupola deserves only a little extra attention.  First, all of the cupola drain holes were filled with Tipp-Ex, then sanded down, as some of the indents are not perpendicular, but are oblique to the surface.  Once a smooth finish was achieved I re-drilled the holes with a 0.4mm drill bit.  The final effect is superior to the styrene casting.  You can see this here and in fact can see some of the excess oblique hole in the styrene, outlined with white filler, sanded down to the surface.

I also think that Dragon Bosch lights deserve a wee bit of attention here.  The kit parts for the light hub and lights are excellent, however, there are one or two issues that the later ‘Smart’ kits have beaten 6252 on.  Inferior to the hub is a hexagonal bolt detail, missing in these kit pieces, yet present in Smart Kits (look closely at the lateral shot – you can just see the added bolt detail.  I used a 0.8mm Plastruct hex rod for this).  Further, the Smart kit pieces have the filament at the rear of the Bosch light, yet this kit will deed that to be upgraded.  That said; I think the wire receiver on these kit parts is better, as it is slightly wider and therefore lends itself better to being drilled out.  For this build I have chosen to deploy the Bosch lights on the hull, rather than the glacis (as I done with the later DAK build), further I have decided to leave the lights off & show the exposed plug detail using parts J9, which are actually very finely detailed.  In all, I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the light configuration and detailing.  With respect to armoured light hubs/roses; I note that in addition to Jentz & Doyle’s DW to Tiger 1 Achtung Panzer also states that the conical hubs were used in the early forms of the Initial/Early Tiger 1’s, yet the angulated roses were used later.  It does not, however, state exactly when this changed.  I will use this conical format for the initial-style Tiger builds.

The other item of note is the partly represented spare track retention system; on two photographs of 111 I am sure that there is evidence for this apparatus’ existence on the AFV and as a result I have decided to leave it be, albeit in a somewhat ramshackle fashion (the upper bar is missing here, which gives it a little untold story, I believe).  The upper bar would have been thicker, yet the side attachments are thinner than the lower, static, bar.  I did a little bit of PE deleting the other day, yet decided that this item should stay.

Looking at the frontal aspect you notice a lack of relief of the holes to the lateral parts of the glacis that attach the front mudguards; these circular apertures will later be built up with a disc, but this early in the series they are simple holes in the armour.  They are for the use of disguising camouflage gear (I read that this was to attach something to the tank to make it look more like a truck, but have not seen the device so will leave it at that).

Rear plate; here you can see WIP for the unique tool stowage system for Tiger 111 of sPzAbt 502 in 1942.  The rear mudguards that are Dragon items; actually very well represented here, as the Voyager parts have separate bolts, which is unnecessary.  The crank started handle is a modified Tamiya piece from their Panzer IV OVM tool set.  In addition to the sledge hammer, crank handle, jack supports and track pin tool I will add one final tool; the spade, which lies over the sledge hammer, perpendicular to its axis (i.e. vertically) with the shovel blade at the top.

The tow hitch has two PE pieces attached to a grey Slater’s rod for the tow bar.  This is a nice touch for the super-detailer.  This may be the final time we see the older style cat’s eyes Notek convoy light at the rear, as it was replaced with a cylindrical convoy tail-light in September 1943, such as seen in the DAK build.

The exhaust stack flappers were operated by a turn-key mechanism, which is not represented in the kit; Mitsuru Bitoh shows this in his diagrams of Achtung Panzer #6, so I thought that I might add the finer detail here.  In my next build I will make sure that the flappers are open and these keys are in the correct position.  It is unclear to me whether or not these keys were removable or twist open/shut like on the Panzer IV louvers (i.e whether they were permanently present), but I quite fancied detailing the build thus.  For this I used Eduard pieces from a long discarded Panzer IV PE sprue.

Engine deck and rear hull sides; here you can see that I have added the Voyager Model engine deck screens; the reticulated pattern is well presented, however, these screens are two dimensional in that they do not have the folded down edge detail, as the later Dragon kits provide.  I have detailed the hinge-bolts of the deck latches as well as the lugs (albeit hollow ones, which is incorrect; I may not use this detail in future).

You will notice the absence of brass grab handles on this model.  For the most part I find dragon handles to be superior in detail as the ends are often more finely detailed than straight wire (the handle often widens just before the hull, which is nigh-on impossible to reproduce with a paper clip).  I feel that if you sand these items carefully they will do an excellent job; all you need is a pair of fine toothed forceps, a gentle touch and a fine sanding stick, that said; I notice in Achtung Panzer #6 the loaders hatch grab handle is squashed flat, which means that it is a hollow tube of metal rather than a solid rod.

You can also clearly see the filling required to eliminate the Feifel hole in the engine bay door (thereby backdating Dragon 6252).  You can also see the asymmetry of the two rear pistol ports on the turret; I was pleased that the base kit offers spare parts to represent this albeit with a little ‘savvy’.

With respect to the engine deck there will be one further detail required; the fire extinguisher.  This will be the same pattern as later in the run, but will have a slightly different position.  You will also note the circular filler holes, which are not represented in Tamiya kits; the main reason why I will also be using 6252 for the upcoming DAK build.  This appearance changed in January 1943; the middle filler caps had squared lateral flanges from that date, but was not consistently so.

The right rear hull side shot shows the particularly excellent spare antenna stowage tube straight out of the 6252 box; this piece alone makes 6252 worth every penny in a super-detailers mind.  You will notice that it protrudes beyond the rear plate and that the capped end is posterior in this model; not only will it move forward later, but it will also be turned around, presumably for the Feifel and later S-mine launchers and, of course, access to the tube itself.  Here you will also note the turned brass antenna (RB Models, Armorscale & Aber all produce an incredibly similar piece, but judging by the minute additional thickness I would be inclined to think that this was a recently purchased RB Models piece – I keep them all in one bag).

Finally in these shots you will notice the symmetrically placed twin crowbars (I opted for the 1200mm in the end; a pragmatic decision on my behalf, as I couldn’t face the debate).  The PE detailing at the tips of the bars is from the Dragon kit, the 3-part hinged straps are Voyager Model (for continuity throughout the project).  Talking of which; the Voyager Model PE set is dramatically incorrect with its instructions and extremely frustrating as the numbers are completely wrong.  Inexperienced PE detailers could be thwarted by this.

The final topic of discussion rests entirely with the turret smoke dischargers.  Right from the start these six Dragon brass forms stun you.  The turret mounted smoke dischargers fired a Schnellnebelkerze (NbK-S-39) smoke canister and had a slightly complex firing mechanism (at least, complex to correctly render it in 1/35).  The kit option does include parts for the firing mechanism and spring clip retainer, but omits the retaining chain or wire from the turret.  These items were factory installed from August 1942 until May 1943 (the Tiger 1 was still designated as Early then, but minus the smoke dischargers).  I feel that yet again Voyager Model lets the detailer down as the kit parts do require a little something, yet the aftermarket contingent are silent.  I have scratched the ignition wore from the turret to the canisters and created weld beading around the superior surface of the smoke dischargers’ attachment strip.  The interior detail of these canisters is actually highly impressive and Dragon gets a big thumbs-up from me for that.

If this Tiger tank were musical I believe it would be a version of Jo Whiley’s Live Lounge; stripped back to the bare bones, yet essentially beautiful and melodic.  The frippery of the later Tigers is absent, evidenced by the speed of construction and detailing.  This final series of shots shows the first project completed bar one item; addition of the grub screws to the gun sleeve, which I will add before moving on to the DAK Tiger.  I will explain this process and the rationale for it when I show pictures at the time.

These four overhead shots give you a general impression of what 111 would have looked like in its heyday.  The rain cover posts are in situ (an afterthought last night), the fire extinguisher is made with the Voyager Model PE & a modified Tamiya piece (nice to see Tamiya put another look in there) and the obvious soft copper Karaya cable mounted as though for immediate deployment in case of problems.  You can also see the five gun cleaning rods, which were individually cleaned up, separated and had their ends opened up with a 0.5mm drill bit to accommodate the ,ale/female pairing mechanism when making the single rod (these individual rods are longer than the later ones used on the Tiger 1 and are not available as an AM item (that I am aware of), so I modified the kit pieces).

The completed rear plate shows the unique OVM tool stowage that 111 had.  The OVM tool detailing includes (from left to right); brackets for the jack, crank started handle, track pin tool, spade and sledge hammer.  I have looked very closely at the rear of 111 to ascertain whether the tool on the right was a sledge hammer or an axe, but in one shot it looks like the former, the other the latter (shadows cause an awful lot of confusion).  In the absence of upper hull detail shots I have omitted further OVM tools save the fire extinguisher (which you can see clearly here) and cleaning rods from the tank.  This picture also shows you the angular style of the initial towing U-hooks; another fine piece of detailing from Dragon as even the pins are metal.  The tow cable has the longer (earlier) shanks to the tow eyes, these will change to the shorter style soon enough.

Front plate and glacis; little more to add about this view other than the sublimely detailed front mudguards.  These were unique to the Initial production and were phased out relatively quickly.  Dragon do offer an appliqué PE part (with no less than three tread-plate pattern options), but Voyager Model take the prize with 3-D detailing, rivet detail and fantastic hinges (two per side), which obfuscates from the very start!  One tiny additional item of detail are the mudguard latches; three parts of PE per side, a hook, its base and a strap for the fender.  Fantastic!

This gives you a glimpse of the additional detailing that the drum cupola and loaders hatch got before completion; the addition of the rain shield posts and some finer detailing of the hinges of those areas in PE.  I was going to stamp on the loaders hatch grab handle with my size 10 jackboots, but sense got the better of me there.  The turret is still intact…

This project used the following items;

  • Dragon PzKpfwVI Ausf E SdKfz 181, Tiger 1 Initial Production, ref 6252
  • Masterclub Tiger 1 Initial tracks, ref MC135007W
  • Voyager Model Tiger 1 Initial Type PE set, ref 35055
  • RB Models 8.8cm KwK 36 L/56 Tiger I (early model), ref 35B01
  • Aber MG 34 machine gun tips barrel for turret mount, ref 35L83
  • Archer fine surface detail resin numbers for casting marks
  • Aber Barrel for German Tank MG 34 machine guns, ref 35L63
  • RB Models turned brass antenna, ref 35A02
  • Academy Tiger 1 early sprocket wheels
  • MIG Early Tiger 1 Battle Damaged set, ref MP35264 (only the damaged road wheels were used)

Thanks for looking in!



  1. Nice blog you have here, Bill. It's now in my "Favorites" folder.

    Just to note, Aber 35177 Tiger I Initial Production PE set contains the smoke discharger assemblies. They are super, including the clips and connectors.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to look & most especially to comment - I agree Aber PE is amazing. I have some Tigers with Aber PE in the series: stay tuned! I do, however, prefer Voyager Model PE.