ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale Tiger I Early 131 -- Tunisia 1943

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale '39-'45 Series Kit No. 6820; P z.Kpfw. IV Ausf. E Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger I "131" Early Production - s.Pz.Abt. 5
04 Tunisia - Smart Kit; 759 parts (699 in grey styrene, 29 etched brass, 21 clear styrene, 6 DS Plastic); price US$79.99 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: "personality" kit of one specific tank a nice idea; plenty of o ptions in this kit for other early production tanks
Disadvantages: only comes with DS Plastic track (see text)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Tiger I fans and fans of preserved armor
    While most modelers are familiar with the large number of different Tiger I kits offered by DML, this kit is a bit different as it focuses on one spe cific Tiger I whose history is well documented and which is still extant: T iger I number 131, captured by British forces in Tunisia. The only other on e with a similar "pedigree" is Tiger I number 712, also captured in Tunisia but by American forces and currently being rebuilt at Fort Benning, Georgi a.
    Originally known as Fahrgestelle 250122, this tank was built in early 1943 and was among those shipped to North Africa. On the night of 20/21 April 1 943, it was moving forward to attack British forces when it was ambushed an d suffered three hits from 6-pdr guns. One jammed the turret race, one jamm ed the gun elevation mechanism, and the third hit the loader's hatch. The G erman crew abandoned the tank and the British forces captured it.
    The tank was repaired using parts from other Tiger I tanks knocked out or abandoned and was later sent back to the UK for evaluation and testing at B ovington. It was turned over to the Tank Museum in 1951 and spent the next 39 years as a display.
    Looking a bit peaked and in consideration that a restored and running Tige r I could be a draw, the tank started to undergo rebuilding in 1990. But wi th no flow of funding this took place in fits and starts over the next 13 y ears; when Peter Brown and I visited the restoration shops in 1995 the hull was nearly completely empty with all of the parts strewn around the shop. But in 2003 the tank was able to be shown complete once more and eventually (using the engine from a Tiger II as the original had been cut open for de monstration purposes) it became a runner. In its restored form it is the ce nterpiece of the annual "Tankfest" demonstrations at Bovington which are st ill being carried out.
    DML has taken a number of bits and sprues from its previous Tiger I releas ed and added a few new or tweaked parts to match 131 as captured back in 19 43. There are fewer parts to this kit than some previous releases as it use s fewer etched brass parts and also comes with DS Plastic track runs vice s ingle link or multiple piece single link tracks. As previously noted modele rs either love or hate these tracks, so it is to the individual modeler if that is a good or bad idea.
    This kit uses the original wheel arrangement of single wheels forming sets - a recent one matched the 1/72 scale kits with linked wheel sets but this did not find favor amongst diehard Tiger fans. It comes with the separate torsion bars/road wheel arms and not molded arms found on at least one prev ious entry. (Note that 131 was missing its left front road wheel when captu red.)
    Care must be taken as there are a large number of holes that must be drill ed out for this specific vehicle and also some parts must be trimmed or mod ified. Note that in Step 4 the small drawing on the directions is showing h ow to attach the brackets above the left track run at the rear. Also the it ems in blue are to be shaved off the rear mud guards.
    This kit - as it is an early production Tiger I - comes with the complete "Feifel" air cleaner package but the 131 option uses some different bits th an in the first Tiger I Early kits. The headlight fittings also differ amon g the three tanks offered for construction in the kit so care must again be paid to the directions.
    Most of the rest of the construction is pretty straight forward but the st ub barrel for the turret machine gun surprisingly was not "slide molded" an d will need to be drilled out.
    Technical consultants on this kit were David Byrden, Tom Cockle and Gary E dmundson.          As noted three different tanks (with detail differences called out in the directions!) can be built from this kit: s.Pz.Abt. 504, Tunisia April 1943 (red 131, sand and green camouflage); s.Pz.Abt. 502, Second Battle of Lake Ladoga, Russia, March 1943 (whitewash over grey, white 01); s.Pz.Abt. 505, Ukraine Spring 1944 (sand/green/red brown stripes, black 121). A small shee t of targeted decals is provided by Cartograf.
    Overall the idea of picking a specific Tiger I with a long history is a go od one - alas, since Tiger I 712 was visually destroyed as a "cutaway" in t he late 1940s it is unlikely it can receive similar treatment.
    Thanks to Freddie Leung and Dragon USA for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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