1/48 German Tiger I Initial Production (Afrika Korps)
Kit Number: 32529
Reviewed by  Dennis Tennant, IPMS# 41582
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MSRP: $30

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Having read a lot of positive reviews about Tamiya's earlier 1/48 scale armor kits, I jumped at the chance to build a model of a Tiger that saw action in North Africa. This kit consists of six crisply-molded brownish-green sprues of flash-free plastic with some light mold lines and injector pin marks to clean up. Armed with excellent instructions and box art, I was ready to complete this project in a couple of weekends.

[review image] This kit, like their other armor kits in this scale, features a one-piece diecast hull (they say it adds to the realism…you be the judge of that). It is well molded but limits options for basing and dioramas. With a suspension that can't be articulated you're forced to model a tank with all its road wheels level. With a metal hull and numerous plastic parts to attach to it, you'll need to use superglue to hold everything in place. The fit of the drive housing parts as well as the engine deck/upper hull is excellent, with just the thinnest of gaps left to fill. The weld beads that run along the top edges of the upper hull deck are modeled but are a bit too uniform and shallow when compared to photographs of the real thing. Add that to a list of things to improve upon.

The turret is accurate for the 1943 production model and has the correct asymmetrical shape. [review image] The main gun comes in two halves that line up fairly well. Careful sanding and filling eliminated the seam in minutes. The turret roof weld seam is where it should be and the commander's cupola has multiple parts that build into an accurate copy of the original. The command hatch can be built closed or open (with the included Afrika Korps tanker jauntily posed leaning on the open hatch).

I was surprised to find the commander and loader hatches with molded-on grab handles instead of with the separate parts needed for a more realistic look. The same is true for the two hatch cover handles on the rear engine deck. I was overcome with Advanced Modelers Syndrome and added a proper grab handle to the commander's hatch. The extra effort spent doing this looked so good that I suggest adding grab handles to the "to do" list of things to improve upon too.

This kit has both separate and molded-on pioneer tools. The large shovel in front of the driver's view port and the sledge hammer beside the driver's hatch are the only tools molded individually. Careful painting and weathering will be needed to successfully hide the fact that the wire cutters, axe and spade are molded to the hull. I wish Tamiya had made the extra effort to mold all the tools instead of just a few.

The drive sprockets are wonderfully detailed. A poly cap goes inside both sprockets and return rollers to make track assembly and weathering easier. You just slide them on and off as needed during construction. The tracks are link and length and, with the help of an included jig, are very easy to assemble with the correct amount of sag for a Tiger. The road wheels have just the slightest hint of a seam going down the middle of the tire (these tanks had the rubber-rimmed tires, not steel) but a couple passes of a 1200-grit sanding pad took care of that. They are numbered on their backsides to make a potentially complicated assembly much easier.
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The Feifel air cleaners were a feature of this model Tiger and are modeled cleanly with good detail on the hoses leading to the engine. The tank rear hull is accurate and features a detailed three-piece jack, air cleaner guards and spare track links stowed across the bottom (the instructions have you simply gluing the links to the lower edge of the rear hull but they should have some sort of bracket holding them in place - easily made from scrap plastic). Two nicely-detailed towing cables are included to go across the engine deck with attachment points up front near the two hatches. A smaller diameter cable is separately molded for use on the side of the tank (a nice touch as other manufacturers simply mold it into the side).

This kit went together very smoothly with minimal effort. The instructions were clear and the sprues well-marked, making my eight hour experience an enjoyable one. The kit decals are for two Tigers of the sPzAbt 501 based in Tunisia in 1943. The decal's carrier film is a bit thick but the turret numbers and crosses settled down nicely atop a layer of Future with a bit of Micro-set and Micro-sol.

According to my references this kit scales well with the sources I had on hand. In addition to the shortcomings mentioned previously, the main gun is a bit too short (about 2mm) and the headlights are located incorrectly for Tiger #813 (they should be mounted lower). No worries though, I plan to correct those errors when I build my second one!

While you can make a very good model of an Afrika Korps Tiger tank from this kit, a little extra work can make this kit a winner. The detail found on this kit truly rivals that found on many 1/35 scale kits. I highly recommend this kit. Thanks to Tamiya-America for providing IPMS with a review copy.
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