Home > Reviews > Germany WWII > Dragon Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Late Production “3-in-1” (6253)


Dragon Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Late Production “3-in-1” (6253)

by Frank De Sisto

1/35-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit containing 660 plastic parts (including 20 clear and some “not for use”), one bag of individual track links, 14 turned brass or aluminum parts, two lengths of braided metal wire, one piece of pre-formed wire, one spring, eight metal parts, 16 stamped/etched brass parts, five photo-etched brass frets, over two-dozen decal/markings options and ten pages of instructions in 20 steps.

This kit has been one of the most-heralded releases of the current year, so I will not bother to attempt to start out by heaping superlatives upon it. I’ll leave that to others and let the kit speak for itself. I think the best way of describing this kit is to simply begin by listing its display options, parts options, finishing options and accessories (with apologies to Terry at PMMS; it seems we both had the same idea of how to begin our reviews … only his came first!). I will only say this: the designers of this kit have taken their art to yet another level. It will be very interesting to see how (or if) DML’s Pz.Kpfw.IV kits can surpass this one.

Display options:

• Gun mantles: three styles; use only parts B-4 for regular version or B-5 for the command version; however, D-11, with the binocular T.Z.F.9b sight was seen, albeit rarely.
• Muzzle brakes: two styles, large or small.
• Turret roof plates: 40mm type; either single-plate or two-plate versions, one with “pilzen” crane-mounting sockets, which can be removed for more variety.
• Turret escape hatch hinges: two styles.
• Turret vent covers: standard or deep wading cover.
• Turret storage locker doors: opened or closed.
• “Nahvertigungenswaffe” (close-in defense weapon) port: opened or closed, with internal details.
• Loader’s hatches: choice of three, but do not use part F-6, which has only been documented as being seen on Tiger IIs.
• Commander’s cupolas: with and without rain gutters; an anti-aircraft mount is also provided, but no MG34 is given.
• Driver’s visor opened (using a single part) or closed, (using a multi-part assembly); includes clear part for glass vision block.
• Idler wheels: use only the smaller type; do not use parts B-2 and B-3.
• Drive sprockets: two styles, although I cannot tell the difference!.
• Road wheels: two styles, although I cannot tell the difference!.
• Hull rear plates: F-3 with, and F-4 without mounts for command version’s antenna storage tube.
• Separate two-position hatches for crewmen, all with internal details (including clear periscopes or vision blocks); engine deck access hatch (with choice of two air intake cowls) and rear engine deck grills; radiator filler cap.
• New driver’s and radio operator’s hatches (use parts J-22 and J-23).
• Basic internal detail for the turret includes gun breech, seats, co-axial machine gun and mount, loader’s hatch counterweight/spring and Nahvertigungenswaffe mechanism. The hull interior includes driver’s visor interior, bow machine gun and mount, torsion bars and mounts; fuel tanks, radiators, fans and wood splinter panels on either side of the engine compartment.
• The kit has instructions for building a late production or final production, as well as a command Tiger, thus its “3-in-1” designation. Using proper references, more variety is possible by swapping parts. For example, one can remove the pilzen mounts from the two-plate turret roof, or add them to the single-plate roof using styrene tube.

Optional styrene or multimedia parts:
• Gun tube: turned aluminum/styrene or styrene only; either can be made to recoil using provided spring.
• Fenders: stamped/etched brass or styrene only.
• Glacis plate/mud flap mounts: etched brass/styrene or styrene only.
• Tools and clamps: two sets of styrene tools; one with attached clamps, the second set without clamps, which are separate etched brass parts.
• Jack and mount: etched brass/styrene or styrene only.
• Tow hooks: two different types; styrene only or metal, with turned aluminum pins.
• Tow cables and clamps: brass wire/etched brass/styrene assembly or one-piece styrene only.
• Track mounting cable and clamps: brass wire/etched brass/styrene assembly or one-piece styrene only.
• Antenna rod storage tubes: turned brass/etched brass assemblies or styrene only.
• “Sternantenna” (star antenna): etched brass/styrene assembly or styrene only.
• Turret storage locker hinges and locks: molded-on styrene details that can be replaced with etched brass parts.
• Engine air intake grills, fans, radiators and fuel tanks (combines styrene and etched/stamped brass parts, including external screens).
• Track fenders: stamped/etched brass or styrene only.

Finishing options and accessories:
• One new “Gen 2” (Generation Two) figure composed of 15 parts, plus p-e. He depicts Michael Wittmann, and includes such fine touches as hollow sleeves (with separate hands), separate collar, optional etched brass insignia, hobnails on his boots and separate shoulder-boards (styrene or etched brass).
• Turned brass and plastic 8.8cm rounds and empty cases, with p-e bases; wooden ammo boxes; stamped brass bucket.
• Over two-dozen markings options, including every Tiger from the 1.Kp. and 2.Kp. s.SS.Pz.Abt.101 (plus battalion command Tigers and three of Wittmann’s mounts in Normandy) as well as three Tigers from s.H.Pz.Abt.508.

Sounds like quite a lot is provided by DML, wouldn’t you say? This is further borne out by the fact that the box was literally bulging with parts; it would not close fully as supplied from the manufacturer. Luckily my sample was shipped in a sturdy outer cardboard box with shredded paper padding! It should be noted that, contrary to what some might have you believe, it is NOT an easy matter to come up with a new box. Doing so entails tooling costs; it is not accomplished by “osmosis”. But, I digress …

Overall, the detail on the parts and the molding quality is rated as excellent. “Cast” parts have excellent texture, while weld beads are also nicely depicted. Such items as nuts, bolts, rivets and hinges are crisply represented. Wherever it was deemed useful by the kit’s designers, slide-molds were employed to maximize detail or simplify construction. Parts that use this technique include the new, one-piece torsion bars (with countersunk holes on the arms), and pre-bored muzzle brakes, MG barrels and Nahvertigungenswaffe tube. The turret storage locker also benefits with complete details on all faces. Other smaller items such as the tow cable ends and the foot-pad of the vehicle jack benefit from this technique, as do the spent cases for the 8.8cm KwK. This is also evident on the spare track links (perfectly formed ends where the track pins are depicted), which also include separate guide horns for a completely accurate appearance; full sets of these tracks for this kit can be obtained by using the provided contact info in the instructions.

Multimedia parts are used for maximum details. For instance, the Bosch head-lamp comes with a pre-formed wire to represent conduit. The tow cables and track maintenance cables can be built using braided brass wire (pre-weathered!), styrene end loops and etched brass mounting clamps and brackets. The provided 8.8cm ammunition in (turned brass or styrene) can have etched brass base plates added. The engine fan/radiator/fuel tank assemblies include etched brass and styrene parts, while the air-intake grills all feature etched/stamped brass screens. The track fenders/sand shields come as four separate pre-formed stamped brass items per side, to which etched brass gussets are attached. These can be individually distressed or deleted as the modeler sees fit.

In addition, there are no visible knock-out pin marks anywhere on the kit (except for those on the bagged individual-link “Magic Tracks”), due to extensive use of separate attached “nodes” where necessary. This, of course, leads to more clean-up for the modeler, but is far easier than filling ejector pin marks. The fit of the main components is very good, although my main hull, part “X” was bowed-in at the front top-sides, making the fit of the hull roof (part K-1) very difficult, without the addition of a styrene “I”-beam to keep it “honest”. This may only be an isolated incident. It should also be noted (already!) that DML has informed me that a new part A-8, the loader’s seat, is being put into all production-standard kits. As David Byrden (who had a hand in the kit’s design) has pointed out on his outstanding Tiger I web site, DML’s designers mistakenly re-tooled the original (accurate) part to have the loader face forward. He should in fact, face the turret rear when seated. Builders of this kit (or any Tiger I), are urged to visit David’s site frequently for up-dates and appropriate “tweaks”.

The main components match-up extremely well with drawings in Jentz and Doyle’s “Panzer Tracts No.6, Schwere Panzerkampfwagen”, as well as their book “Germany’s Tiger Tanks, D.W. to Tiger I”. The parts in the box will allow the building of any Tiger I from after mid-February of 1944 (I base this observation on the chart on page 83 of the latter book, noted above, where it shows the turret ring splash guard being fitted at that time). As always, a modeler seeking to build a specific Tiger is urged to consult available references as almost no two were alike.

The instructions are, to say the least, “busy”! The modeler is urged to go extremely slowly so that the proper parts are used. If I were to suggest an improvement for this kit, this is an area I’d advise DML to investigate. The markings schemes are a highlight of the kit as almost 30 Tigers can be marked with what’s on the decal sheet. The paint schemes are the basic dunkelgelb base with rotbraun and dunkelgrun overspray patterns. The decals from Cartograf are well printed, in perfect registration, and include nine different styles of tactical numbers. Add after-market sheets and the schemes will be limited only to available references and the modeler’s imagination. Colors are referenced to Gunze and Testors Model Masters paints.

There has been much comment prior to the kit’s release regarding the lack of molded-on Zimmerrit on the relevant parts; their breakdown would have made this relatively easy to include. While it certainly would have been nice to have, it would have limited the kit, since there were distinct differences in the patterns used on Tigers, especially on the Krupp-manufactured turret. So it must be added by the modeler using his desired method. It doesn’t bother me at all to do it myself.

Considering the overall quality of what’s given, this one’s a “slam-dunk”.

Highly recommended.

Reviewer’s note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews.

DML kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.dragonmodelsltd.com.