King Tiger

Manufacturer: ESCI Kit # 8008; Aurora/ESCI # 6201; ESCI/Revell # H2307; ESCI/Ertl # 8330; Humbrol # HK72207; AMT/Ertl # 8483; and Italeri # 7004

Although recently re-released by Italeri, I will always think of this as an ESCI kit. It was one of the earliest models I ever built as a young boy, and I even had it on display in the local hobbyshop (the shop owner was very tolerant). The kit previewed here was one of Ertl's last issues, being made in Mexico around 1999, and I will refer to it as "the ESCI kit" throughout this preview. Everything I say about it is equally applicable to the new Italeri kit.

One of ESCI's better kits, it was an excellent kit for its time, although with a couple of minor errors. While the new Revell King Tiger kit is better than this one in many ways (see my King Tiger Comparison article), this older model is still quite impressive, and the errors will only be noticeable when in a side-by-side comparison.

This kit comes with fewer parts than the new Revell kit, but the level of detail is still remarkable. But there are a few notable absences, such as pioneer tools. There are some spare track links for mounting on the turret sides, and unlike the tracks that are to be installed on the wheels, these spare links are very good. Side skirts are provided separately, but molded as a single unit per side, so that you would have to do some surgery to remove single plates.

The hull and turret are extremely detailed, with the hull in particular, exhibiting detail that is considered top-of-the-line in today's kits. The hull has open hatches, and the turret has the commander's hatch open, but the loader's hatch is molded shut. The tow cables are molded as separate parts, which is surprising considering the age of the kit. Most kits back then (and even some today) had the cables molded in very poor relief onto the hull. Three crew figures are included, a complete commander figure, and two identical busts for the hull postions. The figures are outstanding; with detail equaling that seen on the newest figures from Preiser.

The couple of errors on the model that I mentioned above:

The wheels are molded double-wide. For the inner pairs, it doesn't matter, but for the outer pairs, it may be visible, unless you mount the side skirts. Aside from that flaw, the wheels are excellent, with surface detail that matches the new Revell wheels. Also, the turret is a little too narrow at the top, with the side walls sloping just a little bit too steep. The surface detail on the turret roof is very crisply molded, but is not entirely accurate. The port for the close-in defence weapon is in the wrong location (should be in front of the loader's hatch), the ventilator cover should be moved back about a millimeter, and the loader's periscope visor is a little too elongate. Also, depending on the reference I consult, the main gun is anywhere from 2 to 4mm too long.

Also, the sprocket wheels represent the early, 18-tooth style. This style was changed in May 1944 to the 9-tooth variety (basically, they cut off every second tooth), and I think that only some of the Porsche versions of this tank used that early sprocket. I am not sure, but I have not seen any Henschel Tigers with it, so I will cut off the extra teeth from mine when I build it.

Regarding zimmerit, I haven't done any exhaustive research, but based on the books I have, this is what I think: the three prototypes (all with Porsche turrets) did not have zimmerit applied, but all of the remaining Porsche turret tanks did. They stopped applying zimmerit to Tigers in September 1944, so many of the Henschel tanks had it as well, but the last ones to be built did not.

About the tracks: the vinyl tracks included in early releases of this kit are simply horrible.

The hard plastic, link-and-length tracks introduced in later versions are only slightly better. The exterior detail is acceptable, and the tracks will look more realistic when attached, but the inner surfaces are completely smooth, with no guide teeth, and no hinge detail. Perhaps if PART will soon produce etched brass tracks for use on the Revell King Tiger, they can also be used on this kit as well.

But, as negative as this review sounds, there certainly are a lot of positives to this kit as well. The level of detail on everything is really quite good, and comparable with some of the best kits today. Bolt holes, weld lines, panel lines, hinges, separate periscope covers, etc.; all are molded very well. So, all in all, this is a very fine kit.

As far as markings are concerned, the kit came with the typical ESCI decal sheet, that being, a couple of options, but with poor registration. The markings that come with the new Italeri release of this kit are much more extensive, with several numbering options, but with tactical markings for only one unit.

Basically, for a kit as old as this one is, it was a remarkably well done model for its day, and still holds up fairly well by today's higher standards. There are a few flaws, but as several people have proven elsewhere in this site, this model can build up very well.


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