Royal Beasts in Miniature

Dragon’s 2004 release of the 1/35 King Tiger has been widely considered by armour modellers as being a benchmark in kit building. When it first came out in both Henschel and Porsche turret versions, it had the fit and options Dragon had by then been well known for. On top of that all the bells and whistles were in the box as well. The initial releases had metal barrels and accessories, photo etch mud guards and tool clips, and even later on full sets of figures. Trumping Tamiya’s 1998 re-release of the King, Dragon had produced a winner. Through the years this King Tiger release has been the one to build, and was sought after when it hit the shelf. As it happens with DML we often see it re-released in different versions, and we even saw the Dragon Zimmerit version.

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Fast forward to twelve years on. We are now looking at the impending release of not one, but three new King Tigers from the hottest kit manufacturers in the market today. Not counting Zvezda’s re-release of Dragon’s kit, the brands Takom, Meng and ICM are all doing King Tigers. And all are touted to be the ultimate releases of the beast.

But thats not what this entry is about. For today, we actually built that now-classic 2004 Dragon King Tiger, and we pretty much enjoyed the entire process.

What’s in the box McDuff?
Everything is as you remembered it. This kit lives up to the saying “once you take the box lid off, good luck in getting it back on”. Despite the relative simplistic shape of King Tigers, the parts count still goes up to the mid 500s. Much of this goes to the (for me, highly appreciated) pre-cut Magic Tracks which is in two small zip-lock bags. The slide folded upper hull and turret doesn’t hold back on detail. Additionally finding a metal barrel and etch parts in the box is still for me is always a bonus.

The Hip Bone’s Connected to the… Back Bone
What does go for this kit admittedly is the ease of build. Probably because of how the real vehicle was engineered, the chunky shapes all come together easily, and the fit is quite good all around. There is a slight 0.5mm gap on the rear upper hull deck which for some reason I cannot remedy, so mark that down as an engineering flaw. Its an easy fix though, for any modeller a spare strip of styrene settles in there nicely.

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Now hold on, you say. How can a Dragon kit be an easy build? Yes, coming from a Tamiya perspective it does seem to be a bit complex. But its a matter of evolution. After building for as long as I have, you do appreciate the no-brainer constructions that Tamiya and Bandai churn out. But construction is what it is, and despite the parts count the process doesn’t really get any harder.

Also one has to remember that you do get results for what you pay (in time) for. The basic shapes many Tamiya kits of the 1990s vintage cannot compare with the sharpness of the details that Dragon does well, even today.

The only other noteworthy part of the build process is the tracks. Individual link tracks are notoriously game-changers, but in this case because the Magic Track is already pre-cut and ready to click together, its just a matter of having enough extra-thin cement and boring TV shows to sit in front of to finish any repetitive task. For me, indy-link tracks goes up there with ironing and darning socks.

One thing I did do, seeing that the wheels and tracks weren’t necessarily needed to be attached to the suspension, was cement the tracks (complete with sag) to the wheels. When it was dry I had a subassembly which I could remove at my leisure to help painting and weathering. Thanks to the IPMS Melbourne armour guys for this (you know who you are!)

Paint it any colour, as long as its RLM
Now here’s where it gets cool. There weren’t that many real King Tigers made back then – the Germans really ran out of time. Though today you can’t tell, as there must be over hundreds of varieties of camouflage paint schemes and combinations to be seen when you Google a search.

The painting subject of the kit is an Ardennes King Tiger from SpzAbt 501, which only had three companies of tanks during the battle. That narrows it down to a few options, but crazily enough it made it tougher. Thanks for Katz Labrador, he pointed out that most all of the 501st Tigers had a factory applied standard came pattern, and most of them had a hard-edged ambush pattern. Groan. Added to that, photos of the individual tanks were hard to come by, and my preference was using a feathered airbrush pattern.

Ultimately I came to decide a build of tank 335 which had a feathered edge pattern, that was most likely a replacement tank that was given a rush came scheme. Problem solved!

 

I decided to use Vallejo paints primarily for this project, but with a notable twist. I had a can of Tamiya’s excellent Red Oxide primer which I did the entire vehicle in. The reason why I used a lacquer primer is because I wanted a solid base to have my later coats to hold on to, and because I was intending to do paint chipping on hard-worn edges!

Once the primer had dried I began hand brushing Vallejo’s Chipping Medium on to the areas where the crew would have frequented. Many of you would just spray the entire tank with the medium/hairspray, but I wanted to be selective and just focus on the parts where I wanted it obvious.

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The green went on first, and I used Vallejo’s excellent German Camouflage Green straight from the bottle.

The red brown pattern was next, and it was the Mahogany dark brown with a few drops of dark yellow to lighten it up. The Dark Yellow was last, and for this I used the Vallejo Desert Tan Primer as a main colour, because I wanted to retain the bright contrast but also keep the opacity and have no show-through. I fixed any overspray with just a few more coats of green and brown where needed.

Playing in the Mud
As always, this is the coup de grace, the end-all-reason, the best bit of armour modelling. As you may have noticed there was some mottling on areas where I applied the chipping medium. No problems there as the weathering process will fix that.

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The chipping involves several widths of brushes and a bit of water. How I love Vallejo acrylics. Nothing could make this process any simpler, and the flexibility and ease of use is what tells me we’re in the 21st century.

Happy with the chipping, I began to add mud effects to the suspension and tracks. Again, with Vallejo’s water based textured gels and pigments, nothing could be more straightforward. It was all just left to you to aesthetically place the mud and dirt buildup in logical spots, but be careful not to overdo it.

But then again if you do overdo it, nothing a little water can’t fix.

See the scratches on the side skirts? And the gun-metal exposed on high-wear areas of the hatches? Simple soft lead pencil rubbings folks!

 

At the end of it, a bit of rain streaks using Tamiya enamels and weathering powders were added on obvious areas. Then to simulate dried dirt on horizontal surfaces where crewmen and passengers would have left it, a random smattering of dried European earth pigments.

Just when you’re tempted to keep on going and weather some more, I would say that would be the time you should actually stop. Your mind is going to play games with you and say “its not done yet”; I know its a bit of a trick, but in real life, nothing is truly done yet! There’s always that next puddle!

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Strike a pose
And there you go, Tiger 335 of the 501st. I always believe having a figure somewhere on the vehicle gives the viewer a good perspective of how large these beasts were, and this King Tiger is no exception. I had one of the Miniart 1/35 Panzer crewmen from their current release set, and with the pea pattern mottle he looked the part.

And there you go, another very satisfying project done. It was very good to finish a now-vintage kit, but I now surprisingly find myself looking forward to Takom’s new tool King!

For those of you keen on Dragon’s older release, Zvezda has reboxed them recently at a really good price over at Metro Hobbies.

Onwards!

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