In the arms race that is the control of the modern modelling bench, the King Tiger in 35th scale is one of the pinnacles of our hobby. Whoever gets this one right is at the top of the tree, so now we see MENG Models attempt at the throne with their brand new King Tiger in 35th. They have added a Zimmerit set that we will also take a look at in today's in-Box review.
In boxed: Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger Henschel Turret
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number – Tyrannosaurus Series TS-031
Scale - 1/35
Price - ¥3,200, £23 US$28, €26 from Hobbylink Japan
You'd be forgiven for thinking it was raining King Tigers at the moment, as new ones seem to be appearing left, right and centre. The latest to join the fray is Meng with their newly released 1/35 Henschel Turreted Tiger II.
How will their effort stack up against the opposition? Well, we'll dive into the box in a moment, but first, in case you've never heard of a King Tiger, a brief history lesson. Pay attention at the back...
The King Tiger, or Tiger II as it was officially named, was the successor to the equally renowned Tiger I, and combined elements of that tank, but added a sloped hull design reminiscent of the Panther medium tank. It was a real beast of a tank, weighing in at 80 tons, and armed with the infamous 88mm gun. Developed and manufactured by Henschel, the tank entered front line service in 1944, and first saw limited use in the aftermath of the D-Day landings.
The development of a heavy tank had begun a few years earlier with proposals from both Henschel and Porsche, with Henschel winning the final contract. The turrets for both of these designs were produced by the Krupp company, with their initial version having a rounded profile at the front, which resulted in a prominent shot trap (where an incoming round could get trapped, rather than being deflected). This initial turret design has since been known (somewhat incorrectly) as the 'Porsche turret' and was used for the first 50 King Tigers, after which Krupp designed a more simplified production turret which also removed the shot trap. This version has come to be known as the 'Henschel turret', despite both designs being produced solely by Krupp.
The King Tiger was heavily armoured, with up to 180mm on the turret front, and as such was essentially impervious to just about anything the Allies could throw at it. The tank's own 88mm gun was one of the most feared weapons during the war making the King Tiger a very potent adversary, however, initial unreliability and the fact that the tank simply couldn't be produced in large enough numbers meant that it was ultimately unable to turn the tide of the war for Germany. Despite that, it's gone down in history as one of the most iconic tanks of WWII.
The kit comes in a fairly compact but sturdy box, with very attractive artwork adorning the top, that somehow reminds me of old Tamiya box art. It certainly helps convey the impression of a high-quality product. The sides of the box show you colour profiles of two of the included schemes, along with paint references for Meng's new (AK Interactive produced) paint range.
It's also interesting to note that, as with some of Meng's previous releases, the box carries the logo of the Bovington Tank Museum, and in this case also carries the logo of AFV Modeller Magazine who's editor (and writer behind the "Superking" book ), Mr David Parker, helped in the development of the model.
Despite the relatively small size of the box, there's certainly plenty inside, to the extent that I found it hard to get everything back in, after taking the photos. There are 12 sprues in total, 10 in a rather fetching dark red, one in grey and one in clear, all of which are individually bagged, with the clear sprue having an additional film wrapping for extra protection. In addition, you'll find the lower hull moulding, a small PE sheet, two sets of poly-caps, instructions, decals, and finally a very nice turned aluminium barrel. I believe the barrel is exclusive to the first run of the kit, so if you want one, you'll need to get your orders in quick. There's a regular styrene barrel supplied as an option of course.
Before delving into the sprues, it's worth pointing out that this kit doesn't include any interior details in the box. Meng have taken the sensible decision to produce a separate interior set (SPS-037) along with a workable track link set (SPS-038), so those modellers who want to add these features can do so, but modellers that simply want a regular King Tiger can purchase the kit without the additional cost of parts they won't use.
Sprue A (x2)
First out of the box we've got a couple of sprues containing the drive sprockets and idlers, together with some track sections and a few assorted small details. The moulding quality is lovely, with pin sharp details, virtually no mould lines to clean up, and no sign of flash, sink marks or awkwardly placed ejector pin marks.
There's some very nice detailing on the parts such as these casting numbers on the idler wheel. This is actually the side that faced the hull, so you probably won't even see them, but it's nice that they're there all the same.
Sprue B (x4)
Next up we've got the sprues holding the road wheels and the link and length tracks. Yes, you read that right! Link and lengths tracks! Finally, a manufacturer who acknowledges that not every modeller wants to spend half a lifetime cleaning up and glueing together runs of individual links. For those who do enjoy that particular form of torture, the aforementioned indi track set will be available for your masochistic pleasures.
I defy anyone to say that the detail on the track lengths is any less than it would be if they were formed from individual links. Meng has even included a jig (on sprue E) to help you set the sag at either end of the upper track run.
Very nice bolt detail on the road wheels. These attach to the hull with just the exterior axle and swing arm. There are no internal torsion bars or working suspension, which will speed up the build considerably. Again, if you want working suspension, you can get this with the workable track set.
This sprue holds the one-piece side skirts, engine deck panels and hull mounted tools. There's also a panel that attaches to the inner face of the glacis plate to replicate the full thickness of the frontal armour.
Meng has provided the tow cables as moulded parts. These are infinitely better that the lengths of string that Meng often include in their kits for this purpose, but you could also swap these for copper wire if you prefer.
Sprue D holds the bulk of the parts for the upper hull. Meng has moulded the hull roof in separate parts so, if you decide to get the interior set, you can easily display it by leaving off the panels of your choice. This also opens up the possibility for various 'under construction' and 'burnt out' dioramas.
Meng has given most of the exterior surfaces of the hull and turret a subtle, but very realistic rolled steel texture. It's actually quite hard to photograph the texture, as it is very subtle, but probably perfectly in scale. You will need to be careful so as not to loose the effect under a heavy paint layer.
This sprue also holds the two-part muzzle, and you'll use this one whether you go with the turned metal barrel or the plastic alternative.
Some very nice renditions of the hull tools too
We've got the main turret parts here, with inner and outer turret side walls which together achieve the correct scale thickness of the armour plate. There's also the jig for the upper track run.
The last of the main red sprues holds the turret roof, machine gun, some of the hatches, and various other hull and turret details.
This sprue also holds the alternative styrene barrel which you'll be glad to hear is a single piece moulding, with only a slight mould line to remove.
The armoured exhaust shields have a fantastic pitted cast texture which, like the hull texture, will need careful painting to avoid losing the effect. Meng actually supplies two alternate styles for the covers, but they don't give any info as to which style should be fitted for the supplied marking options, so you'll need to do a bit of research.
This sprue shows off some of the amazing mouldings that Meng have achieved with this kit. Check out the hinge detail on the rear mud guards. The bolt heads, complete with slots, are about ½ mm across.
The clear sprue holds the parts for the vision blocks, and also the rear convoy light.
The main lower hull moulding. Most of the various holes you see here are for attaching the parts supplied with the interior detail set.
One final sprue, and one that I'm really glad to see holds the parts for two crew figures. Including figures with a kit is something that seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years, so it's great to see Meng bucking that trend. A figure or two can really bring a model to life, as well as giving a sense of scale to the finished build.
The figures aren't bad at all. We're not talking Alpine or Hornet levels of detail here but, for styrene, they look fine.
Photo-Etch & Metal Barrel
The PE sheet is quite small by the standards of many modern kits, and Meng has only used etch for those areas that will really benefit from it, mainly the engine screens. As mentioned earlier, the turned barrel is only included with the first run of kits.
The turned barrel is a great inclusion, but there is one small issue with it is that it lacks the row of indentations around the joint in the barrel. These are moulded on the styrene barrel, so you may want to use that if the lack of them on the metal barrel bothers you.
The instructions come in a black and white portrait format booklet spread over 35 build steps, with a nice intro by David Parker. The line illustrations are quite clear for the most part, although on a few pages the printing has come out a little blurred. They're still easy enough to follow.
Meng has included a choice of four marking options with the kit, those being...
Tank 334 of Pz.Abt. 503 - 3-colour camo with Zimmerit
Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 - 3 colour camo with Zimmerit
Tank 223 of Pz.Abt. 501 - 3 colour camo with ambush spots
Tank 324 of Pz.Abt. 509 - whitewash over ambush camo
The markings are shown as 5-view illustrations in the back of the manual, but they're only in black and white, and the printing is a little dark, which makes them harder to interpret.
For many of their past releases, Meng has had their decals printed by Cartograf, which is pretty much a byword for quality, so I was quite surprised to see that the sheet included here has no branding and is printed in China. For the most part, the printing looks okay, but not pin sharp, although the yellow 223 numerals have an odd 3D look to the numbers, which I assume is not intentional. It's a shame that Meng are no longer using Cartograf (a cost cutting measure I assume), but hopefully, the supplied decals will work fine.
King Tiger Zimmerit Decal Set
Product Number – SPS-039
Price - ¥1,200, £8.50, US$10.50, €10 from Hobbylink Japan
For this review, Meng has also sent a set of their new Zimmerit decals from their 'Supplier' range of accessories. These are regular water slide decals, but with a 3D printed texture to replicate the anti-magnetic mine paste, known as Zimmerit, that was applied to the early King Tigers and is needed for the first two marking options in the kit. Since those two schemes require the Zimmerit coating, it would have been nice to see the decal set included with the main kit. At least the price isn't too bad, and of course, you have the option of adding the Zim yourself, the old-fashioned way with putty.
The decals would appear to have virtually no excess carrier film around the edges, so shouldn't require any trimming before applying them. These will presumably be applied in the same way as regular water slide decals, albeit straight onto the plastic surface rather than after painting. I say presumably because Meng hasn't included any application info with the set, or in the kit's instruction manual. What you do get is an A4 sheet showing the decal placement, and a cutting template for trimming the turret side decals for the Pz.Abt 505 marking scheme, which has a Zim-free patch where the unit emblem is applied.
The decals themselves do look very nice and are precisely shaped to match the surface they'll be applied to. The texture is maybe a little flat, but that's probably the limit of what can be printed using this technique. However, once they're applied, painted, and have had a wash added to bring out the pattern, they should look fine. This is certainly a much easier method than smearing putty all over your model and poking it with a screwdriver.
I imagine at this point you're all waiting for me to compare this release from Meng to that other series of King Tigers that have recently appeared. You know the one's I mean! Well, in truth it's very hard to compare them. They both have strong points and will both result in excellent and accurate models. Meng's decision to release the base kit without an interior will definitely benefit those who just want a straight build, but if you want to go all out with a full interior, workable suspension and tracks, and the Zimmerit coating, then you have that option too, although the price will get quite steep.
For a straight up kit without interior and Zimmerit, this one has to come out on top of the competition. The subtle surface textures and the finesse of the detailing make this, for me, the best looking King Tiger available right now. We'll see just how well it all goes together when the build gets underway.
Thanks to MENG Models for sending us these two – Look forward to Andy using them in his forthcoming build review...