Andy Moore has already given us an in-box review of Meng's new King Tiger in 35th scale, and today we see him guide us through just how to build the kit up. If you have any questions or thoughts about this kit this should be some interesting reading. Let's see how he put it together...
Construction guide: 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
MENG Models Webpage
Pt I - Inboxed
Part III - Painting and Weathering
Today: Part II - Build Guide
Pt I - Inboxed
Part III - Painting and Weathering
Today: Part II - Build Guide
From the in-box review, Meng's new King Tiger looked very enticing, and I was looking forward to seeing just how well it went together. Time to start cutting plastic then, and see if this latest release is up to their usual high standards.
The first step in the instructions is the wheels, and straight away you're given a choice in how you want to finish the kit. Meng have supplied two alternate wheel hubs, but like the other options in the kit, don't give any info to guide your decision.
Well, if you want some info, best ask an expert, so I got in touch with “Superking” author David Parker, and his advice was to go with the hubs with the centre grease nipple (parts B13 & 14), so that's exactly what I did.
With the wheels together, work starts on the lower hull. The first parts to add are two internal blanking plates which block off the axle holes on the inside. These are required for the stub axles included in the kit, but if you purchase the optional working track set, you'll leave these parts off and use the full working torsion bars included with the tracks.
Meng have included two internal strengthening plates to help keep the hull square and rigid. To be honest, the hull moulding is plenty strong enough without them, but it's a nice inclusion all the same. Again, you'll leave these out if you decide to get the full interior set.
At this stage, I decided to install the rear hull plate. The instructions tell you to add all the extra detail parts first, but I thought it would be safer to add these once the main hull was built up. The fit is extraordinarily good, with the plate sliding down into a slot formed by the suspension blanking plates added earlier. Once in place, a little liquid cement was run around the inner joint, and the end result was (literally) seamless.
Next up are the suspension arms. These are keyed, so they'll only fit one way, keeping them, theoretically, perfectly lined up. In practice, there was a bit of play once they were in place, so I had to tweak them by eye to get them in line.
Once installed, there was one issue I noticed with them. All the axles had a slight downward angle, despite the swing arms being installed correctly. This just seems to be the way Meng have moulded them. It results in the wheels being slightly angled inwards on the bottom edge. This didn't seem to show up that much once the tracks were added, so it wasn't a big deal.
Moving on to the upper hull, the first part to add is the armour plate on the inside of the glacis. This replicates the full thickness of the frontal armour, and also holds the bow machine gun in place.
The machine gun and its ball mount can then be added, before being covered over by the armoured cap. If you leave the ball mount unglued, the gun will remain poseable, but the gun barrel is quite delicate and you'll need to be careful not to knock it off during the rest of the build. It may be better to glue the ball mount in place, then add the barrel at the end.
Before joining the upper and lower hulls, I decided to fill the various holes on the fender blanking plates on the lower hull. These are there for mounting the parts included in the interior set, and aren't required for this build. The holes won't really show if you're fitting the side skirts, but as I'll be leaving the skirts off, I thought it would be better to deal with them. I first covered them with scraps of styrene sheet on the inside, then filled and sanded the holes on the outer side. I wasn't too concerned with being neat here, as this area will be weathered anyway.
Another alteration I made, due to the decision to leave the skirts off, was to fill the two mounting slots for the rear mudguards. Two strips of styrene were cut to fit the cut-outs on the rear plate, and glued into place. I also carefully removed the sections of the mounting hinge that would have been attached to the mudguard.
I could now slot the two hull halves together and, again, the fit was perfect. The glacis on the upper hull slides down behind the overhangs on the lower hull, and the resulting joint could almost be left unglued, as the fit is that precise. I did, of course, glue it, but it really is amazing to see the level of engineering and fit in this kit.
A little filler was used around the seams of the upper hull roof plates, not because there were any gaps, but to even out the torch cut textures around the edges of the plates. Some of the joints cut across these textures, so a little remedial work is necessary.
With the main hull together, I turned my attention to the turret. This comes in inner and outer sections which, when combined, give the correct scale thickness for the turret's side armour. The inner section simply slides into the outer one.
The roof plate then drops into place on a ledge formed by the inner walls. The fit is very exact, if anything being on the tight side, so I lightly filed the edges down to let it slip into place more easily.
The inner side of the roof plate does have some nice detailing moulded, although there are a few ejector pin marks that would need filling. None of this matters that much unless you're doing a full cut-away, and even then it would be hard to see this area.
Another option in the kit is a choice of gun mantlet. Again, there's no info as to which to use, so do your research if you're modelling a specific vehicle. Alternatively, take the lazy route like me, and use whichever one you prefer.
Moving back to the hull, I added some Mr Surfacer to the two fillets I'd added to the rear hull plate, to blend them in with the rolled steel texture that Meng have added to the hull panels. While I was at it, I very lightly stippled some Gunze Dissolved Putty over the whole hull and turret to add some variation to the moulded texture. When the putty was dry, it was lightly sanded to remove any high points and rough areas.
The remaining details could now be added to the hull and turret, starting with the exhausts. As with the mantlet, you get a choice here with the armoured shields, and again you are left the pick which set to go with yourself.
The photo-etch engine screens fitted very well apart from the holes at each corner that are designed to drop over the moulded rivets on the engine deck. These were a little tight, so I enlarged them slightly with a drill bit about 0.5mm bigger than the existing hole. That was just enough to let them slip over the rivets without any problems.
The other mesh screens require bending to shape, and Meng have provided a two-part former to do just that. It works very well too, bending the mesh to exactly the right shape to fit on the frames. I heated the PE screens before bending to soften the metal, hence the discolouration on them.
Meng has provided the headlight cable as a separate part, rather than moulding it in place on the hull roof. It looks a lot better this way, although in my case the cable was bent on the sprue, and needed some straightening before it was attached.
The handles of the onboard tools were given a subtle wood grain texture by lightly scoring the plastic with the tip of a knife blade. Once painted, and with a wash applied, this should give these parts a little more realism, and lift the detail level of the whole kit.
I replaced some of the grab handles with copper wire. Meng supply all the handles as separate parts, but they're very fragile, and even getting them cleanly off the sprue isn't easy. The metal alternatives are easier to fit and much stronger in the long run.
The last thing to finish the turret off was the barrel, and here I'd got the choice of either the one-piece styrene part or the turned aluminium alternative. As mentioned in the in-box review, the metal barrel is actually a little less detailed that the plastic part, but it is stronger and less likely to bend over time, so I ended up going with that option.
That just left the track runs to make up. As these were link and length tracks, I was hoping they would be a little quicker to make than individual links would be. They were indeed quicker to build up, although not without problems as I'll get on to. To start with you need to use the included jig to form the upper run with the correct sag. I covered the top of the jig with masking tape to stop the tracks glueing themselves to the jig while they set.
Once the upper run is done, the rest of the track assembly can be built up, and this is where I ran into a small problem. Everything went together very well, but when the final section was added I ended up with two of the guide horn links together. There should have been one of the intermediate links between them, but there was no space to add one.
I'm not really sure why this happened, as the tracks fitted properly everywhere else. It could well be down to user error, but the same thing happened on both the left and right runs. To fix the problem I had to cut down the final links to fit, but in the end, the fact that there were two guide horns together didn't really show as they were hidden by the road wheel.
The very last things to add were the figures. I've only built up the commander figure, as that's the one I'll be using for this build, but both figures look great and help to show the scale of the finished model. The fit was good, with just a little filler used where the two legs join. I sharpened up some of the folds in the uniform by gently scraping with a knife to give the figure a little more definition.
And there we have one Meng King Tiger built, and ready for paint. This has been a build I've really enjoyed. For the most part, the fit of the parts is extremely good, and the subtle surface textures and details really make this kit stand out from the crowd. The track issues are still a bit of a mystery, but others may not have the same problem.
Overall this is an exceptionally nice kit, and if you're looking for a King Tiger to build straight from the box, without worrying about an interior or having to buy after market detail sets, this is certainly the best option out there.
Thanks to MENG Models for sending us these two – Look forward to Andy using them in his forthcoming build review...