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Tamiya 1/35 scale Elefant

Kit:32325 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$85
Tamiya, from Tamiya America, 800-826-4922
Excellent fit; link-and-length tracks; color painting/markings guide
No interior; headphones too wide for figures' heads
Injection-molded, 316 parts (14 vinyl, 1 string), decals
Tamiya's Elefant contains three crew figures, including the commander and loader seen here, with good action poses and decent detail. John painted them with Vallejo acrylics.

Ferdinand Porsche was so confident his prototype for the new PzKpfw VI (Tiger I) would be approved that he actually started production before the contract was won. After Germany chose the Henschel design instead, Hitler the 90 Porsche vehicles already under construction modified into heavy tank hunters with a fixed fighting compartment and the dreaded 88mm gun. Named after Porsche, the Ferdinands fought at the Battle of Kursk and filled gaps in the line after. In late 1943, the surviving vehicles returned to Germany for overhauls that included a front-plate machine gun, a commander’s cupola, periscopes for the driver’s hatch, new engine hatches, and Zimmerit. Renamed Elefant, the vehicles served in Italy, the Eastern Front, and in the defense of the Reich.

Tamiya has released a brand-new kit of the Elefant. Typical of Tamiya’s kits, it features excellent detail molded in tan plastic. The upper fighting compartment is a single, beautifully formed piece, and the styrene link-and-length tracks definitely live up to Tamiya’s standards. In addition to the instruction booklet, Tamiya includes a foldout brochure with history and photos of the Elefant as well as full-color painting diagrams. Three half figures are included in the kit: commander, driver, and loader. A small decal sheet provides markings for three vehicles. The kit does not include Zimmerit, but an update set is available from Tamiya. (See review below.)

I started assembly with the lower hull. The instructions have numbers for the order in which the parts are to be assembled. However, I did not attach the upper fighting compartment as shown in Step 4 until I was ready to paint. The suspension arms (parts A21, A22, A32, and A33) have large slots in their faces, but these will never be seen once the road wheels are in place. I left off the running gear until everything was painted. The parts fit was excellent, and, before long, the model was ready for paint.

After painting with Tamiya acrylics, I applied a coat of Pledge Future floor polish in preparation for the decals. I painted the tracks on the trees, including dry-brushing them with Vallejo steel.

Tamiya has the best link-and-length tracks in the scale modeling industry, and these fit perfectly. After adding individual links to the drive sprocket and idler, I suggest that you add the upper run first. Yes, the instructions do show two A1 links together at the bottom of the drive-sprocket runs. But you’ll never notice the duplication. I used a couple of wood shims to hold the proper sag in the upper track run while the glue set.

I decided to try my hand at painting the figures, using Vallejo acrylics for the first time. While the figures won’t win any contests, I was satisfied enough with my first attempt to include the figures in the kit. However, I found that the headsets for the driver and commander figures were too wide. So, I cut off the headbands and replaced them with some photoetched-metal runner from my scrap box.

I spent about 27 hours on my Elefant, a little longer than usual, but that includes adding the self-adhesive Zimmerit and painting the figures. The finished model matched the dimensions in David Doyle’s Standard Catalog of German Military Vehicles. (Krause, ISBN 978-1-4402-0355-8). Tamiya’s Elefant is just what we have come to expect from Tamiya — easy assembly, excellent detail, and superb fit.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2013 FineScale Modeler


Tamiya's Elefant Zimmerit

Zimmerit, the nonmetallic, anti-magnetic coating applied to German tanks between December 1943 and September 1944, has often frustrated model builders. All types of putties and tools have been used trying to reproduce the stuff. Companies have released resin, photoetched-metal, and even paper products. Some companies now mold the kits with the Zimmerit in place (limiting the vehicles that can be built from the kit).

Tamiya has come out with a novel approach by releasing an update for its Elefant kit that consists of a clear self-adhesive sheet with the Zimmerit molded on (No. 12644, $10.50).

The sheet provides two styles of Zimmerit. The pieces are not die-cut; you have to cut out each piece. I found the material easy to cut with a sharp hobby knife, and even made the long straight cuts free-hand without difficulty.

You also need to trim out all the openings where the sheet fits around raised detail. Don’t add detail parts until the Zimmerit is in place. You should have the fenders mounted before adding parts 52 and 47, but it is easier to add the pieces to the front plate (parts 18, 19, and 20) before the fenders are attached.

The adhesive on the sheet is aggressive, but it is possible to carefully pull a piece back up and reposition it if necessary. I found the adhesive would not hold down the pieces that needed to be bent 90 degrees, such as the piece that covers the rear toolbox and the ones covering the front plate. However, the Zimmerit sections would stay in place if I lightly scored the bends with my hobby knife. The instructions do not tell whether you should remove the raised detail on the rear tool box before adding the Zimmerit; I left mine in place and did my best to work the sheet down around the detail.

After painting the base color on the model, I discovered several areas that needed trimming to achieve clean edges. Paint also revealed the biggest problem with the product: The molding just does not have enough definition. The ridges are not crisp enough, and the troughs are too shallow compared with photos of the real thing. Washes and dry-brushing help bring out the details, but, still, there is too little definition.

It took me about five hours to add the Zimmerit to my model. The product is easy to apply and will give a beginning modeler an easy way to add this distinctive detail. With a little bit of improvement, this could be the answer to many modelers’ quests for easy-to-apply Zimmerit.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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