The German Sd.Kfz. 181, the Tiger I, is undoubtedly one of the most popular armor-modeling subjects around. The last few years have seen DML and AFV Club/Skybow produce some of the most extraordinary models in the three principal scales of 1/35th, 1/72nd & latterly 1/48th scale. What came before from the manufacturers has been pretty much overshadowed by the releases from these two companies and the releases show little sign of abating. With Zimmerit (and without), Feifel Air-Filters with Steel wheels and without. Add to this a phenomenal quantity of AM sets and the models produced seem to exceed the actual number of production vehicles.
However, with all this choice and with all these possibilities for producing almost any version or variant, many modelers are faced with a dilemma - build from the box, or go that extra mile. Not every variant is available although with time that too will doubtless be rectified. So, many modelers are looking for a good source which will suggest build projects and (equally important) explain the differences between Marks. So, will this New book from Xtreme Modelling help or muddy the waters further?
Elements in combat #3 Tiger & Variants. A Guide to Modeling & Painting is published by the Spanish publishing-house, Xtreme Modelling. As in many books of this type, its a collaborative project between a group of modelers with the editing (no mean feat in itself) being done by José A. Azorín. The book is softcover, A4 and consists of 112 pages. The book is divided into 9 chapters of which the first is a developmental history of the vehicle.
Tiger I Initial Production
In the Beginning - Javier Franco
DAK's Tiger Secret - José L. López
Tiger Forever - Richard Vázquez
Tiger I Late Production:
Tiger 911, 9th Pz.Kp. "Totenkopf" - Francisco J. Arévalo
Tiger 234, s.Pz.Abt. 505 - Javier Soler
Tiger 334, ssPz.Abt.102 - Ricardo Merino
Old Gems Vs. New Gems (Comparison between AFV Club & Tamiya models)
Sturmtiger Late Production - Ignacio del Corral
Sturmtiger Early Production - José A. Azorín
Xtreme's book In detail
The first part of the book, some 10 pages, present a series of commissioned color profiles, by Claudio Fernández of 20 different vehicles. In addition, a page is dedicated to Battalion and Divisional Markings. A seperate page looks at the evolution of Rear-Turret markings on the Early Tiger series. The quality of these profiles and the supplementary material is absolutely superlative. Color matching is excellent and each vehicle is backed-up with a small image of the actual vehicle.
The first model featured in the book (Tiger I, Ausf E, Initial Production) is by Javier Franco. Now, I have had several illuminating conversations with Javier and unfortunately not much of his superb research has been translated into English. His model (of the Initial) sets the logic of the book perfectly going, as it does, chronologically from the first production vehicles to the final production models. Each of the chapters follow the same basic format:
Introduction - usually a 'historical' reference
Each of these sub-headings deals with any AM parts used, considerable detail on the process to obtain the chosen paint scheme and, if appropriate, notes on the groundwork used to display the model. Nor does the book stick to 1/35th scale, Tiger Forever by Richard Vázquez uses the 1/48th scale AFV Club (ex-Skybow) model to stunning effect - an argument for 1/48th if I ever saw one!
All of the projects in the book, as I mentioned previously, follow a broadly similar line. What though is important, in books of this type, is the PROCESS each modeler uses to arrive at their objective. Once again, Xtreme Modelling use the only logical approach - put together a group of modelers with a clear remit and you'll get a different approach in each project. Too many books use a single author who, due to their experience, take a broadly similar approach to each model in books of this type.
Apart from the Color Profiles, great emphasis is placed on the Color Photos in the book. Each project has several pages dedicated to step-by-step explanations which are of an absolutely superb quality. Each photo is numbered and linked to an explanatory text. The various stages of the build and the finishing are CLEARLY explained and presented with, where appropriate, larger photos of the model. The Sturmtiger Projects. The last section of the book deals, at least in MY opinion, one of the more interesting Tiger variants - the Mortar-Rocket equipped Sturmtiger. 28 pages are dedicated to the vehicle in a section which is extraordinarily complete. The breakdown for this section is as follows:
Four Color Profiles are presented over two pages.
Five pages look at both the technical details and a series of modern photos of one of the only two preserved examples which are left.
The final section is effectively a comparison article on the Tamiya and AFV Club models in 1/35th scale.
Two extensive build projects are presented each using one of the previously mentioned models. Once again, as in the Tiger sections of the book, complete notes are provided on the build-process, the use of AM parts and full finishing and weathering.
Conclusions and some thoughts
Firstly, looking at the title of this Review will probably bring the usual 'groans' from the (Usual) Suspects - Tigers again? Wasn't there any other vehicle in WWII? I have to admit, that when I posted the News Report on this book's release, similar thoughts went through my mind. However. Although in a Review it's not generally the responsibility of the Reviewer to 'justify' the decisions taken by Publishers or Manufacturers, in this case, i'll make a serious of arguments precisely in favor of this book's publication:
1) The Book's 'Immediacy'. This is not, by any means the only book on building the Tiger. It is though, the most up-to-date. All the projects in THIS book, use what are generally considered the models which are most accurate, most recent and most easily available (well, there always has to be an exception, in this, it's DML's D.A.K. Tiger). Eight currently available models are used - 4 from DML, 3 from AFV Club and 1 from Tamiya. The same comments apply to the AM which is generally from current ranges.
2) As a 'One-Stop' Modeling Resource?. I've got several other books on modeling the Tiger and while the others ARE good, this, IMO, is the best currently available. The presentation of the Projects is absolutely faultless. There is a huge amount of detail within each chapter, the quality of the images is first-class and the quality of each of the models is superb. Inevitably, a book like this should be more than simply a 'How-To volume', it should inspire the modeler to try something different and go beyond OOB. In this it passes the test with flying colors - i've been thru the book 6-7 times since it first arrived, it is THAT interesting. Add this to some of the better and more recent technical works on the Tiger and you'll have a good collection of resources.
3) For the Less-Experienced?. I'm a strong advocate of books of this type for ALL categories of modelers. Many of the questions we see on the Forums here concern areas such as weathering or painting. This book really gives so much information BEYOND the building that it is of value to the beginner as well as the experienced.
So, beyond these points, some other thoughts on the book. With this series, I get the impression we'll see more on the Tiger. Variants, for example, such as the Command Tiger are NOT covered nor are the Prototypes. Even with such a generous Format as 112 pages, there is a limit to how far the Editor can go. In my opinion it was better to cover the projects presented than truncate them and add more. A balance does seem to have been acheived. On the 'Debit' side, one thing which I feel IS missing from this book is a bibliography. Most modelers who are into the Tiger as a subject will already have a number of the 'standard' works already, for those newer to the area, it would have been a helpful addition.
As to price, frankly, it represents extraordinary value for money. At a time when the prices of model kits seem to be distorting the market, it's good to be able to speak about something which represents a popular subject at an excellent price.
Hopefully, Xtreme Modelling's publications will begin to get a wider distribution as frankly, this being the 3rd in 'Elements in Combat' series which I've Reviewed, it's a series which most enthusiasts would welcome in their libraries. VERY Highly Recommended
Highs: The detail presented in the build-projects is impressive. Price, always being a factor, this book represents amazing value.Lows: Lack of a bibliography. Not everyone will have the 'standard' works in their library and it would help to have given some pointers for 'further' reading. Verdict: This is a Publisher who are going from strength to strength. With this book they have shown they can tackle Armor with as much confidence as they have with Dioramas.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAńA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...