|MENG King Tiger work-in-progress: parts prepped for zimmerit 'coating'|
|Here the assembled wheels were fixed onto the swing arms in the lower hull|
First things first though. What is zimmerit? It's a coating used on German AFVs during the mid- and late-World War II period in order to prevent magnetic anti-tank mines from sticking to the hull. If you are interested in learning more of this unique substance, there is an excellent online resource over at Tank Encyclopedia. For a modeller, there are many ways to recreate zimmerit on scale model kits. One of the easier methods is through the use of commercially available zimmerit coating decals, which is exactly what I will be doing for the MENG King Tiger model kit.
|Closeup of the Zimmerit coating on a King Tiger in the Bovington Tank Museum|
As with most AFV kits, assembly begins with the road wheels. These were straightforward to put together without any issues. While a non-event for experienced modellers, it does provide newbies a small confidence booster for the more difficult steps ahead. As a rule of thumb, I would advise those new to the AFV hobby to work on some Tamiya or Bandai model kits before tackling a MENG project. The former pair tend to have clearer and more noob-friendly instructions which presupposes the modeller needs a lot of hand-holding. Then there is the higher part count in MENG kits.
|Step 01: Assembling the road wheels of the King Tiger|
A higher part count generally means builds are more complex and also a higher tendency of having to deal with extremely tiny parts. Such factors can be off-putting for newbies but its a price experienced modellers are willing to pay in return for the excellent details that arise from complicated builds.
Anyway, moving on to the second step. Yes, it was only Step Two and I messed up. This seemingly innocuous step is actually an extremely critical one that determines proper alignment of the wheels and track. In short, I glued it on wrong; had to remove, re-align and then re-glue it. This was busy work that could've been prevented with a little more focus and attention (see below).
|Step 02: Gluing on guides which help align the swing arms and in turn the road wheels|
Remember the hand-holding nature of instructions I mentioned earlier. Well MENG evidently doesn't do that as much as Bandai and Tamiya. For example in Step Three, a small nub or undergate remains on the swing arm after it has been removed from the sprue. An experienced modeller would know to remove them but the same cannot be said for a newbie. And if the nub/undergate isn't cut off and sanded down, the wheels and tracks aren't going to align properly to the lower hull (see below).
|Step 03: Attaching the swing arms with the help of the glued on guides|
Speaking of alignment, a surprisingly common issue - faced by far more experienced modellers than me - is having the wheels tilt inwards at a pronounced angle towards the bottom hull. This issue arises either due to an inherent kit design flaw or simple modeller error i.e. failure to do Steps Two and Three properly. In my case, I did notice a slight tile of the road wheels inwards (see below) after assembly (Steps Four to Five). Thankfully the unwanted tilt wasn't as severe as experienced by other modellers. Still, I'm hoping the tilt won't become too noticeable when the tracks go on.
|Steps 04 to 05: Attaching the road wheels onto the swing arms and ensuring proper alignment|
Steps Six through Ten were skipped at this stage of the build because they weren't needed prior to application of the zimmerit decals. And there was some respite in Steps 11 through 13 with assembly reverting to the easy and painless variety. Here only the necessary upper hull assembly were carried out to prepare its surface for the zimmerit 'coating' process.
|Steps 11 through 13: Attaching the front upper glacis and other upper hull parts|
But the so-called respite didn't last long. Steps 24 through 30 involves the assembly of insanely tiny parts that tested both skill and patience. Neither was in high supply when a small clear part that was meant to be a vision block on the tank command cupola 'pinged' and was lost to the 'modelling ether' that is the floor. If memory serves, an extra piece on the sprue meant I lucked out big time. Again you might've noticed Steps 14 through 23 are missing; for similar reasons to Steps Six through Ten.
|Steps 24 through 28; parts of 29 and 30: Assembling enough of the turret to receive a zimmerit 'coating'|
Meanwhile, one weakness in the turret design was the commander's chair (see bottom right corner of the picture above). The supporting structure connecting the chair to the turret itself was too fragile and broke off more than once. As a fix, I cut out a few small pieces of plastic from the sprue and melted it into the supporting structure using plastic glue. That somewhat reinforced the fragile nature of the structure. That chair is needed to support the weight of the tank commander figurine which is suppose to stand and gaze out with his binoculars, from an open-hatched cupola.
|Cut out from the sprue and cleaned, the rear hull armor plate is ready for a zimmerit 'coating'|
Finally, the last piece prepared for the zimmerit 'coating' coating process involved the rear hull armor plate being cut from the sprue and cleaned. No other parts can be attached to it until the zimmerit is in place. And here's a sneak peak of the zimmerit decals from MENG that I'll be using on the King Tiger tank (see below). Price-wise it's expensive as it costs one third of the model kit itself. In the future, I will likely try sculpting my own zimmerit coating out of putty.
|Zimmerit in the form of decals produced specially for the MENG King Tiger tank|
MENG model kits have their issues but they are absolutely worth the trouble. Straight out of the box, their kits already have the potential to become a highly detailed AFV model without having to resort to expensive aftermarket accessories. I'm glad I had chosen one of the easiest kits in MENG's product line as my level of experience means I'm still able to cope. Every kit is a learning experience and the 1/35 scale German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret is proving no exception. Most importantly, despite it all I'm having fun and already looking forward to the next steps!