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Rye Field Tiger I Tank 321

Newcomer Rye Field Model has produced the best kit yet of a Tiger I with interior. The model represents an early Russian Front vehicle from s.Pz.Abt. 503, specifically tank 321, in 1943.

Tigers from this unit sported a field-built storage bin on the turret. Crews found the Feifel air cleaners unnecessary and removed them, and the 503rd used the space to mount extra storage racks or bins.

For a long time it was thought the 503 vehicles were painted Panzer gray, although this was well after the introduction of dunkelgelb. Some research indicates they were painted dark olive green.

While all of the features of tank 321 are provided in the kit, there are plenty of optional parts included should you wish to build a different vehicle.
Parts — more than 1,800 of them! — pack the large box.

Molded in tan plastic, the kit features excellent detail, including well-molded weld seams and cast texture. The individual-link tracks are molded in dark gray. Two small photo-etched (PE) frets are included, and twisted wire is provided for tow cables.

A small decal sheet provides markings for tank 321. Other turret numbers are provided, but no information is included in the instructions.

The 24-page instruction booklet includes color drawings of the interior and exterior of the vehicle, useful for orientation. I was a little disappointed by the limited color callouts for the interior. Only AK Interactive paints are referenced.

Assembly kicks off with the turret. The main gun barrel comes in three tubular sections, so there are no joins to eliminate, only a faint mold seam.

At this time, German tank interiors were painted gray-green below the sponsons and off-white above. I used Tamiya JGSDF dark green (XF-73) for the green and mixed flat white (XF-2) with a little deck tan (XF-78) for the off-white.

When assembling the gun mantlet in Step 2, install the machine gun assembly first. Otherwise the frames (parts J3 and J69) will be in the way. I suggest leaving off the turret-elevation hydraulic cylinder in Step 3 until you are ready to hook it to the gun breech in Step 10; it sticks out and is easily broken.

The PE jerry-can rack’s butt joins made it difficult to assemble.

The turret hatches are posable, but only the side escape hatch is workable.

Moving to the hull, the PE frames under the floor are tricky. I placed all of the cross members in their approximate places, then added the long pieces. Each joint was fixed with thin super glue. Once it was assembled, I glued the frame into the hull.
In Step 16, install the subfloor piece (K28) before you attach details to the side wall or it will never fit.

The fit of all that interior in the hull impressed me. But I was disappointed that the rounds for the stowage racks are molded onto the rails. It makes them easier to install, but complicates painting and you can’t show a missing round or two.
When adding the engine compartment interior walls (H17 and H20), temporarily install the rear plate (B3) to aid alignment. The engine lacks hoses, and the exhaust pipes don’t reach the rear plate.
Contemporary photos show that tank 321, like many other 503rd Tigers, didn’t have exhaust shrouds, and only the left rear fender remained.
I left off the running gear until after painting. Detailing the hull top progressed quickly. I used the tools with molded-on tool clamps rather than the optional PE clasps.
After cutting the hoses from the Feifel air system connectors (parts B70 and B71), I drilled out the inlets for realism.
The wire for the tow cables looks terrific, but there’s no information about how long the cables should be. My right-hand cable turned out a bit too short to have nice graceful curves when installed.
I mixed Tamiya paints for dark olive.

The decals are a bit stiff and a little delicate; a couple broke during application. Neither Microscale Micro Sol nor Solvaset had much effect on them. Fortunately, most of the markings go onto flat surfaces.
No ejector-pin marks mar the well-molded track links. Assembly, while a bit tedious, went smoothly; I suggest doing a few at a time, rather than building all of them in a single sitting. The connector pins refused to stay in the tracks without a little cement, but take care to avoid gluing the links together. The suggested 96 links per side fit perfectly.

I spent about 46 hours building my Tiger, split equally between assembly and painting.

The finished model matches the dimensions in David Doyle’s Standard Catalog of German Military Vehicles (Krause, ISBN 978-0-87349-783-1). Also useful: The Modeler’s Guide to Building the Tiger Tank (Ampersand, ISBN 978-1-932033-78-6).

The number of parts may intimidate some modelers. But if you regard each subassembly as an individual model, it’s no more challenging than any other kit.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2016 issue.

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