by: Andras [ ]
The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.
The VK7201 PzKpfw VII Löwe (“Lion”) started out as a heavy tank project in 1941, but the actual planning started in 1941 by Krupp. The plan was to build two versions: a "light" (“only” 76 tons), and a "heavy" (90 tons). In its final iteration it was to be armed with a 150mm gun, and had an actual torpedo boat engine to power it. It was supposed to share several components with the Tiger II to make production simpler. There were several design versions; the mid turreted version depicted by this model was just but one. As previously mentioned, it never reached prototype stage, unlike its successor, the Maus.
This kit represents a dramatic step by Armory. They are well known producers of excellent resin and photo etched detailing sets and even full resin models, but now they have ventured into the world of injection molded kits. The Löwe is featured in the popular World of Tanks (WoT) online multiplayer game as a slow, well armored tank with an excellent gun. No doubt Armory chose the Löwe as their first injection molded kit because the game made this lesser known vehicle known and popular. (They even give a nod to the game by having two versions provided: a "historical" and a WoT one.)
The kit comes in a box with a very dramatic cover art depicting the tank on the frontlines, and the photos of the upcoming plastic kits from Armory on the back. The parts are packaged very carefully and tightly in Ziploc bags.
The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but not as sharp as the latest DML offerings, either. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)
The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections, where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. (See photos) I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail.
The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem. I’m very happy to report that the tracks work perfectly with polystyrene glue, which can be an issue with flexible tracks provided by certain companies.
There is an excellent turned metal barrel included, a tiny decal sheet, and a small PE sheet. The model could use some more detail and more PE, though. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would be great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.) As mentioned, the hull periscope covers would have been better if they were made out of PE, and a set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit). All in all, the kit could use some more brass. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute, and they also produce great PE tracks; let’s hope they will produce a set for this kit as well.
There are a couple of extra parts, which will not be used during the construction, and some alternative parts to build an optional World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).
Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the mudguards onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side (we are talking about less than a millimeter extra here), and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed (again: fraction of a millimeter). Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.
The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides. This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere. Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the mudguards (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves, but there is not enough space. The mudguards themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the mudguards were made of PE.) Glue the mudguards in place, and you are almost finished with the build.
The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.
The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.
I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.
The kit fills an important niche in the market: the niche of exotic tanks existing only in plans or mockups, known as paper panzers. World of Tanks made a lot of lesser known experimental vehicles (or plain fantasy tanks) more well known and more popular. This, in turn, sparked the production of several of models of these tanks (KV-5, Tortoise, VK30.02, etc) by different companies, which is a welcomed trend in the scale model world. The Löwe is one of the most popular premium vehicles in the game ("premium" meaning you actually have to pay for it with real money), so it is no surprise that a plastic version of it would be welcomed by many. This is the very first attempt of Armory producing a plastic model, and it is a solid choice. The kit does have its teething problems, but none of these issues are serious. Having finished the build, I have to say I was happy with it overall. I wish, though, that there was an aftermarket PE set available, as it could make this kit really shine. It is true that the model requires a bit more work than the “big brand” offerings. It’s not a particularly difficult or a challenging build, but it's still something you should be prepared of. Kind of like its in-game counterpart: it requires some effort, but the results will be satisfying.
I would like to thank Armory for the review sample.