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The Beginnings of the Tiger Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 Ausf.E

In October 1935 the first discussions began for a tank capable of defeating the French Char 2C. Why the 2C ? Well it can only be assumed that the Germans saw this, at the time, as the greatest threat. Because this massive (69 ton) beasty was viewed by many as a liability rather than a battlefield asset. 

French Char 2C

The only certainty that arose from these early discussions was that the engine had to be capable of delivering a constant output of 600HP, and up to 700HP if necessary. This was where the legendary Maybach Company came onto the scene and discussion began. Would it be better to have a V-16 engine which meant the power could be delivered but increase the size of the engine bay or adopt a V12 which would decrease the power output. 

Maybach HL210P45
, the original engine from Tiger “131” at Bovington Tank Museum UK

The evolution of Tiger began- a number of firms were contracted into the programme and pitted against each other resulting in a number of prototypes being produced.

The first trial chassis was designed by Henschel the D.W.1 (Durchbuchswagen-Breakthrough Vehicle) and was to be fitted with a trial turret designed by Krupp with a short 75mm gun. This D.W series was later reclassified VK 30.01 (very similar to the Panzer IV) simply meaning it was in the 30 tonne class and version 01.

VK 30.01 Chassis

Many alternatives were investigated but the one common theme that proved popular was the use of torsion bars running across the hull, when placed close together this of course meant that more road wheels could be used therefore spreading out the weight of the vehicle. They achieved this amount of road wheels on either side by overlapping, a characteristic that became almost unique to the Germans. 

VK 30.01 (H)

VK 36.01 (H) 

There followed various stages of the Tigers evolution, it was decided to improve the armament therefore Krupp received instructions to develop a turret for a 10cm Gun, and the VK 30.01 chassis had to be adapted, this proved impossible to keep the current weight so the VK 36.01 idea was born.

The German High Command once again stepped in and stated they now required the tank to be fitted with a 75mm gun and the armour upgraded to 100mm at the front and 60mm on the sides. Due to weight considerations and lack of materials the VK 36.01 never saw the light of day. 

It wasn’t until later in 1941 that all the initial weight concerns were cast aside and Hitler himself was adamant that bigger guns and thicker armour was the key to success. Hence the evolution of the VK 45.01(H) Henschel and the VK 45.02(P) Porsche.

Plus at this time Maybach had developed the new V12 petrol engine the HL210 P45.

Worthy of a mention is that many believe the Tiger steering design originates from a British prototype Heavy Cruiser tank, but that is a whole other story.

At the time Hitler’s armies were advancing east and the terrain was strewn with flimsy bridges making the advance of Tanks problematic. As a result orders (again) were given to give the design the ability to deep wade, yet another technical problem to overcome. 

Both designs essentially used the same Porsche designed, but constructed by Krupp, turret. Mounting the incredibly able 88mm gun the prototype Tiger was born.


Tiger “131” Bovington Tank Museum -Tiger Day 2013  


I have attempted in as few words as possible to give the basic evolution of this iconic tank but in doing so have only had time to highlight the main events, for example I have deliberately omitted the VK 65.01.(The Prototype 65 ton).

 As you can see it was a complicated process, especially if you consider that only 1354 were ever finally built. 



  • Germany Tiger Tank: Tiger I & 2 Combat Tactics – L Jentz
  • Tiger Tank Workshop Manual – Haynes
  • Tigers in Combat, Volume 1-Wolfgang Schneider