The engineering prowess and military might of Nazi Germany still fascinate many, from young amateurs to veteran historians, almost a century later. The nearly legendary stories of super-heavy tanks, laser weapons, and flying saucers leave many to wonder what could have happened if the war lasted longer. The E 100 is just one of those examples. Its super heavy unfinished hull and its lack of turret invites enthusiasts to let their imagination loose.
One of the most well-known examples of such creations is the one made by modeler Michael Rinaldi, who scratch built a turret for a Dragon E 100 model sometime before 2002. The skill and quality of the model quickly made it popular. However, things took a strange turn in 2008, when Chinese model company Trumpeter released an almost identical copy of Rinaldi’s model.
The creator and the model
Michael Rinaldi is an American modeller who now owns Rinaldi Studio Press, where he publishes books on building, painting and weathering scale models. It was in the early 2000s when he used a Dragon models E 100 1:35th scale kit to build an E 100 model. He opted to not use the realistic Maus turret that came with the kit, but rather to scratch-build his own ‘what-if’ 1946 turret.
He closely inspected the construction and designs of late-war German turrets to make it as realistic as possible. The shape and construction form were taken from the Schmalturm turret, but lengthened, taking in consideration the extra size and recoil of the much larger gun and thicker armor. Similarly, on each side of the turret, there are rangefinders and, on top, a periscope enveloped in an armored shroud. The cupola was also placed on the left side of the turret, with a night vision device.
Rinaldi has explained before that he used whatever materials he could find for the build, i.e. the mantlet is made out of a pen cap. The barrel is from an Eduard 12.8cm proposed Jagdtiger gun through which Rinaldi wanted to showcase the L/66 gun, the infrared device came from a Tamiya kit, a cupola was a resin Panther II one, and the rangefinders were from a Dragon kit. The turret itself, the face detail and mantlet are mostly from brass and styrene.
The modeller never wrote an alternative history story or background, being satisfied with simply dating the supposed vehicle to “Summer of 1946”.
As previously mentioned, the modeler never discussed any made-up history or any specific mechanical details and specifications. The hull was unchanged from the standard Dragon E 100 model, with the exception of the addition of a machine gun mount at the front of the hull, to the right, similar to the Panther or Tiger II, and the removal of the hollow side armor sections.
The creator equipped the model with a new 12.8 cm L/66 gun, dropping the 15 cm gun that came with the original Dragon kit. This is somewhat historical, as the 15 cm gun was eventually dropped in favor of a 12.8 cm gun, but it was the KwK L/55, not L/66. Rinaldi probably went with the proposed Jagdtiger gun simply because he could find barrel parts for it. The Jagdtiger was also equipped with the L/55, but was proposed to fit the L/66. Rinaldi could have used this information to envision that, if the war had carried on, heavy tanks and tank destroyers would be equipped with the L/66. The most noticeable difference between the two guns was the L/66 longer barrel, but also a redesigned breech. The 12.8 cm PaK 44 guns used two-piece ammunition. Even so, only 40 rounds could be stowed in the Jagdtiger, suggesting that not many more would fit in the E 100.
Turret and components
The so called ‘Ausf.B’ turret fitted on the model was an enlarged version or combination between the Schmalturm and Tiger II Ausf.B turret (hence the name). While it mostly sticks to traditional German turret designs, it has a peculiar design in which the frontal armor plate is intertwined with the side armor plates. Normally in German tanks, the plates would fit into another with cutouts, like puzzle pieces. However, Rinaldi extended the length of the side armor plates. Why this was done is unclear, as it would decrease the strength of the armor plates.
Which rangefinder would be used is also unclear. It is very likely it was the E.M. 1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder. It would have had a 15x magnification capacity, and 4 degrees of vision. The acronym stands for ‘Entfernungsmesser’ and it simply translates to rangefinder. It was to be built by Zeiss, with development ending in April 1945 and production to start in July of the same year. It was originally intended for the Panther Ausf.F. Predictably, none were built. It makes sense that, if the war had lasted for another year, either it, or an enlarged version, would have made its way on such an E 100.
The model features two infrared (IR) night vision devices. One is mounted on the top of the hull for the driver, and one on the commander’s cupola. This setup was baptized ‘Solution B’, allowing both the commander and the driver to see in the dark. The devices were the FG 1250. They consisted of a 200 watt infrared headlamp and an IR receiver, which converted the IR light into visible light. It had a maximum range of 500 meters, but realistically it might have been lower. When fixed on the commander’s cupola, it could be pointed forwards and turned along with the turret, or be turned 360 degrees independently. The commander’s hatch could not be fully closed, as the equipment required power cables connected to an energy source (either battery, generator or the tank’s own electric power supply). In the Panther, this meant the removal of 3 rounds. It can be predicted that, if an E 100 would have fit such a device, there would most likely be enough space, and the hatch issue would also be fixed.
The armor of the turret is most likely the same as that of the Maus II turret, proposed for the E 100 in 1944. It had 200 mm of armor at the front, 80 mm at the sides, 150 mm in the back and 40 mm on top. The Ausf.B turret does seem smaller and has dropped the 75 mm gun, still present on the Maus II turret. This might have allowed for thicker side armor, of around 100 mm.
The hull is almost identical to the standard E 100 hull found by the British in 1945. The only differences are the addition of the machine gun port on the frontal plate and the absence of the side plates. While it would create a weak spot in the frontal protection of the tank, the machine gun would have added some degree of protection against infantry, who could pose a huge threat to such a large tank with handheld anti-tank weapons. The rest of the tank seems to be lacking in machine-gun firepower, with no co-axial or cupola-mounted machine guns.
Rinaldi’s model was mostly known within limited modeling circles and forums. In the early 2000s, social media was in its infancy and the modeling hobby and interest in tanks were not as popular as it is today. Everything changed when Chinese modeling company Trumpeter released a 1:35 scale model of an E 100, called “German E 100 Super Heavy Tank”, in 2008. The problem was that both the boxart, created by Vincent Wai, and the model itself, were almost direct copies of Michael Rinaldi’s model. The boxart even features Mike’s addition of a hull-mounted machine gun, but the idea was dropped on the model kit itself. Other than that and a few other minor alterations, it is a direct copy of Rinalid’s model.
Here is one of many of Rinaldi’s comments on the topic:
“This idea and model of the E 100 Ausf B is [sic] my creation. It did not exist at any point in time in history, not on paper, never – I made it up. I used my best guess for what something like this might have looked like. This is the third time my model and idea has [sic] been copied for commercial sale and I never gave Trumpeter permission. What is that saying about the sincerest form of flattery”
-Michael Rinaldi, creator of the E 100 Ausf.B
Originally, Rindaldi seems to have accepted Trumpeter’s usage, possibly hoping for crediting or monetary compensation, but quickly felt the burn of Trumpeter’s unwillingness and indifference to the issue.
“Trumpeter stands to gain from my idea and efforts without any due notice, compensation or credit to the original idea, or to the authenticity of the historical background behind this turret and armament combination, which is completely hypothetical.”
-Michael Rinaldi, creator of the E 100 Ausf.B
Trumpeter never mentions Rinaldi or that the vehicle’s turret is fictional. They even proceed to add a short text on the box with generic information about the E 100, omitting the usage of a fake turret. Their box description goes as follows:
“Super heavy tank as an alternative to the Maus, it used a modified Maus turret with the 150mm KwK with plans to upgrade to the 170mm KwK later. Development of the E 100 started in June 1943 & continued steadily until 1944 when Hitler stopped all development of super heavy tanks. But even though, three engineers carried on the work at low priority & by the end of the war they managed to nearly finish the first prototype which only needed the turret. The only prototype was sent to England after the allies captured it & scrapped post-war.”
-Trumpeter information on E 100 model box
Despite Rinaldi’s complaints and a potential lawsuit (this has been mentioned in online forums but not confirmed by Rinaldi), Trumpeter released an identical kit, in 1:72 scale, 8 years later, in 2016. Both kits sold well. In fact, they have sold so well that the Trumpeter E 100s are a “must have” on the shelves of many modellers. Unfortunately, their erroneous equipping of a fake turret and thievish usage of Rinaldi’s creation induced many to confusion. Self-proclaimed historians, amateurs and enthusiasts have been misled by this, with many claiming this turret was designed by Henschel for the E 100, hence the frequent usage of the name Henschelturm. This has sparked further fantasies, such as the E 100 Adlerturm.
The confusion has made others to commit the same mistakes. Chinese modelling company Modelcollect has also made a 1:72 kit of the same model in 2016. Likewise, Czech Mobile video game company Krieg Games R.S.O. has implemented an E 100 “Henschel” in their game, Armored Aces.
Trumpeter has not stopped there with their fake kits. They have released kits of the E 100 Krokodil/Salamander and others, treating them as real projects. It was only in 2017 that Trumpeter finally released a model kit with the E 100 and the historical Maus II turm.
Not much had been heard of Rinaldi’s model until sometime in 2020, when photos appeared of the model, all stripped of paint, potentially ready for a second paintjob. Meanwhile, Trumpeter’s iconic model kits continue to mesmerize unknowing modellers, while its story and the ties to Rinaldi’s model have been mostly forgotten, a faint memory in the minds of veteran internet enthusiasts or wiped completely with the slowly disappearing Armorama forum pages, dating from almost two decades ago.
E 100 Ausf.B Fake specifications
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||8.733 m without gun x 4.48 m x 3.29 m|
|Total Weight, Battle Ready||Circa 120 tonnes (140 according to Trumpeter)|
|Crew||5 according to Trumpeter (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Loader, Radio operator)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL234 1,200 hp|
|Speed||Up to 40 km/h|
|Armament||PaK 44 12.8cm L/66|
|Turret Armor||Front – 200 mm
Sides – 80/100 mm
Rear – 150 mm
Roof – 40 mm
|Hull Armor||Front Glacis – 200 mm @ 60 deg.
Lower front – 150 mm @ 50 deg.
Sponson floor – 30 mm @ 89 deg.
Side – 120 mm @ 0 deg.
Rear – 150 mm @ 30 deg.
Floor front – 80 mm @ 90 deg.
Floor middle and rear – 40 mm @ 90 deg.
Roof – 40 mm @ 90 deg
It’s a Fake – Part 2,5: Jagdtiger | For the Record (wot-news.com)
E 100 (Entwicklung 100) – Tank Encyclopedia (tanks-encyclopedia.com)
Sd.Kfz.186 Jagdtiger – Tanks Encyclopedia (tanks-encyclopedia.com)
Home | Rinaldi Studio Press
Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.171) – Tanks Encyclopedia (tanks-encyclopedia.com)
The “Fahrgerät” FG1250 IR Night Vision equipment | Weapons and Warfare
Timeline for German E-100 Super Heavy Tank, Trumpeter 00384 (2008) (scalemates.com)