King Tiger in the SMM Full-Reuenthal
Summer season 2012
Removal of idler arms and sand blasting
By the time of spring 2012 the project King Tiger restoration didn’t proceed for several years, the major reason, among others, being the disability to remove the idler arms. First doubts were expressed as to whether it would make sense at all to carry on. The scenario of placing the turret back on the armor hull, give the tank a nice paint and display it non-operable was brought up as an option…
…. until a fortunate coincidence brought the second wind to the project.
One saturday in spring 2012 a visitor war leaning over the barrier and threw some skeptical looks at the construction site. I explained the project and where we are stuck to him, as I often do to interested visitors, and he replied laconically: “ I can help you, we will get that fixed”.
Then things went quickly: He came on the next saturdays and brought appropriate heavy tools. He first removed the securing bolt by drilling it to pieces. Afterwards a 100 to hydraulic press was adjusted in place.In order to prevent the support metal walls of each inner bearing from bending under the applied pressure, they were connected with welded bars. Nonetheless, the welding sections tore repeatedly under the pressure and ultimately the right support wall was forced several cm out of its position. Since this movement was parallel to the idler arm axis, it should not matter much and will probably be correctable with washer sheets.
With simultaneous application of heat and pressure we ultimately succeeded in first pressing the left arm out of its bearings, first mm by mm, then cm-wise, accompanied by loud clangs when the thick washers broke. Removal of the second arm wasn’t any easier but at least the welded supports persevered.
Our relief was literally seizable when at the end both arms were lying on the ground.
With the idler arms now removed the last obstacles for a sand blasting of the armor hull are gone.
But what about the two final drives and the four road wheel support arms with the shock absorber linkages?
There were two different opinions towards the removal of the final drives.
One party plead for removal and check of the interior prior to re-installation of the tracks. The final drives were notorious for their vulnerability and being under-dimensioned with respect to the weight of the tank which makes a removal reasonable.
On the other hand the tank appears to have been barely used as the overall condition suggests.
We drained the oil and checked it and the interior with an endoscope as far as accessible. There were no hints at wear or damage. Since the housing was still tight but many of the big fastening bolts severely corroded so that a removal might become a huge problem, we decided to leave the final drives in their places.
We were also unable to loosen the cap nuts of the shock absorber levers on the road wheel support arms. We presumed and tested, though, that the designed up and down movement of the arm will be possible nonetheless.
We then prepared the armor hull for the sand blasting job.
All bushings were covered and protected with two plastic discs and the threads on the wheel arms covered with thick tape. The final drive flanges on the inner and outer side of the hull were covered with plastic bowls. Ultimately the hull was lifted on a heavy load transport car which made it possible to move the hull into the museum hall and back, just as needed for the work.
During four days of splendid sunshine the entire hull and all wheels were sand blasted by a two-men team of a contract company.
A total of 30 bags of blasting sand was used, the major part of which needed to be removed again afterwards bucket by bucket.
The hull being broom-clean, it was rust-primed and the lower half of the hull sprayed in camouflage beige on the last beautiful Saturday in October, right before the winter closure of the museum. Later we discovered that this beige was not the right one.