Retro Talk: The Tiger Shark


The Flying Tigers – officially called the 1st American Volunteer Group – were a band of Air Force squadrons sent to defend China against Japanese attacks during Word War II. They were successful and popular in their time, but they are probably best remembered for the creative paint jobs they gave to their P-40 Warhawk fighter planes. So, in August 2015, 70 years after the end of WWII, Retro 51 announced a Tornado pen in tribute to the Flying Tigers.

The Flying Tiger Tornado turned out to be a very successful product: 500 pens were made, and they sold out fast. I missed out, unfortunately – I hadn’t gotten my first Retro 51 Tornado until a couple weeks after the Flying Tiger was released, so it was long gone by the time I caught wind of it. To my delight, the design was so popular that Retro 51 decided to release two more versions of the pen earlier this year, the Tiger Shark (the one I have, pictured above) and the Fortress (pictured below).


All three pens feature a design printed on a lacquer wrap with acid-etching for detail. The acid-etching is especially cool, as it adds texture to the rivets and grooves in the paneling. To give the pen a grittier look, the metal of the nosecone, clip, and twist have been artificially weathered. All three pens look great, but I especially like the camouflage on the Tiger Shark. The “Dear Becky” insignia on the Fortress design is also pretty great, but it lacks the iconic set of shark teeth at the pen’s tip.

This has got to be one of my favorite Retro 51 Tornado pens. Like the Albert Tornado, the pen has a great design along with an interesting history. Both the Fortress and the Tiger Shark are also easy to get a hold of – unlike the Flying Tiger, the Fortress and Tiger Shark aren’t being sold in limited quantities. However, they both still have a production number stamped near the twist. I’m not sure I understand the reason for this, but if you have a higher number than mine (#180), then I think you should owe me a drink.


On a side note, Vanness threw in a blue Retro 51 refill with my order. I don’t usually use blue ink, but I decided to throw it in the Tiger Shark anyway. To my surprise, I’m actually liking it. It’s smooth and has a nice, deep hue …though I suppose a green ink might make more sense with this pen.

Update 8/29/16: Retro 51 pointed out on their Twitter account that the Fortress Tornado is actually based on the designs painted on B-17 Bombers (also known as a Flying Fortress).

4 thoughts on “Retro Talk: The Tiger Shark

  1. Neat.

    I’m a bit down on my Tornadoes recently… I usually use an Easyflow ballpoint refill in them…but I
    get annoyed because the tip of the refill moves around in the nose… Their rollerball refills don’t move around as much. Its a real shame because the rest of the Tornado pen is built really well..the tip wiggle makes even the most expensive Tornado feel cheap.


    1. I’ve only used the easy flow in the Slim Tornado, and I didn’t notice any movement there. But, yeah, otherwise I go for one of the Schmidt rollerball refills.


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