For many modelers my age, when someone mentions "1/72nd scale tanks", you can't help but think of ESCI. Along with Hasegawa, ESCI was one of the premier companies making tanks in 1/72nd scale since the 1970s, and for a long time, these two companies provided pretty much the only models available in this scale. It wasn't until the late 1990s that the popularity of this scale began to rise, with more and more companies jumping on the 1/72nd scale bandwagon since then.
When compared to other "small scale" models of that time (including 1/76th), ESCI stood out above the others, particularly in the later years when this company began to pretty much set the standard for quality small scale models. Although by today's standards these kits are beginning to show their age, even now, when they are almost 30 years old, many of these kits are still some of the best to be found anywhere.
ESCI was an Italian company and were the originators of these models, but over the years these kits have been released under several different brand names. As a company ESCI no longer exists, but the brand name lives on in the marketing arrangements made with the current producers of the models.
According to Nicolas Maure
of Esci-diorama.com, ESCI is an acronym that
stands for "Ente Scambi Coloniali Internazionali" which translates
as "Company for International Colonial Trade".
Over the years I have tried to piece together the release history of these kits, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the sequence of events:
The original kits were released in the early to mid-1970s by ESCI.
This was followed from 1976-77 by a release from Aurora/ESCI.
Then ESCI released them again with a new logo from 1978 to the early 1980s.
Within this time period, several of the kits were marketed under license by Revell from 1974 to 1981.
Humbrol was also granted a brief license during the early 1980s.
ESCI then sold the rights to Ertl, who manufactured the kits under the ESCI/Ertl label until the late 1980s, when production stopped. I guess the market at this time was not favorable to small scale tank models.
There were some additional, small releases during the late '80s under the label AMT/Ertl.
Sometime around 1997 or 1998, Ertl re-released a small selection of the line. These kits were in the same red and white boxes as earlier releases, but can be identified by "Made in Mexico" on the box sides.
Racing Champions then owned the ESCI kits for a brief time, and re-released a small selection of kits in 1999. The boxes are marked "Made in China". I am currently aware of only two kits they released, the Sd.Kfz. 251/16 (boxed as a Sd.Kfz. 251/1), and the Opel Ambulance (boxed as an Opel Blitz).
Currently, Italeri is the owner of the ESCI license, and has been releasing several re-boxings of the kits each year since 2001.
The complete line of kits has not been released, in its entirety, by any single manufacturer. This has left me with the problem of how to best list the kits and their descriptions without a large amount of repeated information. Consequently, separate pages have been set up for each company to provide a list of the kits released by that company, and their numbers in sequential order. I have also set up a table that provides a cross-reference of the kit numbers for each company:
The most complete release of kits was by ESCI/Ertl. There were at least 75 kits released under that label. For convenience, I have provided links to kit reviews for all the ESCI kits on the ESCI/Ertl page, including the few kits not released in that line.
The "Lost Molds"
Over the years there has been much speculation about the fate of the ESCI molds, in particular, during the 1990s when they were no longer being produced by Ertl. There were many rumors being spread that the molds were lost at sea or destroyed in a fire in Italy, or destroyed in a fire in Iowa, etc. I think the reason for this confusion was the fact that the kits were not being marketed, even when the modeling public was crying for them to be released by somebody. Ertl pretty much shattered those rumors when they began re-releasing several of the kits in the late '90s.
However . . .
The fact remains that there is a certain block of kits that has not been released by anybody since the original ESCI, Aurora, and Revell/ESCI releases. I refer to the following kits:
During the massive ESCI/Ertl release in the 1980s, every single ESCI kit, except those listed above, were released in their distinctive red and white boxes. The M4A3 and M1A1 were released by Ertl in their old-version Tank-Infantry combination sets, but were never released individually.
What happened to these kits? Most of these are some of the most sought-after models today. I have contacted Italeri about these kits, but their response was generic and uninformative.
If anyone has any information about the fate of these particular kits, please send it in, and I'll post it here. There are many people who would like to know.