Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 & M40 75/18 Semovente
ESCI Kit 8030; Aurora/ESCI # 6219; ESCI/Revell # H2330
ESCI Kit 8031; Aurora/ESCI # 62??; ESCI/Revell # H2331
Not only are these some of ESCI's best models, but they are also some of their rarest. As you can see by the kit numbers beneath the box scans, these two kits have been released only on three occasions, a great many years ago. After the ESCI/Revell release, the molds for these kits were never seen again. Although Italeri now owns the old ESCI molds, don't get your hopes up of ever seeing these two kits released by them, because I suspect that the molds for these two particular tanks (plus a couple of others) are long lost.
Sprue 1 Front Sprue 1 back
The detail on these two kits is incredibly fine. There is a very strong resemblence between these models and the old Italeri 1/35th scale M13 and Semovente, which in themselves are also fantastic models (for their scale). This ESCI Semovente even includes a full interior. The M13 kit includes an optional hull top for the turretless command version of this tank, but curiously enough, the instructions actually show BOTH of the optional hull tops being added, which could cause some confusion to beginner modelers. Also, I believe that the command tank had a 20mm cannon mounted in place of the hull machinegun, an option not included in this kit (but I could be wrong about this - my references are limited). All turret and superstructure hatches are open, pioneer tools are separate parts, and several very nice figures are also included in these kits. These are all features that are surprisingly lacking in most of today's kits, so it's a real joy to see them in these older releases.
M13/40 SprueM40 75/18 Semovente Sprue
But then ESCI really screwed up; they took the best small scale tank models of their time, and included some of the worst tracks in the industry, thereby crippling some mighty fine kits. The tracks are horrible, very stiff, and lacking detail on the inner surfaces. I recall building these models as a kid, and having a horrible time trying to attach the tracks without constantly breaking off the wheels. And even if you get them attached, forget about them having any sort of realistic appearance.
Since the molds to these kits were apparently lost before Ertl introduced the hard plastic, link and length style of track, these two models were never released with anything but the vinyl. And since they have been so long out of production, it is unlikely that we'll ever see any after market replacements (unless some manufacturer decides to release all new versions of these tanks). So some alternative needs to be found. Believe it or not, I think I may have found one in the new etched brass tracks from PART, designed for the Vickers 6 ton series of tanks. These tracks are the same width, and have a very similar track link pattern. Of course, they are not a perfect match, but at this small scale, I am willing to forego 100% accuracy in the light of having no other options.
The decals in my kits are very old, and possibly no longer useable. Luckily there are alternatives out there, such as from Aleran. Most of these markings were single color, so registration was not an issue, but the three color vehicle license numbers were not printed well at all. The choice of markings was very good, with several options and specific markings for different platoons. I also think it's great that the M13 kit had included markings for a tank captured by the Australians outside of Tobruk, if I recall correctly.
I think it is a great loss that these kits are no longer in production. Perhaps we'll some day be blessed with a new series of Italian tank models in plastic, but I fear they may not be mainstream enough for most manufacturers, so we'll likely have to settle for resin campanies taking up the slack instead. Now we just need some resin companies to do this . . .
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