T-34/76 Model 1943

ESCI Kit 8047; Aurora/ESCI # 6208; ESCI/Revell # H2347; ESCI/Ertl # 8335

At one time, the ESCI kits were the only 1/72nd scale T-34's available in plastic. When they went out of production in the 1980's, we were stuck without any T-34's until the mid-90's when the AER T-34/85 kit was released. Since that kit was not as high of quality as the ESCI kits, in addition to being a later version of the tank, the ESCI kits became rare collector's items, and to this day, they sell for fairly high prices on eBay (although they are coming down in price since the Eastern Express kits have been released).

The two ESCI kits share the same hull, and differ only in the wheels and turret. This later version, the Model 1943, comes with the all-steel wheels, and the hexagonal turret. (I show two scans of the top and bottom sides of the hull sprue, but of course, only one hull comes in each kit.) This is also called the Model 1943 in the Ledwoch book, because the turret has a commander's cupola.

There have been persistent rumors spread through the internet that this kit is actually 1/76th, but according to all of my references, that is untrue. The kit hull measures out very well to 1/72nd, and may even be a slight bit larger. The turret is a little too small for 1/72nd, and scales out close to 1/74th. So actually, it could be used on either 1/72nd or 1/76th scale kits without too much difficulty.

The overall level of detail on the kit is very good, especially considering the age of the model. The hull details, in particular, are quite good. The engine ventilation grates are molded in excellent relief, the rear engine access hatch is very distinct, and the bolt detail on the rear plate is very fine. There are two tool storage boxes molded onto the fenders, which, if you get a copy without any sinkholes, doesn't pose a problem. The screening over the engine fan is, of course, molded solid, but with good screen detail.

The turret hatches can be posed open, but there is no detail on the inside of the hatches or turret. The ventilator cover is molded as a solid dome, when in fact, there should be four, evenly spaced openings around the bottom edge of the cover. The gun mantlet is molded in two halves, so as not to lose the bolt detail. The turret is missing the two vision slots which should be on the turret sides. The hexagonal turret represents the "hard edge" type. The wheels are a little flat in detail, and could have been molded more sharply and with more distinct detail. However, they are nicer than the steel wheels which come with the AER T-34/85 kit, and include the correct number of lightening holes. The rims are too thick.

Some additional highlights of the kit include an open driver's hatch with detail on the inside of the hatch (but not inside the tank), separate pioneer tools, additional stowage such as canvas rolls, 76mm ammunition box, and spare track links. Two excellent figures are also included, a crewman half-figure, and an infantryman. Both types of fuel cannisters are included: the early box type, and the later drums. Two nicely molded tow cables are also included, which need to be heated and bent into shape.

The tracks can be good or bad, depending on which type you get. The early releases of this kit (all but the ESCI/Ertl kit) came with the old, vinyl, single-piece belt tracks, which are very poor. Not only do they lack any semblence of detail on the inner surface, they are also very difficult to bend into shape, and once bent, look totally unrealistic, because the individual links themselves bend, instead of only bending between the links.

The later release (ESCI/Ertl) contains the hard plastic, link and length tracks. While these are not quite as nice as the newest tracks from Eastern Express, they are still light years ahead of the vinyl tracks. The waffle pattern on the outside of the track is very good, and the inside surface of the track is fairly well represented also, although the track guide teeth could have been taller, and more pronounced (although limitations in molding technology may have prevented this).

The decals are highly variable. The different releases of this kit included different marking options. Most ESCI decals I have seen tend to be fairly thin, with matte carrier film, but seem to be chronically printed out of register. Luckily, some of these markings are single color, so that's not a problem. The decals on the left are really old, and likely are no longer useable.

All in all, this is an excellent kit, well before its time in detail and engineering.

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