Esci T-34 Assembly tips by Stephen 'StuG Whisperer' Brezinski
Edited by Rob Haelterman

Italeri (former ESCI) T-34/76 Model 1942 Kit (a.k.a. T-34 C)
ESCI Kit #8032; ESCI/Revell #H2332; ESCI/Ertl #8334; Italeri #7008


With my recent assembly of this kit I thought I would offer my experience in what I found while building these old (by modeling standards) but still respectable 1 72 scale models. This review is intended to be complementary to Doug Chaltry’s kit previews at:
and at
Please see Mr. Chaltry’s reviews for scans of the kit parts and the water slide decal markings. My rational for writing this article about 1970’s age model kits like these are: at this time one of these two models has been rereleased by Italeri and the other I expect to released in the next year or two, there are still many of them in peoples collections and at vender’s tables, and finally they are still good model kits comparable in quality to recently released T-34 kits. My opinions and observations below are based on my references, examining a hundreds wartime photos and building both model kits; I do not claim to have noticed every detail or that there may be exceptions to what I’ve observed or read or stated below.

Briefly, the Model 1942 kit consists of about 84 injection-molded styrene plastic parts on two sprues, not including the link & length tracks or the two dreadful band tracks. The large sprue has the hull parts, sprocket and idler wheels, two figures, and fuel drums is exactly the same as that included in the Model 1943 T-34 kit. The second, smaller, sprue has the turret and roadwheel parts. Both this and the model 1943 are considered to be reasonably accurate 1/72 scale.

I like to look at the box art as it is the first thing we see when we consider buying the model, it’s visual representation of what is in the box so you should know what you are buying, it shows us the paint scheme and markings, and it is often real good art. The great box art for ESCI’s T-34-76 Model 1942 shows a T-34 tank with a worn whitewash in a winter forest area. The turret is a cast, rather than welded, turret sometimes called the “big hatch” turret because of the single large turret hatch. On the turret side is a viewport for a periscope; below this viewport is a pistol port with a plug, both featured in the kit. The 76-mm gun barrel seams unnaturally tapered with a large band at the muzzle. The actual 76-mm F34 gun barrel appears actually much less tapered.
On the glacis plate of the box art are six or so “appliqué” armor plates welded on to the front seen on 1941-1942 period T-34 tanks such as from Factory 112 in autumn of 1942. These appliqué armor plates are not included in this model kit. The driver’s hatch and the driver’s periscope hoods are both closed so I hope the vehicle is stationary because the driver cannot see! There are no fuel drums on the rear or side though they are offered with the model kit.
There are handrails welded onto the hull side which is common for this period of production but these handrails are not included in this model kit. If you look at the edge where the glacis armor meets the hull side you can make out a notched hull connection that was seen on factory 112 and STZ (Stalingrad) factory hulls. This notched hull edge is not actually featured on the model kit; the ESCI hull has the straight seams at this edge. Sitting on the engine deck is a lone tankisti (or Tank Desant (Russian:Танковый десант, tankovyy desant)) in the same pose as the figure included with kits. The roadwheels are the disc type with perforated rubber tires; we can make out the two rings of bolts around the wheels, bolts the model’s roadwheels do not have.

Italeri’s box art above shows a whitewashed T-34, similar but a little different than ESCI’s T-34 portrayed in their box art of the same model. The driver’s visor hoods are open, yes, but the model’s visor hoods are molded shut (along with just about on every other small scale model of the T-34). On the glacis on either side of the driver’s hatch are two short handrails common to many T-34’s of the 1942-1943 period. At least the little tabs (tow points) on the bow are not displayed. On the left (driver’s right) we see the stub of the antenna mount peaking over the edge of the hull side.
Sitting on the engine deck is that lone tank desant figure; behind the tank rider is a fuel drum, not the type of additional fuel tank common to the 1942 T-34, but could have been added later. The tracks are the 500-mm or 550-mm links with cast tread pattern similar to the links provided in the model.
We again see a cast-steel turret with casting seams evident but which are not featured on the kit turret. This is a good view of the periscope viewport with the pistol port below it. This is also a great view of the big hatch on the turret roof serving both the commander and the loader. I have read that this hatch was unpopular, and with a model if you portray the hatch open you better have some kit interior because otherwise there will be a lot of empty space to see! This ESCI / Italeri hatch also has no interior detail.

Italeri includes a five-view color painting of the vehicle’s recommended paint scheme and simple markings of a red star. Personally, I have never seen a T-34 with just a single red star on each side of the turret.
• Instructions for the suspension and lower hull are the same for both the ESCI/Italeri model 1942 and model 1943 T-34 kits so comments for the assembly of the T-34 model 1942 hull will also apply to the model 1943 kit.
• The hull is well detailed and accurate.
• The axles for the roadwheels attach on the hull side are a little too short so be careful to keep them straight and true while the glue is drying.
• ESCI molded no bolts on the rubber-tired roadwheels of the M1942 kit which may not be noticed to some but could cost you with contest judges.
• The hub of the sprocket and idler wheels are flat but should be round hubs. These rounded hubs can be fashioned perhaps from sections of the sprue and glued onto the wheels.
Attach the track links to the idler and sprockets and then the track lengths before gluing the hull top down to the lower hull as shown in the instructions to get the fit and alignment of the tracks correct.
• Track guide teeth are too short on styrene link & length tracks; something you can live with or get etched brass replacement tracks?
• If you should have the stiff polyethylene band tracks you will find that they are too stiff to wrap naturally around the idler and sprocket. You may find conquer this problem by wrapping the band track around a wood dowel where you want them to bend, and hold them in hot (not boiling) water for a few seconds till the curve holds. Or you can get aftermarket brass tracks.
• The spare tracks mounted on the glacis in ESCI’s instructions were not typical of the m1942. The spare track links were usually mounted on the rear of the fenders (track guard).
• Model 1941 and m1942 T-34s typically had track grousers (cleats) strapped to the right track guard but these are not included in the ESCI kit. (Trumpeter and DML do include these grousers.)
• The main gun looks too tapered and too short. I found that replacing it with a longer piece of brass or aluminum tube improves the look of the gun.
• It was rather unusual for the T-34 model 1942 to have the cylindrical drum exterior fuel tanks which came later in 1943 & 1944, but I have seen some. I think they would be more likely to have the fuel boxes on the rear plate, rarely if ever both fuel containers as portrayed in ESCI’s and Italeri’s instructions.
• There are little circular marks on the hull sides which are guides for handrail locations. Handrails are not included in the model kit. If you are not adding handrails these marks should be shaved and sanded smooth. Handrails can be nicely fashioned from fine brass wire.

Above are ESCI’s old kit instructions while below are the instructions from the Italeri re-release. We can see that both instructions sheets are essentially the same except for the part numbers being different. I wholly support the instructions to assemble the wheels and tracks onto the hull sides before affixing the upper hull; this goes for both the M1942 and the M1943 models.

The turret instructions for the Model 1942 show the straightforward assembly. We can see the half figure attached onto a shelf inside the turret. For a contest model you would lose points for a half figure with no interior detail. Part 41D is a rear bolted hatch for removing and servicing the main gun; this feature is left off in Trumpeter’s T-34 m1942.

The Model 1942 turret from ESCI on the sprue. Due to the very dark plastic the sink holes on the turret sides do not show up well, but they are there. The lower turret half has the deepest sink hole; I am not sure if Italeri’s release of this model includes the sink holes.

The photo above shows the dark green ESCI turret with a light gray color large hatch taken from a Dragon model with good interior detail on the underside. The gun breach is also from a Dragon model. The light gray turret at right is from Trumpeter’s T-34 Model 1942 kit for comparison showing a more accurate turret mantlet without such a large gap behind the mantlet.
• The ESCI gun barrel has been replaced by a copper tube.
• The turret lift rings have been fashioned with copper wire.
• Notice the large gap between the gun mantlet and the turret roof; I have read that the T-34 leaked badly during rain but this large a gap would cause unacceptable leaking! On the sides you can see spots where sinkholes were filled in with modeling putty and sanded smooth.
• Cast turrets of the Model 1942 T-34s could be very roughly cast, this casting texture can be simulated on the ESCI (and Trumpeter, UM and DML kits) in a number of ways. We can apply a coating of liquid solvent glue and rough the surface up with a stiff toothbrush while the glue is still wet. A second method is to coat the surface in white glue (Elmers or School Glue) and sprinkle on a fine powder such as backing soda or dolomite powder; this method may produce an exaggerated rough texture. A third method is to use a commercial product like Mr. Surfacer made for this purpose.

In order to give this ESCI (Italeri) turret a rough cast texture it has been treated with a coating of white glue and then a dusting of dolomite powder to give it a rougher texture. I think this texture here is a little overdone but is an improvement and adds more character to the model.
• A DT machinegun barrel made from a thin wire should be added protruding from the right side of the mantlet.
• Add gunsight holes to the mantlet. As seen in the photos above the top of the mantlet should be made taller so there is not such a large gap behind the mantlet.

At far left are ESCI’s T-34 sprocket wheels. The two higher wheels are the outer sprockets that should have a rounded hub in the center. This is the same for the outer idler wheels which have a nasty sink hole rather than the rounded hub.
• I recreated the four missing hubs by slicing off the ends of the sprue attachment points, such as those at right, attaching the roadwheels to the sprue, and rounding them off to the correct shape.
• On the roadwheels at far right we can see the lack of two rings of bolts around the hub. Otherwise the roadwheels look good, particularly the rubber tires. These wheels are consistent in size with UM, Trumpeter and Dragon wheels. For variety some all-steel roadwheels can be substituted.

ESCI T-34/76 Model 1943 tank kit (Expected to be released by Italeri)
Italeri Kit #7008; ESCI Kit #8047; Aurora/ESCI #6208; ESCI/Revell #H2347; ESCI/Ertl #8335

The model 1943 kit consists of about 78 injection-molded styrene parts on two sprues, not including link and length tracks, or the polyethylene plastic band tracks if you are unlucky enough to get these. I have several boxes of the M1943 version and some portray the figures in the instructions and some don’t; this is odd. The kit instructions below do not make mention of the figures, a good crew member for the turret and a sitting infantry ‘tank-rider’. The tank scale of 1/72 and as found by Doug Chaltry is understood to be pretty accurate.
Italeri has re-released the old ESCI T-34-76 Model 1942 kit as kit #7008, but not the Model 1943 kit yet. When Italeri does re-release it the model should have the hard link & length tracks based on the ESCI kits they have re-released so far.

I like to look at the box art as it is the first thing we see when we consider buying the model, it’s visual representation of what is in the box, it shows us the paint scheme and markings, and it is often real good art. Here we have the original ESCI box art showing a T-34-76 with a two color camouflage scheme and a vehicle number and unit marking on the turret. The driver’s hatch and the driver’s periscope hoods are both closed so I hope the vehicle is stationary because the driver cannot see! At the point of the glacis we see one of two towing eyes that I do not believe existed on a real wartime T-34. I believe that these towing eyes are a post war modification, possibly at a museum.
A 76.2-mm ammunition box is on the side but does not appear tied down (magnetic stowage?). On the side is a later war fuel drum and on the rear a mid-war fuel box. We can have one of these or the other but I have never seen both types of fuel containers used at the same time. The turret is the hexagonal (hex-nut) type with a commander’s cupola having split hatch characteristic of the model 1943 T-34-76 (a.k.a. T-34 E). Around the cupola we can see viewports. On the turret side, just in front of the number 20, is a viewport. The pistol port on the left side below this viewport is missing.
The roadwheels are the all-steel type common in 1942 and 1943. I do not see any handrails on the turret or hull though they were common on the T-34 from 1942 on. I see a tarp on the left front fender but have never seen any attachment points in this location on a T-34; often these whole front sections of the fenders are removed. Next to the driver’s hatch on the left side is a single headlight.

Above we see the box art of the ESCI/ERTL release of the same kit as above, finished in overall winter white. The driver’s hatch is now portrayed slightly open (a driver’s memoir I read stated this was common when the T-34 was traveling as the visor glass was too poor in quality to see though well) and one of the two periscope visors is now open. In the actual model kit the hatch can open but the visors are molded closed. There is a length of track mounted on the glacis which I do not think was particularly common till 1944 and the T-34-85; this track is included in the kit and is made up of track pieces commonly mounted on the fenders. On the hull side we see a pair of shovels which I have seen on modified “Beute” T-34s captured by the Germans. Above the shovels and up on the engine deck are handrails (which are not included in the kit).
The two towing eyes are missing from the bow in the painting but are still present on the actual model kit. On the side is a fuel drum but no fuel box on the rear. Tow cables are included in the kit and are here laying down the length of the fender. The roadwheels are the all-steel type.
The hexagonal turret is referred to as the hard-edge type based on the lower edge. The turret now has handrails but the side vision port and pistol port are is now missing as they are on the turret in the kit. Another, very significant, thing missing in this box art is the commander’s cupola! The lack of a commander’s cupola would make this a model 1942-43 “Mickey Mouse” version T-34-76 (a.k.a. T-34 D). But this kit does indeed come with a cupola atop the turret (see photos below); I am pretty sure that ESCI never released a T-34 with a hexagonal turret but no cupola. .

The instructions for the model 1943’s lower hull and suspension are the same as for the Model 1942 kit, so here are ESCI’s instructions for the turret and connecting the two hull sections together.
• The all-steel roadwheels in this kit I find poorly rendered. You can try drilling the holes larger and sand the rim thinner which will be a lot of work; you can live with them as is, steal them from another kit, or you can buy some very nice aftermarket resin wheels. Often the steel wheels were mixed with rubber-tired wheels to improve the ride.
• Like the m1942 roadwheels, the m1943’s steel roadwheels also lack the ring of bolts.
• The hub of the sprocket and idler wheels are flat but should be round hubs. These rounded hubs can be fashioned perhaps from sections of sprue and glued onto the wheels.
Attach the track links to the idler and sprockets and then the track lengths over the roadwheels on the lower hull sides before gluing the hull top down to the lower hull, as shown in the instructions, to get the fit and alignment of the tracks correct.
• There are little circular marks on the hull sides which are guides for handrail locations. If you are not adding handrails these marks should be shaved off and sanded smooth. Handrails can be nicely fashioned from fine brass wire or thin steel guitar string.
• I have seen photos of Soviet T-34s with a shovel mounted on the side but so far not two shovels. The placement of the two shovels here resembles more the shovels I have seen on captured and modified German Beute T-34s.
• It was common for the T-34 model 1943 to have the exterior cylindrical fuel tanks on the sides, or the large fuel box on the rear. Rarely if ever, would a T-34 have both types of fuel containers at the same time as portrayed in ESCI’s instructions. The fuel drums would be removed before the tank went into combat, but not always.
• Snip off the funny tow point tabs on the peak of the bow and sand smooth.
• With a sharp knife you can carefully cut under the two driver’s visor hoods and bend them up to portray the visor hoods open. Strips of dark, exposed camera film can simulate periscope lenses.
• Compared to the Trumpeter, UM and Dragon kits the ESCI main gun barrel is too tapered and one to two milimeters too short. I found that replacing it with a longer piece of brass or aluminum tube improves the look of the gun.
• The cupola is a milimeter or more too narrow; it doesn’t sound like much but is very noticeable to me. The cause of this is that the turret appears too narrow, making the roof narrower, therefore the cupola must be smaller to fit on the roof.
• The cupola needs five vision ports; these can be simulated by carefully impressing a hot, small screwdriver tip into the plastic leaving a slot with a raised ridge around it. The same approach can be used to make the vision ports on the turret sides.

An ESCI / Italeri T-34 1943 turret (in center) compared with a Dragon T-34 1943 turret roof at left, and a Trumpeter T-34 1943 turret at far right. The ESCI / Italeri turret is a little over a milimeter too narrow and therefore the cupola is also a milimeter too narrow. The Dragon T-34 1943 cupola is at far left.
• The Turret hatches can be posed open but you will have to add underside detail based on your references. The hatches are too thick so sanding them down before posing them open would help.
• The turret lifting rings on the roof can be better portrayed by snipping off the little nubs on the kit roof, drilling small holes, and inserting rings made from fine copper wire wrapped around a pin to make the ring.
• Add a pistol port plug to the left side under the view port and another pistol port on the turret rear.
• Drill vision holes in the turret roof periscopes. It was typical of Hex shaped T-34 turrets to have only one rotating periscope, not two, typically one in front of the commander.
• Give the turret some cast texture, but be careful not to overdue this.
• On the turret roof there are no vent holes in the roof ventilation-fan dome. Carefully scribe four slots around the base of the dome based on reference photos of the T-34.

Right side of the ESCI Model 1943 turret left over after using an aftermarket resin turret on the ESCI hull. Here is a good view of the viewport on the hull side made with a hot jeweler’s screwdriver tip. If you are not really careful it can come out a little crooked like this one did. On the commander’s cupola the view ports were made with a smaller screwdriver tip and came out much better. A cast steel texture has been simulated by coating the surface with Testers’ liquid cement and scrubbing it with a stiff toothbrush.

The left side of the turret shows the viewport and an open pistol port with the plug hanging down on a chain. The viewport on the cupola did not come out so well in this instance; there are five viewports on the cupola and two on the turret side to do. In this view we see the copper tube used to replace ESCI’s gun barrel. Along the edge of the turret roof we see a nice welded seam. The glossy surface is an acrylic gloss preparation for decals.

What to do with the leftover turret! This ESCI/Italeri hexagonal T-34 turret is left over from a recent conversion of another ESCI kit using a resin aftermarket turret; something like this is perfect decoration or addition for a vignette or diorama. The antitank shell perforations on the turret side were made with a hot graphite pencil point. [This turret still needs more weathering and detailing so is not officially ready for a contest.]

Despite their shortcomings both of these models are respectable representatives of the T-34 and make a fine wargaming model or can be detailed into a good display model. It definitely has certain detail advantages over the UM and Trumpeter kits for example.

Resources & References
T-34 IN COMBAT, Model Fan Encyclopedia No 6, vol. II; Ajaks – Military Books
T-34/76 MEDIUM TANK 1941-1945, Osprey Military New Vanguard 9, by Zaloga and Sarson (1994).
T-34 MEDIUM TANK (1939-1943), Russian Armour Vol. 4, By Mikhail Baryatinskiy, Ian Allen Publishing, (2007)

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Article Last Updated: 07 May 2010 Back to Article List