The Importance of Accuracy
Some makers might get away with making plastic soldiers that are only vague approximations of their historical counterparts. After all, they would perform perfectly well as toys. ESCI, however, considered themselves to be producers of military miniatures, and accuracy was of prime importance. Many of their customers wanted the figures to look correct, and would have the knowledge to spot errors. So, how well did they perform in this respect?
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Of course, not all figures created by toy makers were military. Britains are famous for their soldiers, but they also made farm workers, dancers, equestrians and hospital staff. Airfix had already produced several sets of figures for model railways in HO/OO scale. However, only a single set of non-military figures were made in 1:32 and these were footballers.
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In 1988, ESCI produced a surprise. A new range of plastic figures was launched in the larger 1:35 scale. If the figures looked strangely familiar, this was because exactly the same figures had appeared in their 1:72 range. So, obviously, some sort of re-use or re-engineering was involved here. More importantly, how do the larger figures compare?
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Checking Out the Competition
A Crowded Marketplace
As we have seen in Fighting Toy Stories, the Airfix Military Series of 1:32 plastic figures were both cheap and good quality. They sold well, and not un-naturally, other manufacturers were attracted to the market. How well did the Airfix figures stack up against the opposition?
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Over the years, military figures have been made in various types of plastic. The two forms most used are polystyrene and polythene. The former can be categorised as ‘hard’ because it is rigid and the latter ‘soft’, because it is flexible. ESCI has used both types, so let’s explore why by taking a look at a typical set that has been modelled in both materials – the Afrika Korps.
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Supporting the Infantry
Most of the sets produced by Airfix were of troops fighting on the front line. As such they are usually armed with the most common weapons such as rifles, sub and light machine guns, and grenades. During World War 2, all armies supported these troops with a smaller number of men equipped with heavier weapons; heavier in the literal sense, and usually operated by a small crew, but capable of putting out a higher firepower.
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ESCI was established in Italy in 1930, to trade goods between the mainland and the Italian colonies – hence its name “Ente Scambi Coloniali Internazionali” or, roughly translated, the “International Colonial Trade Exchange”. In the 1960s ESCI began importing Japanese plastic construction kits, and in 1972 began producing its own kits. It was the first firm to produce 1:72 military vehicles (Airfix at that time were working in 1:76) and as part of this range produced small sets of hard plastic infantry.
Continue reading “ESCI Figures – Introduction”