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Jack Thompson
3 articles

My Thing

January 12, 2016 · in Armor · 12 · 1.8K

In 1968, as a young NROTC midshipman (Marine option) from Ohio State, I went on a field trip to Camp Lejeune, NC. One of the many fun things we did, was visit an "Ontos" platoon holding exercises in the woods near the beach. I got to drive one of these little beasts and it left quite an impression on me. Not enough to deter me from my aviation ambitions (I ended up as a CH-46 helicopter pilot) but I sure enjoyed my brief flirt with "armor."

"Ontos" is Greek for "thing" - an apt moniker. (They were also often referred to as "pigs" by Marines.) It was pretty heavily armed: six 106mm recoilless rifles, four .50cal spotting rifles and an M1919 .30cal machine gun - a lot of fire power for a relatively small AFV. And the thing could do 30 mph on the open road. When delivered as a tank buster, the Army was less than enthralled, but the Marines found it quite effective in Viet Nam against hardened targets and bunkers and so they embraced it enthusiastically.

I am primarily a large-scale model railroader, but with quite a lot of military figure painting in my background. However, when I saw this Academy 1/35th scale kit, I wanted to build it as a memento of the only tracked vehicle I have ever driven (so far anyway.) Also because it's kinda cute, in its own way, and a rare modeling subject in most of the publications I've seen.

I built it pretty much straight stock - right out of the box. I did, however, add some super detailing such as front mud flaps, shackles front and rear, wiring for firing the 106 and spotting rifles, radio antennae, etc. This was my first encounter with photo-etched parts, which I found daunting but doable. A fun project. Your comments and questions are welcome.

Reader reactions:
9  Awesome

8 additional images. Click to enlarge.

12 responses

  1. 🙂 ... Greetings ... 🙂 :
    Alway's did see the ONTOS as a very fantastic looking piece, it really calls out "ATTENTION"
    Jack, you have done a very good work on it. It would be nice too see it on a diorama with figures. This I believe will show more it's dimension and how low it was, very peculiar vehicle.
    Good work Jack, thanks for sharing.

  2. Butt ugly but beautifully built Jack.
    I can remember reading about the "Ontos" in some books on Nam.
    Well done sir.

  3. A very interesting vehicle, kind of looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. You have done a masterful build here. good looking/convincing model.
    I wonder how well the gun mounts held up, especially with the stress from firing those outside rifles ?

    • Terry -
      Actually, that was sorta the point with recoilless rifles - they produced little or no strain on their mounts. The big problem was the back blast they produced when fired. That's why these vehicles were designed to "shoot 'n' scoot" because as soon as you fired, everybody knew where you were. You had to bug out quick before you drew counter-battery fire.

  4. For your [apparent] initial foray into the world of armor modeling, this little beauty turned out spectacularly. The attention to detail (read: weathering) is stunning. I really like what you've done with this. Outstanding work, Jack. Good to have you on board.

  5. Nice job Jack, really like the weathering, just enough dirt to make her look good. Totally agree about the back blast, it is terrific, loud, lots of dust, smoke and flame. Quite frightening actually.

  6. You nailed this Jack.. There is a tank museum near my house and before my friend built his we went there and crawled all over one of these taking reference photos. Very cool. I would love to get a chance to drive one.
    California Steve

  7. I've never seen one of these before. Looks like it has some serious firepower. Very cool, well built model!

  8. California Steve -
    It was like driving a tracked dune buggy. Relatively light weight and wide tracks allowed it to fly over the sand. Ooorah!

  9. What a monster! Great build and photography.

  10. Holy smokes! Not being an armor guy (although strong interest in military history in general), I have never seen one of these. Pretty awesome, and a very nicely executed model.

  11. Very cool! I have always liked this little shooter. It is weird and unusual, and I tend to lean towards the weird and unusual. You did a really excellent job on this little jewel. Keep up the good work!

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