ARM: Review - Academy 1/35 scale M50A1 Ontos

Kit Review: Academy 1/35 scale Kit No. 13218; U.S.M.C. M50A1 Ontos; (315 in grey styrene, 28 etched brass, 24 grey vinyl, 2 gunmetal
vinyl); retail price US$36.00
Advantages: first styrene kit of this vehicle in more than 50 years and first styrene one in 1/35 scale; nicely done with good parts layout and preparation for a number of options
Disadvantages: no interior; some scale problems
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all “Jarheads” and fans of 1950s armored vehicles
F I R S T L O O K
    When I was in college in 1966 there were two Marine sergeants going through the “Bootstrap” program in which they were allowed to attend college on Marine time with the condition they would return to active duty as second lieutenants upon graduation. Both had served in Vietnam the previous year (1965) and had stories to tell.
    One of the most interesting was coming into a Vietnamese village and coming under sniper fire. The platoon leader called for help and an Ontos drove up to deal with the sniper. The VC, upon seeing the armored vehicle, jumped down from his tree spot and began to run for his life. The Ontos fired one of the recoilless rifles at him – and missed. Again. Miss. Again. Miss. After the sixth shot - and miss – the commander popped the hatch, lined up on the now distant VC and fired the .30 caliber Browning, taking him out with one burst. So much for fire support.
    This curious little vehicle, which began as an Army tank destroyer project in the early 1950s, wound up going to the Marines as it was light enough and small enough to be easily deployable and still provide heavy firepower and antitank capability when needed. In the late 1950s Renwal, whose only armored vehicle kits were of US Army vehicles from the “Pentomic” Army period, released a 1/32 scale kit of one with lots of moving parts, a crew and “no-show” gluing (e.g. you had to attach most parts from the inside, not the outside). A popular model of the time, as with many other kits it suffered from “sort of” scale approaches and oversized moving parts, as well as some rough construction problems - for one, it was nearly impossible to get the barrels straight no matter how hard you tried.
    Over the years two 1/35 scale resin kits came out, but both were very fiddly and expensive. Now Academy has come to the rescue with a brand- new kit in 1/35 scale which is much closer to the real vehicle and appears to hit the target.
    In the interests of full disclosure I did provide a good deal of information to Academy via MRC for this kit – markings information, a complete set of plans, and a complete set of photos and drawings from the USMC operator’s manual for the vehicle. While most of the latter covered the interior – and there is not a bit of interior in this kit even with the huge number of parts – the exterior parts appear to have been closely matched to the info I provided as well as that Academy researchers found elsewhere.
    The kit comes with a four-piece hull – top, bottom and upper and lower rear plates – with slide molding used to get the details on the lower hull. The suspension is quite complex but matches what info I have on the vehicle and is designed to permit all of the wheels to rotate; a standard Academy set of vinyl keepers is included but only 10 of 24 parts are used. The shock absorbers are also included and care must be taking in installing them in Step 4.
    The flip-down ammunition door (which was overscale but worked on the Renwal kit) is included as a separate part, but there is no ammo bay and it simply covers the opening for one. The grille doors for the engine compartment are separate parts, but while the service access to the engine is open the rest of the compartment is closed off and the grilles simply cement to the top of the hull. The travel lock for the rifle assembly is fixed but the modeler has a choice of up or down.
    Etched screens are provided for the muffler assembly and care will be needed as part PE7 is a cone shaped connector which must be formed from flat brass. While there are a number of etched brass bits included, the kit main directions are more than a bit obtuse on how to use the rest or even where! I think they include straps for the rear mudguards (PE5 and PE9) and brackets for the muffler guards plus a replacement (PE12) for the driver’s periscope guard (B63), plus a set of 16 bolt heads. A better description is given on the finishing sheet along with locations.
    The rifle assembly is very complete, with each rifle comprising 14 parts (lowers) or 17 parts (uppers) for those weapons with and without spotting rifles respectively. Note that the lower weapons do not mount spotting rifles when installed in the rifle assembly, even though they are shown in Step 12. (They can be mounted if the rifles are removed from the assembly and used in an M40C arrangement on a tripod ground mount). The breeches appear to be posable in the “open” position. The Vietnam added armor plate for the .30 caliber machine gun is also included. Note that the rifle assembly is fixed in place and cannot be elevated or depressed, albeit it can be set with some work during installation in Step 9.
    The tracks are one-piece vinyl runs and look the part - steel bars bolted to a rubber base to form a continuous tracks (note that this is pretty much one reason why you do not see many preserved Ontos vehicles with tracks as once they start to deteriorate they are hard to fix or replace - the APG one is a typical victim). There are three small nubs on the outer face which require trimming, but the detail and flexibility are very good.
    The only glitch I ran into with the kit are the rifles. Each one is a tad underscale (overall the barrels are right at 106mm in scale - 3mm - or about a scale 8-10mm too small in diameter. With a coat of paint, this is mostly insignificant and they do look the part. However, the four ammo rounds provided for them are overscale and are about 122mm instead. If you use them - as the shapes are close and MUCH better than the “giant bazooka rounds” Renwal fancifully supplied – don’t place them too close to the rifle breeches!
    The two figures are very well done and tailored to the vehicle. The commander has a “bone dome” with one-piece goggles and the loader has a “do rag” bandanna. Note that the figures as molded are better than the prototypes in the directions on details!
    One finishing option is provided, “Soul Tractor” which is straight from the Osprey book on US Armor in Vietnam. This time the markings match the photos.
    Overall, while a bit of interior could have made it an even better kit, it should please most modelers and is one of the best efforts from Academy.
    Thanks to Ed Sexton from MRC for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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Some pics of a restored example:
http://afvdb.50megs.com/usa/pics/m50ontos.html
(kim)
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

i built the renwal as a lad and remember it fondly. i was 8, i believe and it was a big boy kit. i built it slowly and carefully while watching some german tv. maybe related or un, i don't know, they showed a history film. it had a smiling wartime sargent filing a recoiless gun from a sitting position on the ground. he was blasting away and grinning like an idiot. he had on goggles and if he had smiled any harder, some teeth would have cracked. thanks for a spin in the wayback donkey, cookie. i had forgotten all about but you kick started the memory and away i went. thanks! i got to get me one of those. wish i could see that film again but i am not going to refrain from respiration while exploting the laws of randomness trying for a chance viewing.
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote the following:

snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Sounds like R. Lee Ermey, a Marine Gunnery Sergeant who has a show where he fires all the weapons for the theme that show. He has had two shows on the History Channel; "Mail Call" and "Lock and Load with R Lee Ermey" The latter show is still running.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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i guess i wasn't clear. it was when i was 8 and it was a german wartime clip of a wherrmacht sargent. it certainly wasn't a 'nam era vet playing with it. sorry for the misambulation.
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote the following:

My fault. I misremembered that you said you were 8 years old. I deleted my response message as soon as I re-remembered it, but it was too late.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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willshak wrote:

Dude, we are all 8 years old here remember ??
Else why would we be building models ? And even worse admitting it to others...........
--
AM

http://sctuser.home.comcast.net

http://www.novac.com
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AM wrote the following:

The only place around here that sells model kits and accessories is Michaels, and that is in the Kids Crafts section. I'm almost embarrassed to shop in that aisle, and wish I had a little kid with me to go there.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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willshak wrote:

I walk down that isle with pride <G>
I'm the outreach coordinator for our astronomy club and do outreaches at elementary schools all the time. someone asked me once whats my secret for keeping these young kid's attention. The answer was simple.
I never grew up, I'm still a little 6'2" kid...
--
AM

http://sctuser.home.comcast.net

http://www.novac.com
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On rec.games.miniatures.warhammer (a group for people who play with toy soldiers - and not even historical ones, at that) I pointed out my ambition was to go from adolescence to senility without an intervening period of maturity; the response was they thought I'd already achived it...
I think the Ontos was the first armour kit I built ( that or the Airfix Sherman), back when I was at Junior School, and I can recall building the Skysweeper AA gun as well. I can't remember where I got them, they were a bit exotic for my neck of the woods.

Cheers,
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i hold my head up and march in. otherwise my heads flops around.
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senility? ocd? add? abc? 123? shoot me, please.
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eh? eh? what's that, sonny? my ears ain't what they userter be and my brain ran away years ago. it's ok, at least i understood all of it.
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