RC Cars and Radio Control Trucks Buyer's Guide
Photo: Porsha's Hello Kitty 1/10 Tamiya TT01 and M06 Mazda RX-7 rc cars. My Tamiya F104 and Stadium Blitzer off-road truck.Recent Articles and Updates
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RC Car Tips Magazine - Feb 2012
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TITC 2012 - Fastest RC Racing
Introduction to the Hobby
Hi my name is Joel. I was 8 years old when my parents bought me a 1/10 Tamiya Ford Ranger radio controlled truck. That was over 32 years ago, yet that memory is still vivid in my mind.
(Right: 1/10 Tamiya Ranger jumping over a ramp. I took that photo over 30 years ago)
I remember opening the box and the smell of the rubber tires. It was also a kit, so I had to read the manual and assemble it myself. It was a new world to me and I savored the build process.
Being a young kid and first time to build an rc car, I made several mistakes. Notably I cut the receiver antennae because in the drawing in the manual it looked like it was short and cut. Lesson learned, never cut the antennae else you will get exercise chasing your runaway rc car. Yes, it happened to me.
My next radio control car was a Tamiya Wild Willy. I loved it cause it did wheelies. The large tires and jeep body was fun to run. And so started my life in the r/c hobby. And throughout the years I've made a lot of mistakes but at the same time learned a lot of good tips from experienced racers. My collection also grew, on-road, off-road, electric, nitro, Tamiya, Associated, Kyosho, HPI and so on.
This hobby is my life. Not only do I enjoy building and racing, I also enjoy writing about rc cars. And that's when RCCarTips was born in 2003. And till today I enjoy doing reviews, taking photos and posting videos of my rc experiences.
So hopefully I can give good advice to help you get started and enjoy this hobby as much as I have.
Electric RC Cars
Open the box you will usually find electric rc cars are powered by a 540-size Mabuchi / Johnson motor. This is what we call brushed motor technology. But this is slowly being replaced by brushless motors which are faster and better.
Beside the kit, you will need to buy the following:
There are also Ready-to-Run kits. These make it very easy to get started. The rc car comes 80% - 100% assembled out of the box. Simply charge the battery pack and you are ready to run. Great as a gift or if the person is still too young to assemble a kit.
For more information, please visit the electric rc cars page.
Fast RC Trucks
My first true hobby quality rc car was actually a Tamiya off-road pickup truck. I liked the idea of kicking up dirt and jumping over ramps and sand dunes.
Till today rc trucks are still the most popular.
Short course, 4x4, stadium, monster, mudding, crawlers... you name it, the hobby has it.
For beginners I would recommend the slower models such as the 1/10 Tamiya Stadium Blitzer R/C Racing Pick-Up (photo on right). Large tires and big ground clearance allow you to jump and run on almost any surface.
There are also popular short course rc trucks. Originally rear wheel drive, the newer models are now 4WD. Easier to drive and faster on slippery dirt tracks.
If you want bigger, there are 1/10 and 1/8 scale rc monster trucks. Big tires and 4 wheel drive allow them to go where most vehicles cannot.
And for the experienced hobbyist and speed freaks, some of the fastest rc trucks like the Traxxas Nitro Jato 3.3 can reach 65mph. Definitely not for beginners. And for safety, please run on rc tracks or isolated areas away from people and moving objects.
Finally, there are also realistic scale looking rc 4x4 pickups, crawlers and mudders for those who love realism over speed.
RC Drift Cars
Gaining popularity very quickly is rc drifting. The main attraction are the realistic looking bodies, blinking lights and driving sideways.
Plus you do not need a large space to enjoy, you can drift in small spaces like your garage or driveway. A lot of rc drift events are staged inside malls where the hobby is exposed to a lot of people.
To get started, there are a lot of models and brands to choose from. The Tamiya TT01 Drift Spec and HPI Sprint 2 Flux Drift, are entry level models, great for beginners.
Or if you want the best, go for high end drifting chassis like the Yokomo Drift Package, Hot Bodies TC-FC and the Tamiya TA05 VDF.
You then buy the rc drift body of your choice. Toyota Trueno AE86, Datsun 240Z, Mazda RX-7, Nissan Skyline GT-R, Nissan Silvia and more.
Then add the radio controller and electronics. The trend now is to run brushless motors (in the 8.5T - 13.5T) range and Lipo batteries. Popular tires are the Tamiya Super Driftech and HPI T-Drift.
There are also nitro powered remote controlled drift cars, but these are not so popular. The only model that comes to my mind is the 1/10 HPI Nitro RS4 drift.
Cheap and Fast Nitro RC Cars
And speaking of nitro, what is popular are the 1/10 on-road touring and 1/8 on-road pan cars powered by 2-stoke engines.
I've owned many types of rc vehicles over the past 33 years. And nothing excites me more than playing with nitro powered rc cars.
Nothing beats the speed and realism. Best of all, ready-to-run models from HPI and Kyosho makes it easy to get started. And they are surprisingly cheap.
If you are new, I would recommend you buy the HPI Nitro RS4 Evo 3 and the Kyosho Fazer. These are 1/10 scale, ready to run with various sports car bodies to choose from.
Fastest nitro rc cars like the CEN CTR 5.0 can reach 90mph out of the box. Speed is nice but you would need a big rc track to even reach anywhere near 60mph, let alone 90mph.
I think the companies are marketing the speed too much. In all honesty, I find driving a 40mph r/c car already very challenging. Any faster and it becomes real scary.
Mini RC Cars
I love mini rc cars, these allow me to practice driving even in small spaces like my garage rc track. The smallest I have is the 1/36 Losi Micro-T. It has taken a lot of abuse from me yet still runs strong. Even though it looks like a toy, the radio controller and electronics are top notch.
The 1/28 Kyosho Mini-Z (some say 1/27) is very nice. The on-road models come in rear wheel drive (2wd) or 4 wheel drive (AWD) chassis configuration. These are very popular because of the speed and the very detailed scale looking Kyosho rc bodies. The radio control that comes with the kits are ok. But serious racers will replace these with higher quality eletronics.
(Photo: 1/36 Losi Micro T, 1/28 Kyosho Mini Z, 1/24 Tamiya Tamtech and 1/18 Nanda NRX18 mini rc cars)
For off-road, there are the 1/16 electric and nitro powered mini rc buggies. These are the scale down mini models of the 1/8 off-road buggies. Here I have the 1/16 Kyosho Mini Inferno. It came ready to run with radio controller, esc and steering servo.
One thing I noticed though, is that the electronics that come with ready to run kits are sometimes of poor quality. They simply stop working after only a few hours of playing. Though an exception is those made by Losi, these seem durable. My recommendation is to buy a mini car kit, then supply your own high quality electronics of your choice.
RC Car Tips Newsletter
Back in the 80s I was so excited to see an RC Car Magazine in the news stands of New York City. I bought it and read it from cover to cover, several times over.
I then bought their yearly subscription. Every month I eagerly awaited for the new magazine in my postal mailbox. Remember back then there was no internet and no websites. Magazines were the only source of information about rc cars.
It was called Radio Control Car Action magazine. Popular then as it is now. Happy to see they have lasted this long in the hobby industry.
Though I am not close to being as big as them, I hope that this little website of mine can provide tips and reviews that cannot be found elsewhere.
I am surprised to see that I've written over 75 newsletters and hundreds of tips going back to 2003. That's over 8 years of writing. I guess I really enjoy this hobby.
I've also written a free pdf book "Secrets of Nitro RC Cars" for those who need help with nitros.
Speed secrets, improve driving skills, win races, new products, reviews and more rc tips.
Come back often and thanks for reading.
Articles and RC Car Tips
Best Brands and Radio Control Car Companies
RC Car Reviews
Reader's Stories and Reviews
I would love to hear your story and publish it. Please email to me (email address is in the top logo).
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If you are looking for sports cars, you might enjoy this site. Here, real import cars are compared with very fast remote control R/C cars. You might be surprised at the performance results.
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