Huge shout out to www.RC4WD.com For helping facilitate this article.
A few years back I started seeing images and posts online of some of Antipodean RC builder Dphotographer Danny Huynh amazing body shell art and full on build projects. I was simply gob smacked at the intricate detail, the unique approach he put to every aspect, and both the visual as well as mechanical story each one told.
Trying to explain what they convey without actually seeing them is difficult. They have a rare quality in that they are not only visually stunning, meaning you end up scrutinizing each image much longer than most RC posted online, but they are also truly innovate.
Danny utilizes many stock components in very unique ways. he also adds detail features not usually associated with the original vehicles, like faux Rotary Engines more akin to use in a flight scenario, Machine Guns, Revolving cab sections and much more. Each build usually has a driver figure and or gunner/co-pilot/sidekick present, and these are often animated via linkages and servos to make then not only come to life, they actually look like they are steering/firing/riding. The figures often have a slightly dark Sci-Fi twist.
From Terminator androids and Wolverine, to what can only be described as undead Sci-Fi Storm Troopers…(and not the Star Wars kind!), they have a look and presence that seem to elevate each build to an even higher level of cool.
No Two Are The Same…
He’s build 3WD chopper-esc Drift Trikes (yes you read that correctly…3WD, Drift Trike) based on 1/5th Thunder Tiger race bike, rigs based on Axial donors, painted some of the sickest drift car bodyshells I’ve ever seen, and more recently done a series of builds based on RC4WD kits, donor vehicles and parts. And these are something else!
I recently got a chance to interview the man himself. We are friends on Facebook, and comment on each others photographs and projects all the time, but I wanted to know more about him as a person. What inspires the man that himself inspires so many to re-visit the art of truly building. An art that for many has been lost, and to a whole new generation of RC fans, who have grown into the hobby with RTR vehicles, run mostly stock.
I do hope this will be in some way a wake up call and an inspiration to you to go and get yourself a kit, and put some of yourself into its build process. But enough of that, onto the interview…
RCCZ: What led you to this point in your RC builds? We want the Dphotographer Danny Huynh Origin Story…when did they go from Cool to Epic?
DPDH: “I’m a documentary photographer by trade and have always had a passion for cars. Not so much the mechanical side of them, but more passionate about the design aspects of cars. So about 5 years ago, I’ve decided to buy my first RC car!
I always wanted to win one while growing up in the 80’s since my parents couldn’t afford one, but hey… Better late than never!
I’ve never really considered my works as being cool or epic. I just do what I enjoy and am thrilled to see other people appreciate it…”
RCCZ: How would you describe your creations? To me they are functioning works of RC Art…They blow my mind and inspire me in equal measure.
DPDH:“I like to describe them as a form of creative thinking, I like to keep them very similar in style, but also different from each build to set them apart. I’ve never called myself an artist. I just stumbled into the title through the use of Facebook.
I suppose it is a form of art to a certain extent, specifically the painting and photography side of it…”
RCCZ: You seem to see the World in a very different way to most. What’s your favorite film/book? In my head I can see a whole Graphic Novel littered with your builds…what’s inside your head?
DPDH: “Not much goes inside my head to tell you the truth. I don’t read books or graphic novels, I’m more of a music person and must have something on all day, every day while I tinker.
Some of my favorite movies Kill Bill, Blade Runner, movies with alien/s etc., but I don’t see any of those being an influence in my work.
I feel that my biggest inspiration comes from WW2 vehicles. Particularly, the aircrafts during that period which I believe to be the best design in aviation history! “
RCCZ: What was your first ever true RC vehicle? (and did you modify the hell outta it?)
DPDH: “As I mentioned previously, I bought my first RC car about 5 years ago. It was the re-release of the Tamiya Avante and brought back my childhood memories from the 80’s. Back then, it was Tamiya’s design with their Avante and Egress that really got my attention. Even the box art itself was truly a work of art.
Shortly after, I discovered RC drifting and bought a Tamiya VDS drift chassis. That allowed me to be really creative and paint the drift shells in different ways. I think this is where it all really started with teaching myself how to paint drift shells and eventually lead to modifications on the VDS. It was the first of my animated drivers, the Kick Ass action figure!“
RCCZ: If you could build anything, based on any kit, from any manufacturer ever made, no budget restrictions…no scale concerns, what would it be?
DPDH: “I’ll have to go with what I’m building with right now. I have built quite a few different RCs, but nothing compares to RC4WD’s products. Not only do their scale trucks really suit my style of building, but RC4WD provides a great deal of details in all their products. Mainly, their scale chassis’ really brings my designs to life…”
RCCZ: What are the top 3 things you can offer as advice for people inspired to get their own build projects started?
1. Create and don’t imitate
2. It doesn’t have to be realistic, just as long as it works and looks “unreal”.
3. Have fun!
RCCZ: Any insights into your latest projects? Anything we really need to know about you, and the future of PDH?
DPDH:“I try to build a new project every month. it usually takes a month or two for all the detailing and creation to work as one. Currently, I’m working on a RC4WD Gelande 2 with their classic Toyota Land Cruiser Body. It’s a tow truck based on the Zero Warbird with a radial engine. hehe…”
PS: “You might also be seeing another Trike soon, since I’ve been wanting to challenge myself with another 3 wheeler…”
RCCZ: Have you ever thought of producing a book about the entire body of your work? I could see it sitting on coffee tables all over the World…especially mine!
DPDH:“I never considered producing a book, but yes, that would be cool. I pride myself as a photographer as that is after all how this all started… you know, painting drift shells and photographing them. I have to snap a photo everyday otherwise I go mad…hehe!”
RCCZ: Last question…Where do you want to see the RC Industry and this vibrant Scale Scene go in the future? Is it still as exciting and diverse as when you first got hooked? Or do you think it needs more people with your drive and vision to push the boundaries a little, and inspire a new generation into getting involved and building using traditional model making techniques?
DPDH: “That all depends on what one loves about this hobby. I know that this industry is constantly growing and has been awesome with releasing new kits and creations quite regular to keep us happy.
The great thing about this hobby is that there are various aspects as to what we each love about it. For me, it’s creating, painting and photographing it. And yes, it “IS” as exciting as the day I discovered it! For others, it can be the racing side or competitive side to it, or both. Whichever it is, we need to keep practicing what we love about this hobby. Practice makes perfect, or at least pretty darn close!”
A huge shout out to Danny for taking the time to answer my questions. We look forward to seeing more of his builds in the future. Huge thanks’ also to RC4WD for helping facilitate this, and for more on Danny and his builds check out his Facebook page HERE
I do hope that for those not familiar with his work it will inspire you to. Its set a benchmark in terms of being so different and taking us away from always striving to create photorealistic builds. Adding in a little weird and using a little leftfield thinking creates something fresh and exciting, and long may that be so!
So, where should I start this journey; when I got the kit, or a lot further back? I’ve been told in the past to start at the beginning , however I’m going to break that rule and start at the end, as I cannot wait to share the finished product with you.
This is the end result of what has been a long journey for me. It has been an emotional journey and one with a variety of feelings along the way, but well worth the travelling .
Back to the beginning
OK, before I show you too much, let’s go back to the beginning, the very beginning, <cue the ‘Wayne’s World’ time travel special effects>
My journey into RC cars started with Tamiya. Without a shadow of a doubt, Tamiya were THE manufacturer of kits in the 80’s. I remember being in awe as my younger self opened the box, seeing all the components and then learning to build the kits. It’s fair to say that more than half of the fun of a Tamiya was the journey before you drove the car.
We live today in a Ready To Run world, and this has its advantages to get people driving quickly. However, there is something lost for me in RTR cars. In building the car up yourself, you not only got a massive sense of achievement and pride in what you have achieved, but you also built your knowledge. Knowing how a car is put together is a big thing so overlooked by the RTR world of today. If you built the car, you understand the car, and I think that allows you to repair, upgrade and tune as you want with confidence.
For those, like me, who have some silver or white in what hair they have left, this should ring some bells. For those younger, I know there were some re-releases of the classics in early 2000’s. The Tamiya cars at the time, for me, were the Hornet, Grasshopper and the Frog, swiftly followed by other character cars like the Wild Willy Jeep.
I still have a soft spot for the F150 Ford Ranger with its aluminium suspension setup and scale looks, as that was one of the last cars of my childhood and was also the car that re-united me with my father after family divorce – RC has a way of mending many bridges by providing a common ground.
My memories of the Tamiya kits were good overall; I don’t ever recall a badly moulded part on any of my kits sprues. Sure, I remember upgrading the friction shocks to oil filled dampers and changing the plastic bush rings for metal ball races in some of my earlier budget based builds.
The thing with this, is that you have to remember where Tamiya placed those kits. They offered (and still do) a range of kits, from their top of the range pro racing kits with all the upgrades in the box as standard, to an accessible entry level kit to get as many people into RC Cars as possible whilst maintaining a decent quality level as, after all, the experience of a bad model could taint your RC experience and put someone off the hobby.
So you can hopefully understand why this meant a lot to me when I was asked to relive my journey and how would the current models match up to the expectations in my head from remembering my Tamiya roots.
OK, back to the near present <more Wayne’s World time travel wavy screen effects and sounds>
Presented with a boxed Tamiya TT02 sporting the legendary 1992 world rally championship winning Lancia Delta Integrale, let’s just say I was quite excited as the memories started flooding back.
On first glance the kit contained not only the car itself, but a motor and speed controller so, in addition to the kit, I added a 9009 Low Profile servo from RC-Core to use alongside my existing Spektrum radio gear and a can of white PS-1 Tamiya paint.
So, I’m itching to get started and having built a few kits in the past and although I stand a good chance of piecing together the car by sight without having too many parts left over, I think it’s best to use the instruction manual with its exploded diagrams, to aid the process. But just before I get into the build zone and delve in with the clippers and a knife blade to clean all the joints up, let’s have a look at the some of the sprues and what you get.
As you can see, the injection moulded black plastic sprues are very well moulded, so they are accurate and have a great finish. These contain all the parts you need, each one numbered so you can identify it easily using the manual and have a relatively simple build process.
A tip for removing the parts is never ever twist them off the sprues, as often that removes a small amount of the part as it comes off. My preference is to use wire cutters and clip the part off close to the part and then use a craft knife or Stanley type knife to or scrape off any mould marks to ensure the very best fitment and look.
Chrome and body-coloured parts to add lots more detail and realism to the Lancia
The moulded “bath tub” chassis provides a very sturdy base for the Tamiya TT02 to be built on, and should keep everything inside protected from any stones etc. from the off-road escapades that I know it’s going to have.
Wheels and tyres, again have had time lavished on them in the design phase to add more realism with the cross cut block tyres and white rally wheels, ensuring they are both functional for driving and look great if your car is a shelf queen.
Onto the build
Following the instructions, after installing the centre driveshaft, one of the first parts to build is the differential. For those that don’t know what this is or how important it is, it allows the wheel on each side to turn at a different speed, whilst still being driven forwards by the motor.
This is needed to make it easier to turn the car, as the wheel on the outside of the bend has to travel further than the wheel on the inside. On a 4wd car like the Tamiya TT02 Lancia Delta, it will have a differential at the front and at the rear. without them it would be very hard to drive.
The differential is made up of a 4 planet gears and 2 crown gears that fit inside the main housing and allow the wheels to to turn at different speeds as previously explained.
Tamiya, thankfully for those that have not built a differential or a car before, break everything down into sections and detail the build step by step. Everything you need is included in the kit, and they even put in the required tubes of grease.
After a few steps (7 if you included building the driveshaft), you end up with the following, a completed differential installed ready for the cover plate.
You can see in the image above that Tamiya have provided plastic bushings rather than ball bearings with the kit. Ball bearings are available as an upgrade, and its one I would recommend if you want to extend the life of the TT02.
I’m not going to recreate the manual in this review, but hopefully show you enough steps and images that you can be part of the build with me
Before long the motor is installed and the pinion gear mesh with the main drive gear is set by the chassis and motor mount. There is no fiddling to do to get it right. You can see the smear of thick grease that is used to stop dust ingress into the motor and gear mesh, simple and effective.
The suspension and drive shafts are built up. To allow the correct movement, Tamiya have moulded ball joints that you assemble – it takes a hard press to get the balls into the moulded cups, but they go in with a click, then you can bolt through into the steering hub. It goes to show again the accuracy of Tamiya’s moulds and process they use to create the plastic parts.
The drive shafts are “Dog Bones”, very simple, very effective, the metal pin that goes through the drive shaft fits into a slot on the axle hub and differential hub. This allows the suspension to move up and down and the steering to turn whilst still transmitting the power from one to the other, and, in turn, driving the wheel.
Well the Tamiya TT02 is starting to look like a chassis now. Steering linkages need to be made up and fitted, but it won’t be long before its able to move under its own steam!
Using two bell-cranks and some linkages to the wheel hubs and to the servo (via a servo saver) the steering is done.
So, What’s A Servo Saver?
Whilst some servos are now metal geared, traditionally, servos have plastic gears inside them that drive the output shaft which you connect to the servo horn and, in turn, the steering.
It was quite easy to damage these servo gears by hitting a curb, for example. The force of that impact was transmitted directly back to the servo, so some clever soul invented a servo saver. It uses a separate inner and outer ring and a spring so, if there is a big impact, some of that impact force is taken up by the spring part and the servo gears are saved…
(Lots of modern servos use or have options for metal gears now, however a servo saver can still be a good idea)
Onto The Shocks
One thing to note at this point is the shock absorbers are friction and not oil damped. Whilst that makes for an easy build, it is the one thing I would certainly upgrade. Once you have driven a car with oil dampers and softer springs you appreciate the smoother, less bouncy drive.
Pin Location & Faux Disk Hexes
In order to stop the axle spinning inside the wheel, Tamiya follow the trusted method of using a pin through the axle which goes into a slot on the back of a plastic hex. As you tighten the wheel onto the axle with the lock nut, it presses the hex (with its built in faux disc) over that pin to ensure nothing can slip when you give it full throttle.
Installing the Electrics
Now the mechanical side is finished, it’s time to sort out the electronics. For some this can be a daunting task, but I can help put aside any fears by saying it’s all plug and play, even colour coded.
The Electronic Speed Controller provided is far superior to the old three speed wiper speed controllers of my youth and very welcomed. No ceramic resistors to scorch your arm on and a much smoother power delivery too.
This ESC is also capable of running both the brushed drive motor that came in the kit, or an upgraded brushless motor, so they have given some future proofing as standard and an easy way to add more power. Tamiya, another thank you from me.
I’ve not cut and soldered any of the wires in this kit. and although it might look complex or a lot of wires, all I have done is plugged them in, bunched them up and used a couple of cable ties so they are tidy and don’t catch
The wiring is not that hard when you look at it logically…
ESC has pre wired switch, battery connector, motor connectors and signal control lead
ESC and servo connect to the radio receiver via their signal control lead
ESC connects to battery with the attached power lead
ESC connects to motor (2 wires for brushed, 3 wires for brushless, all covered in the manual)
With a little planning and some cable ties its simple to bundle the wires up to keep things neat. My personal preference would have been to cut and solder the wires so everything is super neat, but I wanted to build this as I would have built it in my youth.
The Completed Chassis
The underside of the bathtub chassis will protect the components and keep everything nice and safe.
Looking good topside, foam bumper installed to help absorb any impact from when we rally this about.
That is the chassis and electronics build done. I have tested it driving about inside the garage and once i had reversed the steering channel on my transmitter, all was good. Those tyres give massive grip on carpet tiles, so should make light work of propelling the Lancia forward on tarmac or loose surfaces.
Group B Body
Painting a body is an experience, and one I think everyone should do at some point; not only to get something personalised to themselves, but it’s another skillset and well worth the time invested in learning.
Before you start, you need to cut out shell. As it comes in the kit, there is some excess material on the wheel arches and around the sills/bumpers. I would recommend investing in some curved scissors for Lexan. They make the job a lot easier. Take your time, follow the lines on the shell and all will be good.
Tamiya provide you with a set of window masking templates for the Lancia and you have to cut these from the sheet yourself, following the guide lines and then stick them inside the windows.
Please remember at this point you are going to paint the shell from the inside. The reason for this is that you are much less likely to scratch any paint off as you’re throwing it down gravel tracks and off road. The outer shell of Lexan will, thankfully, protect your paintwork.
After following the instructions of cleaning the inside of the shell and fitting the window stickers, you can then beak out the spray can.
Keep the layers thin, there is no rush and if you put on a big heavy layer, it’s much more likely to run.
A good tip, besides ensuring you’re spraying in a ventilated area with adequate protection, is to warm the paint can in some hot water. This allows the paint to flow better and gives you a more even coat and a better finish.
Once you have enough layers on and good even coverage, you can let it dry (I recommend overnight in a warm place) and then remove the window masks. Almost done (well nearly)
Stickers, Decals, Detail…
I find building quite therapeutic and spraying is too, for me. Stickers … well it’s a love and hate from me. I want them to be perfect and whilst I enjoy putting them on, there is a lot to put on to this shell. This can be a bit daunting and with one thing and another that was going on in my life, I let this delay the build for far too long.
Taking the bull by the horns and using the old trick of some washing up liquid and water in a spray bottle to allow you to slide the stickers into position, I set to it.
I chose a sticker to start with which was one of the rear quarters, and cut out the stickers a few at a time from the multiple sticker sheets
If you spray the outside of the shell (don’t forget to remove the overspray guard film first) with a mist of water with a little washing up liquid mixed in, it will allow you to slide the sticker into place and then squeegee the water out from under the sticker when you have it where you want it.
I found for some of the stickers, as they have to go over quite large areas of complex curves, that a little heat from a hairdryer make it easy to stretch the sticker into any inside curves or allow the sticker to shrink a fraction so you did not end up with any crow feet lines.
As there is so many stickers on this shell, don’t try and do it all in once, work through them in the order that Tamiya have put on the instructions and before long you’ll have a highly detailed model.
There is a small amount of painting to do on the grill shell and mirrors; I used black acrylic paint and brushed it by hand rather than masking and, as for the rest of the stickers, it’s just a case of following the instructions and building they layers up.
Some of the stickers, like the red line on the grill, are very thin and you need to be mindful when cutting them out. Overall, I stopped counting at 120 separate stickers on this shell. But I love the end result, it’s a fantastic scale look, and Tamiya have surpassed themselves here.
Reliving Past Rally Glory…in 1/10th Scale!
Having spent a lot of time driving tuned cars with brushless motor and oil damped suspension, I need to make clear that the Tamiya TT-02 is sold as a starter car with a highly detailed replica body.
Performance of the brushed motor surprised me, it was as good as I remember them to be, quite happily spinning all 4 wheels on loose surfaces with the cross cut tyres biting into the dirt, throwing it rearwards as they propel the Lancia forwards. The speed controller was another improvement, allowing much more control than the old three speed wiper system.
I’ve mentioned a few times about the suspension, and I will say for approximately £20 you can get a full set of oil filled dampers, and it’s the one upgrade i would do. The standard shocks do what they are designed to do however, with the strong springs, it does make the car bounce about after a jump or on very rough terrain. On a smooth or relatively smooth surface, its a hoot to drive, and on gravel the Tamiya TT02 is quite capable of sliding and drifting about, more like the full size Lancia Delta.
It’s a fun car to drive and the overall package is so much more than just the drive; it’s the journey from opening the box, building, painting, stickering, finalising with the driving or displaying; whichever takes your fancy.
Building a Tamiya kit is a journey, no, a rite of passage that everyone should take, at least once…Who knows where it will lead you?