Have you ever been to a track practice on your own and wished you had been able to time your laps? Or have you been to a car park etc to race friends and wished you could time yourselves. Well the new lap monitor timing system from LapMonitor enables you to do this. A small compact counting system, used in conjunction with a smartphone/tablet, and a transponder with variable numbers allows single racer Lap timing or multi-racers. Interested? Well read on.
I first came across LapMonitor on a Facebook post in a group I am a member of. My initial introduction was from a crowd funding page and I am ashamed to say I paid little attention, Then recently I saw it on another Facebook page where a racer was using it. I made some enquiries and soon had one in my sweaty paws to test.
On opening the package you are presented with a plastic corrugated box and neatly packaged inside is the base unit, which captures laps, two AAA batteries, two mini tripods, extension leads, a transponder, some servo extension cables and some Velcro. I opted for an optional transponder to enable me to race my team-mate and compare times while testing.
In Use – Bind N Race
The LapMonitor attaches to a little holder which then screws onto the tripods. The two tripods included are a small one with flexible legs and a larger one with stiff telescopic legs. You can choose which one enables you to get the monitor mounted in the perfect position. A small battery cover on the back allows the insertion of the two batteries. The unit does auto switch off but you are recommended to remove at least one battery to prevent any drainage.
Once powered up you need a mobile phone or tablet that runs Android or Apple IOS and the LapMonitor App which can be downloaded from the App or iTunes Store. Once the app is loaded onto your device simply switch on your Lap Monitor and bind it through your Bluetooth settings. Select practice or race, how long for the session duration, minimum lap time, start sound, speech and lap time announcements.
There are also lots of other settings to choose and alter how the system works. When you click the drivers tab you can enter a drivers name and assign them a transponder number. This number is marked on each individual transponder and you can run up to (at the moment of typing this) 96 on one LapMonitor, although that would be one very busy track. LapMonitor have thought about different types of vehicle and powering the PT externally. Two types of transponder are available one with a normal Futaba type receiver lead which plugs into your receiver to power the PT or one with a connector which attaches to small light pro batteries such as found in small quads etc so the PT can be remotely mounted without connection to anything.
It would be possible to run a race meeting using the Lap counting system but you would need to manually sort all the information and racers.
How Does It Work?
The transponder works off an infrared beam so does need to be able to see via line of sight It will work through clear lexan so it is easy enough to mount where it can see through the window of your car. You do need to bear in mind that the infrared has a considerable range so don’t pick a corner where it may double count, by that I mean if the car passes the monitor the same way twice it is possible for it to pick up a short Lap. This is easily rectified by increasing the minimum lap time or carefully selecting where you place the Lap counter so it only sees the car once.
The Bluetooth module used to connect to the Smartphone or tablet is high quality and has a range of 80m in open field, Although I recommend in real life, at say a track with variables such as people, buildings, vehicles and other signals being bounced about a safe working range of up to 40 m.
And dont worry if the signal is interrupted for ant reason, automatic reconnection is already there on IOS, and will come on Android soon.
Once the car is ready with the transponder mounted and the LapMonitor is trackside you simply press start on your app, countdown will be given and when you pass the monitor your time will be recorded.
Clear announcements are made at the start countdown and start tone and each time you pass the monitor it will say your PT name so as an example mine says “Mark 17.12”. If other people are present or you’re using a noisy IC car by adding earphones to the phones headphone socket it will talk in your ear. I found this extremely useful at a 5th scale national on road meeting with qualifying runs over 10 minutes.
I altered my practice times to 10 minutes when I was ready to set off round the track I pressed start and every lap was spoken to me in my ear so I could see whether that lap was faster or slower and more importantly by trying a different line I knew whether it was costing or saving me time.
The Lap announcements also countdown the time so you know how long you have left in your run. Having not done 10 minute qualifying runs before I found this extremely useful as a training aid as I got used to running for 10 minutes with no external help. Oddly on qualifying day I missed having the Lap announcements in my ear. Also during practice day I set off the PT in my friend’s car and we had a 10 minute race. The system coped perfectly and announced each Lap position and who was where.
Once you’ve done your testing run you can go back to your pits open the app and the runtime and laps will be displayed with a total laps, total time, last lap time, and the best lap time for each racer.
By clicking any of the times the app will then display all the individual lap times. You can also click the three dots on the top right of the app and then click share event and share the event to numerous other apps such as Google drive, email, WhatsApp and Microsoft One Note. Other apps are being added as the designers find them suitable.
I have to say the LapMonitor is so simple in design and operation yet so versatile and useful it really is a must for any car park through to pro racer. It is worth every penny and is a superb bit of equipment.
I asked owner and designer Franck Geay who is from France some questions, Franck has been extremely helpful and given me lots of advice and is also still busy working on further features for the apps.
Mark: Hi Franck how did you get the idea of the LapMonitor?
Franck:“I use to drive on a parking place around scooter wheels and hosepipes and on also our on local club track which has no permanent lap timer and no electricity. As I am a racing fan and I wanted a portable lap timer to compete with my friends when training I started to develop the first prototype at the beginning of 2016…”
Mark: how did you set up production of LapMonitor?
Franck: “the first production batch has been manufactured by crowd funding, we were please to get supported by world class drivers: among them Ryan Lutz, Ryan Maifield ! Once it was working fine, and after we tested it on many scales indoor and outdoor we decided to make it a real product. We launched LapMonitor sales last year in December…”
Mark: are you happy with how it’s become a production version?
Franck:“It was very exciting and it is still, we get a lot of feedback from drivers who love their LapMonitor because it is fast and simple to use and does not require a computer to use it…”
Currently you need to buy direct from LapMonitor, prices are in Euros but while we are still in the EU there is no VAT or import duties. LapMonitor are looking and negotiating to get them distributed within the UK and as soon as that is possible details will be on their website. You can buy the main unit and one transponder then buy extra transponders to add to your main unit at a later date which makes this infinitely expandable.
Bluetooth 4.0. Range: up to 80 m
Power supply: 2xAAA batteries (not included)
IR range: 5-10 meters depending on weather conditions
Power supply: 3.7-8.4v (JR receiver or Molex connector)
Traxxas gave the RC car industry many firsts. The first true Ready to Run Hobby Grade RC vehicles. No building, no fuss, just add a charged battery and go run them. Then there’s the sponsorship and links for many years with Monster Jam, (I even worked at a couple of events doing the warm up with E-Revo’s and E-Maxx Monster trucks!). The iconic Grave Digger, Monster Mutt to name but two of the many licenced MJ models they released over the years.
Then there was the original, (pre HPI) Ken Block Limited Edition Gymkhana Rally car. We all wanted one. We all bought one. Hell, I even interviewed him and shot him for a cover of RRCi back in the day. Sometimes we forget just how influential and innovative Traxxas products are. But that’s not all. They also gave us the ultimate in bashing vehicle, that was the catalyst for the global Short Course revolution, the Slash. Based on the 2 and 4WD vehicles driven by brothers Mike and Mark Jenkins in the real race series across the US, the Slash quickly became the must have bashing tool for any self-respecting RC fan.
I could go on and mention the very innovative Summit, the 103 mph X-01, the HUUUGE X-Maxx, the amazing Spartan Speedboat and many other products that have defined the company, but I don’t need to. You get my gist. The real point of this is to say that, for once, Traxxas were well behind the curve on a certain trend in RC, namely Scale and Trail Crawling.
They sat back, watched the industry, and waiting until the time was right and then “BOOM” the internet was suddenly full of images of the TRX-4, pictures leaked and speculation rife. Many of the claims were inaccurate. “It’s a 1/8th, it looks huge”, “It’s a Summit with shorter arms and a Land Rover body”, “Traxxas are too late onto the market…” yada, yada, yada.
But they had my interest straight away. Traxxas are one of those brands that hold a special place in my heart. I loved running my 2WD and 4WD Slashes, and have owned many, many Traxxas vehicles over the years. In fact I’m hard pressed to think of one that I’ve not had! The rest of the spec was finally leaked and then there was an official launch, with slick videos, a new section on their website, and an impressive list of features did it boast: –
Portal, T lock equipped axles, offering much better clearance under the axles for the diffs pumpkins. Remote locking and unlocking diffs, that could be run as both open, both locked or just front locked only.
A two-speed transmission, with a 21T reverse rotation motor, meaning the brushes won’t destroy themselves as the motor itself is facing forwards, not backwards as with most other scale rigs on the market.
All the electrics are also 3S compatible as standard, so wheel speed isn’t going to be an issue. Cruise control allowing you to set a speed for long sections of trail running. Shocks are 90mm and designed to be smooth and leak free in use.
The whole rig was waterproof allowing you to cross streams and run in mud and wet conditions. Under arches for the Lexan (yes Lexan) “Fully Licenced” Land Rover Defender D110 bodyshell. A protective Exo-cage and roof rack.
Sticky deep treaded S1 soft compound tyres, with proper tuned inserts. Steel Hexes. 45 degrees of steering deflection and CVD’s as standard, a high torque, metal geared chassis mounted steering servo. A front weight bias and front mounted, motor position. Optimised main pack location and an easy to use reversible battery strap allowing 2 or 3S pack swaps without any hassle at all.
Rock sliders, solid bumpers with the ability to add a real winch in place of the faux one supplied with the RTR. A very solid C-Section Steel ladder chassis and well-designed cross braces. The ESC is also programmable for Trail or Crawling modes with a “mild” or “always on full” drag brake setting an option. Lastly there’s the ability to fit LED lights and a light bar in the future. Holes are already there for this and mounting points for the LED’s.
What It Didn’t Have Are 2 things
Windows (well it did but they were tinted), so no interior or the ability for the end user to fit one. That’s a big thing to the established scale community, but will not deter the “yet to get the bug” crowd out there. It’s an odd thing to omit, so much has gone into getting a Licenced D110, why not offer tinted window stickers that could be removed to reveal clear underneath, and the ability to retro-fit an interior (Dear Traxxas, if you read this, please amend!)
True beadlocks wheels were absent too. The stock wheels and tyres are glued. I really don’t get this as there’s so much work gone into everything else, and the first thing most Scale rigs or crawlers have done to them is wheel weighting and improvements in weight bias. It’s a cheap and easy mod that can transform the way a rig ascends an obstacle or drives up a steep incline.
Again, why, oh why not let the end used decide this aspect of the rig. Offer beadlocks and show in the manual what weight biasing will do to the way the rig handles. More on this later…we have experimented and the findings are as we suspected.
Enough Waffle, Time 2 Test The TRX-4!
Traxxas and Logic RC kindly sent me one of the first rigs to hit UK shores and we did a live unveiling of it at the recent UK Recon G6. Brian Parker hadn’t even seen one up until this point and the general consensus of opinion was very, very positive. But as we had three days of event to run, and over 300 drivers in attendance, it was hidden back at my accommodation and I waited to run it properly the following week. I also enlisted the help of an impartial test driver, Mike Worthington, who’s been a part of the Scale and Crawling scene a while, and lives near me in Solihull. I wanted more than one opinion, and then could offer you the reader a slightly different perspective on the rig in use.
Over to Mike (and his son Maximus!)
Maximus & I…
A few of you may know me but the majority will not, you may have seen my son Maximus and I on Instagram or some other social media platform, or we may be completely new names to you, either way I will take just a moment to let you know who we are.
I have been enjoying the RC hobby for many years, my first RC car was a Tamiya Blitzer Beetle but my first memory of RC was chasing my Dad’s Tandy Landcruiser around the garden in the 80s as a child, my first scale crawler? I got back into the hobby while I was at college, discovering the online community and eBay, meaning I could get the Lunch boxes and Monster Beetles that I had wanted as a child. My Tamiya collecting allowed me to amass quite a few RC cars which in turn have been ‘traded’ into my current fleet of mainly scale crawlers and off-road bashers.
Amongst my collection I have had a few Traxxas vehicles and their out of the box readiness to be run has always been appealing to me, don’t get me wrong I love building rigs and I have built a fair few, but occasionally it is nice to open a box, charge a battery and hit the trails, so when I heard about Traxxas releasing a scale vehicle, I was keen to know more.
This article covers my expectations of the truck vs the reality of seeing it and running it for the first time with my son. I will touch on some of the features and things that are ‘different’ from other trucks currently available and talk about potential flaws or merits of the TRX-4.
Waiting 4 The TRX
When Traxxas announced they were releasing a scale off-roader, I instantly had some ideas as to what I wanted it to be, mainly based on my experience of owning a summit and seeing people on line converting them to scale-ish looking rigs, I hoped Traxxas had taken note and utilised some of the features from the big monster that the summit is, and well I wasn’t disappointed, they have lifted the remote locking Diff’s and the hi/low gear selector, (which Traxxas featured on the first EMaxx trucks years ago) and put them in the TRX-4 but they had also added some new features like the portal axles and the ‘cruise control’ function which I was keen to learn more about.
Some early reports I read online were that the vehicle was larger than you would expect, which is common with Traxxas vehicles, their 1/10 vehicles are often closer to 1/8 like the E- Revo and the Summit, but this isn’t the case with TRX-4 it’s not too different in size to my Gelande2 and SCX10s with a 324mm wheelbase, it sits slightly higher (291.6mm) but that’s partly down to the officially licensed Land Rover Defender 110 body shell with its roof rack and off-road styling.
Aside from the size it’s a great looking rig, the scale details are there with the functional spare wheel on the back, the gas can and jack, the exterior roll cage, the fender flares, the replica winch (which can be replaced with a functioning one, I have seen RC4WD test fitting their range already online) and the snorkel which all add to the aggressive modified look of the vehicle, the blacked out windows don’t offend me personally but I’m sure people will cut them out to install some scale interior.
Turning the truck over, the first thing I noticed was the floor pans and wheel wells which provide a good scale appearance, but also will stop some of the muck and debris from entering the model.
The other thing I was drawn to were the portal axles, Traxxas’ method of creating more ground clearance but also reducing torque twist by using the portals to put the gear reduction right at the wheels. The portal axles also improve the geometry of the chassis by allowing the links and drive shafts to run almost parallel with the centre gearbox, reducing strain on the drive shafts and links, the steering links are also higher as a result reducing the chance of getting caught up when driving off-road.
For the test run we were using a Traxxas 5000mah 3s 11.1v iD Lipo battery which fit the chassis perfectly, as you would expect, the battery holder bar can be rotated to hold either a 23mm or a 26mm battery, I was using the 26mm option, also worth noting there is a recess in the battery compartment which allows for the use of smaller battery packs which is common in the scale world, a big thumbs up for me in this department is the fact that the battery bar is attached on a hinge and there are no body clips used.
The ESC is an updated version of their XL5 model, it’s now called the Trail-tuned XL-5 HV which is now capable of running up to a 3s lipo, it’s still waterproof but has the added benefit of new driver profiles such as Trail Mode, to allow for smoother slow speed driving offering a drag brake in neutral, whereas Crawl mode replaces neutral with instant reverse but also offers 100% hill holding brake, which will be useful on technical courses.
The top of the chassis also provides visibility of the micro servos used for the locking Diff’s and hi/low transmission control, much the same as the Summit, but one thing different here is the use of cables as opposed to rigid metal arms. The cables allow for smoother movement and more articulation of the chassis. The other noticeable change on the chassis is the grey standard sized servo for the steering, the 2075X is mounted high between the front shock towers and appears to be an impressive component, with full metal gears, this digital servo is also fully waterproof.
Running, Climbing & Crawling
By now my son is more than ready to try the truck out, so we powered it up and put the shell back on ready to test it on the rocks at the highest point in Warwickshire. Almost immediately you notice the speed of this crawler, in hi gear it will exceed 10mph (according to vids on YouTube) thanks to the Titan 550 21t brushed motor, it reminded me of the first time I ran a Tamiya CC01 chassis with the stock 27t motor installed. Switching to low gear provides a more scale speed for the rig which I used along with both diff’s locked to negotiate the out crops of rock we were crawling over and It did well, the suspension was just soft enough to allow the tyres to maintain contact with rocks, occasionally as a result of the lightness of the wheels and axles I had to wait for the vehicle to settle before applying the throttle.
The 1.9 Traxxas Canyon Trail tyres also performed well both on the rock surface, the mud and in the loose dirt we were driving on, check the video out to see them in action! The only thing I would prefer here would be bead lock wheels, allowing the option to add some much-needed weight to the wheels, without boiling or peeling the tyres off the stock rims. I am sure some people will swap out the wheels and tyres for this reason, as the only thing which created a problem and prevented me from not keeping up with the modified Vaterra Ascender and modified Axial SCX10 that were being run alongside the TRX-4 during the test, was its high centre of gravity.
One feature I didn’t test was the ‘cruise control’ option, partly because I like to maintain control of the throttle of my vehicle, but also because I feel that Traxxas are relabelling something that almost all RC vehicles have the ability to do already, so they can’t claim it’s a new feature. The cruise control is simply adjusting the trim on the throttle on the transmitter, to trick the esc into driving forward without you touching the trigger. I used to do this on my old Tamiya to help me get action shots.
I only put a single battery pack through the truck so didn’t put the chassis to the test with regards to strength and durability, but that being said, I did run it well over 1.5 hours and it feels like a well put together truck with quality parts. It has adjustable, oil filled, coil-over aluminium GTS shocks which were created specifically for the TRX-4, the steel links are large diameter and look like they will take a lot of abuse. The rigid steel ladder style frame offers multiple mounting points for the rear shock tower, allowing the option to change the wheelbase to accommodate for different bodyshells, you can choose 300mm, 312mm, 324mm or 336mm, the rock rails are also adjustable to accommodate different width bodyshells, the bumpers are also adjustable.
Traxxas advertise the truck as brushless ready, which personally gives me confidence in the drivetrain, as I like brushed motors in my crawlers, my brushless rigs are for bashing and racing, but knowing that Traxxas have used steel front CVDs, hardened steel rear axles and steel gears everywhere else, means that if I was to go down the brushless route, it would take the strain that brushless set ups put on a gear box and drivetrain with ease.
So how does the TRX-4 compare to my expectations? I would say it has surpassed them, it’s not perfect, but neither am I and the blacked out windows and high centre of gravity are not enough to put me off wanting to own the truck, the overall package provides a go anywhere truck which will allow people who are not into crawling to experience the slower, technical adventure that crawling adds to the hobby, but when they have had enough of balancing on rocks like a goat, they can open the diff’s and put the truck in high gear and do some donuts and jumps without concern, as the rig is ‘Traxxas tough’.
My son Maximus enjoyed driving the truck just as much as I did and we will add one to our fleet in the very near future. Ask me again in a year to find out how the truck has lasted in the hands of a five-year-old but for now, I believe Traxxas have got this spot on, a great truck, at a fair price which will keep up with the best of them on the trail.
The RRCZ video from that day:
Final Words From Mr Gray
A huge thanks to Mike for his help and his opinions on the rig, and just to conclude this review here’s my findings having myself now run 5 full packs through it. First, it’s definitely a keeper! In 100% stock form it runs trails perfectly in high or low range and the ability to switch between the two on the fly is liberating. It does wheelies and can even jump pretty well if the terrain allows (on both 2 and 3S!), especially if you run on a high grip surface. I fell short of attempting a backflip, but was very, very tempted!
If crawling on rocks or up steep inclines, drop offs or side hilling over say 40 degrees, the heavy Exo-cage and body does come into play. The C of G isn’t perfect for the kind of things we attempt with many of our rigs. If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say that on many of the official video’s they are running weighted wheels, but that said it did remarkably well in stock form all considered. The trick is to drive it like you would a hard-bodied rig. Let the suspension settle and the weight relax and then drive through the odd floating wheel or almost-but-not-quite tipping over incident. If you drive it like an Axial SCX-10, you will tip the rig over on some obstacles. But take your time and learn its abilities and it will reward you by actually achieving lines that at first seem pretty much impossible.
Remember when testing this rig initially we ran an Axial SCX-10 and a Vaterra Ascender at the same time, in a game of cat n mouse and follow the leader. It made most of the climbs and crawls but the C of G did hamper its abilities. I added a set of weighed beadlocks and the rigs abilities improved no end. It’s the one must do modification and tuning aid that takes this rig from very competent to extremely proficient!
Compared to the SCX10.2 and the Vaterra ascender its locking and unlocking diffs are the game, set and match winner. There are times that you need to lock the diffs and climb, and others when you need a tight turn. Flicking between the two states really does make a huge difference. I was a massive sceptic at first, it’s not like using a dig where you physically lock a whole axle and drive the other to pivot around the point the locked axle sits, dragging the rear of the rig like a dog does its back end when you have guests round for tea!!! No, it’s far more sophisticated than that. Leaving the front axle locked and the rear open allowed me to move around certain rocks and turn sharply on climbs right when I needed to. Experimentation is the key here and the more wheel time you get, the better you and the rig become at attempting things.
Traxxas have created a new benchmark in this genre of product. The diffs and driveline features aside, my favourite feature is the Portal Axles. They just make climbing over certain rocks and obstacles a breeze. If I could add any feature to all of my other current rigs and builds it would be this. Traxxas we salute you. The price may seem expensive to some, especially as you also have to provide the main pack and charger yourself. But for a fully loaded vehicle, packed with cool features, a multi-channel 2.4GHZ TQi remote, the future ability to add telemetry and on the fly paremeter adjustment and different driving profiles via a Bluetooth 6511 Wireless add on module and a smartphone app, it’s very good value for money. In fact, probably cheaper than many builds out there already if you factor in the price of a kit and all the components. I’m looking onto alternative bodies for this wheelbase as I write this. I’ve also added weighted beadlocks permanently and will be removing the tyres from the wheels with Acetone to re-use them and keep the intended look.
Now all the team responsible for this product at Traxxas HQ form a tight circle, pat each other on the back hard, and then go get me a shell with clear windows…STAT!
· Portal Axles & Ground Clearance
· Remote locking diffs & 2-speed
· Licenced Land Rover Shell
· Tyres Tread & Compound
· Waterproof Electric’s
· Weight Bias of Motor
· Brushless Ready
· Winch Ready
· Tinted Windows Negate Adding Interior
· Not Beadlock Wheels
· High C of G In Stock Form
Some huge thanks goes to Traxxas USA, Logic RC UK and Mike Worthington & Maximus for their help with this review…
After reviewing the Carisma GT24R, a miniature Pikes Peak replica and thoroughly enjoying racing it around the House, Garden, outside on Tarmac (hell, anywhere I could find an imaginary Rally Course to test it on!). I next wanted to stay with small form factor RC, but with a vehicle that had more Off Road capabilities (Putting it bluntly: I wanted to get some jumps in!). A few phone calls later and along came a small box, it contained both of the GT24R’s freshly born siblings …
Both of these share the same chassis as the GT24R with its fantastic micro brushless power system and well designed and manufactured suspension and steering, however there are a few differences.Apart from the obvious body shell change, the wheels are different too. Larger wheels with deeper and wider tyres, allowing for more grip on the loose stuff, body posts are present but not used and the rear bumper from the GT24R is not installed or needed
Unlike many other small scale RC manufacturers who like to offer smaller form factor Transmitters with their products, Carisma have coupled the GT24 series of cars with the very much full sixed CTX8000 transmitter.
It’s both ergonomic (fits the hand nicely), and full featured. It also offers trims for steering and throttle, servo reversing along with an adjustable steering rate thumb wheel conveniently placed on the handle by your thumb (you will see later why this is a good idea).
Good for Kids N Newbies Too
The CTX98000 also comes with a rubber throttle limiter that you can slide over the trigger, so it stops the driver using full throttle. Something that would be useful when you hand the remote to a new to RC driver or young child for example.
The chassis is a vented enclosed monocoque design and is super sleek, hiding inside under more than adequate protection all of the electrics like the fast steering servo, and the 8000kv brushless motor. Keeping little fingers (or big ones) away from any hot or moving parts. (no scorching fingers on hot motors here) alongside keeping all the muck outside where it belongs.
Sliding open a small hatch on the bottom reveals a very neat battery compartment, which the 1s brushless battery fits in with ease. This is where I made my first upgrade, as I had already tried the GT24R (insert link) on a 1s battery and loved it, but the animal in me wanted more. I thought why not give in and go with a 2s I had ready to slot in, cue big demonic grin!
The official Carisma upgrade 2s battery is a tighter fit than the stock 1S offering, but once I engaged my Tetris brain, I found an easy way to fit it. keep the red JST connector against the inside of the chassis, then feed the battery in, the balance lead will fit perfectly at the end of the battery…someone designed this to fit well.
No Slop & Well Designed
Suspension again is remarkably sturdy for its size and I’m still shocked at how little play there is in the joints, especially when you consider how much slop is in some 1:10 scale or larger cars. The advantage to this is that the handling won’t be compromised by lots of play, as even a small movement in this scale could change camber/caster or toe by a large percentage. In short:-
No Slack = Predictable Driving = More Fun
The wheels are kept on the ground with twin wishbone suspension , which does not have adjustable geometry, but does allow 2 different shock mount points both top and bottom, alongside 2 steering arm positions on the hub, neither of which have any bump steer when I tested them.
For those that don’t know, bump steer is when the steering arms are not designed with the same pivot point geometry as the suspension, so as the wheel is moved up and down it causes the wheel to turn in or out. this makes the handling not so good and is best avoided. Thankfully Carisma have got this right and you don’t need to worry…
Shocks are friction shocks with fixes spring rates, although I believe that oil filled dampers are available as an upgrade if its something you wanted to do, along with carbon shock towers and all other manner of goodies.
I did my old skool drop / bounce test and if you are racing this competitively, then I would look at the shock upgrade, if you are having fun with it, ragging it about with friends, I would not worry the stock shocks work well.
All of the models are 4WD and pack a differential front and rear, meaning no scrubbing when turning and more grip. There is a built in slipper clutch too, there is a chance I might need it with 2s power!
Body wise unlike the GT24R, no body mount or pins are needed, instead you have a foam extension on the side of the chassis and Velcro to mount the body. You don’t need to remove the body to change the battery, or to turn the car on and off, all of that is done on the bottom of that lovely enclosed chassis.
As mentioned earlier, there are two body styles, the Truck (GT24T) and the Truggy (GT24TR), it comes to personal choice which you prefer, both offer great visibility and do not affect the handling, means when racing your mates its easier to see which is yours
Ensure Body Sits Correctly
On the GT24T, the first time I drove it I had to move the body slightly backwards to stop the front wheels catching the body on full lock, but that took me a few seconds and was zero hassle to do, this was probably my fault from when I took the shell off for the photographs. It’s likely i did not put it back in the correct location based on the wheel wells, and I had just lined the Velcro up.
Performance on 2s is blistering and you would have to be a driving god (well better than me) to drive in a standard house sized room at full throttle, I recon it could do a 24th wall of death quite easily !
Outside or in a larger space where you can give the Carisma GT24 its legs, OMG how can something that small manage such acceleration, the top speed is impressive and I would love to know what it works out on scale speed, I’ve now nicknamed the GT24TR “Bluebird”!
Watch Out For Grip Roll
Thankfully the CTX8000 controller comes with a handy steering travel/rate adjust so when you are bombing along at warp factor 5, you can dial down the steering so it’s not too aggressive and induces a high speed roll…. ok, I admit, I found this out the hard way. After belting along at full speed with a massive grin on my face, I turning sharply and let’s just say I stopped counting at 8 flips and started the walk of shame while it was still going.
Testament to Carisma, no damage, apart from a few scratches to the shell, which has to be expected when playing on concrete.
The suspension does a good job of soaking up the terrain, I did find the odd bounce now and again when going over some rougher parts at high speed, but that added to the fun.
We gave it a whole 1 minute before starting doing jumps, yes our resolve was that strong! (now you understand why we take the pictures before driving). These two are a hoot, and the more you have, the better it gets, having 2 or 3 racing round is fantastic fun for not a big outlay.
Verdict: Highly Recommended…can’t wait to see what they do next, a baby Short Course or Rock Racer would be cool. Or even a baby Crawler/Scaler…watch this space!
Pro-Line Ambush 1/25th 4WD RTR Electric Mini Scale/Trail/Crawler
Words & Images Daniel Siegl & ProLine
Available Globally: HERE Available in the UK: HERE
I always fancied a smaller true Scale/Trail/Crawler rig. But until very recently there was only really one option; the Losi Trekker. Trouble is, that rig was never quite my thing, and it was very much a case of form over function. It looked great but out where it mattered it just didn’t cut the mustard. Also, its basic spec left a little to be desired. The NIMH batteries for example, the weak steering servo and relatively high C of G all combined to make the actual driving experience itself a little unimpressive.
This aside, more recently ProLine hit the RC scene with its Ambush and RC4WD its 1/18th D90…The latter will be covered in a future article from Peter Gray, the former, I just had to get my hands on and review.
Was my first reaction, finally someone had thought a rig of this small scale through properly. But are they the same axles as the Losi or different? Giving it a closer inspection I can confirm, it is a completely different car – the similarities really only relate only to the size and the fact that they both have an integrated Speed Controller and 2.4GHz Receiver unit – that’s it.
You’ve probably already read all about the technical details of the rig – So, I won’t bore you with too much of that. This review will be a charge it and run it, hands on affair. After all isn’t that what’s important with a RTR product? Yes many of us eventually modify a RTR vehicle in some way to improve its performance, and also aesthetically to personalize it’s look.
Actually, I will be totally honest here, we had our review sample car back in November, but our friend Brian Parker found so very entertaining and decided to give it a shakedown of his own! That’s why we ended up getting it just after Christmas, used and without any packaging!
2 Hardcore (But Tiny) Testers…
I wanted to just look at the rig for a while, its that cute, then go run it myself. But, my 2 girls, one 3.5 and the other 5.5 discovered it for themselves and started the hands on testing for me. The Ambush actually did a great job in this very tough role. After a full pack of running there was nothing broken. I was amazed, as its is finally an RC vehicle that my 2 were self-motivated to play with without prompting. And they keep asking to have more time with it!
We tested the car in the last 2 months extensively at a variety of locations:
Indoor at Lego Course
On ice on the pond in front of the house
And finally when the weather allowed, to drive it in Spillern
I have to say, of all the rigs that are in this size, so far the Ambush is clearly the most fun! So much fun in fact that that I tended to push it very hard and attempt things I probably shouldn’t with such a tiny rig, and yes as a consequence a lot of the time it ended up falling over. But when it made almost impossible looking lines it gave you such a feeling of achievement.
The leaf springs suspension work very neat, and like all the other Micro rigs out there, the tiny motors performance of course is rather limited. But that has a huge advantage when a child or newbie is driving it, since it is less can be broken!
At first glance the electrics seem very unexciting. But having run the rig lots now, my opinion is very positive. I think that even my 3.5 year old could handle the modern and simple USB charger. But fast its not…You need some patience when re-peaking the pack.
The first true small “Scaler” offering the ability to be able to drive it like its a much bigger rig.
It’s suitable for both children as well as experienced RC drivers. The included driver model looks right just needs a bit more paint and detail adding to give it more depth.
It punches well above its weight and size and offers hope that this size of vehicle, packing much of the performance of its 1/10th counterparts could grow and grow.
With RC4WD and ProLine leading the way, lets hope more manufacturers follow suit., and a dedicated Micro class grows from it…check out our running video below!
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?
UK RRP: £154.99 Available In UK: HERE Distributor: CML Distribution
Gear Ratio: 1:88
Tyre Diameter: 105mm
Wheel Diameter: 54mm
Ground Clearance: 76mm
The term “Scale” can often be confused with the word “Expensive”. While it is true that most RTR offerings in the Scale/Crawler/Trail world are usually in the £350-£400 price bracket, a few companies have got wise to the growth in interest in this genre of RC vehicle and have released sub £200 RTR rigs that work just fine out of the box, but have the potential to be taken to another level of realism and performance, as and when the mood takes them (or cash resources allow). People often forget to just drive a new rig and enjoy it for what it is. They dive in and modify the heck outta them before actually learning how they handle straight from the box.
Good Call CML
When I first spotted the FTX Outback press release and the prices, I had it in mind that this rig would be perfect to get my 8 year old daughter in to the hobby. So when the opportunity came my way from RCCZ to get my hands on one to review I jumped at the chance. With all that in mind though how do you fairly review an entry level product without comparing it to the more expensive rigs myself and the rest of the RCCZ crew often run. So rather than me review the Outback with all my old head preconceptions, I handed it to my daughter Madison for her to review as her first true Hobby Grade RC car. That’s a pretty big moment in anyone’s life…I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride with us!
Before I hand over to Madison I don’t want you to think for one minute that this rig is some cheap entry level tat, the spec sheet would give a lot of more expensive RTR’s a run for their money. The Outback is Waterproof out the box and comes with aluminium suspension links and steering hubs as standard, the Outback also benefits from a 3 gear high torque transmission, locked front and rear axles and oil filled shock absorbers. Its also includes a very sturdy bumper (good enough to mount a winch without modification or strengthening and something I really was not expecting for this price; LED lights front and back (My double the price point Axial rig didn’t even come with them).
Unboxed N Dissected By A Discerning Consumer!
So the Outback has an impressive spec sheet but the proof for this little rig would be how it drives. So I put it in the hands of Madison here is what she had to say about the Outback I will give you the old head verdict after you have viewed the Outback through the eyes of a kid who hasn’t been worn down by bad RC purchases and told what she should N shouldn’t like…This is verbatim and in eight year old speak, so bear with her!
“My name is Madison and the Outback is my first ever RC car. The first thing I liked about it was its soft tyres and the colour, its Blue and I really like the colour Blue! After my Daddy charged the battery we went to the local park because there are lots of hills there.
At first I thought it was a little bit fast but when I got used to it I found it really nice to drive. We got to drive through mud and puddles which was fun, we got to drive over an old tree which had fallen down. My Outback was able to follow my dad’s truck everywhere his could, even up this one really big hill (but daddy’s car got up first as it can go faster!)”
“I really liked the Outback because daddy and I got to go the park and have lots of fun together. The thing is, when he goes Drifting, the cars are too fast and hard to steer and I can’t really have a go. I really like driving the Outback we are charging the battery again ready for the weekend…”
That’s What Madison Thought…Now My Go!
Obviously when we were at the local park she also decided that she wanted to go and have a play on the swings (she’s 8 after all!) which meant dad could eventually have a turn with the new rig. And I have to say I was really impressed the Outback. For its price it’s a very capable little rig, even if at first you may think its not built as sturdily as others in the class…that’s just misguided preconceptions.
OK, so the throttle is a little punchy compared to other Crawler ESC I’ve used, but once you get used to the handset you have pretty good control over the power delivery. It is a little smaller than the likes of the SCX10, but its size doesn’t hold it back and once you get how it feels to drive, it can go pretty much anywhere my SCX10 does.
Granted, some things can be a little more of a challenge as its only got a 370 can motor fitted, but I enjoyed that, it’s rather dull being able to get over everything with no effort. The Outback makes you plan your route a little more, which I liked. It’s back to basics RC and that’s what the industry needs more of at the moment.
Scaling The Reservoir
We took the Outback out for a second run at Edgbaston reservoir. I really wanted us to give it some abuse this time, a torture test if you will, and truly test the limits of the outback. Madison went first and put the rig through its paces with ever growing confidence in both her abilities to drive it, and what it was actually capable of.
Taking it through streams and over rocky waterlogged terrain, the FTX proved itself to be most definitely waterproof. She had it almost fully submerged at one point and it just kept going! When we hit certain boggy muddy patches the FTX struggled a little bit but we were getting towards the end of the battery run time, and being a NiMH its lost its punch, so that wouldn’t of helped. We re-charged the pack back at the car and I had a go myself and this led to me making a few conclusions of my own and also recommendations for end users of the rig.
Biasing Things Correctly
After this review I was going to swap out all the electrics for Madison, but to be honest it is fine the way it is. the battery life is okay, exactly what you would expect for NiMH battery, but the ESC is also capable of taking A 2S LiPo cell, so that’s a logical (and cheap upgrade). Also changing the location of the main pack to over the front axle under the hood is another that will drastically change the rigs weight bias and let it tackle steeper inclines and pull itself up and over certain obstacles it struggled with before.
Sadly as the wheels and tyres are pre-glued no weight can be added unless you attempt to de-bond and then re-glue them…not and easy or pleasant task. I wish they were beadlocks, but that would probably have added £20 to the RRP so I get why FTX have gone down their chosen route. CML Distribution sell a vast array of hop ups and after market bits for scale rigs and crawlers, so you could buy another set and weight them yourself with stick on strip weights.
Small But Plucky
As for the motor, it may be small, but the 1:88 gearing used is spot on for leisure crawling, trail running and having fun. The 370 sized brushed unit packs just enough punch to do what it needs, but it can struggle at times when the transmission is under duress, solid axles and drive shafts tend to put a lot more strain on motors, that’s why 540 can and high wind is the usual industry standard. Big torque usually requires big magnets. I live in hope that someone will come out with a third party motor plate to accommodate a 540 can in the future, or CML may get in a high torque, waterproof 370 can Brushless, Sensored combo designed for crawling? But again all that will push up the initial or future costs, so until then it stays as it is!
Big plus point for the Outback though is the minimal cost of upgrades. There are lots of little aluminium bits (Bumpers, Gear Housings, Battery Tray’s etc.) you can add to the Outback or any of its siblings that won’t break the bank. So it’s also a rig that can be improved as you feel necessary. Spares are also very well priced so should you break something when you are testing the limits of the FTX, you won’t have to spend a fortune to fix it.
One thing to mention is that the bumpers have been designed in a way that they flex very slightly, but are strong enough to bolt a RC winch to and the rig will be comp ready. The supplied Tx may only be 2-channel, but you can get key fob remote winch controllers that uses Bluetooth to spool out and pull back in the cable, so that’s not biggie!
I will swap the servo horn for an aluminium one but that is me being picky it is something I always change straight away even in more expensive rigs. I will definitely upgrade the main pack for a brick pack LiPo, as the ESC is compatible and move it forwards on the chassis. This will increase the run times and add some weight bias over the front wheels. But that is about it really…for now!
I think if you are on a budget or looking to get your kids involved in the hobby you really can’t go wrong with this offering from FTX. CML have something in this range of rigs that many other brands don’t…true value for money RC, and that I feel, as do many on the RCCZ team is the future of helping the hobby to grow again both here in the UK and globally.
Yes, it will get criticised by the keyboard warriors on forums who like to stay loyal to whatever brand they are fan boys of, or those that only run high end kit, and often take things far too seriously. Yes its got a small motor, yes it has a all-in-one ESC and RX, and yes it only has a 3KG steering servo. But its light, and all the components work well together as a consequence.
If you stop and think for a second its not designed for someone wanting the pinnacle of a RTR Scale Rig. It’s a product that’s been designed to put a smile on a kids face, or as an adults first steps into true hobby grade RC, for the price of a gaming console. And it its very much fit for purpose on that count.
My daughter loves it, and I’ve been won over by it. For its price point it simple can’t be beaten…the gauntlet is now firmly laid down, I hope a few other manufacturers see the light and we see more sub £160 RTR rigs enter the market, but I doubt it somehow. I think FTX hit the nail on the head with this and the other variations in the Outback range.
Now go get your own Scale Adventure, and we hope to see you at the UK RECON G6 in May and our own RCCZ Scale Nationals in the Autumn.
For more information on the whole range head: HERE
And for all things Scale, Trail, Crawl and Bash…keep your eyes peeled for more RCCZ articles very soon. We have some very cool stuff lined up!
Well, 2017 is winding up now; The next G6 is in May, the Nationals later in the year too, and I’ve just finished my latest Scale build!
Upon opening the box, one’s greeted with a selection of bags containing rear fenders, running boards etc., all stowed in the pickup bed of the truck. The cab section’s inside another box along with the windscreen parts.
Once the cab and bed are alongside each other, it becomes apparent this is another big build Job. Thankfully, the manual’s in English this time and although it’s obviously translated, it’s been done quite well. The diagrams are plenty clear enough though. Most of the parts are sorted into lettered bags but the manual steps don’t refer to the lettering during assembly so a fair bit of time is spent flicking back to the front few pages of the manual in order to find what else is in the bag you’re looking for when trying to identify small parts in some steps.
What I’d do next time is copy the first few pages and pin them to the wall in the garage for reference.
The first step is to assemble the gearbox – The PG4L has a 2 speed gearbox; gears are selected by a servo so the truck needs a 3 or 4 channel radio set for best operation – the 4th channel’s required to switch the headlights on or off.
The gearbox assembly is very straightforward; all the gears are retained by E rings though, so a decent set of needle-nose pliers or even a proper E-Clip tool will help. The backplate of the gearbox is also the motor mount – the motor position’s adjustable, Cross include an 18t pinion with the kit though.
TOP TIP: Cross suggest hooking the motor straight into a battery, but I’ve been advised not to do this, so just hooked the motor up to an ESC and receiver.
If the 2 speeds aren’t required it’d be easy enough to lock the box in one of the two ratios by running a zip-tie or similar, looped through the selector rod end, to a convenient anchor point on the chassis. As it was, my Carson radio’s got a 3 position 3rd channel so I’ve used that for gears.
The servo eventually mounts to the chassis to the rear of the gearbox and changes gear via a drag link running through a couple of fine springs – any standard servo is fine for this, I used a cheap Towerpro because I had one kicking about, but literally any standard sized servo will be fine.
Many, Many Screw Variations…
By this point I’d opened every screw bag and emptied them all into a bowl – for some reason each little bag contained two different screws – One bag would, for instance, have a 10mm countersunk and an 18mm button head, and another would contain a 15mm cap screw and a 2.5mm countersunk – I was spending so much time trying to find the bags it was simpler to just dump the lot and sort thru them. There are at least 24 different screws on this truck, so that’s 12 bags of mixed screws – Life’s a little too short sometimes!
Spring hangers and sub-frames are the first bits to go on, followed by the spacer frames for the running boards to mount to later on. The front shock towers do have body post holes moulded into them, but the PG4L doesn’t use them as it has a very sweet discrete body mount system fitted later on. Once the chassis’s part-assembled, all the mounts for the body and radio crate are assembled – these look quite similar to each other so it’s worth double checking them (I discovered). The gearbox and shift servo are also mounted now.
The front bumper’s mounted to the chassis next – It’s a full-width chrome moulding with recesses for fog lights. There’s also a slot through which a front tow-point passes. The rear bumper is a whole sub-assembly which includes a tow-hook, mounting plates and a set of exhaust pipes on spring-steel hangers – Proper sweet!
The rear suspension leaf-spring assembly follows and then the axles – Step 13 in the manual covers assembly of a solid spool although a set of open diffs are also included but their assembly is not covered until the last page of the manual, almost as an ‘Oh, I forgot to mention…’ addition.
The diffs are also in their own little bag and I didn’t even find them until I was prepping the body
It wouldn’t normally be too big a problem to swap a diff out but step 15 in the manual calls for the half shafts to be loctited into the diffs – It took a helluva lot of ‘persuading’ with a hammer to get the shafts back out – I fancied building the truck with open diffs just so it was a bit more steerable – Long wheelbases and locked diffs don’t do much for turning circles.
The axles themselves follow a fairly ‘industry standard’ pattern – the axle housings are one piece mouldings with a diff cover the diff or spools clamped into place with bearing retainers before the covers go on.
Shims are supplied to eliminate any play in the assemblies.
Dogbones Not UJ’s
Drive to the front wheels is via dogbones and cups. Its not a big issue, but with many kits in this price range including UJ’s as standard it, would aid both the purchasers pocket and the turning circle (with additional steering deflection)
With the axles sorted, it’s shocks next – Yay, I really love building shocks…
The rears are friction units; internally sprung with a plunger with oiled O-rings provided the friction.
Whilst the rear axle’s leaf-sprung, the front axle is four linked and the front shocks are slightly more sophisticated, oil filled assemblies. My only reservation about the front shocks was that fit of the top caps weren’t great – it didn’t take a lot for the threads to skip, even when being hand tightened – They didn’t leak in use yet, but they don’t feel that sturdy. Using PTFE Tape on the threads may help, as will sealing the shocks well with AE Green Slime.
The cap also includes a dummy/fake reservoir – not sure why this is deemed necessary; I’d much rather see them better made than made pretty…but again, a minor point in the scheme of things.
Two springs go on each shock; a stiff top-section and a softer rate main spring – Cross also include a second firmer set as a ‘free gift’.
The shock bodies are threaded for ride-height adjusters.
TOP TIP: Steering Servo…A Little Issue
The steering servo’s mounted to the front axle directly but I did have a relatively significant problem here; the servo mount posts are so big one side gets in the way of the wire exiting the servo case. I ended up ditching the mount on that side and using a stock servo post I had kicking around – Bit of an oversight by Cross – I tried three servos; Futaba, Towerpro and Core and the wire fouled on the supplied ‘post’ on all of them. At a pinch the stock post could be cut down at the back to clear the wire.
After the axles are attached to the chassis, it’s time for my next favouritest bit ever; wheel assembly – Yay!!!!!!!
Stay On Target…
The wheels take a bit of concentration as the wheels are made up of two of three different wheel-halves, used in combinations to make up front and rear, inners and outers
The front wheel and the outer rear, for instance, used the same steel halves but what’s the inner half on the front wheel is the outer half on the rear. It takes a bit of processing power to grasp the concept, but it does eventually work.
The wheels are driven by the usual 12mm hexes, the wheel nuts are hidden by a cap.
The radio crate is then fitted to the chassis – it’s not in the least bit waterproof as sections of the lid need trimming away for the battery cable to exit etc. So I drilled a couple of drainage holes in the base just in case any water ever does get in.
The lid of the crate also doubles up as a speaker mount as Cross make a sound module for the P4GL. There’s also plenty of room inside the crate for an ESC, receiver and the light controller – I managed to get a Traxxas XL5 in there no problem.
The light control looks to be the same unit as used in the MC-8 truck I previously reviewed. The ESC, steering servo and third channel are connected to the board, then pass-out leads connect the board to its relevant channel on the receiver – This allows the board to control brake and reversing lights and turn signals/indicators.
The only slight issue is the truck’s headlights are controlled by the third channel – the problem is that the two-speed gearbox also needs a channel, so for full operation, a four channel (minimum) radio is required.
There’s no mention in the manual, and I couldn’t find anything online, about keeping the headlights on without using the radio so four channels are necessary unless the headlights are connected to the tail-light plug on the control board, at the expense of tail-lights (the tail-lights are permanently on for some reason).
One other point on the light controller is if the ESC is going forwards but the reversing lights illuminate, then a jumper socket has to be fitted to plug 15 on the controller.
This is covered in the manual as “Please plug short circuit cap if vehicle go ahead but brake lamps turn on” – Not exactly accurate, but the sentiment is there!
The lid of the radio crate’s screwed down, so it’s worth cutting/drilling holes for switches etc.
The LEDs are routed around the shell and the kit includes a lot of cable-clips with adhesive pads to keep the wiring out of sight. At this point the chassis’s a roller and it’s body time
Airbrush On…Sharpies Out!
The shell for the PG4L comprises of two mouldings – the main cab and the pickup bed.
Once painted, the bed’s screwed to the chassis but the cab’s semi-removable for access to the radio crate and battery tray.
I say semi-removable as the wires for the front lights go into the radio crate, so the cab’s only removable to about 6 inches from the chassis as it’s tethered by LED wiring unless the crate’s opened and the light wires are disconnected from the controller.
The pickup bed has rear light clusters made up of chrome plated reflectors and clear lenses. In order to colour the lenses I did contemplate painting them, even went as far as buying Tamiya clear red and orange acrylic paints, but then found an article online suggesting using Sharpie markers to colour the lenses instead. Duly bought a red and orange and they worked great – No masking needed, just a slightly steady hand.
The lenses have lines moulded into the inside so getting a sharp break between the red, clear and orange lenses was dead easy, just offer the lenses to the reflectors periodically and colour-in a couple more lines are required. Note: Painting the lenses was one part I could see going wrong, so the Sharpie method really saved a “Twinset Tantrum”.
Bling Out…Rubber In
A lot of the trim for the body is chrome plated, even the door mirrors, but it seemed a little too ‘bling’ for me so I sanded the chrome off the mirrors and, after primer, airbrushed them Tamiya XF-85 ‘Rubber Black’. I also used this for the door handles and, eventually, for the window rubbers. Windscreen wipers are also included to finish the true-scale appearance.
Note: The chrome plating on the parts did prove slightly problematic when it came to gluing parts together, and the plating was very tough – I tried sanding it to expose bare plastic for the glue to melt, but in the end had to scrape away the plating with a Stanley blade.
The main shell was painted with AutoAir Colors’ Deep Purple which was kindly supplied by The Airbrush Company (www.airbrushes.com) when they sent the Sparmax Arism airbrush system which I first used on the MAN 8×8.
I didn’t realised until I was sold on the purple that the paint was ‘Semi Opaque’ so it took a lot of layers to get the colour right – Note to self; always read the label!
After a few coats and a few days drying the shell was looking good, and I topped it with Tamiya X-22 Clear for a really nice shine.
Cross supply checker-plate trim for the bottom edge of the shell, which runs the full length of the truck but I left this off for a more subtle look.
I used the checker plate on the running boards though; I think I got the balance about right – The front grille was painted black but a chrome insert shows through the slats of the grille so what with that, the bumpers, the running boards and the mirrors, it would’ve looked more like a disco-ball than a truck (I reckon)
The cab attaches to the chassis by first hooking the nose onto a mounting plate, then two pins insert into cam locks attached to the pickup bed. To lock the cab in place, two levers are flipped and the cab’s proper docked, with no body clips in sight – Tasty scale body!
The only slight gripe I have is the windscreen – it’s only lightly tinted so all the wiring and the speaker box are clearly visible and the wires aren’t that easy to hide as they need to be slack to remove the cab. An interior would solve a lot of this, but that would necessitate removal of the speaker mount so the decision of sound kit or interior needs to be made.
TOP TIP: If the sound kit’s used, then the windscreen could do with a few coats of tint to hide the wiring.
Other than that, the finished truck looks superb (despite my paintwork)
Anyone Know How To Treat Frostbite?
When it came to running the truck it was mid-December – Getting the paint right did take a week or so – I knocked it several times during final assembly and had to respray sections and that all took time.
When I did get the chance for a maiden voyage I set off for Burton Dassett early in order to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was foggy and cold so not only did I not catch any sun, I got mild frostbite of the extremities.
As the truck’s so long I fitted open diffs to both axles just to see how it handled. It’s got a good turn of speed, easily faster than walking pace but the diffs meant it was manoeuvrable too.
After a few blaps round the car park I took it off road onto the grass mounds. The diffs stopped it from doing any serious crawling, but any slopes taken with a run-up were scaled easily – the extra set of rubber at the back really helped. The grass was dew-soaked and traction wasn’t great so rear tyres almost 4 inches wide per side came in handy.
Approach and departure angles are good too, despite the truck being quite low at the belly (around 50mm)
The front bumper is quite high above the wheel-centre and doesn’t stick out very far, so approach is easily 45 degrees plus.
Departure’s impeded slightly by the tow-bar, but that’s easily sorted if towing isn’t in the truck’s future. With the tow-bar, it’s around 30 degrees.
Having said that, the size of the truck might exclude it from a lot of the less-scale courses at the Nats but it would make the perfect truck for a comp-scaler and trailer or on a true-scale course.
Despite concerns during build, the front shocks held up fine; no leaks and the caps stayed put even with the four-linked front end offering a decent lump of articulation.
Steering lock was good too; the turning circle was smaller than I anticipated – no doubt partly due to the open diffs, so UJ’s aren’t needed after all unless you go locked and want to comp the rig!
The two speed box is a nice touch but I didn’t actually use it much – most of the time I forgot it was there. The intention now is to lock the rear diff up and swap the radio to a six channel Carson stick set, and control the gearbox from a momentary switch – Hold for first, release for second. That way the truck’s in second by default, with first reserved for grunt work.
When I first took delivery I was a little sceptical about the truck – It is big and possibly not as agile as some comp rigs, but I’ve seen similar sized rigs at the Nats (there’s a super-long ‘Chevy’ pickup competed for the last two events which is a similar size to the PG4L) and, once equipped with a winch and locked diffs I think it could ruffle some feathers – the gates might need widening a bit though!
I just wish it had a name – PG4L makes it sound a bit like a car body filler…
For more on the whole Cross RC Range head over to: Greens Models and we Hope to see you at the 2017 G6 and Nationals!
Having been into Rock Crawling and Scale going back as far as the original AX10 Scorpion, it’s always nice to get something different to build and test.
The Sawback 4LS is a continuation of Sawback name but moving on from its previous Old Skool leaf sprung suspension, to more modern and capable four-link (hence the 4LS name). Now to the purists of the scaling world out there this could be a bad thing, but don’t worry the leaf sprung model is still for sale, in fact there are so many different options on the GS01 chassis range right now, including the Komodo that we reviewed earlier in 2016, and the original Leaf Sprung Sawback back in RRCi days, that it’s initially quite tough for anyone to choose which is best option for them. As the price points are all in the sub £400 bracket (so firmly in Axial territory), I guess it just boils down to just two factors:-
1: Leaf Springs or 4-Link Suspension
2: Body/Wheel Aesthetics
Lets give the Sawback 4LS A Go Then!
Opening the box I was welcomed by the wonderful Willy’s Jeep style body, I have to say I’m really impressed with the thickness of the Lexan, this should hold up to a good amount of abuse which is a huge plus. Next out where the plastic three piece beadlock wheels and MT tyres with inserts. I was a little disappointed when I took the inserts out to find they were just strips of foam rather than a proper cut foam, ring insert, but let’s move on and get into the actual build.
No Numbers or Letters…Just Build!
Getting everything set out on my dining table I was initially taken aback to not have any numbered/lettered bags in front of me. But luckily components are bagged in a way that helps you finish sub sections of the build process as you go along, so it’s not too bad.
Opening the first bag and it’s straight into building the axles. The graphite mixed composite plastic of the axles feels quite good and should hold up to a fair bit of rock rash. The bevel gear and spool are all one piece which in some ways is a plus, you haven’t got the issue of screws breaking however the bevel gear and shaft are two pieces with it only being an flattened edge on the shaft that takes all the rotational force, normally there’s a pin that takes this force so it will be interesting to see how this holds up.
Dropping the none rubber shielded bearings into the axle housing I was a little disappointed and how loose the bearings for the bevel gear shaft were and they just fell out when turned over. This play is going to transfer through to the gear mesh in the axle and could cause premature gear wear if not resolved, so with this in mind I used a super heavy duty marine bearing grease rather than the tube of gear grease that’s supplied.
Before the bevel gear and spool are dropped into the axle housing, you use two very small bearings with plastic inserts that you push into the axle housing these hold in place really tight, which is good. The next step is outer axle bearings which are held in by the ‘C’ hub on the front and the rear lock out on the rear. Now unlike most axles where the ‘C’ hub slides over the axle housing and is then screwed together. These knuckles simply bolt to the axle housing with two m3 nuts and bolts, I wonder how strong is this union of parts going to be long term? Especially when you add weighted wheels into the mix.
TOP TIP: Make sure you take note of the ‘C’ Hub rotation when putting them on, as you can put them on the wrong way round and get the Caster set incorrectly.
Once you’ve done this the next is to slide the axle shafts into the axle casing, the fronts are dog bone style and the rears and a nice solid shaft. When doing this make sure to get the right length shaft in the correct side. After the axles are in diff covers can be fitted, these are a metal type which is a nice touch. Moving to the front steering knuckles the bearings dropped in and were again a little on the loose side with the axle shaft placed in the knuckle arm it’s then held in with step screws simply screwed into the plastic of the steering knuckle.
The rear axle lockouts are held in the same way as the front C hubs with a bearing on both the axle casing and the lock out which is a nice touch (Some simply have a bearing on the outer edge of the lock out so this will help spread the load and make for a shared load.)
32dp For Durability
With the axles complete it’s then onto the transmission, this is quite a large item when compared to other kits out there, as most are just a robust buggy style transmission (like the AX10) with finer 48dp internal gears. In this transmission however it’s 32dp all the way, which is a good thing on one hand, as they will be able to take more load and they are far more durable. But the negative of this is the greater noise that 32dp gears generate in use and their size.
When putting the transmission together pay close attention to the shaft sizes for each gear set as they are different, and if you do like I did when I first built the transmission…get them the wrong way round, it will not sit together or close properly. So, as I said, pay close attention to which way round they sit. With the sheer size of the transmission, and all the rotating mass, I was intrigued at G-Made’s use of tiny bearings. Now I know I keep going on about the bearings, but a smaller diameter bearing will not be able to take as much load and stress in use. and so may fail far quicker if put under duress.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the screws in this build. Unlike most RC kits you get nowadays, this kit comes with cross head screws rather than hex. On one hand everyone has cross head screwdrivers in their home. So in that respect, especially for a newcomer to the hobby, that makes tool choice simple. It reminds me of building a Tamiya to be honest, and they’ve got away with it on most of their kits for many , many years, so it no biggie. I just feel this slows down the build, and long term they just aren’t as durable as a hex headed bolt.
Use Threadlock On Anything Metal To Metal…
Another thing to note is that when bolting the end transmission housing together there’s no sign of NyLoc nuts at all. G-Made have used standard nuts in this aspect of the build, so I highly recommend you check all screws and nuts after the first run to make sure they are all still tight (unless you use a small drop of thread lock on each…which is what I did!)
After you’ve built the transmission it’s then onto making the lower links and fixing them to the skid plate. Now the instructions show to screw the set screws into the alloy link and the screw the rod end on but I prefer to screw the set screw into the rod end first making sure to not go past half the length of the set screw once you’ve done this screw the rod end onto the link, now the reason for this is when you break a rod end it’s more likely that the set screw will come away with the rod end and if this happens you want the hex driver end accessible to get it out of the broke rod end to then put it into the new one without causing any damage to the threads of the set screw. After fixing the links to the skid plate the next job is to mount the transmission to the skid again with the transmission case there’s no Nyloc’s, but rather captured nuts so when putting the screws in make sure to add a little thread lock again.
Motive Power & Chassis Rails
Fitting the motor is next and you want to pay close attention to the pinions location on the shaft an make sure it’s not fouling the spur gear on the back edge, they adjust the mesh so there is just a little amount of play between the pinion and spur but not too much. It wasn’t until this point I noticed that there’s no slipper clutch in the transmission so being careful with the trigger finger when the wheels are bound up. Drive shafts are the next process and these are a universal joint style but unlike most the joint pivots are held in place with tiny E clips. This for me was the hardest part, not putting the clips in but finding the one that pinged off across the room and took me an hour to find on a plus I did find an unopened, in date bag of Haribo behind the sofa (long story!) so it wasn’t all bad…
With the drive shafts done the next step is the chassis itself and this is a little different from most as the actual chassis rails bend in at the front and back a little like a real truck chassis which is a nice touch. The main reason for this is the large width of the transmission and the also to give enough clearance for the shocks through articulation which is a nice touch but this does limit space for upper links. Fixing the shock hoops body posts and side step brackets is the first few jobs although no side steps are provided in the kit but are an optional item that you can buy. These are all fixed to the chassis with m3 screws and serrated flanged nuts so nip these up and they should hold fairly well. After that you make the short upper links and mount them to the chassis. I was happy to see they used NyLoc’s here.
With that done the next stage is bolting everything to the chassis rails, I found it easier to just put the captive nuts in the one side and then mount the rail to that side first as they have a tendency of falling out when you’re trying to line everything up. I really quite like the receiver box with its fake V8 engine cover although it would look better a little further forward but then this would in turn get in the way of servo clearance through suspension travel. What is a shame is that it’s not waterproof it would have been so much better if it was sealed. Never mind a balloon will have to do. This box also has a shelve for the esc but for me this seams the perfect place to mount a small 2000mah 3s LiPo, Now if you have a big stick pack style battery there is the rear mount brackets and it’s a good idea to still put these in but I wanted to move the heavier item forward to help with weight distribution.
RC Performance over Scale Realism
The next stage of the build is the shocks, these are GMade XO aeration 93mm shocks now there not the most scale looking shock as they are 14mm wide and that’s just the shock body. But, this is a huge advantage for smooth feeling shock travel. They go together very easily and are soon put together, the shock oil that’s supplied has no label on it so no knowing what weight it is though. Without knowing I decided to go for the three hole pistons, Springs supplied in the kits are 19x 58mm medium rate which I think may possible be a little heavy for a fairly light weight rig like this some soft springs would definitely be on my list of parts at a later date. With the shocks bled and built it’s then on fixing them to the chassis rails and mounting the axles, this all went relatively easily however I’m not sure how strong the servo plate will be using the two screws that also hold the upper links to the axle
While I was at this stage I decided to sort out the electrics. With funds being tight this time of year it was a case of parts bin diving in the garage. I managed to find my original 35turn Turnigy motor which I gave a skim and new brushes. ESC duties would be taken by an old Castle Creation Mamba Max setup for brushed motors. Servo and receiver duties were taken by some Tactic electrics I had left over from an RTR the servo isn’t the best but I think sometimes budget builds are the most fun as you have less at risk. I was a little disappointed that when fitting the servo there was no servo horns supplied in the kit, luckily I had a spare in one of my many boxes of bits that fit.
Rear Bed Limits ESC Positioning
The steering links were soon fitted and travel of the horn was centred quickly. Now as I said I wanted to mount a LiPo up front to try and improve weight distribution and for the purpose of the review I simply double sided taped the LiPo in place. This then meant I had to find some where to mount the esc, for this I used the front of the battery mounts. One thing I didn’t notice until id fitted the shell was there is quite limited space for an ESC at the back when you have the body on due to the shape of the rear bed, luckily there was just enough room for the Mamba Max.
Wheels and tyres next and the plastic three piece beadlocks went together fairly easily, Gmade supply two longer 16mm screws to help build the beadlocks, you use the two long ones to clasp the parts together then fit the other four screws in place then swap the long two out for normal size ones, and do the same for each of the following wheels…
In my manual there was an amended page simply stapled over the original page simply saying to use M2.6 x 10mm screws instead of the originally stated M2.6 x 6mm. This is good to see that they have seen an issue and amended it before it got out to the masses. The tyres do not feel the softest out there but for a kit compound they’re not to bad, the inserts are soft which should be ok if you keep this as a fairly light weight rig but add to much weight and I’d possibly look at some firmer inserts at the least.
Rolling Chassis Build…Body Next
The last job to do is the body shell now as I’ve said I really like how thick the lexan is on this I threw a quick gold and black paint scheme on it with the black on the outside of the Lexan to give it a more satin look. With the paint left for a day to fully dry I could then get to fitting the interior and cage which is a very nice scale touch. The manual clearly shows you what size holes to drill in each spot and once that’s done you can simply screw on the seats and steering wheel all the other items are simply held in with an o ring and a body clip for easy removal if needed. With the body done there’s only one thing left to do, Go test it.
It’s a G Thang…
Taking the rig out to my local trail area to see just what I think of the 4LS Sawback I was happily surprised with the stock gearing on a 35 turn motor and 3s Lipo I was expecting it to be a bit too quick but flat out it but it’s just a little quicker than a quick walking pace which should be perfect for taking on country walks and generally just messing about with. As I’d suspected, the springs are a little firm and the rig bounced around a bit if I was just driving along the muddy foot path but in some ways I think this is the charm of a rig like this. If you look up old videos of Willys Jeeps they are all bouncy.
Taking it over some large mud piles I was quite impressed with how well the rig did everything I pointed it at it would make its way up. Traction wasn’t amazing but with some wheel speed everything was possible. The firmer suspension made for some impressive side hilling but of course reduced articulation which you just had to learn its driving style. I was out on the walk for a good half hour and really started to enjoy its characteristics.
I would have been out longer but the last Formula 1 race was on and I wasn’t going to miss that. Now the big question is would I go out and buy one? Well if it hadn’t been for the cross head screws it would have been a definite yes however, for me personally, that was a major negative but for most people that will be a nothing.
All in all it’s not a bad lower budget rig it looks cool I really like the shell with the fold down windscreen and cage it’s crying out for a driver figure and some scale accessories . When I got the rig back and gave it a post trail inspection, quite a few screws that I hadn’t thread locked had come loose which may be my fault but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on, there’s no thread lock in the kit so it’s wise to pick up a little bottle.
If you’re looking for something to just take on walks then this is spot on, with some tweaks I’m sure it could be quite a capable rig and would look so cool with a military scheme.
In 2010 while I was on “Holiday” in a very hot and sandy place, a buddy of mine ordered a comp crawler. When it came in he brought it to my attention as he knew I was an RC guy. I was just starting to look at the crawler and scale scene, but was still busy trying to make everything I owned go faster, and survive bigger, and bigger jumps. I was a basher through and through and didn’t have time for any other aspects of the RC car world. Sure, I have always loved racing but didn’t have a proper place to do that at the time. So, I focused on making my bashers faster and stronger. Then he brings this crawler to my attention. At first I was stubborn and said why in the world would you want to crawl when you can jump? But he convinced me to watch him on some rocks we had at work. I was interested in the articulation it had going over the obstacles he ran up and over, and was intrigued with its ability to get over some of the bigger rocks. He then handed me the transmitter and I set off on my first crawl. I was immediately hooked and needed one of my own. So, after that I went inside and started to look into my options. I saw the one he had, but thought I should get something different. I ordered a cheapish RTR and waited, and waited…(It took quite a while to get mail where we were).
By the time it came in I had found something else shiny and had changed my mind on crawlers. But it was there, and I wanted to at least try it. I took it out of the box and immediately noticed a lot of plastic on it. It didn’t look very bulletproof to me. But, I loaded in the batteries and gave it a go. I turned it on, tried driving up a wall and over a few objects, I very quickly decided it needed to go back. I had bought a crawler that looked cool, but couldn’t crawl very well. I boxed it up and sent it back. The car I replaced it with help me to launch my YouTube channel so it wasn’t all bad…but that was it for owning a true crawler for a while.
Once I returned home, eventually I got into the scale scene and started to regret letting that crawler go, but everything happens for a reason. I bought one other shafty crawler after that, but I quickly converted it to a scale rig and that ended me owning a real crawler once more. I met Peter Gray and the RCCar.Zone (Formerly RRCi) team in 2010 and have been introduced to many other forms of this great hobby and have gained an appreciation for each one. But I always said I want another, true crawler, I felt like I was really missing out on something.
FFWD To 2016
Pete, being the mate he is, remembered my interest in a owning a ‘real’ crawler. He rang me up recently and said he had a RTR that needed to be reviewed. It was even a Motor on Axle (MOA) design, so something I wanted to run even more. Knowing how this aspect of the market had almost disappeared of late, I thought was it was probably a cheaper brand that would be shockingly bad and resemble something from the toy section of your local grocery store. He assured me however it was (and I quote) “Pure Quality” and I should wait before passing judgement…so I did!
I turned up to his house a couple weeks later and saw the normal stash of incoming reviews in the hallway. The only crawler I could see was an RC4WD one. This couldn’t be it? Do they even do a Comp crawler anymore? The answer was yes, and it was mine to review! After a quick look at the box I learned a bit more about it. The RC4WD Bully II is a MOA RTR, its the second generation of the Bully MOA rig that Pete himself reviewed many years back, and that he put on the cover of the RRCi Crawler Special he wrote back in the day.
He was handing me the responsibility of both reviewing this rig, and also trying to help with my ongoing learning curve of all things RC. A MOA is something I had never run before, and learning about its nuances and the very different driving style required would be very interesting.
Being MOA it means that each axle drives independently, so they can be Front only driven, rear only driven and by letting the drag brake keep the un driven axle locked up completely, they act as a front or rear dig. All this functionality can be easily controlled with the included 3-channel transmitter. As a one box solution its a great way onto MOA rigs and much cheaper than actually buying the components separately and building your own. I couldn’t wait to get this home and get it out of the box!
The Box Art Sets The Scene
Once I got back home, I took the box into the office and immediately opened it. But not before truly admiring the box art. The picture on the box is a great shot of the Bully II on the rocks. It truly inspires you to get it out of the box and on to the rocks as soon as! When you see this box in store with all the other boxes, it completely stands out. A lot of other companies have static pictures of their kits. Whether sat in a black background or on a track somewhere. But this shows it in its natural environment and truly makes you want to discover new lands with it! On the side of the box there are listed some of the official RC4WD hop ups for it, and even more great photos of it on the rocks! The exterior of the box is just loaded with Hi-res pics that make you want to charge a battery and hit the rocks!
Once open, the rig comes out on a sliding cardboard stand as most of us are used to. The transmitter is securely fastened beneath the rig and inset into the base. The manual and spare parts are located under the cardboard base. The manual is a picture based manual, as we have come to know and love from RC4WD. The spares contain a battery strap, optional springs for the shocks and some flat bits of Lexan. I was wondering what the Lexan was for until I noticed they were body panels. These are easily attached to the Bully if you want to add a bit of colour to it. They are also ready to be painted with a protective sheeting on one side just like the normal shells you are used to. I opted to paint mine red as a contrast to my normal Blue?Green I tend use on everything I race.
The transmitter was one of the biggest surprises for me. It’s the new XR4 4 channel radio. I have never had a RTR radio with 10 model memory! You can buy relatively cheap receivers for your other kits and control them with this radio!
The radio has all the trimmings (see what I did there) that you will find on the high dollar competitors. It also allows you to name each model with its 3-digit display. For this one I named it MOA, that way I know which rig is on memory one. There’s a backlit LED display screen that makes selecting all the functions a dream. But enough about the transmitter let’s talk about the Bully II!
Straight away the high clearance lower arms let you know this is a serious comp rig! The carbon fibre Twin Vertical Plates (TVP) look almost as good as they perform! When you want light weight and strength, it’s hard to beat Carbon Fibre! The twin Boost 35t rebuildable motors are exactly what I would put on a crawler kit if I was building one, so that was a nice choice by RC4WD, in my case at least.
The 6v – 5 Amp BEC is a great choice as well! I run one of those on my RC4WD Beast II and it performs flawlessly! The RC4WD Outcry Brushed Speed Controller with built-in drag brake is the perfect speedo for this rig and simply gets the job done!
When coupled with the included Rocker Electronic Dig/ESCit proves to be an almost unstoppable combination! The servo is the Twister Metal Gear Digital Servo that is rated at 153oz @ 6v. It seems kind of low for a comp crawler, but it is a RTR and it must work or it wouldn’t be in the kit. But the rocks will reveal all!
The only thing I did notice on the Bully was the routing of the motor wires. The front motor wires ran down the lower links and attached to the bottom of the motor. I was a bit concerned as I knew these areas were very open to abuse from the rocks. I quickly re-routed them and plugged the motor wires into the top plugs out of the way. But enough of all this tech talk it’s time to hit the rocks.
I headed up to Derbyshire for our RCCar.Zone Scaler Nationals. I took along the Bully and was planning on testing it at our comp site in Bracken rocks. The night before we were at John Wasley’s house having a drink or more and they all got talking about the glory days of comp crawlers and how I had missed it. They knew I had the Bully with me and were basically setting me up for a trial run on John’s rock garden course. I immediately agreed and we were off to the garden…well I say immediately, I needed to find a suitable 2S LiPo first to fit on the tiny plinth on the front axle, next to the steering servo.
I was the first one to drive it of course, and I was really enjoying it. John along with Twinset and Pete were giving me tips as I went along. I could see how great the Bully II was, because even with my very basic crawler skills it was making most of the obstacles. John told me to try the dig. To be honest I had completely forgot about it. I hit the slider button on the front of the transmitter and the rear tyres locked. This allows the Bully II to turn by pivoting on its axis, with the front tyres moving and the rear tyres locked in position. It makes for very tight turns and the ability to position the rig accurately ready for your next obstacle or gate. Using the dig you can take approaches to gates that a non dig enabled rig wouldn’t ever attempt.
You can also lock just the front tyres and power it with the back ones and have a front dig. This actually helps get up almost impossible looking ledges as you can lock the front wheels in place holding onto the ledge as the rear wheels push the rig upwards and load the chassis almost like a spring. Then at just the right moment you start the front wheels drivi9ng again and it often magically lifts itself up onto the ledge. You Just simply select which dig you want to use via the 3-position switch.
I decided to hand it over to the old pros and really see what it could do. I wasn’t disappointed. These boys know how to crawl and made my efforts look childish. I couldn’t wait to try it out at the old stomping grounds the next day. You see, Bracken Rock was home to the Crawler Nationals for many years. But when Comp Crawling started to get taken a bit too serious, the fun-loving group decided to switch over to Scale. That’s why we now have the Scaler Nationals there! I charged a couple batteries for the next day had another drink and went to bed thinking about the Bully on the rocks!
Learning To Dig Real Crawling
Next day was the UK Scaler Nationals. We got there early, briefed the drivers made sure they all knew where they were going and headed out to the trails. This year I was judging course three and decided it would be a great place to run the Bully. So after about 6 hours of scoring the course it finally started to slow down a bit. I went and asked my favourite photographer (Twinset) to do a shoot for me. He was happy to oblige and we headed out to the rocks.
One thing very different from John’s home course was mud, grass and water. I was hoping the Bully Comp Tyres would do ok on the added elements. They were definitely soft and had a great tread for dry rocks, but I was a bit concerned about the wet. I sat off onto the marked trail. 10 gates set out for 1.9 and 2.2 scalers. In theory it should be relatively easy for the Bully. The first gate was easy enough. The second was a tight left turn around some rocks. I selected the dig and easily went right around it. The next gate was up a double rock that was a bit steep. I drove the front tyres onto it and noticed it kept trying to wheelie, which would have obviously flipped the rig on its back. Then I decided to use dig again. I locked the back tyres and drug them up the steep face of the rock with just the power of the front wheels. That was really cool looking by the way. I could get used to this crawling thing!
Gate 4 would really test the tyres as it was a side hill. The Bully creeped across the rock face without any slippage and no problems! Gate five was a drop down that you had to climb up to. The climb was a deep V shaped area between two rocks. The Bully had no problem making up the surface and then I used dig to pull myself round to the drop won. Doing the drop down, the drag brake held flawlessly. We even left it there for a few minutes as Twinset got some great pics of it.
Gate 6 was a quick up and over. It was a log that proved to be difficult for some scale rigs, but was just a speed bump to the Bully. Gates 7 and 8 were just two off camber inclines that were no match for the MOA rig. Gate 9 had some tall grass on the sides that I found wrapped around my axles, but I made it through the gates.
Gate 10 would be the only gate I couldn’t finish. It was a steep, slick incline that nearly everyone that made it through had to use a winch. I obviously didn’t have a winch, but I could have definitely benefited from some axle weights here!
Overall I am very, very impressed with this rig! I had a blast with it and learned a lot about driving as well. The included dig was a huge bonus that really opened up some options on the course! So now for the pros and Cons
Front & Rear Dig function, Drag Brakes and Twin ESC
Servo was a bit weak considering loads placed on it in use. It worked, and I got through the course, but I think it would definitely benefit from a more powerful servo and 10 or 20A BEC
The wire routing to motors was a bit of a concern. But this was easily remedied. My concern is someone new to crawling or RC in general may overlook it. This could result in a broken or shorted wire…
Final MOA Thoughts
Great product! The servo was a bit of a let-down as a seasoned RC guy, but in the end, it is RTR so if you knew no better, in most situations it actually wouldn’t bother you that much! At extremes of lock or axle articulation it can get stuck in one position without the physical power to move itself back to where you want it to go.
The wires and their routing to the motors were just a quick fix so that’s not too bad. But the Pros outweigh the Cons tenfold! I could have talked for days about the pros, but I left it to the few above that are the key points. Having both front a rear dig is a great tool when out on a comp course, or just crawling for fun! It is the first rig I have ever had that has this feature, and after using it, it definitely won’t be the last! All in all you need one of these! I would love to see Comp Crawling make a comeback. It became a competition of who had more money last time and that’s what killed it! Companies got to money hungry and started rigs were quickly entering the multiple thousand-pound range as they were being modified. But I believe RC4WD got it right and offer a great comp crawler ready to go for well under £1000!
Get yourself a Bully II and let’s make Comp Crawling Great Again!
Available Globally: HERE Current Price: $589.99 or in UK: HERE