The RC ‘Kei’ Class

RCZ_Scale 1

Words & Images: Peter Gray/John Wasley/Justine Wasley

Tamiya Suzuki Jimny MF-01X Chassis Kit

Tamiya Website: CLICK HERE

UK Distributor: CLICK HERE

UK RRP: £119.00 (Kit Only)

Specs

  • Length: 347mm
  • Width: 170mm
  • Height: 215mm
  • Wheelbase: 225mm
  • Electric Shaft-Driven 4WD
  • Double Wishbone Suspension
  • Gear Ratio = 9.5:1

Suzuki 4×4 101

Suzuki’s links with 4×4 vehicles dates right back to the year of my birth, 1968…(yeah I’m really that old!). Back then Suzuki bought a former Japanese automaker, the Hope Motor Company. That company had previously produced a series of small off-road vehicles called the ‘HopeStar ON360’. The first fully Suzuki-branded 4×4 was was introduced in 1970 and named the ’Light Jeep 10’or ‘LJ10’ for short. It was driven by a very modest 359cc air-cooled, 2-cylinder, two-stroke engine, and was originally targeted at the Australian market. More exports globally soon followed as the plucky little 4×4 was so popular.

The models kept evolving over time, with the LJ50, the Jimny8/LJ80. The engine grew to 800cc and an in-line, four cylinder, four-stroke, followed by the Jimny 1000/SJ410 and Jimny 1300/SJ413. An updated version of the SJ413 became known as the ‘Samurai’ and was the first 4×4 Suzuki officially marketed in the USA.

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The ‘Suzuki Posse’ grows ever bigger within RCCZ circles!

John Wasley one of the RCCZ crew, and the builder of this review Tamiya owns one (check out our RECON G6 report for a picture!). it’s over 20 years old, has appeared on the front cover of a 4X4 magazine after been heavily modified and is still going strong (when its not on it’s side, or breaking a half-shaft…but more from John and his wife Justine later!)

The True Jimny Emerges

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Original publicity shots of the generation of JImny we all know so well

In 1998 a new model and was released. It was called the Jimny in all markets globally and used the G13BB EFI engine, replaced by the M13AA EFI engine in 2001 and the M13AA VVT engine in 2005, in conjunction with an interior redesign. This generation of Jimny is one that the RCCZ crew and many of our Scale Nationals competitors know very well, and between us we now own half a dozen in various states of Lift, modification, and Off Road capabilities.

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Our daily driver…and tons of fun out on shoots and at events!

We even have our own completely stock soft top one as the mag’s daily driver, complete with RCCar.Zone and RECON G6 logos! It’s driven 1000s of miles since we got it and never missed a beat.

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It had to be done really…a little branding goes a long way!

It intrigues all that see or has a drive in it, and we are about to start our own list of modifications this winter. ‘Godzuki’ (as we call it) will get a little more capable off road by the new year!

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Anyone who knows who this is will understand the nickname of our plucky little Suzuki

You could say this vehicle has a very special place in our hearts…It may be small, but it’s a plucky and very capable Off Roader. It boasts a true ladder chassis, with 2WD for everyday road use and selectable high and low ratio 4WD for off road use, 190mm ground clearance, approach and departure angles of 34 and 46 degrees respectively, which for a car of this size (length 3.7 metres and a wheelbase of 2.2m) is amazing.

And this leads me onto the main purpose of this article…Tamiya recently released a kit of the newer model on a MF-01X chassis, and we just had to source and then let John Wasley build one to mimic theirs!

Out Of The Box & Onto The Build

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The Tamiya version may be a little more up to date looking than our fleet, but the ‘Cute Factor’ is still there!

As with most Tamiya builds, you start with the rear 3 planetary gear diff. Remember to smear all the rotating components with the supplied grease and check that the diffs action feels smooth without any tight spots or (and yes this is a made up word):- ‘graunchyness’. Getting the tension of all three of the self tapping screws that hold the diffs cover on is the key, just nip them up and don’t force them.

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Spot our US buddy Charlie Suangka’s favorite bag…

Next the gearbox/transmission is assembled and the internal gears fitted. The whole assembly thankfully spins on bearings, but again smear grease on all the mating surfaces to ensure the gears are well lubricated.

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An unmistakable Tamiya 3 planetary diff

The lay shaft and spindle that the gears rotate on also requires lubrication, again a light smear, and not a huge blob of grease will suffice.

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The inner gears of each gearbox…that off-white plastic gets everywhere!

The rear damper stays and BA9 ball studs go onto the front of the gearbox.

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The rear sub assembly ready to fit the Torque Tuned motor

You are then prompted to add the supplied servo saver/servo horn assembly to your chosen steering servo, taking note the natural point  has the servo horn sitting perfectly 90 degrees to the servo body and with the servos spline sitting to the left as you look at it from above. A 3kg to 6kg servo is perfectly adequate for this little 4×4.

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The servo saver helps protect the steering servo from damage…this 4kg Core RC unit is fine for this small and light a vehicle

Next comes the steering linkages, or rods as Tamiya likes to describe them. They clip onto ball studs again, and next the servo and steering linkages are affixed into a mount. Now here’s where you must ensure that you use the supplied spacers to get the servo’s height set just right. This will ensure that when bolted into the front gearbox casing that also double as part of chassis, in use the linkages have a free range of movement and don’t bind in any way, even at the most extreme of this pretty rudimentary kit suspension.

Moving Forward

The front diff is built next, and is a carbon copy of the rear. Again once complete you than add this and the front gearboxes internal gears, lube up the lot and bolt the two halves together.

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The rear sub-assembly almost complete…a middle bridging section is added to link to the front

The front and rear sub assemblies are then joined together using a middle chassis bridge consisting of two halves. This is where things get interesting. You can build this (and the central prop/driveshaft) to accommodate 3 different wheelbase settings. 210mm (Short), 225mm (medium), or 239mm (Long). There is also a low or high ground clearance setting for the suspension.

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A light smear of grease of advisable…especially on this central prop shafts bevel gears

The Jimny, surprisingly (as its so tiny) runs with a medium wheelbase option of 225mm, and unsurprisingly (as its Off Road) runs the high ground clearance suspension option. The rear arms go on next, with their now trademark Tamiya threaded upper arms/links.

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Simple and basic, no oil to fill or bleed, just friction based damping

The shocks are built next and being friction units there’s no filling or bleeding required. These take a matter of minutes to construct, and then its time to add the rear god bone drive shafts, hub carriers and axles with drive cups. 10 minutes tops, was all it took to get the rear end assembled and that included fitting the body posts!

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The shocks take seconds to build…and do their job remarkably well

The front is just as simple with the only real difference the use of C hubs and steering knuckles, and of course the linkages leading from the steering servo, out the sides of the chassis to each hub assembly with it’s dog bone drive shaft, drive cups and axle. The last thing that goes on to this part of the build are the front friction shocks, body posts and bumper. We almost have a rolling chassis by now…almost!

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Hub carriers at the rear house the bushes that the rear axles and drive cups spin on

As the pinion is held inside the rear transmission and gearbox its impossible to visually set the correct mash or depth the pinion needs to be for the best surface contact.

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The motor retaining plate. It not only anchors the motor in place, it also sets the perfect gear mesh with ease

Here Tamiya have come up with a simple yet genius idea. You use a supplied plastic cup form that slots over the pinion, with a slit in the side allowing you to loosen or tighten the grub screw…You simply move the pinion as far out as it will go until its resting against the inside edge of the plastic cup, noting that the cup itself is firmly pressed onto the motors bell housing and tighten up the grub screw! ‘Boom’..a perfectly set gear mesh!

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Setting the position of the pinion on the Torque Tuned motor’s shaft is done in a very novel way…

With the motor firmly bolted onto place, the ESC and receiver are next added. The included TBLE-025 Brushless ESC is LiPo compatible (rated for 2S), and can be switched to either 2 wire brushed or 3 wire sensored brushless operation. Its a little fiddly initially, and all programmed via LED’s, but after a coffee and a little practice its soon done.

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Brush or Sensored Brushless…the TBLE-02 ESC caters for both

To help simplify the process here’s a video showing how you can set it up:-https://youtu.be/yIZeOaCQZrk

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Rally Block tyres and cool, replica faux alloys really look the part

With the electrics all in, the steering servo linked to the receiver and everything cantered and tested, we next build up the Faux Alloy wheels and Rally Block tyres.

A thin Cyno is best used to bond the two together and pulling back the bead and letting a slight trickle flow between them the best way.Ensure you clean up the beads of each with lighter fluid to remove mould release, and a slightly scuffing the mating surface on the wheels with sandpaper or wet n dry. A careful 30 minutes later and we had four wheels and tyres done, and no fingers stuck to the table, each other, or any of the wheels and tyres (been there, done that!).

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Bosy posts on: Check, Wheels and tyres fitted: Check, Body…Body?

Finally, the body. Without boring you with every detail it took a day to paint, cut out and sticker up properly.

10 Points When Painting The Body:-

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Take your time, follow out 10 golden rules and all will be good with the shell
  1. Wash the inside with hot water and mild detergent then rinse and dry. This removed the Silicon mould release spray from the inside of the shell used in the vac forming process, that could act as a resist to your chosen paint.
  2. Regularly wash your hands as the oils in your fingertips and skin can again act as a resist for the paint.
  3. Remember to add the window masks on the INSIDE before you paint, bub the edges of these with clean fingers to make sure they are sealed to the shell to avoid ‘bleeding in’ of the paint.
  4. Make sure you use a certified Lexan paint and not exterior paint designed for hard bodies. This will ensure that the first coat etches into the plastic and then that all layers after that build up a good deep colour.
  5. build up thin coats and take your time…thick coats peel off, don’t dry properly and run…
  6. Use curved scissors to cut out wheel arches, practice on waste material first as there’s an art to using them properly.
  7. Use a mild detergent and water mix in a spray bottle or vaporiser to put a fine mist on the outside. then apply decals one at a time, using a soft cloth and squeegee to remove excess moisture and air. This allows some re-positioning time and once dry the stickers will look crisp and flat with no tiny air bubbles or pockets.
  8. Take your time and don’t rush…the body is what makes or breaks any builds final overall look.
  9. Once everything’s dry and settled, again go over all stickers with a soft cloth to ensure they are 100% down and sealed to the body. They tend to relax and can lift in first 24 hours.
  10. For extra ‘Ping’ polish the outside with a spray on liquid wax, normally used for 1:1 cars…use a totally new, clean soft cloth to avoid any scratches on pristine plastic.
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Still naked and waiting on nearly a days worth of body prep

That’s it…the little Suzuki is now done…It was time to go and give it a run and also take the 1:1 version out for some fun too!

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Looks tiny on the bonnet of the real thing…(needs a snorkel too)

Little N Large

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In 4×4 circles it’s all a matter of perspective!

The Jimny’s (Plural) were taken to a local 4×4 spot and put through their paces. The Tamiya, while not being as capable as the 1:1 was tons of fun. Its the ideal 1st build, or as a fun collectable. We have seen them take part in RECON G6 events once modified, and we know that our Austrian contributor Daniel Siegl has won classes and had great success with one.

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The tyres work well on most surfaces…dry rock especially!

At under £120 for the kit its never going to be a full-on comp rig in stock form, but it is, as are all Tamiya models…lots of fun. The Torque Tuned Motor offers the right balance of wheel speed, and as it’s name implies, ‘Torque…

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The box’s sticker says it all…A Torque Tuned motor & ESC included

In use a 5000 mAh LipPo pack lasts around 20 minutes of run time, longer I would bet if you fitted say a 35t or higher motor. The rally block tyres generate good grip on most surfaces but benefit from being scrubbed up first on concrete to break that outer surface. The motor while not ever going to win a drag race does however offer a turn of speed when required and low down low RPM finesse for more technical driving conditions.

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The shell looks crisp and true to the bloodline…its a no brainer collectable for Suzuki 4×4 fans

A Suzuki Mad Family Footnote…

John and Justine Wasley are not only part of our RC and 1:1 4×4 global family, John is also an occasional contributor to my past and current magazines, and also a key member of the team that twice a year stages the UK Scale Nationals (and from this year onwards….the UK RECON G6).

They not only own a very cool Samurai that’s adorned the cover of an international 4×4 magazine, both compete in 4×4 events regularly and are also own the red Soft top Jimny in the background of some of our review shots, and the one the little Tamiya is actually sitting on in one…

I recently asked Justine why Suzuki 4×4’s have such a special place in their lives and hearts. Here’s the transcript:-

“Our love for Suzuki’s started with my very first car, even after passing my driving test over 26 years ago, I have still haven’t owned a ‘car’. My first ‘car’ was a 4×4 Suzuki LJ80 that we found about a year after passing my test. I loved my little Suzuki so much that after I started to compete in off road events I realised that I was damaging ‘Frank’ too much, so he was retired to my mother in laws car port (Sadly, for the next 20+ years).

I replaced Frank with ‘Jemima’, another Suzuki LJ80, and then ‘Purdy’ the Suzuki SJ410. Family and job changes meant that the Suzuki’s were replaced as daily drivers with ‘other cough’ 4×4’s, 7-seaters which were much more practical. We have always had a Suzuki in the family though as John built and modified a Suzuki samurai 413 (now with a 1.6 Sidekick engine fitted, a 416) and we have both competed in it for a number of years. After rescuing ‘Frank’ a couple of years ago from the car port and trying to persuade our oldest daughter that it would be the coolest car ever for her first vehicle (and failing miserably), we sadly listed Frank on good old EBay, and much to my regret we sold him…

But on a happier note we now had the funds to get me my own Suzuki. We found a red Suzuki Jimny with a blown engine, but has luck would have it I am married to a mechanic so we went ahead and decided to buy it. John replaced the engine and with his knowledge and experience with Suzuki off roaders he knew which modifications he wanted to do to my little truck. (I wanted to change the colour from red to purple, but that was simply one mod too far!).

The modifications that John carried out are a 3 inch suspension lift, with heavy duty castor correction suspension arms, a snorkel, so I can go in deep water, heavy duty sill bars and front and rear bumpers. The best modification though is a rock lobster transfer box that lowers the 4×4 gears by 80% making it much more controllable (and fun) off-road. The tyres are Insa-turbo special tracks and are about 3 inches taller than standard to give it the ‘Mini Monster Truck’ look.

One of the modifications that I love the most is the exhaust which is a straight through power flow back box that was originally on a Triumph Herald making my little truck very noisy. The next thing I need John to put in is a Lock right rear diff locker which he has sitting on his workbench in the garage. Oddly, he is very reluctant to put it in because I think he thinks that it will make my truck better than his, and I’ll beat him off road (which would probably happen!). I’d also like a winch on the front bumper, not that I would ever use it but it would look good!

These little Suzuki 4x4s are very underrated and looked down on by a lot of the larger green oval badge owners. We recently joined the Buxton Land Rover club at one of their trials. A number of Suzuki’s took part and we showed them that a Suzuki Jimny is a force to be reckoned with. For me personally I love the fact that the Jimny is small enough to use as an everyday vehicle (John even helped source RCCCZ’s daily driver ‘Godzuki’).

They are also an excellent off roader, surprising a lot of people with what they can do. They punch way above their weight and size, and that’s very cool…”

Positives

  • Cheap to buy & easy to build for any age group of RC fan
  • A no brainer collectible for any Suzuki Jimny fan/owner
  • Fun with a capital ‘T’ (& ‘A’ & ‘M’ & ‘I’ & ‘Y’ & ‘A’)
  • Simple to work on and repair if needed
  • Tons of future ‘Scope’ to hop up!
  • It’s TAMIYA what’s not to like?

Negatives

  • Needs oil dampers, friction ones a bit to ‘Springy’
  • ESC can be fiddly to setup initially
  • More people need to comp them!
  • Bushed not Bearings?

For more on Tamiya : CLICK HERE

For more on UK Distributor: CLICK HERE

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