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!
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.