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!
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!
As someone that’s heavily into both Multirotor and RC cars I was intrigued to learn on the RC grapevine a few months back that Kyosho were releasing a product they called the ‘Drone Racer’. Early images of it showed a very futuristic and yet thin side profile. It was very reminiscent of craft seen in the classic PlayStation game Wipe-out, or an evolution of a Formula E race car crossed with one of the Pod Racers seen in the Phantom Menace.
The initial reaction from the core Kyosho fans, and strangely the car community was very positive. The existing Drone Racing community didn’t seem to get it, and some even ridiculed it initially, but then this wasn’t a Drone Racer in that sense at all. In fact, the biggest shock and polariser of the whole concept was the steering wheel car type, surface remote. That got more questions of “How?” on social media than any other part.
Then things went very quiet for a while until the 23rd of September at a Drone Racer recital at the Japan Model Hobby Show. A buddy of mine Francesco attended and I watched transfixed as four of these craft raced their way around a course at the show, streaming live on his Facebook page. My interest level went through the roof, so I immediately got onto Kyosho UK and arranged this review. The actual retail stock looks to be hitting the UK in late November, so perfect timing for Xmas for anyone stuck what to get themselves, or a RC/Drone/Tech lover (delete as appropriate) for Xmas.
Even More Torment!
Just before the sample physically arrived, just to torment me further, Kyosho released this YouTube video:
I wanted to review one even more! Then thankfully the door bell went, and a box arrived by courier. Just inside the box was a note saying I had just a few days with the sample, as it was one of only two in the UK and was needed by the UK reps to show retailers, I shelved anything I had to do in the next 48 hours and quickly finished unboxed the Drone Racer.
You can see my first thoughts after the unboxing on a Facebook video: HERE
The drone itself is very light and sits at just over 300mm x 300mm. The Lexan body looks like a futuristic f1 car and really suits the genre of product. I’ve been a big advocator of body shells on drones as the standard ‘White for a filming platform’ and ‘Naked Carbon Fibre with alloy standoffs’’ for a race drone is starting to look a little old hat of late.
The drones H chassis design is only about 35mm or so wide along its spine, with a Sonar sensor array and battery holder on the underside, and on the top a 5v out accessory port (For a future FPV Cam possibly?), an LED port (for additional LEDs I’m guessing) and Infra Red Sensor (for a lap timing system and app Kyosho will be selling soon), standard mini USB port, a Bind and then clickable ‘C’ and ‘A’ buttons.
Indicate & Identify
Both sets of arms have RGB LED strips built into them, and these can be changed at the front to any one of six colours (White, Blue, Yellow, Green, Pink or Blue) to help identify your drone if you intend to race it.
On the rear arm they change automatically to any one of four colours to indicate the drones status. This is simple to understand and the colour codes are as follows:-
Red : flashing = Low Voltage Warning, Solid Red indicates safety function is released and the quad is now armed and ready. Once flying the LED’s remain on to act as a tail light.
Yellow : Indicates the transmitter is not connected , so quad goes into failsafe/Emergency stop mode.
Green: Flashing indicates drone detecting horizontal axis, when solidly lit it indicates the drone is ready but safety function is still Active
Blue : Solid blue means Gyro calibration in progress
0, 10 or 20 Degrees Of Tilt
The arms also can be tilted to any one of three locked angles via the use of additional (but supplied) arm holders. These upper clamps hold the arms at either a 0-degree, 10-degree or 20-degree attack angle. Kyosho call it ‘VPUS’ or Variable Propeller Unit Structure. Marketing jargon aside, what this does is increase the forward speed of the quad in flight as the props are already pulling the craft forward because of the angle. Set at 20-degrees it jumps from the stock 30km/h at 0 degrees, to just under 35km/h and it also has an added advantage of flying better if there’s a slight breeze too. It tends to be able to cut through it better, rather than being blown off track (as can happen at the 0-degree setting).
To seasoned quad racers this speed isn’t going to be mind-bendingly fast, but to most RC fans, especially the more car orientated, it’s a fast enough pace to have a good old race at, and more importantly, to have lots of fun with!
The 1s (3.7v) 1000mAh LiPo included in this retail package takes between 1 and 2hrs to charge, all dependent upon the ampere rating of the USB socket you plug the included charger into. Now most PC’s offer quite a low Amp rating, so I opted to use a USB wall plug I had spare, rated at 2A and 5v, this peaked the pack in under an hour. As a rule of thumb, if using a computers USB port, USB 1.0 and 2.0 ports can deliver up to 0.5A; with USB 3.0, that moves up to 0.9A. By using a dedicated charging wall plug like I did, you can expect anywhere between 1.5A and 3A, drastically improving charge times.
By charging at 2A this gave a good ten minutes of mixed throttle fly/drive/hover time, and I’m sure that will improve once the battery has had a few cycles. The battery is a long flat, oblong and slightly wider than many fitted to other quads in the fun sector of the market. I have other packs with the same lead fitted, but all were a different size and lower mAh rating. This means that unless you can source a direct comparative cell by a third-party manufacturer, you will have to purchase official Kyosho spares, if you want multiple cells to enhance your fun.
“A Steering Wheel, But It’s A Drone?”
Now, that was the reaction I got from most of my Drone flying buddies when I first revealed the Kyosho to them. They simply didn’t get it. All are used to flying stick radios. All use pitch and roll in combination to get the type turns they require. How could a wheel transmitter offer the same kind of control? Well…to put it bluntly. It doesn’t.
In use, the Drone Racer is more like piloting a very sophisticated Drift Car/Hovercraft hybrid than a Quadcopter, and for its intended market, that’s not actually a bad thing. The electronics built into the flight controller mix Yaw and Roll together and as you twist the wheel, the craft turns, offering quite a flat almost drift like Yaw turn, but with a small amount of roll mixed in. You can adjust the speed and amount of turn in relationship to the users input using the rotary knobs on the Tx, as can you trim each channel to offer a neutral point for the Yaw/Roll function and the throttle. Both important if there seems to be any slight drifting on any axis while in a straight, on the spot hover.
You must remember however that this Quads built in sensors are for Height Hold only. Two Sonar sensors pointing down help maintain one of the two available pre-set heights you select via the transmitters 3 position thumb switch on the grip. The other position being to land the Drone! At a moderate pace, they react fast enough to lift the drone up over an object, so on say a 1/10th Off Road track you can see the Drone rise in relation to the up ramp of a jump, then settle back to a constant height after the Drone descends the down ramp, or clears it completely.
Go too fast however and there’s a chance the Drone will hit the object before its sensors have compensated for its height. That’s when I found the highest of its two settings is best for this type of terrain. On a flat or semi-undulating terrain go to height one and everything’s smooth as butter. The Drone will compensate for small changes in surface seamlessly. Over rough terrain or where there is a series of objects much higher than the Drone is travelling, the second height is king.
A Fleet Of These Racing = Wipeout 2017
The best analogy I can use for the Kyosho Drones racer and its look and feel when being piloted is the game ‘Wipeout’. Now for this not familiar with the Sony PlayStation gaming franchise. Wipeout and the driving game Ridge Racer where two of the seminal launch titles on the original PS1. Wipeout captured the imagination of gamers by combining futuristic hovering race craft, with pumping electronic music and sweeping almost Tron-Esq tracks. Now Kyosho must have had a design brief of some sort when the project was first initiated, and I’m thinking that this and possibly the Pod Racers from Start Wars Episode 1 were high on that influences list. Sprinkle in a touch of Formula E, the latest in fun quadcopter technology and an easy to use (and futuristic looking) Synchro Steer Wheel transmitter, and you have one of the coolest bits of Xmas 2016 hobby tech I’ve seen in a long while.
Seeing a small fleet of these, all set to display different colours battling it out would be epic. It’s the perfect stock class vehicle for an after-school club, held in a school gym or as I’ve recently seen at a more traditional 1/10th, On or Off Road RC Car club track.
Yes, You Can Run Outdoors…But
In totally stock form, and with the arms flat, any cross winds are hard to fight, and tend to push the craft off course. At slow speeds this is something you can counteract easily, but if the wind picks up, just making any headway can be a struggle, and if you are travelling at the crafts top speed, its momentum tends to make it carry for quite a distance. And this is how the Drone Racer flies, its best described at Point, Squirt and Drift. You use the throttle and steer wheel in conjunction with each other to set the radius as you travel around an actual or imaginary corner marker.
You soon get used to how much speed the Drone Racer can carry if you don’t counteract it with either a tap of the brakes (by pushing forwards on the trigger), or in my case when things looked like I may hit an object you gab a full on handful of brake, reversing the motors and causing the Racer to first slow, then stop, then start moving backwards.
When you first take off you flick the three position switch up to the desired level, pull on the trigger to initiate forward momentum, reach the desired speed and then use the throttle to help keep the Drone Racer pointed where you want it to go, modulating the speed with throttle and brake just like an RC car.
At one point during an outdoor run I ended up with it travelling backwards, at speed heading into a fence. The wind had really picked up and just kept pushing it and even though I was gunning the throttle it just couldn’t fight the wind. Once I tilted the arms forwards however, things got far more aggressive in the handling stakes and the Racer tended to cut through wind moving forwards far better, and didn’t get pushed off course as easily.
On a still day or in a sheltered area outdoors the Drone Racer is lots of fun. It’s just a magnet for people and drew a crowd everywhere I took it, with it flying so low to the ground, excited the big kid in anyone that sees it. Its body shell is a key factor in this. Drones have become part of the everyday fabric of life. But seeing something so futuristic and sleek elevated this product from just 4 sets of blades and a blob of plastic, to something very much more inspiring to pilot or more importantly, observe being piloted.
I offered the controls to everyone within my RC peer group that wanted to have a go, admittedly mostly are car guys, but even though this was one of only two sample I knew of outside Japan, I even let a couple of complete RC novice buddies have a go. With the height, it travels, the prop guards, the relatively low RPM the blades spin, and the built-in motor cut out programming, I knew that it was safe to be around. you can’t say that about many drones that aren’t 100% toy grade.
All who experienced it gave the Drone Racer a unanimous thumbs-up for simply being so innovative and different, with only one finding the steer wheel method “a little odd”, but then again he also flies planes and quads, and is a stick man when racing cars too…so there’s no hope for him! If it encourages people into the very diverse and interesting world of Drones now that can’t be a bad thing. I hate to use the term, but this is a gateway product if I ever saw one!
The Kyosho Drone Racer is a product that to some may initially look like its Toy Grade, but when you consider the build quality, its price point (£249.99), the technology involved in its realisation and its future potential with the Kyosho timing app and additional future performance upgrades, it’s definitely Hobby-Grade through and through. Drone purists probably won’t get it, buy it or race one, and that leaves it open for the rest of the Tech and RC communities to embrace, and that’s a huge market place globally. Judging by the pre-orders the first batch into Europe will sell out fast, and I’ve got one on my Xmas list for sure.
I just can’t wait to see what Kyosho have up their sleeve next. I hope more variants on the Drone Racer, perhaps a Pro Drone Racer with 2S support, faster motors and FPV? I live in hope…but for the latter I have a confession to make. I have tried it with FPV and its ace fun! I simply used one of the tiny 25mw CE legal AIO 5.8ghz FPV cams we all use on our Tiny Whoop builds, plugged it into the 5V port (the cam takes up to 5v!) and although it reduced the overall flight time slightly, as there’s an additional current draw…it was a very good way to pilot the Drone Racer. In fact, as an entry into the world of FPV, the Kyosho is a great platform. The flight time it offers, and its ability to fly indoors if space allows or outdoors if the winds not too prevalent, make it near perfect.
Final Thought: I would hope that Kyosho will offer a stick version to at some point, even keep in the mixing of Yaw and Roll and just allow throttle and steering, as that would excite even more people about its low flying charms. We shall see…
Huge shout out to Neil Skull and the Kysoho UK team for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get together with a few owners post Xmas and put the Drone Racers through their paces on a track somewhere!
The name Dennis Anderson may not mean anything to a good proportion of you reading this, but I bet most of you have heard of his 4×4 creation, The Grave Digger. Probably the most Iconic Monster truck of all time, and one that many of us have owned at one point in one form or another. From various Mattel Hot wheels 1/64th die cast push along toys to Traxxas 1/16th RC, New bright 1/10th RC and now Axial’s latest 1/10th RTR trucks. It’s been a vehicle that’s inspired kids of all ages with its colour scheme and eerie almost Halloween-esc looks into performing huge real (or imaginary) backflips, jumps and power slides, not to mention crushing other cars! Hell, I even gave my kids official Monster Jam ‘plushie’ versions of it and other Monster Jam trucks to play with as infants…but more on that later.
Mud Bogger to Car Crusher
The origins of the now legendary black and green 1950’s Chevy Panel van started in 1982 with a very different look and model of vehicle. The very first Grave Digger was actually a bright red 1952 Ford pickup truck and was built as a Mud Bogger. Dennis then progressed onto a silver and blue 1951 Ford Panel Truck, and this would become the first ‘official’ Grave Digger Monster Truck, and the rest was history.
The truck was named Grave Digger when Anderson said the now famous line:-“I’ll take this old junk and dig you a grave with it…”. Not just Trash Talk to put the other drivers off, but also pretty factually correct about his old pickup when compared to the other drivers pretty modern rides. Anderson fast built up both respect amongst the o0ther drivers and also a reputation amongst the public who attended these events with an all-or-nothing, 100% committed driving style.
His transition from Mud Bogging to becoming a Monster Truck happened overnight. He was competing at a show, when the scheduled Monster Truck failed to show up and perform Car Crushing for the expectant crowd. Anderson, who already had large tractor tires on the Grave Digger, offered to step in and crush cars in it’s absence. The promoter accepted and Grave Digger was given a shot. He was an instant hit with the crowds and this was the catalyst for his, and the trucks future career as a fully fledged Monster Truck.
The Digger Look
In 1986 Grave Digger first received its famous graveyard paint livery. It was still a Ford at this point, and until 1988 Anderson mostly drove the truck at TNT Motorsports races. Despite his team still lacking the major funding that teams like Bigfoot had, he won over the people that really mattered, and quickly became a firm favourite with the crowds and growing numbers of fans of the genre.
Then in In 1987, he truly made his mark. Grave Digger beat Bigfoot in St. Poodle, MN on a show taped for and then shown on a very new ESPN. It was just what he needed to take the truck, and his team to the next level, both in its design and to help generate additional funding.
Anderson then built Grave Digger 2 in 1989, with a new 1950 Chevy panel van as its body and everything the team had learnt put into the mechanics. It was during this time that his reputation for making exciting and even ‘wild’ passes in Grave Digger was born. The popularity of Grave Digger when crazy. TNT realised what an icon the truck and Anderson were becoming began promoting them heavily, especially for races on the now legendary ‘Tuff Trax’ syndicated TV series.
Evolution Of Species
TNT became a part USHRA in 1991, and Anderson began running on the USHRA tour and debuted his first four-link truck, Grave Digger 3. The rest was history. In the 1990’s, the popularity of the truck grew so much that Anderson hired other drivers to run multiple Grave Digger trucks at various events across the US. Grave Diggers 4, 5 and 8 were built for just this purpose. Anderson drove Grave Digger 7, a direct successor to 3, for most of this decade. It was eventually replaced by Grave Digger 12, well known as the LWD (Long Wheelbase Digger) which was also the first Grave Digger to have purple in the paintjob.
In late 90’s, Anderson sold the Grave Digger team to Feld Entertainment Motor Sports, the current event organiser of the Monster Jam series of events that travel globally to this day. Anderson continues to drive Grave Digger and still is the most visible member of the team. The truck recently had its 30th birthday and competed with a special livery. Fans still flock to see the truck at every event it appears in and regardless of the latest team, or truck to appear on the scene, Grave Digger will always capture the public’s imagination, on and off the track.
The SMT-10 Platform On The Slab…
So what is an Axial SMT-10 rig then? Well, for a start there’s the obvious Monster Truck inspired body shell, and this one happens to be a licenced version of the classic Grave Digger. And I would bet that there’s more options on the way, as let’s face it, why create such a cool Monster Truck platform and not create Axial’s own fleet of 1/10th replicas to please both the hardcore Monster Jam fans, and the existing RC bashing brigade.
Of all the genre of RC Cars out there, the Monster Truck has the widest appeal by far. You can in theory run it just about anywhere. It takes lots of abuse, and where a thoroughbred 4×4 race platform would probably break in two…most of the time a well-designed and made Monster Truck just keeps coming back for more. It’s no thin cheaply made shell either. Its .040 Polycarbonate and comes complete with a .040 scale interior with driver figure, complete with optional glow in the dark skeleton driver’s head!
Other cool touches like sweeping chrome ‘Zoomie’ style header pipes, and yet another optional (but included in the box) part, a chromed Supercharger Blower intake and additional engine detail you can bolt onto the bonnet (hood for my US chums!) all add to the look and feel of the truck.
Then there’s the chassis and roll cage. In this rig it’s a bright Grave Digger Green, but I would expect it to be black in subsequent releases. It was designed to resemble as closely as possible the modern era full size monster trucks, the chassis was developed to offer maximum strength combined with an extremely detailed appearance. That’s not something that’s easy to do, and most Monster Trucks that came before this release had to sacrifice that very detail aspect in favour of very exaggerated and often frankly unrealistic beefed up TVP chassis. The chassis strength actually lies in the clever way, just like in the real thing, Axial have used triangulation of the chassis tubes, making it ready for just about anything you can throw at it in use. But the features don’t end there.
Weight Distribution and C of G
The battery tray can be easily accessed at the rear of the vehicle, without removing the body or disturbing any of the electrics. Yes, it sits quite high up compared to anything Axial have released before, but that’s so the C of G is optimised for the rig to perform and handle just like the real thing. You want to be able to pop the occasional wheelie, to attempt single, double and even triple backflips. And all of these require the truck to rotate around a fixed point, and one that’s pretty high and towards the rear of the rig.
Installing a LiPo is so easy. You just remove one pin, swing out the cell tray, and slide the battery pack in. The tray is fully height adjustable with four screws, making room for most standard sized ‘Brick’ 2S and 3S LiPo battery packs. Talking of which the rig is out of the box set up for 3S use, with a 56T Spur / 11T as standard, but Axial Includes a 16T Pinion for 2S use. Now I find this a bit odd as most of us have 2S packs or would start with a 2S pack until we get the feel of any new vehicle. I guess they want prospective owners to jump straight in and experience the additional thrills and spills 11.1v RPM offers, especially when you consider this rig is supplied with a 27t brushed motor so perhaps not the fastest kid on the block running 2S!
The Monster Truck related design content continues with a new heavy duty tie rod, drag link, and faux scale Hydraulic Ram Steering Link to ensure the massive tyres go where you want them to. Being plastic the steering links are more forgiving than an all alloy setup and offer a little flex in conjunction with the servo saver to help the Tactic TSX45, metal geared steering servo stay intact.
At the supplied 5v BEC voltage from the Axial AE-5 ESC the servo produces just under 11kg of torque that for a RTR isn’t a bad g brakes between 100% or 50%figure. AS for the ESC itself, the AE-5 is one of the simplest units in the RC world to use. Its rated for a peak current of 180A with a motor limit of 12t on 2S or 18t on 3S and uses a simple jumper system to set up the desired parameters of battery type (between NiMH or LiPo), and drag brake force (between 100% or 50%).
But that’s not all. When you plug in your chosen cell to the pre-soldered Deans connector, the ESC goes through a self-test/diagnostics routine. It automatically sets the throttle and brake end points, and if set in LiPo mode, it checks if you are using a 2 or 3S LiPo. No switching on, holding throttle or brake and waiting for beeps or lights…It’s pretty much fool proof (well, I could use it so….)
To put all that torque and RPM where its needed most, Axial have produced a scale BKT MOnster Truck tyre. BKT are the official and exclusive tire manufacturer of Monster Jam and its 1:1 fleet of trucks. The full size tyres, just like their 1/10th equivalents have been designed to handle the inherent stresses involved with both ‘Racing’ and ‘Freestyle’ Monster Jam competition.
The rig also features a waterproof radio box to keep the 3-channel TR325 3-channel receiver safe and dry, if you do decide to go and run the truck in the wet. And thats brings me nicely onto the included 2.4GHz 3-Channel transmitter. The Tactic TTX300 is not your ordinary RTR radio. For a start it has a user programmable 3rd channel, allowing the end user to control almost anything they desire. RC Dig Units and Winches are the obvious choice, which makes this system perfect for the scale and crawling community. But it can also be used to switch on and off LED lighting, onboard cameras and even sound units and other such accessories. Then theres the SLT (Secure Link 2.4Ghz Technology), which once bound creates an unbreakable link between the receiver and your transmitter. The look is also very unique and futuristic, this isn’t a RTR Tx you will feel ashamed of being seen with!
Proven Axles…Beefed Up C -Hubs
The SMT10 features the now proven AR60 axle with a true trailing arm 4-linked rear suspension and also offers additional shock mounting positions. As with previous releases the AR60 OCP-Axle is injection moulded in a tough composite which has a very low flex rate, but is not as brittle as standard glass filled nylon used by many other brands. The axles feature an Off-center pumpkin design with reinforced axle tubes with a boxed-in axle truss to offer stability and durability. They even changed the diff cover to give them a slightly different look. Subtle but cool.
Axial understand that Monster trucks undergo many more stresses than scale rigs or rock racers. So to that end they have strengthened the front C-Hubs to take all the hard impacts and occasional bad landings the rig will endure from monster jumps and good old fashioned RC bashing.
Where other brands fit multiple units at each corner to share the load, Axial know their current breed of oil filled shocks can take Monster abuse off road and stick to just a single unit in each corner, far more in keeping with the real Grave Digger. The chassis offers a variety of shock mounting points for additional suspension tuning options, meaning in seconds you can either lay the shocks down at more of an angle to soften the ride and lower the ride height, or sit them more upright to stiffen the suspension and raise the ride height.
Although the alloy bodied shocks have plastic tops they are very well made and even under the most extreme bashing duress didn’t immediately start spewing shock all from their seals. It is worth noting that as the shock bodies are actually 10mm, and not the 12mm of most of their other shocks, at the moment alloy caps are hard to find as a Hop Up, but once the SMT10 has been out a while and some get released, adding these, with a smear of Team Associated ‘Green Slime’ to each seal will greatly improve the longevity of the shocks between routine maintenance. Also remember not over tighten them as the plastic caps can strip their internal thread leading to even more leak issues! Just nip them tight and all will be good in the world.
Old Skool AX Transmission
In a departure from the recently released SCX10 II transmission, with its optional 2-speed add-on, with the SMT10 Axial instead decided to revert back to the trusty AX10 single speed unit. Initially I was a little shocked by this, but then thought through this trucks intended use and the stresses the transmission would have to endure. Keeping things simple meas that 1: it will take more abuse, even with a brushless setup. 2: tons of spares are available, from hardened internal gear sets and alloy cases to the choice of motor mount and spur gear choice. Its a unit that’s served us well for many, many years and nice to see Axial still utilising it in their latest vehicles. When used in conjunction with the WB8 HDDriveshafts
with their larger diameter cross pin for added strength and a new center splined slider to reduces flex and fatigue its a potent combination…especially when running on 3S!
Anatomy Of The SMT10
Seen from above, the layout of the rig’s chassis and electronics follows a well thought out patten. Weight is evenly distributed, the track width and wheelbase offering stability where its needed and the Centre Of Gravity sitting in a position to offer a fun driving experience.
Let’s face it, iid this was the most stable RC vehicle ever invented then its wouldnt mimic the trucks that compete at Monster Jam. I’ll go into this more in part 2, where I put it through its paces on various different terrains, but suffice to say, this shell will not remain immaculate, it will get thoroughly bash tested on both 2 and 3S and I will attempt my party piece, the double (or even triple) Backflip. Until then I leave you with a few more images of the pristine truck…as I eagerly charge LiPo cells and get my official Grave Digger Monster Jam T shirt on…I am so looking forward to this!
But why does this truck mean so much to me? Well, a few years ago myself and the then RRCi team worked at Monster Jam at the UK events they staged. We did the warm up for the crowd using Traxxas 1/8th RC Monster Trucks (with incidentally, the now head of Axials UK office, Andrew Rawlinson!). Hanging out with all the teams was amazing, we had a great time, even getting to sit in the Trucks and experience the practice runs and event itself right next to the track itself. We even have the blower belt from Grave Digger hanging in Speedy Steve’s garage after he broke it in the final on his very last winning run!
The driver and team of Grave Digger at that event bet me a mountain of Grave Digger goodies I couldn’t backflip the biggest gap in the stadium (well over 90 feet) in front of the very large crowd, so no pressure there then! Always up for a challenge I attempted it both days as the finale of the warm up. I would position my 6s powered truck at the far end of the stadium and drive it full speed to the take off ramp! 1st day I landed on the down ramp at an odd angle and broke an A arm and bent a shock, plus the rear of the trucks body didnt fare too well either. The second day it actually landed ‘in’ the last crushed car in a line of them just before the down ramp and disappeared completely, to a round of applause from the crowd…
I Got My Stash Of Goodies!
Because of the sheer entertainment factor of my attempts (you could hear them all laughing from the pit area!) they gave me my goodies (plush Monster Jam trucks for kids, kids T shirts and one of my most prized possessions to this day, my GD Cap and adult T’s). I still keep in touch with some of the crew on Facebook and I know for as fact they are digging the new Axial in a big way. Oh, and there was also an incident with a certain RC truck and the shows compare…but what happens in Pride Park Derby, stays in Pride Park Derby eh Andrew!
Join me soon for part 2 when we run the rig, test its abilities to the hilt and see if I can get my backflip mojo back! Until then here’s the official Axial video of the SMT10 Grave Digger Monster Jam Truck in action…
For more on Monster Jam and the 2016/17 global tour dates click: HERE
For more on Axial Racing and the SMT10 Grave Digger click: HERE
Now, I’m no stranger to the RC4WD Trail Finder bloodline. And at last count I’ve built 3 rigs based on two generations of the kit and run a very capable RTR. With our recent SWB TF2 review by Daniel S getting all down and dirty at the RECON G6 UK Edition, I felt it wise to do something a little different with the latest review kit of the longer wheelbase we were sent by RC4WD.
For a start I decided to use the new Chevy Blazer body kit they had recently released. And while I was at it, the Billet V8 engine that replaces the stock motor mount and becomes part of a far more realistic looking driveline. I wanted a rig that while still performing Off Road, would also look cool as a fictitious daily driver, and be something that if I had the 1:1 vehicle as a donor, the time and the funds…would build myself for real!
V8 Engine and Ladder Chassis
The start of any TF” kit build is always the chassis. You first bolt on the mounting points for the leaf springs and gradually build up what is essentially the backbone of the whole rig.
Remember to use Loctite Blue Threadlock or similar on anything that goes metal to metal, but metal bolting onto plastic should be just fine. The chassis braces, front chassis mounted servo mount and shock hoops go on next, and then the plastic rock sliders and side on body mounting points.
Next you fit the upper deck that provides a decent surface area for the ESC, main pack and receiver (or if you want to use it, you can also fit the kits rear splash proof receiver box that mimics a fuel cell). Personally I keep all my electronics on that plate to:- 1: keep all wiring runs as short and neat as possible and 2: So that if needed I can waterproof components myself. Most ESC’s are at least splash proof these days and for a scale rig that’s usually enough. As for receivers, its a simple enough task to use either an old school balloon, or more modern method of Plastidip liquid electrical insulation to waterproof the receiver and if running one, the BECs boards.
My chosen Carisma brushed ESC with crawling mode was already deemed waterproof, as was the Spektrum receiver I decided to use.
V8 Power Plant…(Ok, 35t!)
Next I deviated from the traditional build schedule and took the Billet V8 Engine to bits to fit the 35t brushed motor I had chosen to use. Its a fiddly job but a little patience and lots of tiny bolts later and I was there. I made sure to check the internal gears in the bolt on transmission housing for grease. The R4 Ultimate Scale Single Speed Transmission has a gear ratio of 10.1:1 and perfectly compliments the V8 engine.
One thing to note is that the pinion and gears while being metal are 48DP so run very smoothly but aren’t as tough as the 32dp gears used on other rigs. You must make sure you mesh the pinion and primary gear inside the transmission perfectly, and that you threadlock the pinions grub screw…not doing so and the pinion moving is a big job top rectify…you were warned!
The alloy engine is the perfect way to disguise a 540 sized brushed or brushless motor
The R4 Ultimate Scale Transmission offers a gear ratio of: 10.1:1 and thus improving traction and torque at the axles
We chose a 35 turn brushed motor for this build, the perfect balance between RPM and torque (even more so on 3s!). This ones re-buildable too
Once mated together the separate components work so well together and offer lots of scope to further accessorise and detail the engine inside the Blazers engine bay.
In situ the V8, Holly Rocker Covers and its pancake filter look right at home. Forward weight bias is greatly improved.
The engine was completed with an alloy pancake air filter and some Holly rocker covers. the whole assembly once bolted in place and linked directly to the 1.47/1 ratio Hammer Transfer Case added a real weight forward bias to the rig, perfect for climbing inclines and counteracting (with the use of weighted wheels) the heavier Blazer hard body and thus much higher centre of gravity.
Next my attention turned to the included kit axles. The cast Yota Axles have a ratio of: 2.67:1 and are 176.5mm wide (measured at the hex’s). They, as ever come pre-built, but will benefit from setting aside a good hour to strip, grease and then re assemble using threadlock. You can just fit them but long term you will suffer the loss of bolts and premature gear wear, forcing the need to shim them. You simply bolt on the leaf springs and then they are affixed to the correct points on the chassis, anchoring them in place.
Axles in place, the Ultimate Scale Shocks are fixed on next, and their sleek look (having internal springs) works perfectly in conjunction with the leaf springs and axles. As Daniel Siegl said in his recent TF2 SWB Jeep review, leaf sprung rigs drive so very differently to 4 linked, more traditionally suspension equipped ones. But they look so much more ‘Scale’ and ‘Realistic’!
Remember though that the shocks are not oil filled and have internal springs. A small amount of oil seems to improve their action slightly, and unless over-filled they stay pretty leak free in use, but as ever experimentation is the key word. The leafs themselves have a period of time where they ‘Break In’ and become more supple in use. So we would suggest you let this process happen naturally and then fine tune the oil weight and possibly even the internal springs.
Fuelling Up The Look
Now with the driveline, chassis and mostly stock running gear in place I decided that to give the Blazer body the look of a hybrid street/trail rig on steroids I would need to run bigger wheels and tyres. to this end I fitted a set of RC4WD Fuel Anza 1.7 Beadlock wheels and shod them in soft compound RC4WD Inteco Super Swamper “Siped” tyres, then during the build process adding 1.5 strips of stick on lead weight to each wheel and tyre combo.
Anza 1.7 Wheel Specs
CNC Machined Billet Alloy
Nut Cover with FUEL Logo
Scale Hex Bolts
Neg Offset: 7.5mm
X2 SS Compound (Super Soft & Super Sticky)
Inner Ribbing offers Sidewall Support
Outer Diameter: 114.2mm
Once fitted they gave the chassis a slightly higher stance and ground clearance from the stock 1.55 Stamped Steel wheels and Mud Thrasher tyres included with the kit (Again these will be put to good used in a future project). Lastly I added the chassis mounted RC4WD Digital Steering Servo and once built the appropriate steering linkage.
From the front of the rig it offers a nice clean look and a more scale appearance. Yes it does suffer a little from bump steer, but no it didn’t really bother me as its an unavoidable foible you learn to live with when running this type of rig.
The wiring to the receiver may look like a rats nest but that’s the Spektrum receiver I used, It is waterproof and sealed with female ports protruding from it to accommodate male Futaba style plugs. Its a 3 channel RX so allows me to add a winch at a later date, plus there’s the power/batt in. I also opted to put in a 20A BEC kindly supplied by Phil at www.makeitbuildit.co.uk after first snipping and then isolating and insulating the red power wire from the Carisma RC branded Crawler ESC, thus bypassing its built in 5A 6v BEC.
The main reason for this is the possible current draw in Amps from the RC4WD Twister High Performance Waterproof Servo, and the fact that in use it may draw enough current to temporarily cause a Brown Out, even with (as I added) a glitch buster Capacitor!
RCCZ Jargon Buster: A ‘Brown Out’ is defined as when the receivers supply voltage falls below the minimum voltage specified for normal use. What that means in practice is that you will get at the very least unpredictable results, or at worst the link failing between the Tx and Rx and a possible run away unless the failsafe for the ESC is set to zero throttle…you were warned!
With everything in place and the rolling chassis even drivable without it’s shell (yes, I couldn’t resist the good old sofa test!) it was time to move on to perhaps the most daunting part of the build for many…the body shell. Now, I knew that this Blazer body was far more detailed than any I had previously built from RC4WD, and to that end I decide top pay our resident hard body and airbrush maestro Jonathan Potts a visit. He’s more used to 1:1 Custom Cars, Speedboats and other such cool stuff, but his eyes lit up when I handed him the body shell and its box of bits.
My brief was simple:- ”Think classic Street Custom Car crossed with classic Off Road 4×4”…he smiled, and then disappeared into his workshop, past the VW Beetle chassis ready to become a Rat Rod, and the big 1:1 4×4 destined to be a comp vehicle of some sort one day…I drove away and then got on with other projects.
Jonny Did The Buisness
Many, many, parts are supplied in the box with the RC4WD Blazer Body . It has not only a metal hinged opening bonnet (Or ‘Hood’ if you are Scott AceofAxe Curlin), but also a hinged opening rear window built into the removable rear hard roof section over the flatbed, and even an opening tailgate. There also the brightwork, A chrome grille, wing mirrors, door handles and huge front and rear bumpers.
Included with the body kit is also an interior, but for this build I opted to tint the windows and not fit it. I know, I know, I can hear all the boo’s and hisses, but I simply didn’t have the time to get an interior done too, and I also wanted to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible, so any weight I could shed from above the centreline of the axles would be a bonus.
Clean Up In Isle Five…
After a two week wait, I got the call and went to collect the body. “Oh my god” was my reaction. (I hasten to add I did use those three words, but I may have added another…very much an expletive!). John had done what I had asked and, then added his usual flair and personal touches.
After prepping the components he was going to paint he first laid down a deep burgundy, almost dark Autumn cheery red on the main shell, tailgate and bonnet. Then he painted in the side panels with black as an accent colour, but added an old-skool flame into the design and hand outlined the lot in silver. The result, while not being as perfect as using say a vinyl wrap, does look very real and authentic…decals can look too crisp at times.
Next he used a dark metallic brown to paint the rear roof section and a technique that’s akin to rag rolling. This builds up layers of paint and each is then flattened down to create, once top coated an almost leather look to the finished roof. It was stunning. I spent another day painting in window rubbers, adding in the other details like the metal K5 Blazer and Chevrolet badges RC4WD make, the grille detail and a few scale decals (including the RECON G6 ones RC4WD made for our event) and even a RCCarZone logo on the tailgate. Last I fitted the light buckets, painted the stop and turn indicators inside with Tamiya lens colour.
Scale isn’t just about decals, or accessories, or paint, or wheels or chrome. Its about the combination of all the above elements working in harmony together to fool the eye into thinking:- “Real or RC?”. I think we achieved that with this build, and standing back a looking at it in various locations and natural backdrops, it looks stunning.
The final detail was adding the spare wheel and tyre to the tailgate. It just elevates the overall look to one of utter realism. I also ordered some scale number plates from a contact in the UK Scale Nationals Facebook group. They arrived just before we took the truck for its first trail run and outdoor shoot. It was run alongside the new Axial SCX10.2 and the rigs looked so good together.
Out Blazing In The Great Outdoors
I took the rig to our usual test venue in Warwickshire the same day we tested and shot the Axial SCX10.2. It’s a rig that you have to think about when driving, especially until you have fully broken in the leaf springs. You must always be aware that it is far more top heavy than a Lexan rig, but that’s where the fun lies. It’s realistic in both the way it drives and the way it looks, and you can’t say that of most 4-link Lexan rigs. They always seem to perform outside the parameters of their 1:1 equivalents. With the TF2 platform and this quite large and heavy body, you plan each line you take carefully, you see the way the rig reacts to the surface its running on, the angle of the incline or decent you drive it up or down.
With a hard bodies rig factors like Approach Angle, Break Over Angle and Departure Angle become far more critical as they are far less forgiving.
RCCZ Jargon Buster: Approach Anglerefers to the physical angle that If drive up to a object, incline or ramp, you can safely drive onto it without catching the bumper. If the incline is too steep, the rigs front bumper will hit the ramp first, before the tires are able to. The maximum angle (from the ground) that a hill or obstacle can have and that the front of your car can still clear is therefore called the Approach Angle. As for the Departure Angle, exactly the same principle applies, to the rear bumper and wheels of the rig. For any scale rig, but especially a leaf sprung one like the TF2, when coming down off, say, a rock, or a small natural ledge, you have to know how much clearance you have under your car’s midsection, driveline and transfer box. The angle between your tires and the middle of your car’s underside is the Break Over Angle. If you get it wrong, you will end up balancing on a rock like a see-saw with most of your wheels not in contact with the ground.
One of the most important factors when running a rig for fun or in competition is traction, or the grip your tires have on whatever surface you’re driving on. Traction is produced by a combination of factors, by the type of tires you’re using, their size, and the type of inserts you use. Its also about how much weight from the rig itself is pressing down on them to create a contact patch of tread on your chosen running surface and how the suspension aids keeping the tyres in contact with the ground in relation to0 the rest of the rig.
large angles of articulation are out on a leaf sprung rig like this, and a phenomenon I personally call ‘Wheel Float’ becomes a regular occurrence. This is when the solid axles have surface contact and therefore grip with only three (or sometimes only 2!) tyres, and the other wheel or wheels cannot physically articulate enough via the suspensions range of movement to make contact with the ground. Don’t worry though, as You can very quickly get used to this and often use it to your advantage to use the rig to bridge itself between two objects, where a more traditionally spring rig may have fallen in.
Running a single speed transmission means that with a 35T motor fitted, the rig is a bout walking pace on 2S , and a brisk jogging pace on 3S. Run time however is very good and running a 2S 5000 mAh pack granted a good hour of trail running. On 3S you tend to be a little more trigger happy (or is that just me?) and thus run time is affected. 3s does however allow for additional wheel speed when needed, and with a rig of this overall weight you can build up a good momentum to get up a steep incline or even hop up onto a rock or object.
All of these factors are important when running a scale rig and must be accounted for in both its construction, and the way you drive it out on the trail or a comp course.
After 2 packs and just over 2 full hours I called it a day. I loved every minute of running the Blazer and it’s a totally different driving experience to any of my other current rigs. ‘Yes’, you feel a little more ‘concerned. that you will trash the paint on any more technical rock sections, and ‘No’ it didn’t stop me. I left Burton Dassett with a few chips to the paint, but nothing I couldn’t touch up. One thing I did find however is that the rear bumper did rub the body built stock, and therefore I used a cordless Dremal to grind the inner edge by about 1.5mm to offer a little more clearance between the two, then painted the scuffed area matt black to hide the damage.
“Additional Scale Points Go To The Blazer…”
In conclusion, the TF2 kit itself is simple and fun to build. Be as detailed or as simple as you feel you want to go, and take your time to threadlock and metal to metal union and grease all internal gears in both the transmission, transfer case and the axles. Choose electrics suitable for the job in hand, and make sure if possible the ESC, Servo and Receiver are at least ‘Splash Proof. Weight the wheels to lower the rigs Centre of Gravity.
When you enter into a build like this you have to realise what’s involved. It will take many hours to complete but it’s very, very rewarding. Hard bodies will always have the edge over Lexan in the realism stakes as they are solidly constructed and have actual depth to them and their panels. Lexan, while being dimensionally correct will never have this and always seem less three-dimensional. The Blazer is a rig I’m proud to take out to run, or let a buddy do so. It epitomises the scale scene at the moment and is a true snapshot of what RC4WD do best…help RC fans build their dream rigs!
A huge shout out to Tom and the RC4WD crew for the review sample and parts and to RCBitz in the UK for additional help with sourcing wheel weights etc.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
The rear damper stays and BA9 ball studs go onto the front of the gearbox.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!).
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:-
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.
Regularly wash your hands as the oils in your fingertips and skin can again act as a resist for the paint.
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.
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.
build up thin coats and take your time…thick coats peel off, don’t dry properly and run…
Use curved scissors to cut out wheel arches, practice on waste material first as there’s an art to using them properly.
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.
Take your time and don’t rush…the body is what makes or breaks any builds final overall look.
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.
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.
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!
Little N Large
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.
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…
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.
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…”
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?
Needs oil dampers, friction ones a bit to ‘Springy’
This is the smallest RC car I’ve had for many years, those memories are not particularly rosy, as often the smaller the car the more “toy” like it is, lets see how the Carisma GT24R fairs (and I hope it replaces some of those memories with shiny new happy on!)
Billed as a Ready To Run, with everything included is a great idea. One thing that always peeves me (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) is “batteries not included”, after spending a chunk of money, being asked to go and spend again is never a good feeling, even if its only a few quid for some batteries. This is certainly NOT the case with the Carisma RTR, everything is in the box to get you up and running. Thank you !
What is the GT24R?
A Pikes Peak international hill climb inspired 1:24 scale car, for those that don’t know about Pikes Peak, it is probably the oldest hill climb event still running, it was first ran in 1916 in Colorado, USA. A 12.5 mile race with 156 corners, climbing over 4,700 feet from the start to the summit of the Pikes Peak mountain at just over 14,100 feet altitude.
Ok, so that’s a serious hill, but why does that inspire a car design, and more importantly, one that we would want as an RC car. With all those corners and hairpins, often with no barriers, it takes a very well built car or bike to make it to the top quickly, and often some don’t make it at all.
The higher you go, the thinner the air, which reduces the power your engine makes. So to get up the mountain fast, sprinting from corner to corner requires MONSTER horsepower often over 1000bhp. coupled with massive down force produced from outrageously big wings to give lots of down force and grip. For a lot of petrol heads it is a holy grail event, so this little 1:24 scale RC car has a lot to live up to if its inspired by Pikes Peak.
What’s it like ?
Ok, so it’s all out of the box and laid out on the table, first impressions are very good, I’m immediately struck with the well printed group B rally car inspired body shell with its Pikes Peak wings and splitters sprouting out at jaunty angles, if it drives as well as it looks, this will be great.
Looking at all the included goodies, I can see a nut spinner, screwdriver, spare drive gears, different motor pinions, steering arms and even body pins alongside a lipo battery, charger and batteries for the transmitter, superb! the inclusion of the batteries is great, the drive gears and spare steering links are a total bonus.
Lifting the lid on the GT24R, I was very surprised to see a super neat completely enclosed chassis centre, a small door on the bottom houses the LiPo next to the power switch, and apart from cooling vents all the workings are enclosed/sealed in a lightweight but compact case. In this covered centre, there is a receiver, fast servo for steering and of course the power train, consisting of a LiPo ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) and an 8000kv brushless motor, driving through a slipper clutch.
The slipper clutch mates onto the front and rear differentials via a simple driveshaft arrangement. on 1s battery I’ve not had noticed the GT24R needing to use the slipper clutch, but its fantastic to have one installed by default. All of this terminates with the rubber tyres, which provide good grip on hard surfaces and carpet. Everything is supported throughout with full ball bearings and no friction bearings in sight.
The only friction parts on this car are the suspension dampers, which are typically bouncy, but work acceptably at this weight, although oil dampers are available directly as an upgrade. Whilst I mention upgrades, there are also carbon shock towers, driveshaft upgrades and if you want to drive this more seriously, 2s LiPo and even a 12000kv motor, now we are talking Pikes Peak power!
The suspension is double wishbone front and rear with adjustable shock mounts on both upper and lower points, so you can change the effectiveness of the shock absorber to suit your driving style.
As per usual one of the first things i do when I pick a car up is wiggle the wheels to see how much play there is in the suspension/steering. I take this (unless its been engineered to have play) as a mark of the build quality. the GT24R is all plastic and 1:24 scale, so i expected some slop, but I was flabbergasted, there is zero play in the steering and no binding, looking at the suspension, there is very little unwanted movement too. The engineering tolerances at 1:24 scale are tiny, yet they have been achieved and then some.
The included radio is the CTX8000 which alongside the usual trims for steering and throttle comes with a 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 younger driver for example, or for use indoors in a smaller space
As usual, with most models the steering rate is adjustable, however on the CTX8000, this is very conveniently located on a rotary thumbwheel on the handle of the controller.
Very well placed so when your ‘hooning’ around like a loon at full throttle, you can easily dial back the steering throws to aid with high speed stability. Then put them back to full when you come to a hairpin with a quick slide of your thumb, after a few attempts it becomes very natural and effective.
I’m very impressed with the engineering of this car and the attention to detail, both for those things in sight and hidden away, even down to having ‘handed’ body pins so its symmetrical. someone’s OCD at Carisma has been put to good use, and is noticed…
Is it fast ?
Running on the standard 1s battery, running it outdoors on a hard surface, the acceleration is rapid and it has a respectable speed for its size. As mentioned earlier, I found myself turning the steering rate down for outdoor, as at higher speeds it is very easy to roll the GT24R with large steering movements, of course this is easy to do with the well placed thumb wheel on the CTX8000 controller
Indoors, stick the throttle limiter on and I was doing good laps of the lounge, steering needed to be turned all the way up this time, and at times I wanted a little more for the last hairpin round the sofa (shhhhhh…please don’t tell the wife!)
Is it Pikes Peak fast? out of the box on a 1s battery, no, but switch to a 2s I would say so, or perhaps 1s with the 12000kv motor, and it would be very interesting, once the UK summer stops raining I can’t wait to try this and unleash some Pikes Peak power.
It’s nice to have options on the upgrade path, I’m not sure if the 12000kv motor will do 2s, if it will, that would be totally mental (I want one…)
The GT24R not really an off road car, although it handled loose dusty gravel surfaces well, especially when you consider gravel is like driving over a boulder covered road at this scale. Therefore I would say its better suited to a smoother surface to get the most out of the speed. There is more than enough speed to get airborne, and I found a nearby skate park a great playground do race round and have a lot of fun.
Before I Go…
One of the beauties of something this scale is the price, so its inclusive for you and a mate or 3 to get one each and have some fun races with them, something I would recommend, either that or in true Pikes Peak style, set out a course with lots of tight corners and sprint through it, timing runs and then passing the controller to the next driver. you can have a lot of fun for not a lot of money.
The advantage of the smaller 1s LiPo batteries is they take very little time to charge and they are not expensive, so you can either take masses of them out with you or just a couple and a charger.
In closing there are a lot of very nice touches on this car, and its fun to drive, I will try 2s when the weather gets better (classic British summer at the moment aka rain). The attention to detail and build quality is great and far beyond what I expected, some good memories have been created.