Retrocosm – Vintage & Retro Computing Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus any other stuff that interests me

Tamiya, Sand Scorchers And Other RC Memories

Tamiya Sand Scorcher

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t spend my entire teenage life hunched over a Commodore 64.  Among my other interests such as garden creeping, re-mixing dance music, illicit driving of my parent’s Volvo and Julia Wray, were radio controlled cars.

Tamiya Frog

My Tamiya Frog

My first introduction to the joy of RC was the intensely frustrating experience of watching someone else, specifically Mark Palmer, driving his Tamiya Sand Scorcher whilst praying that he might let me snatch maybe a minute of driving before the ridiculously short battery life ended the run.

There is a thrill experienced by those like myself who have RC in the blood and it is quite difficult to articulate that feeling to others.  It’s a perfect storm of everything to which many teenage boys are attracted.  From the initial arrival of the kit, through lessons learnt and satisfaction gained from building the model on to the excitement and challenge of learning to drive and subsequent upgrades and customisations it’s a journey that ticks many boxes.

Kyosho Tomahawk

My Kyosho Tomahawk

After saving for some time I eventually became the proud owner of a Tamiya Frog and and some Futaba Radio Gear.  Feeling typically contrary I decided my colour scheme would be red with yellow spots

I began racing at the nascent Slip End Model Racing Club (a name which I only now realise was wonderfully appropriate) near Luton.  My memory is a little sketchy however I’m sure my good friend’s elder brother, Andrew Phelps, was involved in the creation of the club.  It became apparent that the Frog was not really up to racing and I graduated to a Kyosho Tomahawk, a much lighter, metal framed car.

_MG_0938

My Team Associated RC10

I won quite a few races with the Kyosho and some of us started travelling to other race meets.  Around this point, Team Associated released the RC10 and after one of my friends bought one I realised that yet again if I was going to compete I would need to upgrade.  With the help of a well-timed birthday, some savings from my newspaper round and the sale of the Tomahawk I was able to get my hands on an RC10.

However it soon became clear that the cost of racing in any meaningful way was going to be prohibitive and unfortunately after a couple of moderate successes with the RC10 my RC racing career fizzled out.

scorcherboxartSo for the best part of 30 years my RC10 and my original trusty Futaba radio gear have lived their lives in successive lofts as we moved from house to house.  However when a friend recently messaged me a picture of a new RC car that he’d bought the whole thing began to snowball again.

Clearly no fools, Tamiya, the wonderful Japanese model company, have over the last few years been busy re-releasing such classics as the Sand Scorcher, Holiday Buggy, Hotshot and Wild One.  With 80’s teenagers such as myself now hitting their mid forties, armed with a disposable income and children in tow (the perfect excuse,) the lure of that familiar Tamiya box, once both financially and often literally out of reach on the high shelf at the local model shop, is now too great.

IMG_1784I have therefore, in fairly short order acquired three new RC cars.  My first purchase was a Re-released Sand Scorcher kit.  For me the Sand Scorcher is the most iconic of RC cars and the only one that still gives me goose bumps today.  I shopped around and ended up ordering it straight from Japan, with VAT and import duties added it was still considerably cheaper that buying it here in the UK.

Whilst waiting it for it to arrive I discovered the Iconic RC Facebook group and it was there that a post alerted me to a great deal on the Tamiya Neo Fighter.  With its ‘No Guts, No Glory’ decal it felt to me like a spiritual successor to the Frog.  For £60 all in including ESC and Motor this was a deal too good to miss.  It duly arrived and I had it assembled and running, using my original Futaba Radio Gear, before the Sand Scorcher had even arrived.  It’s a great budget car for general bashing and has proved very tough.

_MG_0869I enjoyed the Neo Fighter build, it was pretty simple and got me back in to the swing of things.  When the Sand Scorcher arrived however it was a wholly different experience.  First, just the site of the box with its iconic design made my heart skip a beat.  Opening it up, seeing the blister packs and smelling the familiar rubber of the paddle tyres was a spine tingling experience.

_MG_0863With larger, less nimble fingers the build was challenging, not technically, but physically.  However it was a joy and seeing that famous SRB chassis come together before my eyes was a true pleasure.  I even enjoyed masking up and spraying the body, something I always used to dread in the past, invariably relying instead on professional model maker friend, Nick Phelps, to do it for me.

Battery technology has unsurprisingly moved on somewhat since the classic Tamiya Hump Pack NiCad days.  Rated at 1200 mAh if I remember correctly you were lucky to get 8-10 minutes running time after having had the battery on charge all night.  These days LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries are cheap, powerful and relative to the old NiCad packs, very long lasting.  Charging them is a little more involved, however knowing that you can do this relatively quickly and get as much as an hours running time is fantastic.

IMG_1841I absolutely love running my completed Sand Scorcher, it’s a hoot to drive, both hugely challenging and satisfying.  I’ve now also stumbled across the world of Crawling and have ordered an Axial SCX10.  Where will it end?

3 responses to “Tamiya, Sand Scorchers And Other RC Memories

  1. Anthony July 10, 2014 at 03:11

    Glad to see you caught the bug again. I love RC cars, but I am less than successful at it. Either way, every now and then a voice says get an off road car and go have a blast in the park.

    My TAO4ss is still sitting upstairs. Maybe I will take it out for a whirl this summer.

    • Anthony July 10, 2014 at 03:13

      My wordpress blog is not about hobbies, but I have one of those–you’d need to look under my profile (I think) if you are curious. There isn’t a lot of RC car stuff there, but lots of other hobby stuff. (and don’t worry this isn’t a huge pitch for readership, and will understand if you don’t check it out.)

    • Retrocosm July 10, 2014 at 12:10

      Cheers, Anthony, it’s great to get back in to RC. Not sure why I waited so long. I’m currently building an Axial SCX10, hope to do a build post soon. Definitely get your old car down and give it a run.

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