A blast from the past

I have too much stuff. I need to get rid of some of it. So I’m in the middle of a bit of a clear-out.

One of the boxes I hadn’t looked at for the past decade or more contained some RC magazines. They are a nice reminder of three phases of my RC history…

Phase 1: The beginning

The name of this blog is a bit of a giveaway, but my first “real” RC car was a Tamiya Super Sabre. I remember owning the Radio Control Model Cars issue that included a review of the car at the time, and when eBay opened up people’s collections of old stuff to a wider audience, I was able to get hold of both the RCMC and Radio Race Car review issues. Thumbing through these is a trip down memory lane on so many levels.


Phase 2: The blogger

I first started “blogging” in about 2002 (when it probably wasn’t even called blogging), but my personal website at the time (now long since deleted) became something of a go-to destination for information about the Yokomo MR-4BC. This was in a period when 4wd buggy racing suffered from poor turnouts and there was a lack of people at the tracks who you could share information with. Fortunately, the internet changed that. I picked up as many magazine reviews of the MR-4BC as I could, including a back issue of Radio Control Car Action’s review from the USA.


Now it has to be said that the MR-4BC was not a very good buggy, and although it ran well at the smooth indoor track I raced at at the time, it was not a match for something like a Losi XX-4 outdoors. In fact very little was a match for the Losi XX-4 until the JConcepts BJ4 came along. But I enjoyed running it.

Phase 3: The businessman

I came to a point in my then-career where I was only getting offered short term contracts or freelance work, and was faced with a dilemma. Do I move to a new area to find more job security, or do I take a risk on setting up in business for myself and take control of my job security? I chose the latter, and for about three years ran my own RC business and made an honest living out of it.


Marketing is critical to any business, and editorial coverage is worth a lot more than advertising space. So, in the early days, I would keep a copy of each of the magazines I managed to get a little editorial coverage in – this small collection of Radio Race Cars, Racers and a Maxbashing is a nice memento of that time. They don’t trigger the same kind of memories as the magazines from the 80s though – I feel as though the world changed a lot more between 1987 and 2002 than it has done between 2002 and 2017, but that could just be the difference between childhood memories and the ones of an adult.

If anyone has a particular interest in the magazines from the noughties, let me know. I’ll be keeping the ones from the 80s.


Inside the Tamiya Sport Tuned motor

I’ve got a soft spot for Tamiya’s Sport Tuned motor. It was fitted as standard to my Avante 2001 buggy, and I always found it to be surprisingly rapid – outperforming the supposedly faster motors I had been using before. Of course, I was about 14 years old and didn’t know very much about motor maintenance!

One of the mysteries about the Sport Tuned is the wind. My assumption has always been that it is a 23-turn motor, but you occasionally hear rumours that there are different versions for different markets. I’ve never believed that myself, because the motor has only one part number (#53068).

This particular specimen lost performance at the first round of the Iconic Cup this past weekend – probably the result of overheating when the TT-01E’s spur gear slid off its pin and partially melted. What better opportunity to tear it apart!

A couple of notes:

  • These motors are NOT easy to take apart. This was the first time I have tried, and I can assure you that anyone who is capable of tampering with one of these motors without making it very obvious has some extremely specialised tools to hand. The tabs that hold the endbell in place had to be ground away because there is no way of getting enough purchase to bend them.
  • Capacitors come pre-fitted internally.
  • One brush had quite a lot more wear than the other – this motor probably had about 20 runs on it.
  • The commutator was in a bad state with lumps over it (a sign of overheating) and there seemed to be a bit of copper in one of the slots (these should be clear)
  • I ground off the tab that held one coil in place. There were 23 turns of 0.75mm wire wrapped around the armature.

If this was a rebuildable motor, it could have been saved with a comm skim and a proper clean. But it isn’t, and now it is scrap 😦

Why my hauler broke…

You may have seen a lot of people at the track with the Fastrax Mega Hauler (or the HPI one, or the many identical models). You’ve probably also seen how many of them are held together with bungee straps after the zip broke.

Well, after less than a year of ownership, my zip has broken too. And I think I know why.

Taking the hauler back apart (as is my tendency), I noticed that the upper plastic panel (that the handle attaches to) had been riveted in place incorrectly at the factory. Only by a small amount (5-10mm), but enough to mean that the zip was forced out of place.


So instead of the zip having a smooth journey all the way down the front of the hauler (like the one on the other side did), it had to navigate the plastic lip every time. No wonder it didn’t last.

There is a tell tale loose fold of fabric at the back of the hauler where the plastic panel doesn’t go all the way back, and you can see how the fabric is twisted around the frame – the seams line up at the handle end but are out of position on the opposite end.

I’ve contacted CML to see what they can do about it.

Has your hauler broken in the same way?



Setting your car up with the radio

Modern RC cars have a huge amount of setup adjustments, and have even got to the point where changing the flexibility of components is seen as a valid setup change.

I call shenanigans. My touring cars have all driven the same after a few tweaks. The smoothness of the rear diff makes more difference to a car than a 0.5mm shim.

The one change that does make a real difference in a world of identikit cars is the transmitter settings. You could spend all day trying to lock the rear end in, or you could simply take a couple of clicks off the steering rate. If the car is too twitchy on turn in, take a little bit of steering expo out.

There is no reason to be afraid – modern TCs can turn far tighter than they would ever need to on a track. A car that flows through the apex is always going to be quicker than one that you are fighting.

This all assumes that your steering is set up with balanced linkages and even throw to full lock on both sides. Just don’t take it too far – 50% steering rates may make the car stable, but it won’t be able to steer around the track. If you car needs less than 80% rates or more than 20% expo to be driveable I’d take a good look at the build or the setup. It might be something as simple as a bent hinge pin or a loose screw that is ruining the handling, don’t assume that putting the car on a Hudy station will solve a build issue!


Futaba 3GR – fingertip steering rates modification

Regular readers will know that my trusty Futaba 3VC transmitter finally gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. I borrowed a wheel radio for a little while, and although it felt good on the big on-road track, the fine control wasn’t there on a smaller off-road track.  So I decided to order the mid-range Futaba 3GR 2.4GHz stick set as a replacement.

The 3GR is 90% as good as a 3VC/3VCS for less than 50% of the price. The 3VCS seems to be out of production anyway. The feel in the hand is very similar, the feel of the sticks is very similar (although you cannot rotate them), but you can tell that the construction is not as robust – although a “less robust” Futaba is still more robust than most other brands! The menu system is very time consuming to use because you can only go through the settings in one direction, but it has all the functions I have ever needed. It would also be nice to change the size of the dual-rate steps as I find 2% too small – you can do this on the top-of-the-range radios.  But these are small concerns.

The one thing I really miss is the ability to change steering rates “on the fly”. The 3GR’s rates adjustment is a rocker switch to the left of the steering stick and it is just too far away for you to use while driving. The 3VC/3VCS has two switches on the shoulder of the transmitter that you can use with your fingertips. So I’ve tried to mimic this.

Most of the time was spent choosing the right kind of switch and finding the right position to fit them – you need to clear the steering gimbals and toggle switch. I chose a pair of microswitch action push-button switches (RS #320-988) with black caps (#103-5782) which have a reassuringly positive feel.

I took the ground from this point on the board (G1). The wire is just cheap equipment wire from the dreaded Maplin that has been in my toolbox for years.

The switches are wired into points S11 and S12 – the other wires go to the original switches, which means that I can still change rates with the standard rocker.

The switches themselves are mounted in the back of the case according to the drilling pattern in the datasheet. The ground is shared between the two, the signal is taken from the middle contact (the momentary on). The switch bodies are lined up with the top edge of the handgrip, about 10mm from the inner edge, and with 15mm between centres.

And this is how it looks from the outside. Works perfectly, and now I can change rates on the fly. You could do the same thing for the ATL on the other side of the radio if you wanted.

Now I have a radio that is 99% as good as the 3VC for less than 50% of the cost, plus a tenner in parts and some elbow grease!