What happens when you take a Traxxas Rally VXL and tweak it for off-road running? Something like this:
You see, I’m a huge fan of rally racing. My favorite series is the World Rally Championship, but I also like RallyCross, Baja endurance events… pretty much everything. In my book, nothing beats watching small, nimble rally cars blasting down terrifyingly narrow forest roads at impossible speeds. The cars, although somewhat modified, look just like what you see on the street every day, and the point-to-point staggered time trial racing format (often referred to as “stage rallying”) is very entertaining to watch.
It’s no surprise then that I picked up a Traxxas Rally 1/16 shortly after it was released, and I love the thing. The aggressive rally car styling is spot on, and it’s still my favorite car to drive out of all my RCs. The only problem with it, however, is that it’s more of a gymkhana type car and not much of a rally racer. In other words, it’s not especially good off-road. The Traxxas 1/16 platform, however, was designed to run on the dirt, which of course got me thinking. What would it take to convert a Traxxas Rally into a full-blown true rally racer? The answer, as it turns out, is not much.
The first problem I needed to solve was the suspension; there just isn’t enough downtravel to provide the ground clearance needed for running off road. The shock absorbers that come installed on the Rally have shorter, stiffer springs and travel limiters designed for use on tarmac (also known as “pavement” in the non-rallying world). I didn’t feel like rebuilding the shocks to remove the limiters, so instead I simply installed a set of assembled shocks from a 1/16 E-Revo. Eight screws later and voilà! Instant off-road rally stance.
With the suspension done, the next thing to address was the wheels. True off-road rally tires for 1/10th sedan wheels turned out to be fairly difficult to find, so instead I used a set of Tamiya’s standard treaded 1/10th on-road tires which are readily available anywhere. Fellow RCCA contributor Eric J. Miller came across some 1/10th Ford Focus ’03 WRC rims by Tamiya that look awesome and are totally rally-appropriate. Although the rims are supposed to be direct bolt-ons, I found that I had to shim the hexes slightly to prevent the knuckles from binding. I picked up a set of Tamiya foams, mounted up the tires, and the wheels were ready.
The last thing to take care of was the drivetrain. My new off-road wheels have a bit more rollout than the stock tires that come with the Traxxas Rally, so to compensate I geared down the motor by installing a 24 tooth pinion from Robinson Racing. To help keep the motor and ESC temperatures down, I installed an aluminum motor heat sink and fan by The Toyz. For power, I went with a pair of Duratrax 1600mAh LiPos.
I did some testing with my newly “stage rally” converted Traxxas 1/16, and I was immediately impressed with how well it handled off-road. It soaked up all but the largest bumps with ease, and awesome drifting powerslides were easy to pull off. I found that I was looping out a little too easily though, due mostly to the undampened gear differentials unloading in the corners. I added some OFNA diff locking grease to the front differential and 5,000 weight oil to the rear, and handling was hugely improved. The car is now totally point-and-shoot; it’s predictable, fun to drive, responds well to throttle inputs, and doesn’t get out of shape too easily.
With the car ready to go, it was time to hit the dirt with some friends for some time trials. The walking paths at a local campground turned out to be perfect small-scale rally stages. They are just barely wide enough to drive quickly on, but stray off course into the weeds and you’ll lose precious time. Driving fast isn’t nearly as important as driving consistently… just like in full-size rally racing. Know your route, keep the car on course, and log the best overall times you can. We had a great time passing the controller from person to person, timing point-to-point stages and tallying up the top scores for the day.
Overall this conversion was quick, simple, and relatively inexpensive. Swapping from gymkhana to stage rally takes just a few minutes and uses only a handful of parts. If you have a Traxxas 1/16 Rally, I highly recommend that you try this out for yourself. A huge thanks goes out to Robert Burke for the camera work and Sidd Finch for editing the video. And, of course, thanks also to Eric J. Miller for parts sourcing and for finding those excellent rally paths (and for losing to me on the time trials). I can’t wait to head back out soon for another day of RC stage rallying.
- Traxxas 1/16 Rally VXL
- Traxxas 1/16 E-Revo assembled shock set
- Tamiya racing radial tires #50419
- Tamiya hard inner sponge set #53156
- Tamiya Ford Focus ’03 WRC wheels #51021
- Robinson Racing Pinion Gear 48P 24T #1024
- The Toyz Mini 1/16 VXL brushless motor heatsink w/ fan #TOYZ208
- DuraTrax LiPo 2S 7.4V 1600mAh 20C #DTXC1855