Keepin’ It Real? Not If You’re Racing

Mar 10, 2014 2 Comments by

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Now that Pro-Line has unveiled the awesome Performance Buggy conversion for their PRO-2 truck (as well as the Traxxas Slash if outfitted with various Pro-Line components), there’s no better time to talk about the widening gap between a large portion of RC racing enthusiasts and their non-competitive hobby brethren. The closed-cockpit transformation that requires little more than a roll cage, body set, and a new front shock tower, but radically changes the appearance of the full-fendered short course truck. It’s a shame that it probably won’t ever catch on with racers.

All three of these buggies look amazing and will no doubt be popular with enthusiast drivers, but it’s too bad the style won’t catch on among the dedicated and hardcore RC racing community.

Why do I think that? Well, it’s pretty simple: the Kyosho Ultima DB, Losi XXX-SCB, and Team Associated SC10B all struggled to find significant traction at the racetrack. Short course truck racers didn’t want to compete with buggies that were immune to the perils of jumping with a parachute for a body, the short course buggies weren’t competitive with standard 2WD buggies, and without a strong standalone class in which to race the cars there was little reason for existing racers to get one, or for newer racers not to move on to something else.

The XXX-SCB was a narrowed version of Losi’s short course truck at the time, and wore a slender body with beadlock-style wheels.

The XXX-SCB was a narrowed version of Losi’s short course truck at the time, and wore a slender body with beadlock-style wheels.

The Team Associated SC10B wasn’t nearly as narrow as Losi’s buggy, and the body conveniently clipped to the chassis. The front shock tower and gullwing arms for the T4.2 and SC10.2 came from this chassis!

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This little-known variant of Kyosho’s awesome Ultima SC was actually the first of its kind to hit the market (DB stands for “Desert Buggy,” by the way).

If you rewind back to the early 80s when Team Associated’s first RC10 chassis turned the off-road world upside down, you’d find a racing scene that was radically different than what we have today. The designers of that original RC10 looked to full-size buggies not only for inspiration on how the car should look, but for clues on how to best create a suspension system that would handle the rigors of off-road racing. The oil-filled coilover shocks stood up by tall front and rear towers, wide track suspension arms, and aluminum tub chassis supported by nose tubes were all derived from the very buggies that tackled the desert of Baja and the closed courses of the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Stadium Series, as did the slender single seat-style body and knobbed tires. Team Losi followed suit when they released the JRX-2 a few years later, though the devolution of the scale accuracy of the class had already begun.

The RC10 (and re-released RC10 Classic) looks faithfully similar to 80s-era short course buggies.

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Team Associated’s new B5M comes with a body that fits in perfectly with today’s current crop of 2WD buggies.

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Which of the above looks more like this?

Thirty years later, today’s 2WD buggies are barely recognizable when compared to where it all started. In a world where tenths and even hundredths of a second matter, body designs have warped from realistic buggies to wedge-shaped Lexan arrows with downforce-generating wings nearly as wide as the car! If you look up the recent body releases of today’s racing-inspired designs on the Radio Control Zone, you’ll find plenty of comments from non-hardcore racers lamenting the loss of realistic looks (along with sometimes colorful language describing the product), yet weekend warriors continue to snatch up these new designs looking for every advantage they can get.

I understand both sides of the story. I’m an ultra-competitive racer at heart and the thought of stubbornly choosing not to use a particular product that may provide an advantage (or at least put me on an even playing field) just for the sake of rebellion is absurd, but I worry for what the movement may do to the future of RC racing for some of today’s biggest classes – and for what it’s worth, I’ve yet to fit an optional body shell to any 2WD buggy I’ve run just to see if worked better, even if it’s all just placebo effect. After all, I don’t find it a coincidence that the world of Touring Car started to decline after such rapid growth when the bodies transitioned from the Honda Accord, Alfa Romeo 156, and Dodge Stratus to “LTC-R,” “P37,” and “MC10.”

This old-school Mercedes AMG C-Class DTM body on Tamiya's old TA02 chassis is drool worthy.

This old-school Mercedes AMG C-Class DTM body on Tamiya’s old TA02 chassis is drool worthy.

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There’s no doubting this PROTOform P37 body’s track prowess, but it looks nothing like any current road-going vehicle.

The same thing has happened with the short course truck class in several areas across the country, but in a different way. Many hobbyists that were introduced into the scene by short course trucks have moved on to other classes – some toward 2WD buggy, but enough to cause a resurgence of the “stadium truck” class that, like the buggy division, started with the realistic roots of the RC10T and JRX-T and has since spiraled out of control. Racers have been returning to the stadium truck scene for a number of reasons: they’re easier to drive, they jump better, they turn faster lap times, and the open-wheeled design makes it more difficult to give someone the “bump-and-run” but instead places importance on making clean passes. That’s all well and good, but how some of today’s designs can be even remotely misconstrued as anything that resembles a “truck” is beyond me.

This truck…

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…looks way more similar to this…

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…than it does one of these.

Racing class attrition due to the escalating speeds of competition (and the associated costs) are one thing, but scale accuracy is continually demonstrated as one of the most effective ways to capture a new audience – which is absolutely necessary for the survival of any industry, let alone a small sector of the hobby RC world in which enthusiasts line up to race against one other at the local track. It’s one thing if RC racers argue whether or not they find a particular body attractive, but if the uninformed can’t determine what makes a “truck” a truck, and a “buggy” into a buggy, well…we’ve got a problem.

Sound off! Talk about Fast Laps in the comments, joins us on Facebook, Tweet @rccaraction, or email FastLaps@AirAge.com

Aaron Waldron, Featured News

About the author

Associate Editor Since receiving my first hobby-grade RC car as a holiday present from my father nearly 20 years ago, I've been fortunate enough to meet more people and experience more opportunities through the adventures I've had in the RC industry than I would've ever imagined. I've done it all - from working at a hobby shop, to being a factory sponsored racer, to working for some of the biggest brands in the industry. I've enjoyed each and every one of the dozens of kits I've built, hundreds of events I've attended, and thousands of laps that I've logged at race tracks around the world, and my passion is to share those experiences with other hobbyists so that they may find fulfillment in their own RC careers.

2 Responses to “Keepin’ It Real? Not If You’re Racing”

  1. Mikko Puikkonen says:

    Great comments! I’m a 38 old dude getting back into the hobby after being gone over 20 years. My first car was a Marui Hunter and then we got a Kyosho Ultima Pro XL in 1990. I’m blown away by the technical advances in my 20 year absence and I’m still trying to catch up and learn, but I’m definitely a classic buggy guy at heart and I miss the awesome designs of the yesteryear buggies. If only we could have the designs of the past with the technologies of today… Or even improved scale accurate designs from the past.

  2. Mike says:

    you have to watch Team Associated..back before the GT 2 came out I had redesigned my GT to handle much better and keep the front wheels on the ground..I was talking to a guy at tech service about what I did and the measurements of the truck and even what parts I made and used from another truck(T3) and was going to even send my custom truck out to him and then somethings came up at home and I feel out of touch and even have not use my RC stuff in a very long time..but it may just be luck of the draw but the GT 2 is built like this custom GT have and had built a year before the GT 2 came out..hhahahahah…I never did say anything to the guy I was talking to but its funny that the changes to the GT2 r the same as what I did ..I cut the front off a stock GT chassis and bolted a T3 front clip on it to make it longer wheel base and it made a huge difference in keeping the front wheels on the ground witch was very hard to do with the stock 90 dollar engine I had also ported and polished the ports and raised the compression ratio and used a .21 pipe..hahahahha..that thing will blow away all the high dollars name brand engines ..everyone was all over me to know what I did..one guy ruined 2 engines with a dreamel hehehehe…they would not let me race at the loacl track cuz it was not stock and they didnt have an open type class..anyway besides them lucking out some how and their rebuild on the GT was just like mine they are still the beast RC company out there..have had an RC 10 from 93 till the T3 I bought.

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