Nov 22, 2013 No Comments by



An RTR that sinks its fangs into the open desert


We've seen replicas made of many different full-size vehicles over the years, but never anything quite as unique as Axial's Jeep Wrangler Wraith Poison Spyder rock racer. It's a fully licensed 1/10-scale version of the custom rig that Larry McRae and his co-driver, Shad Kennedy, pilot through some of the gnarliest terrain ever seen in competition as part of the Ultra4 Racing Series — perhaps the last unlimited form of motorsports anywhere in the world. Ultra4 race courses are the ultimate test of off-road versatility as they send these extreme machines through hundreds of miles of torture, including everything from technical crawling courses navigated at a turtle's pace to blasting through whooped-out sand washes at over 100mph. In essence, that's exactly what the typical RC enthusiast expects of his vehicle; the ability to tackle whatever obstacles stand in its way, and look cool doing it. Axial's Wraith platform was built with just that in mind, combining the twisting 4-link suspension that enables a rock crawler to claw its way up boulders and cliffs with the low-slung stance of an all-out desert racer. Does that combination make the Poison Spyder the ultimate RC vehicle?


  • Item no. AX90031

  • Scale: 1/10

  • Price*: $400

  • Width: 11.2 in. (285mm)

  • Height: 9 in. (229mm)

  • Ground clearance: 3 in. (76.2mm) (measured at skidplate)

  • Length: 19.25 in. (489mm)

  • Wheelbase: 14 in. (355mm)

  • Weight, as tested: 4 lb. 13 oz. (2182g)

  • Chassis: Composite tubular cage


  • Type: Four-link suspension

  • Shock positions, frame (F/R): 1/1

  • Shock positions, axle (F/R): 1/1

  • Shocks: Plastic oil-filled shocks with threaded bodies


  • Type/ratio: Shaft-driven 4WD with three-gear transmission, 3.31:1

  • Spur gear/pinion: 80/20

  • Slipper clutch: Adjustable

  • Differentials (F/R): Diff locker

  • Driveshafts: Steel front and rear dogbones, plastic telescoping center shafts

  • Bearings: Rubber sealed


  • Wheels: Trail Ready HD Series IFD Beadlock wheels

  • Tires: Axial 2.2″ BFGoodrich Krawler T/A, S40 compound

  • Body: Axial Jeep Wrangler with Poison Spyder graphics


  • Transmitter: Axial AX-3 2.4GHz

  • Receiver: Axial AR-3 2.4GHz 3-channel

  • Speed control: Axial AE-2 with Drag Brake

  • Motor: Axial 20T

  • Steering servo: Axial AS-3


  • Battery: Duratrax Onyx 6-cell 5000mAh NiMH Stick Pack with Tamiya plug (DTXC2063, $35)

*Price varies by dealer


The Poison Spyder's shock springs are softer than those of the original Wraith.

The Poison Spyder's suspension components are built tough to withstand getting stuck in tight places.

To maximize the Poison Spyder's articulating arm-span when navigating tricky rock sections, it's fitted with a 4-link setup, with mounting locations optimized to reduce axle steer and promote proper anti-squat and cornering roll. The links themselves are made with a tough plastic that's durable and lightweight while resisting any flexing or twisting. Oil-filled shocks at all four corners are built with threaded composite bodies for easy pre-load adjustment, and the stock springs included with the Poison Spyder are softer than those found on the original Wraith — Axial says the new coils offer more plush action that keeps the truck headed in the right direction.


Both front and rear diffs are locked for maximum traction.

Long WB8 driveshafts transfer power from the center transmission.

That heavyduty skidplate protects the truck's undercarriage when sliding over rocks.

The Poison Spyder's decorated interior is incredibly detailed for an RTR!

The Poison Spyder's 3-gear transmission is fitted with a slipper clutch, but unlike in off-road racing when the clutch is often used as a traction aid, its main focus here is to protect the truck from damage should the tires get stuck in between rocks; better to get stuck than break an axle! The slipper clutch can be adjusted through the capped hole in the truck's transmission cover, which keeps dirt and debris away from the pinion and spur gear. Axial's plastic WB8 “Wild Boar” telescoping center driveshafts feature CV-style joints for maximum efficiency at even the most extreme angles and metal-to-metal housing construction for “tough as tusk” durability and frictionless articulation. Those WB8 shafts extend down to the AR60 OCP axles, whose most important attribute is the “off-center pumpkin” — the enlarged portion of the axle that houses the ring and pinion gears as well as the differential (both of which are locked, as is typical for crawlers) is positioned off to the left of the truck's centerline for more ground clearance and a lesser driveshaft angle.


The beauty of Axial's AX-3 radio is in its simplicity; it's light and comfortable, making it easy to carry with you for a long day of hiking on the rocks.

Rather than start with a flat plate chassis like many RC cars, the Poison Spyder's tube-frame roll cage provides the truck's main structure. Its high-strength composite material is both stiff and lightweight, providing a compact and crash-resilient base onto which the truck's components, like the water-resistant receiver box, are mounted. The cage itself is based on the Night Stalker II chassis built by renowned Axial pro Jake Hallenbeck, with short overhangs and maximum clearance in even the tightest crevasses. It also features a molded battery tray in the back of the truck that accepts full-size 2S LiPo and 6-cell NiMH stick packs. A burly front bumper and thick center skidplate further enhance the truck's toughness.


IFD Beadlocks
Of all the interesting components found on the Poison Spyder, I found the Trail Ready HD Series IFD Beadlock wheels the most intriguing. IFD stands for “Interchangeable Face Design,” as the outward-facing portion of the wheel can be changed to a different pattern for a custom look without buying an additional set of wheels. Vanquish Products' licensed hub adapter design uses six bolts to fasten the wheel to the axle, rather than a single locknut, which not only spreads the force across the wheel for more durability, but also looks more realistic. Finally, the inner beadlock ring can be rotated to open up two, four, or six breather holes to allow for additional tuning. More airflow means that the tire can conform to the rock surface for better traction, while closing the vents gives the tire less rolling resistance for better performance at speed.


The beauty of Axial's AX-3 radio is in its simplicity; it's light and comfortable, making it easy to carry with you for a long day of hiking on the rocks.

Mounted vertically and facing rearward to protect it from the elements, Axial's AE-2 speed control was developed in conjunction with Castle Creations to include important features like LiPo cutoff and drag brake, which means the truck will automatically decelerate to a halt when you simply release the trigger. The AE-2 controls the voltage sent to the Poison Spyder's brushed 20-turn 540-sized motor, a proper choice as much for its torque as its weather-resistant operation. The AS-3 servo handles steering duties and is rated at 120 oz.-in. of torque, which is perfect for wrestling the truck's long steering linkage in order to turn the front tires toward the next checkpoint. Control comes via the futuristic-looking AX-3 2.4GHz transmitter and micro receiver combo, with flawless operation and easily accessible dials and switches. Inside the cage, you'll find an intricately decorated interior that is one of the best RTR units ever, and is absolutely begging for a driver figure and accompanying passenger to slink into the deep bucket seats. The officially licensed Jeep Wrangler body panels are decorated in licensed Poison Spyder livery, and the truck sports officially licensed BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX tires (the most successful full-size crawling tire ever) made in high-mileage S40 compound wrapped around the three-piece Trail Ready HD Series IFD Beadlock wheels that use a realistic six-bolt hub!


With the Poison Spyder being described as a “rock racer,” I had high hopes for what would happen when I pulled the trigger. The truck squatted and burst forward with a slight torque-twisted half wheelie and rushed toward its 12mph top speed — not at all what I was expecting when I started lining up the jumps scattered around our rock quarry test site. I did find a few rocks that created small dropoffs that the Poison Spyder breezed right over, coming back to Earth with a solid landing and not a drop of drama. Sure, the truck is fast enough to tip over if you go full-lock in either direction if you're driving on flat asphalt, but hardly quick enough to start jumping doubles at the local track; needless to say, I had to put my crazy daydreams of hot-lapping the Poison Spyder out of my head. The truck has enough speed, however, to sprint from one rocky obstacle to the next faster than the typical walking pace of most crawlers. Despite the truck's locked differentials, the turning radius is tight enough to navigate in cramped spaces, making it easier to line up toward the next section without having to stop and perform a 7-point turn. In fact, the toughest part of driving on flat ground was remembering to simply let off the trigger and allow the drag brake to slow the truck down, rather than pressing the trigger forward and activating the reverse delay.

The Poison Spyder shines when you get the axles and suspension links twisting over big rocks and through narrow ridges. There were many times that the truck proved me wrong when I said, “there's no way it's going to make it,” when heading toward a particularly tricky spot. The additional speed helps get the truck up some of the tougher climbs when hitting the base with momentum. The speed control's heavy drag brake, which took some getting used to when driving around, worked perfectly when scaling rocks and slowed the truck for a peaceful descent. Only rarely did I feel like additional horsepower or a stronger steering servo would have allowed the Poison Spyder to get out of an especially tricky rut, and I was surprised at how stable the truck was given the relatively high mounting location of the battery (which is a bit tough to access with the truck's body and cage in place). The best part of driving the Poison Spyder, of course, was the incredibly long run times that come with slow speeds and small motors. Even the NiMH stick packs I used for testing lasted half an hour!


  • Remarkable scale appeal

  • Versatile off-road performance

  • Tons of aftermarket potential

  • Still a bit slow for spirited driving

  • Quirky speed control operation

  • Body panels make battery replacement difficult



Even today's most scale-specific off-road RC cars lose some of their sized-down proportional correctness when you start driving them — when's the last time you watched a full-size short course truck launch a 300-foot jump, sailing 60 feet overhead, at 350mph? The real beauty of the Poison Spyder isn't the all-out excitement or its astronomical abilities, but how realistic it looks when in its element — after all, scale modeling is where RC got its start in the first place. A 1/10-scale human would never be able to survive the cornering forces, jumps, and impacts of the typical RC track, but I consistently found myself wondering what it'd be like to be seated in the comfortable interior of the Poison Spyder while smashing my right foot to the floorboard and heading over the obstacles in its path.


Performance Tests

About the author

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