1/10 4WD TRAIL TRUCK | KIT
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JOEL NAVARRO
Jeep style and scaler detailing unite in this rugged trail machine
Once familiar only to in-the-know crawling fans, Gmade's newest flat-fendered ride and a push from distributor HRP stand to give the brand far more publicity. Gmade broke into the industry with the R1 competition crawler, and now they've gone head-first after the scale market with the Sawback. Their experience on the rocks shows immediately, as the Sawback sports a very realistic-looking C-channel side rail chassis made of nickel-plated steel that provides a solid backbone, but it's the little things accenting the Sawback's unique suspension, overall setup, and rugged appearance that set it apart out on the trail — especially the old-school Jeep body. As I came closer to completing the Sawback's assembly, I felt like I was working on a full-sized custom Jeep in my garage in the early hours of the morning with only the anticipation of completing the build fueling me, and then I had to wait for the sun to rise to try it out!
Item no.: GMA52000
Width: 5.58 in. (218mm)
Height: 9.68 in. (246mm)
Length: 17.4 in. (442mm)
Wheelbase: 11.29 in. (287mm)
Weight: 6.82 lb. (3093g)
Chassis: Nickel-plated steel C-channel
Type: Steel leaf spring
Inboard camber link positions (F/R): N/A
Outboard camber link positions (F/R): N/A
Shock positions, chassis (F/R): 1/1
Shock positions, arms (F/R): 1/1
Shocks: Aluminum body, friction dampening with internal spring
Type/ratio: Shaft-driven 4WD with 3-counter gears/42.8:1 with 12-tooth pinion
Slipper clutch: None
Differential: Diff locker
Driveshafts: Steel front dogbones and rear straight driveshaft, plastic telescoping center shafts
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels: Gmade VR01 3-piece 1.9 in. bead-lock
Tires: Gmade MT1901 1.9 in., super soft compound
Body: Gmade “no-top” Jeep-style body with interior
TEST GEAR (NOT INCLUDED)
Transmitter: Airtronics M12 2.4GHz (#90482, $480)
Receiver: Airtronics FHSS-4 4-channel receiver (#92014, $140)
Speed control: Tekin FX-R brushed FWD/REV speed control (#TT1091, $100)
Motor: Tekin T35 35-turn brushed motor (#TT2122, $65)
Steering servo: Savöx SC-0251MG “Larger Standard” Digital High-Torque Metal Gear Servo (#SAVSC0251MG, $41)
Battery: Racers Edge Prime 7.4V 75C 6000mAh Race Edition LiPo w/Deans plugs (#RCELP2S600075C, $110)
LEAF SPRING SUSPENSION
The Sawback's leaf spring suspension can be adjusted quickly and easily.
The TS-03 shocks did a good job of taming all the terrain thrown at the Sawback.
If scale realism is what you're aiming for, it doesn't get more scale than the Sawback's leaf spring suspension. Gmade includes a set of three leaf springs to fine-tune the Sawback's suspension to your specific driving needs. The leaf springs themselves connect to the axles with heavy-duty U-bolts. You can set the suspension to standard, soft, and hard. Since most of the driving I was intending on doing was rock crawling and mountain terrain, I initially set up the leaf springs to the softest setting. Damping duties are handled by the TS-03 aluminum shocks included with the Sawback, which feature interchangeable internal springs to back up the leaf springs in big-hit situations.
The twist-off gear cover gives you easy access to the pinion gear for quick ratio changes. Plastic universal shafts transfer the power from the center gearbox to the front, and rear axles and performed well, with no pop-offs to report.
The Sawback's full-time 4WD system is all business and was built with heavy horsepower in mind. The axle internals are housed in a robust graphite plastic housing that will withstand the hardest blows that are thrown at it. The ring and pinion gears are made of solid metal to ensure they put the power to the ground without stripping. Diff access is as easy as removing four screws to pop off the realistic-looking, polished metal differential cover. The center transmission houses three counter gears that add up to serious gear reduction. The Sawback includes a 12-tooth 32-pitch pinion gear that gives you a 42.8:1 overall ratio for a good mix of speed and climbing power. During testing, I installed a 9-tooth pinion that reduced the ratio even more to a stump-pulling 57:1. A pair of telescoping universal shafts connects the center tranny to the front and rear axles. The Sawback comes with a full set of ball bearings to ensure super smooth power delivery.
STEEL LADDER FRAME
The Sawback's nickel-plated chassis is so realistic that it will have you doing double takes. Although the chassis bolts together using nylon-captured nuts, it is still a good idea to use thread-lock.
When the Sawback has its body off, the first thing that catches your attention is its gorgeous frame, reminiscent of full-sized project cars. The ladder frame construction features steel C-channel side rails. The cross members that connect the rails, which include the receiver box, skidplate, and battery tray, bridge the rails and contribute to the chassis' torsional stiffness. The front of the chassis is protected by an attractive metal bumper, and the chassis itself is finished in an attractive nickel-plating that resists rust, improves durability, and looks fantastic.
THE SAWBACK INCLUDES METAL STEERING LINKAGES AS STANDARD THAT NOT ONLY ADD STEERING PRECISION, BUT ALSO MUCH-NEEDED WEIGHT TO THE FRONT OF THE TRUCK, WHICH HELPS WHEN CLIMBING STEEP HILLS AND ROCKS
Diff access is easy — just like a full-size truck.
Standard 12mm hexes accomo-date a huge variety of wheels.
The “engine cover” hides the speed control and receiver.
METAL LINKAGE STEERING
The Sawback's metal steering linkages won't buckle under pressure, which allows you to drive a precise line.
There are a lot of 4WD off-road and crawler vehicles on the market today that come with plastic linkage steering systems and only offer aluminum or steel linkages as aftermarket upgrades. The Sawback includes metal steering linkages as standard that not only add steering precision, but also much-needed weight to the front of the truck, which helps when climbing steep hills and rocks. Whereas plastic linkages bend or deflect under extreme loads, the Sawback's linkages hold true, allowing you to drive the line you want. The instructions have you assemble the steering with 0-degree of toe, but you can add toe-in or out at any time if you choose.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The snow of Big Bear was no match for the Sawback.
Big Bear Lake, CA, was the first place that came to mind for testing the Sawback, and it proved an ideal stomping ground. Big Bear is nestled in SoCal's San Bernardino National Forest and has a near-infinite amount of natural rock, forest, and lake features, making it the perfect playground to test the limits of the Sawback. Snowboarding season had just started in Big Bear at the time of testing and the area had just received a snowstorm that dropped four inches of fresh powder, so the Sawback was ready to attack. Most drivers of full-sized cars that venture onto snow usually need tire chains to find traction in the white stuff, but these aren't necessary with the Sawback's aggressively lugged MT1901 tires. The tread pattern did an exceptional job digging into the snow, even when the trail went up and the white stuff was deep. As I moved out of the snow and onto some thick mud with molasses-like consistency, the Sawback made short work of the dense sludge, using its low gearing to power its way through. The chassis and all the components under the body were getting extremely dirty, but with everything nicely sealed, not a single piece of debris made its way to the electronics. I decided to clean off the Sawback the easy way and took it for a dip in Big Bear Lake. The lakeside had some slippery stones and moss-covered rocks, which did slow down the Sawback, but with some finesse, I was able to claw my way out of the wetness. Now that the Sawback was clean, I searched for a challenging rock garden, with obstacles escalating in difficulty, in order to test the different settings for the leaf springs. I started with the standard leaf spring setting, which handled small-sized rocks easily as the suspension conformed effectively around the obstacles. Moving on to medium to larger rocks, the Sawback started to show the limitations in suspension articulation and tended to lift a tire or two in the air, which wasn't the most stable way to rock climb, but the Sawback stayed upright and made its way through anything. I pulled the truck over and changed the leaf spring suspension to the softest setting. Back on the rocks, I directed the Sawback toward the medium- and large-sized rocks again and the suspension change was obvious. The suspension instantly gained approximately 20% more articulation, which now had me searching for harder lines to throw at the Sawback. Though the included kit tires were a soft compound, they were a little on the firm side compared to competition rock crawling tires and showed some tire slippage when the incline got super steep. The Sawback isn't a lightweight vehicle by any means, and that's helpful when you're rock crawling. It handled steep descents effortlessly as the weight kept all four tires hunkered down, while navigating a line with precision was easy thanks to the 57:1 ratio working in conjunction with the speed control's drag brake. While wrapping up the testing session, I threw on a set of rock crawler competition tires just for kicks. Though not as authentic looking as the Sawback's kit tires, the comp tires were made of soft-compound rubber that serious crawlers demand. With comp-grade rubber, the Sawback was an untamed animal that put a huge grin on my face as it fought through impressively tough terrain and stayed on all fours.
Designed to look like an early WW II-style Jeep, the Sawback's body is constructed of thick Lexan that withstood multiple rollovers during testing without suffering a crack. The stylish interior features nylon plastic seats, steering wheel, shifter, and rear-view mirror, accompanied by a decal sticker dashboard with dials and a glovebox. The windshield can even be folded down on those warm, sunny days — just don't get any bugs stuck in your teeth!
THE SCALE LOOKS ARE BACKED UP WITH TRUE-TO-SCALE PERFORMANCE AND THEN SOME; THE INSPIRATION AND FUN FACTOR THAT THE SAWBACK POSSESSES IS IMMENSE
Versatile internal gear ratio
Adjustable leaf spring suspension
Nickel-plated chassis fights scratches and corrosion
Chassis cross members come loose without thread-lock and extra build attention
Tires could be a softer compound
If scale crawlers are what you like, they don't get any more realistic than the Gmade Sawback. With the body off, the Sawback will have you doing double takes wondering if it's full-scale or RC. The scale looks are backed up with true-to-scale performance and then some; the inspiration and fun factor that the Sawback possesses is immense, so immense that it's beginning to inspire me to get a full-sized replica of this rig and go tame the unknown. I've always been a racer at heart, so if that's not the best compliment that I could give this truck, I don't know what is.