Build: Tamiya DB02 Leonis 1/10th 4wd Electric Buggy

RCCA just sent me Tamiya's DB02 for review. I was excited to build it because I've heard the hype about its unique center gearbox. Lets get to work!

I just received the Tamiya DB02 Leonis 4wd buggy from the RC Car Action home office and it’s time for another kit build! I’ve seen a few of the TRF guys around SoCal tracks running this buggy with great success and had nothing but positive things to say. The biggest hype surrounding the Leonis is its unique center gearbox that positions the motor horizontally (unique to a center drive shaft car) and all the parts it shares with its more expensive brothers. Lets see what all the hype is about and put this bad boy toghether! – Joel Navarro


Look for a full review of the Tamiya DB02 Leonis in a future issue of RC Car Action!


Upon opening the box, you're greeted with the body and instruction manual.

Upon opening the box, you’re greeted with the body and instruction manual.


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The polycarbonate body is awesome looking. It was designed by Toyota Tuner TOM’S.

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The instruction manual is clear and concise as well as easy to follow. Typical Tamiya style.

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All the parts that will make the car are marked in bags that correspond to a step in the instructions. The instructions will tell you when to open the next bag.

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The cast aluminum center gearbox/motor mount will be the first piece installed on the plastic tub chassis.

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Since you will be threading steel screws into the cast aluminum gear box, the instructions have you use blue threadlock to keep them from backing out.

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To help prevent pebbles and small debris from accumulating under steering bridge and assembly, the instructions have you cut foam strips to stick within the chassis’s ribbing.

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It was time to start building the center gearbox assembly and first up was the spur gear/center shaft assembly coupled to aluminum beveled gears.

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Next was the center gearbox out drives that will connect to the front and rear gear boxes. Here’s one not assembled and one that is.

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All the pieces fit snugly in the aluminum center gear box.

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You will see that not all the gears touch. the out drive are off-set in the gearbox, only connecting to one of the center drive shaft gears.

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A plastic cover tops off the center gearbox.

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The front and rear differentials are a ball type. They are pretty straight forward and should assembly easy if you’re familiar with these type of diffs. If I’m not mistaken, they are the same diffs used in the 502X buggy, which only means there is only high quality here.

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Here are the assembled diffs ready to install. I bottomed the diff screw and then backed it out a 1/4 turn. The diff action was super smooth.

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The gearbox output shafts were next to be built. The longer one will go in the rear gearbox.

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Again from the 502X parts bin, I filled the rear gearbox with the diff and output shaft. You’ll notice the output shaft angling up, this is to clear the battery pack.

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The rear gearbox with the shock tower/wing mounts installed. The camber links mounts mount to the side of the gearbox via 2 screws.

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Another view of the rear gearbox.

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It was not time to mount the rear gearbox to the chassis. While doing this, you’ll have to install the rear center dog-bone at the same time.

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The rear gearbox installed on the chassis.

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The plastic upper decks/chassis braces add to the DB02’s stiffness. You will have to use blue thread lock on the center gearbox screws.

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The front gearbox final assembly and installation was the same. Here, the front gearbox is ready for the top half to be put on.

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Here’s the front gearbox with the front shock tower installed as well as the camber link mounts.

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Another view of the front gearbox/shock tower assembly.

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The steering assembly went together very simply. There are bronze bushings used for the steering post and ball bearings used on the steering bridge.

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Here is the steering assembly installed. The left/right action was super smooth with no binding.

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The front gearbox installs on the chassis the same way as the rear. You will need to mount the front center dogbone while you while installing the gearbox.

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A view of the front gearbox and center front dogbone.

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The front upper deck/chassis brace was next to go on. You will have to again use blue thread lock on the center gearbox screws.

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Time to get started on the suspension. Here’s the rear suspension ready to install. Assembly is pretty straight forward; play close attention to the orientation of the inner hinge pin washers that will affect the wheelbase.

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The steering knuckles consist of 2 pieces that housed the front axle riding on ball bearings, the camber link ball stud and the steering linkage ball stud.

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Here are the steering knuckles mounted onto the front suspension arms ready ton install on the DB02. I assembled the camber links to the instruction’s recommended length.

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The front arms installed in seconds. The inner hinge pin passes through an aluminum front brace, then through the plastic bulkhead. The bumper and anti-roll bar mounts are next to be installed.

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The front bumper mounts with 2 screws on the bottom of the chassis, and one front screw that mounts to the hinge pin aluminum brace.

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The under belly of the DB02 shows you recessed button head screws as well as counter sunk screws used to keep anything from snagging while racing.

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My least favorite part of putting together a RC car; and that was assembling the shocks. Lucky for me the DB02 shocks use a bladder, which makes it super easy to bleed all the shocks equally.

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The finished front and rear shocks are ready to install on the car.

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The front shocks installed on the DB02.

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The rear shocks installed.

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There is a pinion gear dust cover that you will need to install/remove every time you switch pinion gears. I installed my Reedy Kr modified motor from the early 2000’s for fitting purposes…I think it still looks good. πŸ™‚

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A view of the pinion gear dust cover installed.

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Next up was the battery braces assembly. It looks like you can move the side battery clips to the inner post for use with “shorty” packs. I installed my ProMatch 4600mah NiMH (Circa 2004) for fitting purposes. Wow this battery is heavy compared to today’s LiPo batteries!

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I used my Airtronics 94357 (do you guys know what year these came out?) for fitting purposes. The Tamiya servo saver is leaf spring loaded to protect your servo gears from impact.

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I assembled the steering linkages and compared the length to the diagram of the length in the instruction manual then double checked with digital calipers. I found the diagram to be totally accurate.

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With the steering linkages on the car, I put together and installed the servo linkage.

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Thats pretty much it for the main assembly. All that’s needed is installing modern electronics and getting the body painted.

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A view of the finished car. What electronics do you guys recommend? What 17.5 and modified motor do you think I should use? Leave a comment below.

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Another view of the finished car. Who should paint the body for this rig? Are there any talented airbrushers out there? Feel free to comment and leave a link to view your airbrush master pieces.

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Updated: February 20, 2013 — 3:22 AM
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