It can be said that Axial singlehandedly launched and guided the scale RC crawler movement to the phenomenon that it is today. Sure, RC crawling existed before Axial’s momentous push, but at the time, no other major manufacturer paid much attention to the fledgling movement. By releasing the first bonafide dyed in the wool scale RC crawler, the AX10, Axial ushered in a new category to the mainstream RC world and it was immediately clear that RC enthusiasts couldn’t get enough.
The overnight success of the AX10 lead to improved generations of RC crawlers including Axial’s highly successful SCX10 line. Now in its third evolution, the recently released SCX10 III has been carrying on the Axial name with pride.
Like the models that preceded it, the electric 1/10-scale four-wheel drive crawler comes in both kit and ready to run (RTR) styles. Building upon the highly popular SCX10 II’s scale proportions, all out capability and dependable durability; the SCX10 III has been improved even further. Four years after its predecessor’s release, the SCX10 III was unveiled in mid-2020 with features including portal axles, DIG transmission, and even more scale details.
Initially released as a Jeep JLU Wrangler, the latest version of the SCX10 III crawler, as featured here, instead comes with a Jeep JT Gladiator body. As groundbreaking as the actual Jeep Gladiator pick-up off roader is, Axial’s 1/10-scale version of it promises much of the same excitement and capability as its 1:1 brother.
The SCX10 III Jeep JT Gladiator is available as an RTR and comes with all the Spektrum branded electronics pre-installed so you can get to crawling quicker. All that is needed before you hit the trails are batteries and a charger. As a third generation platform, the SCX10 III takes the ingredients that made its forbearers the popular foundation of RC crawling today and heaps on some much requested updates.
NEW & IMPROVED
As mentioned earlier, the major features built into the SCX10 III include portal axles, DIG transmission, extra scale details and more. Let’s take a look at what adding portal axles means to the vehicle’s capabilities. The SCX10 III’s new AR45 portal axles feature portal gears for extra ground clearance, an offset front housing for enhanced realism and universals that provide 45 degrees of steering. In addition to the portal gears, the diff locker includes Hypoid gears that allow smaller size gears to be used. This improves gear reduction at the axle and also reduces torque twist. These improvements should get the latest Jeep over taller obstacles with ease.
The SCX10 III Gladiator’s transmission offers a third-channel DIG function that lets you lock the rear axle directly from the transmitter for front wheel drive motivation, which results in a tighter turning radius. If you’re looking to drive a clean line through a tight trail or make a U-turn in a near impossible angle, activating DIG will likely help you come through unscathed.
Axial points out that although it is locked out from the factory, you can set up the vehicle to have a 40% faster second gear instead of having the DIG feature if desired. If you want a faster second gear and want to also keep the DIG function, you can add another micro servo to the chassis and swap the radio to one with at least four channels to have simultaneous access to both the DIG and two-speed driving functions. That’s a tempting upgrade for us to do, perhaps sometime in the future.
The SCX10 III’s motor is located at the front of the chassis for forward weight bias, which improves an RC crawler’s crawling capabilities. The standard battery tray accepts full-size LiPo or NiMH packs and is positioned near the vehicle’s center for better balance. There are also locations in the chassis’ side pods for those who prefer using shorty LiPo packs.
ALL IN THE DETAILS
It’s clear to see that scale details have driven the crawler scene for some time now. With that in mind, Axial upped the realism quotient with details that include a replica V8 engine to house a front-mounted 540 brushed motor and mated it to a realistic transmission housing and transfer case, just like you see in a 1:1 vehicle. Also adding to the scale look are inner fenders and floor sides that hide internal components that would usually be visible from the side of the chassis. The additions make the chassis’ scale appearance remarkable to look at.
Covering the chassis is a scale Jeep JT Gladiator body that has been painstakingly designed and crafted to mirror its full-size counterpart. The polycarbonate body boasts over 20 injection-molded parts add-ons that help mimic highly authentic details found on the real life Jeep Gladiator. Some of the details include a realistic bed rack, door handles, mirrors, hood vents, hood latches and more. Furthermore, instead of a one-piece vacuum formed body, Axial’s Gladiator body has been split into three pieces to allow for a more realistic deep bed.
The Gladiator looks like a long vehicle because it is. To get its proportions just right, it was decided to elongate the wheelbase from the SCX10 III’s standard 12.3-inch length to a stretched 13.9-inches instead. Not settling on morphing a smaller body to fit the standard chassis, the design team extended the wheelbase with longer frame rails and chassis supports. This allows for a much more realistic RC version of the Jeep JT Gladiator. The Gladiator also includes fantastic interior details and a driver too. It’s these types of details that add so much to the vehicle’s overall scale and realism.
Providing the SCX10 III with the grip it needs on the trail is a set of officially licensed Nitto Trail Grappler tires on 3-piece beadlock wheels. Real crawlers depend upon the specially designed tire tread pattern; these mini-Nittos will get your scale crawler through the thick of it too.
You probably will have noticed that we have not one but two Gladiators featured in this article. Axial SXC10’s, no matter which generation, have been some of the most modified RC crawlers to exist. There’s so much upgrade and accessory support for the platform, it makes it irresistible to add your own take on it. In our case, we chose to leave one relatively untouched straight from the box and went to town on the other.
We said relatively untouched because for the tamer version of the two, we did add an Axial Tuff Stuff Overland accessory pack, which includes the rooftop tent and other bed rack accessories as well as an aftermarket RCLions metal bumper and FPVKing tow hitch. Now the red SCX10 III on the other hand, shows just some of the modification potential the Gladiator can achieve with upgrade parts and some creative paint effects.
A major modification to Big Red was the installation of Axial’s standard axle conversion kit for SCX10 III. The kit actually converts the III’s portal axles back to a straight axle set up for maximum scale accuracy. Thanks to the more scale look, a smaller tire combo was chosen. Due to the swapping out the portal axles, the Jeep now had a slightly lower stance that necessitated the installation of a fender delete kit made by Club 5 Racing. This helped eliminate fender rubbing.
We also looked to the experts at Pro-Line for wheels and tires in the form of their Crestline 1.9” Aluminum Composite Internal Bead-Loc wheels and Interco TrXus M/T 1.9” G8 rock terrain tires. The combination can’t be beat for pure crawling traction. Also from Pro-Line, we installed a full set of big bore shocks and added details such as an overland roof rack and LED light bars, also made by Pro-Line.
The head turning paintjob and simulated trail damage patina, driver detail, window roll down modification, and undercarriage detailing was expertly done by Errik Soots of Soots Scale Painting. We love ourselves some great scale painting details and Soots really hit it out of the park with this one. Other add-on details on Big Red include a Joguly Metal Front Bumper with scale Warn 9.5cti Winch finishes off the hardcore off roader look.
Big Red also had plenty of electronics upgrades done as well. We swapped out the RTR’s Spektrum bits and replaced it with a host of Spektrum upgrades such as their Firma Sensored 1/10th crawler brushless motor and ESC system, SR515 DSMR 5-channel receiver and S6260 HV high speed metal gear servo. The transmitter was also traded for Spektrum’s DX5 Rugged 5-Channel DSMR transmitter. These key upgrades help the red Gladiator up its power and control beyond the capabilities of the stock version.
ON THE TRAIL
After we charged up a couple of Spektrum 11.1V 1300mAh 3S LiPo G2 battery packs, we headed out to a nearby park to see what the SCX10 III Gladiators could do. As expected, the pair performed admirably over the loose dirt trail, small and medium sized gravel roads and a rocky dry creek bed that we drove them on.
We noticed that the stock Gladiator’s portal axles cleared some hazards that we previously avoided with our SCX10 II. The III’s extra clearance was appreciated. The Gladiator’s longer wheelbase made the rig feel sturdier for sure and wasn’t much of a concern where we drove it. If driven in areas with extreme elevation changes or over steep peaks, it may become high centered easier than shorter wheelbased vehicles.
We were most interested in trying out the DIG function in a particularly tight area that would usually require an Austin Powers style turnabout to be performed. With the Spektrum radio in hand, we flipped the third channel switch to activate the DIG function and it did its thing by locking the rear wheels, allowing only the front wheels to actively drive. What resulted was the front of the truck drove and the rear pivoted so that its rear wheels dragged in one place, This allowed the Jeep to make the tight like a tiger turn without any need to back up and try again. Color us impressed.
Big Red was noticeably more surefooted on the steep-angled faces of the tail. We chalk that up to the Pro-Line wheels and tires as well as the extra control that the Spektrum brushless system and powerful servo afforded us.
The fit, finish and overall quality of the SCX10 III Jeep JT Gladiator RTR kit is exactly what we have come to expect from Axial. If you are considering this vehicle for your first foray into RC crawler, you’d be hard-pressed to do much better. If you’re shopping for another crawler to add to your ever-growing fleet, you’ll want to know that the SCX10 III, like its predecessors, has unlimited modification potential as witnessed by our own Big Red. In fact, we’re already looking at what else we can add to it and how we should mod out our stock one too.
Stretching It Out
When it came to the Gladiator version of the SCX10 III, one of the big questions we had to answer was do we scale it down to fit a “standard” 12.3” wheelbase or should we stretch it and make it bigger, even though there are no other optional body offerings. After back and forth, it just made sense to use the current JL specs and stretch vout the chassis to fit.
We had to make new frame rails, suspension links and chassis braces. We knew we wanted to add extra detail to the Gladiator. Traditionally a truck would have a have a tonneau style cover over the bed but that just didn’t fit what we’re trying to do at Axial. So instead, we went the opposite direction, designed a two-piece bed to get that extra depth and add the overland bed rack setup in the rear.
The consumers in this segment like to customize and with so many 3D options out there to print, it only made sense. By the time this is article is printed; we will have our “Tuff Stuff Accessory” kit (P/N: AXI330002) available. For those that don’t have access to the 3D printer, they can pick up this setup to get extra SORRCA points and detail to their rigs.
Besides the look, I was concerned about and the longer wheelbase and how it would affect performance. I found that other than adding a little more preload to the springs, this stretched out rig works great. I actually prefer driving this one over my JL. It just feels a little more stable on the side hills, but it does lose out on the breakovers. There is always a give and take when it comes to different wheelbase options.
Text by Richard Trujillo,
Senior Product Developer of the SCX10 III
Text by Jerry Tsai
Images by Leigh Guarnieri