As an older RC enthusiast, I can’t help but look back and reminisce about the childhood memories of when it all started for me. When I really think back at how it started, I was reading my dad’s Model Airplane News magazines and stumbled on the Tamiya ads showing their RC cars.
Before RC, I quenched my thirst for mechanical knowledge by dragging broken lawnmowers home and finding out why they broke or were being thrown away. RC made understanding the how’s and whys of basic mechanics much easier for sure, but along with this new knowledge came a new set of hurdles; things like what was new and cool, and the biggest thing for me was how was a kid was going to get the money to buy them.
I wasn’t one of the rich kids but I had a few broken lawnmowers and the knowhow to make them work so I figured that cutting some neighborhood lawns to buy an RC car was something that I could do. I can’t say that the Tamiya Hotshot was my first car; in fact, I jumped into RC with both feet by buying a Tamiya Subaru Brat with my lawn mowing bounty. The Brat was soon followed up with a heck of a lot of lawn mowing that resulted in an RC10.
Beating the mass of Tamiya Frogs and Grasshoppers with the RC10 at neighborhood races quickly got stale and coupled with the short attention span of my younger self; I found a new kit to motivate me to push the mower. The RC10 got shelved and I saved up for the newest thing out, which was the Tamiya Hotshot.
The Hotshot was 4WD, so I figured that it had twice as many parts as my First Tamiya and thought I knew what to expect of it. I was completely wrong. The Hotshot was an engineering marvel compared to what I knew about mechanical things up to that point. It had this super complicated pillow ball suspension setup and seemed to be missing a couple of shocks. Its shaft connected gearboxes and chassis design were all-new technology to me too. Building the kit would prove to be an entirely new experience, igniting this young mind.
I remember attempting to use a table to put the kit together on but there were just too many parts for them to fit on the tabletop so I laid out every single parts tree out on the brand new linoleum floor in the basement. I then went to town with an X-Acto knife to cut the parts off the plastic trees. After a solid two weeks and a completely ruined floor, my dad was pissed but I had my Hotshot completed and ready to showoff to my friends.
I’ll never forget the first time I pulled the trigger on the radio, it was the loudest most terrible screeching noise I had ever heard but that didn’t matter, I kept it at full throttle and hit the steep makeshift BMX ramp everyone feared ruining their RC cars on in an attempt to redeem myself. I somehow miraculously landed the Hotshot and knocked the motor a bit loose making the gear mesh noise go away. Upon sticking the landing, I was cheered like a professional racer would have been.
Unfortunately for me, my elation of being the hero of the block lasted only minutes. Soon after landing the jump, the neighborhood rich kid showed up with his Hotshot, one that he had paid the hobby shop to build for him decked out with a full set of ball bearings, an upgraded motor and more powerful battery. Needless to say, my Hotshot with its stock bushings and stock motor flamed out pretty quickly. It ultimately got traded for a Tamiya Rough Rider. My time with the Hotshot may have been short-lived, but that jump is burned into my mind forever.
Fast-forward 36 years. During a pandemic that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes, locked down and with nothing but time on my hands, I wanted to immortalize those childhood memories of the Hotshot by building another one. Since it was re-released by Tamiya in 2007, I have been itching to build a Hotshot like the one the rich kid neighbor had. I got a new Hotshot kit, a Futaba servo, a set of ball bearings and after some extensive searching, I found and ordered a rare vintage era-correct Tamiya Rx-540Vz Technigold Motor from Japan.
The kit went together nothing like I remembered; it was easily completed in under two days. I think I spent more time refurbishing the Technigold motor and painting the driver figure, Crash Cramer, than building the entire assembly. While assembling the buiggy, I noticed that Tamiya did make their share of improvements to the 4WD racer such as dog bone driveshafts and an included electronic ESC, which saves you from burning yourself on the Hotshots’ iconic heatsinks. The kit’s notorious bump steer still exists but it’s part of the buggy’s uniqueness. What I realized during the build was that as a kid, the Hotshot seemed very complicated but now as an adult, I can really appreciate how over-engineered and innovative the Hotshot was for its time.
To give it its iconic look, I used the correct Tamiya Color Red PS-2 spray paint and dutifully followed the directions for sticker placement, finishing it off with a #3 since it was my third RC car as a kid. Even as I sit here writing this, I am reminded why I love RC as much as I do. The Hotshot is a great example of vintage RC and how the hobby has evolved over the years. I am now excited to put it on the shelf with the other vehicles for a constant reminder of simpler times.
Text and Images by Leigh Guarnieri