The Ascender is the latest vehicle to come out of the Vaterra Garage and like others before it’s very well detailed and is a performer. This scale truck is the only Vaterra model to be released exclusively as a kit. I just finished putting together my Ascender and am working on a review for the February 2015 issue of Radio Control Car Action Magazine. Here’s a sneak peak of the truck and some first impressions.
The stamped steel ladder frame chassis and suspension are unique. They are designed to allow for major wheelbase changes that will let you put just about any body that is available on it and it will change how the truck performs. The frame members are channeled and the thickness of the front rails are slightly smaller than the ones used in the rear and this allows the front to slide into the rear. All the hex screws that are used to assemble the chassis pass through the rails and thread into plastic cross members.
Check out those tires! They are scale replicas of Interco Super Swampers and come with foam inserts to support the rubber. They sure do look good and I am sure that they will find their way onto custom projects everywhere. The included 1.9 inch wheels are chrome plated and the tires are glued to them. Chrome plating can be found in the bead area and I recommend that you remove it before gluing for a better bond between the tire and rim.
The rear suspension is your typical 4-link deal. See the spacers on the links? That is part of the changeable wheelbase. The drive hexes are standard-size at 12mm, so there are endless wheel options for the Ascender. Inside the axle you will find a one piece spool/gear that is unlike other trucks where the gear is screwed onto the spool. The rear axle use a straight shaft to get the power to the wheels while the front has universals to do the job.
The front end suspension features a 3-link setup with a panhard bar. The shocks are molded out of plastic and smoother than some aluminum shocks that I have run in the past. The shocks are 108mm long (from mounting screw to mounting screw), have a body diameter of 11mm and 3mm diameter shafts for scale appearance. Having the servo mounted in the chassis gets it out of harm’s way but having it there does move the tires slightly through the linkage when the suspension is compressed and extended.
The transmission is packed full of metal gears and it can be modified to become a 2-speed. There’s even room and mounting holes on top of the housing for a shifting servo. The transmission was easy to assemble and felt very smooth once complete. A slipper clutch is used to protect the gears and driveshafts when put into high stress situations and needs to be set at 6 turns out instead of the kit recommended 5. Out of the box the single-speed transmission is geared for torque and delivers a top speed of about 3MPH with the 35 turn motor that I installed.
The battery is securely fastened to a floating battery tray. The rear of the tray pivots on bushings (circled) while the front is attached to the front axle and moves with it (as arrowed). This allows the tray to be mounted as low as possible and it puts more weight on the front axle which will increase the traction of the front tires.
Look at how much steering you get out of the hubs on the front axle. This truck easily has the most steering throw available in the 1/10-scale trail truck class. Yes, all that travel can be used. The servo is mounted on the left side of the chassis and the right side is left open for anyone who wants to build and use their own winch servo.
Vaterra includes a very well detailed 1986 Chevy Blazer body with the truck. Great stickers and an injection molded grill really add to the look. The body is however about an inch or more wider than your average scale crawler. Combine that extra Lexan and the injection molded grill and you have a pretty heavy body.
For the full review and to see how the truck performs you’ll have to wait for the Febuary 2015 issue of Radio Control Car Action Magazine to hit the news stands. So far, the Vaterra Ascender does not disappoint.