Don’t call it a comeback; Tamiya’s Hotshot has always been around, or at least it feels like it has. Since it was first released in 1985, the Tamiya Hotshot has been one of the most beloved four-wheel-drive RC buggies around. Its iconic look, unique dual-shock suspension setup, and fun-to-drive attributes have been seared into the memories of those lucky enough to grow up during the 1980s golden age of RC.
In 1987, Tamiya released the well-regarded followup to the Hotshot, the Hotshot II. As with movie sequels, it’s hard to follow up a hit, but somehow Tamiya did. With improvements such as a three-shock suspension setup and easier transmitter crystal access (old timers will know what I’m talking about), it was essentially an improved Hotshot that didn’t mess with the success of the original formula.
As well-received as it was, it was the original red-bodied Hotshot that got re-released time and time again by Tamiya over the years. The black-bodied Hotshot II was not offered since its original run in 1987, making it one of the most collectible vintage Tamiya RC kits around. That is, until now… only it doesn’t come with its 1987 version black body.
Hotshot II is back, this time in collaboration with one of our favorite designers and longtime Tamiya collaborator, Jun Watanabe. You may recall that we interviewed Watanabe back in the February 2022 issue of RCCA about his involvement with the Blockhead Motors edition Tamiya Wild One re-release as well as his RC lifestyle brand, Blockhead Motors. This time he presents his take on the classic buggy by adding his vintage-inspired style to it. A self-professed ’80s-era RC enthusiast, Watanabe’s version of the latest Hotshot II wears a blue-and-white color scheme with yellow highlights, which is also reminiscent of the Tamiya Wild One he worked on.
BLOCKHEAD MOTORS EDITION
Blockhead Motors, which is known for its RC-inspired apparel and stickers, is focused on bringing back the look and feel of not only ’80s RC, but of real-life off-road buggies of the same time period. This four-wheel-drive buggy comes as an assembly kit, which is straight forward to build. With basic hand tools, I don’t think beginner kit builders would have any problems assembling it.
This 2023 re-release of the Hotshot II is improved over the original 1987 version in terms of both performance and aesthetics. The updated off-roader features a new roll cage, which is positioned higher over the chassis in order to ensure a more realistic driver position. Its uprights and wheels are also finished in a matte-finish, metal-plated silver tone, a look that Watanabe carries over from the Blockhead Motors edition Wild One. Several ball bearings are included, although not a full set. It’s still an improvement however, since I recall the original Hotshot II only came with bushings.
This Blockhead Motors edition of the Hotshot II comes with a more detailed plastic driver figure than the original, as well as an aluminum cockpit roof. The metal roof really looks great and adds to its scale realism. An updated, pre-cut and pre-painted body comes with this sharp-looking buggy, along with Jun Watanabe-designed Blockhead Motors edition stickers.
This version of the Hotshot II is mounted with light pods, something that the original Hotshot II didn’t have. These yellow light pods are Tamiya’s latest versions, which are made of a more durable plastic and come LED ready. Provisions are molded into the buckets for easy LED light installation. LEDs are not included, but are available from Tamiya.
You’ll also notice that this buggy comes with a vintage-style metal antenna pole with a flag decal on it. The metal antenna is only there for cosmetics, but its addition adds a strong vintage look that sets this kit apart. Watanabe sure doesn’t skimp out on the vintage buggy details.
Another key feature that makes his personal RC buggies stand out are the racing number plates he adds to them. He fashions them out of plastic sheets and applies custom graphics to them. These number plates give his RC buggies a stylish, vintage flair. Luckily for us, Tamiya has included number plates with the Hotshot II. The inclusion of these vintage-style accessories with this limited release are undoubtedly Watanabe’s unique design choices. If you follow him on social media, you’ll notice most of his personal RC vehicles wearing similar old-school accessories.
I was able to assemble the kit without any trouble. The kit’s exclusive satin silver-colored parts make the plastic look like it’s made of some sort of metal alloy, which is nice. As mentioned earlier, the kit comes with some ball bearings but is mostly finished with a set of plastic and brass bushings. I bypassed the bushings and installed a full set of shielded ball bearings by Fast Eddy Bearings instead. Low-friction ball bearings can really help your RC drive faster and for longer.
The U.S. release of this kit comes with a HobbyWing ESC. The brushed motor waterproof ESC handles 2S-3S batteries and is marked THW-1060-RTR. From what we understand, “THW” stands for Tamiya HobbyWing, which makes it a pretty cool collector’s piece. The On-Off switch for this ESC is much smaller than Tamiya’s ESC that the Hotshot II is designed for, so mounting the switch requires a bit of creativity. I used some double-stick servo tape to get it into position. Only time will tell if it holds.
Being an older style kit, you’ll find some older curiosities such as hubs that do not use the now-industry-standard 12mm hexes. Quirks like this add to the Hotshot II’s charm. The kit comes with a specially labeled Blockhead Motors brushed silver can 540 motor, which is period correct for this style of kit. The label may not add power, but it sure looks cool.
Hotshot II’s body comes painted blue and already trimmed, which is a major time-saver. The only things that needed painting were the driver and cockpit, which comes molded in white ABS plastic. That said, screw holes need to be drilled into the body and number plates, so a body reamer will come in handy for those tasks. The number plates are attached with screws, washers, rubber O-rings and lock nuts, and other details such as the metal roof and window netting are attached with cable ties.
The fantastic-looking sticker sheet is vibrant and glossy and includes a few extra optional Blockhead Motors designs for you to use as you wish. The sticker sheet is not pre-cut, so a sharp hobby knife or decal scissors will also be required. I also added decals from Mr. Hop-Up for more style points.
Interestingly, the updated Hotshot II body features a swing-open deflector that sits just ahead of the front window opening. It swings up to give the body enough clearance when taking the body on and off. It’s worth noting that the body only requires one body clip but sits very securely over the enclosed chassis.
I completed the buggy with a KO Propo transmitter and receiver and Powerhobby 130MG steering servo, as well as a 7.2V 5,000mAh NiMH battery. With it fully assembled, I went out for a bash session at the local park.
ON THE LOOSE
Driving Tamiya’s Hotshot II is simply nostalgic fun. With so many advanced RC vehicles out there, you can really feel the difference when driving this classic. It has predictable handling characteristics and is very easy to drive. In its stock form, it isn’t too fast for beginners to handle. With some mild upgrades, I can see it being a fun basher to whip around the park. One thing I must point out is its stunning looks. The Blockhead Motors edition buggy simply looks great mucking about.
Tamiya Hotshot II Blockhead Motors
Height: 5.9 in. (150mm)
Length: 15.35 in. (390mm)
Width: 9.25 in. (235mm)
Wheelbase: 10.3 in. (262mm
Ground Clearance: 3.1 in. (80mm)
Chassis: ABS monocoque
Body: Pre-painted polycarbonate
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Transmission/drivetrain: Enclosed gearbox
Differentials: 3-bevel gears
Shocks: CVA plastic bodied, oil filled
Wheels and tires: Off road hybrid oval block/pin spike tires, satin silver-plated plastic wheels
ESC: HobbyWing THW-1060-RTR
Motor: Blockhead Motors labeled 540 brushed
TEST GEAR (Not Included)
Transmitter: KO Propo EX-II
Receiver: KO PropoKR-211FH
Steering Servo: Powerhobby 130MG
Battery: 7.2V 5,000mAh NiMH battery
Bearings: Fast Eddy Shielded Bearings
This Blockhead Motors edition of Tamiya Hotshot II is sure to be a collector’s item. Jun Watanabe’s previous Tamiya collabs include Hornet and Wild One, both of which are coveted by collectors. If you manage to get your hands on a Hotshot II, be sure you hold on to it. I’m thrilled that Tamiya and Jun Watanabe have teamed up to re-work and re-release these vintage buggies. With modern, yet subtle, improvements added to these iconic models, I’m already looking forward to seeing what else they conjure up.
Text and Images by Jerry Tsai