As full-scale off-road enthusiasts ourselves, it’s been truly fantastic to see how scale crawling has been so popular as of late. Seeing not only legacy RC companies embrace the crawler movement but also full-scale off-road brands support our hobby is a dream come true. There was a time when access to scale replicas of our favorite vehicle parts and camp accessories didn’t exist. Luckily for us they now do, and from the looks of it, things are looking even brighter for us scale-heads.
It’s one thing to be able to add a licensed miniature version of a winch or ice chest to your build, but it’s a whole other animal when a well-known off-road vehicle builder and parts maker jumps into the RC crawler world. We’re talking about Rebel Off Road and their exciting new brand, Rebel R/C. Rebel Off Road is a company that specializes in making parts and accessories that further elevate the ability for Jeeps and other vehicles to go off the beaten path and dominate the trails. With their knowhow in the 1:1 world, it’s thrilling to see them bring their expertise to the scale side of off-roading.
TRUE TRAIL CAPABILITY
Rebel R/C presents their first complete RTR vehicle, the RJ Rebelcon. One look at it and the instantly recognizable Jeep lookalike tells us what we need to know about it—that first and foremost it is a capable crawler. We’re not much for judging a vehicle by its looks, but dang it, this is one handsome rig, and as we quickly found out, it has the underpinnings to back up it all up.
Drawing from Rebel Off Road’s experience with real crawlers, the RJ Rebelcon is built on a twin rail ladder chassis, how classic full-size off-roaders are built. Setting this RC apart from the others is its 5mm-thick, CNC-machined, 6061-series aluminum chassis rails. Rebel R/C mentions that this extra-tough material is super-stiff to allow the RJ’s suspension to provide a solid backbone for the drivetrain.
The RJ’s ultra-rugged, solid-axle drivetrain sits on high-rise portal axles to give it maximum clearance over challenging obstacles. Each of the Rebelcon’s axles is supported by aluminum suspension links front and rear in addition to adjustable oil-filled aluminum coilover shocks. The RJ Rebelcon not only looks like a full-size trail rig, it promises to drive just like one, too.
TOUGH AS NAILS
If you ever rock crawl real rigs, you’d know that finishing the trail and getting back home is dependent on how stout your truck’s engine and drivetrain are. Nobody wants to get stranded out in the middle of nowhere due to a weak link in the drivetrain. RC crawlers have the same reliability needs since breaking down on a crawling course is an absolute bummer as well.
Rebel R/C knows this better than anyone and includes a powerful fore-mounted, 550-size brushed 21-turn motor that is fitted to a sliding CNC machine aluminum motor mount. The sliding motor mount makes changing pinion gears and setting mesh a breeze. From the pinion gear, the power from the motor goes into a sophisticated central gear case that features an electronically switchable Hi-Low speed transmission, which lets you swap from higher road speeds to slower trail speeds at the flick of a switch, just as in full-size off-roaders.
Furthermore, you’ll find hardened steel telescoping central driveshafts to help transfer the power from the central transmission into electronically locking metal gear differentials that are housed within each axle. Both of RJ Rebelcon’s axle housings are molded from tough high-impact nylon for maximum strength. Hardened steel driveshafts and universal joints take the power into high-rise portal axles fitted with steel gears. If all that isn’t enough, the entire drivetrain is backed by sealed precision ball bearings. It’s an impressive drivetrain setup for an off-the-shelf RTR trail rig. From what we can see, the RJ promises to go from box to trail without parts failure concerns.
Let’s talk about the transmitter that comes with this RTR for a minute. The included 6-channel 2.4GHz radio controls everything on the RJ Rebelcon, not just steering and throttle. From the built-in, fully integrated light system to the remote locking front and rear differentials, everything is at the flip of a switch or touch of a button. This self-contained, trigger-style radio features a realistic steering wheel and switches with a solid, locking feel to give confident and secure control without the need to look down at the transmitter. Even though the transmitter features controls for the front and rear diff locks as well as the lights and Hi-Low speed transmission, it’s a compact and self-contained unit that’s easy and intuitive to use.
A Hobbywing Crawler 60A electronic speed controller (ESC) is pre-installed in the RJ Rebelcon to handle all the electrical power that’s delivered by the vehicle’s battery. Hobbywing’s ESCs are well-regarded for their ease of use and full-feature capability, and are oftentimes used by RC builders to replace simpler RTR-included ESCs. It’s nice that Rebel RC bypassed sticking in a cheaper ESC and opted to go with a Hobbywing unit from the get-go. This Hobbywing ESC is fully waterproof to allow you to take this rig anywhere you want. Ford a creek or adventure in the rain. It’s your choice; the RJ is up to it.
The vehicle runs on either a NiMH or LiPo battery through a standard T-plug. The Crawler 60A ESC also features a built-in BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuit) to power the truck’s steering servo at 6 volts on 3 amps. Say no more to stripped RTR servos and horns. This crawler comes with a waterproof digital steering servo that features 23kg of holding power. It also features a thick aluminum clamp-style servo horn, so you’ll always have total control of the steering no matter what obstacles you’re facing. Offering even more control over your rig are waterproof mini-servos that control linkage for the front and rear remote locking differentials and the Hi-Low speed transmission. These mini-servos are rated for 0.9kg of holding power each.
Can we just say that the RJ Rebelcon is one of the best-looking RTR crawlers that we’ve ever seen? Seriously, look at it. Its proportions look great and its body lines are as accurate as can be. RJ Rebelcon comes in your choice of two color variations, orange and metallic graphite gray. The front of the body is held onto the chassis via two magnetic body mounts. The rear is attached to the chassis so it swings up and back for easy access.
On top of its aesthetically pleasing body, the RJ comes already fitted with scale accessories galore such as fuel cans, jack, D-rings, roof rack, side mirrors, door handles, gas cap, windshield wipers and snorkel. And that’s straight out of the box! Leave it as-is or use it as an almost-there foundation for an even more detailed scale build. It’s up to you.
Honorable mention goes to the real 1.9-inch beadlock wheels that come standard with soft foam rubber inserts stuffed into its all-terrain tires. What you get isn’t just plenty of traction, but a very realistic look as well. Kudos to Rebel R/C for not skimping on this RTR.
INTEGRATED LIGHTING SYSTEM
We’re big proponents of lights on our RCs. They add a certain realism to a scale build that can’t be duplicated. The RJ Rebelcon features a complete integrated lighting system that puts others to shame. This all-encompassing system includes bright white headlights, an extra-wide 155mm roof-mounted light bar, cowl-mounted spotlights, front and rear turn signals and even lights in both the front and rear bumpers. The inclusion of this many lights is seriously impressive for an RTR. Control of each of these lights is done through the radio transmitter, so it’s easy to switch them on when needed. Don’t let the driving end when it’s pitch-black outside.
Rebel R/C may be a young brand in the RC world, but it’s backed by a well-respected real-world off-road company in Rebel Off Road. The brand’s first RTR vehicle offering is impressive to say the least. Covering everything from crawling capability, component reliability, scale looks and even an entire LED lighting suite, we’d venture to say that the RJ Rebelcon checks all the boxes. Word on the street is that the RJ has been hard to keep on store shelves, and we can see why. They’re probably all crawling over the rock courses by now. We’re excited to follow up with a driving impression of this impressive RTR rig in a future issue.
Text by James York
Images by Leigh Guarnieri