Like many other people on the forum and as a child of the 70s and 80s, the past year lockdown has brought about a time to reflect and be nostalgic towards better and happier days.
And again like so many, having had a more or less 30+ year gap since the last time I dabbled properly in RC (aside from a short foray with a TL-01 and TA04 Pro around the time of the millennium), the lockdown has provided an opportunity to stay home and turn back the clock with some kit building.
I was lucky enough to be into RC at the height of the golden age of Tamiya. But like many here, as a child at the time with relatively meagre pocket money, my purchasing power (after much saving) only extended to a Falcon bought from the long since gone chain of UK model shop Beatties . A classic bundle, the kit came with the useless trickle charger that took forever to charge Tamiya 1200 packs, the ubiquitous ACOMS servos / transmitter / receiver and of course the obligatory Beatties black and yellow RC bag that offered little protection to the prized possession in side. But it was wonderful thing! The Falcon fared as well as you’d expect with broken bathtubs, cracked uprights and lost dog bones – all of which I tried to repair with superglue, sticky tape and things that I found in my father’s shed just to keep it on the road. But, between my friends and I, we were able to swap around amongst us Hornets, Grasshoppers, Superchamps and Frogs – all in various states of disrepair. But, as much time as we spent running our cars, we spent even more time flicking thought the pages of Tamiya guidebooks and longing and lusting after unobtainable and unaffordable hop-ups, Bruisers, Avantes, Astutes and much more.
So, having fast forward three decades and now having a bit more pocket money to play with so to speak, when the Tamiya nostalgia kick came I decided that I’d try to set myself a challenge. I decided that I wanted to try to buy and build new kits (NIB or Re-re) that I thought best captured the spirit of Tamiya, and to try to fulfil a few unachieved childhood dreams. I initially set a challenge of picking two cars to buy and build that I thought would kill a little bit of downtime in-between work, family and life. But, thanks to the continuing pandemic lockdown and the fact that I’m now sucked in again to RC as I was when a child, I’m now 4 new build cars in and contemplating a 5th. More of that later…..
So, after a 35 year lust from watching the grainy Tamiya promo video of a blue truck spinning around the beach - my first purchase was a Bruiser. As most know who’ve owned and built one, it was a very rewarding exercise. A surprisingly complex process – especially getting the body right - I did wonder what state I would have made of the build as a 10 year old kid. I built it as stock – but on completion decided to venture into the world of brushless and lipos (which is a whole new world to me) and took a punt on a 4300kv motor and 80amp ESC. I should say at this point that I had already decided that anything I build should be fully operational – but - would only ever be shelf queens (a new term I was rapidly learning!). I added a lighting kit from Banggood and spent an age painting and finishing to the best I could and I was pretty pleased with the result.
It was at this point that I realised again the importance of the box art and livery. There are just some body shells and paint jobs that are timeless icons of RC. I strongly argue that the Bruiser is one of them and this got me thinking. The liveries of some of Tamiya’s cars are so entrenched in the companies ethos and identity that the two things go hand in hand. Adding to my challenge I decided my car selection should also be representative of the idea of iconic livery. So – this in mind, I resolved that my next build would be a Sandscorcher. You may disagree with this, but in my opinion it is indeed truly an icon. The little blue and white VW I believe was pretty instrumental in kicking off Tamiya popularity in the early 80s.
I decided that I wanted to build this classic trying to bring in some subtle modern upgrades and interventions but without ruining the charm and spirit of the original. With my new found knowledge of brushless, I binned the silver can and fitted a Tamiya TBLM-02S 10.5T brushless (….in a Scorcher….. I know….). To make the job neat, I bought the 3d printed brushless motor end cap from ‘Scorched Parts’, along with their inner fenders and servo saver. Like the Bruiser, I fitted a lighting kit and roof rack (inspired by Bob on his Hobby Concepts Youtube channel). I know there are many out there who customise the Scorcher far more than I, but I like the charm and character of the SRB chassis, the leaky shocks and clear plastic inner shell. Similar as the Bruiser, the metal components and design of the Sandscorcher whilst rudimentary, are beautifully engineered.
Keeping the theme of “spirit of Tamiya” and “iconic livery”, my next decision was pretty straightforward - The Lunchbox. I won’t lie – a decision partly influenced by my kids who had been showing an interest in my efforts, it seemed a no brainer to get them involved. To me, the lunchbox is the personification of 80’s Tamiya fun. I remember at the time thinking that it was cooler to have the Falcon than the Lunchie, but secretly perhaps realising it wasn’t. I actually bought two kits – one each for my 11 and 8 year old. You’d be unsurprised to know that building two kits at the same time with two young children who have the attention span of a goldfish, is as stressful as you’d imagine. But, despite a few hiccups here and there (a few screws not in straight, omitted bearings etc…..), the classic yellow van turned out great. As did its twin with Scooby Doo livery. I’ve so far managed to keep the box art car as a shelf queen I’m pleased to say, but it might be that I have to build a third one as a runner….
Anyway, inevitably, the elephant in the classic Tamiya car show room had to be addressed. It couldn’t be put off anymore. My justification of the prolongation of lockdown meant that after 32 years of waiting, Santa finally delivered at Christmas an Avante. I don’t actually think there is much to say about it. No introduction or explanation needed. Spirit of Tamiya? Check. Iconic livery? Check. Possibly the car that most perfectly capture what Tamiya is all about? Maybe. In my mind yes, but you may no doubt think differently. But, I just give a knowing wink to the forum and all those of my similar age, or those who have built and / or owned an Avante. Over engineered and over designed like little else Tamiya has ever done before or since, it didn’t disappoint I have to say and will sit as pride and joy for me to look at.
So, by now, my budget is blown. Tamiya has me hooked like a school boy once again but I’ve had to draw a line before I head into an RC money pit abyss. Indeed as I write at the beginning of 2021, the new list of cars due to be released by Tamiya has me flicking through the pre-order websites. But, this is the question to you (assuming you’ve got this far in my story….), given my brief of “Spirit of Tamiya” and “Iconic Livery”, and given the 4 cars I’ve bought and built so far – what would your final 5ht selection be? What new kit / re-re would you suggest I buy to complete my story? But indeed, if you had to pick 5 cars in response to my challenge – what would you go for?
I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts and wish you happy building.