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Grastens Builds the Tamiya Bruiser (58519) The Kit Builder’s Build In the midst of the assembly of my Ferrari 312T3, the revival of my original Lancia Rally, and the planning and acquisition of another Tamiya-centric project, lumbered: It has been quite an outburst of RC-related activity lately, which is as sure a sign as any that I am dealing with some serious personal issues; burying myself in projects like this might be the least-destructive way to cope with them. I have never had the luxury of three new kit builds on the go, and the Bruiser will be by far the largest and most involved of them. Those concerns aside, I can point to the Tamiya Bruiser in my possession and say that this is a long-held dream of mine, finally realized! Finding a (Long-Winded) Dream My first Tamiya was a Toyota GT-One on the F103RS. It was a simple chassis that proved to be a good rookie car, if a bit difficult to find the ideal surface for it. I had always been interested in radio-controlled items and cars, so RC cars were a logical culmination. That car felt like a lifelong dream realized; playing video games was much more economically-feasible, and I had neither the money nor the support to treat radio-controlled cars as a real hobby. My childhood aspirations made do with the occasional cheap remote-controlled contraption, to be pitched when it broke after its inevitably-underwhelming performance. I could hardly complain, for I had the essentials covered in life, but I still fantasized about a true hobby-grade radio-controlled machine. Tamiya was even making the cars I saw in my video games – from Gran Turismo to 1:10 scale came the Castrol Celica ST205, the Calsonic Nissan Primera, the Castrol Mugen NSX – and the Toyota GT-One – all by the same company that produced the best static model I had built to that time (another story itself). My involvement in the hobby changed forever when I acquired a Buggy Champ as my second car; with it, I discovered the comparative freedom of off-road running, and nearly all of my acquisitions since have been all-terrain chassis. Along the way, I had been building my collection toward increasing mechanical complexity. I had always been interested in the mechanical aspect of machinery, and around the same time I purchased my Avante Black Special – then the most complicated build I would undertake – Tamiya re-released the Bruiser. It did not matter that I was not alive when the original Bruiser (or Avante, even) was available, for the concept of an all-metal, all-terrain truck with an actual shifting transmission was something that captured my imagination. At the time, I had saved up much of everything I had to acquire that Avante, but despite my good fortune that day, I still ended up wanting a Bruiser. If I were really increasing the mechanical complexity of my collection, the Bruiser seemed like a logical step, in the right direction, especially after the Avante. Instead, time and money (but mostly money) saw me take a different path with my cars, my desires for new challenges manifesting themselves in bodywork as opposed to chassis. I found out that the Avante was not what I envisioned; it had proven expensive to repair and limited in talent. Though Tamiya’s higher-end offerings certainly had my interest whenever they arrived, I probably never really wanted them as each new model slipped away without any further effort from me to acquire one. The Bruiser never totally left my consciousness, though. Eventually, I found that I was running out of spaces to run buggy-type off-road cars, and I was still intrigued by the sophistication of the 3-speed truck, especially as I learned more about automotive engineering. With classic models like the original 4 x 4 Hilux and Blazing Blazer reaching used-1:1-car prices, the Bruiser was the only affordable model until the Mountaineer re-emerged as the Mountain Rider. Even then, they were out of my grasp. It should be noted that the Tamiya Hilux High-Lift was also on the shelf that day at the hobby shop, yet neither that nor the Tundra nor the F-350 seemed to catch my imagination the way the Bruiser did. I passed it over completely. Fulfilling a (Long-Winded) Dream “I probably never really wanted them as each new model slipped away without any further effort from me to acquire one.” It was a trip to my local hobby shop for paints to complete my Ferrari 312T3 build when I finally decided I wanted a Bruiser, once and for all. It was likely triggered by the astonishing stock of Tamiya re-release models in the store: there – in the year 2019 – were new-in-box examples of the Novafox, Bigwig, Blackfoot, Egress(!), Monster Beetle, and a Frog, perched high on a shelf behind the sales counter. Clearly, the employees there had an appreciation for classic Tamiyas, which was encouraging. Pure curiosity prompted me to ask about their prices. I was astonished to realize that this particular shop had nearly closed the gap to online retailers, and every model there was competitively priced – I could have had an Egress for under $500 CAD after taxes! But then I asked the shop owner: “Do you still have the Bruiser in stock?” I saw one long ago, in another visit, and asked in the off-chance that maybe it was still kicking around. I never saw too many visitors in the shop, and the ones that were there either bought Redcats, Gundam models, or paints. “No,” he started, as my reasonable being sighed in relief, “but we can order one. You fill out a form, and we can have it in 48 hours.” My mind started racing, leaving my reasonable being in the dust. There’s no way I could… No way I should… If I have to ask… “How much would it be?” His reply shocked me. They had closed the gap – no, they had opened one up of their own! Even more shocking was learning that the upcoming re-re-release of the Mountaineer/Mountain Rider would be more expensive through the shop’s distributor, by $100 CAD, and not on pre-order. I had believed the Bruiser to be more complex somehow than its sibling, but this was completely secondary to the fact that a metal Tamiya 3-speed was now within reach! I would need to stretch, but within reach! “… I’ll think about it,” I said weakly, and continued searching for paints. I thought about it, all right, and a week or so was all I needed to clarify more than six years of dreaming and a lifetime passion for mechanical objects that begged me to make it happen. It felt like a lifetime had led me to that store the following week, where I sought out the shop owner, looked him in the eye, and said: “I want to order a Bruiser. Give me the form, please.” I was nervous. Last time I was there, I was talking myself out of it by telling the shop owner about my Ferrari 312T3, and laughing that I needed to finish that before thinking about any new projects. I knew I would need to work hard to get that money back, particularly as unlike the 312T3, the Bruiser had been unplanned just a month ago. Yet it felt like I had been preparing for it for much of my life, and all my extracurricular interests had readied me for this moment. Even stranger was that the Hilux High-Lift that I was previously totally uninterested in was still there. It was going for even less than the Egress, and for that kind of money I could have it finished with full electronics – but no, I wanted a Bruiser! As if to firmly put my cards on the table: “I’ll pay for it in full.” What am I doing?! The shop owner started to smile. That definitely lifted his spirits, too! The trip home was an odd mix of elation and fear: I needed a third project like I needed to get hit by a truck, let alone a big, expensive truck that could be worth more than everything I was working on to that point. In my heart, though, I knew I made the right decision, and celebrated my ability to enjoy my hobby in a way I have never done previously. The rest is a short story: having ordered it on a Friday, it arrived on the Monday, and by Tuesday – stopping to retrieve it from the shop during my regular errands – I had it in my hands. First Impressions Well, I had it in my arms, anyway: this box was massive! I had no idea just how large it was until I brought it home, and realized it was almost the width of the doorways in the house! When viewing box art for a kit online, it is easy to forget that the image is nearly the size of the box itself (though not true for some new releases with the “post-box-style” box front). In the case of the Bruiser, that means a large image indeed, and fine details really jump out at the viewer when looking at a box like this in person – this was the impression I was getting. One side of the box: Picture quality at this point was not great, mostly because I did not have a lot of time to take them before I had to find a place for it and continue on with my day. I have yet to even open the box! However, I can at least see what the chassis might look like when assembled: And in detail: The gearbox, which is likely the most compelling feature of this truck, gets another detail on the side, in addition to the inlaid image on the front: And then I had to set it aside. I can only wait so long, though! Planning the Build If you managed to read my lengthy story about how I got to wanting and finding a Bruiser, you would understand why I want to savour this build. I really wish I could go for the speed record, but I anticipate I will be putting in assemblies in a piecemeal fashion. Unlike previous projects, I do have all my supplies purchased at this preliminary stage, from electronics to paint to accessories. Hence, if deliveries are smooth, I should be able to make good time while still enjoying this build. Those electronics will consist of a Futaba 4YWD Attack 2.4 GHz radio and two 6-kg generic waterproof metal gear servos – which will be replaced by a Traxxas 2056 and a Futaba S3003 in the odd event that I fit servos in the build before the intended units arrive, or if their performance is unsatisfactory. I will look to fit one of my Tamiya TBLE-02S units but will soon have the luxury of an Axial AE-5L ESC with LED output. That will allow me to fit at least headlights and taillights immediately, though I had intended it for another build… That being said, I did read on this forum somewhere that one should not skimp on electronics for a Bruiser, and I am inclined to agree! That Axial ESC might make its way into the truck yet. I have yet to see a Tamiya 3-speed sporting a battery under 4 000 mAh capacity, and presently have no working batteries of that specification (maximum 3 000 mAh, and well-used), so it looks like there is in fact one more thing I need. I could get a proper-capacity battery while ordering another Axial ESC, I suppose! As was the case with my Lancia 037 4WD-H, I intend to find a moderate stand between scale realism and the model’s radio-controlled nature. While I am interested in adding things like door panels and a driver figure to the interior, a large part of the Bruiser’s appeal to me is its realism in its drivetrain, so I will be content to run it with a few concessions to scale presence as opposed to all-out authenticity. Besides, the latter would require more LEDs and the MFC-02… My Lancia 037 4WD-H has also taught me that too much complexity is possible in a model, so the emphasis will be on producing a running vehicle, though one with some attention paid to aesthetics. It is still not enough to convince me that I should use Stealth body mounts (it’s an RC car, and RC cars use body posts and clips – I can live with that), but enough for me to at least attempt to produce a neat paint job – the static modeller in me is still alive somewhere! Since I cannot afford a used vehicle, and therefore by association a classic Hilux 4 x 4, I have elected to pay tribute to it with a Czech-made custom step-side rear bed. Doing so means I will be unable to use the bed topper that is standard in the Bruiser kit, and I will need to do some drilling and cutting for this custom bed to fit the chassis. Roll bar options for the 122 mm width of the rear bed seem to be limited – thankfully, I have an assortment of styrene tubes and rods on the way, which could enable me to build one from scratch. As before, I will be adding a driver figure and hopefully some simple styrene cuts serving as door panels. I am seriously entertaining adding a passenger – I was previously intrigued by the possibility of reworking a resin figure kit into a seated passenger, but the expense and detail are too high for the purpose I have in mind. As such, any passenger will almost certainly be a reworked 4 x 4 driver figure – though the extent of the “rework” remains to be seen… The chassis will be stock – having a Bruiser is enough of a novelty for me to be happy with its stock performance for a little while. If I feel the need to upgrade, chances are I would find a higher-turn brushed motor for it first, and even then, that might suffice. Paint is at this point going to be mainly TS-43 Racing Green. If I elect for graphic accents, I will add stripes in TS-26 Pure White and TS-8 Italian Red, as an homage to my previous Avante Black Special and Astute hybrid – I had forgotten how popular those designs were when they made their debuts and feel that this combination could work on a truck like this. Even if it does not, it works for me! The Last Word – for Now Going through literature, accounts, and reviews of the Bruiser, as well as the depth and breadth of custom projects involving the model, has made me realize that I know precious little about trucks and their culture. Knowledge at this point might be dangerous, since it could compel me to spend even more money on accessories (how about that K5 Blazer shell from RC4WD?!), but anything I can learn about pickup trucks, show trucks, mud/bog racing trucks, and any combination thereof will be interesting to me. It feels a world removed from my regular research on rally racers, sports prototypes, and other genres, and it gives me something else to look forward to as I start this exciting RC adventure. “Yes, [I’m] really in Hog Heaven [now that I] own a Bruiser!” – Tamiya promotional spot, c. 1985