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Ta03fs drift pickup

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OK, yet another super-quick Mad Ax parts-bin special.  This one's been in the pipeline for a while in a totally different format, but has suddenly morphed into something else.

So it began towards the end of last year, when a random search on Ebay turned up a rolling TA03F chassis in reasonable condition.  I'd never owned an TA03 of any sort, in fact my experience of Tamiya on-road chassis is fairly limited, so for a bargain price I figured this one was worth an own.  I had a bunch of 1:10 on-road shells looking for homes, so I figured it would be a good donor, and since the TA03F was famous for its good-natured drift handling, I thought it would be ideal for getting back into drifting after a very long layoff.

It was only when I opened the packaging that I realised something was amiss.  It seemed small, too small for a touring car.  It wasn't an 03F after all - it was an 03FS.  Cool, I thought!  An alternative 1:10 wheelbase!  Now I can fit something a bit shorter to put some variety into my street car collection.

Straight away I went online and started searching for suitable shells.  And found absolutely nothing, bar the HPI 106 body.  That size is pretty much obsolete, and there's very little out there in terms of drift shells that fits.

After a good deal of soul searching, and some razzing around in the house, I eventually discovered a battered old Monster Beetle shell made a perfect fit, apart form the gearbox hanging out the front, and a crazy plan for a Mad Max style drift rig came to mind.  I actually got as far as stripping and rebuilding the chassis with full bearings, mounting the shell, fitting electrics, and competing in a local friendly drift night before I decided that, actually, the beetle shell wasn't for me.  Not that it wasn't cool, but it just doesn't fit with anything else I have.



For a while I considered biting the bullet and going for the 106 shell.  It could be made to work, with suitable sponsor decals, if I made it up as a "106 RWD conversion".  I get slightly upset putting FWD shells on 4WD or RWD chassis.  Then I tried a Blackfoot and a King Blackfoot shell.  The wheelbase is actually about right, but the chassis is too wide, and the gearbox doesn't fit under the front bumpers.  It could have been made to work, but would have been yet another long-winded custom body job and I've got enough of those on as it is.

So I clambered up onto the mezzanine storage level in my garage and pulled out the uncut body from my NIB Landfreeder.  I was pretty sure this had to be the same wheelbase as the Blackfeet, but with a more forgiving front end that might just be enough to hide the F's bulbous gearbox.  A quick check with the uncut shell and it looked near enough perfect.

Twenty minutes with a sharp blade and Amazon Prime Video in the background, and I had myself a cut Bush Devil body.  Which fitted nicely over the gearbox, but suddenly seemed too long...

No bother - the 03 rear arms are reversible, to slightly extend the wheelbase.  The dogbones end up on a sharper angle but still get full suspension travel without binding, so should be good for running.




Propped over an inverted chassis, the wheelbase looks good:


And with the holes for the rear body posts cut, it all fits rather nicely:



So, where does this go next?

Well, I didn't drill the front body post holes because the posts aren't really long enough, plus I want to decide exactly how low the shell should sit.  Right now the car is wearing some very soft springs on the original shocks, but I've got a set of NIB low-friction dampers for the TA03 which should stiffen it up a lot.  I'll probably set the chassis fairly low to the ground, as this will only be used for drifting on smooth floors, and will go for a stiff setup.  The wide-offset rears actually poke outside of the arches just a little, so I'll either need to mount the shell high or make sure the suspension doesn't have much travel.  Probably the latter, as this truck should look pretty low and mean.

And what about that ugly gearbox sticking out the front?

Well, the Landfreeder / Bush Devil shell comes with a nice spotlamp / bullbar assembly up front, which should do a good job of making the gearbox.  And there's always scope for adding a custom bullbar assembly mounted directly onto the gearbox.

Still to do:

build and fit new shocks

determine ride height

source longer body posts

cut front post mount holes in shell

decide on paintscheme

clean, mask and paint shell

fit shell hardware

go play


watch this space...

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looks very cool to me. I love the TA-3F chassis. How much shorter is the S then? Surely the land freeder shell must be 250mm wheelbase. Here is the Brat body on my stock length TA03F for comparison. The shell only just clears the motor with the lip protruding beyond the shell.


Btw, that Mad Max beetle looks mental with the motor out front, would have been V cool also!


Bullbar would look great!

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TA03FS is 237mm, so a really weird length.  There's quite a few "what will fit on my chassis?" threads - there are other 237mm shells around but most of them don't work well with the F's front gearbox.

The Brat is an odd one because it's not far off stock touring car length.  I nearly fitted one on a TT01 years back, but the huge arches didn't look right over 1.9 rims.  Almost all the other Tamiya pickup shells are shorter.

The KBF would have been the best fit for wheelbase, but would have had to lose the front bumper, and not sure it would have looked quite right.  The Landfreeder was a surprise revelation and with a little bit of tuning, looks really good.


I had a plan for the Beetle, I bought a 1:10 scale barrel that I was going to cut to fit over the gearbox, then add some fuel pipes running up over the bonnet to make it a proper Mad Max style thing, but once I'd made it and driven it a couple of times I found there was just something I didn't like, and I didn't want to spend a lot of time working on something that I wouldn't be happy with.  I just want a nice tidy usable drifter that can sit on my shelf with the rest of my street cars :D

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OK, so as anticipated, this one came together really quickly, despite a bit of a false start.

One issue, which you can sort of see in the pic on post 1, is that I cut the rear body post holes in the wrong place.  I guess that's what comes of marking up the holes from the tops of the body posts, which are bent from several years use.  I thought I'd compensated for it, but obviously not enough.

I didn't really decide it was too bad to live with until after I'd cut the holes for the front body posts as well (I had to use longer ones, managed to find an NIB set on the 'bay).  I almost abandoned it and walked away, but with a drift night at the local club looming (last night, in fact) I figured if I shelved it now, it'd never, ever get finished.  At least I had a deadline to work to.

Initially I was going to cut a sheet of styrene to make a false enterior and lay the shell over that, then cover the post holes with decals, but, to be honest, it all started to sound like too much work.  After working flat out in the garden for two solid days last weekend, I'd had enough of doing anything, and just wanted to sit back and relax.  When I finally put my mind to it, I decided to go with a simpler option.

I began by spacing the front body posts forwards using some plastic parts from an old kit.  Not sure what they're from, they were in my "miscellaneous tubes and spacers" drawer.

Not really easy to see, but the spacers sit in between the post and the shock tower:



Obviously now the body posts don't locate upright, so in an impact the posts are going to move.

But at least the arch alignment is better.



NOS TA03 hop-up shocks, found at a local store, were fitted too:



And then it was all about the paint.  I got the shell masked up at the weekend, but I had a really busy week, with no spare time to get painting done, until yesterday.  I figured if I was going to make it worthwhile, or finish it at all, it had to be yesterday.  So I got up early - thankfully the weather here has been warm and dry - put on the halogen lamps in the spray booth, and shot a few coats of white onto the shell.  I was rushing a little as I had to be in work early, the paint went on fine but when the can ran dry (it was a half-empty can from a previous shell), I didn't bother to open another.  I figured "that looks like enough" and went straight for the silver backing.  I ran out of silver too, I've got a few spare tins but didn't want to open a fresh one just for a couple more coats.

I popped home at lunch to add the black details.  I didn't bother to mask off the bumpers, grill and bed, instead I trimmed off the overspray film with a craft knife and painted from the outside.  That gives a matt finish without having to separately spray the outside of the shell with that matt finish lacquer.  Then, in the evening, I literally had just enough time to call in at home on the way to the race track, pick up the chassis and shell, rip off the overspray film and get to the venue before booking in closed.

Decalling the shell at the trackside was good fun.  It wasn't a serious race night, just a practice with a drift heat thrown in because a few of us wanted it, so I didn't have to worry about getting the car prepped for racing.  Lots of people took a keen interest in what I was doing.

And then there I was, with the finished product.  Shell still a little dirty around the edges where I haven't cleaned it up yet.





The first comment I got was "that shell needs to be lower."


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And he was totally right.  Except the shell won't go lower, because the rear wheels are too wide.  Fitting narrower wheels will make it look lame and weedy, but it doesn't look right with the shell so high either.  I don't want to go with silly camber on the rear since it's supposed to be a Yank pickup, not a daft Japanese onikyan thing.

I'd also not realised until recently just how good-looking the Landfreeder shell actually is.  I'd always overlooked it as a generic unlicensed pickup, but it's actually quite a good F150 replica and fills the "missing" model between the two Blackfoot shells.  I was planning to use my Landfreeder chassis under an old Pajero shell to make a real capable scaler, but now I'm actually regretting not making it near-stock and putting it on the shelf.

And finally, just to make me feel worse, it drifted like a heavy pig.  Alright, it's probably mostly down to setup, but compared to my TT02D, it was horrible.

We were drifting on carpet - on dedicated drift nights we use regular rubber tyres on the polished wooden floor, but last night's even was drift tyres on felt.  The TT02D is bone-stock apart from bearings, a semi-hot brushless setup and really cheap shiny plastic tyres.  And it drifted like a dream.  So smooth, so controllable - drifting on carpet was a sheer joy, I loved every minute of it.

The HPI vintage drift tyres on the TA03FS are actually a very hard rubber, so on carpet they get just a bit too much grip.  I could use the torque of the Super Stock BZ to initiate in corners, but struggled to maintain a drift without it gripping out at the end of the slide and turning into a lame touring car again.  The short wheelbase probably doesn't help, no doubt the shocks are set up all wrong, and I could do with a bigger pinion to get more wheel speed.


So now I'm back to not knowing what to do with my TA03FS once more.  I can't slam the F150 over it without getting seriously creative, and I don't want to put that much time into it.  I don't want to invest any more cash into making it drift better since I already have a good drift car and I don't think the short wheelbase will ever be right for it.  I have considered lifting the shell (notice I haven't cut those body posts yet), fitting the wheels and tyres from the Landfreeder, and having it on the shelf as a good-looking road-biased pickup along with all my other road cars.  There might be an air gap between body and chassis, meaning I'll have to make a false interior.  I suppose I could settle for the HPI 106 shell and decal it up as a special converted 106 for racing - the whole scale drivetrain thing really bothers me so I'd need to explain why it's 4wd - but I don't really like euro cars, especially small ones like the 106, and besides, the wheelbase seems too long.  A 106 is more M-chassis size.

Alternatively I could just stick the whole lot up in the garage and forget I own it for a year or two, until another blisteringly good idea takes over, or a full-length chassis tub comes along.

We'll see how it looks later with the Landfreeder tyres on...

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If you're not happy, go back to the Zombie Mad Max end of days beetle contraption!

Shell looks good. With the black bed I can't notice any mis drilled holes. :)

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Why not fit the hard plastic drift wheels and try again ?


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I didn't have time to swap the wheels over on the night, we only had limited running in the drift heat.  I suppose I could have put the hard plastics on for the final round but I was having so much fun with my TT02D.  Also I'm not sure they'd fit - the hard plastics are on a conventional 1.9 touring wheel, the HPIs are from their Vintage range which I think are very slightly smaller.  I could be wrong, it could be an illusion caused by their width.  There's very little clearance between tyre and arch as I wanted the shell as low as possible.

It was actually looking quite good sitting in the garage when I came home last night.  I need to tidy some of the cuts in the shell but most of it looks alright.  I was even wondering if there's an aftermarket arch extension that I could bond over the rear.  I guess I need to paint the bullbar too (I don't like chrome ;) ) so I can see how well it works at hiding the protruding gearbox.

I'm actually thinking I'll just shelve the project for a while, I've got a million other things on the go that need to be updated :D

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I like it. Why follow what others think? Aerodynamics and downforce doesn't really matter that much for drifting does it? As long as the body doesn't roll then jack it as high as you want just to annoy people.


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