Jump to content

What was racing like in olden days?

Recommended Posts

This thread is a great read.

I started racing around 1987 or 88 with a virtually standard Grasshopper which still had the MSC, used 7.2V 'humpback' battery packs and even still had the solid rear axle, which on rough ground made the car very aptly named. We raced off-road in a patch of woods next to our local sports centre in a series for beginners run by our local model shop. To begin with all the cars raced together, as we were all pretty amateurish and keeping the thing going for five minutes was more important than outright speed. A year or two later the overall speed disparity between 2WD and 4WD became so obvious that the classes were separated. This mainly happened as everyone who had been racing there since the start had traded up and virtually everyone had bought a 4WD car, leaving Mids, Cats and less advanced machines like Boomerangs, Thundershots and Marui Ninjas racing side-by-side with Hornets, Falcons and other low-end 2WD Tamiya machinery.

The Grasshopper was gradually upgraded piece-by-piece to maintain a vague semblance of competitiveness – ballraces first of all, then a Parma K-Stock motor, Hornet oli-filled rear shock set-up, polycarb body, 2" wheel adaptors and a wider range of tyres, lowered suspension etc – but it was obviously outclassed from the very start and only became more so as time went on. Its saving graces were that the race always ended before the batteries did and it was utterly bulletproof in terms of reliability. I don't think it broke down once in all the time I was driving it round and round in the forest litter in that patch of wood. It would literally drive through anything, or at least try to. I wish I still had it, to be honest.

The Grasshopper was eventually upgraded to a mighty Kyosho Optima Mid Turbo accompanied by a LWB chassis kit. This was a brilliant car to drive straight out of the box, which was good, because there was nothing to change on a Grasshopper so neither me nor my Dad had any idea how to set it up. We gradually learnt the art of setting a car up for a certain surface or track and set about incrementally upgrading the Mid and all our other gear. A Futaba ESC was purchased as there was no MSC on the Mid, while the K-Stock was supplanted by a Schumacher Red Heat motor, which I believe was a machine-wound 17 x 2 modified. Batteries were upgraded from 1200 SCRs to whatever 1700s we could afford. We found numerous discounts and special offers, but the best was from a company who for some reason would give you a steep discount on a potent matched set of 1700 SCEs if you sent them your old batteries. We could never understand what was in it for them, but we nevertheless managed to get ourselves a full raceday's worth of matched packs for what seemed an absurdly small amount. Charging tech also improved friom the original second-hand clockwork 12v charger, through a Schumacher peak charger, finally to a thing called a Tecomo Pro-Slope charger, the technology of which always sounded like babble to me but which worked a treat. The ESC was upgraded from the Futaba to a chunky but bulletproof Speedmaster (we started frying Futabas on a fairly regular basis and repairs became uneconomical) and finally to a lovely Tekin 410K.

The racing environment was upgraded, too. We moved from the rough ovals under the trees to a flatter area in the open with a dedicated race control caravan, where a new circuit would be set out every week using pipes, tyres and ropes. In the winter when the ground was frequently too muddy to race off-road, we would race in a secluded corner of the big tarmac car park, which led to a whole new series of set-up lessons.

After a couple of successful years campaigning the Mid, it began to lose competitiveness to successive generations of Schumacher cars and needed replacing. I didn't want a Cat as although they were clearly immensely capable cars, the finish and build quality of them always seemed a but cheap to me. I was a bit of a Kyosho snob, to be honest. The Mid had been replaced in the Kyosho line-up by the Lazer ZX, but I didn't fancy one of those as it looked like a housebrick and was reportedly overweight and handled poorly. Then Kyosho brought out the ZX-R and we had a winner. I bought one second hand from a friend who had given up the hobby and loved it straight away. It was sharper handling and more taught feeling than the LWB Mid, which always understeered as Kyosho made a bit of a hash of the weight distribution when they extended the original Mid chassis. It also looked very handsome and understated, which was another advantage over the Cat. Nobody at our meetings ever used Yokomos or RC10s seriously, as none of our local stockists carried them. One of my friends once bought a second hand Dogfighter and we were all surprised by how agricultural it seemed. He could never get the diffs to work properly and none of us could understand how this sloppy chassis had been turned into the world-beater regularly lauded in the RC magazines. Presumably a lot of after-market parts were involved.

By tghe time I stopped racing in about 1992, there was a whole spread of people involved, from people racing reasonably professional high-end cars and kit, all the way down to kids rocking uo with their birthday present Falcon still in the original box. Everyone got a race and everyone had fun doing it. I eventually stopped going as the racing started at 9am on a Saturday morning and I had discovered that there were fun things to do on Friday nights which didn't involve stripping down and rebuilding grubby cars. The cars mostly got put up in my parents' loft, where they remained unmolested until I got them down a few weeks ago. Now I might start getting them all working again and I might even try and find myself somewhere to race them.


Lazer ZX-R REDUCED.jpg

  • Like 5

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This takes me back, but unfortunately with a poor memory I cant remember exact specifics. I started racing after about 6 months of running my Sand Rover. The sand rover was the first proper RC car and it took a lot of pleading to get. My dads mate said his son was also in to the cars and that while he (My dads friend) did not mind going, but it was not really his thing so if I would go with his son it would free up his Sundays again. 

We raced in an old Church on hard wood floor. My main memories are that there where a number of Sand Scorchers and Rough Riders as well as Sand Rovers, Holiday buggies and a couple of track cars - not sure what type though. The trick with the wood floor was to cover your tyre in bathroom silicon sealant. The track was marked with basic cones and the lap timing was an art performed manually and written on paper.  After what seems like about a year in the church the club bought an electronic timer system using transponders. Then around the same time or a few months later it moved to a local school hall and - somehow - bought carpet. However the other big change at that time was the outdoor track. Again my memory is hazy as I felt that the outdoor track came first and then the school, but I know that's not the case due to the cars I raced on the outdoor track - more on that later.

So after the Sand Rover came the Grasshopper, this was a Christmas present and I loved it, but at the same time I was still at a club and had my sights set higher. Probably around 14 at the time I started saving like mad for the car that change my race life, the hot shot. now the OC asked what speed controllers where used, well certainly at the very beginning it was wiper arm mechanical jobs but around the hot shot time it was all ESC. Cant remember the name of it but it was big, not Tamiya and ran on a number of FETS. I raced the Hotshot in the Tamiya Cup 85/86 (I think at the time it was called the Tamiya Championship) not sure exact dates as I threw all my trophies away :(. But it did me proud. It was a 4 shock modded chassis version and handled and ran very well indeed. I was close to the top of my club racing and often made the B finals in the Tamiya Cup and believe I finished 17th in the region. That was all well and good in the Tamiya Cup but as others have said back at the club the Associated RC10 had come on the scene and it kicked everyone's butt. I did do OK - C and D finals -  in other race events with my Hotshot but it was simply not good enough anymore. Now friends at the club ran a model shop and I was lucky enough to get one of the very first Schumacher cats in the country, it was an absolute dream of a car but for some reason I lusted after the PB mini mustang, a guy at the club had one and we just decided to swap one day. I did not regret it, as the PB was also a great car but that year the cat was where it was at and all the major races seemed to be won by it.

This was when I hit 17 and simply could not afford to race rc cars anymore so sold everything and I left the hobby. I revisited the scene a few years back and threw myself into touring cars outdoor and indoor never made it at BRCA level but had good local results, however it took up too much time going away weekend after weekend to race so I stopped again. but who knows what the future may bring?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great read.

My history was as a spotty 1st year I got a Jet hopper 2wd thing with a 2 spped gearbox that you had to choose the speed as it was on the rear of gearbox.

A mate in school had a monter truck version that was slower and more cumbersome BUT way cooler (it was a monster truck you know?)

So we decided to start a club in school. It very quickly turned into a Tamiya fest. My first car the Boomerang in my avatar pic was bought second hand from the local paper. Had 2 batteries, one hump back and one now standard 6 pack, BOTH were shot. The car was AMAZING compared to Jet Hopper BUT the battery life was SOOOOOOOO poor. This was about the time the Thundershot & ThunderDragon were released and I remember my once in a blue moon visit to Belfast standing in the Model shop & Leisure World just open mouthed at the Tamiya adverts for these cars.........Had to have one.

The local school club had started to take of by this time with loads of boys coming and looking. the older ones took the ******* and the younger ones all made oooh and aggggh ing noises. That summer I started to work on getting a Thundershot (I preferred the look to the ThunderDragon). Now this was a serious car. I bought it and made my own pack up off the pages of Radio Race Car International) I started with 2 1200 sanyo yellow packs and progressed to 1700 red packs. Speed controller was always mechanical as we tried to keep the cars more or less stock from a money point of view. By this time there were about 6 all Thundershot series cars regularly turning up both at school and my house. I got to see my first Terra Scorcher here as well. This golden era for me lasted about a year and a half till my dad decided we were wrecking the farm yard and we lost the local track......I started to drive and RC was quickly passed over.

About 15 or so years passed and I looked into what was available to race RC wise locally to me and discovered Mini Z (Koysho cars about the size of your hand available from DinBall.com for a decent price) they were racing F1 cars at the start and you could upgrade them. The track was built each week from a bag of electric conduit. The issue with the F1 cars was WHEN you touched the pipe you would either get stuck or break something. 

A richer than most guy turned up with a Viper one week and Saloons became the favoured cars. Also many upgrades for little money were available. Ball races, Ball diffs, graphite hinge plates, different motors and wheels. The good thing was it was till cheep and SOOOOO much fun. Raced these for about 3 years till it sort of fizzled out but still have the cars.

A few years later I got intrested in a nitro monster truck called the Traxxas T-Maxx. Bought one (about £400.....from memory) and could just NEVER get tit to run sweet. spent more time trying to start it than I ever did running it. Never got through my first gallon of fuel....waste on money.

Then when the boys started to show an interest in my old mini Z cars I started to look for a Tamiya again. Bought a 2nd hand Neo Scorcher.....no real pull for me and the boys were unimpressed so WT-01's and Madbulls were sourced as was this forum.

I then started to restore my old cars and also to collect the 4WD tamiya buggies from my early days. I now have over 15 buggies.........and so many need to be finished. A few saved searches on Ebay and Gumtree.

I even contacted the old school buggy guys and bought two of their cars as well.....

Tamiya old school rule for fun factor. So many parts interchangeable, so easy to work and learn on. parts readily available. BUT the biggest draw is the Nostalgia for yesteryear.

Go on UTube and look up the videos I used to stand and watch open mouthed as a kid.


I now have all these cars EXCEPT the Vanquish...please Santa??


  • Like 3

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think for some of us 2005 was racing in the olden days

nimh (3300mah)

brushed motors (trinity p2k pro etc)

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m read a lot of these stories above and several of you got into racing even a few years before me. 
By the time I started club racing , a turbo Optima Mid was already on the scene . ( my dad got a good used prove on a partially built kit, and finished it . He loved to tune and drive around the neighborhood, but said he didn’t have the reflexes to race on track, so I was his driver and he the team owner / crew chief )  2 and 4 wd were already separate classes , but it was still fun .

Dad was the tuner and could really set up suspension. I remember  when we could get 1700mah SCR cells instead of the standard 1200 cells. 

Losi JR’s , RC 10 , and ultimas dominated the 2 wd  scene. A few Kyosho Raiders and early model Traxxas were on the scene, and some modified frogs, otherwise very few Tamiyas at my club in the late 80s 

Eventually I got a Kyosho Monster hi Rider corvette. My club started a MT class and it was a blast. Buggy, conversations , MBs and Blackfoots , clods, and lunchboxes all bounced around the track in the same class. 
Eventually,  Losi and RC conversions started being replaced by “truck” kits from the same manufacturers and being raced on the national scene. 
that sort of killed the zany hi jinx of the “run what you brung”  monster class.  

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I started racing, there was much more car diversity...at least until the RC10 came around. Any race could include, scorpions, frogs, foxes along with the hornets and super champs. Then it was all RC10s. Tracks also used to be more loamy, at least in the area where I raced. There weren't any of these hardpacked blue groove tracks with bmx jumps. There were no tire foams, so the tire picking process was much different. Mostly, it was all about managing the battery. You had to get 4 mins of run time on a 1200 sce/r pack. So picking a motor and gear ratio was super important. ESCs made this a little easier.

I remember getting crunched by a Blackfoot in a race which broke one of my MSC resistors. I lost low speed which made driving a little more challenging. Also, as mentioned, bearings were EXPENSIVE. A 12 bearing set for a Frog was probably about $50. If you did stock racing, everyone and their Mom sold a stock motor with special tweaks. Tons of work to eek out a little more rpm with secret break-in processes ,different springs, brushes and snake oils. Completely bananas. Now you just buy a 17.5 and you're done.

  • Like 4

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...