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TycoLover

Return of the Turbo Hopper

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Around Christmas time, my Wife let it be known that she'd rather see our two boys spend their time messing with RC cars than playing video games, and I was duly authorized to spend "some money" to facilitate this.  I'm thrilled, but I'm also not sure if she and I have the same idea of what constitutes "some money."

We've bought them a couple of 1/18th scale ECX cars to get started, and then a Traxxas Bandit.  We've been having fun tinkering, and it got me thinking about the Tyco Turbo Hopper that I'd received as a Christmas Present maybe in the 4th grade or so.  I ran that thing all around the back yard and street and house and basement.  A year or so later, my sister got the "heads up" version, which had a little driver that turned his head in the direction the wheels were turning.  She drove it a little, but wasn't as enchanted by it as I was with mine.

Maybe a year after that, the "Turbo" feature got the better of me as I was tearing around the driveway and I obliterated the front end of my car against the base of the chimney.  Devastated, I offered to buy my Sister's car for, I think, $30.  I ran that car around for the next hand full of years until, maybe around '95, the gears gave out.

I remember having a heck of a time getting the wheels off and the gearbox apart, only for the opportunity to examine the stripped gears with no way to replace them.  The major parts went in a box and I've been toting them around with me ever since...

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I remember a trip to the hobby shop with my broken original car, hoping for some repair parts.  The proprietor looked down his nose at my "toy" and advised that I should get a "real" RC car.  I was bummed, and this soured me on hobby shops for a while.  I did learn, though, that with these cars I was pretty much on my own.

Last week, after a bit of racing around in the street with my boys and their "real" cars, I pulled the carcass of the old Turbo Hopper out of  the box where it's been for a couple of decades.  From a purely economic standpoint it's junk.  I have the chassis, the fairly intact front end, and the housing for the gearbox.  The rear axle and wheels are long gone... I think they were destroyed in the effort to get them apart.

I faced a decision:  If this is really junk, then I should throw it in the trash and quit wasting precious storage space.  If it's not, then do something with it.  As I'm contemplating this, the boys come out and start asking questions.  "Cool, Dad, is this your old car?"  "Oh wow look at that neat old transmitter."  My mind was made up.

I go into this knowing full well that for less money I could just buy a way nicer car.  This is purely sentimental...

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The first order of business was to put the rear-end of the car back together.  I started at my local hobby shop with the shell of a rear end, looking for rod to be used as axle shafts, gears that might be approximately right, bearings, tires, etc.  They were, sadly, much more interested in looking up parts for current models.  I did pick up a set of 12mm wheel hexes, and some 4mm nuts as a starting point.  The rest I would need to order online or make.

Much of this work, by the way, was aided tremendously by this excellent write-up by @Live Steam Mad:

 

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Get some pics up of you progress . I modified an old Turbo Hopper to fit an ESC , modern servo and micro RX with a flat 7.2V pack in the bottom of the tub and a new stock motor . I fitted FAV front uprights as the plastic ones were gone . Not a bad little runner in the end .

PB280003.JPG

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My first Amazon order: 

  • 4mm stainless rod for Axle
  • 3mm stainless rod for shaft for intermediate gear
  • 4mm x 7mm bearings for axle

My plan was as follows:

  • 3D print something to retain the motor (original cap is lost).
  • Mount the axle bearings.
  • Cut the axle to length.
  • Cross drill the axle for 1.5mm pins (this would be tough).
  • Thread the axle for the 4mm nuts.
  • 3D print a set of gears (suspect PLA won't work well, but I may be able to do nylon).
  • Fix broken "shock" mount.
  • Modify to use ECX 1/18 shocks.

I wish I'd taken more photos along the way @KEV THE REV, but I'll post the ones I have.  I wasn't sure any of this would work until I was able to cross-drill the driveshaft.  That was the piece I was most nervous about.

Here's the retainer for the motor (step 1): 

 

20210111_133104.jpg

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Here's my first attempt at an intermediate gear out of PLA.  I just wanted to be sure I could get the gear mesh approximately right before I added the 2nd stage:

 

20210111_153952_crop.jpg

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I'd lost the rear springs and one side of the "shocks".  We'd recently upgraded a pair of shocks on one of the boys' ECX cars, so I robbed the old ones for the Turbo Hopper.  At this point I was confident that it would work, so I mocked it up with those shocks just sitting in their new home:

 

20210111_222147_crop.jpg

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Confident I could print gears that would work, at least for a short while, I mocked up the 2nd stage:

 

20210112_090347_resize.jpg

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And then printed the final PLA set.  I'd intended to print these again in Nylon, but for now the PLA set with some silicone grease seem to be doing okay.

 

20210112_111701_resize.jpg

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Finally, some new shock mounts (so I didn't have to further cut or drill on the chassis) with the ECX shocks mounted.  Also soldered in a new set of motor leads, charged up the most recent NiCad pack that I had and ran her around the garage a little, giggling like a little kid:

 

20210112_204528_resize.jpg

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@KEV THE REV, I read over your work on upgrading to hobby grade electronics, and it was a neat project well executed.  If I had a decent looking Turbo Hopper with faulty electronics I might do the same.  In my case, the radio and front end are really the only thing original.  The body is long gone (interested in some replacement or substitute).  The thing drives terribly, but is about what I remember.

From here, my to-do list:

  • Get some sort of body on there... I'm actually thinking a mini-scale baja buggy (VW Beetle) might look cool.
  • 3D print a front bumper.  The original broke off long ago.
  • Print a gear set in Nylon when the PLA ones inevitably fail.  It's also geared too high, partially owing to the silly tall wheels, so also:
  • Get some more reasonable rear wheels.

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So , you had a 'heads up' Hopper where the drivers head used to turn with the steering. The wheels on those were the same as the Harley Bandit and other models . Keep up the good work .

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My original car was a red standard "27" car with skinny wheels like the red one shown here: https://rctoymemories.com/2012/05/06/tyco-taiyo-turbo-hopper-1986/

It had a pistol-grip type transmitter, so I think maybe it wasn't the very first one, but if I were going to buy one as a collectible this would be the one I'd seek.

The car I have now, yes, was a "heads-up" model that I bought from my sister as a replacement for the one I broke.  I always hated the little head turning back and forth, and I think one of the first things I did was remove this and the associated linkage.  You can still see the groove for the little arm, and the pivot for the head in my pic though.

Interestingly, I haven't seen any of the "heads-up" models for sale on eBay.  Does this mean they're more or less collectible I wonder?

I think the little head, as well as the different tires, were constant reminders to me that this wasn't actually my original car...

Funny, that I mentioned to my wife that original examples of the Turbo Hopper can be had in reasonable condition for (only) around $200.  "Good Lord," she says, "They want $200 for that."  These little ECX cars are light years more capable and sell for about $100.

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The red 27 with skinny fronts is the one I converted. A lot of the Tyco and Taiyo cars are collectable now . Check out AmPro on you tube . Alberto ( TC member Pintopower ) has made lots of videos about Tyco and Taiyo car restores and conversions ,very interesting stuff

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Here's about what this one looked like back in the old days:  I'd forgotten that it was also missing the spare tire:

 

tyco-rc-turbo-hopper-heads-black_1_f91fff2de4aa77730c8cd52c10282cdc.jpg

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23 hours ago, TycoLover said:

I remember a trip to the hobby shop with my broken original car, hoping for some repair parts.  The proprietor looked down his nose at my "toy" and advised that I should get a "real" RC car.  I was bummed, and this soured me on hobby shops for a while.

This same scenario happened to me. Now I know why my Dad didn't like going to the shop and spending money. :D 

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21 hours ago, TycoLover said:

Here's about what this one looked like back in the old days:  I'd forgotten that it was also missing the spare tire:

 

tyco-rc-turbo-hopper-heads-black_1_f91fff2de4aa77730c8cd52c10282cdc.jpg

I nearly bought one of those about a year ago - quirky little chap isn't it

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32 minutes ago, RichieRich said:

looked down his nose at my "toy" and advised that I should get a "real" RC car.

Yep . When I got my first Tamiya Sand Scorcher . I tried to get an MSC for it as that was all that was missing - the guy in hobby shop said "bin it and get a modern car"  - bin a Scorcher ?!! .

I later got the part I needed and that was it for me - the rest is history  :)

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The gearbox seems to be working better than I expected.  It's started slipping, which I think is the spur gear slipping on the axle.  I just pressed it in as a "mock up" but it was tight enough that I've been running it around that way.  My plan has been to cross drill for another pin and then hold the gear against it with a collar.

Comically, the steering was going really out of whack at intervals when I was running it around with the kids last night.  I pulled the bottom plate off of the front end to be reminded of what I'd done so many years ago:

I had to laugh.  No wonder she was driving so terribly.  After thinking it over for a day, I decided to take a crack at printing up a replacement.  I can't see any very good way of repairing this arm.

20210114_200133.jpg

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So one thing I've learned about the distinction between "toy grade" stuff and "hobby grade" stuff, is that toys were never meant to be taken apart.  The kingpin is pressed in, so to move the wheel and spindle to the new arm, it needs to be pressed out.

20210115_080251_small.jpg

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I took some pics of the new part printing, but something went goofy with my phone.  Anyway, here's the new arm in it's new home.  There are a couple of weak spots in the print that could be improved, but it's a lot better than the nail-and-wire trick.

20210115_192636_resize.jpg

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By the way, not sure why some of my uploaded pictures are showing sideways.  They don't show like that on my computer and I don't see a way to correct the orientation in the post.

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7 hours ago, TycoLover said:

So one thing I've learned about the distinction between "toy grade" stuff and "hobby grade" stuff, is that toys were never meant to be taken apart.  The kingpin is pressed in, so to move the wheel and spindle to the new arm, it needs to be pressed out.

20210115_080251_small.jpg

I never tried it in mine , but you could possible use Tamiya / other , screw pins if the original knock out pin is 3mm dia. . They could then be unscrewed at any time - no vice injured in the process ;)

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