Getting Started

An introduction to Radio Control Model Cars

Most people at some time or other have owned or driven a radio controlled (R/C) vehicle be it either a car, buggy or truck powered by either a small battery powered electric motor or nitro fuel powered engine. The growth of popularity over the last few years has attracted a wider range of products from existing manufactures as well as new ones.

Types of Radio controlled vehicle

Radio controlled vehicles are generally available in two forms. The first can be classified as toys for younger children. These typically are electric powered using either disposal or rechargeable batteries and are usually purchased from toy retailers, rather than hobby stores, completely assembled and ready to go. Unfortunately in this market it is usual not to have any performance upgrades available or spares/servicing back up, which in the event of an accident or parts failure the product cannot be repaired. Despite these disadvantages it gives children the feel of the hobby and parents a low cost entry level to assess the true interest level before moving to the “hobby” part of the market. 

Moving to the hobby market this has quickly developed over recent years from predominately electric powered vehicles to one where nitro or sometimes known as petrol powered models have taken over in popularity. It should be noted that the nitro fuel is a premixed oil/fuel combination only available from hobby stores. Once opened it should be used or disposed of after 3 months during which time it should be stored in a suitable location.

Nitro Powered

The nitro powered market has helped grow demand for R/C vehicles substantially, offering speeds some 3 to 5 times greater than electric counterparts without the need for battery charging. Adults who used to consider electric vehicles as only “upmarket toys” are now keen participants in the hobby. This has lead manufacturers to concentrate heavily of these products, whilst at the same time offering many after market cosmetic and performance extras to satisfy this “big boy’s toy” market. Given the leisure nature of the market manufacturers have largely developed “ready to run” (RTR) products which usually include the assembled kit with painted body and radio equipment installed, usually only needing fuel and glo starter to be purchased separately. This has caused complaints from traditional hobby customers who prefer to assemble from kit form as well as some dissatisfaction from “leisure” customers who experience problems by failing to fully read instructions before use.

Electric Powered

Moving back to the electric market the most popular area is 1/10 scale “on road” four-wheel drive touring or scale saloon cars for use on smooth hard surfaces. Products are available from a number of manufacturers, all conforming to common wheelbase and width dimensions allowing a wide range of bodies to be fitted. These are usually supplied clear and can be painted, using a flexible paint on the inside to prevent scratching and cracking, to suit personal tastes. It is common for these cars to be supplied in kit form and different specifications are available to meet financial needs and/or competitive requirements.

Petrol Powered

Petrol RC cars are powered by a 2-stroke engine running on standard unleaded petrol from any petrol station, mixed with 2-stroke engine oil. The running cost of these engines is extremely low when compared to any normal nitromethane-powered glow engines. Typically petrol vehicles are 1/5th or 1/6th scale with 23cc or 26cc engines.
Models come in many forms including two wheel and four wheel drive off road, and on road vehicles. The HPI Baja 5B and Hurrax Crypton are typical of off-road petrol vehicles.