Monster Truck Mayhem!
Words: Mark Ronge
Photos: Walter Sidas
It’s no surprise that as the electric side of our hobby gains popularity and becomes more powerful and faster, we are seeing larger and more exciting models available for reasonable prices. A couple of years ago if you wanted a large electric monster truck, you had to basically custom convert a nitro truck. These setups were mega expensive and quite frankly, unreliable. Over the years we have seen some big name RC companies release electric monster trucks that are fantastic in their own right, but still on the pricey side. HobbyKing has stepped up to the plate big time with their recent release of a fully equipped RTR electric monster truck. Not only is this truck geared for all-out performance, it has the scale looks to boot since it is modeled after the famous full-scale Nitro Circus truck. Check out the specs on this model and you will be impressed with everything it has to offer at a jaw-dropping price.
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Basher/HobbyKing
WHO IT’S FOR: Intermediateto Advanced Drivers
PART NO.: 9249000373
HOW MUCH: $299.99
BUILD TYPE: RTR
• Thick 3.5mm aluminum plate chassis
• Powerful brushless setup
• 1/8-scale steel center diff transmits power well
• Sway bars allow for a better handling monster truck
• Efficient electronic placement allows for two 3-cell LiPos
• Scale Nitro Circus body complete with LEDs
• Attractive price
• Toy-like transmitter
• Shocks leaked over time
The Basher Nitro Circus has the foundation to be one of the most potent monster trucks on the market. It needs a few tweaks, but thankfully the truck offers tuning options like no other monster truck out there and it includes many features that are only options on competitors’ products. The scale looks and high-end performance should put a smile on anyone’s face and the price only makes the whole truck even better.
• The chassis reminds me of a 1/8-scale truggy, and that’s a good thing. The layout is super simple with the batteries in the back and the remainder of the electronics up front. Because the ground clearance is so high, the drive shafts are placed under the chassis with the necessary bracing/protection. The skid plates attach to pieces of the same 3.5mm thick aluminum and are designed to take the brunt of most impacts and protect the drivetrain components. Because there is so much room for batteries two 4-cell LiPos can be used in parallel for ultra-long run times, but 2-cell LiPos will suffice and allow for a lighter setup.
• The suspension setup is a standard four wheel independent setup with one beefy shock per wheel, nothing fancy here. In this case the simpler the better as I have seen some wacky monster truck setups, and in my opinion more parts equals more parts to break. It uses standard 1/8-scale equipment, large aluminum threaded shocks with 3.5mm shafts that would be hard to bend in any crash. It should be noted that I did have one of them leak after a few uses, but a quick rebuild will prevent any future problems. Going along with the truggy-like setup, the Nitro Circus features front and rear sway bars which help cut down on rollovers even with such high ground clearance.
• Because the truck is set up similar to truggies and other racers it offers excellent steering, something that monster trucks don’t generally feature. The dual bellcrank system features a very accessible servo saver making adjustments easy. The toe angle can be adjusted via steel turnbuckles and it comes set from the factory with a fair amount of toe-out dialed in. This offers even more steering and makes the Nitro Circus a pleasure to drive.
• The Nitro Circus was built tough to handle the brutal acceleration of brushless power. All three differentials contain steel gears and can be tuned individually with various oils. It is rare to see a monster truck include a center diff, usually this is optional equipment if offered at all on monster trucks. In monster trucks the center diff allows for fine tuning of wheelies and is almost a requirement with brushless power, otherwise the front wheels would never touch the ground. Steel dogbones connect the center diff to the front and rear diffs. Four CVDS power the 17mm hex adapters which transmit power more efficiently and result in fewer lost dogbones than most other similar models are equipped with.
• The RTR version of this truck includes everything other than the batteries to get you up and running. An 80 amp brushless speed control may seem a little low for a truck of this size, but remained cool and ran perfectly during all of our testing. The motor is a large 2075Kv inrunner which happens to be the perfect balance of available torque and high-end rpms. It’s a very quick setup and feels fast on 4-cell LiPo power. The servo does the job; it is a typical RTR setup and can turn the large wheels well enough. The main gripe I have with the included RTR equipment is the radio setup. The 2.4GHz radio and compact receiver functioned well, but the design left us scratching our heads. It looks similar to a toy gun (even the batteries load like a “clip”), and it just doesn’t feel right in my hands. I would recommend swapping out the transmitter as soon as possible, but it will work until then.
• The body set is definitely an attractive feature of this monster truck. Just as the name implies, the Nitro Circus is modeled after the full scale version you may have seen on TV or at monster truck shows. What is really cool is the added light bar above the cab, complete with functioning LEDs (which are quite bright). There is also a faux upper intake to add to the scale realism of the body shell. Everything is rounded out with some huge chevron-style tires mounted on 17mm hex wheels.
TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES INCLUDED
• Wheel wrench
• Bind plug for receiver
• Charger for LiPo battery pack
• 4 “AA” batteries for transmitter
• 2 x 2S 5000mAh packs (series) or 2X large capacity 4S packs
• HobbyKing HKC6 50watt 5A X-Charger/Balancer (HKXCharger)
The HobbyKing HKC6 charger is quite possibly the most affordable multi-function charger on the market. At a price point under 20 dollars, the HKC6 can charge up to 6-cell LiPos and a variety of other battery types as well. It offers all the features commonly found on expensive chargers and all of the telemetry you would need to care for your expensive batteries. I used the charger to monitor the Turnigy packs that were used in this review to make sure the packs remained balanced. This is very important in larger electrics.
• (2X) Turnigy 5000mAh 2S1P 20C hardcase pack (T5000.2S.20HC)
The Turnigy 5000 mAh 2-cell packs are the perfect balance of performance versus price. The packs are ROAR approved, so they can be used at virtually any track you intend on racing at ever. For under 20 bucks a pop, these 20C packs offer enough punch for the Nitro Circus. They are super light and have a strong durable case to protect the cells.
HOP-UPS WE RECOMMEND
• Turnigy 3XS FHSS 2.4GHz 3-Channel Radio System, 9255000008
The stock radio system wasn’t working for me and this Turnigy 3-channel setup is the perfect affordable replacement.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
After plugging in the Nitro Circus I was greeted with the sound of two decent sized fans powering up and a few beeps to let me know I was ready. The LEDs powered up and looked menacing even in the daylight. I set the truck down and decided to go all or nothing and test the acceleration right away. The truck’s tires struggle to gain grip, and the center differential did a fantastic job of keeping the front end on the ground. You can sense my disappointment when the truck got about 40 feet away and everything cut out. I rebooted everything and noticed similar results. When the truck got to any range it would shut down and I would have to wait a while for the truck to move again. I figured it was the radio system so I swapped out the stock RTR set for one of my own.
Once I got my radio issues sorted, I was able to test out the truck and give it a good beating. I first tested the truck out on the road to get a sense of the speed. Because of the massive tires and weight of the truck I would estimate the top speed around the 35 mph mark, but the acceleration is super impressive. Don’t be fooled by the speed, the model is huge and feels like it is super quick. You can just hear those giant tires spinning down the pavement struggling to gain traction as the differentials help the truck remain planted. One thing I noticed right away is that the camber angles were well off on all four wheels (it has some crazy positive camber out of the box), and I was interested to see if this would adversely affect the handling of the truck in an off-road situation.
I brought the Nitro Circus to a favorite bashing spot with plenty of loose gravel and slippery surfaces to see how the truck’s traction would fare. I noted that at any speed the truck did not want to turn and it was behaving almost like a 2WD truck. Aside from the camber angles, I felt the front of the truck was raised too high as well, since the nose would shoot upward towards the air under any speed, not giving the front wheels any weight to do their job. After about five minutes of bashing around, the lack of steering was really starting to bug me, but I was confident a few tweaks could remedy this. I took the truck back and gave all four wheels some slight negative cambers along with lowering the front end. I almost had to totally loosen the shock collar to get the truck to sit at an adequate ride height. I also noticed the front shocks were leaking somewhat, so I refilled them with fresh oil and was off to testing again.
All I can say is, WOW! What a difference a few small tweaks could make to the handling characteristics of the truck. This thing straight up rocks when set up properly. All of a sudden the truck could turn at speed, and it looks and feels pretty darn nimble for a giant monster truck. It was starting to feel more like a jacked up truggy which made the driving experience more enjoyable. On loose surfaces the truck does not want to flip at all and it has a respectable turn radius. I was carving corners in no time and flying around at maximum speed thanks to the excellent handling of the truck. The front and rear sway bars definitely contributed to the successful test run and even if the truck was starting to roll over it was easy to correct. The reason I am stressing how great the truck turned out is that anyone who has driven larger scale monster trucks knows how much of a headache they can be with constant rollovers, and the Nitro Circus does not seem to have this problem after the suspension is set up properly. Jumping was predictable. It did tend to nose dive a bit if the throttle was released too early, but the large tires make it easy to correct with a slight throttle blip.
SPECS & TUNING OPTIONS
LENGTH: 22.7 in. (577mm)
WIDTH: 18.9 in. (480mm)
WHEELBASE: 15.1 in. (383mm)
WEIGHT: 11.8 lbs. (5352.4g)
BODY, WHEELS AND TIRES
BODY: Pre-painted and cut Nitro Circus replica + light bar
WHEELS: Chrome plated monster truck
TYPE: 17mm hex
TIRES: Chevron style monster truck
TYPE: 4-wheel independent
SHOCK POSITIONS: (F) 3-tower, 3-arm, (R) 3-tower, 3-arm
CAMBER: Adjustable turnbuckles
ROLL: Adjustable ball heights
RIDE HEIGHT: Aluminum threaded shocks
TYPE: Dual bellcrank
TOE: Adjustable turnbuckles
TRANSMISSION: Center diff
DIFFERENTIAL: Gear differential
CLUTCH TYPE: NA
GEAR RATIO: Optional pinion gears
BEARINGS: Full set of shielded
Out of the box, the Basher Nitro Circus needs a few tweaks to get the truck running at its full potential. After a transmitter swap and suspension adjustments, the monster truck was running all out like the full scale version. Because the Nitro Circus allows for all of these adjustments the model is not the best choice for a beginner. With that said, the experienced can dial in the truck and will be rewarded with one of the best handling monster trucks in its class. The Nitro Circus is a fantastic truck and the price makes all of the minor annoyances worthwhile.