Luxury racer for the masses!
This article was originally published in RC Driver’s September 2015 issue.
David Harrington Photos Walter Sidas
When I got into this hobby many years ago Serpent only made 1/8- scale nitro on-road RCs. From what I remember these were the fastest, most precisely tuned RCs out there and Serpent was considered the best. Just a few years ago they made the jump into the 1/8-scale nitro off-road market. With a long standing reputation of quality and handling, they had to do it right, and they did. I have a couple of friends that own these cars, and they feel they have something extra special. Shortly after Serpent made the jump to the 1/10-scale racer market, once again producing high-end RCs that racers are proud to own. Now Serpent is offering the Spyder series of 1/10-scale Ready-to-Race vehicles. I am a skeptic by nature and two things raise red flags for me. For one, seeing the “sport” designation behind the Serpent name seems like an oxymoron. Secondly very few RCs have been truly “Ready to Race”. Can Serpent really maintain the same level of quality while hitting a price point competitive with the market, and have it be truly ready to race? It’s my job to find out, you just need to read on to find out for yourself, but here’s a spoiler. Initial impressions are looking really good for the Spyder SC!
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Serpent
WHO IT’S FOR: Beginner- Intermediate Racer
PART NUMBER: 500005
HOW MUCH: $389
BUILD TYPE: RTR
• Strong spring steel used throughout
• Waterproof electronics
• Superb handling
• Strong metal gear servo
• Excellent quality fit and finish
• Ridiculous amount of hop-up potential
• Slipper not included which adds to the overage cost to add this important tuning item.
• Shocks leaked. Not a huge issue to fix, but I expected better.
I was skeptical of how well it would handle with no slipper, but just a few moments on the track silenced that doubt. I felt the handling was superb for an out-of-box setup, but I would like a slipper included. I was also skeptical of the quality with the “sport” designation, but the plastic felt good, and spring steel is used throughout. It just felt like a solid car, and any doubts about quality were quickly put to rest. I think it is plenty for the first-time racer, and with some hop-ups could grow into a top notch racer anyone would be envious of.
TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES INCLUDED
• A high quality battery
• LRP 4500mAh 55C 2S “shorty” pack, 430227, $89
ADDITIONAL ITEMS USED
• Racers Edge EZ80 charger, RCESC 1700, $74.99
HOP-UPS WE RECOMMEND
• Slipper Spring SER 500159, $5, needed to complete slipper
• Aluminum slipper plate (3) SER500157, $22.99, needed to complete slipper
• Slipper Pads (yellow), SER 500158, $14.99, needed to complete slipper
• The chassis is very similar to what you see on many 2WD short course trucks, but it is very narrow. Extra parts are kept to a minimum which makes for an overall very light chassis. There is just enough rough on the side for the smaller included ESC, but if you have a larger ESC there is plenty of room behind the battery. That would actually improve the balance. The battery is held in place by a plate that is clamped down with four thumb screws, so battery changes might take a second longer, but that battery isn’t going anywhere! The servo is open and easy to access for quick repairs in the pits. The plastic used is very rigid for responsive handling, but should have just enough flex to be very durable. Softer, more flexible material is used for the bumpers and body mounts.
• The wide arm suspension is the same suspension used on the high end SRX2 SC RM racer, and the handling from the suspension is superb. The lower arms use the same stiff material as the chassis. The upper links are turnbuckles to make camber adjustments quick and easy, and the use of spring steel makes them less likely to bend. The shocks are the same design as the racer shocks, with aluminum threaded bodies and conical pistons, but the caps and adjustment collar have been replaced with plastic versions. While the shocks are very smooth and plush, they do have a problem holding oil. They are leaking from the O-rings which should hopefully be an easy fix, but I expected better.
• Serpent’s high quality spring steel is used throughout the driveline. This means it should prove to be extremely durable; so durable, Serpent didn’t feel the need to include a slipper clutch to protect it. While the driveline should be more than durable enough to handle the power, a slipper clutch is an important tuning aid that I feel should be included on a ready-to-race RC. I can see why they did it that way though, rather than compromise quality elsewhere they just left it up to you if you felt it was necessary. A lot of the 17.5 stock class racers strip the slipper off to save rotational mass. The ball diff included in the race version has been replaced by a gear diff that can be tuned with fluids. It is super smooth and the fluid that it comes filled with feels just right. Bearings with orange rubber seals are used throughout and appear to be of very high quality, as the driveline is very smooth and quiet and the front wheels spin endlessly.
• The VPPro tires are a mini block tread pattern that is very similar to what has been working at our track lately. I would have guessed the compound would be a medium compound. The tires have white dots on them and after looking up VPPro’s color coding it would appear these are their medium soft compound. Pretty nice tires for an RTR, and they actually worked really well on our track.
• The included steering servo is waterproof and has metal gears. It is plenty powerful, and is actually fairly fast for a high torque RTR servo. I was very impressed with the servo. The radio was another surprise for me. It may not look too fancy at first, but it actually has a 15 model memory, a backlit digital LED display, a scroll wheel to make navigating its numerous features easy, and numerous parameters that can be adjusted. Besides your usual endpoints and reversing, there is also mixing, ABS and several other advanced features. This is quite a bit more radio than I would have expected.
• The 45-amp ESC and 3550Kv motor are right on track to what’s included with most ready to race RCs, but honestly I felt they were lacking a just a bit in comparison to similar RTR systems. Don’t get me wrong, it is plenty fast for the first-time racer but I think it needs just a little more oomph to be truly competitive. The ESC is waterproof, so that is a bonus, and with the optional program card the punch can be turned up so that may help.
ON THE TRACK
This is a car that I wanted to save for the track, so I had a couple of days to look it over before I got to drive it. When I finally got to the track with it, everyone was excited to check it out. I have to say the Serpent name really does carry a certain amount of weight. The tires have a similar tread pattern to what has been working at our track, but they are just slightly harder, so I was curious how they would work and they actually did really well. I ran later in the night when the track was starting to dry out and others were struggling for traction, but it felt hooked-up. I did notice right off the bat the power system seemed to have a weird drop of mid-band power, right in that range you use on the track. You have to wonder, if it had a little more jerk when you got in the throttle, would it still be hooked up? After coming around a 180-degree turn the next obstacle was the five pack of jumps. The strategy here is to come into this section conservatively, take the first double, catching the downside of the second jump, and then quickly get in to take the last triple. While I can do it, I was admittedly struggling with it on this night, usually doing a double-double-single. With the Spyder I nailed it on first try. It seemed light, like it sort of popped off the jumps, and it had just enough juice to easily clear the jumps. Coming around the next corner are a set of moguls and potholes meant to slow you down, but the Spyder blasted straight through with the chassis remaining level throughout. Halfway down the mini straight is a jump with quite a bit of kick-up, meant to throw you off your intended course. I hit this jump on power several times and the Spyder would come off it slightly nose high but wasn’t getting kicked up as much as the other SC trucks. Its jumping habits are very neutral and easy to control, but again you have to wonder if a stronger power system would have kicked it up more. The long straight swallowed it up. Top speed really seemed lacking here, but it is a larger than average track. Heading into the large banked corner, it really carried its speed. The track was starting to get loose and other cars were struggling for traction, and while the rear end was breaking free on me, it was easy to reel it back in. Overall I was extremely impressed with the handling, but would have liked just a little more from the power package. Runtimes were a bit short, but at somewhere in the 10-minute range, they are plenty long enough to finish the race. It spent most of the time on the wheels, so I didn’t get a real good durability check, but I did clip some pipes, and tumble it a couple times, and I think it’s more than durable enough to survive minor mishaps on the track.
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SPECS AND TUNING OPTIONS
LENGTH: 21.25 in. (540mm)
WIDTH: 11.61 in. (295mm)
WHEELBASE: 13 in. (330mm)
WEIGHT: 4.52 lbs. (2400g)
BODY, WHEELS AND TIRES
BODY: Pre-painted SC Truck
WHEELS: Zero offset standard SC
WHEEL ADAPTER TYPE: 12mm hex
TIRES: Medium soft compound mini block
TYPE: 4-wheel independent
SHOCK POSITIONS: (F) 4-tower, 2-arm, (R) 4-tower, 2-arm
CAMBER: Adjustable turnbuckles
ROLL: 2 holes inside w/vertical ball, 2 holes at hub
RIDE HEIGHT: Adjustable collars MISC: Battery position
TYPE: Dual bellcrank
TOE: Adjustable turnbuckles
DIFFERENTIAL: 4-gear fluid filled
GEAR RATIO: Optional pinion gears
BEARINGS: Full set of rubber shielded
CLUTCH TYPE: N/A
Performance – Acceleration: 6
Performance – Steering: 9
Performance – Handling: 10
Performance – Durability: 10
Feature Breakdown: 8
Overall Value: 8
THE LAST WORD
As an overall package this is a great RC to hit the tracks with. The impressive handling should make it easy for the first time racer to learn the track. I would have liked more power, but I think the power system is plenty adequate to learn on, and nobody sticks with the stock system anyways. I am afraid my minor nitpicks might give the wrong impression; nearly all RCs tend to have minor issues. When you hold it in your hands, you can feel it is a really solid, precise RC. If you put some time into this car, you’ll end up with a really high quality RC. With Serpent’s hop-ups and some cash you could take this all the way to the highest level that anybody would be envious of.