Don’t Call It A Come-Back – Tamiya, Leaders in the Re-Release Game
Call it old-school, call it retro, call it a flashback, but whatever you happen to call it, vintage (what I like to call it) radio-controlled cars are very cool and always seem to be in demand. Several manufacturers have turned to re-releasing some of their most popular vehicles, making what was once old new again and creating a frenzy among collectors. Tamiya, with one of the largest catalogs of cool radio-controlled vehicles ever, is perhaps the leader in giving enthusiasts what they want by bringing back several of their most popular vehicles. They currently have 5 re-release kits readily available that were beyond popular in the 1980s when they first hit the shelves. Read on to learn a little r/c history and see how each has changed for their second coming.
Making a splash back in 1983, the same year that Hulk Hogan first became WWF, I mean WWE champion, the Frog quickly reached legendary status for Tamiya. One of the first vehicles from Tamiya to feature a wildlife inspired name, the Frog has a unique ABS plastic space frame/chassis and fully independent suspension that features rear trailering arms paired with coil-over oil-filled shocks and inboard spring type independent front suspension. The successful Frog design was used on a few other vehicles including the Blackfoot and Monster Beatle. The re-release of the Frog offers a TEU-101BK electronic speed control, updated rear shocks based on the successful TRF (Tamiya Racing Factory) design and dogbone type rear shrive shafts that take the place of the hex driveshafts that tended to wear out. Classic features like the body, spiked rear and ribbed front tries mounted on 3-piece wheels and gear differential remain relatively unchanged.
Hopping around tracks from coast to coast in 1984 when Ghostbusters was on the silver screen, the Tamiya Grasshopper was a very popular due in part to its simple design and low price point. It came standard with a 380-sized motor at a time when nearly all other vehicles used a 540-motor. This helped keep the cost down and made the speed ideal for beginners. Just like back then, it still features a hard-plastic body, bathtub resin monocoque chassis, side bumpers/nerf bars, solid rear axle, swing axle front suspension, and friction shocks. Tamiya has done away with the 3-step mechanical speed control on favor of a TEU-101BK esc.
Also buzzing around hobby shops in 1984 was the Tamiya Hornet. The Hornet has a lightweight Lexan/polycarbonate body that can be custom painted, bathtub resin monocoque chassis like the Grasshopper, and a 540-sized motor for good power. The solid rear axle is complimented by a pair of coil-over oil filled shocks while the front offers swing axle suspension with friction shocks. The re-release is nearly a clone of the original except Tamiya has included a TEU-101BK esc just like that have done with other re-releases.
In 1987 The Legend of Zelda video game was a huge hit for Nintendo and the 1:12 scale Midnight Pumpkin truck was a flying off hobby shop shelves for Tamiya. It offers a lightweight tub style chassis, solid rear axle similar to the Grasshopper and Hornet and swing arm front suspension and utilized friction type shocks. With oversized tires, the performance of the Midnight Pumpkin mimics that of full scale monster trucks. Topped off with a 1950s style pick-up truck body, the original Midnight Pumpkin came in black while the newest re-release comes with a black metallic body and silver-plated wheels. A 101BK electronic speed control and 540 motor are standard features now too.
First hitting hobby shop shelves way-back in 1985, when songs like Money for Nothing by Dire Straits were dominating the airwaves, the Hotshot was the first 4wd off road buggy from Tamiya. Highly sought after today as a re-release just like back then, the Hotshot has some very unique features like mono shocks on the front and rear ends (yes, that means only 2 shocks for all 4 wheels) to smooth out the fully independent double wishbone suspension. This re-release has a number of updates to improve performance and durability all without taking away from the spirit of the original machine. The three-step mechanical speed control has been replaced by an electronic speed control, simple dogbone type driveshafts are now used at all four wheels as well as at the center driveshaft are just a few of these subtle improvements.
Over the years Tamiya has released many more kits that the 5 that are currently available and we sure hope that there are more still to come! Do you have a favorite kit that you really wish Tamiya would bring back? Leave a comment to let us know. Our pick here at R/C Driver is the “Born To Be Wild” Falcon!