Rise of the King!
Words: Paul Onorato
Photos: Walter Sidas
The Vaterra name is one that you will be seeing a lot of in RC. Horizon Hobby recently launched this “adventure driven” brand of ultra-cool, ready-to-run (RTR), scale-looking vehicles, each purposefully designed to be driven in the type of terrain native to its full-scale inspirations. To this end, each is equipped with a proven Spektrum 2.4GHz radio system, a powerful Dynamite motor system, waterproof electronics and a handy Dynamite battery charger.
There are seven Vaterra vehicles scheduled to be released this year, including three licensed reproductions of exotic sports coupes and muscle cars. Available right now are four off-road rides that run the gamut of rally cross, sand rails and rock racers. These vehicles are not only pulling newcomers into our awesome hobby, but once we got a look at the Vaterra vehicle lineup, many of us also started adding these hot new rides to our must-have lists.
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Vaterra
WHO IT’S FOR: Beginners to advanced off-road fanatics
HOW MUCH: $399.99
BUILD TYPE: RTR
• Cool off-road scale appearance
• Top-quality Spektrum and Dynamite electronics which are also waterproof
• Remote controlled, shift-on-the-fly two-speed transmission
• Independent front suspension with solid live axle in the rear
• Includes everything you need to get rolling
• Access to the inside of the chassis is a hassle
• Battery is difficult to plug and unplug
• Tires wobble
The performance of the Vaterra Twin Hammers surprised me. I was not expecting a lot since it was spec’d with a brushed motor, but the Dynamite power plant, coupled with the two-speed transmission, creates good acceleration and plenty of speed to sustain the fun factor. The Spektrum three-channel radio system worked well and shifted the tranny effortlessly as long as input was given on the throttle. The independent cantilever front suspension with four-link, trailing arm rear and aluminum, oil-filled shocks does an awesome job of tackling rough off-road terrain and running at high speeds on the flat. It also excels at sending the rock racer airborne. This is a wicked-fun truck.
• Like the other Vaterra vehicles, the Twin Hammers rock racer comes equipped with a Spektrum 2.4GHz radio system except the 3-channel DX3E is utilized so the shift-on-the-fly transmission can be controlled remotely by the push-button on the rear of the transmitter. A Vaterra 625WP metal gear servo handles the steering duties and a Vaterra mini 903WP servo takes care of shifting the tranny. The “WP” in their names let you know they are waterproof.
• A Dynamite LiPo Tazer 12T waterproof speed control relays the juice from the included Dynamite 2S 7.4V 2000mAh LiPo battery pack to the Dynamite 15-turn brushed motor. A cooling fan is integrated into the motor to help keep operating temps in check. The Tazer speed control is programmable through the Spektrum DX3E transmitter and offers three driving modes to choose from. These include Forward/Reverse, Forward-only and Crawler mode. In the Forward/Reverse mode, which is set at the factory, there is a delay in the throttle input when switching between forward and reverse and vice versa. This delay adds a line of defense to help protect the drivetrain from damage. The Crawler mode offers instant reverse from forward and is designed to be used strictly under rock crawling speeds. Unfortunately, there is no drag brake feature in the Crawler mode. This would come in handy to hold the vehicle in place when on steep inclines, but hey, this is a rock racer, not a crawler.
• The Dynamite 1.8 amp AC LiPo quick charger is a welcome addition to an RTR. It can fully juice the LiPo battery pack in about an hour instead of several hours like you find with the wall chargers included in other brands’ kits. The charger will be hot at the end of the charge cycle and this is typical. The LiPo battery pack is securely held on a tray that sits over the 4-link. Connecting the battery to the speed control is a bit of a pain because the leads are not long enough and the space is pretty tight to work in.
• The full roll cage, light buckets and cockpit are just some of the features that make the Twin Hammers realistic looking. The Race Claws 1.9 tires, wrapped around true beadlock, split-spoke wheels, are in the style of rollers you would find on full-scale rock racers. So is the trailing arm, 4-link suspension with solid rear axle and independent cantilever front suspension. Located on the back of the chassis is a functional spare tire and beadlock wheel that can be used as a backup, but it looks a bit odd to me because it is mounted too far back. Its location will affect high-speed handling since this relatively heavy spare is mounted high and so far back. It also comes into contact with the ground on steep climbs. The simple fix: remove the spare.
• A cool cantilever front independent suspension setup is used on the Twin Hammers and tucks the twin aluminum, oil-filled shocks up and out of harm’s way. Inside the front gearbox is a robust bevel-gear differential that gives the rock racer smooth and relatively tight steering response, but an open diff like this will limit its ability when trying to slowly climb obstacles. The gear diff will unload all of the power sent to the front end and direct it to the tire without traction, causing the other to sit still and stop forward progress. If you attack obstacles like a rock racer with some speed, the Twin Hammers has the horsepower to muscle its way up the obstcle. If you want to lock the front diff, Vaterra offers an optional diff locker (item no. VTR332000).
• Found at the rear of the chassis are extra long aluminum, oil-filled shocks with a 4-link mated to a solid rear axle. The axle is designed with a tiny pumpkin that improves ground clearance and a locked diff spins inside. Resting above the 4-link is the battery tray which is integrated into the chassis.
• The concept behind a rock racer is to be able to speed across the desert and also have the capability to climb over difficult off-road obstacles like rocks. As the name implies, rock racers don’t crawl over the rocks, but rather power over them. For the Twin Hammers to earn the rock racer title and offer this type of versatility, the crew at Vaterra gave the Twin Hammers a remote controlled, shift-on-the-fly, heavy-duty, 2-speed transmission where the low gear is perfect for tackling harsh rock outcroppings and the high gear gives it the speed necessary to cover open terrain quickly. As soon as you get your Twin Hammers rock racer, make sure you check that that the endpoints are set properly for the mini shifting servo. If this adjustment is off, it will cause unnecessary loads onto the servo and vastly reduce its lifespan. It is also crucial that the 2-speed tranny is only shifted when the throttle is applied. This allows for the gears to smoothly change and ensure the cogs are lined up.
• Nothing additional needed
BEHIND THE WHEEL
I found the Twin Hammers to have relatively neutral steering on the surfaces I tested it on, also taking into consideration that this is a truck built to be versatile enough to run at high speeds on the flat and then instantly be ready to tackle the rocks.
ACCELERATION: VERY GOOD
The Dynamite Tazer speed control, Dynamite 15-turn brushed motor and the 2-speed tranny give the truck gobs of acceleration off the line. On high traction surfaces, the front left wheel will lift off the ground when the trigger is clamped. If you notice the acceleration starting to drop off over time, the tranny is equipped with a dual pad slipper clutch which is adjustable to restore acceleration. The Tazer speed control is only rated to handle up to a 2S LiPo battery or 8.4 volts, so you can’t increase its performance with a 3S LiPo unless you do an electronics swap. You can give the Twin Hammers a much longer runtime by picking up the optional 2S 4000mAh LiPo battery pack (item no. DYN5306EC)’
The brakes on the Twin Hammers are excellent and can bring the rock racer from full speed to a complete stop within a truck’s length in the low speed gear and in two trucks’ lengths when in the high speed gear. We subjected the Twin Hammers to some hard running up and down a long, open section in the dirt, including numerous high-speed runs with hard braking at the end of each one, and it showed no signs of fading.
SUSPENSION: VERY GOOD
I am impressed with the suspension setup of the Twin Hammers. The independent front end and 4-link with solid rear axle work well together to conquer all types of off-roading. At high-speed on flat areas, the suspension kept the truck in control even when steering corrections were necessary. Where the Twin Hammers shines is on the rough rocky stuff. The front tires easily work their way over the rocks and the rear axle offers the ground clearance to keep the truck from getting hung up. It actually looks very cool to watch the suspension do its magic over very bumpy terrain.
JUMPING: VERY GOOD
Since the suspension setup is right on point, it only made sense that the Twin Hammers would jump without issue—and it did. It can launch off of jumps and stay level through the air until the aluminum shocks soak up the landings with ease and the truck stays planted with no bounces. For the driver, it is pretty much effortless to perform a good jump.
DURABILITY: VERY GOOD
The Twin Hammers has to face all types of terrain as a rock racer, so we threw it into as many different types of terrain as possible and it made it through in flying colors. The only breakage we encountered was with one of the clamping preload shock collars. It seems that there is not enough material around where the head of the clamping bolt passes and that is where the collar split. This could very well have been a fluke because the other three did not fail during the rest of our testing. When we examined the chassis for breakage or unusual wear, we quickly discovered that although the full roll cage looks trick and protects the Twin Hammers from damage, it is a pain to remove when you need access to the chassis. To get the roll cage off, twelve screws need to be removed—this is the price of scale cool looks.
IMPORTANT SETUP TIPS
These are some important setup tips that you need to know before you drive the Vaterra Twin Hammers for the first time. In the first batch of Twin Hammers that were released, the instruction manual was missing some of the following information and Horizon Hobby has told us that the manual is now being corrected to include these items.• Always shift the 2-speed tranny when the truck is at speed or give the throttle a blip while shifting. This will ensure that the cogs in the tranny will properly align and it will avoid binding the servo. Otherwise, the servo might heat up and wear out sooner than it should.
• Check the endpoint adjustment for the shifting servo. The tranny should shift between high and low gears and the servo should not make any noise once it has been shifted. You should also be able to twist the linkage back and forth. If not, change the endpoints until it moves freely. You should also make a habit of checking the endpoint adjustment because as the truck starts to slowly wear, the setting can change.
• Check the battery chemistry setting on the speed control. The Dynamite Tazer 12T speed control comes from the factory set to the LiPo battery setting, but it is a good idea to double check this. In LiPo mode, the speed control has a low-voltage cutoff to protect the LiPo battery pack from being discharged too much. If your truck is in the NiMH mode by mistake, there is no LiPo cutoff and you run the risk of permanently damaging the included battery pack.
• The Dynamite Tazer 12T speed control offers three driving modes to select from, but unfortunately, the early instruction manual omitted how to make this adjustment. If you have one of these early manuals, you can go online to horizonhobby.com and download the specific instruction manual for Tazer 12T.
• Some of the tires on our sample truck wobbled from side to side when at speed. Check to make sure the tires are properly seated in the beadlock wheel. The tires are tall and soft for exceptional traction. The wobble is probably the downside of that.
THE LAST WORD
I have to hand it to Horizon Hobby with the Vaterra Twin Hammers 4WD RTR rock racer because they have another winner on their hands. The unique combination of features, like the independent cantilever front suspension, 4-link rear with solid axle and shift-on-the-fly, 2-speed tranny, along with high-quality Spektrum and Dynamite waterproof electronics, scale details and impressive performance and durability make this off-roader hard to beat. The couple of gripes I had are not a big deal when compared to all the great things that the Twin Hammers brings to the table and the tweaks being made to the manual will definitely help owners get the most out of the truck. The crew at Horizon Hobby was clearly able to reintroduce the fun aspect into this hobby where the focus normally seems to be on competition. The Twin Hammers is definitely about getting out there and having the time of your life. Now I can’t wait to try out the rest of the Vaterra line-up of vehicles.