Thursday, May 30, 2024

Kumamon Battle!

Photos by Walter Sidas
This article was originally published in RC Driver’s October 2015 issue.

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-3So what do tomatoes, bowling pins and mud have to do with one another? Not a damn thing until now! We have your attention right? We can get pretty creative in the RC Driver offices and we’ve come up with a lot of wild project builds, but we wanted to do something that strayed far from the RC norm and that’s when we saw the Tamiya Kumamon DT02 buggy. This isn’t your standard buggy, it looks like a dune buggy but on a basic, fun, Tamiya off-road chassis and setting it way over the top is a Japanese icon, the Kumamon bear stuffed in behind the steering wheel. This got our creative wheels spinning like a wheel being blasted by an air compressor; you’ve done it, we know you have. That’s when it hit us; Editors’ Challenge!

Tamiya Buggy Kumamon Version DT-02- 58615. $98.99
Tactic TTX300 3-Channel SLT System– TACJ0300, $49.99
RC Gear Shop WinKing Standard Ball Bearing Servo– RGZM0101, $5.49
Duratrax Onyx NiCd 6-Cell 7.2V 1800mAh Stick Standard– DTXC2010, $11.99
Team FastEddy DT02 Bearing Set– $13.99
TOTAL: $180.45

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-50The Kumamon kit instantly caught our creative RC eye because it’s pretty inexpensive. Tony Phalen, Matt “Tacocat” Maziarz and I (Greg) instantly agreed to build up this car as inexpensively as possibly to show how much fun you can have with it at a low cost. Well, we might have strayed from the budget constraints, but we’ll talk about that later. More importantly we had to come up with a list of challenges and this is where some wacky things came into play. We decided to come up with six challenges and see who came out on top to win the ultimate prize, a watermelon! No, seriously, a watermelon. On to the fun!

First things first, the Kumamon buggy is a full build-up kit which is an extremely fun part of the hobby that is lost to many new and even seasoned RC drivers because of the flood of RTR vehicles on the shelves. The DT02 chassis is very simple to build and only requires basic tools for assembly. The Tamiya instructions are highly detailed and easy to follow so if this is a first kit for you, you should be able to breeze through the assembly. We did make one additional purchase for the kit prior to the building process which was a Team FastEddy ball bearing kit for just fourteen bucks. The bearing kit will replace all of the plastic bushings in the transmission, rear axles and front wheels; a worthwhile, inexpensive hop-up. The cost of the kit is just under a one hundred dollar bill and that includes an awesome electronic speed controller with brushless capability if you plan on boosting the power later in the buggy. It does have a brushed 380 size motor, too, which is kind of small, but we all agreed to leave it in our buggies for the challenges and to keep the cost down. So what you’ll need to get to complete the buggy is the rest of the electronics. Again keeping costs down, we opted for a Tactic TTX300 radio with receiver, which is a great 3-channel radio that we often use in sport builds. You’ll need to pick up a servo for the steering and we found RC Gear Shop has a great standard servo with ball bearings for just under six dollars. And finally you’ll need a battery to power the electronics. With just a 380 size motor we figured we’d hunt down the least expensive battery we could find no matter the capacity and Duratrax has a good starter pack with the Onyx 1800mAh NiCD pack for under twelve dollars.



To ease into our challenges, we headed out to our large parking lot with a bunch of corner dots, cones and even a few bike jumps and we set up a time trial track to see which editor could slalom through the course the fastest. This is pretty simple stuff here that anyone can do with their RC buddies. You don’t even have to get as elaborate as we did. Some plywood for ramps and plastic plates for corner dots are a perfect inexpensive substitute for a makeshift track like this. We used the stopwatch on our phone for timing and gave each other two practice laps before the timed lap. We changed up the track every few runs by moving the corners or jumps before retiming to keep things interesting. Here’s what the guys had to say:

Greg: The road course was fun and the DT-02s took the punishment of landing off of the jumps onto the asphalt. My front tires showed some wear since I always push my on-road cars too hard into the corners. That’s where Tony got me, he’s an on-road race pro so it’s no wonder he pulled the win on this challenge.

Tony: This was a fun event, even more fun when you watched the Kumamon Bear holding on for dear life. Even though the buggy is powered by a relatively wimpy 380 motor, the tires aren’t the best for on-road use so it was a little tricky to find that fine line around the course. Thankfully, road course racing is my thing, so I know it’s all about smooth lines and power delivery. My practice laps weren’t necessarily to learn the course but to find that fine line, and it paid off!

Tacocat: The three of us went into this first challenge fully expecting Tony to take the win, given his pedigree in on-road racing. I played dumb and simply coasted through all the corners to save my rear spiked tires for the upcoming off-road challenges. Tony was too busy celebrating and Greg was too mad at Tony for winning, so neither of them noticed my sand-bagging.

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-65CHALLENGE 2 TOMATO TOW

Say what? You read right, we’re going to tow some tomatoes! The Kumamon Bear in our DT-02’s represents Japan’s rich agricultural area and tomatoes are a popular export. So the bear is often seen with tomatoes and other fruits. So in honor of this representation, we came up with the tomato tow. The challenge is simple, drive the Kumamon DT-02 through a road course with a trailer full of tomatoes in tow. The driver who makes it through the course the fastest with loosing few to no tomatoes wins. We rigged up a hitch that could be attached to the back of the buggy and then luckily we had just reviewed RC4WD’s boat trailer which we fitted with a deck to hold the tomatoes and we were set to tow. You could use a simple rod for an axle, some spare wheels, a block of wood and a thin board to fab up a cheap trailer of your own. Maybe you could tow something else like empty soda cans for a noisy challenge with your friends. This challenge was so much fun.

Greg: Woohoo I won! The other guys were trigger happy where I kept my driving smooth and consistent so all my tomatoes stayed on the trailer. It may sound like an odd challenge, but it was fun.

Tony: After taking the win in the first challenge, I got a bit cocky and tried to lay the smack down – only to take a corner too tight. The trailer clipped the cone and got up on two wheels, dumping almost all of my tomatoes off. I seriously think my Kumamon had a sad face when I made it to the finish line.

Tacocat: The tomato run caught me off guard, to say the least. I figured the weight of the fruit in the trailer would bog the little 380 motor so I lost a good deal off my payload right off the start when the little buggy lurched forward. Next time, I say we tow watermelons and give tomatoes out for a prize; I can’t make a good marinara with watermelon.

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-111CHALLENGE 3 TRAIL RUN

It’s kind of obvious that the Kumamon DT-02 is not a trail rated machine, however we’ve found a mountain bike trail park that has proven to be a lot of fun for a variety of RC cars beyond trail trucks. So we’ve been visiting the park often and it also gets Tony to work off all the Hostess Ding Dongs he stuffs in his mouth. We decided to head to the trails to see what we could do with these buggies. After a little thought and scouting we found some gnarly sections and challenged each other to make it through the rough trails without crashing. We found five sections in total to run on and the one who finished all five trail sections with the least amount of crashes won the challenge. This muddy, sandy, bumpy trail run proved to be a ton of fun, just remember the bug spray if you try it.

Greg: Getting away from the normal track set-ups has sparked new interest for having fun with off-road machines and the DT-02’s were a blast bouncing over roots and ruts. The cars were pretty predictable with their slower speeds so we all tied with just one crash each. I recommend hitting the trails or simply your backyard for lots of fun with the bear buggy.

Tony: Slow and steady was the motto, but since all three of us are super competitive, there’s really no such thing. I bombed the ruts right off the bat and immediately crashed, so I had to take it easy the rest of the way. I actually enjoyed watching the little buggy bounce and flounder over the all the roots. The guys strayed away from the ‘real’ muddy area, but not me. Kumamon like mud!

Tacocat: The trail run with the Kumamon buggies was definitely cool. The large lugs on the rear tires really dig in on the loose soil and pine needles. I didn’t venture into the mud as much as Tony because I knew we had an indoor challenge up next and I didn’t want to have to clean my ride. Playing it safe provided me with a crash free run, but I’m going to call it a loss by forfeit for the conservative driving.

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-64 The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-68CHALLENGE 4 BOWLING BUGGIES

Bowling, I have nothing against it, but it’s not a sport that has captured my interest until now because I have a DT-02 buggy with a big bumper on the front that can plow into things. So with the ability to blast through some pins, I “borrowed” my kids’ plastic bowling pin set because they are such good sharers (roll-eyes) and we set them up in the office hallway for some bowling lane action. Don’t have any pins to heist? Save up some soda bottles and make your own bowling pin set. We kept score similar to bowling using strikes and spares to keep track of who was winning. We did discover that the pins needed a certain amount of spacing because controlling a buggy makes it easy to mow down the pins. Spacing the pins farther out lessened the strike factor.

Greg: Well blasting through a bunch of bowling pins proved to be a load of fun but I still suck at bowling. I finished behind both Matt and Tony here and I had to keep setting up the pins for each run. Challenge 4 was just OK for me.

Tony: I’ve bowled in a few leagues before so I have a good idea of where to aim (Note: being on a league does NOT mean I’m good). Instead of just jamming the Kumamon down the center of the lane, I took the tried and true ‘angled’ approach and it worked quite well. Matt and I pretty much dominated Greg, however, I couldn’t overcome the Kuma-Matt’s erratic driving style; the pins just seemed to fall over as if they were scared.

Tacocat: Chaos and abusive amounts of steering proved to be the winning recipe for this challenge. I basically got my Kumamon buggy as “out of control” as I could before slamming into the first pin, which usually resulted in a furball of all ten pins flying. The guys in the PBA haven’t got a thing on my driving … errr … bowling style. Tony even offered up one of his cherished Ding Dongs as a prize to me. Too bad I’m diabetic. Thanks a lot Tony.

The--Tamiya-Kumamon-Battle-120CHALLENGE 5 DIRT DRAG RACING

When you get a number of friends and cars together for fun, the inevitable drag race rolls around at some point and it happened with our bear buggies, too. Even with the small 380 motors and tame battery packs we devised a way to make drag racing these machines fun and that was to find a bumpy dirt road to race down. With sand, bumps and small rocks to deal with, the heads-up drag racing required more driving and throttle control than the usual punch the trigger on the tarmac driving style. Since there were three of us, we ran side-by-side heads up racing with the third person standing at the end of the strip as a “flagman” to yell, “go” and to see who crossed the finish line first. We traded positions for racing and flagging and the slow, bouncy, fun, roosting sand action kept us entertained for some time.

Greg: Although these buggies were not rocketing down a straightaway, the smack talk between all of us was perhaps the most fun of this drag race. The trash talk was not limited to the starting line either; we called the play by play down the dirt strip as we bumped and crashed into each other on the track, too.

Tony: This was, by no means, a fair race. When the starting flag fell, the winner was the one that would cross the finish line first – no holds barred. There was bumping, yelling, name-calling and even a few driver-vs-driver shoves to get the leader off his game (most of it initiated by me). I really don’t even remember who won the most, it was just a lot of full throttle fun. Oh, my poor Kumamon.

Tacocat: I must admit that I was not all that stoked about this challenge, given the limited power in our buggies. Boy was I wrong. The oil-less shocks and heavy NiCD pack had the little red machines bouncing everywhere down the dirt strip. I was laughing too hard at both the buggies and the banter between the three of us to see the finish on most runs, though I’m pretty sure I rarely crossed the line first, if at all.


The whole point behind our Kumamon Challenge was to get some friends together to have some good, cheap RC fun that will leave us with stories that we could tell over and over until the next time we got together for some more fun. Our Tamiya DT-02’s took a pretty good beating and some bears took some hits and even lost a hat. But we’re ready for more and thinking of new challenges where we can go head-to-head. Make sure you check out our video of the cars in action on YouTube.com/RCDriverMagazine and make sure you subscribe to our page while you’re there. 

DuraTrax distributed exclusively by Great Planes Model Distributors, duratrax.com, (800) 682-8948
FastEddy Bearings fasteddybearings.com, (707) 360-0190
RC Gear Shop rcgearshop.com, towerhobbies.com
Tamiya America Inc. tamiyausa.com, (800) 826-4922
Tactic distributed exclusively by Great Planes Model Distributors, hobbico.com, (800) 682-8948

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