Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide

Tamiya XB


Not too long ago we put together an article that featured all of the 2WD buggies offered by Tamiya. These fast, nimble and affordable off-road cars are awfully fun to drive. But what about the 4WD buggies out there which can be even easier to drive and just as fun? With that said, here is a Tamiya 4WD off-road buggy buyer’s guide. It highlights all of the current all-wheel-drive buggies offered by Tamiya that come as an assembly kit. Regardless of your skill level, beginner or advanced, there is a buggy to suit your needs.

Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide

There are a total of 20 4WD buggy kits currently offered by Tamiya and we have them arranged below by chassis type.


Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide
Avante Black chassis

The original Avante was released back in 1988 and quickly gained a loyal following. This was one of the high end buggies released by Tamiya and came equipped with loads of go-fast goodies and some very cool chassis features that made it stand out from others. Tamiya followed the release of the Avante with the Vanquish and Egress buggies in the same year. Fast forward to today and Tamiya has done the similar: they released the Avante 2011 Black Edition, Egress Black Edition and the VQS which is the new name for the Vanquish.

The Avante chassis uses a unique shaft driven 4WD system that was first used on the Hotshot buggy. It is equipped with innovative components including a compact gearbox with three small planetary gears, a center differential, fully adjustable suspension and cam-lock wheel caps. High-quality black FRP plates were used to create a double-deck chassis layout which gives the Avante a stylish, high end look. The motor and battery are positioned longitudinally on the chassis which is sandwiched between a lower fairing and a formula type polycarbonate body. Tamiya updated the re-release chassis with the use of universal driveshafts and machined aluminum uprights which gives this newer Avante even better performance and durability.

VQS chassis

The Egress is a successor of the Avante and was given further refinements to make it even more competitive. Features like a center lockable one-way and re-designed ball differentials to allow for easier maintenance and better overall handling. Oil dampers are utilized at each corner and are matched up with four-wheel double wishbone suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars.

Differing from the Avante and Egress, the VQS is spec’d with an ABS plastic tub chassis and the suspension arms have been simplified with a one-piece molded plastic instead of a multi-component alloy setup and uses plastic CVA shocks. With the VQS, you have the benefit of having the body come out of the box pre-painted and pre-cut with even the body mounting holes cut for you.


The Tamiya Comical series of vehicles are a lot of fun to own and drive. Both the Comical Avante and Comical Hotshot come pre-painted to make these kit builds easier. Just some trimming and the placing of stickers is left to get them completed. Up front is a large spring supported front bumper and mounted in between the tires are side guards and tall flags. At the rear you will find dual faux, megaphone-style exhaust pipes with taillight buckets that can be illuminated with optional LED lights and a wheelie bar.

Remove the body and you will find an adapted version of the Tamiya GF-01 chassis named GF-01CB. This chassis has a pretty wild design where the four wheels are not driven by a belt or shaft, but rather a series of gears. Mounted in the center is a 540 brushed motor that powers this unique drivetrain setup. The gears are sealed in a gearbox that is integrated into the frame of the chassis to keep the inner workings protected from dirt and debris and provide a rigid overall platform. Tamiya employed 3-gear, bevel gear differentials for the front and rear wheels to help the handling stay smooth in the corners.

Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide
Comical Avante chassis

At each of the corners, you will find 4-wheel double wishbone suspension that uses lower H-arms and a fixed upper link. Providing stability are plastic body oil-filled shocks that are mounted between the lower suspension arms and integrated shock towers. Steering is controlled by a servo that is mounted on the left side of the chassis with an adjustable link that actuates a center bellcrank that in turn controls two adjustable links attached to the steering knuckles.


Tamiya created the DF-03 platform as a mid-range shaft-driven 4WD buggy where it was developed from racing data. This gives you a lot of features to make the DF-03 a great handling and performing buggy when behind the wheel and not accompanied by a high price tag.

Down the center of the chassis is the battery compartment with a mid-rear mounted motor for optimum stability for jumping. A welcome feature on this chassis is that the battery is inserted through the bottom of the chassis so you don’t have to remove the body. Tamiya also gave this chassis a durable monocoque bathtub frame which keeps all the electronics mounted low and central for ideal vehicle balance. Extra-long lower suspension arms and upper adjustable camber links are supported by oil-filled dampers to keep off-road handling controlled and speeds high. A propeller shaft spins compact gearboxes at the front and rear which are equipped with smooth operating ball differentials. There are also numerous mounting holes for the suspension so that you can tune the chassis to your specific needs.

The MS version of the DF-03 takes all the capabilities of that platform and pushes the performance envelope by including a heap of Tamiya Hop-UP Option parts. Things like the use of a slipper clutch, universal shafts and a center one-way unit will make the drivetrain more efficient and more precise. The DF-03 MS is a limited edition buggy and includes a Dark Impact bod shell with special markings designed by TRF driver Satoshi Maezumi.


Both of these buggies are re-releases and we are glad they were. The original Hotshot hit the shelves in 1985 and made a mark thanks to its aggressive-looking body design and low center of gravity. It has a unique design with a 3-piece chassis that is equipped with front and rear mono-shock oil dampers. Front and rear gearboxes are fully enclosed and fitted with thrust ball bearings and differential gears while four-wheel double wishbone suspension equipped with stabilizers helps to keep the ride smooth. The re-release version has been slightly updated without hindering the spirit of the original Hotshot. Tamiya gave the drivetrain dogbone type propeller shafts to enhance reliability and the shocks are now the more modern diaphragm type.

Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide
Super Hotshot chassis

The Super Hotshot is based on the Hotshot and like its predecessor, Tamiya gave it some modern improvements to make this re-release 4WD buggy even better. Thankfully, they retained the original appearance of the Super Hotshot like the gold plated wheels wrapped with spike tires and distinctive yellow dampers. Under the body you will still find the ABS monocoque frame, roll cage and under guard. Supporting the drivetrain is a complete set of ball bearings to minimize friction so that all the power coming from the included Tamiya GT-tuned motor gets out to the wheels.


Tamiya is quite clever in its chassis designs where they are able to tweak them to suit different styles of vehicles. The TT-02B is a perfect example of this since the TT-02 started life as an on-road touring car platform. Tamiya gave the TT-02B chassis four-wheel double wishbone suspension with long arms plus CVA oil-filled shocks so this buggy can tackle off-road terrain. Additionally, this chassis is incredibly easy to build thanks to features like identical left and right suspension arms and uprights. Down the center of the semi-tub chassis spins a plastic propeller shaft to connect the bevel gear differential which are sealed to keep dirt out.

Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide
TT-02B Chassis

The First Try R/C Kit is ideal for the beginner in RC or maybe a hobbyist who has never built a RC car. Tamiya took the TT-02B chassis and pre-assembled some of the trickier sections so that the hobbyist can still have the benefits of building their own kit and end up with it properly assembled. Included with this kit is a completely painted Plasma Edge II body which is a step that many people are hesitant to attempt. With the First Try R/C Kit, you don’t have to worry about painting and you can focus on an enjoyable and fulfilling build. The Neo Scorcher and Plasma Edge II kits are virtually identical except for things like the color of the dampers and wheels and of course the bodies.


The newest chassis in this Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s is the wild-looking TD4 which was created specifically for the re-imagined Avante. The stylish new Super Avante body possess clear style cues that are reminiscent of the original Avante body. It was designed by Kota Nezu who has added his design prowess to a number of popular Tamiya products. An enclosed cockpit houses a realistic driver figure while the rest of the body has a futuristic presence with numerous clear sections, the buttress behind the cockpit and four mini fenders. Bright yellow star dish wheels are paired with square spike tires for extreme off-road grip.

Under the Super Avante body is the low-profile and slim TD4 4WD chassis. Similar to the original Avante, the front dampers are positioned horizontally although they are tucked under the body and mounted longitudinally. Ball differentials are located at the front and rear inside sealed gearboxes and the system spins on a full set of ball bearings. Two link rods and crank arm transmit movement of the left-side servo to the three-piece steering arm setup. Tamiya placed the battery down the center of the TD4 chassis and gave it a midship transverse motor to achieve the most favorable balance and further performance.

As for the Super Avante Painted Body kit, it is not your typical pre-painted kit offering from Tamiya. This version of the Super Avante is a limited edition kit where not only does the body come pre-painted and pre-cut from the factory, but the main chassis and damper springs are yellow to make this Super Avante even more special.


Next in our Tamiya 4WD Off-Road Buggy Buyer’s Guide are five re-released buggies that are all based on the Thunder Shot type chassis. It has an ABS bathtub frame which makes it easy to maintain as well as be durable. A propeller shaft is used to spin the front and rear sealed gearboxes with the motor mounted midship longitudinally. Tamiya updated the chassis by giving it an aluminum motor mount to beef up rigidity. Located in the gearboxes are tough die-cast three gear bevel differentials. Double wishbone independent suspension with upper I-arms and lower H-arms are used all around with CVA oil-filled shocks for ideal. To help keep the front wheels planted and reduce body roll, Tamiya gave the chassis a front stabilizer.

Although these five buggies all use the Thunder Shot chassis as their platform, they do have some variations. The most noticeable are the CVA oil-filled shocks where the Thunder Shot and Thunder Dragon use two CVA shocks for the rear while the front is setup with a single, horizontally mounted shock that is attached to the right and left suspension arms. For the Fire Dragon, Saint Dragon and Terra Scorcher, they are setup with the more common single CVA shock for each corner of the buggy. Also, all of the buggies come with the molded polycarbonate body are pre-painted except for the body of the Terra Scorcher which comes out of the box clear and it is the only one that includes molded white wheels as opposed to black. The Terra Scorcher is the only one that benefits from stabilizers for the front and rear of the chassis.


TRF503 Chassis Kit — Item #42275

In case you are not familiar, TRF stands for Tamiya Racing Factory. When there is a Tamiya car that has that designation in its name, you know you are getting a high-quality, competition-level machine and that is definitely true for this TRF503 4WD buggy. Tamiya’s TRF511 buggy is the predecessor for the TRF503 and has proven success at the track thanks to its remarkable performance. Tamiya utilized that buggy as a jumping off point to create the TRF503 by updating and modifying it with the focus on giving the buggy more traction and enhanced cornering ability.

It is clear by the long list of special new features that Tamiya incorporated a heap of first-hand experience based on extensive racing and testing of its TRF buggies. Here are just some of the key new features. The designers put the buggy on a diet where they achieved 20-perent weight reduction by using lightweight aluminum upper and lower bulkheads. Handling higher power brushless motors is attributed to the new single-piece aluminum center pulley. Next the motor position was shifted 10.5mm toward the front of the chassis to improve controllability, while the motor mount is 5mm closer to the centerline to help reduce chassis roll. Wheelbase has been extended 7.5mm in length comparted to the TRF511 and this will allow the TRF503 to stay much more composed on uneven surfaces.

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