Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tamiya Monster Beetle Review

Retro Returns
This article was originally published in RC Driver’s January 2016 issue.

Words: David Baker Photos: Edwin Rodriguez

Oh yes! It is BACK! If you missed it the first time around because you weren’t even born yet then you now have a chance to see, build and experience one of the coolest kits that is responsible for getting so many of us old timers hooked back in the mid eighties. With each discontinued kit that Tamiya has re-released over the past few years, Monster Beetle fans have been asking for their turn to relive the excitement of their start in the RC hobby. The VW Beetle body on spiked monster truck tires was a look that hadn’t been seen before and helped put the vehicle on RC wish lists everywhere. Add on some oil filled shocks and you’ve got one hot monster.
At a glance you will be hard pressed to see any changes to the 2015 version but Tamiya has made just a few improvements to areas that needed it most. Read on to see what you missed 30 years ago.

WHO IT’S FOR:  Beginners and Old School RC Collectors
HOW MUCH: $189.99


• Easy to Build
Oil shocks
CV joint/dogbone driveshafts
Plastic Beetle body
Brushed/Brushless ESC included

• Very stiff tires
No rear window

The Monster Beetle is a favorite of countless RC veterans, myself included. It is a classic Tamiya kit, which means beautifully illustrated instructions. It’s a great entry-level vehicle that is easy to build and fun to drive.

• 4-way wrench

• Two-channel radio system
7.2 volt NiMH battery
Steering servo
Paint for driver figure

Tactic TTX300 3-Channel SLT System Tactic makes a good radio that is affordable at around $50 but has the adjustability of more pricey models, including end point adjustments, dual rate and even a programmable third channel. The Beetle is a basic vehicle so no frills are needed. The transmitter is lightweight and comfortable to handle.
Hitec HS-425BB servo The steering on the Beetle doesn’t warrant an expensive hi torque servo. The ball bearing Hitec HS425 has only about 50oz/in of torque but it easily turns the monster truck tires.
Duratrax Onyx NiMH 6C 7.2V 3000mAh Stick Standard Plug

Duratrax 5×11 bearing set, Part No. DTXC1549, $13. Bushings are included in the kit but I recommend picking up ball bearings before you begin the build.

The plastic chassis has been used on several Tamiya kits. It’s unusual in design, rigid, and functions well. It is molded in red but I chose to paint it flat black.

 Tamiya’s yellow plastic oil-filled shocks were a great upgrade from the friction shocks of other kits. They come with several choices for pistons to allow for adjustment. The kit-included oil works well for general bashing.

‹ The steering on the Beetle is controlled directly from the servo saver. Not as precise as today’s setup but for the light front end of the Beetle it is adequate.

‹• A 3-gear differential is housed between a pair of aluminum plates that make up the transmission case. The original Monster Beetle used hex shaped dogebones for driveshafts and they were prone to rounding out. This time around Tamiya has included a more traditional dogbone with a CV joint on the axles.

‹• The wiper style speed control has been left in the past and replaced with a new electronic unit that can be used with either a brushed or brushless motor. The kit includes Tamiya’s typical 540 can.

Well… I suppose you could run the Monster Beetle on a track but it is really best as a go out and bash type of RC. I have a decent paved driveway, plenty of grass, and I am fortunate to have new home construction going on in the area. The spiked tires are very stiff and provide limited traction on the pavement, which makes for some fun driving. However, too much time on the hard stuff will quickly wear down the spikes so I keep my power sliding to a minimum.

Grass is short this time of year and the Beetle has no trouble finding bite with the spikes. Speed is certainly not ballistic compared to current brushless models but it is enough to keep the fun going. The truck is so light that the suspension doesn’t seem to be working too hard across the uneven grass and won’t provide much assistance while turning in the grass at full speed. The tires will bite hard and try to push the monster over on its side. Letting off the throttle quickly slows the motor and makes it easy to maintain control. After about 15 minutes I needed to change out the battery so I could find the nearest dirt covered construction zone.

The workers were kind enough to leave some dirt piles for my tires to leave some tracks. On the loose dirt the tires slip just a little as the motor reaches for its torque to get the Beetle moving. Dirt power slides are safe on the spikes and I made sure to do my share. There were lots of jumping opportunities on the site: Small ones that that truck could simply glide over to the big stuff that showed just how well the oil shocks work. The vehicle would stay level for the most part. When it would get off kilter the 2WD setup and lightweight tires didn’t provide enough torque to allow throttle input to make much of a difference in attitude. But the smile was on my face the whole time.

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LENGTH: 16.1 in. (410mm)
WIDTH: 11.4 in. (290mm)
HEIGHT: 9.4 in. (240mm

BODY: Polystyrene Beetle body, molded in red
WHEELS: Gold plated plastic
TIRES: Not included

TYPE: Double wishbone in front, Trailing arm in the rear

TYPE: Direct link
TOE: Fixed

TYPE: Frame

TRANSMISSION: Rear-mounted
BEARINGS: Ball bearings for tranny, plastic bushings for wheels

Opinion: 9
Performance – Acceleration: 6
Performance – Steering: 8
Performance – Handling: 7
Performance – Durability: 8
Feature Breakdown: 8
Overall Value: 9

The 1985 Monster Beetle is why I do what I do for a living and driving the 2015 proves to me that this model is still King of my hill! It’s not my fastest or most technologically advanced but it is the one I have the most fun with. It represents everything that I love most about the hobby. If you have never built a Tamiya kit I think it is time you do. In my opinion there is nothing cooler looking than the Monster Beetle. Now with the few upgrades the Beetle can once again recruit some hobbyists that stand a good chance of being in it for life.

Tamiya America Inc., tamiyausa.com, (800) 826-4922
Duratrax duratrax.com, (800) 682-8948
Tactic, distributed exclusively by Hobbico, tacticrc.com, (217) 398-3630
Hitec RCD USA, hitecrcd.com, (858) 748-6948

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