This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of RC Driver
Are you a Basher? Racer? Trucker? Crawler? Drifter?
If you’re ready to purchase your first RC car or truck, you are facing a lot of choices. Let’s narrow it down a little by figuring out which RC car or truck is right for your personality.
Actually, this little assessment could be beneficial to anyone considering their next radio control vehicle purchase because we’re going to look at your decision from a totally different perspective.
Instead of just listing different categories and describing the cars, we’re going to start very broad, ending with a sampling of what’s out there, and I’m going to describe the type of person who may be drawn to the particular category.
SO, ARE YOU AN RC DRIVER?
In general, RC enthusiasts are people who want to put down the video game controller, get off the couch and do something.
They need an activity of some sort; they need a hobby. To some it’s more of a lifestyle, but ultimately it is a hobby – unless you’re someone like Ryan Maifield or Masami Hirosaka who literally is good enough to race for a living.
In the past we had to be more patient because we were always building cars and trucks from tedious kits. While today that’s less of an issue with so many great ready-to-run vehicles available, patience will still go a long way in this hobby. It also helps if you have a mechanical inclination and a set of quality tools.
The bottom line, though, is that you have to have a love affair with motorized vehicles!
BASHER VS. RACER
This may be the greatest line that divides us, but the line is really not as large as you might think because you can still do both. While you can “bash” with your friends, it is usually something you can do by yourself purely for fun.
Racing, on the other hand, is a strictly social activity, and it’s where this hobby becomes more of a sport.
Bashers will run their cars until the wheels fall off. Hardcore bashers will try to break them, just so they can build them back up stronger. Bashers tend to run several cars whereas a racer will generally focus on one or two.
Racers are obsessive about keeping up with maintenance. They try not to break so they can finish the race. Many of us start off as bashers and later evolve into racers.
NITRO VS. ELECTRIC – OR, LET’S TALK ABOUT PATIENCE…
People who like nitro powered vehicles tend to be more patient, knowing they will be rewarded with the roaring sound and feel that only a nitro vehicle can provide.
Nitro fans are mechanical people who like to tune the carb of the engine to maximize performance.
Electric guys want to go and go right now now. They have no time to deal with messy, fussy engines that need tuning depending on the level of humidity and temperature.
Electric folks may also have a technical background, feel more in touch with electronic components and may have a laptop on hand to tune a high-end ESC (electronic speed control).
ON THE ROAD OR IN THE DIRT? WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO PLAY?
As a huge generalization, on-road guys are more into the scale aspect of the hobby, they like the challenge of a road course where precision driving is everything and they love high banked, go-fast-and- turn-left ovals.
Off-road guys seek the thrill of their cars bumping, jumping and kicking up dirt.
That is not to say on-road guys don’t seek the thrill of high speed or the perfect drift. However, off-road can be scale too, just check out some of the sweet trail trucks on the market today, and these vehicles also often run on technical courses.
STILL NOT SURE? TRY AN ALL-PURPOSE RC!
If you’re a person who doesn’t fall exactly in one category, or you just want everything, there are plenty of radio control cars and trucks that cross categories.
I relate these to the fax machine at work that tries to do everything. They work well, but they will not do any one thing as well as a purpose-built vehicle.
For example, the Traxxas Summit will never crawl as well as a competition crawler, and is not as fast as an E-Revo, but it crawls surprisingly well for what it is, and it is a whole lot faster than its dedicated crawler counterpart.
Cars like the Traxxas Jato, or Losi’s Speed-T combine on and off-road with great success. These kinds of cars are great to start off with because they help you figure out where you want to go with your next purchase.
WHAT’S YOUR SPECIFIC VEHICLE STYLE?
MICROS AND MINIS
These cars offer a lot of what the larger cars do, but because of their size they are good for people who don’t get out much due to weather, location, or other limitations.
They can be easily run around the home, or anywhere for that matter, where space is limited.
They are also good for people who love a project, because their size in relation to many models, toys, and slot cars means many things can be adapted with a little ingenuity.
Additionally, they tend to be less expensive than their larger counterparts although if you’ve got some spare change you can drop a pretty penny on one by completely customizing it.
Drifting is so much more than just slipping and sliding around an on-road track and it is a growing segment of the hobby.
Drifters tend to be part of a younger crowd that follows full-size automotive trends closely. They are into the scale style and look of the car as much as they are into the style they exhibit navigating around a course.
It’s all about you and the car – driving with others is completely optional.
ROCK CRAWLING AND TRAIL TRUCKS
These guys have plenty of time on their hands and are not in a hurry to go anywhere. They like to overcome a challenge; both in the design of the RC and the obstacles they overcome with their skillful driving. They can have an almost obsessive eye for detail and be less concerned with performance than with building a scale vehicle.
In recent years many RTR rock crawlers have entered the market, making this segment accessible to anyone, but the scratch-building heritage and DIY attitude remains.
Like fans of rock crawlers, trail truck fans have time to spare and are more concerned with getting things right the first time rather than doing them over. They love vehicles that look like and emulate the performance of full scale rigs and they build trails and obstacles to match.
1/8-SCALE BUGGIES AND TRUGGIES
These cars are mostly for the racers, as they have all the tuning features racers demand. But they are also large and rugged enough to stand up to a good old bashing.
These are for the people who demand the best of everything.
Once exclusively nitro-powered, is seems every major manufacturer now offers both kit and RTR electric versions for those with less patience.
This class is for thrill-seekers looking for high-flying, high speed off-road action.
SHORT COURSE TRUCKS
This is a class that marries bashing and racing with scale realism. That is why it attracts so many different personalities.
Short course trucks can be bashed alone, but they are best enjoyed out on the track with others.
This is the kind of racing where you can bump, bang and crash, all the while making jabs at your friends. It is a very social form of racing
1/5-SCALE GAS POWERED
Are you part of the bigger is better crowd? Large scale machines may be the RC choice for you.
Large scale buggies and trucks are large and heavy and take up a lot of space when running so keep that in mind when considering this type of vehicle.
These vehicles use a gasoline engine just like your chainsaw and therefor run on easy to use two-stroke gasoline mix.
That’s just a tiny sample of what’s out there. Vintage Trans Am, monster trucks, dirt oval cars, drag racers and even tractor trailers with realistic sound effects, it’s all out there. So don’t be afraid to find your niche. You’re sure to find something that suits your personality perfectly.