Friday, December 2, 2011

Early History of RC Cars

Every important thing to ever come out of the country Wales has come from a little coastal town called Swansea. Dylan Thomas, who inspired countless individuals with his poetry in the early 1900’s came from Swansea. Catherine Zeta-Jones, the incredibly attractive Hollywood star, is also from Swansea. Howard Marx, who was at one point the biggest hashish smuggler in the world and had his life turned into a major motion picture is from Swansea as well. And in 1967, in a model shop in Swansea, one of the first ever remote control cars was on sale. It came from an Italian company called Elettronica Giocattoli, and it was a 1:12 scale model of a Ferrari 250 LM.
Ferrari 250 LM
The model was popular enough for a second one to be produced, this time a 1:10 scale replica of the Ferrari P4. It was shown at the Milan Fair in 1968. The world of RC cars was about to begin. The next major company was a British one named Mardave. They still produce RC cars made in the UK to this day. A race was held at Berk Hampsted in 1971 and their model won. The next year in Leicester they built the world’s first permanent RC racing track. The early 70’s would see numerous small American companies enter the fray as well, and it seemed as if RC cars were on the map. At the time, the scene was dominated by 1:8 scale nitro cars.

In 1974 a company by the name of Jerobee developed a 1:12 scale nitro car. Soon other companies started developing parts for it and it became extremely popular. It was a major influence in the creation of a 1:12 scale racing circuit, which eventually became very popular. It was also at this point that individuals began building their own cars from scratch. RC racing had remained relatively the same for its ten or so year existence, but that would all change in 1976 when the Japanese company Tamiya decided to try their hand at the world of RC.
Traxxas Jato 3.3 Nitro Truck
Tamiya Corporation is a well-known Japanese manufacturer that sprung up directly after WWII. At the time, they were known for their highly detailed models of cars, boats and various other things. They produced a run of RC cars that looked incredible and were well designed but did not exactly possess high performance. Nevertheless, they were popular and sold out quickly. Then in 1979 they released the Sand Scorcher and the Rough Rider, the two first RC vehicles designed for off-road use. They were based on the buggy design and were the first RC cars to feature real working suspension. They began manufacturing trucks as well, and produced the first vehicles with realistic 3-speed transmissions.
Redcat Racing Lightning STR 1:10 Nitro Car
The popularity of the Tamiya models skyrocketed and they can be credited as being responsible for creating the RC car market. RC racing would see a boom in the 80’s as people began racing both on and off-road. During this time tires became more realistic, motors became bigger, components became more durable and RC monster trucks were born. Many of the Tamiya models from this time are now considered vintage and fetch thousands of dollars at auction. However, a British company was about to make the largest change to RC cars since working suspension and off-road rubber tires.
Traxxas Mustang Boss VXL 1:16 Scale Electric Car
Schumacher Racing Products is a company that started in 1980 in Northampton. For the first year they manufactured only components for other RC cars, but the next year they would produce their first car as well. Their gift to the world of RC racing is the ball differential. Ball differentials use small ball bearings instead of bevel gears and allow for a lot more adjustability. Before the creation of the ball differential, drivers simply did not have many options for field adjustability. Ball differentials allowed a massive number of tuning options for different track conditions.
HPI Racing 1:5 Scale Baja 5B V2.0 Gas Buggy
Other companies would start producing their own models with ball differentials and it quickly became the standard. Schumacher continues to produce RC cars today, and they have won a great many Championships in all manner of classes and categories. Without the dedication of companies like Schumacher and Tamiya, RC racing today would look very different indeed. As the 80’s progressed, RC cars would continue to improve both technologically and ascetically. The modern era of RC racing was about to begin… 

Now there are numerous companies that build RC cars for our enjoyment. Traxxas, HPI and Redcat Racing name just a few of the top of the line companies that keep this hobby at the cutting edge. So come on down or log on to and pick up an RC car that you will enjoy for years to come today.

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