Monday, December 5, 2011

RC Icons: The Sand Scorcher

An Original Tamiya Sand Scorcher
Sometimes a product transcends what it was originally intended for. Certain moments and technologies just change things forever. Inanimate objects can become heroes and timeless icons. The Sand Scorcher from Tamiya is one of those products. It was released in 1979 and the RC world changed forever. Without the Sand Scorcher, RC cars today would be very different and probably much less popular. The Sand Scorcher changed people’s perceptions of what an RC car could be and spawned a new class of RC vehicle built for off-road racing.
2010 Tamiya Sand Scorcher Remake
Until the release of the Sand Scorcher, RC racing was done exclusively on tracks. RC cars of the time did not have working suspension, and the hobby was loosely associated with slot car racing in the early days. The Sand Scorcher introduced new technologies that would allow off-road RC racing to become a reality. The popularity of off-road racing skyrocketed and it is now the most popular class of RC racing. This also dramatically increased the popularity of RC racing as a whole.

The Sand Scorcher was a 1:10 scale RC car, the sixteenth model made by Tamiya. Some of the revolutionary features included working suspension modeled on that of the Volkswagen Beetle, shared parts with the Rough Rider, another early off-road model, mostly metal components and a waterproof case for the on board electronics that made driving through water possible. Even today, only top of the line off-road beasts have waterproofed electronics. The Sand Scorcher also had metal, oil-filled shock absorbers, ribbed front tires and paddle-type rear tires and a chassis constructed of a fiberglass plate with metal supports.

The Sand Scorcher’s influence was so great that original models fetch prices of up to $5000 at auction. The Sand Scorcher was also featured in the Australian cult film Malcolm about a man who robs banks and also enjoys his hobbies. In the film he uses a Sand Scorcher with a gun and camera attached to rob a bank. Tamiya even commissioned a full sized version of the Sand Scorcher to be built in 2010. The impressive final product was an exact replica of the Sand Scorcher, down to the recognizable tires and the iconic sticker job.

The popularity of the Sand Scorcher is so great that last year Tamiya decided to produce a 30 year anniversary edition. The re-release was almost identical to the original Sand Scorcher but contained a modern electronic speed control instead of the mechanical one used in the original, and a few more die-cast parts. The re-release coincided with re-releases of two other classic Tamiya models, the Rough Rider and Buggy Champ, the latter of which shares its chassis with the Sand Scorcher.

The Sand Scorcher has a pedigree of the type usually reserved for actual, full sized cars. It revitalized RC racing, spawned an entirely new type of off-road RC racing, starred in an Australian film, was made into a giant and dominated competitions. Without this vehicle, the entire world of RC racing would look incredibly different. So pay your respects and raise your glasses, to an RC car that did more in the last 30 years than most people do in their entire lives. 

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