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The start of radio controlled cars.

History and Evolution of RC Cars

The 60's
R/C cars started in the mid-sixties. Pioneers made 1/8th scale pan cars using .19-cubic-inch 2-stroke model airplane engines. 1 Around 1967, companies like WEN, Model Car Enterprises, Dynamic Models, and Associated started to produce car "kits". 1

The 70's
Besides disco, this was also the era of 1/8th scale "gas" powered R/C cars. Companies such as Wencon, Control Technology, Delta Systems, Dynamic Models, and Model Car Enterprises produced cars such as the Wen Car, Scorpion, Delta Dash II, and the MCE car. 2

Powering these cars to incredible speeds were two-stroke, internal combustion engines mounted on an aluminum chassis. These engines used fuel made of a special blend of nitrogen, methanol, and lubricant. 

Electric powered cars started to emerge in 1974. WorkRite and Leisure were some of the companies that produce these electric powered cars. 3 

In 1976, Tamiya Inc. released their very first R/C car, the 1/12 Scale Porsche 934 Turbo. This was powered by an electric motor with a pan chassis and direct drive transmission. 4 

Three years later, the first 1/8th Scale On-Road Gas World Championship was held in Geneva. Phil Booth, from England, was crowned World Champion driving a PB Racing car. 5 

Cars in the 70's were designed to run on-road, such as smooth parking lots. Tamiya followed up the Porsche 934 Turbo with others such as the Lamborghini Countach, Toyota Celica, and scale Formula 1 cars such as the Ferrari 312T3 and the Tyrrel P34 Six Wheeler. 

The release of the Tamiya Rough Rider in 1979 brought a new dimension to the hobby. The car was capable of running in off-road conditions such as dirt, rocky terrain, and water. It had a die-cast suspension system and large rubber tires. 

Immediately following the Rough Rider was the Tamiya Sand Scorcher. Both cars are now collectibles, sometimes fetching over a thousand dollars in eBay. 

These off-road cars could be run anywhere. In backyards, rough parking lots, or baseball fields. Little did anyone know that this would start the R/C craze in the 80's.

The 80's
These were the fun years of the hobby. The 80's saw an explosion in the popularity of the hobby, most notably in the 1/10th scale off-road category. This was an era when you could expect to see 400 competitors in a major race. 

The 80's also saw World Championships, held every two years, for the 1/12th scale on-road electric cars. In 1982, Associated Electrics became the first 1/12th Electric On-Road World Champion. 5 

1985 was the year of the first IFMAR 1/10th Electric Off-Road World Championship. Again, Associated Electrics won with the RC10.

This was also the year that Tamiya surprised everyone by introducing a 4-wheel drive (4WD) buggy called the HotShot. This was the first true off-road racing car from Tamiya. It was faster than its 2WD predecessors, especially in slippery and dusty conditions. 

1986 was the year of the first IFMAR 1/8th Gas Off-Road World Championship. 5 These were awesome 4WD beasts capable of speeds of 40 mph, off-road! 

By 1988, 4WD off-road cars exploded in popularity. Top electric cars were the Schumacher Cat (1987 World Champion), Kyosho Optima Mid, and Yokomo C4. 

In 1/8th Gas, the Kyosho Burns 4WD took 2nd place in the 1988 IFMAR World Championships. 

This year also saw the emergence of a new class, the 1/10th electric on-road racing cars. These lightweight cars had incredible power-to-weight ratio, capable of circling oval tracks at speeds in excess of 40mph! 

In 1989, cars went even faster. At the Encino velodrome, a 1,000 feet bicycle track, Kent Clausen drove an electric RC10L to an incredible one lap average speed of 57 mph!

The 80's were truly the best years for the hobby. Crowned were World Champions in 1/12th scale electric on-road, 1/10th scale electric off-road, 1/8th scale gas on-road, and 1/8th scale gas off-road. 

The 90's
The decade of speed. Kent Clausen drove an electric RC10L to a staggering speed of 70.1 mph at a bicycle track. 7 This heralded a new type of racing, Superspeedway. Here, cars are run in large oval tracks, sometimes in bicycle tracks 1000 feet long. 

At the second International Electric Drag Racing Association World's Drag meet, in 1992, electric cars covered 132 feet in 1.8 seconds at speeds over 75 mph. 8 

This time also saw the emergence of 1/10th scale gas cars and trucks, such as the Serpent Impact and electric trucks modified to run using 2-stroke engines. 

1992 was the inauguration of the first IFMAR 1/10th scale electric on-road World Championship. Held in California, USA, the event was won by Joel Johnson driving a Trinity Evolution 10. 9 

By 1993, 1/10th scale electric truck racing was popular. What started out as monster trucks for backyard bashing, these racing trucks are as technologically advanced as their buggy counterparts. 

There was a downside to faster speeds. Battery, motors, tires, and cars became more advanced. Money became an issue, and to an extent, a necessity to win races. 

To make racing more affordable and fun, parking lot races were organized. It was a move back to the origins of R/C car racing of the 80's. Fun was the name of the game. 

It is worth noting that Tamiya started to introduce scale and realistic looking cars similar to real cars that we drive everyday. These would eventually lead to the popularity of "touring" cars in the year 2000.

1994 saw the arrival of 1/10th scale gas trucks. Associated released the RC10GT, and Tamiya the TR15T. This was also the inaugural year of the Tamiya Racing Championship in the USA, set to promote low cost racing. 

1995 saw the first IFMAR 1/10th scale I.C. On-Road World Championship. This was won German Michael Salven from a company called Serpent. 

1996 saw the trend towards smaller scale cars. Tamiya had the mini series, cars that were technically 1/10th scale but had dimensions similar to a 1/12th scale. The Roadrunner GTO 962 was a 1/12th scale, 4WD touring car. BRP released a 1/18th scale on-road truck. 

In 1997, the first Kyosho World Cup was held in the Philippines. With 30 teams from 17 countries, the winning team came from the Philippines. These cars were 1/10th scale powered by 2-stoke gas engines. Adding to the realism was the 1-hour long race, which included several pit stops for refueling and repairs. 

Touring car mania was on. Companies such as ABC, Associated, HPI, Kyosho, Losi, OFNA, Roadrunner, Schumacher, and Tamiya produced over 40 different cars to choose from. 

1/8th scale on-road gas was a domination of an Italian driver, Lamberto Collari. He won 5 straight IFMAR World Championships from 1989 - 1997. The car was a Serpent Vector with a 2-speed transmission and a 3.5cc engine. Racing speeds were in excess of 70 mph! 

1999 saw the rise in popularity of gas-powered cars. Off-road gas buggies from Mugen and OFNA. Tamiya even joined the gas car craze by producing the TG10 Pro.

2000 - Present
The year started of with Atsushi Hara winning the 2000 IFMAR International Scale Touring Car (ISTC) Electric World Championship for Japan. 

2002 was a shocker, when Surikarn Chaidejsuriya of Thailand won the 2002 IFMAR ISTC Electric World Championship, driving a Tamiya car. It was a surprise because this was the first time a Tamiya car has won an IFMAR World Championship.

The Future of R/C
The fun hobby of R/C is currently experiencing dwindling interest and slow growth. Does the future look grim for the hobby? Will it, like a fad, eventually die out? Personally, I believe that this hobby is too much fun to die out. 

As to the future growth of the hobby, I believe in the concept of "self-fulfilling" prophecy. If we predict that the hobby will grow, subconsciously our actions will lead towards achieving that goal. 

As a mere hobbyist, what can I, or we do? Well, we can start by helping out newcomers and beginners by giving them helpful advice. And that is the main motivation for me in writing this book. To help newcomers, and see this hobby grow and exceed the glory years of the 80's. 

The next step would be to organize low cost, non-competitive, and fun racing events. The idea is for us to all experience the fun of racing, win or lose. And for newcomers and beginners, you can help the hobby by inviting your friends to get into the fun hobby of R/C cars.

Sponsored Links

1. Steve Pond, Radio Control Car Action Magazine, January 1990, p. 108 
2. rcvehicles.about.com 
3. Robert Schleicher, Model Car Racing, 1979, p. 95 
4. www.tamiyausa.com 
5. IFMAR Web site - http://members.ozemail.com.au/~ifmar/ 
6. Steve Pond, Radio Control Car Action Magazine, March 1989, p. 66
7. Rich Hemstreet, Radio Control Car Action Magazine, January 1990, p. 58 
8. Mike Ogle, Radio Control Car Action Magazine, November 1992, p. 120 
9. Mike Ogle, Radio Control Car Action Magazine, January 1993, p. 168 
10. Radio Control Touring Cars, Fall 1997, p. 32 - 43


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