By Aaron Waldron
The pattern of diehard racers scrapping realism in search of greater performance has repeated itself over and over in the history of RC, repeating a systematic erasure of any relevant connection to the full-scale motor sports the hobby industry supposedly attempts to recreate.
Like many social movements within the radio-controlled scene, it’s simply easier to unravel the concept of realism than it is to protect it. No number of rules mandating bodies to be officially-licensed, no underwritten requirements that vehicles must include details like headlights, windows, or even a cab at all can withstand the steamroll of a manufacturer creating something to capture the accessory-of-the-week attention span of racers. Convinced that the latest dish wheel or ribbed tire or fugly, smashed-cab body will give them the edge for a week until everyone else starts using them and goes .03 seconds faster per non-crash lap, the I’m-super-factory-pro-just-ask-me crowd destroyed the scale accuracy of pan cars, buggies, touring cars, short course trucks and GT-class vehicles over just a few generations of products. And don’t get me started on single-color, rattle can paint jobs.
Short course trucks were once the most popular off-road racing class in RC - and were responsible
for reviving club racing across the country. Now they're disappearing from local tracks.
That this is the same crowd that will violently defend racing “real off-road” with slick tires on clay versus astroturf only further demonstrates just how ridiculously subjective the definition of “real” actually is in this hobby, but whatever.
Just don't drive them on astroturf!
I’ve curiously watched the crawler and scaler scene develop over the last few years, and it’s impossible not to note how completely backwards it is from the racing side of our hobby. Once the first 2.2-class crawlers hit the scene, major brands jumped in — like Losi and Kyosho — with comp-ready kits that looked a lot like what enters the King of Hammers, but that side of the equation never really caught on. Sure, there’s rock racing and many crawling contests, but competition takes a backseat to recreation, socializing, and vehicle customization.
Solix axles, roll cages, even spare tires! Photo: U4RC.com
There are a staggering number of major companies that make miniature gas cans, fire extinguishers, shovels and ice chests to support what’s essentially a hobby that combines the best aspects of radio control with the attention to detail of modeling. And when the scalers do hit the trail, the drivers are free to move all their trucks to get a good view of the obstacles ahead but most often follow behind it. It’s as close to a first-person view as you can get while still being able to walk and hike safely. Most importantly, the segment is growing — growing faster than any other part of the RC car world.
Fun at less than walking pace. Photo: tested.com
Drifting is as big or bigger in other parts of the world as scale crawlers are in the U.S., and shares pretty much everything that makes scale rigs popular.
Where stunning style meets impeccable control. Photo: YouTube
While it would be difficult to mix the concept of going for a hike with some friends and racing on a closed course, there’s still plenty of room for the racing scene to improve its adherence to the kinds of cars and scenery that non-RC enthusiasts would actually recognize. Even if we don’t go full-simulator like the Kyosho 4D Ride-On experience, on-board cameras and steering wheels could be a much easier, and cheaper, middle ground. Do buggies really need to have such huge wings? Why have separate “Trans Am” classes when touring cars could look like modern DTM, FIA, Super GT and Supercars competitors from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Holden, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, SEAT and Volvo? Shouldn’t pan cars look like super-exotic Audi, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota prototype sports cars that competed at Le Mans? Can we maybe try short course trucks again instead of insisting on keeping “racing trucks” and “truggies” on life support? Sure, lap times might be a little bit longer at first, but only until drivers and manufacturers figure out how to extract every last hundredth from the equipment they’re using under the new rules. Instead, we’re stuck in this gray area between “realistic” and “fantastic” and unable to commit to either one.
After all, is there really any drawback to creating ways for the general public to relate to our hobby?
Fun to drive, exciting to watch, horrible to look at.