By Mike Garrison
Over the weekend I had a friend, who has absolutely nothing to do with R/C car racing, call me interested in getting started. I told him the basics, what he should look for, what he should stay away from, etc. In a matter of only 45 minutes after our phone call, my phone was overheating with the number of text messages and Craigslist links he was sending me to used cars for sale. Of what seemed like 10,000 text messages, one stood out in particular and got me thinking. He sent me a link to a roached out Team Associated B4 buggy that was listed for sale at $75. His text read, "The guy doesn't know what year B4 this is, do you know how to tell?"
Each year I anxiously await to see the release of the new year's model of dirt bikes, pickup trucks, motocross gear, helmets, etc. A dirt bike, a pickup truck, a helmet, and even dirtbike gear and apparel is all defined by the year. While each may see very little change from the year before, it's still exciting waiting for the new year models, seeing them for the first time, and then going out to buy (or a set a goal to buy) the latest and greatest. It's a given that with a new year comes new stuff - unless you are talking about R/C racing.
My biggest pet peave in R/C car racing is the unknown, random, and oddball "schedule" of new car releases. There is no way of ever really knowing when a new car is going to be released. There is no guarantee or excitement of something new each year. When there is something new it never seems to be released at a convenient time (such as releasing a new 1/10-scale at the end of most people's 1/10-scale season), and for someone like my friend there is no way to define whether or not the B4 you are buying is from 2003 or 2009 (the B4.1 was released in 2010).
R/C cars remind me a little bit of buying a new laptop or TV, to the general public they randomly show up, but with no real guarantee that tomorrow they won't be out-dated and obsolete with the release of something else.
Currently, the only major brand that I am aware of offering a consistent new year model for their vehicles time and time again is XRAY. Hats off to you XRAY, as this is what I believe R/C car racing needs. Let's get rid of the 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, .1, .2, .3, and whatever other numerical value we can tack on to the original name of the car for each change that is made, and instead accumulate all of the changes and improvements for a consistent new year release of new cars across the board. My daily driver is a 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck, but if it were an R/C car it would be a Sierra 1500.17 - because this is version 17 of the original Sierra.
Motor Trend offers a 2018 pickup truck shootout/buyer's guide with a comparison of every new 2018 model truck on the market. Motocross Action offers a 2018 250cc and 450cc dirtbike shootout/buyer's guidewith a comparison of every new 2018 model dirt bike on the market. That doesn't exist in R/C car racing because half of the cars on the market haven't seen a change in 3-4 years, while others will be replaced with a new model tomorrow and a yet an even newer model following this year's Worlds only a few months away.
Is there some logic to this manufacturer madness of R/C car names, release dates, etc.? Probably, but as a customer I don't really care to hear about it. I want something to look forward to each year, something that if I see a factory driver using during a race this year, I know will be included in next years model. I also believe this would further open up the world of R/C to new enthusiasts who are most likely involved or enthusiasts of the full-scale racing world. Decimal points and adding "Version 2, 3, 4..." to a car's name doesn't make sense or mean anything to most people. To show up to the track and say, "Oh look! He has the new 2018 B6 (or 22, RB6, YZ-2, etc.)," in my opinion, would be a huge step to make R/C a little more relatable, easier to understand, and down right exciting for most people.
The idea of consistent new year releases doesn't mean the car has to receive a full overhaul, just subtle changes that make people want to buy the newest, latest, and greatest. Manufacturer's can still release options and upgrades randomly to be purchased prior to the new year release, but include it all in a new year edition kit that everyone becomes accustom to seeing, buying, and becoming excited about year after year.
If the ball were to ever getting rolling, why stop at car kits? Each year motocross gear manufacturer's release new pants, jerseys, gloves, and helmets. Sometimes they simply change the look, other times they are completely re-designed with new materials, functions, and fit. To me the "motocross gear" of R/C are things like bodies, wings, pit accessories, and other visual items. Why not have a 2018 body to go on your 2018 buggy?
As I mentioned, I truly believe XRAY (and anyone else who is following suit) has the right idea with their yearly releases and new year edition kits, however, I am not a manufacturer. I have zero experience in manufacturing R/C cars, and I have zero experience in knowing what makes sense financially for manufacturers. I do however, have extensive experience and frustration as a customer, friend of someone trying to join the hobby, and racer trying to keep track of, explaining, and guessing when version 68.72218 of a car will be released next.