FLASHBACK FRIDAY: A complete timeline of Schumacher CAT 4WD buggies
Friday, Mar 23, 2018 08:42am
By Aaron Waldron
Everybody knows that Friday is meant for reminiscing old times. Each week we take you back in time as we flashback to some of R/C racing's greatest moments, products, drivers, and more!
A complete timeline of Schumacher CAT 4WD buggies
On Wednesday, British RC racing manufacturer Schumacher published the complete details of its upcoming CAT L1 - the brand’s 22nd 4WD off-road racing buggy kit to hit the market. The brand’s history in the class goes back over 30 years, and its designs helped pave the path for other brands to follow. To commemorate the occasion, and Schumacher’s 32 years in the 4WD buggy class, I dug around the Internet and old forum posts, reached out to Schumacher’s Chris Ashton, pored over the RC10Talk posts of Ian Purnell (screen name: minichamps11) and pestered Mark Stanton, Neil Dickens and the members of the Vintage Schumacher Facebook group for information and scanned articles from Radio Race Car International to put together this look back at every 4WD buggy Schumacher has ever made.
From L to R: CAT SWB, CAT XLS, ProCAT, BossCAT Works, CAT 2000, CAT 2000EC and CAT 3000
Photo: James Smith, via Facebook
Photo: James Smith, via Facebook
CAT - Released in 1986
The CAT was the second kit released by Schumacher, following the 1/12-scale “C” in 1982, and helped usher in an era of truly capable off-road racing vehicles; in fact, CAT stands for Competition All Terrain. Fitted with double wishbone suspension - in other words, a true A-arm on top and bottom - supported by aluminum alloy coil over shocks at all four corners of its white fiberglass chassis, the original CAT provided shock travel not found on many other cars in its class at the time. The front suspension mounts were dampened with an O-ring to form the “crash back” system, which dampened damage in a hard crash.
The "crash back" front suspension mount was used on early CAT buggies to provide greater durability in head-on collisions. This photo is from a CAT XL owned by Cedric Devillers.
This shot shows the front end of the BossCAT, released in 1992, which was the last major CAT platform to use the Crashback front suspension mount. Photo: Radio Race Car International
In additional to ball differentials, which founder Cecil Schumacher invented in 1978 — two years before starting the company — the CAT also featured an “integrator system” that allowed the front-to-rear torque split to be adjusted to suit track conditions. Telescoping driveshafts transferred power to the wheels.
Photo: Hazza McFazza, via Facebook
The original CAT, or CAT SWB (which stands for standard wheelbase), was followed up by the CAT XL in 1987, which had a longer chassis. The CAT XLS followed in 1988. Phil Davies won the Euros in 1987 with the XL. Japanese racing legend Masami Hirosaka drove a prototype CAT XLS to win his first World Championship in 1987, which still stands as the company’s only IFMAR win.
ProCAT - Released in 1989
As Schumacher raced into the new decade, the CAT platform was replaced with the ProCAT. The ProCAT had a wider chassis that allowed the use of saddle packs, and a correspondingly wider body and under tray. The front diff housing was revised for easier belt tension adjustment, and out back the ProCAT used a new drum differential. A follow-up ProCAT SE had new Varishocks and 2.2-inch Aerodisc wheels. Stefan Oberle won the 1989 Euros with the ProCAT, and Davies won again in 1990.
BossCAT - Released in 1992
The chassis, shock towers and suspension mounts of the BossCAT were all made of fiberglass. The saddle pack battery position was moved closer to the centerline, with four slots per side to allow for weight distribution adjustments. The BossCAT used the “Belt Over Chassis” transmission layout that is common today, with the chassis plate (and, thus, battery and radio gear) as low as possible with the belt running over the top. A redesigned “crash back” front suspension mount was used, but front suspension geometry was changed and new differentials were used at both ends. The front differential sat in cam-style mounts to allow for belt tension adjustments. The front hub carriers could be altered to use rear-width wheels on the front. The hard-anodized shocks, quick-change slipper clutch,
There were eventually four different versions of the BossCAT - Sport, Comp, Works and Touring. The Comp was the first, in 1992, with a carbon fiber chassis and shock towers, which won the ROAR and BRCA championships in 1993. The Sport followed later in 1992, with black plastic shocks. The Works, also with carbon fiber pieces, was released in 1993, and another version of the Sport with red shocks, motor and mechanical speed control hit shelves in 1994. In 1995, five different BossCAT touring kits — with choice of Escort Cosworth, Alfa Romeo 155, Opel Calibra, Mercedes-Benz C-class, and Ford Mondeo bodies — were introduced.
CAT 2000 - Released in 1993
Not long after the BossCAT Works hit the scene, the CAT 2000 was introduced. The biggest change was the use of a two-belt setup instead of the three-belt drivetrain of the BossCAT. The suspension arms were significantly longer than the previous car, to help cope with rougher tracks and higher speeds. The first CAT 2000 kits came with a ratchet-style front one-way system, but a change was quickly made to a traditional one-way roller bearing. Similarly, the early CAT kits had a fiberglass chassis plate but later units used carbon fiber. A further change was made to the rear suspension, going from outboard toe-in to inboard toe-in.
Photo: Radio Control Car Racer
Kevin Moore and William Mitcham finished second and third at the 1993 Worlds with the CAT 2000 about two months before it was released to the public, and then Craig Drescher drove the car to the Euros title in 1994. Also in 1994, the CAT 2000 Touring was released with an Opel Calibra body.
The CAT 2000EC followed in 1995, which celebrated Craig Drescher’s second-consecutive European Championship that season. It differentiated from the CAT 2000 with its lay down shock geometry and new body. There was also a CAT 2000ECS which was released in 1995, which was a sport-level version of the EC kit and did not include a slipper clutch. Jukka Steenari drove the CAT 2000EC to the 1996 and 1997 European Championships, marking a streak of four straight for CAT buggies.
Photo: Neil Dickens, via Facebook
Photo: Neil Dickens, via Facebook
Photo: Cedric Devillers
In 1997, the CAT 2000SE was released to reflect the changes made on Steenari’s CAT 2000EC that he used to win the 1996 Euros, and the kit included plastic shock bodies as well as lightweight aluminum differentials and “Blade” driveshafts with a small plastic blade that fit into the outdrive. Front suspension geometry changes called for the use of shorter shocks. Steenari and Teemu Leino finished second and third behind Hirosaka at the IFMAR World Championships.
Photo: Cedric Devillers
The CAT 2000 ’98 was released later in 1997, with the “side saddle” chassis. Rather than carbon fiber, the chassis and shock towers were made of a glass-reinforced epoxy laminate the company called S1. The steering assembly was also updated, and the aluminum Pro shocks came back after the plastic units of the SE proved unpopular. A new high-downforce wing was also included.
Photo: Cedric Devillers
CAT 3000 - Released in 2000
The first CAT of the millennium, the CAT 3000, was released in 2000; its chassis had the motor moved further forward, like that of the Team Losi XX-4. Later versions of the CAT 3000 (sometimes called the Evo, but sold under the same part number) used taller shock towers with long rear shocks and medium fronts, and the chassis was changed back to a traditional saddle pack layout.
Photo: RC Scrapyard
Photo: topforce on RCGroups
In early 2005, Schumacher drivers campaigned a CAT 4000 prototype at a few BRCA national and regional events, and Simon Moss ran it at the Euros, but the car was never put into production. The car was different from the 3000 with a return to a more vertical shock arrangement. Here are some photos of the car Moss raced at Kidderminster that oOple published.
CAT SX - Released in 2008
After more than five years racing the CAT 3000 EVO and the CAT 4000 prototype, Schumacher released the CAT SX — the brand’s first 4WD built to suit the industry’s move toward brushless motors. To cope with racers still split between brushed and brushless power, the CAT SX could be built with three different internal transmission ratios: 2.4:1, 2.6:1 or 2.8:1. No matter which ratio chosen, the inline-mounted motor was installed from the right, as it would be in a 2WD car equipped with a four-gear transmission; This meant that the motor spun in the same direction as the tires, which Schumacher advertised as contributing to stable jumping attitude and the elimination of steer compared to other shaft-driven cars of the time. The CAT SX drivetrain also incorporated a dual-pad slipper clutch
Two different versions of the CAT SX were available, with a chassis designed either to accept 4-2 split NiMH packs or stick-pack LiPo batteries. Both versions of the CAT SX had a clamp-type motor mount that allowed weight distribution adjustments as well as motor changes without affecting gear mesh. There was also a sport-level S1 version that came as an assembled rolling chassis, with steel turnbuckles in place of purple titanium pieces as well as molded composite parts replacing the carbon fiber chassis and shock towers and to reduce costs. Finally, a Phil Booth signature edition honoring the builder of Hirosaka’s Worlds-winning CAT XLS was also available as an assembled roller, with various optional tuning parts already installed.
CAT SX2 - Released in 2009
Just one year later, Schumacher revamped its new-generation buggy to create the CAT SX2 with tweaks to better suit the rapidly-changing world of off-road racing. The biggest changes over the original SX included new 13mm Pro Spec big-bore shocks, stronger suspension wishbones at the front and rear, a new 2.5mm-thick carbon fiber chassis and top deck with revised weight distribution, tougher plastic pivot blocks, a larger rear wing and even a 5mm-thick spur gear. Like the SX, the SX2 was available in either Pro carbon fiber or S1 composite trim, although this time both Pro and S1 cars could be purchased in kit or assembled form.
CAT SX3 - Released in 2011
Two years later, a third version of the CAT SX took advantage of the brushless and LiPo revolution settling in. The SX3 featured another all-new chassis, this time with the motor mounted in front of a traditional saddle pack LiPo setup for better balance and improved agility. The three-belt drivetrain was also made more efficient with larger pulleys and a straighter alignment, with hardened-steel transfer gears to better handle increasing brushless power. Like the SX and SX2, the SX3 could be built with three different gear ratios — though now the options were 2.2:1, 2.6:1 or 3.0:1 to provide a larger window of options. The body and undertray were also new, as was the simplified and more rigid wing mount. Once again, Pro carbon fiber and S1 composite kit and assembled versions were available.
CAT K1 - Released in 2012
One year after the SX3, the all-new CAT K1 represented a major shift in design for the CAT series. Instead of carbon fiber, the K1 used a 2mm-thick aluminum saddle pack chassis and molded plastic side pods stiffened by a long carbon fiber top deck designed for optimal flex. The K1 used a mid-motor layout like the SX3, but this time utilized a two-belt drivetrain with low-tension belts and large CNC-machined pulleys. Unlike the SX series, the K1 reverted to a traditional motor position with the can fitted from the left. The steering bell cranks were mounted to the chassis for a low center of gravity, and angled for improved Ackermann. Medium-flex plastic composite arms were standard, with others available as tuning options, again fastened to a stronger pivot block mounting system. In place of the larger bore shocks on the SX2 and SX3, the K1 used smaller dampers with tapered pistons for increased agility. Black aluminum anodizing contributed a more stealthy look than the purple found on previous cars. Larger layshaft bearings and improved belt tension adjusters further improved drivetrain efficiency, and the radical cab-forward shell was matched with a new large rear wing. While no S1 composite version of the K1 was made, the buggy could be purchased either as a kit or assembled roller.
CAT K1 Aero - Released in 2013
A second version of the K1, called the K1 Aero, was released the following year. A new AirFlo body with a less aggressive shape than the original K1 shell was matched with a corresponding wing for more aerodynamic stability. That new body stretched over a new carbon fiber saddle pack chassis, which meant the aluminum plate of the original K1 was gone. Whereas gear differentials were optional for the K1, they were included as standard equipment for the K1 Aero. The Aero also marked a return to big bore shocks, with V2 dampers comprised of improved bodies that had twin O-ring seals and threaded ride height collars. The upper mounts of those new dampers were covered by “nut guards” to protect the hardware and track surface from damage in a crash. Finally, the K1 Aero employed 12mm hex wheels. Like the K1, the K1 Aero was available either as a kit or assembled roller in Pro Carbon Fiber trim.
The K1 Aero is the car that 13-year-old Polish prodigy Michal Orlowski drove to the 2015 European Championship at Robin Hood Raceway in England.
CAT K2 - Released in 2015
Following Orlowski’s victory, Schumacher released the K2 with information the team learned in its two years of racing the K1 Aero. The chassis was once again made of 2.5mm-thick aluminum, which was longer and narrower than the K1 Aero, and its flex could be altered with alloy stiffeners in addition to the molded plastic side pods. The top deck was split for better flex characteristics, and the electronics could be arranged to fit either saddle or shorty LiPo batteries. The suspension ball joints were now captured, and a more compact steering system had a wider range of Ackermann adjustments. The ultra-low motor mount on the K2 reverted to the reverse-rotation orientation of the SX series, with a slipper clutch that now used four pads and an ultra-fine adjustment spring, and the transmission cases were redesigned. Other changes included rear pivot straps, battery thumb screws, front yokes with roll center adjustments, stronger outer rear and inner front hinge pins, easy-access center pulley mount, and a sleek body with large “Claw” high downforce wing. Like the K1 and K1 Aero, the K2 was sold as a kit or assembled roller in Pro Carbon Fiber trim.
CAT XLS Masami - Released in 2017
Thirty years after Masami Hirosaka scored the brand’s only IFMAR world championship, Schumacher introduced its first re-release kit: an updated version of the CAT XLS with original Schumacher spiked tires and a complete set of replica details to match Hirosaka’s winning car. Compared to the original, the chassis was modified to accept either early NiCD or late-generation NiMH stick packs as well as a shorty LiPo. The transmission was upgraded to allow for the fitment of modern brushless power systems.
CAT L1 - Released in 2018
More than two years after the previous CAT K2, the L1 kit successfully tested at major international events so far in 2018 introduced this week represents the latest technology available from the Schumacher squad. A new 3-gear transmission helps retain the reverse-rotation motor position so popular on Schumacher 4WD cars over the years. The gear differentials are purposely small, to reduce rotating mass, and their heights can be adjusted to alter driveshaft plunge. Brake bias can be altered, thanks to the Front Adjustable Braking system and included 22-tooth pulley. The upper and lower transmission housings at both ends of the car are made with aluminum for strength and a low center of gravity, and a lightweight twin-pad slipper clutch uses an Ultra-Fine adjustment spring. Finally, steel universals are mused to spin 12mm wheel hexes.
With more than 20 different cars released over the last three decades, the Schumacher CAT lineup of 4WD buggies is one of the most prolific ranges of any brand in RC - and with a Worlds title and multiple Euros victories, perhaps the most successful ever produced in Europe.