Saturday, December 31, 2011

1989 (part 2/4) - Traxxas is Rad! Say hello to the Radicator!

Traxxas Radicator

In part two of my series covering 1989, Traxxas brings its next evolution in racing buggy to market- the Radicator.  The Radicator had its share of shortcomings and its success was destined to be limited by the infamous RC-10.  Much like the bullet, the design was overly bulky and awkward, the transmission was loud and unreliable, the plastics were (yet again) brittle and prone to breakage and the performance was at best, underwhelming. Many of the parts on the Radicator would (for better or worse) be shared with future models and it too was available in several flavors as the years passed. Plastics went from white to black, aluminum changed colors and disappeared altogether (replaced by plastic) but all the parts remained interchangeable.

The Radicator was powered by a single brushed can motor with lackluster power and a manual speed control (3 step) or the electronic speed controller used previously, the XL-1. Introduced around the same time as the Radicator was a new version of the XL-1, deemed the XL-2.  The XL-2 was marketed to racers, as it was a forward and brake only ESC. Reverse was not allowed in many races at the time, a rule which remains in place today.  That being the case, the XL-2 left out the reversing circuitry and allowed hotter motors to be used without endangering the electronics.  Ultimately many people would purchase the graphite Eagle chassis (a vehicle Traxxas later released) which greatly increased the durability and performance of the Radicator. Graphite and aluminum shock towers were made available as well as a ball differential and other performance options. Part of the reason for increased parts availability was due to the "sister" vehicle of the Radicator which will be covered in the final vehicle of the 1989 series- The Traxxas Hawk.  The Radicator and the Hawk shared many parts.  The Hawk was basically a truck version fo the Radicator and the sharing of parts made offering multiple options and upgrades more feasible due to the larger market saturation of compatible vehicles.

My Radicator is one of the few in my collection which is missing the box.  It is in mint condition however- it appears as if it has never been run.  It is the white plastic/gold shock version and it's one of my favorite. The hot pink paint job matches the wheels and fits with the florescent color craze of the time in the states.

Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator
Traxxas Radicator

Up next: Part three of the series covering 1989 is the Villian IV! Traxxas' first shot at tearing up the lake. Look for it in the coming weeks.

1989 (part 1/4) - Traxxas Drops the Hammer.. the Sledgehammer!

1989 was a busy year for Traxxas, which is what has prompted me to separate each vehicle into a single post going forward. In 1989 Traxxas released the Villain IV boat, Sledgehammer monster truck, Radicator racing buggy and Hawk stadium truck. So without further delay, let's have a look at part one of the series... the Traxxas Sledgehammer!!

Part one of my four part series covering the releases in 1989 is dedicated to the Traxxas Sledgehammer. The Sledgehammer was the first monster truck developed by Traxxas, perhaps motivated by the popularity of such offerings as Tamiya Blackfoot and Clod Buster, Kyosho Double Dare, USA-1, etc. This truck met with reasonable success, and ultimately was released in three versions. The earliest versions of the Sledgehammer included the white plastic and gold aluminum parts seen in previous models, followed by a white plastic with black aluminum parts and finally an all black plastic version with black aluminum.

This intimidating platform had a high center of gravity with it's large tires and tall suspension. Speaking of tires, these are some of the better looking monster truck tires introduced to the market to date. While I've never seen tires like this on a full scale truck, the normal truck tread with added near-sidewall spikes makes the truck look like a Misfits fan on steroids. The two shock per wheel setup (inspired by the Clod Buster?) carries on today in the Emaxx truck and while probably not the best performing option, it definitely gives the look of an aggressive monster. The body was that of a Chevy short bed truck with plastic chromed bumpers and roll bar. This added to the realism and although branded bodies became a rarity (presumably because of licensing) I think it serves both the automotive and RC companies well- I'd like to see more of it (outside of Tamiya) these days.

The sledgehammer was powered by a single brushed motor and Traxxas branded ESC which included a much larger heatsink than on previous versions to handle the additional current required by the heavier vehicle. The standard pistol grip transmitter/controller setup was again available with this truck and steering was controlled with a single (albeit underpowered) servo. The performance was on-par if not better than other monster truck offerings of the time. The Sledgehammer's high center of gravity is exaggerated by the rear motor/transmission placement and it suffered from the same brittle white (or in latter designs, black) plastic outdrives. This problem was even worse in the Sledgehammer than previous models because of the additional rotating mass in the wheels and tires. Snapping an outdrive meant taking the entire rear section of the beast apart and splitting the transmission case, leaving most people out of commission for several hours/days. Additionally, the same brittle plastic was used to make the body mounts, which were tall and thin, leading to many body mounts breaking on the first roll. Being a monster truck, rolls were common and therefore so were broken body mounts. Other than a couple of disappointing weak points, the Sledge is fairly durable, and it's a lot of fun to drive.

My Sledge is the second version with white plastics, black anodized aluminum, and original electronics. It has a XL-1 ESC with the signature large heat sink. It took me quite some time to find one with the original white body mounts, as most were either broken or replaced with the slightly stronger black plastic part. The body is in good condition but no original decals are applied. Also, the rollbar is installed but the front and rear chrome bumpers are not. I have the bumpers but haven't had the opportunity to install them yet. Enjoy the pictures, feel free to comment and look forward to part two of Traxxas 1989, the Radicator!

Monday, May 16, 2011

1988 - Enter the Bullet (TRX-10)

In 1988 Traxxas released the Bullet, a very interesting design which targeted the growing racing market that Associated Electronics had bolstered in the United States with the release of the revolutionary RC-10.  It was available in kit or RTR form (including a pistol-grip transmitter) and met with limited success.

The Bullet was a contender for the RC-10, but was inferior in several areas to the purpose-built competitor.  A victim of "over-engineering" as many products of the time were, the Bullet was far more complicated than it should have been for a purpose-built racer.  The Aluminum chassis was strong but the "double-decker" design with multiple standoffs added unnecessary weight. Traxxas must have learned many lessons from this vehicle as the designs were vastly improved in the generations to come.  The white plastic parts were somewhat brittle, but the main issue I've always had with this vehicle was the use of that plastic in the out drives of the transmission.  Plastic wheel shafts (2 part) were common then and are still used today (albeit much better material) but for the purposes of racing, those materials were too weak.  Still, those could be easily replaced when broken.  The main issue was the out-drives which when damaged, required a lot more effort to replace and were a very common snapping point. The steering setup worked quite well, but it was (like everything) difficult to tune and work on because of the full-length top plate.  Overall the chassis was very rigid and it could be made to steer quite well, but the excessive weight, somewhat clunky transmission and difficult maintenance made it a poor alternative to the intuitive, efficient RC-10. While some drivers had some success with this platform, it required a lot more effort on the part of the driver to set up and they would ultimately spend much longer in the pits than the buggies it competed against. 

Design flaws aside, the Bullet is one of my favorite vintage Traxxas vehicles.  Body off, it is a rolling work of art with the beautifully crafted aluminum chassis and shocks. The body itself has a great amount of detail (for a racer) and the shape and design has a certain "wow" factor that sets it apart from nearly every other buggy on the market. The integrated wing and detailed driver/rollcage gave it a great look despite the added weight. 

My particular Bullet is in very good condition but not mint. The box is a little rough but complete. Very nice piece for nostalgic RC advertising and design. Enjoy the pictures and as always- I welcome your input. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

The missing links! My Traxxas wish list grows shorter...

Over the years I've been doing this, I've managed to collect a good portion of the vehicles on my list. In the last two weeks, I've made two substantial finds that get me closer to that goal. I'm officially only looking for 3 vehicles now. If you own any of these and wish to sell them, please Contact me! The list is as follows:

  • Nitro Street (Corvette body, based on the Nitro Buggy/Hawk chassis) - The Nitro Street is a difficult one to track down... searching the internet I see a lot of message board postings from the era it was released, talking about the performance of them, etc.. so I know they are out there. It's just a matter of finding one, preferably with the stick controller and brown Traxxas box. 
  • Blue Eagle LS (LS version only) - The Blue Eagle LS is simply an upgraded version of the Blue Eagle. Traxxas sold a "LS Upgrade Kit" as well for the standard Blue Eagle. I've got a couple of Blue Eagle trucks in good condition, but I'd like to find a LS version (with box) in mint or near-mint condition.
  • TRX Eagle - The TRX Eagle is one that I can find little or no information about. I'm not even sure what I'm looking for on that one. I found a couple of pictures which make it look like a blue eagle stadium truck on a Bullet chassis.  I've actually got a line on one now, so I may have more information on this one soon.
  • Nitro Vee - I've found plenty of Nitro Vees online, but never the perfect combination of condition and price. I would like to have one with little or no use, and on that particular one, I require the original box, etc. (found 03/11)
As for other miscellaneous items I'm looking for, if you have any of the following I would be interested as well...
  • Image .12 engine - This nitro engine came before the TRX .12 and is difficult to find these days. I need one for my Nitro Buggy.  I would be interested in an Image .12 in any condition, running or not.  
  • Monster Buggy body - Mine is aftermarket.  The MB I have is in excellent condition, but the previous owner either purchased or fabricated an aluminum body for it.  It's actually quite nice and displays well... but I'm always on the lookout for an original
  • Near mint to mint condition bodies - I would consider purchasing bodies / decal sheets for any Traxxas vehicle made prior to 1995ish.  
  • Anything else vintage Traxxas - Although I may not be actively seeking it, if you have something old made by Traxxas, contact me with the details... I'm always interested in seeing what's out there.

As for the next update, I will be doing the Bullet information/photo post soon.  I'll also be doing the Sledgehammer and Radicator photo shoots and posts around the same time.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

1987 - Traxxas Cat (Tomcat) and GTP / Fiero.

In 1987, Traxxas released the Cat and Fiero. I have a Fiero in very good condition (no box) and a Cat in new condition with the box. The Cat seemed to be a solid entry into the 1/12th scale carpet racing world (although heavy compared to the RC12 or Bolink counterparts) and the Cat simply seemed to be a backyard basher that was a low-quality Tamiya Grasshopper or Futaba FX10 alternative. Nothing about The Cat seemed to scream quality or performance, but it is nonetheless one of my cherished pieces of Traxxas history.  

Fiero / GTP:

As for the GTP/Fiero, I also wonder about kit vs RTR availability.  I know it was available as a RTR, but early on in the company's history, Traxxas seemed to offer both options for those who may want to build the kit themselves. If a kit did exist, were there separate part numbers?

Here are some images of the GTP from my collection.  A few things about it: I do have the original controller but the receiver has been replaced with a Futaba unit which requires a 4-cell battery pack.  Originally, the Traxxas receiver would have been located where the battery pack is now, and nothing would be mounted where the Futaba RX is.  I do not have the box for this one and it has some scratches on the bottom of the chassis, but overall it is in fair condition.

The Cat:

My questions about the Traxxas Cat are as follows:
Was it available in kit form?  I've found the Traxxas Cat and Tomcat (which appear to be identical) but what I've seen appears to all be RTR. I've not seen indication that it was available as a kit.
Is there any difference (other than branding) of the Cat and the Tom Cat?  I've seen box art which is different, but the product appears to be the same.   

Below are some pictures of my Tom Cat.  I have the original box and controller (it was an RTR package) and it appears to have never been used.  I've tested the functionality of the buggy and everything works perfectly.  The box is in decent to good condition but the buggy is in excellent condition.