Revisit a Misspent R/C Youth

Geek Culture

Sand Viper (image: Viper (image:

Sand Viper (image:

Building and racing Radio Controlled cars is a strong and vivid childhood memory for me. Now my kids are getting a little older I’ve been keen to get them as enthused about these super-fast model kit cars as I am. It was with some excitement then that I tested the Tamiya Sand Viper – DT02 for Fusion Hobbies. Not only did it look the business, but something about how those plastic parts all smelt took me right back to being ten again.

As I researched my next car and looked into the world of Radio Controlled models I reallised there wasn’t a whole host of information aimed at a newcomer like me. So here is the first of what I hope will be a series about getting started in this mechanical world of Radio Controlled Car building. Great for teaching building, electronic and driving skills.

What type of R/C car is this?
The Sand Viper is one of the newer Tamiya 1/10 Off-Road 2WD Electric Buggy car. It is based on the DT-02 chassis and as such benefits from some design innovations as well as their usual build quality. A lightweight polycarbonate body joins the now standard oil dampers and full ball bearings to ensure the spiked rear tired stay in contact with any surface. A standard Tamiya 540 motor and TEU-101BK forwards and reverse Electronic Speed Control complete the kit.

These components have been intelligently put together to ensure a low center of gravity – center mounted R/C unit and battery in the lightweight bathtub frame features. Full ball racing complement grooved front tires and high performance off-road rear tires for enhanced cornering and grip.
Options and expansion

Because the Sand Viper is based on the Tamiya DT-02 chassis you can take advantage of a wide range of Tamiya hop-ups (enhancements). These range from upgraded shock absorbers, tires to suite your driving conditions, replacement metal parts to the more substantial upgraded motor like the RC RS540 Sport Tuned Motor Tamiya recommend.

The TEU-101BK forwards and reverse Electronic Speed Control should be suitable for those who want to move to a brushless motor set-up, something that will squeeze a bit more power from the car as well as reduce maintenance.

Time and difficulty to build
Those that are familiar with building hobby-grade radio controlled cars should get to the point of a running car in four to five hours, and another hour or two to finish off and paint. If this is the first car that you have built expect to spend a little longer. The Tamiya instructions were thorough and easy to follow, and the pieces are well labelled and fitted together perfectly – they continue to prove they are the IKEA of the Radio Controlled Car world.

Building the Sand Viper consisted of assembling the rear wishbones and differential, assembling the front wishbones, building and filling the four shocks, connecting all of these to the bathtub chassis and connecting the electrics. The car is rounded off by cutting out and painting the polycarbonate body.

This involved a variety of skills from simple assembly, instruction reading, patience, screwing, cutting and dealing with viscous fluids. The electrics then introduce the need for logic and identification of circuits. The trickiest aspect for me was when I discovered the provided tamiya Speed Control Unit wouldn’t plug into my Ascoms receiver. I had to trim a blocking nub of plastic on the Tamiya plug to make it fit – certainly a little off the beaten track.

Build Quality
Once built the Tamiya Sand Viper felt solid and strong. The bucket chassis construction combined with the oil filled shocks and off-road style give the car a robust go anywhere sort of feel. The front bumper is a little on the small side and means the wheels and axles often take the brunt of impacts. But these too are solid enough to cope with all but the most extreme collisions.

The combination of bucket chassis and polycarbonate molded body means that most mud and dirt stays out of the car. The brushed motor handing out the rear does collect quite a bit of muck and the open wishbone suspension collect anything that hits them – as is unavoidable on Off Road Buggy type cars.

Sand Viper (image: Viper (image:

Sand Viper (image:

A five minute brush and wipe down is all that is needed on most occasions with a little more attention paid to the motor and internals to ensure clean-running.

Wired: Speed, these things really fly.

Tired: The batteries only last about 20 minutes for each charge. Fast charger is essential.

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