RC Models Are Awesome

Posted on 3rd Aug 2010 at 15:23 by Antony Leather with 21 comments

Antony Leather
To go with today's feature on remote control, Joe asked me to write a post about my experience with RC models.

Like many model enthusiasts, I started young. I built my first Airfix plane at the age of four, was cluttering my ceiling with models by the age of nine and my teens were filled with rockets, free flight aeroplanes and countless radio controlled cars and planes. I left the boats to my brother.

It's an interest that still lingers today and which pre-dated my passion for PC hardware. Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to be technically minded or have the dexterity of a Red Bull-addicted ninja to enjoy making them either.

There really is something for everyone. Planes, boats, cars, even tanks and flying insects. You can be sailing, flying ordriving in five minutes or if you prefer, you can build your model just like you would with a die-cast one. Building your own is very rewarding although you'll probably want to throw yourself of the nearest building if it crashes.

RC Models Are Awesome *Radio control is awesome
Nitro-powered cars are a lot of fun

Cars are much easier to have fun with than planes because you don't have the issues of gravity and the ground. Having flown real planes I can say with some certainty that flying an RC plane is actually much harder than the real thing because you're not in the cockpit. Things get very weird when you're flying your plane towards you as the controls appear to be reversed.

If you're not that technically minded or experienced but are looking to take up RC then RTR (ready to run) and ARTF (almost ready to fly) are the kits you're after as nearly everything is pre-built. With RC cars it's worth bearing in mind that while tournaments and clubs are pretty common, most will only race certain models. Make sure you get the right one.

RC Models Are Awesome *Radio control is awesome
The Aerobird Swift is tough, cheap and good place to start

If you aren't racing and are only wanting some casual fun then there are still plenty of affordable options. There are electric and nitro-methane powered models available (the latter are very noisy so may annoy the neighbours) and they are very much like owning your own car. Thankfully, they're much cheaper but you can buy spares, upgrades and if you want to extend their life, even service them.

RC Models Are Awesome *Radio control is awesome
The Bullhead looks more impressive under the shell than a real monster truck

It's worth considering where you want to drive too, as some of the nitro-powered models are too fast and loud to drive in built up areas. I usually take mine down to the beach or to big, open parks. Remember that not all tyres can handle all terrain too - larger wheels will give you more grip.

There are nitro and electrically-powered planes and helicopters too with the latter more suited to the beginner as they're less hassle. If you don't have an RC flying club close by for some tuition, your best bet is to opt for something simple and bomb-proof - learning to fly is tricky!

RC Models Are Awesome *Radio control is awesome
The SkySurfer is cheap and essentially crash proof but still great fun

RC planes are typically categorised by the number of channels you control. A two-channel plane will have only basic controls, leaving aerobatics out of the question, while a four-channel plane will give you control of the throttle, rudder, elevators (pitch) and ailerons (roll). Two/three-channel and a strong plastic frame is the way to go for first timers, but I actually started out with a SkySurfer like the one above.

There are even PC simulators available that come with a USB RC controller and allow you to practice with various different models. They can be worth every penny - crashing in a simulator is a lot cheaper than in the real world!

With my spare cash now going towards PC modding and keeping the car on the road, my RC days have been on pause for a while with my models collecting dust at home. It's still close to my heart though, so if you're into RC racing then I'd love to hear from you in the forums.

Make sure you check out our feature on remote control vehicles, too.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Roboduck 3rd August 2010, 15:41 Quote
RC was/is my hobby before I started building PCs. Brushless is the way to go for RC though! I have a bruchless E-Revo and it easily outruns the nitro version with the added benefit of not having to mess with tuning an engine or cleaning up oil and fuel. Ive never been into planes for the "gravity and the ground" reasons, but ive been racing for 11-12 years now.

Cool article, I like the occasional non-Tech article. Keep it up!
Jamie 3rd August 2010, 15:48 Quote
I built a Piper Cub kit ( wooden frame and wings ) and learnt to fly it (4 channel). It had a .40 engine and it was a lot of fun. I then moved onto electric gliders with a skysport kit. I also had several electric RC cars and took part in an inter school RC racing project to build a petrol powered RC race car.
Combatus 3rd August 2010, 16:15 Quote
Originally Posted by Jamie
I built a Piper Cub kit ( wooden frame and wings ) and learnt to fly it (4 channel). It had a .40 engine and it was a lot of fun. I then moved onto electric gliders with a skysport kit. I also had several electric RC cars and took part in an inter school RC racing project to build a petrol powered RC race car.

Nice! I had a cub too although mine had foam wings and the wing folded in a high-G turn. Not a lot left but managed to salvage the electronics!
robyholmes 3rd August 2010, 16:22 Quote
Can you tell me were I can get this SkySurfer, its looks very good but can't find any in UK RC stores.
PureSilver 3rd August 2010, 16:58 Quote
Hah, as part of my summer job we built a trike pretty similar to the SkySurfer (a real one, for two real people, not an RC toy) - great fun.

I flew .60 trainers and .90 helis but never really got the hang of either, the 1:16 Tamiya Tiger Mk. I is much more fun for a lot less effort :D
WarrenJ 3rd August 2010, 17:13 Quote
i race 10th electric touring, great fun, great atmosphere. Money is shared between computer and car. But my god the races are fun!
jim48509 3rd August 2010, 18:26 Quote
Used to manage a hobby shop in Melbourne, Australia , flew competitive R/C aerobatic models before they went to 1/4 scale. Very few things are as good as flying a patten ship early in the morning just after the fog has lifted.

Built a Tamiya R/C tank which I was driving around the shop just as a customer walked in never did see him again. Last thing he was expecting was to have his foot run over by a tank.

Built a 77 inch wing span P51 Mustang which used to hang in the shop as a display model, this old guy walked in and was looking around the shop, he stopped at the Mustang, tears started rolling down his cheeks. He must have stood looking at that plane for a good 5 min then quietly walked out.
PingCrosby 3rd August 2010, 21:50 Quote
I once spent 7 painstaking years building a radio controlled life size fly that looked absolutly authentic down to the last detail, this was miniturisation on a minute scale, I remember the day I was ready for the first test flight...I put the fly on the chair arm while I got my transmitter ready, powered her up and...SPLAT, my dad hit it with a newspaper and said, "Pesky flys", The image has haunted my dreams ever since.
outlawaol 3rd August 2010, 22:09 Quote
I agree with the thread title!

Me and my dad were into planes when I was younger - we got the PC trainer and everything. That was a summer I'll never forget. I built it in our dining room (my mom was out of state) and needless to say there was balsa dust all over the place, it was awesome! Also was the summer we got a real computer - not a hand me down POS. I remember building my trainer very much so. Unfortunately my dad crashed it when I wasnt there. We did get one or two more but we kinda dropped it - it gets expensive real fast.

I also tampered in nitro cars, but that was really messy on a offroad truck and it kinda died out as well. I then got a mini electric 4x4, and that I still have and maintain. Its so much cleaner then nitro.

I would still fly a plane on nitro, just cause of sheer power. Those props still scare me a bit though!

Thanks for resurrecting my R/C days - its good to reminisce. :)
[USRF]Obiwan 4th August 2010, 08:22 Quote
I started at a young age with electic rc cars, then to nitromethane powered 1:8 onroad cars on a closed circuit near me called MACH a world famous onroad track.

Then at the age of 12 I got other interests and the stuff wend to the attic. years later (about 15 years later) I found the stuff again when looking for a light bulb and was exited to see it there as i forgot about it. I get the stuff down and see if i could start it. I needed fuel so I wend to the hobbystore and I was like a little kid again. Because things had changed a lot. I got out the of the shop with two HPI SAVAGE SS kits. one for me and one for my brother. We had so much fun bashing around. 30+ year olds playing with these amazing new toys.

A few years later I bought a Gaspowered 1:5 scale HPI BAJA. IMHO one of the most awesome RCscaled cars you could get. Fastforward to 2007. I won the two first cups of the 1:5 scale HPI Baja cup in the Netherlands. Raced a few more and then I wanted the fun back and not competition stress so left the cup racing and do sunday races again on our own track. Did not had time (or money) this year to drive the baja a lot. But last Sunday i was driving around again eating dust. Lots of fun and that on the age of 39!
earlydoors 4th August 2010, 13:03 Quote
I've was into RC (cars more than anything) when I was younger, but I only ever got one pre-built car.

I'm still quite interested in them...who are the ebuyer / scan of rc cars?
Combatus 4th August 2010, 15:26 Quote
Originally Posted by earlydoors
I've was into RC (cars more than anything) when I was younger, but I only ever got one pre-built car.

I'm still quite interested in them...who are the ebuyer / scan of rc cars? (they do loads of spares I seem to remember)

I'll stop there cos else I'm gonna start spending money!
Shadowed_fury 4th August 2010, 15:40 Quote

my personal fave.

used to run RC cars myself, dad used to have planes yearrrrs ago :)
Cleggmeister 4th August 2010, 17:22 Quote
+1 for

I used to race in difference classes, though mainly 1:8 nitro and 1:5 petrol. ModelsportUK provided all the necessary replacement parts when I crashed...

The old roadcrew used to be...

1:18 - Team Associated RC18T
1:10 - Tamiya TT-01
1:8 - Hotbodies Lightning Stadium Pro
1:8 - Custom Clod Crawler
1:5 - FG Monster Beetle
1:? - Yamaha 26cc offshore racer (boat)

I probably spent around £10k on all that including parts and hop-ups (modifications). Sold the lot last year for under a grand :(
[USRF]Obiwan 5th August 2010, 09:37 Quote
I shop regularly by MMR Large scale
Agamer 6th August 2010, 12:08 Quote
I've just been rebuilding my 1:5 FG car which had a nasty accident a few years back and has been sitting on a shelf ever since.

Just rediscovering how expensive it all is.
Smilodon 7th August 2010, 10:07 Quote
I started out with a Tamiya FF01 and quickly upgraded to a Tamiya Clod Buster (same as the Bullhead in the article, but with a pickup body).

I Clod Buster got heavily modified. I ended up making a stretched tube chassis for it.

A wile later I got my first Nitro (Kyosho Wild dodge RAM). It was fun, but the engine was a bit badly made, so it leaked lots of oil from the crankshaft bearings. I also messed up the transmission (this was a Nitro with reverse gear). I ended up locking it into forward, and replaced the reverse gear with brakes instead.

All this was a few years ago. I couple of years ago I got a HPI Savage SS to get me started again, and last summer I bought a second hand Nitro heli. (Kyosho Caliber 30). None of those have seen much use, but they still look good sitting on the shelf. I have even painted both of them in matching colors. :)

The heli scares the living crap out of me, so it will probably not see much use. Hopefully I'll find some time to play a bit more with the Savage soon.
DeadMan 11th August 2010, 17:18 Quote
My favorite store:

I used to fly 30 series Helicopters but now only have a nitro aircraft left.

If you interested in RC I recommend you give these guys a call.
l3v1ck 18th August 2010, 07:59 Quote
What rocks: My father-in-law buying an RC car (suitable for ages 6 and above according to the box) for my son's birthday last week.
What sucks: His second birthday.
kenco_uk 18th August 2010, 16:59 Quote
I have three rc cars in the loft, one I've not tested much but is a sort of baja bug which I'm told goes like the clappers (I swapped it with an old laptop on here a while ago!) One is a truck which has hardly been used and the third is a Kyosho Ford Focus which, despite being completely stock, I've managed to roll on its roof.
charliecenta 17th February 2015, 11:00 Quote
Originally Posted by earlydoors
I've was into RC (cars more than anything) when I was younger, but I only ever got one pre-built car.

I'm still quite interested in them...who are the ebuyer / scan of rc cars?

This website is quite good:

They're shipping is really quick and they've got a load of guides and how to's on the website to help you with any problems.
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