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A buyers' guide to Electric RC Cars

March 30, 2010

So you're interested in Electric Radio Control Cars. Wonderland Models has a great selection of cars, kits, accessories and everything you are likely to need, as you get ready to enter the fun and exciting world of RC Cars. From the absolute beginner to a racing pro, Wonderland Models is ready and set to get you on the road. So let's take a closer look.

Mad-RatClod-BusterFerrari-F1Fiat-500

Before we get started there are a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself which will make your decision a lot easier:

  1. Where am I going to drive my RC Car?
  2. What car suits my experience level?

If you can answer these questions, then your decision will be a lot easier to make.

1. On-Road vs. Off-Road

Probably the biggest determining factor when choosing a radio control car, is where you are going to drive it. 

On-Road Cars

On-Road Racing On-Road or Touring cars are suitable for smooth surfaces such as asphalt, paved roads and carpet. These cars are built for speed and have a very low clearance making them struggle on uneven surfaces. On-Road cars look great, styled on real life cars; there is a huge selection of vehicles to choose from. On-Road cars include the relatively new category of RC Drifting. Cars like Tamiya's Mazda RX-7 Drift Spec or Nismo R34 GT-R Drift Spec are built specifically for sliding around corners, and require a completely different style of driving. Click here to see drift cars in action.

 

Off-Road RC Cars

Off-Road RacingOff-Road cars have taller suspension, more ground clearance, and therefore the ability to go where on-road cars can't. Off-Road Cars include cars like Buggies, Short-Course Trucks, Rock Crawlers and Monster Trucks. These cars a made to race around on rough terrain, and offer a whole other aspect of the hobby. The Ansmann Brushless Vapor, Tamiya Super Clod Buster, and XB Rising Fighter, Toyota Land Cruiser 40 are popular examples of these different classes. 

 

2. Experience Level

Whether you have had radio control cars before, if this is your first venture in to the exciting world of RC then Wonderland Models has huge variety of cars to choose from that will suit the absolute beginner to the seasoned pro racer. Most RC cars come in kit form that requires assembly and additional equipment to get you on the road. Below are some examples of different cars, to suit different drivers. 

RC Cars for Beginners

Intermediate-level Cars

Advanced-level Cars

Pro-Racer Cars

So now that you have a bit more of an idea about what cars a may suit your purposes, there is just a bit more you should know before you decide one your ride.

Components & Accessories for RC Cars

The bits that go in your car are often more important than the car itself. You can often avoid dealing with these sorts of details by looking at a "Ready-to-Run" (RTR) package like the Tamiya XB range of cars. It is always worth checking whether there are additional requirements to get your car on the road. The Wonderland Models Radio Control Department are more than happy to help with any queries you may have.

To make it easier for you we have put together a couple of package deals that include most of the parts you need to get your car going. Depending on what level you are at there is a package deal for you.

 

So, what do you need? Usually to get a RC Car going you needs the following.

Car Kit

Be it built or in kit form, the car is the "bare-bones" of the RC Car. Check what is included with the kit.

Radio Equipment

How you will control the vehicle. This will usually include a transmitter, receiver, and occasionally servos. You can see here Wonderland Models range of transmitter packages from leading companies like Spektrum, Ansmann, Acoms and Hitec. Almost all cars will require at least 1 servo to control the steering of the vehicle, so make sure that your radio package includes one. If it doesn't, you could use something like the Acoms AS16 or Hitec HS-322HD.

Batteries

Your power source. You will need a battery for the car itself and a couple of AA batteries for your transmitter as well. The most common battery for RC Cars is a 7.2volt NiMh battery. These are all the same size, but come in varying capacities such as 1800, 2000, 2700, 3000 and 3700mAh. A larger capacity battery will give you more driving time, but will also take longer to charge up. In recent times, lithium polymer or LiPo batteries have revolutionised the way your RC car is powered. They are lighter, have higher capacities and can deliver their energy a lot faster than traditional NiMh batteries. As long as you cars electronics (the electronic speed controller or ESC) can cope with LiPo batteries, then you could use something like the Bionic Batteries Lipo or Ansmann Xirius packs.

Battery Chargers

There are a great many battery chargers available these days, and which one will suit your purposes is often a bit hard to figure out. If you are just starting out and using the standard NiMh type of batteries that are meant for RC Cars, then you can get away with something like the basic Ansmann Powerjack 6-8 Charger which will charge a 2000mAh NiMh battery overnight (6-8 hours). The Ansmann AC30 Fast Charger will charge the same capacity battery in about 20-30mins, and is often worth the extra money. The top of the line charger is the iMax B6 computer charger. This charger will charge any capacity NiCd or NiMh battery, as well LiPo batteries up to 6 cells. This charger is well worth the money, and will mean that you be able to charge almost any battery that you may come across in your adventures into the world of Radio Control.

View our full range of RC Car Battery Chargers »

Motors and Speed Controllers

With modern advances in electronics, today's RC Car motors can provide absolutely blistering speeds and performance, rivalling and sometimes surpassing the fuel-powered alternatives. The majority of car kits you purchase will come with a motor and speed controller (the part used to control the motor), but in some cases, particularly in more advanced kits a motor and speed controller may required to be purchased separately. There are two types available, brushed and brushless. 

  • Brushed Motors - Are the traditional style of motor that come in a variety of strengths and are generally cheaper.
  • Brushless Motors - A more recent arrival into the world of RC. They can be faster, more efficient and easier to maintain than traditional brushed motors. However, they involve a higher initial cost.

What motor and speed controller you require will be determined by what you intend to use the car for. If you intend to drive your car around the street jsut for fun, and aren't requiring gut-wrenching speeds, then something like the Tamiya Sport-Tuned motor with an Mtroniks Eco 20 Speed Controller will give you very good performance without breaking the bank account. If you are looking to get into club racing a car, then the motor choice will be determined which class you want to race in. If you are starting out then you can use the motor that may be included in the car, or use some of these brushless combos for added performance. The Losi Xcelorin S 17.5, Xcelorin S 13.5, and Xcelorin S 10.5 are brushless motor and speed controller combo packages that will allow you to race at your local club. It is always a good idea to pay a visit to you local on or off-road RC Car club to see what racing classes the club offers.

Rock-CrawlerIf you are interested in the growing class of RC Cars called "Rock-Crawlers", then the Novak Rooster Fifty-Five, and Forty-Five crawler motor and speed controller combos are perfectly suited to these cars. They required huge amounts of torque and require precise control, which is very unique to these cars.

 

 

So now that you know a little bit more about the world of RC Cars, you will be able to make a more informed decision. If you are as confused now as before reading this article, then please don't hesitate to contact our radio control department, who will be only too happy to help. 

rc@wonderlandmodels.com

Happy Racing!

Tommy
RC Department 2010

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Company registration number: SC049931 Wonderland (Toys) Limited, 97 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH3 9AN