AmazingRCStore – April 28th Race!

My favorite RC store is at it again: today they had their first race of 2013! I had a lot of fun last year, so I charged up my batteries and got my toys ready to pack in the car:

By the time I rolled in around 3:45 there were already lots of people there. The DJ was playing music and the registration table was signing people up and giving away drinks:

It was the hottest day so far this year and everyone was either sprawled out on the grass hill along the track, or milling about the starting line. Behind the hill was a large lot with plenty of parking where people were tuning their cars and driving for fun. ARCS had received permission to block off a road in Brampton which worked out perfectly: a straight bit of pavement for the racing and lots of room for spectators.

One of the sponsors was the Southern Ontario RC Crawlers. They had a small crawler layout by the sign-in area to show off what they can do. They’re also hosting the new ARCS forum: thanks guys!

RC cars were everywhere: from 1/10th electrics to 1/5th gas-powered. By far 1/10th nitro and electric were the most popular, with a handful of 1/8th’s, and only three 1/6th electrics and three more 1/5th gas RCs.

There were lots of pairs of people to call up for racing, but David and Pamela from ARCs did a great job of keeping everything moving. The main races were interspersed with second-chance rounds for the popular classes, and there were many Free-for-All rounds that anyone could participate in, even people that didn’t have Redcats! There were a dozen RCs racing down the track for the FFA rounds – many people walked away with free T-shirts by winning a FFA (including me!).

Start your engines:

Ready, set, go!

My Shredder did well, winning against 2 others in my class. But I clipped another car and DNF’d the final round – I hope someone got video to see where I went wrong 🙂 . That still got me a consolation prize, and I’ll be back next time! I think I have the speed… just have to keep it straight. Many thanks to the team at ARCS and their sponsors. I wish more RC hobby stores would run events like this!

[Edit April 29th]

There is video! My crash is at about 1:38:

Don’t Steer Me Wrong…

Last November my largest toy had an altercation with a cement post: leaving the front wheels pointed in noticeably different directions. There was also some “minor” body damage:

The front steering crossbar also finally snapped off. It kept bending, and I kept bending it back, you can only do that so many times:

The upgraded bar was pricey for what you got, but I was hoping it would never bend or break again. Here’s the new thicker machined bar on top (with bearings), vs. the thinner stamped (broken) bar on the bottom with the bushings:

Here’s a better comparison picture. Hopefully the extra material (and the fact it wasn’t intentionally bent during construction) will make it tougher:

All mounted up!

Finally it can be driven in a straight line again. I also repaired the bodywork with shoe-goo and drywall tape, and have sprayed the mesh with black paint since this picture was taken. Now 10% less ghetto!

Perfect timing, as the ARCS drag racing season is starting back up again!

Winter is here, sort of…

Normally winter starts when we get our first doesn’t-melt-the-next-day snowfall, but living in Toronto I’ve had to make exceptions. This year I’m counting winter as starting today, when I first moved my summer hobby indoors.

I made my first trip back to Universal Raceways with a new-to-me Team Losi 22 2wd buggy, bought from a really friendly guy I met on LondonRC.

This isn’t my video, but it does show how I should be driving, eventually:

Today if I made it one lap without flipping the car over I patted myself on the back. Baby steps.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…

My computer has lost its mind: at least the one running my website 🙁

While on vacation I started to receive email from my VPS provider: saying that some of their systems were compromised and that many customers were being reverted to their plain-vanilla virtual machines, or restored from backups. I was one of the people who got everything wiped, and had to fall back on my own backups.

No big deal, right?

I had automated backups configured for this website and my Minecraft Server…. however they weren’t working properly, and in the case of the Minecraft backups I had gotten lazy:

  • The website database backups automatically get sent to me by email (they’re small), but that feature was part of a plugin that got disabled during a WordPress upgrade back in March 2012 – and I didn’t notice
  • Because I had lots of disk space on my server, and because Minecraft backups are large: I had been keeping a rotating collection of backups… but on the server. That was protecting me from doing something stupid (i.e. failed Minecraft update).. but wasn’t protecting me from a complete server meltdown
  • Long story short: except for a few exceptions I had to roll everything back to how it was in March, then cobble back together any blog updates from then until now. We lost about 6 months of Minecraft updates: lots of world changes we’ll have to redo, and blog updates (if any) between Dec 2011 and March 2012 are gone too. I just spent 4 hours stitching things back together, and this is as good as it’s going to get.

    Current task: make sure everything “in the Cloud” gets copied to my home PC every day 🙂

    MegaE XB10 – More Mega…

    [Recovered: Original post date Sept 16th 2012]

    My Himoto buggy has been running fine, but hot: the 4600kv Castle motor I had in it was faster than stock… but I’ve read that even the slower stock motor ran hot: and there’s not much room to gear down. Solution: buy a cheap slower motor, in this case a Tacon 3660 3500kv.

    Here it is compared to the previous motor: new Tacon on top (light green) and old Castle on the bottom (dark green). The Tacon is about 1cm longer:

    It just clears the ESC – the motor wires on Tacons aren’t that flexible, so I let them ride over the ESC fan and bent the ESC wires to meet the motor wires instead:

    Here it is after the first test run:

    Because I wanted better performance in the grass I had also ordered a set of 2.2″ ST tires: at $20 for a pack of 4 I couldn’t say no. During the test runs the motor and ESC were on the upper range of acceptable temperatures with the body off… but still too hot with the body on. The buggy body fits tight… so I’ll drill some holes in my old basher body first to see if I can bring the temps down. If that doesn’t work I may turn it all the way into a Stadium Truck so the motor can hang out in the breeze.

    Domo Arigato Mr. … Himoto?

    [Recovered: Original post date August 5th 2012]

    If you sell things on Ebay, you’re going to end up with PayPal cash burning a hole in your pocket. And they you’ll be tempted to buy stuff back off of Ebay. And I’ve been selling things on Ebay…

    … which is how I ended up winning a bid on a Himoto MegaE XB10 4wd buggy roller. It was in rough shape and I wasn’t really looking for a 4wd buggy… so I lowballed $20. And won. 🙂

    Here it is, all beat up.

    It looks like the previous owner stripped the front drive gear at some point, and instead of repairing it they pulled the center driveshaft, front diff and front dogbones and ran it 2wd (and didn’t cover the holes in the front gearcase, it was full of dirt 🙁 . The front of the body was snapped off and replaced with a chunk of plastic, then painted on the outside flat-black. And a number of other parts were missing. It looks like it was run in 2wd mode until it was finally crashed and the front hub and carrier broke… then it was put up for sale.

    With the generous help of Eddie @ HimotoRacingUSA.com I was mailed the parts I needed, and now have this!

    I had all the electrics already on the shelf: a FlySky GT3R receiver and Turnigy Nano-Tech 5300mah 2s lipo:

    …and an EXI D227F servo, BrushlessHobbies 120a ESC, and an old Castle 4600kv sensorless motor:

    I’m still waiting on a couple more small pieces to finish it off, and I may eventually put on ST/SC/MT tires for more clearance, but other than that it’s done. Time to drive and enjoy…

    Heart of the Leopard [2] – Bypass Surgery

    [Recovered: Original post date July 15th 2012]

    A couple of weeks ago I put a larger motor in my toy car. After running a few battery packs through it I noticed it occasionally making a “tick” noise when braking.

    Then a few ticks if I stopped hard.

    Then I started to hear it in reverse too. I thought it was because the drive cups were wearing and when I was in reverse (or slowing) they would bind… so I placed an order for new ones and crossed my fingers I could drive until they arrived.

    Today by the time I went through three packs it was more of a full-on ratcheting sound when I reversed. I tried spinning all the driveshafts by hand but couldn’t detect where the problem was. Until I watched the wheels when I braked hard: the backs could lock up but the front tires would continue to roll. Since RC cars don’t have antilock front brakes… something was slipping in the front gearbox.

    The stock grease in that gearbox is red, and the fluid in the sealed differential is clear… so I knew it was bad when I opened things up and saw grey. The metal gears are grey 🙂 . Both the main driven gears had teeth worn down and bent sideways:

    It was hard to see how many metal flakes had been worn off and mixed into the lubricant: but when I turned on the flash in the camera they really stood out: silver everywhere.

    What happened? I had shimmed the diffs so there was no free play… but when I pulled the center driveshaft I could see the problem right away. Ball bearings aren’t supposed to sit on a shaft at an angle:

    The innermost bearing was hollow: it has self-destructed and dumped its little bearing guts into the gearbox. The outer bearing was heavily damaged but intact… it looks like it kept the shaft in place well enough it would “dig in” to the larger gear when moving forward, but would deflect away and ratchet in reverse.

    Bad luck with a dodgy stock bearing? Design weakness made worse by the stronger motor? First thing’s first: see if it’s repeatable 🙂 – a complete gearbox with bearings/differential/drivecups is only $20. I just have to wait for the mailman to bring it to me…

    Heart of the Leopard

    [Recovered: Original post date June 25th 2012]

    Months ago when I was looking for a new motor for my Redcat Caldera SC-10E I saw a forum post and video for what claimed to be the best deal ever: a Tacon 3674 motor. Alas… it was also out-of-stock for months after that video… so I bought the next best thing for a bit more money: a Leopard Hobby 2650kv 3674 sensorless brushless motor.

    I knew even before ordering it that it would be a bit of a project. Why? Because it was about 1/3rd longer than the green Tacon 3500kv that I currently owned:

    …and the space the motor fit in was too short. About 1cm behind the Tacon motor was a grid-type pattern of plastic molded into the chassis: apparently as reinforcement. But I owned a Dremel, so I figured I could trim it down and wedge the big red Leopard in there 🙂

    But first I had to take everything apart. The RedCat is very modular: 13 small screws come out of the top of the center blue aluminum chassis brace…

    …and the brace comes off with all my electrics. That’s not the regular location for the radio and ESC, but I’ve been fiddling with the Caldera enough it was a convenient spot to place them. Plus I was using a larger 1/8th-scale ESC temporarily… as the original model was mounted about 3″ above the ground when it was driven into about 4″ of water in a stream (not by me) 🙂

    The front and rear ends are also modular: with the suspension, bumpers and body mounts attached to the gearboxes. Four screws for the rear, eight screws for the front, and seven screws for the center diff and the entire truck basically falls apart… leaving me with a chassis that needed some gentle love from my favorite rotary tool.

    Now that things were apart I could easily measure how much of that grid pattern needed to be trimmed away:

    Did I mention the RedCat was modular? 🙂 Even the chassis is built of three pieces, so I could detach just the edge I needed to work on:

    And here’s the result after some Dremeling, cleaning, and reassembly. I had initially nibbled away a 3×2 pattern, but it wasn’t quite long enough, so ended up sawing off 3×2.5 blocks:

    While I had the chassis apart I mounted the new motor with a 5mm 32p 13t pinion. It’s easy to adjust the mesh: instead of trying to get at the motor-mount screws while the center diff is in the truck you can take out the top front+rear brace screws, and the bottom center-diff screws – which leaves the diff firmly attached to the aluminum plate with extremely easy access to the motor. You basically get the guts of the powertrain on a stick:

    Here it is all mounted back up…

    …and a final shot of the new shiny red Leopard ready-to-run. I just finished the heart transplant before bed, but will take it for a drive tomorrow.

    I’ll be running the new setup on higher voltage (11.1v vs. 8.4v) to offset the lower KV motor, and with the 13t pinion the gearing should give me a 10% increase in top speed. But I didn’t gear it for speed: instead I’m hoping for much stronger acceleration. Mashing the throttle should either break all four tires loose, or have it try its best to flip over backwards 🙂

    20% More Red, 10% More Cat: Shredder SC

    [Recovered: Original post date May 14th 2012]

    On the weekend I lucked out and won a new Redcat nitro buggy: but since I only use electric RCs right now the friendly folks at Amazing RC Store let me use it towards an upgrade: a 1/6th scale Shredder SC! It’s the big brother to the Caldera SC 10E I bought from them about 2 months ago. It’s huge!

    Here it is with the 1/10th scale Caldera for comparison:

    Here it is beside two of my other cars (L to R) 1/10th Caldera SC 10E, 1/8th Associated RC8Te truggy, and the 1/6th Shredder SC:

    ..and finally beside the body. Note that it has 4 aluminum rods sticking out from the side of the chassis: they poke through from the inside (with body clips just on the outside of the plastic tub rails to keep them from getting pushed back in), and they’re drilled for 2 sets of body pins on the outer ends. The body only ships with clips on the outside of the body (preventing the sides of the truck from bending out, but not in). I added a second set of clips on the inside as well. The body has 8 clips holding it on: 4 on the ends of the posts, and 4 in the traditional place on the body mounts

    The tires are large, with a strange size of rim (at least I had never seen it before). Instead of a regular 4″ truggy or monster-truck rim, they’re 4.5″ in diameter. From left to right: a Losi LST tire on a Pro-Line Tech 5 (4″) rim, then the Shredder SC tire, then a standard Pro-Line truggy tire on 4″ Associated rim (4″ as well). The Shredder rims are larger, but the rubber is a low profile: making only slightly larger than the truggy tire. But it does use a standard 17mm hex.

    The foams in the tires are firm, and the profile isn’t rounded at all: they’re flat straight across. I was expecting a very hard RTR rubber… but actually they’re fairly soft (compared to the rubber Traxxas likes to put in their ‘wears-like-iron’ Talon tires). The tread pattern has blocks about the same size as what’s on a Pro-Line Badlands 2.8″, except obviously many more blocks, with a slightly tighter spacing. Here’s the stock Shredder tires compared to the Losi LST rubber:

    The tires have scuffed up nicely after about 3 sets of batteries: I think I’m going to like them! Although when they wear out I may just go back to standard 4″ rims to get a wider selection of aftermarket rubber, since I know I can keep the larger profile buy getting MT tires. Something like the Losi 420 pins look nice for bashing 🙂 . Note: You’ll want to use 1/2″-offset rims, as I found zero-offset truggy rims would touch the steering arms (i.e the LST tire mounted on the left in the image below is on a zero-offset rim, and is too close to the chassis and will bind with the steering arms).

    But getting back to the rest of the truck: it comes with the standard rebranded FlySky GT2 2ch 2.4GHz radio and receiver (second best bang-per-buck budget radio, eclipsed only by the FS-GT3B). There’s a paper manual for the car and to program the ESC, as well as a 2s/3s balancing slow lipo wall charger (which I’ll probably never use).

    It comes with an 80a HobbyWing ESC: which sounds a bit small for a car of this weight, but pushed it around fine and didn’t even get warm.

    It has a 1500kv sensorless 3674 motor with Mod-1 pinion and spur (turning a standard shaft-drive front/center/rear sealed gear-diff drivetrain). Remember that motor in case HobbyPartz goes out-of-stock: it’s a very popular size for the price and if HP doesn’t have it ordering this one as a spare part from a Redcat dealer may be the way to go. I don’t know if it’s rated for 6s (ships with 4s worth of batteries), but I’m going to try it! 🙂 The motor comes with a heatsink and large fan: I like to see the bigger fans since they don’t seem to die as easily as some other small fans I’ve had before.

    Speaking of batteries: it comes with 2 20c 3200mah 2s hard-case lipos, and everything (including ESC) are wired with common 4mm bullet connectors (which I replaced with Deans). They also have the worlds shortest balancing leads?

    There is lots of room for the batteries: the straps that hold them in are adjustable, and there’s plenty of room in front/behind/beside the battery trays for larger setups. You could trim down the sides of the battery trays, Dremel slots through what’s left to hold velcro straps, and mount some impressively large packs in there. I have a few 5000mah 4s packs that I use in my truggy: I could easily dump two of them in there with a bit of trimming and just swap the series harness (2 x 2s) for a parallel Y-cable instead. Hello runtime! 🙂

    Finally it comes with a 9kg metal-gear steering servo. It’s plenty strong and I had no problems with turning radius or ability to turn the tires at speed, but it did feel a bit slow (but I’m comparing it to a Savox SC-1268SG on 7.4v in my truggy, which isn’t apples-to-apples). It was actually a nice surprise, since the Caldera is running identical steering components (with shorter arms) and it had lot of binding out-of-the-box. The Shredder steering was smooth without any fiddling with it.

    Another nice thing compared to the Caldera: hex hardware all around – no self-tapping screws! I couldn’t find a single Phillips screw anywhere, hooray! But even though the screws and bolts were upgraded, there was a lot in common with the other Redcat “10E” and “8E” (1/10th and 1/8th) vehicles. First, the pan chassis is a stretched version of what comes with the 8E cars: including the same center-diff: (see the 1-foot yellow plastic ruler for scale)

    The shocks are upgrades: long-travel big-bore threaded aluminum, and the suspension comes out-of-the-box with swaybars (paid upgrades on the 10E’s), but everything else was the same.

    Here’s the Shredder (left) nose-to-nose and tail-to-tail with the Caldera (right). Same front and rear plates: almost the same bumpers (Shredder’s is a bit longer, but same mounts), same front and rear diffs and shock towers. Body mounts are the same style (can’t see them, but the Shredders are simply taller). Same hub carriers and front hubs (but Shredder hubs are the upgraded metal versions). Same servo saver bellcranks, and steering racks (Shredder gets the aluminum rack, Caldera has plastic). A-arm pin braces are identical etc.

    Other than the center diff and motor mounts (and motor/ESC etc) the powertrain on the 1/10, 1/8 and 1/6 (10E, 8E, and Shredder models) are identical except for the length of the driveshafts. It should be easy to keep these two SCTs running, since in most cases if I have spares for one it means I have spares for the other 🙂

    Finally, here’s the Shredder SC beside my RC8Te, just charged up and waiting for the first drive.

    I’ve only put a couple pairs of batteries through it so far but I love how it drives. My 1/8th truggy drives nicer than my 1/10th models, and the 1/6th Shredder drives even nicer still: very easy to control during powerslides, and the back only comes around if you either chop-or-punch the throttle on gravel, or if you back off about 25% throttle on pavement. The huge chassis is very easy to clean: totally wide open so if you just flip it over and shake it 90% of the dirt just falls out (compared to my Caldera, with a chassis that’s 10% functional, and 90% nooks-and-crannies that trap dirt, mud and gravel). The radio was bound properly out-of-the-box, the batteries are putting out their rated capacity, and the steering and ESC trims were perfect without fiddling with them.

    So far I love it, and the huge size turns heads when I take it to the local park. After telling you about all the good things, I do have a couple small nits to pick:

    Issues

    I’ve run into a few things already, and have a hole punched through the front of the right front fender, from a relatively minor disagreement with a cement post. Not sure if I’m unlucky, or if the body is a bit thin or brittle?

  • The 4.5″ rims are a bit strange, though I like the tires. Would have preferred 4″ rims, but because they’re standard 17mm hex I can’t really complain
  • From the tiny bit of residue I can see around the drive cups on the diffs, they’re filled with the same red sticky grease as on the Caldera. Standard silicon oil would have been nice.
  • The body sticks out over an inch from the front and rear bumpers. I’m going to add the secondary bumpers from the Caldera to take up the space and give a bit more cushion. They bolt right on so they would have been nice standard
    The side body holes that the aluminum rods go through aren’t drilled in the correct place. You can still put the body on easily, but when the Shredder is upside down it looks a bit goofy, since some of the posts don’t come out from the center chassis at a 90-degree angle. Sort of looks like you bent them.
  • Steering servo is slow, but perfectly functional. Still a huge upgrade from the plastic-gear 3kg model that shipped with my Caldera (Note: Redcat support quickly replaced it with a newer 6kg model)
  • It’s a bit oversprung straight out of the box: even with the batteries loaded it had zero droop. But it’s easy to adjust it – the shocks shipped with the ride height collars cranked up a bit, so you can back them off.
  • Pinion has a brass appearance: like on the SC 10E. If it’s the same metal as the Calders pinion it’s going to wear quickly
  • That’s all the notes I have time to make for now: I’m going to take some driving pics and hopefully video as well, soon. I’m going to drive it stock for a couple weeks, then consider putting the Shredder XT truggy body on it (like the open-wheel look, and gives me room for LST tires)… maybe swapping in my 150a Xerun ESC to try it on 6s, and if the servo is bugging me I’ll try my Savox 1268MG from the RC8Te to see if it would make a good upgrade.

    Other than that, drive the wheels off 🙂

    Racing Redcats, Reloaded…

    [Recovered: Original post date May 13th 2012]

    Wow, that was fast! Yesterday I attended the second 2012 Amazing RC Store racing and customer appreciation event: it felt like I was just there doing donuts in the parking lot with my toys a couple of days ago! 🙂

    This time I spent so much time talking with others I didn’t get any good video, so all I have is a few photos. The weather was perfect this time: over 20 degrees and just slightly overcast – much much warmer than at the last event. The DJ was already set up when I arrived, and they were putting together a mini almost-oval track this time:

    There were more nitro than electric this time too: especially the Caldera/Volcano monster trucks:

    This blue one is the monster truck version of my Caldera SC 10E: well it’s 99% of that version: minus a couple inches of the rear of the body 🙂

    I forgot to take a good picture of my cars. In the bottom left you can see the back of my Caldera (yellow buggy with a racing stripe), and to the right (orange flames + blue) is my Associated RC8Te truggy that I was driving around for fun:

    There were some very interesting races: here’s a brand-new 30cc gas 4wd buggy on the left vs. a 1/8th nitro buggy on the right. The 30cc put up a good fight: getting an early lead and it was so big it looked hard to pass – but the 1/8th got it in the end 🙂

    Here’s a pair of 1/10th nitro MT’s ready to go at it:

    And here’s a pair of similar 1/10th electrics. This was a fun race because it’s two similar Redcats, both the same scale and both brushless, but Redcat OEMs them from two different manufacturers. So they’re both carrying the Redcat logos but it’s still a “battle of the brands”!

    The racing was all for fun, with smiles all around no matter who won or lost:

    In the end I got lucky: I won a AmazingRCStore Tshirt in my first race, and managed to win the Grand Prize: a new nitro buggy! It was a great looking car, but since I drive so much in the long grass of the local parks, and because I don’t have any of the extra nitro bits you need… ARCS was willing to let me pay the difference to upgrade to a larger brushless model, perfect! I’ll be posting pictures of it soon.

    I had a great time and met even more new people that in the last event: can’t wait until the next one. Thanks to Amazing RC Store for putting on a great show!