Sometimes one gets the urge to do something different, to branch out, go out on a limb, seize the moment, take the plunge, grab the bull by the horns …you get the idea. Maybe last year, perfume, silk scarfs, and tummy-support knickers ticked all the boxes (well, most of them), but this year, don’t you wish you could wake up on Christmas morning and find something really exciting in your stocking? Something like … oh, I don’t know … a radio-controlled car?
Since RC cars made their first appearance in the UK in the late 1960s, they’ve developed alongside the technology that drives them – Vorsprung Durch Technik and all that. In the 1980s, they were a popular toy in wealthier households, and now, in 2017, with the benefit of copious technological advancement, these fantastic little machines are accessible to just about anyone. From around £50, you can buy a good quality, ready-to-run vehicle.
A little bit about RC cars
If you’re new to RC cars, it’s worth mentioning the four basic components. The transmitter, usually powered by a 9.6V battery, is the piece of kit that relays control commands, via radio frequencies, to the receiver. The receiver comprises an antenna and a circuit board (located inside the car), and it relays the commands(sent by the transmitter) to the appropriate parts of the car. Thirdly, there’s a motor, which comes in many variations, and finally, the power source, which is either nitro fuel (a compound of methanol and nitromethane) or electricity, (via batteries).
Nitro RC cars give off a lovely smell of exhaust, and their engines roar, which all adds to the realism of these toys. Topping up the fuel tank is easy, compared with the frustrations of changing batteries or waiting for batteries to recharge. And they do go very, very fast. But nitro cars are high maintenance beasts – difficult to clean, and needing constant attention when it comes to the balance of the fuel mixture.
Battery powered RC cars, on the other hand, are cleaner and easier to set up and get started. However, disposable batteries are expensive, rechargeable ones are inconvenient, and if something goes wrong with the electrics, they’re much harder to fix. Having said this, nitro RC cars don’t come in small sizes, and they are almost always more expensive than their electric counterparts.
If you’re hoping to get your first RC car for Christmas this year, we recommend that you ask Father Christmas for an electric one!
If you fancy something in red, you might well go for a Ferrari. Take the super little 1/14 scale officially licenced RC LaFerrari for example. Complete with Ferrari logos, adjustable front wheel alignment, a spring suspension system, opening gull-wing-style doors, working headlights and tail lights, and nice shiny red paint – it is almost like the real thing! The car is recharged via a built-in USB cable, and has a control range of more than 30m.
Based on the full-sized LaFerrari model, the real, full-sized Ferrari FXX-K was first built in 2015. There are only 40 Ferrari FXX-K cars in existence, so owning one of these 1/14 scale RC beauties can make you feel quite special – as long as nobody else in your street gets one for Christmas. This car boasts a differential gearbox and a tri-channel transmitter, and it runs on 6 AA and 3 AAA batteries.
Rough and ready
Maybe you’re not into the realism of on-road scale models. Perhaps you’re more into getting down and dirty. If that’s the case, there’s even more fun waiting to happen!
For a wild scramble through mud and undergrowth, over rocks and gravel, round humps and bumps, choose one of the many chunky-bodied, lightweight trucks that look like they’ve just driven out of a cartoon adventure. Oversized wheels and spring suspension have these monsters bouncing over the roughest terrain, trampling over any obstacle that gets in the way.
Extreme off-road driving is relatively easy for beginners – after all, you don’t have to worry too much about steering; you just keep going! If you feel like dropping a few heavy hints around the house in the weeks leading up to Christmas, you might want to mention a few names, like Monster Truck or Extreme Beast. Butlet’s hope no-one misunderstands, and thinks you’re being saucy.
Playing with your new toy
Assuming all your dreams come true, and Father Christmas (or one of his helpers) buys you a super new ready-to-run RC car, have you thought about where you’re going to drive it? Car parks that are attached to sports clubs, shopping centres, schools, and playing fields are ideal areas for RC car racing (during quiet periods, of course), as long as they are not locked up and out of bounds. It’s all very well being enthusiastic, but you don’t want to get into trouble!
A rugged ride for your off-road truck is easier to find. A footpath, playing field, riverbank, abandoned building site, derelict courtyard, or sandy beach … these are all ideal locations for driving such a vehicle. Don’t stray too far from home, though, and if your vehicle runs on rechargeable batteries; you’ll be surprised at how little time you get on one charge. If you’re using disposable batteries, make sure you have some spares with you.
I’m now off to write a letter to the big guy up North. I’m going to ask for a red Ferrari. I think I’ve been good enough!
Dear Father Christmas …