The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 28, 2009

My Toys Run on Nitromethane

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:54 am

These days, it seems that everyone’s got some sort of hobby.  Aside from the oft-cliched standbys like stamp and coin collecting, you can find people doing just about everything out there from camping to car collecting, biking to baking, or just about anythin in between.  Aside from blogging (which actually does take a fair bit of my time these days)  I have a tendency to be annoyingly indecvisive on the whole matter.  Throughout the years, I have gone through all sorts of different hobbies, and haven’t ever really stuck with any particular one for any length of time.  As you can see above, I’ve been through quite a few of them (although some of the stuff on there is just for illustration purposes.  I’ll leave it to the reader to determine which ones.) The problem with these old hobbies is that in a lot of cases they don’t just disappear.  On the contrary, they have an annoying tendency to accumulate over time.  Take for example my brief foray into arcade collecting (if you can’t find it, it’s the thing in the back.)  I actually got my arcade cabinet shortly after I moved into this apartment, and although I have nearly 10 different boards for it (one of the nice things about one of those is that just about every arcade game after about 1985 or so uses a standardized connector known as JAMMA so you aren’t limited to just the game that came in the cabinet,) I hardly ever use the thing.  Most of the time it just sits there taking up space.  Aside from my Xbox 360 which still sees occasional use whenever I feel like it, most of my older game consoles just sit around as well, occupying the top shelf of the closet in the den.  Over in my room, my old collection of Nerf guns sits in several large bins in the corner, while my golf clubs (purchased a couple of years back when my Dad and my brothers all inexplicably decided to take up golf) typically clogs up the entry hall closet.  I suppose if I didn’t live in an apartment I could just go stick all the stuff in the front yard and have a Great Big Garage Sale of Doom, but that might be a bit hard to pull off here. 


Of course, the reason that I even bring this up is because just in time for Summer, the next one has arrived, in the form of a Traxxas Revo 3.3 1/10th (or 1/8th, it’s kind of hard to tell actually) scale nitro-fueled RC car.  It was actually my brother Jason who was the first to get involved in this, introducing me to it when I was down in Provo back in April.  Two of his roommates had HPI Savages (nitro monster trucks, similar in size to this one) while he has an HPI Firestorm (more of a dune buggy type thing, although since the bodies on these things are pretty much just for decoration it doesn’t really matter much.)  Although the things seemed to spend a lot more time broken than running, to someone who likes tinkering around with things and fixing them this is actually a feature rather than a problem.  I was told at the time that it would be my job to convince my Dad and my other brother Jared to get these (as well as my brother-in-law Terence, although that might be a bit of a stretch) but Jared actually ended up buying another Firestorm when he went down to Utah about a week after I was there.  After getting a chance to mess with this on some good offroad terrain and see all the stuff you can do, I decided to get one.  My Dad was also looking at these, and ended up with an HPI Savage X4.6 as a Fathers’ Day present last week.  This meant that technically, all the cool kids were doing it, so last week I oredered a Revo, which arrived on Friday. 

I imagine that for most of you reading this, when you think of RC cars, the first things that come to mind are most likely the toy RC cars that you’ll find lurking somewhere in just about any given discount store.  On the TV commercials, they make the things look like they can go anywhere and do anything (to a point, of course) but when all is said and done, you’re still dealing with products that are built like toys, and as a result are inevitably going to break somewhere along the way.  If it’s within whatever warranty came with the thing, you might be able to get it replaced.  Of course, just about any use of one of the things beyond maybe running it around in circles on the driveway is going to void the warranty anyway.   At that point, you’re pretty much out of luck.  Although there are some exceptions, replacement parts are generally impossible to get, and by the time something breaks you’re looking at a 1/8th scale paperweight.  While I was growing up I went through a number of these toy RC cars, and found most of them to be predictably disappointing (although it was kind of fun getting the dogs and/or cats to chase them around the living room every so often.) 

That’s where the Hobby-grade RCs come in.  First of all, we’re not talking dinky little cars running on AA batteries here.  These things are light years ahead of your standard toy RC car (and have the pricetag to match, of course.)  We’re talking big 1/8th scale RC trucks with actual nitro-fueled (well technically it’s methanol with nitromethane and lubricant oils added) engines capable of speeds over 45 miles per hour (and as much as 70 on the on-road model using the same engine,) 4-wheel drive with actual front and rear differentials, Full suspensions, and all sorts of adjustments and modifications to make.  Let’s just say that with one of these you actually can do all the stuff you see on the toy RC car commercials, and plenty more.  Granted, you’re still going to chew up AA batteries so quickly you’ll want to buy Duracell stock with one of these (the transmitter and receiver  take 12 AAs between them) but it’s a small price to pay, especially compared to what you’ll end up paying for the nitro fuel the thing runs on.  I didn’t say it was a cheap hobby now, did I?

Of course, even with all the fancy suspension setups and all the metal parts you’ll find in this, you’re still going to break things.  In fact, it is quite likely you’ll be breaking even more things on one of these than you would on a toy.  Fortunately, unlike the toy RCs, when you break this you’ll actually be able to find parts for it.  In fact, if you wanted to (and had a good chunk of change to blow on it) you could even build one of these from scratch using the parts available for it.  There are also so-called hop-up parts available.  Getting sick of breaking the suspension A-arms with your ridiculously huge jumps?  Get the anodized aluminum ones, and it’s problem solved.  Same goes for a lot of the other stuff on here.  If you wanted to, you could even just stick a new engine on the thing if the one on here isn’t fast enough for you (although after seeing what the thing can do just on the break-in runs, I can’t imagine why, at least not yet) or if you really wanted to go to extremes, you could even just convert the whole thing to electric (in some cases, high-end electric RC cars have even surpassed the nitro-fueled ones in a lot of ways, but can also be quite a bit more expensive.)  For some peonple, having something you need to fix every time you bring it out probably isn’t exactly their idea of a fun time, but for the gearheads in the family here such tinkering is welcomed.  Already I’ve learned quite a bit about how some of the parts in a car work (things like differentials and carburetors that I’ve never really dealt with before) and suspect I’ll probably have a few more lessons (painful or otherwise) coming as a result of my purchase.

Of course, none of this guarantees that six months from now this thing won’t be taking up space in the closet while I’ve moved on to  some other hobby (there’s been some vague talk of maybe trying to build a “cheap” racecar of some sort for some of the local track races and things like that) but for now, my toys run on nitromethane.

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