The Tamiya Mini 4WD Revival
If you’re an old-timer like us, there’s a good chance that you may remember Tamiya’s line of Mini 4WD racecars from the 80s and 90s. The 1/32-scale battery operated cars are often compared to slot cars, which serves as a very loose description of what they are.
Their popularity hit their peak in the States during the late-90s but fizzled out sometime after. It was during the mid2000s that Mini 4WD saw a resurgence in Japan and throughout Asia. We are now seeing that revival hit our shores here and it’s hitting pretty hard. If you’ve been to your local hobby shop lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen them on the shelves or if you’re lucky, you’ve seen them in action at a weekend race.
For the uninitiated, Mini 4WD are slightly larger than pocket-sized shaft driven fourwheel drive cars that are powered by two AA batteries. Unlike RC cars, they are not controlled by a driver. Instead, they are released onto a racetrack that has vertical walls that separate each lane from one another. Tracks typically have either three or five lanes that allow multiple cars to race head to head. The cars have discs that are called rollers attached to each corner to help guide the car along the walls of the track. Like all racing, the car that crosses the finish line first wins.
“If you can’t drive them, where’s the fun?” you may ask. The major appeal is the building and tuning of the car. Without any driving skill involved, one’s tuning, building and analysis skills come into play. Track layouts constantly change and feature a variety of challenges such as banks, jumps and even more exotic track features. The challenge is to build and tune a fast car that can take on twists and jumps without flying out of the course, and finishing first, of course.
Mini 4WD is appealing to a wide audience because they can be very simple or get very complex. It comes down to how much time and effort you wish to put into it. Don’t underestimate these small cars; their modifications can get very technical.
With many parallels to the RC world, it’s no wonder so many RC enthusiasts are picking it up. For those with young ones in their household, it’s been praised as a fun hobby that everyone can enjoy together. Not to mention to get the kids’ noses out of the touchscreens.
Be on the lookout for this resurgent hobby. We must admit that we’ve been known to dabble in Mini 4WD much more than we care to admit. If you do try it out, be careful, it can be very addicting (in a good way). You’ve been warned.
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