The Tamiya Mini 4WD Re­vival

RC Car Action - - CONTENTS - Text & Photos by Jerry Tsai

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.


Tamiya: tamiyausa.com

DXN Pro­vi­sions: dxn­pro­vi­sions.com Mass Damper: shop.mass­damper.jp

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