GeekGirl Clare's Tamiya Mini 4WD Racing Page

TYPE-3 and ZERO Chasses

TYPE-3 and ZERO chassis cars (introduced in 1989 and 1990, respectively) have seen a resurgence of interest lately with the reissue of the Dash-1 Emperor, Super Emperor, Dash-0 Horizon, and Great Emperor kits and the three Classic Tune-Up Parts Sets. TYPE-3 chasses are upgrades over TYPE-1 and TYPE-2 chasses (introduced in 1986 and 1988, respectively) and improved on acceleration ability. There were also TYPE-4 and TYPE-5 chasses (introduced in 1990 and 1992). TYPE-4 still had mediocre features. TYPE-5 improved on cornering ability. Most modern Mini 4WD racers will likely never attempt to seriously race one of these cars believing that it is simply not possible to transform these cars into formidable racing machines, but I have seen a carefully designed ZERO chassis car win a podium spot in a tuned class race. In my own experiments, I've made a tuned class ZERO chassis car beat its box stock 10-lap time on a Japan Cup Oval Circuit by more than 10 seconds. Never discount the classics! Just be careful about racing these cars long term. Their weak chasses will likely be badly damaged after their first crash. Note the very simple design with lack of rear roller stay. You need to purchase the rear roller stay as a tune-up part.

Super TZ and TZ-X Chasses

Super TZ chassis cars (introduced in 1996) are very good at cornering but are mediocre in all other areas. These cars can be considered "your grandparent's Mini 4WD cars" because they came out over 25 years ago. There are many opinions about the raceworthiness of Super TZ and TZ-X cars, but they're all just opinions. If you know how to design your TZ or TZ-X, you will find yourself with a very formidable racer. It might not last very long after you crash it up a few times, but it can give the newer chassis cars a run for their money if you take advantage of its feather lightness.

I first encountered Tamiya Mini 4WD race cars in 1997 when I bought my first two kits from an Asian bazaar in Seattle: a Thunder Boomerang W10 and a Black Stalker (both Super TZ chasses). Although these were marketed as 1/32 scale cars, I read that they were actually 1/30 scale. I built the Thunder Boomerang, installed a Hyper Dash motor in it, played with it a few times, noticed how fast it was, and then stored it in its box until 2021, almost 24 years later. The batteries were still in the car. Not surprisingly, it didn't turn on. I changed the batteries, the car moved a couple of feet and then stopped. What was going on? I changed the motor and it did the same thing, moving a couple of feet and then stopping. Picking up the car, the wheels spun fast and made a high-pitched sound. It sounded normal to me, but I didn't have much to compare.

Little did I know, the little cog-like part at the end of the motor axle - the pinion - was the problem. Notice the crack in the gear that shows up when I enlarge the photo? The actual size of the pinion is less than 5mm. The motor was spinning, but the pinion didn't turn much because it wasn't gripping the axle!

Replacing the pinion was easy and inexpensive. I bought a pack of carbon reinforced 8T pinion gears. The car now runs fine, although a bit slow, even with a Hyper-Dash motor. There's nothing wrong with the motor because I installed it in an Aero Avante and there are no issues with speed. My Thunder Boomerang wasn't very sturdy as parts would fly off upon impact. I learned that I could replace the chassis with a new version of it, the Super TZ-X. Many Mini 4WD racers love this classic design and seek out these antique cars. Unfortunately, it's not very easy to upgrade these classic chasses as the body or parts may need to be cut or modified to work with current parts. My practice run with it yielded unfortunate results. The car blew up on the track. Instead of retiring it a life on a bookshelf, I upgraded everything on it and now it is one of the most raceworthy cars in my collection.

Some of the things you learn racing Mini 4WD cars parallels what you learn in life. When you drive real cars, you know that the fastest car doesn't always win races. Oftentimes, the car that wins is not the fastest, but one that can stay grounded around corners. The first two iterations of my Thunder Boomerang were the basic box stock build followed by a conservative set of add-ons for tuned class.

Mini 4WD Tuned Class

I added 17mm rollers with rubber rings and purple stabilizers up front and 19mm rollers with plastic rings and ball-race rollers in the rear. Adjustable mass damper weights were also added, two up front and four in the rear. I changed the gear from 4:1 to 3.7:1 and swapped the gear shaft for a fluorine coated gear shaft. The car is capable of handling a Light Dash motor, but a well-tuned Atomic Tuned motor can be faster than a Light Dash motor. Anything more would be too powerful for its specs. Aluminum wheels added some needed weigh to the rear of the vehicle. I crafted a new piece of tech - The "Dragon Tail" - and installed it in the rear of the car. The end result is Thunder Zero.

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Tuned Class Race SILVER - September 11, 2021 - I entered Thunder Zero in the Tuned Class race and won a silver medal for my win at Hobbytown Tom’s River! Because I wanted this car to run in Tuned Class, I installed an Atomic Tuned motor in it. I found the purple stabilizers to be pretty useless for the Hobbytown tracks, so I replaced them with 16mm plastic rollers. I may have to rethink this as one of my plastic rollers and one of my tapered ball-race rollers got pretty wrecked on the track. I moved the rear mass damper weights towards the middle for better stabilization. Everyone raced beautiful cars. Mine was held together with a lot of tape as it endured many crashes in practice. I replaced and repaired parts after each run. I lovingly call it my Frankenstein car. After the race, I replaced the bad plastic roller with a good one and replaced the wheels with aluminum ones to get the center of gravity lower. These wheels are supposed to be specially designed for STZX chasses. I reduced the mass damper weights in the rear. I also replaced the crappy battery latch with a better one of my own design, a modified VZ chassis battery latch.

December 19, 2021 - The aluminum wheels now have a 60mm reinforced shaft between them. These rear rollers are now higher and held with carbon reinforced posts.

Super X and XX Chasses

Super X chassis cars (introduced in 1997) are classic racers your grandparents had. Every feature is pretty good, but its one potentially unforgiveable weakness is its cornering ability. This was the first chassis to use 72mm wheel shafts. The wide stance of the car means great stability, but that comes at the expense of cornering abiity. Think about how great a BMW or MINI is at cornering versus a typical wide American car.

Super XX chassis cars (introduced in 2009) is the successor to the Super X and provides a stronger nose guard to cover the bumper up front, stronger body and side guards, and additional mounting points on the side guards. Its greatest strength is the abiity to swap out motors quickly. It's a heavy but stable chassis because of the additional armor. Every feature is pretty good, but its one potentially unforgiveable weakness is its cornering ability. I have a Phantom Blade Black Special that stays on any track like it's on rails, but it's not going to be winning any races soon because it's slow as molasses right out of the box compared to other box stock cars. Still, it's an intriguing design worth checking out.

Super II Chassis

Super II chassis cars (introduced in 2010) are beasts in cornering and acceleration, but have weak chasses and are known to be less stable than other chasses. If you are building a Super II car, replace any standard chassis with a polycarbonate ABS one. Add an EX Side Stay so you can mount side mass dampers. Sandwich the front bumper with a front roller stay and underguard plate to strengthen it. With a little ingenuity, you can have a front roller angle greater than 5 degrees. Replace the flimsy rear roller stay with carbon or FRP plates for strength, stability, and a myriad of expansion options. Copy the NEO-VQS Advanced Pack rear sandwich and you will have an excellent back end, but do use 19mm aluminum rollers for best performance. The well-tuned Super II chassis car might be your next tuned class winning car.

With a double-plate FRP sandwich on front (the FRP plate from the NEO-VQS Advanced Pack on top of a carbon underguard) and triple-plate FRP sandwich on the rear (all three rear FRP plates from the NEO-VQS Advanced Pack), this tuned-class Super II racer gets its performance from parts made for the VZ chassis. The front plates have an 8 degree angle for downthrust. Solid rollers add weight and stability as Super II chasses are notoriously light and can course out easily. The 3.7:1 gear ratio ensures good top speed and cornering speed. Front and rear underguard brakes enable this racer to negotiate inclines and lane changers safely. v2 has side mass dampers and additional rear weight for better shock absorption.

AR Chassis

AR chassis cars (introduced in 2012) are great all-around racers and some of the sleekest-looking cars have appeared in AR chassis form. Only the MA chassis cars have better overall performance, but the AR is a tough chassis to beat. For box stock technical tracks, the AR is hard to beat. An included POM skid bar attachment acts as an underguard for the rear of the vehicle, helping it negotiate slopes better. AR chassis strength is pretty good and I would generally recommend an AR chassis to novice racers seeking durable, but fast and agile single-shaft motor cars. The AR Speed Spec Kit featuring the Aero Avante is an excellent first or second purchase. Some say that you can swap body shells between TZ or TZ-X chassis cars and AR chassis cars, but this is not always the case. The greatest strength and weakness of this chassis is the one-piece design, which requires cutting to reduce weight, but it can be argued that the chassis is already very well-designed, so why mess with something that's already good?

The Aero Avante (AR chassis) is a cool-looking car that looks faster than it actually is. Its body is literally covered with stickers. It was especially challenging to line up all the stickers as many of them are adjacent to one another. I upgraded my Avante with the AR Basic Tune-Up Parts Set (green parts above). I also built an AR Speed Spec version of the Aero Avante (blue parts above). I used the AR Speed Spec version in the Tuned Class races on June 12, 2021. It's not that fast, but it stayed on the track.

MA and MS Chasses

MA chassis cars (introduced in 2013) are great all-around racers. For box stock technical tracks, the MA is hard to beat. An included POM skid bar attachment acts as an underguard for the rear of the vehicle, helping it negotiate slopes better. MA chassis strength is pretty good, although your mileage may vary as I've had a polycarbonate chassis crack on me. The use of six rollers right out of the box makes this chassis a cornering monster and one of the most stable and raceworthy among all the chasses. I feel that MA cars are the best bang for the buck for novice racers, but just like other Mini 4WD cars, they must be built with great care and consideration to produce their optimum potential. The greatest strength and weakness of this chassis is the one-piece design, which requires cutting to reduce weight, but it can be argued that the chassis is already very well-designed, so why mess with something that's already good? The motor cover is relatively easy to attach and remove once you get used to it. A handful of people have attempted to make suspension systems for this chassis, but with no notable success.

MS chassis cars (introduced in 2005) are very good all-around cars, with MA cars typically being better right out of the box and because MA chassis technology is eight years newer, but MS chassis cars have a strong, stable following in the Mini 4WD community. Because the MS chassis has been around for so long, there are a lot of parts for it and there is a lot of experience modifying and optimizing the chassis by incorporating a suspension system into the removable front and rear units. Although there are attachments for a side mass damper plate, most people designing an open class car will opt for a body damper and use the attachment points for their suspension system. In the open class realm, the MS chassis is king of all monsters. Typically, MS chassis cars can be seen at the podium at every open class race and it is not uncommon to see all three spots won by MS chassis cars. Perhaps the only cars that have any chance of coming close to the performance of MS suspension cars are well-built VZ chassis cars, but VZ cars often lose time after a jump.

Both the MA and MS chasses are on the heavier side, so you will need to factor this in when designing your next MA or MS car. Both use double-shaft Pro motors that contain additional torque over single-shaft motors. Personally, I feel MS chassis cars are terrible box stock racers, but very good open class racers.

The Festa Jaune (MA chassis) is a hot-looking yellow sportscar. It's one of my box-stock cars. I did a motor break-in to try to coax a little more speed from the stock motor. As a result, my Festa Jaune is faster than my son's Festa Jaune Black Special and he actually has better tires!

The Exflowly (MS chassis) is another hot-looking car with a clear polycarbonate shell and a doube-shaft motor. You can see all of the innards of the car through its unpainted body. It's a terrible box stock car as it always flies off the track. It sure looks great on a bookshelf, though.

My open class Thunder Shot was built completely from scratch using an MS Pro flex suspension chassis. The body shell is polycarbonate. I fashioned my own back-to-front lantern body damper using car catcher material. The rear AT bumper slides and tilts slightly. It has a 3.5:1 gear, Atomic Tuned motor, ABS wheels, and superhard tires. Version 2 of this car has black/orange super hard tires mounted on carbon Y-spoke wheels.

FM-A Chassis

FM-A chassis cars (introduced in 2017) are a favorite of Mini 4WD racers who prefer having the heavier motor weight up front to better negotiate jumps. An included POM skid bar attachment acts as an underguard for the front or rear of the vehicle, helping it negotiate slopes better. Wide-height rear rollers are also a nice upgrade to the typical crappy box stock rollers. Some racers switch them to the front depending on the track. FM-A cars are acceleration monsters, so take care when selecting gears. FM-A chassis strength is pretty good, although your mileage may vary as I've had a chassis crack on me. Typically, I would see Mach Frames at the podium in every box stock race.

Medusa K4 has my standard single roller front/double-roller rear setup with mushroom car front heads and tapered ball-race rollers on the bottom rear. MadTang custom wheels with a combination low friction/super hard tires allow for less bounce on jumps and better cornering. Version 1 uses Tamiya tape to hold the cab together. I may rethink this for version 2.

VS and VZ Chasses

VS chassis cars (introduced in 1999) is perhaps the most adored and also the most hated of all the chasses. Just like TZ and TZ-X chassis cars, the technology in these chasses is antiquated, but there is a wealth of knowledge available for upgrading it. VS chassis cars make terrible box stock racers, which is ironic considering that their major market nowadays is children purchasing their first Mini 4WD car, which is typically a VS chassis animal racer. Its primary advantage is feather lightness, so take advantage of this in your design builds. You can win many races if your car is lighter and faster than everyone else's. VS chassis cars are renowned for their cornering and acceleration. Swap in a 3.5:1 gear in an animal racer and you have one formidable machine that will make you smile every time you beat a $600 podium car. Alas, the Achilles' heels of the VS chassis are its weak chassis and stability. Stay away from box stock races with this car. Turn these cars into tuned or open class monsters. Here's a tip: the downthrust angle of a VS chassis is 6.5 degrees versus everyone else's 5 degrees. Use that to your advantage.

VZ chassis cars (introduced in 2019) are successors to VS chassis cars and are improvements in every area except for the weakness of the chassis. There are several reports of broken front bumper stays, but these are easily replaceable. Both the front and rear bumper stays are removable so you can have a bumperless setup without the need for cutting or other such destructive modifications. The use of six rollers right out of the box makes this chassis a cornering monster. It is also hella fast on straightaways and curves. The VZ chassis is lighter than the VS chassis, so use that critical information when designing your next podium car. Every VZ chassis comes with POM plastic bearings and an 8T carbon pinion gear, but lacks a skid bar. Like the VS chassis cars, skip the box stock races and go for tuned or open class races. Add front and rear brake stays mounted with sponge brakes to your car to give it the ability to negotiate slopes.

The Lupine Racer (VS chassis) looks a lot like my Thunder Boomerang with the narrow wheels up front and wider wheels in the rear. I moved the 12mm double rollers from my NEO-VQS to the Lupine. I also upgraded the plastic keylet rings with bushings to round hole ball bearings and added skid brakes on the front and back. I did this without the use of front and back plates. I upgraded the car with side dampers. Although the VS chassis is an antiquated design, many racers feel this is an excellent chassis for competition as it has a narrow wheelbase for tight cornering.

I transformed a Toyota GR Yaris into a MINI Cooper.

The NEO-VQS (VZ chassis), in its Advanced Pack form, looks very pretty, but one of the things that bugged me was their choice of rollers, which are crappy 12mm plastic rollers. This "tuned" car was about as fast as my Festa Jaune. The VZ chassis is basically the next generation VS chassis with strong, removable front and rear bumpers.

I upgraded the rollers to 12-13mm rollers on front and dual 19mm rollers on back. It took me several hours of work to align them properly and get them to spin freely. I also added washers between the wheels and body to make the alignment more stable.

I upgraded the standard axles with hollow shafts to lower the weight. I also swapped the NEO-VQS wheels and tires with those in the Exflowly kit because I liked the chrome wheels. This new configuration now appears to be twice as fast as my Festa Jaune. When they start at the same spot, the NEO-VQS quickly catches up to the Festa Jaune in a few laps.

I upgraded the low friction POM keylets - the plastic rings that the axels spin inside - with hex-hole ball bearings and bearing roller spacers for a smoother wheel rotation. I changed the gear to 3.5:1.

I replaced the Light Dash (LD) motor with a Torque Tuned Motor (TT). TT is a monster motor after break-in.

On deck for the next upgrade is replacing the standard engine gear shaft with a fluorine coated gear shaft for improved motor performance, changing the rollers to 12-13mm with rubber rings.

The NEO-VQS Advanced Pack has hidden things to discover that become more apparent as you experiment with the car. Removing the yellow front bumper and sandwiching the black guard with both FRP plates reduces the weight by 5 grams and reduces the initial lap time significantly. I also chose the roundest of the wheels in the NEO-VQS and placed them in front and the roundest of the Exflowly and place them in the rear. Average lap times decrease from 1.4x-1.5x to 1.3x. Replacing the Energizer alkalines (46.73g each) for Energizer 1300mAh rechargeables (43.1g) results in a lighter car.

Even something so simple as a back latch (1.01g on an Aero Avante versus .53g on a NEO-VQS versus .42g on a Thunder Boomerang) makes a difference in weight and speed.

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Tuned Class Race - June 12, 2021 - As weird as it sounds, I think Tuned Class is more difficult to win than Open Class. Maybe it's because there is greater competition and less ego involved. Everyone has to build their cars within spec without cutting or shaping parts and every car is limited to one of three low-powered motors: TT, RT, or AT. Most cars seem to use AT motors. I was surprised to see many cars with plastic rollers. Neo Victor kept flying off the track so I had to switch to heavier batteries and wait for a lower charge. I also switched its TT motor to an AT motor and changed the gear to 3.7:1. I raced the Blue Beetle and came in second in every race. Other cars were flying off the track and getting disqualified. In the races for the finals, I switched to Neo Victor so I could be competitive against the faster racers, but wasn't successful as my car was still flying off the track even with the lower battery voltage.

I purchased two copies of the NEO-VQS Japan Cup 2020, one for collecting and one for racing. I purchased an additional NEO-VQS Advanced Pack for spare parts and at least $100 worth of additional spare parts with the goal of creating a competitive racing car. In the following analysis, NEO-VQS Advanced Pack parts will be referred to as NVAP and NEO-VQS Japan Cup 2020 parts will be referred to as NVJC. Other parts not in either set will be identified by Tamiya part number.

  • The NVJC opaque yellow plastic molded parts are lighter than the NVAP translucent yellow plastic molded parts. I did not replace any chassis parts with NVAP parts.
  • The NVJC wheels are carbon reinforced wheels (Y-spoke). These should be stronger than standard wheels. They also add an understated beauty to the car.
  • Like my NVAP car, I removed the A4 front bumper for a savings of 2.12g and a faster burst of acceleration in the first lap.
  • I removed one of the FRP rear plates for a savings of 1.93g. I double-stacked one set of the brakes to make up for the lost plate.
  • I shaved off the sides of the chassis for negligible weight savings, but it looks cooler and more streamlined.
  • I replaced the 60mm hex shafts with 60mm hollow stainless steel shafts (part number 15440). According to Tamiya, "this shaft weighs 2/3 of the normal shaft and has the same strength." I cleaned the hollow shafts with rubbing alcohol to remove metal dust. This improves the overall efficiency of the shafts so the wheels can rotate faster.
  • I replaced the POM keylets with hex hole ball bearings (part number 15287) and bearing roller spacers (part number 94768) between the chassis and the wheel. I cleaned the ball bearings with lighter fluid for 4 hours, shaking the solution every hour, to remove oil residue. I cleaned the ball bearings with rubbing alcohol to remove lighter fluid residue. The POM keylets do a very good job as stock keylets, but the ball bearings reduce the lap times by .03 seconds. I discovered I did not need washers in between the spacers and wheels. The act of removing and inserting the wheels on the shafts multiple times decreased the gap between the wheels and the chassis.
  • I replaced the front rollers with 12-13mm double aluminum rollers (part number 95581).
  • I replaced the rear rollers with 19mm alumonum ball-race rollers (part number 95582).
  • I replaced stock propeller shaft (beige pinions) with NVAP hollow propeller shaft (green pinions). I cleaned the hollow shafts with rubbing alcohol to remove metal dust and saved .36g.
  • I kept the 3.5:1 gears from NVJC. These gears are faster than the 3.7:1 gears frin NVAP.
  • I replaced the switch terminal cover with the NVAP one for better durability. The NVJC switch terminal cover kept popping off on impact after course outs. This led to a weight gain of .04g.
  • I chose the 950mAh Fujitsu batteries that weigh 36g over the 1300mAh Energizer batteries that weigh 43g for a savings of 7g.
  • The overall weight of my NVJC is 105g, a savings of 10g over my NVAP.

Mini 4WD Open Class

Neon Vicky, May 2021

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - May 8, 2021 - I entered Neon Vicky in my very first Open Class race. It had trouble staying on the track on its second 90 degree angle turn. Neon Vicky was faster than every other car in the field, but it flew off the track on that right angle turn. The racemaster looked at my car and said I should pitch the wheels inward. He also said I could add more weight to the front of my car. Changing the batteries from NiMH to alkalines helped keep the car down somewhat, but it still flew off the track. I changed the front plate to carbon and replaced the 12-13mm aluminum rollers with 19mm aluminum rollers with plastic rings. I added two weights up front with a shorter shaft to keep the weight towards the ground. I reattached the rear underguard, realizing that it was needed to keep the screws from catching against the top edges of the track. A drop test revealed a good balance. I replaced Neon Vicky's switch terminal cover with an NVAP switch terminal cover for better strength, since the NVJC one kept lifting up after impact. Under the body shell, I changed the blue sponge pad on the passenger side to pink to match the driver side sponge pad. I shaved the two humps at the front of the carbon plate to keep the car within spec. I moved shortened the body damper in order to move the side weights closer to the front wheels like the NVAP. I also added lightweight weights to the front of the car for better balance. It should be able to handle jumps better with the body damper and additional weight. I added MadTang custom wheels with a combination low friction/super hard tires mounted on carbon Y-spoke wheels and 72mm hollow propeller shafts for better cornering. I attached two mushroom ball heads on the front roller shafts to deal with cornering. I attached a ball head under the main screw of the canopy so there won't be any accidental sticking after a jump. Surprisingly, the cars weighs the same as before.

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - June 12, 2021 - I entered Neon Vicky in my second Open Class race. MadTang's custom wheels/tires helped my car stayed on the track better than with my regular wheels/tires. i didn’t win anything in the race, but i feel my car is a few tweaks away from succeeding. The amazing thing is the car is so fast even without a ball bearing and fluorine coated gear shaft in its gear! I wonder how my car would fair with a slower motor and 3.7:1 gear.

I reinforced the switch terminal cover with small pieces of sponge to prevent it from popping out upon impact.

Neon Vicky, June 2021

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - July 10, 2021 - I entered Neon Vicky in my third Open Class race and won a bronze medal for my win at Hobbytown Tom’s River! My prize was a new motor for my son’s car. For this race, I replaced the Sprint Dash motor with a Hyper Dash motor and added wheel stabilizers in place of the mushroom caps.

Neon Vicky, July 2021

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - November 13, 2021 - It's been a while since I placed in an Open Class race and there weren't many competitors today, so today's race was a nice way of easing back into racing in Open Class. Against a $600 "podium car" and the racemaster's car, my Neon Vicky car did fairly well in the final race and won silver, but the heats that led up to it were absymal. The wheel stabilizers slowed my car down to a crawl even with a Sprint Dash motor installed. I decided to go back to basics, removing the wheel stabilizers and using Rayovacs to weigh the car down. Those simple changes enabled my car to be highly competitive, negotiating turns without the slowdowns the wheel stabilizers gave me. One of my long screws is slightly bent. Had I used the stronger, more expensive carbon reinforced screws, I would've faired better. This month's track roughed up the rollers on all my cars.

Neon Vicky, November 2021

Neon Vicky, January 2022

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - February 13, 2022 - I entered Thunder Shot in this month's Open Class race and won a silver medal for my efforts. It was my first MS suspension car and faired pretty well against a much more powerful MS suspension car, so I was pretty happy with my results.

Thunder Shot, February 2022

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Open Class Race - March 12, 2022 - I entered Wolfie, a VS chassis car, in this month's Open Class race and won a silver medal for my efforts. It competed well against a suspension car, so I was pretty happy with my results. I made a number of modifications to the previous version, including front stabilizers, a carbon front plate, new front mass dampers, new front underguards made of carbon pieces, new rear aluminum tapered ball-race rollers, new location for the rear mass dampers, a new rear underguard, and new tire/wheel set with low-friction/sponge front tires and super hard/sponge rear tires. The body damper is my own design made with body catcher material. This month's racetrack had an incline curve, two dragonbacks, and four digital curves, so I needed to slowed down my speed cars. I replaced my Power Dash motor in Wolfie with an Atomic Tuned motor, which was still pretty speedy. I was going to race Neon Vicky with a Light Dash motor, but it just wasn't as stable as Wolfie.

Wolfie, March 2022

Mini 4WD Drag Racing

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Drag Racing - May 8, 2021 - Pengo - Drag Racing is a new class in Hobbytown Tom's River. I initially just wanted to be a spectator, but I ended up competing in it and won. We were allowed to use tuned class racers. My entry was a fully optimized box stock Penguin Racer. My Fujitsu batteries were charged at close to 100%. I recharged my batteries after every heat.

Tuned class motors (RT, AT, TT) are not the most powerful motors. You could go with RT, a speed demon with low torque, or TT, a torque monster with low speed, or AT, a balanced lower-powered combination of both that is just one step above BX, a basic box stock motor. My racer had huge wheels, which are traditionally used for speed cars. I felt that TT was the best choice for my car. In fact, I think the TT is probably the most powerful motor of the three. It really packs a punch so long as you keep your car's weight real low. Just before my first drag race, I made some quick decisions on reducing my car's weight:

  • Swapped the battery clip (2.1g with penguin) with a standard VZ chassis battery clip (.58g with no penguin) to reduce the load by 1.52g.
  • Swapped the VZ back latch (.53g on a NEO-VQS versus .42g on a Thunder Boomerang) to reduce the load by .11g. The Thunder Boomerang back latch is one of the lightest I've come across. It is .01g lighter than the animal VS chassis racers.
  • Changed the gear from 5:1 to 3.7:1.
  • The overall weight of my Penguin racer was 80g without and 115g with batteries.

With a TT motor, 5:1 gears yield 19 Km/h whereas 3.7:1 gears yield 29 Km/h.

Several people wanted to buy the Penguin racer after they saw me win. In the final race, I won by a roller length, so there's room for improvement. I improved Pengo with the following upgrades:

  • Changed the gear from 3.7:1 to to 3.5:1.
  • Changed the gear to include ball bearing and fluorine coated gear shaft.
  • Remove the spoiler to reduce the load by 1.7g.
  • Swap the Thunder Boomerang back latch with a rubber body catch (part 95393) to reduce the load by .35g (.42g versus .08g)
  • Pengo now weighs 78g.

With a TT motor, 3.5:1 gear, and pink Fujitsus charged to 1.51V, the car can go 31 Km/h. Adding a bearing spacer to my gear actually reduces speed, so I omitted it.

HobbyTown Tom's River Mini 4WD Drag Racing - June 12, 2021 - Pengo v2 - I entered the drag race at Hobbytown again and won easily. My car has become something of a curiosity for other racers who are used to racing circuits. One racer asked to see my motor because he couldn't believe my car could be so fast with a tuned motor. I think he expected to see a more powerful motor in my car so he could prove I cheated, but he was surprised to see a TT motor in my car. Most people who probably pick an RT motor because RT emphasizes top speed, but, from my tests, a TT motor is faster than an RT motor. Plus, it seems that a car with a TT motor appears to go faster and faster the longer it's on a straightaway. "Don't change a thing on that car," the racemaster said, "because, right now, that's the car to beat." Of course, I tuned it again, because that's what I do.

I updated Pengo with an Avante polycarbonate body and a rubber body catch. Pengo now weighs 108g with batteries and 72g without. It should have been a little faster now with the lighter body, but the Tamiya speed checker says that both versions have the same top speed. The speed checker never tells the whole story, though. I lost in the July drag race finals. The other racer had a car with an Atomic Tuned motor. That was an eye-opening experience to see his Atomic Tuned car beat my Torque Tuned car on a straightaway.

July 14, 2021 - I removed one set of rear rollers and replaced the steel wheel shafts with hollow shafts.

Penguin racer, 3.5:1 gears (blue/yellow), fluorine coated gear shaft with 520 ball bearing (no spacer), carbon reinforced crown gears, standard propeller shaft (mustard), blue POM 620s, 60mm hollow stainless steel wheel shafts, TT motor, Avante poly shell, rubber body catch, one set of rollers front and rear.

B.A.R.T. - The Golden Rules of Tamiya Mini 4WD Racers

  • Build your cars and build relationships.
  • Augment your knowledge and allow opinions.
  • Respect everyone.
  • Thank your fellow racers after every race.

The beauty of Mini 4WD racing is anyone can race and anyone can win: young or old, male or female, novice or pro. Never underestimate anyone.

Racer (Clare) Chassis Class Weight (gms) Box (Km/h) Tuned (Km/h) Open (Km/h) Notes
Blue Beetle
(Aero Avante)
3.5:1 gear, Avante poly body, rear mass damper
AR tuned 97 17BX
40 UD Rayovac
(Mach Frame)
3.5:1 gear
FM-A box 85 25BX     Rayovac, CO <4 bodyparts, HT Box Stock Bronze
(Geo Glider Black Special)
FM-A box 90-92 24BX     Rayovac
Medusa K4
(K4 Gambol)
3.5:1 gear, 19mm front/rear, trimmed propeller pinions, skid bar front, 2.5g x 2 side mass dampers, 7.5g x 2 rear mass dampers, cab damper with 6.6g x 2 block weights
FM-A box 142
  34HD Rayovac, 14g more if car includes Medusa
(Festa Jaune (yellow))
MA box 98 22BX     Rayovac
^^^ v2
Festa Jaune poly, 3.5:1 gear, 12-13mm front, 19mm rear, body damper
MA open 113     32HD Rayovac
(Owl Racer GT)
MA box 97 20BX
(Shooting Proud Star)
MA box 105 26BX     NeoChamp, oiled motor, AAA Box Stock Bronze
Exflowly MS box 82 18BX     always CO
Thunder Shot
MS Pro Flex suspension, 3.5:1 gear, AT rear, reverse catcher lantern, super hard tires
MS open 118   24ATP

  Rayovac, HT Open Class Silver
^^^ v2
3.7:1 gear
MS open 118  
Dinah Shore
(Dyna Storm)
S2 box 77 20BX     NeoChamp
3.7:1 gear, hollow prop, 12mm disc roller front, 19mm disc rollers rear, Ray Spear wheels
S2 tuned 115
  Fujitsu, gear box pop issue, terrible box stock racer
^^^ v2
side mass dampers, add'l rear weight
S2 tuned 139
  PK Cell
Thunder Zero
(Thunder Boomerang W10 v2)
redesigned rear, 3.7:1 gear
STZ-X tuned 106   27AT(**)
  Rayovac, AAA/HT Tuned Class Silver
(Phantom Blade Black Special)
3.5:1 gear, FM-A hollow prop
SXX open 80 21BX

24TT 31PD
mostly Rayovac tests, NeoChamp SD, 39UD
^^^ v2
rollers, mass dampers
SXX open 104     27HDb mostly Rayovac tests, PKCell
^^^ v3
SXX open 104     28HDb Leo tuned HDb

Kogo (formerly Pango)
(Koala Racer Pastel Special)
5:1 gear

VS box   16BX     totally useless and underpowered
4:1 gear
VS     19BX
22TT 21LD
good with LD and 4:1
^^^ v2
3.5:1 gear with ball bearing and fluorine coated shaft, roller spacer, hollow prop, 60mm hollow shafts, brass keylets, carbon wheels, super hard tires, 12-13mm front rollers with rubber rings, 19mm rear alum rollers and tapered rollers, Deluxe Dragon Tail 1mm blue brake
VS tuned 106   30AT(***)
27 AT Rayovac, 25 AT Fujitsu
Wolfie (formerly Lupo)
(Lupine Racer) 3.5:1 gear with ball bearing and fluorine shaft
VS open 86     25HD  
^^^ v2
VS tuned 100   29AT    
^^^ v3
VS tuned 98   29AT   no front weights; repositioned, lowered rear weights
^^^ v4
hi-mount tube stabilizers, homemade underguards, lantern
VS open 117     34PD
weights front and rear, HT Open Class Silver
Lily Ridge
(Dual Ridge Jr.)
3.5:1 gear
VZ box 74 24BX     Rayovac
(Ray Spear)
VZ box 69-71 23BX
  29HDb 69g without cowl and spoiler
(Toyota GR Yaris)
3.5:1 gear
VZ box 81 26BX   28HBw Rayovac, 22k box motor
Neon Vicky
(NEO-VQS Japan Cup 2020)
3.5:1 gear, ball bearings,12-13mm rollers front, 19mm rollers rear, hollow prop, Energizer 1300mAh
VZ open 105     35SD  
^^^ Energizer >>> Fujitsu 1.2V 950mAh (June 2021) VZ open 105     36SD  
^^^ v3
wheel stabilizers, front weights, fluorine coated gear shaft (July 2021)
VZ open 111     36SD
1.51V Fujitsu, HT Open Class Bronze, verified 33 HDw 9/5/21
^^^ v4 VZ open 103     37SD
1.51V Fujitsu and 1.43V NeoChamp, HT Open Class Silver
^^^ v5
19mm rollers x 4
VZ open 111     37SD
(Penguin Racer)
VZ drag 80   26TT   retired 5/8/21
^^^ v2 VZ drag 77   31TT   retired 6/12/21, HT Drag Race Gold x3
^^^ v3
Avante poly shell
VZ drag 72   31TT   HT Drag Race Silver
^^^ v4
hollow shafts, minus one set rear rollers
VZ drag 70   31TT   verified 31 TT 9/5/21
Green Hornet
(Dash-4 Cannonball)
5:1 gear
ZERO box 74 19BX     74g Cannonball body, 78g Horizon body
4.2:1 gear
ZERO box 74 22BX     74g Cannonball body, 78g Horizon body
Racer (Matt) Chassis Class Weight (gms) Box (Km/h) Tuned (Km/h) Open (Km/h) Notes
(Copper Fang Black Special)
FM-A box 90 22BX     Rayovac
Machwarrior Gold
(Mach Frame)
3.5:1 gear
FM-A box 85 21BX     Rayovac, HT Box Stock Gold
The Midnight
(Festa Jaune Black Special)
Avante mk2 body
MA open 132 19BX

The Wasp
(Rise Emperor)
MA box 105 25BX     Rayovac, AAA Box Stock Gold

Note: Weight (gms) is the weight of the car without batteries

BX = white box motor, TT = Torque Tuned, RT = Rev Tuned, AT = Atomic Tuned, LD = Light Dash, HDb/w = Hyper Dash black/white, MD = Mach Dash, SD = Sprint Dash, PD = Power Dash, UD = Ultra Dash
CO = car jumped off-course

Tune Dates

AT(**) - 7/20/21

Battery weights in pairs, heaviest to lightest:
Rayovac High Energy: 48g
Energizer Max: 47g
Energizer Recharge: 43g
Neo Champ: 36g

Fujitsu Pink: 36g
PKCell Green: 29g

Mini 4WD Kit Rating Index


All images and work herein © 2007-2022 Clare Din. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved.