The Mini 4WD Craze And The Man With A Swiss Knife

MacGyver’s awesome.


Anyone born in the 80’s and does not know him ought to have been born in the 90’s.
Those who are familiar with him though would immediately be struck with nostalgia with a dude who fashioned an ultra-light made from tents, bamboo poles and a lawn mower motor.
This man singlehandedly popularized the use of the Swiss Knife, then a little known gadget used mostly by outdoors men, and of course, the Jeep Wrangler.


MacGyver’s sense of D.I.Y. certainly influenced a whole generation of kids, who during their later years, would fashion all kinds of crappy ‘inventions’ from all kinds of things.
Bosconians knew [hint : past tense] this all too well.
Though not everyone knew of MacGyver, nor remembered at that point, everyone had some kind of gung-ho, DIY-spirit. Thanks to our famously technical syllabus, which called for kids to make their own power supplies, transformers, can openers, tools and all kinds of things. Though most are built from Alexan kits, the fact that average elementary and high school kids can put together such things is quite awesome. There just aren’t much in the way of technical schools, and pretty much all in existence must’ve copied from Busko or somethin’.
School pride ito pare.
What I’ll write about tonight is not how we applied our technical know-how to help out at home, but rather how it won us a lot of Tamiya Mini 4WD races, albeit illegally.
It was the year 1999.
The new millenium was coming, and the Y2k was the big thing. We didn’t give much of a fuck about because the ISTCs computers were too slow, so their clocks probably time warped and got stuck in the 80’s – which made it quasi-immune of sorts.
I have been tinkering with Mini4WDs [Tamiyas as known locally] since I was kid. But I never tinkered much beyond the kit parts.


That changed when I was in 3rd year, and 6 months into the year 2000. Nuclear war didn’t erupt as Armageddon theorists thought, so life went on peacefully in our little school.


Mini 4WDs were breaking into the next big ‘in-thing’. Everyone owned one – from kids to adults. Literally everyone was in on it. There were races everywhere, it was even bigger than basketball at one point.


Because of their fantastic speeds, there was even a TV special where a car dragged race a Mini4WD. Of course, the old owner type lost.


You could find these things everywhere!


There were the China imports that cost only about 50 bucks, and feel like they’re gonna explode on the tracks. Of course, the real deal Tamiya kits cost around 250 bucks [old models], new ones would be 450, and the ultra new Japanese imports which would be around 500++. These are just the basic kit stuff – stock parts, stock everything and most didn’t even have a motor in them.


As a high school student, everything was expensive. Along with the fact that I don’t ask for money from my folks for my indulgences, that meant I only have very few race-worthy cars – although I do collect the models too. I always bought Tamiya parts, so did Rich and Rich. Heck, of course my classmates Robie and Karel were on it too. We spent cash like stink on these things – well at least Rich and myself did. The others were just well too moneyed to even feel the pain of a purchase. I feel a million ouches every time my cars fly off track, and suffer a dent or something, which at the speeds that they went, was often the most unlikely thing to happen.


This is because most of them smash up pretty bad.


Clearly, this was becoming serious, and as any serious racer should do, there should be a steady supply of back-up parts. At that point, I all I had that was steady was the fact I lose more money racing and upgrading than I am eating.

It took a geeky atheist (then) to turn me on to a good source of cheap parts from China. That dude was Dar, and he raced a hitherto unknown brand called Auldey.


All the Chinese bootleg brands were a load of crap. Paper thin plastics, less than standard bearings and gears, and slippery as shit tires. Auldey, on the other hand, boasted of rigid bodies, high quality moving parts, and best of all, stock slick wheels that are better than Tamiya’s. Top that with a killer stock motor and you have an awesome kit for about a hundred.
Now back in those days, there weren’t very much restrictions on racing. But we kept on losing out to the guys who were armed with slicks and Plasma Dash motors. Clearly, something had to be done.
Being the Bosconians we are, it didn’t take long for someone to figure out something that allowed us to use our technical curriculum, and put it to “good use”.
I would credit Dar and Robie to inspire me to ‘rewind’ a motor. That means unwinding the motor coils, and rewinding it again with the intention of increasing its magnetic properties, and therefore increase its operational parameters. We didn’t have much cash to buy motors (at least I didn’t), and we sure were not gonna tinker with expensive Tamiya motors. What we did a lot was experiment with one of my blue cap [stock] motors.
It was perfect!
The rewinding worked!
We learned in class though that certain wire gauges and windings worked better than just winding and winding mindlessly.
The blue cap went faster and faster til we burned out the brushes. Then we took it to another level. We began buying Auldey kits, and salvaged everything for parts especially the motor and slicks. The body and chassis were mostly thrown away. The Auldey kit’s more powerful magnet, and our rewound coils churned out more power than Tamiya’s fastest stuff. At this point, our problem was overheating. Hell yeah we would win races, but at the cost of a burned out motor. The other problem was that the cars were going too fast for the track, and flying off was quite unsolvable for a bunch of 14 year olds. At first we thought that weights would give it more stability. But then, the cars we made were already stable. More weight simply killed off whatever advantage our illegal motors had. Tamiya’s brake pads were too wussy slow down our cars. My solution was to make larger pads – “skids” we called them. Basically, it was an FRP cut in the middle and stuck with a braking pad [we found that Rotring erasers worked best] then screwed to the rear bumper. It worked well but then sometimes, the brake effect was not enough, especially on complex tracks with long straights and sudden jumping corners. That was solved too – we put a brake pad up front to double the effect. Presto! We had ultra cool cars that were quasi unbeatable – for the next three weeks. They knew something was up when we kept bagging the races.
Then came the rule that says…
Only all Tamiya set-ups can be sanctioned.
That perfectly killed us. Then we left the mainstream races, and went underground – meaning the usual street corner races. That was where Robie and myself made a mark for ourselves. But then, even the underground races started to ban DIY set-ups…
So much for our racing history! ^___^

  • reposted from my previous blogspot account [09/09/2012]

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