► Our pick of Tamiya R/C kits
► From high-end to beginner
► Just in time for summer!
Much like Gran Turismo, Scalextric and Hot Wheels, Tamiya is a brand synonymous with car culture, and an important part in the development of a petrolhead. Just like those brands, Tamiya hasn’t gone anywhere and, thanks to the pandemic, it’s experiencing something of a resurgence.
We’ve currently got a little more time on our hands, and that means thousands are getting involved in Tamiya’s heady mixture of spray paint, over tightened bolts and decal-induced stress headaches. So, what Tamiya sets are available now, and what do you need?
What to buy
To get a Tamiya R/C car up and running, you’ll need to buy more than just one of the kits listed below. There are three main areas you need to take care of:
- First, you’ll need a proper tool set to assemble the chassis, with all the relevant screwdrivers, as well as a knife.
- Next, you’ll need equipment to cut out and finish the bodyshell of the car, and that means buying paints, brushes, masking tape as well as knife, scissors and a reaming tool.
- Finally, you’ll also need to buy some electrical bits to get the car up and running, and they include a battery, battery charger, servo and wireless controller with receiver.
Expect to spend something like £100 on the above but remember that the tools can be used with other models, and the electronic bits can be swapped between models if you get more.
Best Tamiya R/C sets
Tamiya produces a wide range of different cars, so it’s easier to divide them into off-road and on-road models. We’ll update this list continuously.
Mercedes CLK-GTR 1997
23 years on, this is still one of the most distinctive racing cars ever made by Mercedes. Not to be confused with the part-plane-part-car CLR which came after it, the CLK-GTR won the 1997 teams and driver championship with six wins in eleven races.
It used a 6-litre V12 in real life, but here it’s using an electric 540 motor. It’s also on the tried and tested TT-01E chassis which means there’s a wealth of inexpensive, spare parts floating around. And it also means you can swap the bodyshell over with something else.
Audi Quattro A2
Ingolstadt was a fierce off-road competitor in the 80s, and part of the legacy is thanks to this: the Quattro A2. Recreated in a 1/10 scale, like the other cars here, the A2 is based on a four-wheel-drive TT-02 chassis. That means it’s easy to maintain, easy to convert to different surfaces – and there are lots of upgrade routes, too.
Plus, it looks great – though beware of putting on all those decals.
Win the Audi A2 here
Subaru WRX STI
The Subaru WRX STI brings classic touring car looks to one of the most supported Tamiya chassis’ you can buy. The real car the model it’s based on won its class at the N24 in 2016, and the kit’s impressive in its own right.
The Subaru comes with some tricky but striking decals, and when combined with the metallic blue suggested, it’s a great looking car. Of course, you’re able to paint it however you want, but you’ll need to take your time whatever you do.
Again, the Subaru comes on the up-to-date TT-02 chassis, so spares and upgrades won’t be scarce.
Porsche 911 GT1
The Porsche 911 GT1 is one of the most well-known cars in the company’s storied motorsport history – now Tamiya brings it to life in this 1/10 RC kit. The racing version was released around two decades ago, and this is the 1996 Straßenversion, a homologation special.
Like the original release, the road-going 911 GT1 runs on a specialised TA03R-s chassis. To emulate the mid-mounted flat-six of the original car, this kit uses a mid-mounted battery for better handling. Combine that with a belt-driven 4WD system, it’s a sophisticated high performer.
TT-02 SR chassis
Interested in the mechanics and the upgrades more than the bodyshells? If so, it could be worth looking at the TT-02 SR. Unlike some of the other kits here, this comes with a chassis and nothing else – and it’s considerably more expensive too.
However, the TT-02SR gives you all the upgrade parts you need and throws them in for a cheaper combined price that they would be separately. Put this together, find a compatible body shell (which isn’t hard) and you’ll have an extremely fast car – but it will be a serious investment, too.
One of the cheaper cars on this list, the Grasshopper is an enduring classic for Tamiya. Originally release in 1984, and still available today, the Grasshopper performs well on off-road and tarmac. It’s easy to use and simply to tinker with, too.
Another R/C kit from Tamiya’s so-called golden-age, the Lunch Box plops a boxy minivan on off-road, monster truck wheels. Just like it was back in 1987, the Lunch box is still easy to assemble and maintain – but also leaves room for customisation.
It’s fairly inexpensive, too, so could make a good starter kit.
Like the Lunch box above, the Rising Fighter is a good kit to start out with. It’s easy to assemble, includes most of what you’d need and features a sprung suspension and rear diff.
The Rising Fighter is only 2WD, but that does allow for some exciting handling. It’s a great car to show beginners the ropes, and like every car on this list, there are things you can do to upgrade it; whether that’s changing the motor, the battery or even the suspension components.
Another car from Tamiya’s past returns with modern tech. The 2020 version of the Terra Scorcher features a refreshed version of the 1988 model’s design but combines with it with a shaft-driven 4WD model full of cutting-edge components.
Take off the polycarbonate body and you’ll find some higher-end bits and pieces. There are 3-bevel gear diffs front and rear - and they run on full ball bearings, for better efficiency and performance.
Combine that CVA oil dampers – usually found on higher-end models – along with stabilisers, and the Terra Scorcher is a sophisticated bit of kit.
The catch? It’s a limited-edition reissue, so will be a little harder to find.