MOTORING | Before the Rise Of Tamiya
My first 3
With Christmas just gone I look back to the winter of 1981 where my driving career started.
I’ve been rather fortunate with a recent eBay purchase that I hadn’t actually gone looking for and to be honest, I’m not sure what made me look for it or how I found it. The reason for this utter astonishment from me when sober was because the item in question doesn’t really have a memorable name. What I have managed to do is find my first 3 radio controlled cars.
The toy pages of the Gratham autumn/winter catalogue became a mass of dog eared pages. I had eyed up the Corgi racing Golf. Being all of 6, I did still believe in Santa. I was expecting a racing Golf. Alas the Golf never happened. So let me take you for a drive on my first 3.
LaTrax Alpha RCX
I’ve been searching for this ad-hoc for several years but I’ve never really been able to find it because its random name was totally lost on me. How the hell could I remember that mix of exotic sounding words?
For a start there is the design. I could have sworn it was a 1967 Mustang fastback. It does look a bit like that at the rear but now I’m looking and I note it’s more Datsun 240Z at the front. It really was a nothing car. A random selection of designs thrown together. There were 4 Mustangs 2’s on the box. I remember that.
There were other things I remembered too about this. Despite not quite remembering the controller having a steering wheel, I do remember the push buttons for the forward and backward motions.
Looking at the RCX today, it really was a thing of advanced engineering. It had proportional steering and a floating rear axle. It drove quite quickly through the one rear wheel. I remember hearing it crash against the wall the night before Christmas and shouting down to my parents only to be told it wasn’t what I had screamed.
Sadly the RCX was to be short lived. Like several minutes. It broke. What was to come afterwards was MUCH better.
This was the absolute nuts of a toy to me. It was huge and had blazing yellow lights. The trailer could either be a flat bed with detachable ramp or articulate box. This was 18 wheels of goodness although 16 of those were pretend double wheels but let’s us not split hairs of tyres here. It wasn’t just a truck and trailer though. Based on a Kenworth, this was your all out American big rig. I was part of the convoy. I was right there with Rubber Duck. That was until the gun firing. I wasn’t going to have my big rig damaged.
The Likto truck had the added bonus of being able to dismount the trailer at the touch of a button. It was almost fully interactive. The game was then to reverse up to and hitch the trailer to the truck. You could say it taught eye-hand co-ordination. Not that you’d think it did if you ever see me playing computer games. I’m quite hopeless.
The technology didn’t just stop there. For a toy, it had a complex drive and clutch system with 3 gear ratio set ups. Slow or fast in all directions but it also gave the option of fast forward and slow reverse at the flick of a lever underneath.
Alas all good things must come to an end. I remember being almost inconsolable when it stopped working. I loved that truck.
Corgi Mini Metro
Now here was peak Corgi toys. Back in 1983 Corgi had you covered for all things a young budding motorist required. TV detective cars, big scale, small scale and electric cars that you didn’t even need to push around the living room. That last statement can’t actually be applied to Corgi’s RC toys. They were a bit rubbish.
The Metro lived up to the hype of its British Leyland roots. It wasn’t that great and it was unreliable. Discovering the magic powers of a screw driver, I took mine apart. It was like looking into the void of a glossy wrapped box with a sparkling bow in the corner next to your name. It was empty apart from the cheapest circuit board you have ever seen.
It took all these batteries to give it 6 volts of magic. It could have done with around half of that. So simple and not very effective, it had cheap magnetic controlled steering. That 6 volt of power did not translate to scintillating speed to chip the lead paint from the newly painted skirting boards around the house. It wasn’t what you could call a carpet racer despite its fetching Datapost livery.
What I do remember was the hate I had for my sister when it came choosing the 70 or 77 numbers. She suggested 70 because I was 7. Shut up Jackie. She know nothing about race cars. We all knew the higher the number, the faster it goes right?
It died a painful death in my hands and I can’t say what I did to it was deliberate. It just died. Its Super Cover warranty had expired along with the car.
Rise of the Big Boys
It wasn’t until Christmas 1985 when I kick started my long affair with the real boys toys. Those from Tamiya with their Wild One. And as for the Golf, I found one and to be honest I wasn’t missing out. It was the same as the Metro, just as naff but clothed in a Volkswagen body. Thankfully nothing was as unreliable as a Corgi VW Golf except for a Metro.
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