Buying Your First RC Truck?

Nothing is as exciting as starting something new, and luckily as the Model Truck Specialist, we can tell you everything there is to know about this magnificent hobby. My name is Arcee, and today I'm going to share everything you need to consider when purchasing your very first RC model truck!

What is the right model to start with?

A question we hear every day and there's only one good answer: “the one you find most beautiful.” We always advise beginning with a Tamiya model truck. The manuals are simply very solid and the models are well-designed. But there's very little difference among the various Tamiya trucks. They all share the same basic techniques. Whether you like the Scania Next gen or the Mercedes Actros, technically, they are almost identical.

Tamiya Model Trucks, then?

As a beginner, this is the brand that basically lays the foundation for the whole hobby. You must have been drooling over those beautiful Lesu or Scaleclub trucks, and of course, these are also gorgeous models that go far beyond what Tamiya does, but they often require some experience with model trucks. Jumping straight into a high-end model often leads to frustration due to the larger and more complex step than with Tamiya trucks.

Which scale?

In the Netherlands, the majority of all model truck associations are built on the Tamiya 1/14 scale. In reality, this scale varies from 12.8 – 13.5 but in the market, this is called the 1/14 scale. This scale is also used by many other brands such as Lesu, Scaleclub, WTE, and many more as the standard. Additionally, there is the 1/16 scale where Wedico and ScaleArt are active, but in recent years, this scale has declined sharply because Wedico has not released any new products for years and ScaleArt models really belong to the upper end of the market in terms of price.

What am I getting myself into with a Tamiya Truck?

Tamiya trucks are build-it-yourself kits, and fortunately, the manuals are very good and clear, which makes for a pleasant building experience. The parts in the manual are mostly drawn to actual size so they are easy to compare. Tamiya's models are detailed and affordable, but above all, easy to modify due to the wide range of aftermarket parts available for this scale. However, there are a few beauty mistakes Tamiya has been making for years. With some minor interventions, this can be quickly improved, such as the overly fast electric motor included in the kit unless you're building a racing truck, we always recommend replacing it with a truck motor.

What do I really need to get started?

To start building the truck, we always advise doing it in stages. Start with the kit itself and the materials needed to make the model operational. Since many trucks are similar, we've put together a short list that works for 95% of people below.

Parts list for Tamiya trucks:

The following parts we have put together based on years of experience in this hobby. Of course, there are always individual wishes that might lead you to make changes to the list. We regularly come across lists from shops offering a complete package. However, complete packages often don't quite match your personal model truck wishes.

Prefer to buy it as one set? Click here
With the above list, you've got the basics to make your model fully operational and lay the groundwork for this wonderful hobby. Of course, you can add extra accessories and options to the list specific to your model. However, we always recommend starting with the basics. We see every day that people start this hobby with great enthusiasm and immediately want to get everything. The result is that they often get stuck since they want to do everything at once, thereby losing overview when building the model.

Bearings, to use or not?

Many people routinely put ball bearings in their RC truck and although this is an inexpensive option, it's often not necessary. Ball bearings ensure that your truck rolls more smoothly and thus is more battery-efficient. However, with current battery technology, driving times of over 3 hours are possible, so the difference isn't that big. But if you plan to drive your model actively, then the advice would be to replace the bronze bearings with ball bearings which can be easily replaced during the build.

Should I paint my model?

Many people dread painting their RC model truck because it makes or breaks the model, and of course, we understand that very well. Luckily, Tamiya also offers models that are delivered pre-painted, which can be recognized by the text “Edition” in the name. This indicates that the model is delivered painted in color. However, Tamiya always paints in only one color, which, in some models, negates certain lines in the truck.
Painting isn't challenging, it just requires the right preparation and patience! When painting your model, it's all about having a clean environment to paint in and using the right materials. Fortunately, the Tamiya Primer and TS Spray Cans are user-friendly and maintain the details in your model, unlike some car paints which are often very thick and solely intended for real car damage repair. For more advice on painting, read our article specially for painting your model. (To follow later)

But I also want sound and lighting in my model truck?

Of course, you can equip your model with sound and lighting. There are a few options you can choose when building your model truck. If you're not handy with computers and want a module that's easy to install, then we would recommend the Tamiya MFC-01 (American) or MFC-03 (European). This module is simple to install and can be completely installed without soldering, unlike other systems that require some soldering. The downside of the Tamiya MFC is that it's not adjustable, so you're stuck with the standard lighting options and sounds that are pre-programmed. Connecting additional lighting is often done through external modules such as the CTI PS4a, which can switch up to 4 functions on a free channel of the transmitter, think of high beams, rotating beacons, work lights, and more.

Beier vs Servonaut

Besides the Tamiya MFC modules, there are two other popular options for sound and lighting. Both systems have their own advantages and disadvantages. While the Beier USM-RC3 / SFR-1 modules are possibly the most chosen option, they do require some computer knowledge and allow you to adjust everything with the supplied software. Everything from controlling servos, creating unique light flashing patterns, and even having a complete private radio station is possible with the Beier sound modules. Their greatest strength is also their weakness. The module has so many options that starting with this module really takes several evenings of studying (YouTube videos) to understand how it works.
The Servonaut modules are in between the possibilities of Beier and those of the Tamiya MFC modules. You can make some adjustments to the sound but are limited to a few options. Additionally, you have the ability to connect more lighting because you have to solder the lighting yourself to the Servonaut modules, thus allowing you to connect everything according to your own insights.

More information and depth on sound and lighting modules is coming in a later article on the subject!

Do you have more questions?

Then certainly do not hesitate to contact us, we've tried to give you as much information as possible about the unique world of the model truck building hobby in a concise version. So, questions are quite normal, and you can always call or email us for additional questions and explanation.

See you at the next Arcee’s Tips & Tricks!