Reliving the excitement of your first RC.

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Can you remember the moment you got your first RC car? I can remember, as a ten year old boy, walking into my first real hobby store. The first room my Mom and I entered was packed full of plastic models. Every bit of wall and shelf space was occupied by a unique model ranging from sports cars to fighter jets. I stood in amazement, taking in the entire scene. I was mesmerized.

My eyes paused on a large box above the doorway. This box was different from the others and was home to a realistic blue and white truck. It was the Tamiya Bruiser, an RC truck. As the excitement grew within me, I spotted a large metal RC buggy on display in the next room. I couldn’t contain myself. While running to the display case, the excitement bubbled out of me. Smiling ear to ear, I begged my mom to buy me one of those awesome RC masterpieces. Even though I expected to get the all too familiar “no,” I asked anyway. To my surprise, she just looked around the room, as if she didn’t notice the gibberish pouring out of my blabbering mouth. Asking multiple times, I made every possible promise known to a ten year old boy.

During mid sentence, I saw it, a brand new model. The beautiful red, yellow, and black color scheme of this pickup truck sucked me into a trance. It was as if everything in the store suddenly went dark, with a single spot light shining on that one vehicle. Tunnel vision had set in and I was hooked. Written across the box was its name, Blackfoot. The Ford F150 Ranger 1/10th scale RC off road pickup truck by Tamiya.

BLACKFOOT

I had to have this truck! Encouraged by my Mom’s reluctance to say no, I upped my game to the highest possible level and flat out begged. As she began asking the clerk questions, my hopes grew, and finally she said those words I thought I’d never hear, “We’ll take it!” Yes, it’s really happening! I’ll never misbehave again! I’m the happiest kid on the planet!

That night, and following day, were spent in my basement carefully reading the assembly instructions. I performed each step exactly as stated, one step at a time. I don’t remember if I stopped to eat, I just know I was content building my new truck. I remember those hours of assembly as one of the, if not THE, happiest moment of my childhood. Not only did I have an amazing truck, I was assembling it all by myself. No one to tell me I was doing it wrong, and no one to take over. It was my project and I enjoyed every moment of it.

That summer the Tamiya Blackfoot was all I could think about. I thought I was so cool while running circles around my friend’s Tyco buggy. No one in the neighborhood had ever seen an RC truck as big as my Blackfoot, nor had they seen one that fast. It was great! Many evenings were spent in my basement lining up toy cars and other obstacles like fire wood. While laying on my stomach, I’d drive over the obstacles. I imagined it was a real monster truck, and being on the same level as the truck gave me the perfect perspective needed for added realism.

The years that followed offered much bonding time for my Dad and me. He and I spent many evenings at the local RC track racing my hopped up Blackfoot. I can remember after the first few races deciding we needed to make some upgrades. The dual-stick controller and 6-cell NiCD battery were the first things that needed to be upgraded. We bought a Futaba pistol grip AM transmitter and a seven cell NiCD racing pack. Right about now, the younger readers are probably laughing. “AM radio?” “NiCD racing pack?” That’s right. That was the cool stuff back then. That’s also about the time electronic speed controllers became popular. I remember the first time I saw a Novak ESC. That orange plastic box mesmerized me. Running an ESC meant I would no longer have to replace those broken resisters that plagued mechanical speed controllers alike. Maybe if I could just win some more races, I’d have enough money to buy one. Those were the days, pure excitement and healthy competition.

In recent years I’d wished I could have that childlike excitement for RCs back again. They’ve gotten pretty boring as I deal with them every day for work nowadays and I had probably owned 100+ RCs over the years between RCUniverse reviews, work, and my “addiction”.  So like any good Dad, I tried reliving my childhood dreams through my boys. This, not so thought out decision, resulted in me buying them each a Tamiya vehicle. I figured I could watch them assemble it, being ready to help if needed. They both enjoyed it, for the most part, but it wasn’t quite the amazing experience I’d hoped we’d all have. For them, RC vehicles are common place since they’d each already owned several at that time.

I guess the only thing for me left to do was to buy an original Tamiya Blackfoot of my own, although I knew finding one in decent shape would be difficult. To my surprise, there were a few “new in the box” vintage blackfoot trucks. I thought how great it would be to assemble my own Blackfoot, just like when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I couldn’t justify paying several hundred dollars just to relive a childhood memory. After a couple weeks of searching, I saw it. A vintage Blackfoot, with controller and NiCD battery pack. The pictures and description left a little to be desired, but I had a good feeling about this truck and made sure I was the high bidder.

Upon arrival, I carefully inspected the truck. Though the truck was dirty, I was extremely pleased with its condition. It looked as though a kid got it many years ago, played with it a bit, and stuck it in his closet. This truck looks to be 100% original. According to my research, it looks like it even has the original decals on it. They’re a bit scratched, but they’re original. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I had to pull the entire truck apart. While doing a complete inspection, I noticed the gears were pristine and everything else looked to be in place. Although I wasn’t as excited as when I was ten years old, it was still an enjoyable time.

I drove my vintage blackfoot around the house a bit, only to find I quickly got bored. It wasn’t quite the excitement I had remembered, so on the shelf it went. I figured it could brighten my day each time I walked by, but it still couldn’t live up to my expectations. Every once in a while I’d walk by the truck and think, “Hmm, pretty cool”. However, after a week or so, it was just another RC on the shelf.

I can sit back now and chuckle as I think about all the time and energy I spent trying to relive a childhood memory, only to find I am much happier today with my wife and two boys. Although the accomplishment of building my very first RC truck was rewarding back then, the satisfaction of having a wife that loves me and two outstanding young men is much more rewarding than any RC can possibly be. I guess instead of trying to relive my childhood memories, I’ll enjoy watching my boys make some of their own. Whether they involve RC, airsoft, football, or just helping others, those stories will be there for them to tell their children one day.

So I’m curious, do any of you have a favorite childhood memory? Does it involve RC vehicles? Have you also incorporated RC into your mid life crisis? Do you still have, or searched for, your very first RC vehicle? If so, How do you feel when you drive it? While the outcome of this journey wasn’t as I expected, at least my mid life crisis didn’t involve a corvette. Score!

 

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About Author

I built my 1st real RC vehicle in 1986 and have enjoyed this hobby ever since. I like all RCs, cars, trucks, boats, planes, helis, etc. I think every RC vehicle has its place, whether it be toy grade or hobby grade. They’re all fun to me, but the best part about this hobby is the people I’ve met and friendships I’ve made. But hey, enough about me. Share your background in the comment section of this article.

13 Comments

  1. David Petzinger on

    Thanks for the beautiful cautionary tale, Matt… I’d been toying with buying a tamiya lunch box kit to revisit my youth, but i think i had an early inkling of it not living up to my expectations. I’ll just take your advice and just keep my memories of how awesome it was, instead of shattering them with undampened suspensions and glitchy radios.

    • I hear ya. Trying to chase memories usually ends in disappointment. My son has a Tamiya lunchbox and I think it’s a blast riding wheelies, even with the silly front suspension. I never did have one of those as a kid though. I guess the lack of expectations allowed me to enjoy it for what it is. I tell you what though, the tires look really cool. Tamiya has a way of making their vehicles visually appealing. I really like the hard shell plastic bodies. I guess with my automotive airbrushing background, they’re easier for me to paint than the lexan bodies. Lol.

  2. You’re absolutely right Matt, My re-release HotShot for another. While great to look at, let’s face it, it drives like crap. Retro ain’t what it used to be, as they say. Never meet your heroes, and all that. 🙂 Keep on truckin’ bro.

    • Hey man. Thanks for the comment. The retro stuff has its place, for sure, but performance isn’t it. Fun? Yes! Fast? Maybe. A modern day race vehicle? Nope. But then again, they were never intended for that. Like I commented to David, they’re still really cool, if you don’t have un-reachable expectations. 🙂 BTW……I’m really enjoying your articles. Keep up the good work.

  3. Spencer L. Crawley Jr on

    My first ‘rc’ car was a 49mhz injection molded POC from Radio Shack back in the 80’s. When we were younger my father, brother and I would ride our bikes through the area. We weren’t far from the Census Bureau, which has a huge parking lot. One day we are over there and we hear this loud buzzing noise. We ride over and see, to my young eyes, the fastest, most incredible RC cars in my life. They were driving early nitro 1/8 scale cars. They were loud. They were fast. And I was amazed. I think I forced my dad to ride back home to get my crappy Shak car and head back up to where the real drivers were. When we got back and I drove my car around (slowly, as the batteries were dying) one of the guys motioned us over for a closer look. One actually let me drive one of their cars. He would hit the gas to give it some speed, then hand the controller to me to steer it. At that point I was hooked. It would take at least 15 years before I’d actually get into RC myself, but that moment sealed the deal for me and will always be remembered.

    • That’s great! I can visualize that scene in the parking lot. You must have been freaking out, being able to drive his nitro car! Great comment, thank you for sharing Spencer.

      • Spencer L. Crawley Jr on

        I don’t think I was older than 10, and that moment has stayed with me some 30 years later. Anytime someone asks about my RCs I try to do the same and be as helpful as I can, hoping that same feeling I got as a child I can pass on to someone else.

        • That’s great! It’s amazing how far a single act of kindness can go. Especially from someone we “look up to” at the moment. I think we can all learn a little something from that. 🙂 that’s great you try to pay that forward.

  4. I had something similar – I was never bought the RC but I used to go into Beatties (RIP), a big hobby store in the UK in the 80’s to buy plastic model kits which is all my allowance would buy me. They had a massive basement full of everything Tamiya. I used to keep looking to two RCs: the Tamiya Porsche 959 and the Tamiya 1:16 RC Tiger.

    Fast forward 20 years – I decided I wanted to get back into modelling and now having a nice disposable income finally decided to get my two childhood dreams only to be disappointed that Tamiya no longer does that Porsche but I did buy my Tamiya Tiger. Then the King Tiger, then another, then the Leopard 2A6 along with a bunch of other RCs! I thought the hype I’d built up around getting that Tiger would mean disappointment but no, its a cool as I imagined. I don’t drive it much but sits on my desk and never fail to get some joy from it.

    My Axials are cool, my losis are faster but they were never on a bucket list.

    I know Charisma do the 959 but it won’t be the same. I’ve learned to appreciate there is something special about Tamiya kits which no one else has managed to replicate. Still looking on eBay for an original kit.

    • Great story. Thanks for sharing that! I’m glad to hear your kit lived up to its expectations. There IS something special about Tamiya. I agree that they are able to add something others may miss, maybe it’s just the “cool” factor. 🙂 I’ve never run one, but I hear their tanks are awesome. I’d love for them to send me one for a review sometime. Hint hint (Tamiya) lol. I think what I’m learning from these comments and my experience with the Blackfoot and my son’s Lunchbox is if you had never owned it as a child, it’ll still be awesome when you get it. Don’t get me wrong, the original Blackfoot I bought as an adult is still really cool, just not “as” unbelievably totally ridiculously cool as I remembered it. Lol. Thanks so much for sharing. If there are any other RCTech users out there with a similar (or opposite) experience, we’d love to hear it. Thanks again.

  5. Hi Logan. I watched a few of your videos and really enjoyed them. Nice job! It’s also really cool your dad helps you make some of those custom parts. Very encouraging.

  6. Hi there, great article!
    I actually have a very similar story but it was with a Monster Beetle which I then changed the body over to a Blackfoot shell around 1987/88. The toy store chain that I got it from all those years ago has disappeared around Australia, sign of the times I guess. I still have my original MB/BF and about 3 years ago did a full restoration, 90% all original parts from back in the day. It now takes pride on my shelf next to my Avante Black Special. I was the only one around my group of friends who had one of these back then and I remember just how big it looked compared to all the other buggies around at the time. It sure seemed fast to me as a kid and I liked the mechanical speed controller setup too. My son looks at it now and refers to it has his car.

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