Meet the Kyosho Mini-Z. The worst keep secret in r/c in which I somehow knew very little about until recently. The Mini-Z market is not generally visible from the surface, mostly because it takes place indoors and often in garages and basements around the world, but there’s been considerable and enduring activity over many years.
The Mini-Z market dates back to 1999, and it continues to benefit from the global support of a dedicated fan base. By its 10th year, the Mini-Z had sold over a million cars worldwide so it quietly ranks as one of the most successful products in the history of RC, and that’s not including the totals of the last 6 or so years. I had to learn more.
Who is the typical Mini-Z buyer?
It’s a diverse group from young to old. Some become involved through a dedicated racing program in their local area, while others gravitate to the product for its diecast-like scale appearance. The bodies are in fact, made in the same factory that produces diecast cars, so it’s not just a metaphor. They really do have diecast quality scale and details. The chassis are very adaptable to various wheelbase and width ratios in addition to ranging body configurations so the cars can really maintain scale integrity.
Frankly speaking, hardly anyone gets into the hobby because they saw something that looked like a door wedge with wheels from a clown car extending well beyond the body. The infinitely more common reaction that gets people into the hobby is when they see RC cars and trucks that look and function like the real thing. This is the premise on which the Mini-Z line is built and the reason it persists some 16+ years later.
Is there a strong aftermarket?
There are robust lines of aftermarket items for the Mini-Z vehicles, not only from Kyosho with its factory option parts and R246 line, but from many other companies that have specialized just in Mini-Z option parts. These items tend to focus more on performance than anything, but light kits, alloy wheels, new bodies, and other features are designed to make the cars even more scale in appearance and function.
It’s a fascinating and sometimes complex product line that can simply be run as it’s packaged, or the owner can take it to whatever level they desire, from super-scalers to drifters, racers and even shelf queens. The Mini-Z serves its many masters equally well. Just like anything else, taking it to a higher level requires the confidence and inquisitive nature that’s synonymous with being a hobbyist, but it’s an enduring and popular product for nearly two decades that will continue to enjoy support in the RC world as it evolves with its fan base.
Does the Mini-Z have racing clubs?
Because of its global appeal, there are numerous Mini-Z racing clubs and organizations. I couldn’t point you to one in particular other than the Kyosho series itself in Japan, but you can find a lot of information with a simple search.
What about the price?
An important thing to keep in mind when discussing the Mini-Z is the perception of scale and cost. Without much consideration, many US consumers equate “smaller” with a lower price and “bigger” with a higher price tag. Larger vehicles do have more material costs, but once you get above a certain size, it’s not difficult or costly to make components or accessories for a reasonable price. But the small size of these machines take a considerable amount of design and development to get all that technology into suck a compact package.
Additionally, the Mini-Z has optional items like a gyro, and handheld and computer interface programmers to adjust the parameters of the speed controller. So the Mini-Z is far more difficult to manufacture than most would initially assume just because of its size, but it gives up nothing in features. It has the same or better resolution in the controls compared to most (if not all larger RTRs) and it has features that have never made it into larger RTRs.
The Kyosho Mini-Z MR-03, Requires no frequency band selection and up to 40 cars can be run together at the same time. These are also compatible with all MINI-Z Racer scale bodies, so finding a car that looks like something you WANT to drive is available. With the user-friendly features of a Sports version, the dynamic racing performance from its MR-03 base becomes immediately obvious as soon as you drive. This is the true essence of the MINI-Z.
The Mini-Z has a specifically designed low center of gravity and powerful drivetrain with a front suspension that optimizes camber angle in concert with stroke, called VCS (Variable Camber Suspension). Upper arms connected to king pins and knuckles with ball links allow the camber angle to change with suspension stroke, just like on a real car. Tire contact with the surface remains constant, even during chassis roll and suspension stroke from surface tracing.
The digital steering servo uses a coreless motor that delivers quick steering response and sharp maneuverability that feels like its riding on rails. Also, the upper arm and one-piece cantilever provide ideal cushioned movement for the coil spring. In addition, the stainless steel king pin and wheel shaft delivers smooth movement for excellent running stability. Precision geometry settings eliminate toe in and toe out change during suspension stroke and produce a neutral steering feel.
The chassis also features a connector for the installation of a special light unit (Not Included) that lights up/flashes headlights and taillights in response to throttle and brake control. This is no cheap gimmick but scale realism in its most complete sense. MINI-Z Racer Sports MR-03 Readyset brings performance and style within easy reach for everyone to experience and enjoy!
Length: 124-133mm (MM Chassis:125-133mm, RM Chassis:124-132mm)
Wheelbase: 86-106mm (86, 90, 94, 98, 102, 106)
Tread (F/R): (Wide)61.5mm / 59mm (Narrow)56.5mm / 56.5mm [when wheel offset is 0] Tire (F/R): 23.5-25×8.5mm / 25-27×8.5-11mm
Gear Ratio: 7.3, 6.3, 5.5, 4.9:1
Weight: 135g approx.
- Factory assembled chassis
- Pre-painted factory assembled plastic body finished with markings
- 2.4Ghz transmitter Perfex KT-19
- Parts set for changing front tread
- Front suspension spacer for adjustment
- 6T, 7T, 8T, 9T pinion gears
- Wheel wrench
- Pinion tools
- Spare wheel nut
- Tires and wheels included
For example, I find it interesting that I can take a 1:18 buggy and race it on the same track as the 1:8 scale buggies. I like that a hobby-grade 1:18 will be durable enough to handle a track. I also like the price point being less, along with parts being more inexpensive than their larger counter-parts.
Despite my affinity for the smaller r/c, the Mini-Z was somehow off my radar until recently. Maybe I’m living under a rock, but really had no idea of its underground following, the amount of choices for a buyer or that hop-up parts were so readily available. Despite knowing about the Kyosho Mini-Z, these past few weeks have really become my introduction into the Mini-Z world as one of the most successful products in r/c history.
I mostly race these on carpet in my family room with my son. However, we have also created a race track in our garage using pipe noodles from the hardware store. Carpet is best, but you can run on any smooth surface without debris. I’ve switched the pinions and find the 6T really great for a small course, while the 9T does best on a bigger course without the tighter turns. Making upgrades, switching motors, changing pinions is all made quite simple. Some of the parts are also included. I did find carpet fibers collect quickly, so having the wheel nut wrench nearby was helpful to clean things up a bit and keep the cars running their fastest.
I would like to see a little higher quality transmitter at this price point. It’s cheap feeling and not all that comfortable to hold. The only options are steering trim and steering dual rate. There is also a dial for the light kit should you decide to install one.
Given the Mini-Z has been around for so long, had several iterations and is highly upgradeable, I see the appeal. I am stuck on the price point, but that is a highly subjective thing. You’re not going to be blown away by the speed out of the box with this version, but with a few upgrades (or brushless), the Mini-Z’s really get ballistic.
Combine that with the simplicity of setting up a track in a basement or garage and racing some friends, I can easily see why it has an underground following and why it’s stayed so popular for so long.
Give it a look