My Nitro RC Adventure

     Have you ever gotten in a competition with a friend you really didn't need to be in? This is kind of a funny story... My future Bride (until May 15th 2004 that is :) bought me a small remote control car as a gag gift for my birthday this past year. It was a cute little car, about 2 1/2 inches long, that charged on the remote control. These Micro RC cars were all the rage a year or so ago, Radio Shack couldn't keep them in stock. It was pretty fun at home, so I took it to work to play with it there - that was about 6 weeks ago.

     A friend of mine at work named Marshall, thought it was pretty cool , and thought he should bring his battery powered 4X4 truck to work. I had a battery powered car I bought for my daughter a few years back, so I brought it. These cars were powered by 8 AA batteries - and we went through a bunch of them in 2 weeks time. My little car would run circles around Marshall's 4X4, so he had to get something faster.

     Marshall came to work about 4 weeks ago with a $100.00 7.5 volt rechargeable red Ferrari F40 - it was bad ass! This car would run 16 mph - we followed it in a car one day just to see how fast it would go. It was a blast in the shop (we work in an automotive shop), couldn't hardly keep it straight, it just kept spinning the rear tires. Needless to say, he was running circles aroung me now - and this was just not acceptable!

     2 weeks ago, on Monday night (this is being written on Saturday), I decided I needed something faster - and battery powered was just not gonna to cut it. I started looking at Nitro RC cars. These cars run on a mixture of nitro methane and methanol, and can achieve speed grater than 40 mph - this was what I was looking for! Unfortunately, these cars are very expensive, anywhere from $350.00 and up, so where would a person go to find a $350 car for less than $350? That's right - EBay! I searched for Nitro RC cars and found Smartech Winner 1 cars for $179 - HEY, That's awesome! I called Marshall to tell him the good news - I was going to order a car that would blister his little Ferrari! Well, Marshall just couldn't have this, so he asked me to order him one. We also needed a few Nitro things - glow plug charger, fuel, about another $30 or so. With shipping the cars were about $220, and $30 for the other things - $250.00, not too bad

     Marshall's car was ordered before mine by about 8 hours - I had placed a bid on another one that fell though, so I ordered mine later that day. We hoped they would make it by the weekend, even though it was Tuesday when we placed our orders. Every day when a UPS or FedEx truck would drive by, we would hope they were bringing our new toys, and every day they just passed us by - Bummer. Then, on Tuesday (this past Tuesday for anyone keeping track) Marshall got his car! As it turns out, these cars weren't from Arlington at all, they were shipped direct from China - oh well, it was awesome anyway! Unfortunately is was raining outside in Tucker that day, so we had to play with it in the shop after we closed, but we didn't care.

     It was now 6 o'clock on Tuesday evening - we moved around a few cars and had the whole center of the shop open for racing. After breaking in the engine, it got fun. From one end of the shop to the other it was probably running about 20 mph, and being a four wheel drive car, it got there pretty quick! It was a blast, until, about 6:45 - Marshall hit a tire on a car in the shop. He hit it hard enough to strip out the gearbox in the RC car - the racing had ended, or had it? Hell no, the hobby shop in Stone Mountain is open until 8:00 tonight!

     We got all the stuff together that we thought we would need, and hauled ass to the hobby store. It was about 7:15 when we got there, and about 8:00 when the car was fixed - just a $15 part and we were off again! I couldn't wait to get my car, this was going to be so fun! Across the street from the hobby store is a K&G store, they were closed and the parking lot was bright and dry - were racing again! We got the car fired up and made a few good passes across the parking lot. We weren't restricted to 50 feet now; we could really open it up and see what it would do. The car was really fast, and then on the 5th pass, the engine died. We didn't have a clue what happened, but the pull starter would not turn the engine over - this is NEVER a good sign.

     That night, Marshall took the engine apart and found the connecting rod had broken. This connects the piston to the crank shaft - it is a very important part. We called around at some other hobby shops to see if we could find another connecting rod, but it seems no one has ever heard of Smartech. The next day (Wednesday) I got my car. We played with it for about 20 minutes before I hit a curb and broke the spur gear - this is the drive gear between the engine and drive shafts. Now we both needed parts. When I got home that night, I removed the broken spur gear and took my engine apart to match up a connecting rod for Marshall's engine. We had the same cars, or so we thought.

     Friday night we found a rod for Marshall's engine ($15.00), but they didn't have one for mine - it was a little different. There was nothing wrong with mine, but I figured we both have Smartech cars, and this seems to be a common problem with Smartech, I should expect mine to break also - get a back up for when it does. No luck, they told me they didn't have one, and couldn't get one, if mine broke I would have to replace the whole engine, between $100.00 and $150.00. OK, maybe this won't happen to mine, but I still needed a spur gear. This also seemed to be a problem. It seems Smartech uses pretty much there own parts on the cars, and people can't seem to get in touch with them. I ended up getting a gear for a belt driven car ( made by HPI - $5.00), mine was gear driven. Although parts were almost impossible to find for these cars, we managed to make some work. We were racing again!

     Later Friday night, we put our cars put back together. I tested mine in from of the house - it car ran great but I noticed it didn't handle like it should. The rear drive shaft had become disconnected from the rest of the drive train. I now had a front wheel drive nitro car, and needed more parts! The good thing about this though, is that it still ran, and all I needed was a setscrew. This is easily purchased at any hardware store. Unfortunately it was already about 10:30 - everyone was closed. No problem, I'll get it in the morning and I can still race tonight.

      Now it's 11:00 pm on Friday night. Marshall met me in the old Walmart parking lot a mile or so away from my house. We had a huge parking lot with nothing to hit and plenty of light! Well, that still wasn't good enough. It seemed I had a bad glow plug now, and my car wouldn't start after the first tank of fuel. That's ok, we raced for a while, then I just watched him run his car for a little while.

     The next morning, I went to the hardware store and got 2 set screws, one for the rear driveshaft, and one for the front. Marshall was suppose to meet me at the old Walmart after he went to the bank at 10:00, so I needed to get my car back together, and race ready. Fixing it was no problem, about 10:00 I was in front of my house testing out my repair work. This thing ran great! It was like a whole different car, the acceleration was very impressive, now that it was pulling with all 4 wheels - he wouldn't have a chance, until I heard the engine go dead. It sounded just like Marshall's, when the rod came apart in his engine. Sure enough, that's what happened, the connecting rod in my engine broke. Now I would need another engine - I was pissed and bummed. I wasn't about to spend $150.00 for an engine on a car that I only got to run for a total of about 1 hour. The engine in these cars were junk, and finding ANY parts for the rest of the car was nearly impossible. It seems I should have listened to my future bride and spent a little more to get a better car, and one that is fixable. She was right, absolutely right, but what can I do now?

If you want to read what finally happened with these Smartech cars, click here: It's a pretty wild story in itself!

     Well, being the woman that she is, she told me I needed to go to the hobby store and get a good car, a car that can be fixed if it breaks - she told me maybe I should get a truck, knowing they cost over $400. I wasn't sure I needed to spend that much money, but I was told I needed a toy - she talked me in to it! I called Marshall and told him what happened. I was going to ride up to the hobby store, and asked if he wanted to go. When we got there, I looked at a pretty fast car. The guy said it would run over 40 mph out of the box, and with a two speed transmission for another $70 it would run over 50 mph! I though this was pretty cool, but if I was going to buy another car, I wanted something that could run in the grass as well as on the street. He showed me another car that was pretty fast, and made like a dune buggy. It was higher off the ground, but still had the car look, but it was only 2 wheel drive. Then I saw it - the Traxxas T-Maxx 4X4 Monster truck. This is just a bad ass truck! Out of the box it will run 42 mph, 4WD, 2 speed transmission in forward AND reverse, 8 shocks, electric starter - you can drop this truck from over 3 feet and it will just sit down - awesome!!!!!! I had to have it! The only problem is it was $415.00 - but hey, I would be able to out run, and then run over, Marshall's little Smartech car!

     It was about 2:30 when I got home, and breaking in an engine is really kind of boring, so I just tooled around the yard with it until Marshall came over. We took it to Walmart to see what it would do - it was FAST AS HELL! Unfortunately, Jean and I had some running around to do and we were going to eat catfish later that night, so I couldn't play too long.. I told Marshall I'd meet him later to run the cars (his car, my truck!) at the old Walmart again after I got home.

     4:30 Saturday afternoon - Marshall didn't go home after I left him at Walmart - he decided he may also need a T-Maxx - but the TMaxx might not be good enough. He called me from another hobby store, and said he was looking at the X-Factor. This is a rock climbing truck, but it is about $475.00. He wasn't sure what he was going to do, but the store closes at 6:00 - he needs to make a decision. About an hour later I called him back to tell him it was 5:20, nothing else, just to let him know what time it was. He told me he was waiting for Nicole to get off work, and then they were going to go to the hobby store and think about it some more.

     6:30 Saturday Evening - Jean and I leave Waldon's (good catfish!) I figured I'd call Marshall to see what he decided - he bought it. He bought the X-Factor, and some optional accessories, for about $500.00! It's an awesome truck, but I think I like mine better. We raced them for a little while tonight, but were still breaking in the engines and can't run them wide open yet - I guess he beat me on the money spent, but I wonder who will win on the race?

     Now it's Sunday - my T-Maxx engine has gone though about 8 tanks of fuel, the engine is broken in pretty good, and the truck flies, it's incredible - I can see where all the money is, the quality that is built in to this truck is impressive. I guess over the next few weeks we'll be able to see who's truck is faster, unless we tear 'em up first!

     OK, this is Wedensday night. We have been going to a spot behind an old Cub foods, where we heard people race their trucks on Sunday. Its pretty cool, basically a big gravel parking lot with 10 or so mounds of gravel and rock. My T-Maxx was adjusted Monday night, and was running great, Marshall tuned his X-Factor a little last night, and had it running pretty good also. Nether truck seemed to be better at rock climbing or jumping than the other, but we are both still learning to drive them. I don't think either one of us want to kill a $400+ truck. Climbing the gravel mounds was pretty fun, and I like jumping. Up untill now we have just been running them in the grass, or in parking lots, this was the first time actually doing some 4WD stuff.

     Monday night we took them to a church down the street from where we work. There is a pretty big field in front, so we thought it would be a good place to play. This is the first time Marshall had his truck in the grass, except for around the house. I was running my T-Maxx around the field, up a hill, and back down. The truck had second gear almost wound out when it hit a pretty deep rut in the middle of a turn (the truck was running about 35 mph). After about 20 cartwheels down the rest of the hill, it finally stopped - and it was stuill running. I flipped it back on all 4's and took off - no damage at all! I have heard that the T-Maxx is not the tuffest truck, but from what I have seen so far, it's pretty damn stout. Tonight, Marshall was running through the gravel lot, winding out 2nd gear, when he hit a pole sticking out of the ground. His X-Factor was probably running about 30 mph when contact was made. It broke several suspension pieces, but it could have been a lot worst. Looks like were done playing for a few days, untill we get his truck fixed.

     OK, it's about 4 weeks later now (4-25-04), I have had to replace 2 lower control arms on my T-Maxx, but I broke them jumping off of a 7 - 8 foot hill. I can understand them breaking. The truck still drove ok, I didn't have to stop playing, I just fixed them when I got home. The lower control arms are about $7.50 for 2 - CHEAP!

     Uunfortunatlly, Marshall has not been able to run his X-Factor for about 2 weeks now. He kept having trouble with the differentials, and finially stripped them both out. I have to say though, the folks at XTM are incredible - these people know what customer service is all about. The reason he hasn't been able to fix his X-Factor is because the ring gears are on back order - the hobby shop he bought the truck from couldn't even get them. The guys at XTM Racing are sending him new ring gears, pinions, and already sent new carriers - all free of charge! These people are great!

     Hopefully, we'll be running them again this weekend, he received an email stating the ring gears have been shipped this past friday! I hope the truck stays together this time, it seems like he can't run a full tank of fuel out of it without having to stop and fix something. Its kinda boaring having the only dependable truck :)

For more info on my Smartech experience, Click Here

Here are some links for help with Smartech

Toy Range RC Parts Supplier

OK, now for a few more pictures - click any image to enlarge

     My little Nitro car looked like this when it was new - this really was a fun car, for all of 60 minutes

     Here is a picutre of the new spur gear and drive shafts. The small allen headed set screws are all the hold the drive shafts to this gear assembly.

     The broken spur gear - hitting a curb at 25 mph, I guess something had to give! Anyone reading this own a Smartech Winner 1 car? The spur gear I replaced this one with is made by HPI Racing - the part number is HPIA444, check your local hobby shop, I got mine at Hobbytown USA in Duluth Ga. The one that came on the car is a 41 tooth, this is a 44 tooth, but I couldn't really tell a difference (at least not in the 20 minutes I got to run it before the rod broke).

     Here is a picture of the broken connecting rod - bummer! This is what killed this car. If you have this car, and the 15CX engine (not the 15 CXP) then you can use a connecting rod from an OS Engine OSMG2032 11522 .15 CV RC BUGGY - the OS Engines part number is 21205040. The wrist pin is bigger in the .15CXP, so this rod won't work, and I haven't been able to find anything that would, and be less expensive than buying a new engine.

     My first nitro car, used only about 1 hour and now it's dead!

     This is my new truck! The Traxxas T-Maxx 2.5

     Here is a shot of the T-Maxx without the clothes from the back

     Here is another picture from the front

     Maybe this is what I should use the Winner 1 for

     Here is a picture of the the T-Maxxs' new 2.5 Racing Engine and the 2 speed transmission

     Under the T-Maxx

The next day..

Here are a few pictures I took after we found an empty lot.

2 Weeks after Purchase..

After flipping it, rolling it, and doing summer-saults at 40 mph for the last 2 weeks, the original body had to be replaced. The one I chose is a Chevrolet SS-R body - I think it looks pretty good :) I will have to say, I am impressed with this truck. I have read alot on the internet about how the T-Maxx truck is just not that tuff, well, this one is. The only thing that has given any problems was the right lower control arm - took about 15 minutes to replace it. We clocked the truck, using another car, at 48mph, and I know I rolled it at least 10 times running at top speed. It's an awsome TOY!


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