More Radio Controlled articles and reviews are here.
Building a Radio Controlled car can be anything from a joy to a nightmare. The first time it is attempted a lot of time and patience should be set aside. But in the main, provided instructions are followed and advice sought when necessary this is an achievement open to hobbiests of any ability.
Pre-built R/C models are an easy way to get into the hobby, but the more expensive cars usually come in kit form. The benefit of building a kit up is that you have first hand experience of how to the car is constructed and you can buy individual parts such as engine or motor and speed control to meet your needs, rather than replace something included in a pre built deal that doesn't suit you, or for example where you choose to race.
There is no set answer for this, as it depends on how mechanically minded you are and the design of the kit and instructions, however it would be preferable to take as much time as you need on each step of the build to achieve the best result over some days, rather than to rush it and end up with a car that does not operate correctly.
A fair time for an amateur to build a self assembly kit would be about ten hours building spread over a couple of days. It's worth noting that most self assembly kits include a clear body shell that needs careful cutting and spraying, which may make the total build time a bit longer. Naturally, the more kits you build, the better understanding you have of how everything should fit together.
Radio controlled cars are complex mechanical products. But as with other complex self assembly items (such as large IKEA furniture), provided the instructions are followed one step at a time there is no reason that anyone couldn't build a car themselves. Over the course of construction a variety of skills are required. This starts with the essential instruction reading and part identification, to screwing and bolting to dealing with oily fluids such as engine grease and damper fluid. The electronics involved are appear relatively complex, but a little thought and reading soon identifies how these need to be connected.
The biggest area for frustration is where a different manufacturer of kit and electric equipment are used. Tamiya, for example. provide connecting parts to support a range of third party controllers. However as designs change you often need to adjust servo fittings to suite. Some items of equipment such as the Tamiya Speed Control unit are designed to explicitly to work with their receiver. To fit this into a third party receiver you may need to trip a blocking plastic nub.
In the main radio controlled car building is straight forward, but challenges and tweaks required to complete the kit need to be accepted as part of the hobby.
In addition to your local Hobby-grade R/C retail store there are a number of clubs that you can access. The easiest way to find clubs in the UK is the British Radio Car Association ( http://www.brca.org/ ).
If you intend on racing your model, most clubs will allow brushless motors. You will also need an electronic speed control that is suitable for the type of motor you are intending to use, as a brushed motor ESC will not operate a brushless motor, however, most Brushless motor ESC's will operate brushed motors with the correct wiring.
This is always a very worthwhile question to ask before considering the purchase of any R/C model. A reputable model shop should be able to supply parts for the makes of models they sell, but there is never any harm in asking them how easy it is for them to supply parts for your chosen purchase.
At Fusion Hobbies, we supply parts for all the makes of R/C model we sell and are only a phone call or email away from answering any of your questions.
Beginners although the option of pre-built may help some into the R/C world, the thrill of building your own car is the real attraction even to newcomers. It's also a great educational activity for parents and children to do together on long wet winter afternoons.
Intermediates soon become efficient at putting together their kits. They benefit from the extra knowledge and experience that can be gained from local clubs and online forums.
Professionals often have a garage like space in which to perfectly construct and tinker with their cars. Balancing, tuning and weight reduction are all called upon to shave seconds off lap times.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: