There's nothing like the sound of a thundering big-block as it powers a fullsize truck through a mud bog. We get it, and we like it! On the other hand, a quiet four-popper in a flattie cruising along a mountain trail is also music to our ears, as is anything in between these two extremes. The problem of course with enjoying either venue is time and resources (also known as cold hard cash), the lack of which prevents us from delving deeper and longer into what we really enjoy: the 4-Wheel & Off-Road lifestyle. But another form of instant gratification has surfaced in the past few years and is gaining some serious traction (literally as well). We'll be checking it out more and more, even though it can be a strange new sound on the trail.
Downscale radio control (R/C) vehicles aren't new by any means, but they have evolved through the years with more and more refinements. We recently had an opportunity to try out a new Jeep Rubicon in 1:10-scale, supplied to us by Axial R/C (axialracing.com). This downsized R/C "Jeep" is officially licensed by Chryser and is upscaled with locked diffs and sticky Maxxis tires. It's a real 4x4, with a locked 'transfer case' (no low range needed, but gearing options are available) and is incredibly capable. The sound these rigs make is drowned out by the trash talking of the owner/operators during a competition, and yes, they have massive events on a regular basis.
We caught up with the Recon G6 crew (reconcrawlers.com) and spent a day running around the rocks with them at the King of the Hammers race in Johnson Valley. Many of the homebuilt rigs looked and acted just like the race buggies they emulated, right down to the working winches and Pull Pals. In fact, it was Max Gremillion from Pull-Pal and Premier Power Welders (pullpal.com) who convinced us to give it a try. I followed his mini orange Bronco around, finding out that I was indeed an amateur R/C guy.
In a word? It was full-on fun at a quarter of the budget. I haven't rolled a rig that many times in a day in a long time. With each new rock, ledge, sand hill, or Toyota that was in my way, I learned that the scale world is incredibly realistic and is extremely similar to the fullsize rigs. It reminded me of the original Flight of the Phoenix movie where the old pilot accused the young airplane designer of building "toy" airplanes, whereas the designer insisted they were not toys but models, a scale representation of the real thing. Indeed, these modern R/C rigs are incredibly detailed, even available with machined Currie Rock-Jock axles and all sorts of accessories. The people who enjoy the sport aren't a bunch of nonwheeling geeks who live in their mother's basement either-it's nothing like that at all. Regular wheelers with "real" rigs just have a chance to save some cash and gas by joining the R/C craze, which we will be doing a bit more of as well.
Don't worry, this magazine won't evolve into R/C Rockcrawler Monthly, but from time to time we may have a bit of cool tech on these electric wonders. And remember, some of that tech may be working its way into our sport as we speak; the Electric Bigfoot 20 is the first of many new changes coming down the road, or off-road in this case.