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Project: The Major

January 2008

Summary

  • Created: 2006
  • Purpose: Drift
  • Based on: TT01
  • Gallery: View
  • Scale: 1/10
  • Use: Onroad
  • Style: Touring car
  • Config: MA
  • Driveline: Shaft-drive
  • Body: Polycarbonate
  • Susp. front: Wishbone
  • Susp. rear: Wishbone

Note: Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a big update featuring a the final setup after significant additional tuning.

The Mission

Used in this build:

  • 3Racing aluminum threaded-body shocks
  • 3Racing carbon fiber upper deck
  • 3Racing carbon fiber bumper hold-down
  • 3Racing aluminum adjustable steering set
  • Airtronics 94257 servo
  • Airtronics MX-3FHSS radio system
  • Castle Creations Mamba ESC
  • HPI Firestorm ball ends (for steering)
  • HPI 3-spoke 26mm black wheels
  • LED lights, super-bright blue
  • PVC wheels donated by forum member Bildoz
  • Tamiya HKS Racing Altezza body
  • Tamiya Speed Tuned motor
  • Tamiya ball bearing set
  • Tamiya TLU-02 LED controller
  • Tamiya adjustable a-arm set
  • Tamiya aluminum center driveshaft
  • Tamiya option pinions set, 20t & 21t
  • Yokomo neon underglow set
  • Yokomo in-wheel lights, blue
  • Yokomo chrome head/tail light buckets, IS200

In 2007 when this site was first being built, Tamiya's hottest-selling chassis, by a long shot, was the TT01. It was easy to build, durable, versatile, and inexpensive to boot. What better platform off of which to base Ultimate Tamiya's very first project vehicle? The Major would be the first in a planned TT01 project triad covering drift, racing, and rally.

Now, RC drifting had already peaked in popularity by the time I started on The Major, and the TT01 was a popular platform in the field specifically because it's so cheap, and it doesn't take much to create a decent drift vehicle. The strong community of drift enthusiasts around the world had already pushed the limits with creative and original feats of realism and performance alike, which left me struggling for a way to make this project truly unique in my typical fashion. I decided to go for a theme, paying homage to the legendary manga & anime series Ghost In The Shell with a host of out-of-the-ordinary details.

Chassis

This car began as the Coppermix Silvia kit, equipped with some essentials like ball bearings, an aluminum center driveshaft, and 3Racing oil-filled shocks. Steering slop was reduced with a 3Racing aluminum steering bellcrank setup with metal turnbuckles, but the ball ends in this kit fit very loosely and I swapped them for a trimmed-down set from HPI made for their Firestorm off-road truck. My trusty old ultrahigh-speed Airtronics 94257 servo would give me the responsiveness I'd want for very rapid correcting moves during a drift on an unprepared parking lot surface. Out of curiosity I also fitted an adjustable upper arm set, though with ABS and even PVC tires this would be somewhat unneeded due to the way the tires wear in to whatever camber angle you set. I also rebuilt the diffs with short lengths of fuel tubing on the spider shafts to nearly lock them.

For power, I went with a Tamiya Speed Tuned motor partly to get a little more "oomph" than the stock silver can, but also for that stealthy-looking matte black finish I knew would go perfect with the theme of the car. I hooked it up with an optional 21T pinion to take advantage of the added torque by increasing my available wheelspeed, and used a Tamiya option metal motor mount for strength and a tiny bit of extra heat dissipation. For a speed control I decided to use whatever I had handy at the time, which ended up being a Castle Creations Mamba Max controller -- terrible overkill, but it fit just fine and it's what I had available. With the lighting setup I had planned, I knew I'd need extra mounting space for electronics, so I added a 3Racing carbon fiber upper deck just for this (a drift car really doesn't need the stiffness), and just to extend the carbon fiber vein forward a bit I added a matching 3Racing bumper hold-down plate. The foam bumper, itself, would end up being left off to make ample room for wiring.

I tried numerous wheel sets and ending up settling on an old HPI 3-spoke wheel that I had picked up out of a clearance bin for a few bucks. The black color would work well to set off the gray color of the PVC wheel set that was graciously contributed by URC Forums member Bildoz (thanks again!). I also put together a set of ABS tires on old OFNA polycarbonate wheels that are completely clear. I took additional advantage of their glass-like look and transparency by mounting a Yokomo in-wheel blue LED light unit in each. Each of these lights is powered by a small battery in the mount and has a motion-activated switch so they automatically come on when they're turning, and go off when they're not. I don't have any close-up photos as of this writing, but I used a black permanent marker to cover all edges & electronic details on the light bracket and make it essentially invisible.

Body

The body is where I decided to spend the majority of effort on The Major. It began as a clear Tamiya HKS Racing Altezza shell. This is a 200mm wide unit, so extra thick hex adapters had to be used to push the wheels out to match. Painting time was when the fun began. The body is intended to be painted all black and it has full window decals that are intended to give the illusion of dark tint, even though they windows are painted opaque. I applied the window and head & tail light decals first, along with some masking for backup and fog lights, then painted the outside with Pactra Outlaw Black. Once that dried, I followed it up with Rustoleum Textured Paint for Plastic to create the most matte finish possible. I then painted the entire inside of the body with Tamiya Smoke to tint all of the clear areas. For a wing I chose one from HPI's molded wing set. To add some realism and make a good platform for holding some LED lights, I custom-cut and mounted Yokomo's LED light bucket set made for their IS200 body. It wasn't a perfect fit, but with some trimming it worked out well. Then for the good stuff.

I found some moderately high-res screen captures or scans of images of the main character in Ghost In The Shell, nicknamed "The Major." I printed these onto plain paper as I experimented with sizing, color, and contrast, and when I had everything just the way I wanted, the final versions went on clear decal stock (available at any office supply store). I cut the images out and stuck them to the inside of the tinted windows to create the effect of ghosts in the (body)shell (get it?). The images were desaturated and the tint was thick, so it was very difficult to see anything under natural light. This was actually perfect for my needs. I got some frosted finish (translusent, matte white) paper from a craft store and cut out pieces that would fit behind the decals to diffuse light from the inside. More on this in a second.

For lights, I started with the set that came with the original kit and added a TLU-02 controller, another set of white LEDs for the front, a set of amber turn/hazzard signals for the rear, a set of whites for backup lights, and then wired up a custom set of high-intensity blue fog lights. One set of the headlings is always on, and the other is set up to flash rapidly when I'm at full throttle. The fog lights are always on, and all of the rear lights work normally, including working turn signals with automatic hazzard mode when the car sits idle. Next I added a Yokomo blue underglow set, which includes a total of 14 surface-mount LEDs wired into two rigid rails and two flexible strips of 3 each. All of these were mounted under the window sills, with the rails pointed upward. The light of the underglow sets illuminate the frosted paper backing behind the windows, clearly revealing the decals with what I like to call "innerglow." The biggest challenge of the whole setup was getting the dozens of feet of wiring tucked neatly under the shell without casting shadows onto the windows.

Performance

Face it, anything 4WD with hard tires and stiff diffs can drift. Drifting well and consistently can take a little extra tuning work. Once the tires were worn in, though, just a little preload adjustment got The Major holding some nice medium-long drifts and having a lot of low-speed control. I used both the PVC and ABS tire sets on different surfaces and really preferred the more slippery PVC on unfinished asphalt, where the lower traction allowed it to carry drifts longer on the uneven surface. ABS worked better and allowed higher speeds on cured asphalt and a track surface. Some drift enthusiasts like the immediate feedback afforded by stiffer springs like the ones that come with the 3Racing shock set, while others insist that softer is the way to go. The Major is staying in my stable for a good while to come, so I'll experiment with different settings to hone it to my driving style.

Summary

There you have it, my first Tamiya project, my first drifter, a low-fuss car that I can run anywhere there's a moderately flat surface. I think it's a worthy start to the TT01 project triad and I really look forward to doing more with this chassis platform. Be sure to visit the gallery below for more detailed photos from every angle, and stay tuned for more!

Photo gallery samples

Visit the full The Major gallery >

UPDATE: August 2008

After initially completing this fun project, I got to start learning about RC drifting in person for the first time. Though I was completely new to this particular art, it wasn't long before I started to notice the difference between defficiency in my driving skill (or lack thereof) and issues with the car itself. I found myself particularly fighting on-power push from medium speeds, so I started off loosening up the chassis by removing the upper deck and swapping in some cheap HobbySave brand shocks with extra soft springs up front and medium soft-rears. That wasn't enough, so next I fully locked the rear diff and opened the front. The cumulative effect of all of these changes helped a lot, but I still yearned for more aggressive steering on demand at speed. The final modification that completely sealed the deal was cutting off about 1/4th of the width of the front tires to physically force an uneven improvement in traction.

Video

Taking it to the local track I was able to get into the rhythm quickly and actually felt like there was a chance I could actually figure out this whole drifting thing some day. Once I strapped a video camera to the back of my controller hand, things got a lot harder, but I still managed to capture just a hint of proof that The Major is the real deal: