Now is the agony of selling off obsolete junk that, to the right people, is too valuable for me to donate or discard. From the start, I have a month to do it. So, it’s eBay time. The stuff falls into two categories: 1/10th-scale radio controlled race cars and film cameras.
RC cars, as they are called, were once popular as a hobby. The cost of the equipment and race day fees got out of hand however, and it turned into a fad lasting two decades. It’s the typical story of having to become a wealthy equipment geek to win, and many couldn’t simply enjoy the drive. People still race RC cars today both on and off-road, but despite equipment prices having dropped, the numbers are way down and it’s a tiny niche compared to what it was at its peak. I’d guess that three quarters of the race tracks have folded, too. It was a lot of fun for me to go racing, but many of the remaining off-road tracks have morphed into overdeveloped venues with gonzo jumps that older equipment was never designed for. It was about racing then, and now it’s about seeing how high your vehicle can jump without breaking. The cars have also gotten bigger, evolving into caricatures of vehicles that once were close to scale. Since all my stuff is obsolete and mostly uncompetitive now, I figured they were a discard. Not so. For some reason, vintage RC cars are going for notable prices these days. I can’t explain it, but can’t pass it by, either.
The first item is a gas car, which is an RC car propelled by a model aircraft engine that runs on model airplane fuel. I never actually ran this car. I received it as a consolation after the outfit that borrowed my “pan car” (road-racing) chassis broke it and couldn’t replace the busted parts. See, there was this machine shop called T&A in California that produced various machined parts for RC cars, like aluminum wheels. They started producing gas conversion kits for electric pan cars, and wanted to create one for the Hyperdrive car line. The Hyperdrive company itself was freshly out of business, but the cars were excellent and there were still a lot of them out there. T&A asked to borrow my car, so I sent it to them. They promptly worked out a prototype, and the owner took it to a local park to test it. Things were going very well when a little kid and his dad arrived with a toy (inexpensive, non-racing) Radio Shack RC car and switched on the radio transmitter for it. As luck would have it, its frequency was the same as the prototype’s, and my pride and joy went full-throttle into a brick wall, breaking the graphite chassis. Both he and I tried to obtain another, but it was no soap. He sent me an existing gas car based on another brand to console me. Moral: don’t loan out your RC car for any purpose.
The second item is going to be a complete Hyperdrive pan car assembled from parts that I managed to accumulate in the years following. It ain’t the same as what I had, but hey. See, Hyperdrive rather quickly built its reputation on winning races at huge, banked oval tracks like bicycle velodromes. They produced just enough model variations to be pretty confusing, each optimized for different types of road and oval courses. Conversion kits abounded to let you change from one style of track to another. A complete rolling Hyperdrive chassis in good shape might fetch as much as a hundred bucks, maybe. What I think I have the parts to produce is kind of an iconic variant, the one they built their reputation on. It’s designed expressly and solely for superspeedway ovals, the kind where the car goes so fast that if a radio glitch momentarily gets the car sideways, it will lift a yard off the pavement and tumble around in the air just like full-scale NASCAR stock cars once did at Daytona. How do I know this? Don’t ask. At least it didn’t break. This narrower, specialized variant is made for superspeedway endurance racing, the nonstop kind where you have to come in when your battery pack is dying and immediately change it for a new one to get back out there and keep going. Normal RC cars have to be partially disassembled to change the battery pack, and that takes time. This one has a factory-designed quick-change swapping system that takes only a few seconds to get a fresh pack in. I never used it because once I got it for the endurance racing I was doing at the time, I thought I could do better. Very surprisingly, I did! But it relied on the chassis design variant that T&A broke, and which I could never find a replacement for. So what I have left is the original factory design which, properly assembled, may be worth moola to somebody looking for the model that broke all the speed records. Not to be tedious, but the other big thing is that it includes Hyperdrive’s belt drive system (as opposed to traditional gears). Who cares? Well, the belt drive is reputedly more efficient, and I have a commendable stack of different belts and pulley combinations to go along with it. There may be something to the claim, as many tracks outlawed belt drives once the Hyperdrives using it started to clean up in racing events. My problem with it is that there’s no way for me to cobble up this “classic” version in my remaining month here. Storing it all away will be a problem on the road.
Third, the Storm Pace Truck. This isn’t a racing vehicle, but was once. I modified a 1989 Schumacher Pro Cat 4WD racing buggy to act as the pace truck during STORM racing events. STORM was a local club that was completely unique. The guy who created it was nutzoid about NASCAR stock car racing, and wanted to emulate it in an affordable way. What he did was to set up small oval tracks in various parking lots over the summer. To race, you needed a stock-class NASCAR-like pan car chassis and body. The unique part was that it was not a timed race, counting who did the most laps. A race might be 100 laps, which would require three battery swaps to do. There was no time out for everyone to swap batteries – it was all green flag racing. So, you needed to cobble up a quick-change battery system for your car. More uniquely, race starts were rolling, not from a standing start. Qualifier events were run, and then in the main event, all the cars followed a pace car around. When it pulled off the track, they went for the gold. Whenever a pile-up occurred in a way to block a good portion of the track, out the pace car came in front of the leader, to slowly lead the group around the track until the mess was cleared. Then off they went again. Plus, the guy had the equipment to be able to monitor how everyone was doing, and he announced nonstop what was going on. We actually drew spectators, because they could easily follow what was going on, and when an attempt to pass or a frenzied pit stop really mattered. All this realism is unheard of in normal RC car racing. This pacing job was normally done with one of the race cars and a volunteer who didn’t make the cut for the main event. That’s unheard of too in normal RC racing – with STORM, you might not make the main race!
Frankly, this style of racing was a hoot, so I eventually decided to build and run a “real” pace vehicle. It has an old Dodge truck body loaded with flashing strobe lights in all the proper places, and the lights can be turned on and off at the handheld transmitter. Everybody knew that once the lights went out, everything was in order and the racing would resume at the end of the next lap. In order to avoid having the truck become an obstacle to get around when the hammer went down, it had to be able to at least keep up with the stock racing cars and get out of the way. Unfortunately, the extra batteries need to run all the lights and third channel controls boosted weight a ton and, being 4WD, it was already pretty heavy and inefficient compared to the race cars. So, in went a hot 8-turn electric motor. Surprisingly, this obese hulk, with independent suspension all around, was easily able to outrun the race cars anywhere on any track despite leaning heavily this way or that because of the weight and high center of gravity. Since there was no escape exit anywhere on the track, clearing the cars required flooring it to accelerate free of the marauding pack, move quickly to the outside, and then slam on the brakes hard to avoid a stout encounter with the outside wall at turn one. Then grab it and yank it out of there. The Pro Cat could only brake with its rear wheels, so this often caused it to spin like a top as it headed for the outside of turn one. This was disconcerting, but no matter. It kept moving straight as an arrow as it pivoted around in a long skid. The Pro Cat chassis is valuable because it was a world championship winning design with an excellent reputation even today. Strip off all the extra hardware, and there it still is, unbutchered. But the sight of this lurching truck rocketing unexpectedly quickly around the track with the lights remotely popping on is still an impressive sight, and I’m not sure that this thing may not strike someone’s fancy.
The last RC car is the most unexpected. Take the introductory version of an off-road racing buggy that broke new technical ground in the mid-1980s. That was Associated Electric’s RC10. It was the first serious American RC race car that took the existing off-road racing market out of the glorified toy class. Since that first version, succeeding models vastly improved. Yet there’s still a market for this old fossil. Why? Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s worth money on eBay. Maybe.
The camera equipment is equally excessive, as I originally had plans to refurbish what I bought and sell it at a profit through a dedicated website. Well, life intruded, and now it has to return to eBay.