01 June 2023
LRM Editor, Martin Domoney, explains how small Land Rovers are big fun
Back when I was in my early teens, long before I’d left school and got my driving licence, I was into radio-controlled cars in a big way. To be honest, I still am. Not only are they a great excuse to while away a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, hobby-grade radio-controlled vehicles are a brilliant way of learning how the greasy bits of a full-size Land Rover work.
I have no doubt at all that those years of building and maintaining scaled-down differentials, gearboxes, suspension dampers, chassis systems and electronics stood me in good stead when it came to working on the real thing. You only have to look around the shows to see how popular radio-controlled Land Rovers have become; the scale 4x4 radio-controlled scene is booming right now.
When I saw on Tamiya UK’s Instagram that it was updating its Defender 90 model to use the new Cross-Country 02 (CC02) chassis, I knew I had to have one. You may have seen we had a competition in the February issue for two lucky readers to each win a Tamiya Defender kit, which, according to the terms and conditions, I wasn’t allowed to enter…
Long-travel dampers are oil-filled
Anyway, I already have the previous incarnation, on the CC01 chassis, and couldn’t wait to try the latest – even more realistic – version. The chassis is a ladder-frame construction, just like a real Defender, and the front and rear live axles are tied in with four-link trailing and radius arms, with oil-filled dampers keeping the travel in check. Sound familiar?
Diffs can be built open or locked
There are some choices to make during the build process as you’re guided through the easy-to-follow instructions. First is whether to go for a high or low gear ratio when building the gearbox, depending on if you’re aiming for higher speed running or increased low-speed torque for more controlled crawling. You also get the opportunity to assemble each differential either open or locked. I went for the lower gearing, with both front and rear diffs locked for the best off-road grip.
Another part of the model that is left to your imagination is the colour scheme of the Defender’s body. Being moulded in clear polycarbonate, you mask the windows, lights and any other details and then spray the paint on from the inside. When you’ve done all the colour – I’m going for Racing Green with a white roof – you can peel off the overspray film and add the decals and ABS plastic details which really brings the Land Rover to life.
Martin’s older model shows how realistic you can make them
It’s best to spray the body outdoors and on a warm day, so the paint cures evenly and sticks to the bodyshell better, and I’m waiting for the ideal opportunity. The blue Defender in the photo here (above, right) is my old CC01, but it shows how lifelike the body becomes once painted and detailed.
A short test in the house with the wheels off the ground let me set up all the controls safely – a servo takes care of the steering, and an electronic speed controller adjusts the motor speed depending on how far you push the stick on the transmitter.
With practice the Defender can be made to scale obstacles that belie its size, and watching the suspension articulate never gets old. Gather a few together with some mates and you can blaze off-road trails almost anywhere you like – they’re a lot cheaper to recover and fix than the full-size versions when you get it wrong, too…
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