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stl_recon_g6_4

The 2014 Axial RECON G6 event series is underway! Here at Big Squid HQ we are preparing for the “Iron Mountain Depot RECON G6” taking place April 12th in O’fallon, MO (click here for full event rules, details, and registration) and I was recently able to catch up with series founder and “course master” Brian Parker (everyone knows him as Parker) for a quick interview. Before we get to that though, let me drop some 411 on you uninitiated folk who may be wondering “what the heck is this G6 thing?”

The Axial RECON G6 Adventure Series, in simplest terms, is a timed scale cross-country race. Drivers are tasked with driving a set course (courses can sometimes be several hours long) through a variety of gates and “challenges” designed to push their scale machine to the limit. Touching your vehicle is forbidden and you must use a recovery strap or winch to get you through when stuck or upside down. Relying on your fellow driver is crucial. Drivers are given a log book and must use hole punches/stamps located at various checkpoints to mark their progress and also prove they ran the course. The motto of the series is “Finishing a G6 is like the winning a G6″. It’s all about teamwork and having a good time with fellow like minded scale off-roaders.

Ok, so with that in mind let’s get to the interview.  Click the “Read More” below to see my interview with Parker and to check out a few pictures from last year’s St. Louis event.

READ MORE

Horizon Hobby Pro Boat Kevin Hetmanski
This week we were lucky to spend some time with Kevin Hetmanski for our Wednesday Interview column. Many of you know Kevin from his days at Car Action, but these days his life revolves around his job in Horizon Hobby’s Pro Boat division. What’s new with Kevin? What’s new at Pro Boat and Horizon? Let’s find out.

BigSquidRC: Several (read- most) of our staffers know little to nothing about the rc boat game, what suggestions would you have for us noobs on our first steps into rc boating?

Kevin: For the beginner (especially a car guy) I usually suggest getting a slower boat such as our brushed Shockwave 26. This is a boat that you can use to get used to how a boat performs and to get used to driving on the water. It’s much different from a car and I’d say the biggest thing that I see people struggle with is the fact that boats don’t have brakes. A lot of people push the trigger back expecting the boat to slow down and they end up hitting something. You’ll also find debris in the water and vegetation underneath and that can hang up the boat. Once you get the hang of driving your boat you can upgrade to something faster like our Blackjack 29. It has a brushless motor and can run on 6S LiPo power. It’s crazy fast and lots of fun to drive.

BigSquidRC: We see you have a new Retrieval Decoy on the way, how popular was the previous version? We do some boating around the BSRC office, but whenever water is involved somehow the Retrieval Decoy always makes it into the conversation. Will there be a brushless upgrade?

Kevin: LOL, we talk about upgrading the Retrieval Decoy to brushless and LiPo power all the time. It would be pretty funny seeing a duck speeding across the water. Since the hull wasn’t designed for high speed runs, it doesn’t react well to that much power. It ends up tipping over and not going very far. The Retrieval Decoy does well for us. It’s great for hunters who may need to retrieve a duck from the water and it’s awesome for recovering stalled out or broken boats.

BigSquidRC: In your mind, what has been the most significant improvement to the boat scene in the last few years?

Kevin: Just like cars, I think that brushless motors and LiPo power have been the most significant improvement to the boat scene. Boat guys want to go fast and the current choice of power systems makes that easy to do.

BigSquidRC: Catamaran or Deep-V and why?

Kevin: I’ve always like the deep-V hulls. They look like most of the boats that you see while you’re at the beach or lake and they handle rough water very well. I’ve had a few deep-v hulls through the years and I’ve always enjoyed driving them around. When I drove the 29-inch Miss GEICO I became a big fan of catamarans. The hull design of the Miss GEICO is attractive and this boat does well on flat water as well as water that has a bit of a chop to it. It’s really cool seeing them skating across the water in a turn while wide open.

BigSquidRC: What is something that you think can still use serious improving in the boat world, and why hasn’t anyone tackled it yet?

Kevin: Now I can’t tell you that. If I did, someone may take my ideas and run with them. Let’s just say that I have a lot of ideas on how to improve RC boats. I’m already working on making some of those changes and I think what I’m working on will get more people excited about RC boating.

BigSquidRC: The water around us (the Chicago metro area) is frozen solid most of the winter. Are there any cold weather options for rc boaters?

Kevin: Just like for the car guys, the winter is a great time for boaters to go through their boats and get them ready for the next season. You can upgrade your electronics or hardware or even give your boat a paint job to change up the look. If you have a local high school that has a pool, you may even be able to talk them into letting you use our 17-inch Miss GEICO and Impulse when it’s not being used. Those boats are perfect for a large size pool.

BigSquidRC: What is the coolest project that you’ve worked on at Pro Boat thus far?

Kevin: I’m still pretty new at Pro Boat so I haven’t worked on many new projects. So far out of the lineup we have now I’d have to say that the 29-inch Miss GEICO is the coolest. It’s fast and you can’t go wrong with that Miss GEICO trim scheme. If I have to pick a project, then I’d say that the coolest project is one that I am just starting. When you guys see it, you’ll be blown away.

BigSquidRC: Who was the favorite person you worked with in the magazine biz?

Kevin: My favorite person who I worked with in the magazine biz is John Howell. He got me my start with the magazine and taught me a lot of things in the beginning that I still use today and have even shared with my contributors while I was at the magazine. John and I still hang out from time to time.

BigSquidRC: You’ve built some pretty trick rc trucks in the past, which one are you most proud of?

Kevin: Thanks for the compliment. I’ve built so many trucks that I have actually forgot about a lot of them. A truck that comes to mind is my Chevy crew cab. It was one of the best scale trucks that I built and had features such as a tilt nose, opening doors, tilt bed and custom made chassis. It’s also the truck that got me in trouble with a lot of people because I used it as a victim to a flame throwing E-Maxx that we featured in the magazine. Funny thing is that all of the internet experts had no idea that the truck was in terrible shape, was in no way a Tamiya Bruiser (which was highly sought-after at that time) and that the one part that was from a Bruiser was not harmed by the fire because I put it out before it even got down to the axles. I still have the axles somewhere. I even had people mad because I burned a Tamiya Clod Buster body that had the Chevy emblem on it. Uh…. that body was highly modified so I have no idea why that mattered. I am working on a new truck that is going to be much better than that truck ever was. I’ve been trying to get it done for years and now that I have some free time, I am putting it into the lineup just after the custom 1/5-scale trophy truck I am building.

BigSquidRC: If you were going to go out bashing with the BigSquidRC crew right now what one truck would you bring?

Kevin: It’s a toss-up between the first version of the Losi LST and the Losi 5IVE-T. I’m not just saying that because I work for Horizon Hobby and we make those vehicles. They really are great trucks that I enjoy. I still have the LST we featured on the cover of Nitro and it’s on my need to get it running again list. It’s such an awesome truck. I also really like my 5IVE-T. Now that I am living in SoCal, I have a lot of tracks to race it on and to me that is the most fun I have ever had when it comes to racing. I just ran it at the West Coast Nats and had a blast. The truck looks great, handles well and they are easy to tune. I also like hanging with the 1/5-scale crowd. They are much more laid back then some other groups that I have raced with.

BigSquidRC: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do an interview for us Kevin, anybody out there you would like to give props to?

Kevin: No problem guys. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. I’d like to give props to John Howell. If he didn’t give me a chance more than 15 years ago I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Gil Losi Jr You might remember Gil Losi Jr from his days with Team Losi, but newer hobbyists probably know him from companies like AKA Products and Firelands Group (Helion, Anza, Radient). Gil is a legend in the rc industry and we were lucky enough to get an interview with him.

BigSquidRC: What trends do you see coming for the rc basher market?

Gil: I think there will be a bigger push for more value for the dollar. That is why we at Firelands and HobbyTown have been focused on creating a product and sales strategy to bring entry level products to market that have incredible value and service support.

BigSquidRC: Gil, you are a living legend in our hobby and an IFMAR world champion to boot. What changes would you like to see made to modern rc racing?

Gil: I would like to see fewer classes. There are so many classes now that it dilutes the value to both the industry and the winners of the important classes. It’s become too easy to win a National level race if you cherry pick the easy classes.

BigSquidRC: Of all the current big name factory racers, which one do you feel is the best ambassador for the hobby?

Gil: Michael Losi of course! (I may be a little biased).

BigSquidRC: Your thoughts on the scale realism trend in rc now days?

Gil: I am a big fan of scale looking cars. It has always been a big challenge to keep a class looking scale. We as racers always look to push rules as far as possible to improve performance. If there are not strong rules in place before the pros get involved scale classes tend to be short lived. We have seen how popular scale classes can be (1/10 2wd buggies of the early 80′s, Touring cars of the 2000′s and now Crawling and Short Course). Hopefully we will be smarter in the future and write stronger rules to keep the scale look when classes are young.

BigSquidRC: Has Traxxas grown too big for their britches and forgotten their core enthusiasts?

Gil: Traxxas did a good job changing the industry. I for one was very slow to react to the RTR world they created. Only time will tell where the Basher enthusiast will find their next thrills.

BigSquidRC: What would it take to get you back to designing and producing complete high-end rc race cars?

Gil: I’m not sure right now. It is an interesting challenge to learn the general enthusiast market. My current hope is to build our current Firelands brands into industry leaders. Once we have accomplished that maybe there will be time to work on something racing again.

BigSquidRC: The Anza RC hop-up parts were awesome but we haven’t seen anything new from them in a while. Has the Anza line worked out as expect and are there more goodies on the way?

Gil: We are proud of the success we had with the Anza line so far. We almost put a Anza outfitted Traxxas Slash on the podium (4th place) at the Roar Nats last year. I think it’s been a while since a Traxxas car was that competitive at a major race!

BigSquidRC: Helion has a short course truck and a truggy version in both 1/18th and 1/10th scale. Is there a plan to jump to another scale, or will we see a new vehicle on one of those two scales?

Gil: All the above! We have more ideas than time to build them.

BigSquidRC: It seems that the HobbyTown exclusive deal has worked pretty well for the Helion RC line. I know all of our local HT’s move a good amount of product. Will the Helion RC line always be exclusive to HobbyTown USA’s?

Gil: We have enjoyed a great relationship with HT thus far. We are able to work together to provide value product with good parts and customer support that customers have been very happy with.

BigSquidRC: We are all going outside to do some bashing and we know you want to come after your incredible display of bashing skills at our demo at the HobbyTown convention over the summer. What vehicle do you bring (You can only take 1) and why?

Gil: I would take the Dominus TR Brushless. Where else can you find that much fun for less than $260?

ARRMA may seem like the ‘New Guys’ on the RC scene, but they have a lot of talent and experience behind the scenes. They sort of popped up out of nowhere with 6 vehicles covering just about every genre, and the vehicles we have tested and reviewed here at Big Squid RC have been exceptional at taking a serious beating. We went around the office and gathered questions and sent them over to Rob Hopkins at ARRMA RC, read on to get some great inside info on the world of ARRMA.

BigSquidRC: Why the twin spar frame on all your models?

When we design a car, we do so in such a way that the car not only looks good, but it is extremely durable and robust. The TVP chassis design achieves all of these things. The narrow chassis design allows for a low Centre of Gravity and gives the ARRMA cars a nice balance. This is one of the reasons why so many people have told us how well the cars jump. Also, by using aluminium, we can anodise the TVP plates to make your ARRMA car look really cool. We’re working on a number of optional upgrade parts for all of our cars.

BigSquidRC: We’ve found every ARRMA model we’ve tested to be quite durable, especially the Granite. What are the keys to putting out an ultra-durable platform?

Thank you! That’s a BIG compliment to us. We take the design of our cars and each component very seriously. We design every part to perform its function as well as it can. The key is very simple: ‘DESIGNED to be FAST, DESIGNED to be TOUGH’. Everyone at ARRMA loves, and we mean LOVES, RC cars. We all grew-up using them, racing them, bashing them. A lot of us still do. The passion we had as kids for RC cars is with us today. We want to bring that passion and enthusiasm to a new generation of RC car fans. We want people who have one of our cars to love using it so they tell their friends, and they tell their friends. The more people who use RC cars, the better the world will be.

BigSquidRC: When ARRMA started with a blank piece of paper a couple of years ago what was the biggest priority during the design process?

Great question. Priority #1 was to ‘DESIGN to be FAST, DESIGN to be TOUGH’ a new platform of RC cars. This means using all of our years’ of experience to create something new. Priority #2 – Don’t copy other manufacturer’s designs. Design is what we do and what we love. Priority #3 – make products people will enjoy and enjoy sharing. Priority #4 making RC cars fun.

arrma graniteBigSquidRC: How long till we see brushless RTR ARRMA’s?

We see a lot of ARRMA brushless cars already. Because we designed our cars to be brushless ready from day one, a lot of people have already converted their ARRMA cars to be brushless. It seems like a lot of our customers got used to their brushed cars, and once they wanted to go even faster, they bought their favourite brushless system. We know people love brushless cars, and you will definitely see brushless ARRMA cars in 2013. We’ve done a lot of research and testing into developing the right brushless systems for our vehicles. Like I said, the ARRMA cars were designed from day one with brushless power in mind. That’s why the gearboxes and transmission are made from quality materials. We’ve done plenty of speed tests with highly accurate speed guns and other devices to check how fast our brushless systems as. Let’s just say we’ll be as fast as anything else out there. Pound for pound, we’ll go wheel-to-wheel with ANY other manufacturer’s car.

BigSquidRC: ARRMA, thus far, is a basher specific brand. Can you hint to the next product segment ARRMA may enter next?

Bashing is where we will be for a while. We have no intention of going into racing cars (we have Team Durango for that). We have LOTS of great ideas, but I can’t say more than that right now. We will always wait to deliver products we believe are the best we can make, rather than rushing a product to market. ARRMA products have to be tested to obliteration point (and beyond). We have an office full of dead cars. These cars sacrificed themselves to make their offspring stronger and faster than they were. It’s sad, but there is an emotional cost to developing great RC cars; unfortunately, sometimes, cars have to be seriously hurt in the process.

BigSquidRC: Does the ARRMA name have any special meaning we don’t know about?

ARRMA is a play on words. ARRMA sounds tough, a bit like the bullet-proof clothing worn by soldiers to protect them. ARRMA sounds like what’s on vehicles to make them withstand foreign bodies and attack. ARRMA describes strength, resilience and toughness. The back-to-back R logo looks a bit like a warrior’s helmet from the film 300. We want our ARRMA cars to be tough and to withstand abuse and come out on top of any RC car fight.

BigSquidRC: ARRMA covered a lot of bases quickly with 6 different vehicles out the door. It’s been quiet lately, is the next thing we hear about going to be 6 more vehicles at once? Or will they be more one at a time?

When we had no cars, we decided we needed to launch six cars in one go to announce ourselves. We needed people to realise that ARRMA was here to stay and that we could make multiple, great looking and great handling cars. Now that people know about us, and we have a small range, we will release cars more evenly, maybe one or two at a time. Though it has been a while since we released a new car, we’ve been extremely busy behind the scenes, working on new cars and new ideas, not only for ARRMA but for Team Durango too. We’re constantly developing and testing, and with Hobbico behind us we have a very exciting future.

ARRMA GraniteBigSquidRC: Have people been receptive to the new transmitter design? It was pretty shocking to many. We enjoy having contests to see who can win a few laps driving lefty. Do you hear stories of people changing out the radios, or keeping them in?

A lot of people liked our unique, patented, ambidextrous transmitter. Some people didn’t, so we guess you could say it divided opinion; it has certainly been a talking point. Maybe it was a little bit too different to what people were used to; what do you guys at BigSquid think now you’ve used our ATX-300 transmitters for a while? Perhaps in time people will see our ambidextrous transmitter as a revolutionary idea. One thing is for sure, RC car fans can have no doubt that ARRMA designs things with a lot of thought and purpose. We personally haven’t heard of anyone swapping their ARRMA transmitter out for another type, but we’re sure it has happened. We’d say that more people like it than don’t like it, so we think that most ARRMA fans stay with their ATX-300.

BigSquidRC: We are all going outside to bash, you can bring 1 vehicle with you, what do you bring?

A Granite that’s been upgraded to brushless. It would be stupidly fast and more fun that we could say. Why doesn’t BigSquid put a brushless system into a Granite and review it in the only way BigSquid can?

BigSquidRC: Rally vehicles seem to be the flavor of the week. Is someone there working on a ARRMA Rally built from other ARRMA vehicles?

Maybe …

BigSquidRC: Will ARRMA make the jump to 4WD on any of their previously released vehicles?

4WD yes, but not based on any of our existing chassis. We’ll look at the design for the 4WD platform afresh, like we did for the current 2WD platform. We’ll only release it when it’s as good as we can make it though. If you mean, will you see a 4WD Granite and 4WD Fury, then almost certainly the answer is YES!

BigSquidRC: Thank you for your time, is there anyone you would like to thank?

Thank you for giving us the opportunity. We’d like to thank EVERYONE who has bought an ARRMA car. We’d like to thank everyone who owns an RC car, no matter who the manufacturer is. The more people who get into RC cars, the more we can all keep on having fun. Finally we’d like to thank BigSquid for honestly testing our cars and beating them up like no-one else. We know if an ARRMA car gets tenticles, it’s got to be
bullet-proof.

Thanks guys and have fun!

Pro-Line Racing's Gerardo Gonzalez
Pro-Line Racing has been the biggest, hottest, and most trusted name in rc bodies, wheels, and tires for 30 years. There are a lot of rumors out there about Pro-Line expanding their product line-up into some significant new territories, so we lined up an interview with Gerardo Gonzalez, one of Pro-Line’s research and development guru’s. I went around the office and collected questions from all the guys, read on for Gerardo’s answers and some cool information about his life at Pro-Line.

BigSquidRC: Is there something in the water over at Pro-Line that makes every product you make instantly the hot new trend?

Gerardo Gonzalez: After 30 years of building performance accessories our team has developed a keen eye for what’s going to enhance the consumers experience. Our in house tooling and manufacturing capabilities give us that extra edge to bring these ideas to life.

BigSquidRC: How big of a check would I have to cut to make this “cab forward” trend disappear?

Gerardo Gonzalez: It’s a little more complicated than that. Let’s face it, if all the vehicles we raced looked true to scale it would be a more ideal scenario. But at this point in time the classes you are referring to do not represent nor do rules exist that require them to mimic actual full scale race cars. With this said, Cab Forward designs are producing the highest performance at the track and that is what these particular customers are looking for.

BigSquidRC: Pro-Line seems to be putting out more gear aimed towards bashers than ever before. First off, the masses thank you, and secondly, is high end uber bashing the newest trend?

Gerardo Gonzalez: With the growing availability of Ready to Runs, the basher segment is definitely very strong. This is making it easier for people to become enthusiasts of the hobby. It’s very fulfilling for us to offer these new customers products that will enhance their experience. But at the same time our passion for racing has not wavered so you will see us working hard to cover all bases in the future.

BigSquidRC: The Pro-2 LCG chassis is a huge step into something new and now you seemingly make a replacement for every part on a Traxxas Slash. Is there an entire kit or rtr vehicle in Pro-Line’s future?

Gerardo Gonzalez: This is a question we get a lot but at this time we are quite satisfied in being a world class accessory manufacturer. In the case of the Slash, it is our goal to provide the consumer limitless options in enhancing their vehicles performance and appearance. We take pride in offering such a huge transformation in performance and customization to these enthusiasts. The completeness of this project is a direct result of the enthusiasm the Pro-Line team had for it. We just couldn’t stop!

Gerardo Gonzalez Pro-Line RacingBigSquidRC: Would Pro-Line consider doing a completely ‘original’ vehicle, i.e. not one that just improves on an existing platform.

Gerardo Gonzalez: The sky’s the limit here at Pro-Line, but we also know the value of sticking to our core competency. I’ll keep you posted.

BigSquidRC: Rally cars are the ‘hot thing’ right now. you guys seemed to see this coming a while back with the introduction of your Rally Slash body. What are your chances of making any rally bodies for the other rally platforms? HPI, Thunder Tiger, Kyosho, Traxxas?

Gerardo Gonzalez: For sure, I think you will see expanded Rally options from Pro-Line.

BigSquidRC: Is Pro-Line as a company trying to change direction, or will tires and bodies still be the heart of the company?

Gerardo Gonzalez: Pro-Line is a world class manufacturer who produces all tooling and product related to tires, wheels and bodies in house, in the USA. No other manufacturer in our industry can say this. With that said, you will always see industry leading innovations in these product lines coming from Pro-Line. As for the heart of the company, our heart wants to be on every kit, everywhere.

BigSquidRC: Licensed bodies are big with you guys, do you ever make original ones that just never make it to production?

Gerardo Gonzalez: When your standards are high, there will always be some products that don’t make the grade. However the Prius SC body died a painful death. LOL.

BigSquidRC: We hate body clips here at BigSquidRC, they are always getting lost or permanently “borrowed”. Have your extended body posts with the screw on caps (they really need a proper name) been well received? Any chance of seeing them for the Revo or other platforms?

Gerardo Gonzalez: Hey good point, why don’t you have your readers come up with a name for these devices. Yes they have been well received and yes we will consider doing them for other platforms.

Pro-Line BodyBigSquidRC: In the last 12 months, what Pro-Line product are you personally most proud of?

Gerardo Gonzalez- The Pro-2 chassis has probably been the most fun for our team and myself.

BigSquidRC: We are all going bashing, you can bring one vehicle, what do you bring?

Gerardo Gonzalez: 4wd Stampede loaded with a 3s lipo pack and Trencher tires. Oh yeah.

BigSquidRC: Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions Gerardo, who would you like to thank out there?

Gerardo Gonzalez: Thanks to the crew at Bigsquidrc for allowing us to be a part of your bashing scene and for hanging out at Cleveland, good times. Thanks also to all the fans of Pro-Line for inspiring us to keep producing world class products for your vehicles.

Steve Wang ST Racing Concepts
Our latest weekly column here on BigSquidRC is our Wednesday Interview. Each Wednesday we will be bringing you a new interview with an industry insider that has recently made some big news, this week it is Steve Wang from aftermarket company ST Racing Concepts. STRC has been teasing about a new LCG chassis for the Traxxas Slash 4×4, so we sat down with Steve and tossed out some questions.

BigSquidRC- Why did you decide to do hop-up parts? You could have called up any number of sources overseas and sold motors, batteries, or even complete cars, yet you decided to do aluminum and carbon fiber hop-ups.

Steve Wang: Before you enter any segment of this market, or any market that you desire to do business for that matter, you take a look at what’s already out there in terms of competition, where in the market place can you carve out a niche for yourself, or do you see a segment where demand from customers are not fulfilled. So you do sort of an external analysis first. Then you do an internal analysis, what are our strengths as a company, what are our resources, where can we have the most control over quality/design/cost structure, and how deep is our pocket book? You then take both analysis and you mash them together and see where your strength meets the market the best.

BigSquidRC- If STRC is known for one thing it is quality control. How do you succeed when other companies continually have QC issues?

Steve Wang: Thank you for your compliment. QC issues was something we learn very quickly during the first year of STRC. We had to develop a process to be put in place with our factory as our product line quickly grew and expanded. We have a team of personnel that’s solely responsible for QC and check through each part before they go into the packaging department. And part of QC can also be taken care of with the design. Not to go into intense details, but the engineer can design the products to make the QC team’s life a little easier. Are we hitting the 100% mark with our QC control? No, and any manufacture would be lying to you if they say they are at 100% accuracy with QC. Unfortunately mistakes will still slip through the crack from time to time, but usually our team work quickly to resolve it, learn from it and prevent it from happening again.

BigSquidRC- The future of rc, what trends do you predict for the next decade?

Steve Wang: Dude….if I know I would keep that information all to myself….j/k. I honestly can’t tell at the moment. What is nice that I see is the industry going back to its roots a bit and making sure what we are offering in terms of products in this industry have relevance to full-size industry again. Cars are beginning to look like….well, real cars again. It does seem to me that for the next big thing to happen, it needs to have to follow the same formula….it has to look like the real thing. The industry as a whole looks to be searching for that next big thing: Some are trying scale buggy, some are trying rally, some trying F1 and some trying to revive touring cars….but whatever the direction the industry decide to go, you can be sure we’ll be there to back it up with some high quality option parts.

BigSquidRC- Obviously being picked up by Great Planes is a big deal, did you crack a bottle of Dom when it was finalized?

Steve Wang: Yes, being picked up by GP was quite a milestone for us, but no, we won’t be celebrating just yet…..not until we get that first payment…j/k. But quite honestly, we still have some ways to go in learning how to work with our new partner in understanding their needs and purchasing pattern, and also getting hobby shop around the country to recognize that there’s now another solid source that they can get our products from with adequate levels of inventory. In my opinion, the work has just started.

BigSquidRC- Your upcoming LCG Slash 4×4 chassis is already making some waves, how many hours has your company devoted to the project so far?

Steve Wang: Oh Lord, if I really calculated how many hours I poured into this project, I would have given up already. In all honesty, a project like this, from my perspective it’s not about making a profit, it’s not about the amount of design hours, or whatever else it is costing us. It purely about our company showing what we can do in terms of design capability and translating that into a product that vastly enhance the performance of a vehicle. It’s about us differentiating ourselves from other aftermarket manufactures. It’s about us producing a product that’s purely driven by our desire for competitive racing. I look at a project like this as a brand building/marketing project. A way for customer to see how we are different than the other aftermarket manufactures out there. And especially on this LCG project, I started a multi-installment documentary on how a project like this go from concept, to design, to prototype, to testing, and finally to mass production. A sort of a “behind the scene” type of read which we hope the customers will enjoy. Currently, we are in the finalizing stages right now and should go into production next week.

BigSquidRC- It looks like Traxxas now has their own LCG chassis. Worried?

Steve Wang: Not at all! First of all, from a bigger picture stand point, as stated in the answer above our LCG chassis kit is more of a “show case” project rather than a profit driven project. So we are moving ahead with our project regardless of what others are making out there. Second, when you look at Traxxas’ version, you see lots of molded components, which is understandable for a large company like Traxxas. For the volume that they plan on producing, it makes absolute sense to use molded components. And on top of which they now offer another platform (the Rally car) to use these same components, they will achieve a positive return on the molds and tooling in no time. For us being the tiny company that we are with our strength and specialty is in CNC machined components, it naturally makes more sense to go after a double deck style aluminum plus graphite goodness type of LCG chassis kit.

Aesthetically, I think if you were to put them side by side, one being all plastic and one being graphite and aluminum, although my opinion is biased, I think ours just looks much more “racy” than the Traxxas one does. As far as performance goes, I think both will achieve a great performance increase over the stock Slash 4×4 chassis. Finally, I believe our LCG chassis kit is very attractive in terms of the cost to convert. I think the prices for the parts individually for the Traxxas LCG pieces are already available and it cost around $50 to get all the pieces necessary, and that is with a plastic motor mount. I think once you add on an aluminum motor mount for about $25-30, then you’re looking about $70-75 to convert using Traxxas components. With our LCG chassis kit, we are trying what is probably being done for the first time in the industry, and that is what we called a “manufacture direct to customer” pricing. Customers will be able to purchase our LCG kit directly through our website for $99. Yup, for only $99 bucks, you will get a LCG conversion kit with a 4mm hard anodized aluminum lower chassis, 2.5mm graphite upper deck, aluminum motor mount, and a bunch of other trick components. So are we worried about the Traxxas LCG Chassis? Well, $70 bucks for mostly plastic components or $99 bucks for the beauty of aluminum/graphite goodness….I’ll let the consumers decide.

BigSquidRC- Do you do all the design of the new parts personally or do you have help?

Steve Wang: Yes, I do all the design. Am I the one sitting behind the computer drawing up all the parts? Absolutely not! That’s a waste of time (you should hire someone to do that). A “designer” is someone with the creative mind that develops the idea/concept/product that serves a purpose, solves a problem, or provides an enhancement. When we select the vehicle we are going after, I come up with a list of parts we are making, I set some basic parameters for what we are trying to improve with each part, and roughly where we need to be in terms of cost. Our engineers and CAD artist then goes after it with an initial design and then it comes back to me about 3-4 days later (oh yeah, we work fast) and I start refining the looks, look for possible weak points in the design that prevent any future problem we might have with the part, and make sure the product line is relevant to the market, then we go into prototyping.

BigSquidRC- Why do you choose the vehicles that you do? Only super popular vehicles, or vehicles that you just think need serious help?

Steve Wang: Some choices are obvious, while some I go after them with just a gut feeling. I don’t always hit home runs with my choices. I’ve struck out quite a few times in the early days of STRC. That’s just part of the learning process in figuring out where you belong in the market place and what area of the market you want to carve out and try to stake your dominance over it. You learn from every one of your strike outs and hopefully you are not too beat down financially to keep your business going. But more importantly, you learn your lessons and get better at figuring out what to make and which vehicle to make it for.

BigSquidRC- If we were going outside to bash right now, what vehicle would you grab?

Steve Wang: At the moment, I would grab the following:

My 6 year old son
his Traxxas Monster Jam Grave Digger
About 6 battery packs
And my video camera
…and go to the hillside by the house

It’s amazing what you can capture when you hand the radio to a kid that only knows full throttle hahahahaha

If I’m gonna bash, I grab my Traxxas Stampede 4×4….that thing is nuts!!!

BigSquidRC- What piece are you most proud of? What one makes you think you really ‘nailed it’ and really improved upon.

Steve Wang: Our Slash 2WD LCG conversion kit is probably one of the products that I’m the most proud of. By my guess, it might be the most popular LCG kit ever sold (I will keep the number confidential, but it’s well into the thousands). Our concept was very simple: Make a LCG conversion kit for a Slash that the customer can achieve for under $70 when it’s all said and done. Why? For me, it makes absolutely no sense to make a LCG conversion kit that will cost more than $100 for a truck that cost only around $200. At some point you have to keep in mind what kind of customer are the Slash owners, how much are they willing to spend on upgrades before they just say “hey, at this point I might as well get a SC10 or TLR22SCT or something” As far as performance, we have countless amount of customers told us how their Slash with our conversion kit are now battling side by side with the newer short course trucks. And you know, I don’t know what it is, but there is just an awesome feeling that comes with beating a newer design short course truck out there with your Slash. Sort of a David slaying Goliath type of feeling.

BigSquidRC- Anybody out there you would like to thank for getting STRC where it is today?

Steve Wang: First and foremost, I thank God. It’s been an amazing ride for the past 13 years that He has put me on being an entrepreneur in this industry. To be able to make a living, to support a family, and produce products that fellow hobbyist enjoy. I cannot find the words to express just how blessed I am.

Of course my wife, an accountant and a MBA in her own right who decide to fully support our small business with her talents. She handles all our finances and accounting, all the paper work and documentation that I despise doing. She has been with me every step of the way and my consultant in some of the toughest decision I had to make. Always supportive, and honestly in my humble opinion, if you’re going to make it as an entrepreneur, the support from your family or your spouse will be one of the key determining factors on whether you make it or you don’t.

In the R/C industry, this would be a name you never heard of: Fidel Velez. He was a local hobby shop owner where I started on-road parking lot racing. I used to just hang out at his shop for hours and hours….asking all sorts of questions and bought very little (I was in high school at the time, funds were limited). But he was always patient with me, always answered my question, instead of doing the work for me and charging me for it, he took the time to teach me. From soldering battery bars on to batteries (newer hobbyist won’t even know what that is), rebuilding motors with brushes and springs (again the newbies would be lost on this one), gluing tires, building a proper diff….etc. A lot of what I know in terms of r/c related knowledge all came from my conversation with him and all those hours he allowed me to hang out at his shop. He helped me learn and enjoy this hobby which I still have great desire and love for till this day more than 20 years later. I wish all hobby shop owners were like Mr. Velez, we would definitely have a bigger population of hobbyist in our industry.

Hey, of course, thanks to Big Squid RC for making me famous. You guys are on the top of my list of news websites to hit every morning. Keep up the great work! And thanks again for the opportunity.

Horizon ECX Lee Morrison
Horizon Hobby has done well with their ECX line-up of affordable and user friendly vehicles. Last week ECX announced two new 8th scale buggies, the electric Revenge Type E and the nitro powered Type N. The two new Horizon ECX buggies are huge news in the bashing world so we got with Lee Morrison, lead developer on the Revenge buggy project, to ask him some questions.

BigSquidRC: Obviously the “Revenge” name wasn’t just pulled randomly out of a hat. The new buggies are ECX’s revenge on who/what?

Lee Morrison: It’s aimed at no one, but is a rough and tumble name that we liked and that the graphic designer for the body took to heart when designing the trim scheme for the body. If you look closely you can make out a Phoenix and Dragon fighting in the art work, his basis being the theme of eternal Yin Yang struggle, whether it is a Phoenix & Dragon, or Electric vs. Nitro. The graphic designer can go on about it more but the product guys just liked the sound of it.

BigSquidRC: You designed the Revenge buggies to take a beating, what do you think are the strongest parts on them, the parts that will never break?

Lee Morrison: Ha, you know that there is always a way to break anything and someone will eventually find out a way to do so. I would say the drive-line parts are the “hardest” to break.

BigSquidRC: Why did you go with 8th scale buggies for your next new products instead of a monster truck or short course truck style?

Lee Morrison: An 1/8th 4WD buggy was a platform that ECX had yet to offer in any scale.

BigSquidRC: Do you have any top speed figures to share with us on the Revenge Type E?

Lee Morrison: On 2S with stock motor and gearing 25mph.
On 3S with stock motor and gearing 39mph.
On 4S with stock motor and 14T gearing 45mph on hard/smooth surfaces.

BigSquidRC: I gotta ask, how many trips to Asian for this project?

Lee Morrison: I made 2 trips, Mark Reed (Editors note- Mark is another big name at ECX) made two or three, the quality team spend a lot of time there too. Let’s just say that the team put in a lot of time with the factory to make sure that this product lived up to the Horizon standards.

BigSquidRC: The ECX brand is aimed at newbies, is a nitro buggy too big of a first step?

Lee Morrison: We feel that there is more than 1 entry point into the hobby. We talked about this a lot and some feel that the starting point is a slower durable RTR 1/18th or 1/10th scale vehicle. Some feel that a 50mph, 70mph or even 100mph vehicle is.

Truth is, some may wish to enter at another point or they truly want a nitro 1/8th scale 4WD vehicle. Maybe their neighbor already has one or they have seen them run at a track. We wanted to fill that void and offer an entry level nitro 1/8th scale vehicle that is not only durable but is new user friendly and has value pricing point as well.

BigSquidRC: Why did you go with a pull start on the Revenge Type N instead of some sort of roto start?

Lee Morrison: The addition of a roto start AND the starter itself would not have allowed us to hit the price point that we felt would be accepted in the marketplace

The addition of a roto start only (without starter unit) would have added some cost and would still not have been of any benefit to the consumer without an additional purchase.

This offers the consumer 2 different upgrade paths.

1. The pull/spin start units from our Dynamite Mach 2 engine are a compatible upgrade (along with the spin starter)
2. The vehicle is starter box friendly without any additional parts required other than the box itself.

ECX Revenge Type E BuggyBigSquidRC: What was the most challenging part of designing the new Revenge buggies?

Lee Morrison: Building a user friendly, durable vehicle that has good handling characteristics at a very competitive price point is always a challenge.

Being that the DX2E does not have dual rate on the throttle, the biggest challenge for me was the throttle linkage on the nitro car.

BigSquidRC: If we were going to go bashing right now, and you could only bring one vehicle, which one would you personally grab?

Lee Morrison: The Revenge Type e (I do love the Mini 8ight – close second).

BigSquidRC: Why did you go with a 550 sized brushless motor on the Revenge Type E instead of something larger?

Lee Morrison: Being that are target consumer would be a first time buyer, we wanted to have a vehicle that you could begin to “learn the ropes” on per say with 2S and as you honed your skills move up to 3S and 4S.

Using a 550 (4 pole) allowed us to keep the vehicle’s weight down for good performance when running the lesser cell counts. Do not let 550 size fool you. This 550 4 pole motor gets it on 3S.

Be reminded that a lot of tracks are limiting 1/8th E racers to 2S. This is in no doubt in reaction to overpowered buggies (even in the hands of some not so newb drivers).

BigSquidRC: How much wattage is the Dynamite 550 brushless motor capable of putting out?

Lee Morrison: 770 watts.

BigSquidRC: Is 2S plenty fast for a noobie on the Revenge Type E?

Lee Morrison: I feel that 25mph is a great staring point.

I feel that a lot of recent releases are all marketed towards speed. Beginners/first time buyers and speed don’t mix.

If the vehicle is too fast out of the box to get a “grasp” on – how do you learn?

BigSquidRC: Who would you like to thank for their help on the Revenge buggy project?

Lee Morrison: I have to thank the whole surface team here at Horizon.

To narrow it down to one, two or even a half dozen would not be fair. It was a true team effort.

I will mention that if it were not for my father who passed away just a few short weeks ago, this vehicle or maybe even my current career would not have happened.

My dad had a love for RC hobbies and introduced it to me at a very young age. Been totally hooked ever since.

I dedicate the release of the Revenge to him and hope that this vehicle will allow todays fathers introduce their boys and girls to get bit by this great hobby.

BigSquidRC: Anything else you would like consumers to know about the Revenge buggies?

Lee Morrison: Couple other things that I would like to mention:

The buggies share 90% + of the parts.

It’s easy to convert from one to the other.

We would like to start off by thanking Jeff and Axial for their time, and for being the first in one of our new segments where we talk to people at the top of the fastest moving companies in RC. These interviews are not just with the company PR guys, we go as high up the food chain as possible, and try to ask the hard questions nobody else would dare ask.


Jeff Johns of Axial Big Squid: Can you please tell who you are, your official title at Axial, how you obtained this title, and when.

JJ: My name is Jeff Johns; title is President/CEO of Axial. I’m part owner and one of the founders of Axial. My business partner and I started Axial in 2005.

Big Squid: Was this your first venture into the world of RC? What/where were You before Axial?
JJ: My first venture into RC was in the early 80’s when my cousin and I built a Tamiya 1/10th Scale Sand Scorcher. I’ve been in the RC industry for a little over 12 years. I started with a major brand in RC in 1998 and then started Axial in 2005.

Big Squid: Going back a few years, there’s a video on Big Squid RC where Axial was showing the Robitronic Trophy Truck in their booth at iHobby. We also remember everyone was trying to figure out how to jam a Axial .28 into a T-Maxx. In the blink of a eye, that Axial changed to the current Axial. What happened? How did it happen? Did it seem overnight to you, or did you see this change coming?

JJ: Axial started as an engine, body, accessory company in 2005. Our engine line took off as the performance to dollar vale was really high. From there, we focused on delivering a wider variety of engines and engine accessories. As our engine line and accessories were received well by consumers, we started working with our friends at Robitronic in 2006 to help them get established in the USA. The Robitronic line did well for us. But our vision for being a bigger part of the industry and offering a complete car kit was where we wanted to be. In 2007, we released our first kit – the AX10 Scorpion 1/10th Scale Rock Crawler.

Our focus on kits and engines continues to be a large part of our business and with the success of each new kit release, so has accessories for those kits. I feel we are sticking to our business plan from the start. We’re thankful for the reception of the Axial brand from our consumers, retail outlets and distributors.

Jeff Johns Axial Big Squid: Who and how did you come up with the design for the XR10? It’s a radical change from the other vehicles in your product line.

JJ: Since the AX10 revolutionized RC Rock Crawling, with the competition side of RC Rock Crawling moving to the next level. Axial wanted give back to the people who helped us get to where we are today by setting the bar at a level that would again revolutionize RC Rock Crawling. The XR10 was developed from our years of competition experience input from AX10 designer Matt Kearney, XR10 designer Brandon Coonce, team drivers and our customers.

Big Squid: Speaking of XR10, what’s up with all the Vanquish Support? Not only did they have products in the kit, but tons of aftermarket stuff ready the day it shipped! Someone at Axial own Vanquish? What’s the deal there?
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Hey All, with the recent announcement from Schumacher about their speed controllers, I thought I better get to work on the interview with Shawn Palmer! It’s good and long with lots of details! Enjoy! Make sure to hit the title/jump for the full interview!

1. The news officially dropped today about Schumacher’s brushless system. It’s already a crowded BL marketplace. All the dedicated electronics only manufactures like Novak, LRP, and Castle are already in neck deep. Why did Schumacher, primarily a chassis manufacture, decide to jump into the BL market?

Schumacher USA has a long history of being more than just a distribution arm for Schumacher vehicles. We’ve been exclusive with Take Off tires and hardware for quite some time and have provided spec tires for club racing, state series racing and full blown National/International race events all over the country for years now. While the company focus on non-Schumacher vehicle product had been very racer intensive through the years, we’ve been expanding that outward recently with our CORE Lipo packs, a few more surprises to come, and right now – the GT ESC as well as brushless motors and accessories from Speed Passion.

Schumacher USA is a distributor first and foremost, and the job of a good distributor is to identify and secure new and excellent product lines for their dealers. Robin Schumacher and I have spent a considerable amount of time looking into quite a few areas and product categories in order to find both “the next big thing” as well as a line we can support our dealers and customers to the fullest with. Speed Passion seemed almost too good to be true at first, and the more we worked with them on the product line, the more we realized that not only is it all true, but it’s BETTER than we first thought.
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