Venom Gambler Short Course Truck Review
THE Venom 1/10th Gambler SC RTR Review
Review by Cubby
Photos by- Sam “The Photog”
Ever since the Traxxas Slash was introduced to the world, short course trucks have been all the rage. The rc world was used to driving alien looking “stadium trucks” and “buggies”, but instantly fell head over heals for the realism and just plain cool factor that the scale looking Slash had to offer. With the Slash being such an overwhelming hit it was obvious that there were going to be plenty more short course trucks on the way from other manufactures.
At Nuremburg 2010 Venom announced they were tossing their hat into the 2wd short course ring with a truck dubbed the “SCX”. Venom certainly isn’t know for being a car manufacture, they are known more for their batteries, heli’s and such, but it is always good to see more choices in a hot product category. Well, after over a year of development, the Venom truck is now hitting hobby shelves renamed the “Gambler“.
Venom is selling both a brushed and brushless version of the Gambler, this week I am reviewing the brushed RTR version. So just how does it stack up to the competition????
Age Rating- 14 years +
Ground Clearance- 1.51″
Motor- 550 12 turn brushed
ESC- 240A 1/10th Scale Brushed, Waterproof with Lipo Cut-Off
Transmitter- VR3S 2.4 Ghz 3 Channel
Battery- 7 cell, 3000 mah Ni-mh
Charger- 110V Wall Type
MORdrive System- Allows mid or rear motor mounting
Slipper Clutch- Included
Diff- Beveled 4 Gear Planetary
Shocks- Composite, Threaded
Drive Shafts- VCD Universals
Rims- Vented Beadlocs
Warranty- 90 days (30 days on electronics)
Street Price- $199
Primary Competition– Traxxas Slash, Associated SC10, Losi XXX-SCT, HPI Blitz, Kyosho Ultima SC
Build Quality– Numerous screws were overtightened, stripping them. Other parts were overtightened resulting in unwanted binding/resistance. Box arrived with two puddles of shock oil under the rear shocks. Rear camber was off on our truck (about +3 degrees on each side). Pinion/spur mesh was Perfect, very rare for a RTR. Not perfect build quality, but not bad enough to keep from driving it right out of the box.
General Driving Impressions–
Test Drivers– “Editor” Brian, Bill “The Wrench”, Adam “The Intern”, Sam “The Photog”, and yours truly (aka- Cubby).
Test Venues– Leisure Hours Raceway (indoor dirt off road), St Louis Dirtburners (8th scale dirt off road), a Costco parking lot, and a subdivision common grounds
Set-up Notes– All tests conducted in mid-motor configuration, 70 weight Associated shock oil both front and rear, 2S Lipo, modified front bumper (more info below), modified stock steering servo (more info below), otherwise bone stock out of the box.
Turning– Want to own the best turning 2wd short course truck on the market? Well, the Gambler is it. Combine a mid-motor configuration with good suspension geometry and proper ackerman, and the Venom Gambler will turn on a dime and leave a nickels change. The Gambler is particularly good on tight 180’s, but also steers well in mid sized 90’s and even sweepers. Mechanical grip was very good, allowing you to carry excellent speed through the entire corner. Because the Gambler steers so well, it’s harder for noobs to get the hang of, as they often over-steer the truck, but in the hands of anyone past the noob stage, the Venom is precision weapon of turn destruction. While the rear end of the Gambler rotates well, it gives ample warning before spinning out. The Gambler likes to point and shoot best in corners, but it can also rail corners and stick. IMO, without having been engaged in a full on short course shootout, the Venom is the best turning truck in its class, it simply owns the inside line and seems to carry the highest corner speed out of the box.
Jumping– The Gambler tends to jump nose down, and unfortunately, the brushed version we tested didn’t have enough power to spin the rear wheels fast enough to bring the nose back up. This can be corrected by hitting a jump at a lesser speed and gassing it hard up the face. This method leads to a near perfect flat landing, but overall, there are others in its class that jump better. Personally, I liked its nose down/scrubbing attitude on most jumps, this kept the parachute effect that most 2wd SC’s suffer from to a minimum. But, the Gambler takes more input to land properly than others in its class do.
Bumps/Whoops– The Gambler isn’t bad in the whoops, but it’s not the class leader either. A section you can pound WFO with a Blitz or Slash will have leave the Gambler kicking all over the place. When you drive on an outdoor 8th scale track, the Gambler is more erratic on braking bumps and blown out jump faces than some of its competition, but you can’t have all the wonderful steering without suffering a bit somewhere. The Gambler isn’t bad in the rough by any means, I dove into a few bombed out sections way hotter than I should have and came out on all four wheels, but it could be more stable in the rough.
Broken Parts– We broke the front shock tower, front top plate, and rear a-arm all on one medium speed hit into a curb. The rear a-arm didn’t even hit anything, it broke just from the g-force. Other than that, no broken parts.
1. Change the shock oil. Venom had a choice between using their shock oil or water in the shocks and unfortunately they picked their shock oil. I think water would have provided more damping. Out of the box, all four shocks felt like they had no shock oil in them at all. Upon further inspection, the front shocks were nearly full, and the rears had leaked about 25% of their content onto the bottom of the box the truck came in. First I installed 30 weight Associated oil but found that the shocks still felt like they had no oil, you see the stock pistons also provide very little damping. It took installing 70 weight Associated oil to get the shocks in the ballpark. Putting in the 70 weight AE oil vastly improves the trucks handling and the shocks even leak less afterwards.
2. Trim the front bumper. The stock front bumper leans downwards instead of upwards. A downward facing front bumper screws up clearance on nose first landings, as well as “digs” into to everything you hit. Trim off the part of the bumper that leans downwards leaving only the straight bar across (like on a Blitz). Your truck will handle nose down landings better and be more durable with this mod.
3. Trim the top of the servo with an X-acto knife. Out of the box the Gambler turns tighter to the right than to the left. The link coming off the servo horn hits the top of the servo when turned tightly to the left. Trimming some material off the top of the servo will result in equal steering left and right. Oh and while you are at it, tighten up the servo saver if yours is too loose.
Stock Transmitter– The included 2.4 Ghz controller worked quite well, and also had a good feel to it. I find the Traxxas RTR radios (and pretty much every other RTR radio) unusable due to their feel, but the Venom transmitter felt fine. Even more importantly, the Venom transmitter had great range with zero glitching.
We lost a mud-flap while testing, I have absolutely no clue where it went. Large washers put in front of the mud-flap screws will prevent yours from coming off.
Out of the box, the Gambler felt slower than an Slash or Blitz RTR. That may have been because we didn’t use the included 7 cell Ni-mh battery in testing, we only used 2S Lipo’s, but our test Gambler felt about 20% slower than a stock brushed Slash.
The stock motor also liked to run hot as I shot a temp of 148 degrees after a 7 minute run. That isn’t “too bad” until you consider the ambient temp was only 45 degrees. I dropped in a Blitz RTR motor and the Gambler came alive on 2S having much more power from a dead stop and a much healthier top speed (and it ran cooler).
The Gambler isn’t a cookie cutter truck, it has a lot of new designs on it from nose to tail. If you are tired of the same old designs based off a T4 or XXX-T you’ll find the Gambler refreshing. It’s obvious the designers of the Gambler were going the extra mile and trying to set a new standard.
Perhaps the most uber design on the Gambler is the MORdrive system- this gives you the option of running your motor at the rear of the truck or mid-ship (ours arrived mid-ship) depending on how you want your Gambler to drive.
Our servo saver was set extremely soft out of the box. Soft is good for protecting the stock servo and for less steering (good for noobs), but we tightened ours down for improved high speed steering.
All the plastic parts on the truck are extremely flexible, some of the softest I’ve ever seen. This should go a long ways towards not breaking on big hits, but if you are part of the racing crowd you might look for a stiffer alternative.
The included speedo looks trick and is waterproof. Throttle feel was fine, but the brakes were a bit soft.
The included battery hold down method is not optimal- it uses plastic clamps at the rear of the strap to keep the battery from coming loose. Unfortunately… the clamps are a bit weak and upon very hard upside down landings the battery would come tumbling out. On the bright side, there are some easy fixes for this.
The Gambler comes equipped with some uber looking Venom ball cups that have holes in the top to allow easy access for removing ball studs. Watch for dirt build up, and try and keep them clean. The Gambler also comes with uber looking steel turnbuckles. We taco’ed a couple of them, but they bent back easily and didn’t break.
The Gambler came with a strong “new car” scent which was pretty cool. And no, I’m not kidding about this. You gotta love that new car smell!
The included body pins are small, hard to use, and hard on the hands. Replace yours with Traxxas pins when you lose the stockers.
The VCD universals are possibly the most uber on the market. The outer pins are captured by a ring and they come stock with pin cushions on the out-drive side. Oh and- they look very trick, kudos to Venom on these.
The stock rims are actual beadlocs. The rims look trick and worked well. Also, they have a 12 mm hex on the inside that will fit several other short course trucks. Unfortunately, they are a different offset than anything else on the market. Traxxas Slash rims (both front and rear) make the Gambler too wide and the tires rub against the body, while Pro-Line ProTrac rims make the truck much more narrow. They do work, but if there is a look you are trying to maintain you will need to keep with the Venom ones for now.
I don’t think I can say this enough, the Gambler is gorgeous. The included body is very scale looking, and the graphics are second to none. The body even has dimples where body panels would have screws on a full size rig. If you only need one good reason to buy a Gambler, looks are it. It’s been a long time since a truck looked turned heads like the Gambler does.
I really liked the stock tires. They aren’t as scale looking as those on the Blitz RTR, but they are more scale than the ones on a Slash, and they get better traction (both on and off road). The stock Gambler tires have a good tread pattern, usable inserts, and are molded out of a decent grade of rubber (in the ballpark of an M2 Pro Line). Admittedly we weren’t putting much power to them, but they gave excellent grip and wear seemed very reasonable.
The Gambler is a lot of fun to drive, nothing in the 2wd short course class handles like it does.
The stock radio box looks good and uses a rubber o-ring to seal out the elements. But, the stock receiver looks like a unit off an airplane where the plugs come out the end, not out the top, and as a result the radio box is very low profile. I only attempted to mount one after-market receiver in the radio box (a Futaba) and it would not fit properly due to height restrictions.
I tried both a Blitz and a Slash body to see if they would work on the Gambler- neither was a direct fit, but could be made to work with some mods. The extra wide rear bumper of the Gambler presents some issues for mounting up other bodies. On that note, the stock front body mounts come from the factory extra long, which can be helpful if you are wanting to mount up different bodies.
As with all our stuff, if you see us at a track or bash spot, stop by and say hi! Maybe you can take a test drive, or at least get some sweet stickers!
Time To Bash – 10.0/10 -This is as fast as it gets, completely RTR, all you have to do is charge up the included battery pack.
Workability – 9.0/10.0 – The Gambler is laid out well and easy to work on.
Car Show Rating – 10.0/10 – I think the office was pretty unanimous on this one, its the best looking truck in its class.
Bash-A-Bility – 6.0/10 – All stock plastic is quite flexible, but we broke more parts than expected.
Big Squid Rating – 7.0/10 – Tentacles. Affordable, innovative, and attractive are the Gamblers fortes. The Gambler pwns the corners and is a capable race machine. Tougher plastic, faster motor, and a better front bumper and battery strap would vault the Gambler to the top of its class.
If you want some more pics, check out the unboxing pictures we posted with the brushless version also.