Monster Truck Madness – Kickin’ it Old Skool
Chances are, if you follow any of the scale r/c pages on social media, you’ve probably come across a cool looking “old skool” styled solid axle monster truck or two.
Retro solid axle monster trucks started gaining popularity in the mid 2000’s, and now they are really big. For many long time fans such as myself, it’s a way to re-live the golden age of full sized late 80’s monster truck racing. For others, it’s simply a fun way to build an r/c monster like they used to back in the day.
What goes into one of these classically-styled rides? There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding these trucks as far as the mainstream hobby is concerned. Between myself and my racing buddies….we’ve built probably 30-40 of these over the last five years (seen here in the pictures throughout this article). Here’s the lowdown.
Whereas newer race trucks are all about performance, Retro monsters are not. Sure, there are some things you can do to get them to work well on the track or the play yard, but it all has to start with the body. 70’s and 80’s pick-up shells are super popular for this, naturally. Many also choose to give it a period appropriate paint job. Thanks to the folks at JConcepts and Pro-Line, you can replicate pretty much any classic monster truck that you’d want.
Ok, so what goes under the body?
The vast majority are Tamiya Clod Busters. Heck, if you don’t want to spend much money you can just build a new Super Clod Buster completely box stock and there you go, instant Retro monster truck. However, the stock Clod leaves a lot to be desired.
The center steering is absolute junk (come on Tamiya, please just redesign this already!) so at the very least you’ll want aftermarket axle servo mounts. And yes, I said mounts with an “S” because you’ll probably want 4-wheel steering. I’ll get into the logistics of setting up 4WS in a future post, but for now I’ll just recommend the mount kits. CPE sells a good one, as does Sutton Motorsports.
Alright, so you have good steering at both axles, what’s next? The chassis.
The stock Clod has an ABS plastic chassis that is prone to cracking. The wheelbase is also fairly short. Most serious Retro builders go with an aftermarket aluminum piece for strength and performance. The sicNme Products Ultralite is very popular (all of my Retro builds have used these), as are CPE Timewarps. Those are just a few. The gist of all of them is the same, though- they are an aluminum box-style get-up that accepts the Clod axles with no modification. You can buy various chassis at different wheelbases as well, for whatever body you want to run.
For electronics, Tamiya’s TEU-106BK dual motor ESC is actually really good! Even better, the stock Clod comes with it in the box! I’d recommend just sticking with that and running the included 27t motors. Those are more than peppy enough to have some fun. They are about perfect on 2S power to give you the feel of a classic monster without being too fast or slow.
The friction shocks that come with the kit work fine to replicate a bouncy ride found in old school leaf trucks, but oil shocks will obviously make things smoother. Remember though, these things don’t have sway bars so super plush shocks will cause body roll. Oh, and if you want to get really trick, go with multiple RC4WD scale shocks. Those look suh-weet!
My recommendation? Just go with the stock friction shocks, but make sure you polish the shafts when assembling. This allows for much smoother action. You can always go to oil later.
The last part of the equation are the wheels and tires. This is another spot where you’d be safe sticking with what’s in the box. The Tamiya Clod Buster tires are still the most accurate representation of classic 66″ Goodyear Terra Tires, and they are still popular some 30 years after the kits original release. Now, if you’d like to replicate some classic Firestone tires, the JConcepts Firestorms are an excellent choice. Kyosho USA-1 tires are another option…if you can find a set, that is. They are getting rarer and rarer.
So that’s the nuts and bolts of what goes into a typical Clod-based Retro truck. Not that complicated, right? This is true, but the devil is in the details. You can really make your old-schooler shine by sticking a blower out of the hood, adding a fancy rollbar, a sound-box…the sky is the limit, really.
In the future I’ll be detailing various Retro builds so you all can see what some of the best builders are actually doing. And yes, I’ll feature Clods like I described above, but also shaft trucks as well. Some of those get REALLY wild.
Old Skool is alive and well in the solid axle community!