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Vaterra K10 Ascender Review

Vaterra 1972 Chevrolet K10 Ascender Pickup from Horizon Hobby – Review

Scale rock crawlers just might be the hottest product segment on the market right now. There are a number of reasons for that- they look good, they run forever, and they are loads of fun. A couple of years ago Vaterra introduced the Ascender, a scale crawling platform that was designed from the ground up to outperform everything else on the market. We have been driving (read- abusing) the latest truck on the Ascender platform, the 1972 Chevrolet K10 Pickup, to see how it stacks up. Does the K10 take a beating? How well does it crawl? Is it the best scale crawler that money can buy? You know the drill, read on to find out…

From: Vaterra RC
Direct Link: 1972 Chevrolet K10 Pickup
Unboxing Pictures: BSRC Unboxes the K10

Review By: Cubby
Photography By: Tim Mohr


RTR or Kit: RTR
Age: 14+
2wd or 4wd: 4wd
Shaft or Belt: Shaft
Electric or Gas: Electric
Waterproof: Yes
Scale: 1/10
Length: 18.1″
Width: 9″
Wheelbase: 11.4″
Weight: 4lbs
Motor: Dynamite 35 turn brushed
Speed Controller: Dynamite, brushed, waterproof, max 2S LiPo
Low Voltage Cut-off: Yes indeed
Radio: Spektrum DX2E 2.4GHz 2 channel
Differential: Locked
Slipper Clutch: Yes
Driveshafts: Center- plastic CVD style
Final Drive Ratio: 7.86:1
Shocks: Plastic caps and bodies, oil filled
Servo Saver: No
Screws: Metric, hex
Spur/Pinion Pitch: 48 pitch
Bearings: Yes
Tires: Vaterra, licensed Super Swampers
Battery: Not included
Part Number: #VTR03090
Warranty: “Horizon Hobby warranties the product to be free of defects at the date of purchase.”

Bashing Specs:

Front wheel travel (vertical only): 1.2″
Rear wheel travel (vertical only): 1.4″
Wheelie on demand: No
Backflip off ramps: No
Stability Control: No
Sound Module: No
Self-Righting: No
Top Speed (measured by BSRC): 6 mph
Runtime (measured by BSRC): Seemed like forever
Street Price: $399

Primary Competition: Other 1/10th scale RTR scale crawlers like the RC4WD Trail Finder 2 and Axial SCX10 II Jeep Cherokee RTR.

What’s Needed To Complete: Not much at all. You’ll need to supply a shorty style 2S LiPo battery and a charger.

Build Quality: After letting our Bash Crew carefully inspect our test specimen, we could find no problems with the build quality.

Test Drivers: Robbie G, Iron Mikeee, Hawaiian Chris, T-$$$, yours truly, and various guys at the local crawling course.

Test Venues: Oh no we didn’t, oh yes we did, we ran the K10 at the St Louis Dirtburners 8th scale off-road track. Ok, we didn’t run it on the track much, but enough to get a feel for jumping and cornering. Primarily we ran the truck at Minnie Ha Ha park in Fenton Missouri, a city park in Arnold Missouri, and at Cliff Cave park near Oakville Missouri.

Set-up Notes: We “basically” ran the K10 bone stock. We did give the tires a good cleaning to take off excessive mold release before doing any serious rock crawling and for the battery we ran a Dynamite Reaction series shorty LiPo. Charging duties were exclusively handled by a Hitec X1 Pro.

Turning: If you are a “normal” basher, the K10 doesn’t turn well, nor should it. It has fully locked diffs which make for a machine that does a whole lot of pushing and sliding on high-bite surfaces. If you are a crawler guy picking your way through a tricky rock section, the K10 does a solid job. There is a ton of range on the steering, and while the stock servo isn’t anything special, it still had enough power to point the tires where we wanted during normal crawling. The servo didn’t have enough yank for harder sections, but then nor do most RTR servos. When compared to other RTR rigs in crawling conditions, we were extremely impressed with the K10. The stock tires are not uber soft, but after a good cleaning do a fine job of picking lines through rock sections.

Jumping: It’s a crawler, they shouldn’t be jumped, right… Well, we are BigSquidRC, so of course our test unit got plenty of airtime. And no, we can’t recommend that you do the same. It’s not that the K10 is a poor jumper, heck it might be the best we’ve tested for a 1/10th crawler, but it simply doesn’t jump well. It tends to jump nose down and has no rpm to bring the nose up. It does have some decent wheel travel, but if you love to catch air, you’d be better off getting a truck like a Halix.

Bumps/Whoops: Even though the truck doesn’t generate a lot of speed, it can still get out of shape when hitting rough sections fast. Truth is, it is sprung/damped for ultra-low speed crawling action, not for pounding the whoops. Once again, if you plan on flying through rough sections, you are better off not getting a crawler.

On-Road: We did very, very little on-road driving with the K10. We drove it enough to get a top speed and to figure out that on-road is DEFINITELY not where you want to spend time with the Vaterra. It has very little top speed and doesn’t turn well on high traction surfaces.

Grass: While not fast, the 4wd K10 can get through some pretty serious grass. No, we didn’t attempt to drive through waist high grass, but when doing trail drives we got in plenty of grass time and the Vaterra never failed to chew on through.

Crawling: Ok, so finally we are at what the K-10 was designed to do, hit’n the rocks. Our normal bash crew rarely does any rock crawling, so we had to depend on the opinion of hardcore crawler guys that we met at local spots. Here are some of the notes we jotted down-

Several drivers commented on how smooth the K10 was. Its driveline seemed very smooth compared to other crawlers.

We were also told that the K10 had exception steering for a RTR unit. From its narrow turning radius to its ability to pick an ultra tight line in the rocks, all our test drivers were impressed.

More than one full time crawler commented on how the bone stock Vaterra stacked up better than expected against their fully modded rigs.

Several drivers commented that the stock tires weren’t the best they had ever used, but worked very well for RTR units.

Out of our “normal” bash crew (guys who rarely crawl), they seemed to be smitten with the K10. It certainly did not have the top speed of a normal basher (not even close to a brushless SCT), but it had the right kind of power to get over tricky rock sections or slippery roots on the trail. They also commented on how much they liked how tightly the K10 could turn.

Tires: The tires came out of the box with a bunch of mold release on them, in fact more than usual. So… we cleaned them with soap and water, then sprayed them down with Simple Green. After a good cleaning they were much grippier than out of the box, but still not nearly as soft as some of the higher end tires on the market. They definitely had the scale look of a true 1:1 Super Swamper and their tread pattern worked well on a wide variety of loose surfaces.

Power: The K10 sports a fairly common 35 turn brushed motor. Like any good crawler, the power is extremely soft off the bottom and slowly builds up the rpm range. Nope, there isn’t a lot of raw wattage on tap, nor does the truck have much for top end, what really matters in a scale crawler is how the power is delivered and the Vaterra did a fine job of putting power to the ground. In really tricky rock sections we found the power delivery to be pretty much spot on. There was always enough power to get through a section, and when things got tricky, the power was quite manageable.

Radio: Just like a bunch of different Horizon RTRs, a Spektrum DX2E comes standard on the K10. While not the best RTR radio on the market, it gets the job done. We aren’t fans of its hard plastic wheel or of its range, but its general ergonomics work for most drivers.

Broken Parts: Ya know, crawlers can be hard to break because of their low top speed. You can’t really “slam” a curb with them because they are going so slow that they attempt to crawl right on over. The best places to bust’em up is to get them bound up in a tricky rock section or to jump them off of stuff. At the end of the day our test unit proved quite durable. We didn’t huck it off any roofs, but did a number of 4 to 5 foot tall jumps to which the Vaterra just shrugged them off. After many packs of hardcore crawling we were able to bend two of the suspension links and to roast the servo. We were trying (quite hard) to break the truck, so you may or may not experience such issues with yours in “normal” use.

Misc Notes:

The K10 helped to enlighten some of our non-crawler test staffers. How so? It just looked so dern good that they would actually drive it. Once they drove it in its true element, over rocks and on trails, the K10 showed them a different style of bashing fun. It doesn’t take jumping over a house to have fun with the Vaterra.

What is the best attribute of the K10? It has a bunch, but its best attribute is one that is common to pretty much all scale crawlers- it is nearly always ready to drive. It just doesn’t break and you rarely have to re-charge its battery pack. You can pop the K10 in your truck and run it several times without even charging the battery, making it ultra-easy to use.

Speaking of batteries… the stock battery tray has an upside and a downside. First, the downside. It doesn’t fit a standard sized pack, it is made just for shorty style LiPos or smaller. On the upside, the battery tray on the Ascender K10 was designed strictly for performance. It keeps the battery pack in a fairly low & forward spot for optimal handling. Heck, it is nearly a work of art as it articulates along with the suspension travel. At the end of the day, you may have to buy a new shorty style pack to fit in it, but in our opinion the handling benefit is very well worth it. For example, when we went out crawling with some buddies, we inevitably ran into a tough section. This was a section that was extra tough, so tough that we doubted any of us could make it without rolling over. We felt that the Vaterra battery tray with a shorty pack went a long ways towards giving us the handling edge to get over tough sections that our buddies could not.

And now a word about the body that comes with the Vaterra. It has a great scale look to it, but once again, just like the battery tray, it also worked extremely well out on the trail. The cage in the rear never catches on the tires, nor does the fender wells up front.

The K10 comes with a spare tire mounted in the back for an extra touch of scale realism. While it does look nifty, we took ours off for a bit more performance when climbing.

Btw, the rear body mount is pretty slick. The polycarbonate truck shell and rear cage are bolted together and come off as one piece. The front uses standard body posts with body clips. The rear also uses body clips, but they are stealth mounted downwards. The allows the rear body clips to be hidden, while still be rock solid. Very nice.

The front grill is made from hard plastic and is chromed, once again another nice touch of scale realism. Even better, real pieces of aluminum are used in the cage, yet another nice touch. In the “normal” world of rc people don’t care so much, but in the scale crawler world it’s the little things that make all the difference.

The stock chassis looks great and has a small amount of flex, just like a full scale rig would.

An EC3 battery connector comes stock. This isn’t a real common connector (unless you are using packs from Horizon) so be prepared to solder on the connector of your choice or to make an adapter.

The big red fuel cell was liked by some testers, and hated by others. Black or silver would have better a safer choice.

While the stock servo is usable, it isn’t anything special, particularly in the speed department.

Best Mods: These are the two things we would do right off the bat. First would be putting in a high-end servo. A good servo is extra important while rock crawling and can make the difference between clearing a section, or tumbling back down it. Secondly, a set of titanium suspension links will not only be tougher than stock, but will also slide over rocks easier.


A = Outstanding/Best in Class, B = Above Average, C = Average, D = Below Average, F = Horrific

Time To Bash: B It doesn’t get much faster/easier to hit the trail than with the Vaterra. Pop a shorty into the truck, slam the supplied AAs into the transmitter, and you are dialed.

Workability: B The Vaterra has a spacious and easy to work on layout. The body comes off easily and we found the truck as a whole ultra-easy to spin wrenches on.

Car Show Rating: A Our test crew loved how the Vaterra looked. It had plenty of little scale details and the stock wheels/tires were very sharp. No, it did not have the perfect scale detailing of an RC4WD, but it had the curb appeal that people swarmed to.

Bash-A-Bility: A Compared to other trucks in its category, we found the Vaterra to be the most durable. We did plenty of “stupid stuff” with our test unit and it walked away with virtually no problems.

Fun Factor: A The combination of not having to worry about it breaking, along with how it often outperformed all the other trucks out on the trail when the going got tough, was extremely fun to our test drivers.

Handling: A Of all the RTR scale crawlers that we have tested, the Vaterra is the new king of the hill. From its geometry, to the way its battery pack is mounted, to its stock tires (and how much turning angle they have up front), the K10 proved to be the most capable RTR scale rock crawler that we have tested out of the box.

Value: A The Vaterra has one of the lowest sticker prices in its class, yet sports arguably the best performance while crawling. That is why it earned an “A” in this category.

Parts Availability: C We gave the Vaterra a “C” in parts availability for this reason- you won’t find parts for it in every local hobby shop. On-line is a completely different story as the Ascender platform has been out for some time now, so parts are everywhere if you don’t mind waiting for them to come in the mail.

BigSquid Rating: A- The Vaterra 1972 Chevrolet K10 Ascender is the best RTR scale crawler that we have tested to date. It is extremely capable when the trail gets tough and looks sharp right out of the box. Yes, we can very highly recommend the Vaterra to you, cut the check and have a blast.

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Posted by in Car & Truck Reviews, RC Rock Crawling on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 at 9:32 pm