• Project Rocketship JR.

    My son is old enough now that he is showing an interest in RC cars and I can justify building him something just for him. This is a win-win situation. Win #1 - he's not destroying my expensive RC cars/trucks. Win #2 - he has his own RC vehicle, which gives him some ownership and hopefully adds to the RC experience for him.

    As it is winter here in Wisconsin, I opted to go for a smaller scale car and originally de-tuned Project Rocketship for his use. Something about a 50+ mph RC car blasting off our walls and furniture seemed like a bad idea. I quickly realized that giving him his own car would be better, and we could have fun racing around the house together!

    I checked E-bay and found a few Mini-T rollers but nothing that didn't look extremely beat. Then I remembered my good friend bought one the same time as I did (shortly after they first came out). I asked if he still had it and if so, would he like to sell it. Sure enough, he was glad to take $50 for it and I now had a starter truck for the project.


    When I hit the web, ready to buy lots of goodies, I was taken back a little at how few parts could still be had for it. Really, there are still quite a few upgrades still on the market but some key ones from key manufacturers no longer existed. The biggest bummer was the FullForce RC Mini-T chassis was no longer available. All I could find were some cheap looking carbon fiber things, nothing that really said "durable" to me. SO at least for now, the chassis will remain stock.

    Step 1: Luckily, it already had upgraded Losi aluminum shocks so I pulled those off, did an oil change and upgraded the springs. I had a number of spring combos in the BYT shop so this was quick and easy. Next I popped a decent battery in it and tested it out. Doh....steering is dead. Nothing at all. Hmmm...this is an original Mini-T with the dreaded 4 wire servo. Grrr....but wait? Would it be possible that I still have the old servo I pulled out of Project Rocketship? Sure enough, it was hiding at the bottom of my servp box. Installed and walla! It works! The truck runs and drives decent. The toe and camber are way off but I do not care at this point. Why? Well, because I am going to have everything ripped apart and will e installing new arms, tie rods etc. I will be starting from ground zero!






    Step 2 - Chassis, Suspension and Drivetrain Upgrades: Time to order some goodies. First I dug through all my bins and gathered up all my hop up spares for the Mini-T. I found some CVD's, a stock MLST motor, metal tie rods and upgraded rod ends, Lunsford hinge pins, rear road tires and wheels and some other miscellaneous goodies.

    I then hit FullForce RC and ordered everything they still offered for the Team Losi Mini-T. Suspension arms, full bearing kit, shock towers, etc. Then it was off to Ebay for pinions, and everything FFRC no longer offered! Again, the only thing I was really missing was a better chassis but for now, I will live with the stocker and keep my eyes peeled for a FFRC chassis or something similar.


    And the worst part.....it was time to wait! Gradually, the UPS, Fed-Ex and postal service came through and brought me everything I needed to start the teardown. Time to tear into it!



    Side note: I hate these Losi Mini-T pinions.....or at least I used to. The locking (grub) screws always seemed to strip out RIGHT AWAY and I remember this issue from Project Rocketship. On a hunch, I tried buying a quality allen wrench to see if it the included Losi wrench or the screw was the real issue. I used a .035" allen wrench (which equates to .889 mm) and from what I could find, the screw should be a .9mm. It worked! I could easily tighten the screw with enough force to keep it locked on the motor shaft (at least for now). FYI - I bought the Wiha 35392 5 Piece Mini L-Key Short Hex Metric Set on Amazon.

    A true .9mm wrench would of course be best as at that small size, even an 0.011 difference is pretty big. I will get a .9mm wrench on order and give that a whirl as well.



    Really? An aluminum electronics tray? Is that needed? Nah.....but it was only $6 from a seller I was already ordering other stuff from. Yeah, it looks cool.






    Finally, it's starting to look like a serious truck! As we worked through the entire rig, we installed a complete FullForce RC sealed bearing kit....out with the old junk, in with some smooth rolling upgrades!







    I could not help myself and also found some GPM front axle spindles on E-Bay to install on the rig as well. I could only find blue, but I think they look cool with the natural aluminum goodies!


    The rear tires and wheels were upgraded earlier, and I found the matching set for the front.....I know. I am a little OCD at times, but truthfully, it looks better now.

    Yeah, we added an aluminum servo brace also. Why? Well....it was cheap and looks cool. There's probably some benefit in holding the servo more securely and perhaps adding some overall structural strength, but we just thought it looked cool.


    A Racer's Edge hard coated slipper clutch is another solid addition and will keep the spur gear from getting busted up. The stock MLST motor is not a super screaming fast unit but it is quite fast for this little truck.....and a slipper is a good idea regardless. As my son gets better at driving and wants more speed and power (like all of us right?), I will add a ball differential and the truck will be setup to handle a Mamba or other hotter motor.


    Step 3 - Electronics: Electronics! Woohoo! I am planning on replacing the stock electronics (AM), 4 wire servo etc with a 2.4 ghx unit for several reasons.

    #1 My son has almost snapped off the transmitter antenna several times while driving in the house (not good.....especially if something of Mom's gets busted!).

    #2 The AM radio is quite glitchy in the house.

    I found a nice, new 2.4 ghz transmitter and receiver on E-bay for $28! And it's not massive and should be easy for his smaller hands to handle. Nice! I picked up a used compact Associated ESC, a new 3 wire HiTec HS-55 servo and servo saver on E-Bay.




    Alas, the used ESC is toast! All the smoke came out as soon as I plugged it in. So.....find another ESC or I may just install a Mamba and use the Castle Link software to de-tune the heck out of it. ****still deciding****


    Well, with the bad ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) off of E-Bay, I did some research and ordered a new Traxxas 3045X waterproof ESC with a training mode (50%) to plug into this rig from a legit store. It'll handle lipo packs and the training mode and waterproof features are extremely desirable.


    The HiTec HS-55 servo dropped right in with the included servo mounts to adapt to the Losi setup (stock is 4 screws and the HiTec is 2 screws to the mounts). It fits like a glove and of course, we added the servo saver as there is a high probability this thing is gonna get crashed numerous times during the "Learning how to drive RC" process of an 8 year old.





    Before we install the ESC, the stock motor wires are about to fall off and I need to upgrade the plugs to work with the new ESC. After a few minutes of digging through my wire and plugs drawers, I stumble upon some sweet Castle 4mm plugs. Bam! They are the same size as the ESC...which saves me from changing the plugs n the ESC side. For the life of me, I can find any medium/light gauge wire.....so this will be a little overkill, but it will not be the weak link in the chain! No power loss to the motor!




    (Wimpy stock motor wires)


    (Yes....a little overkill!)

    Time to stick the new Traxxas LaTrax Electronic speed controller in the rig. Its a great size for the Mini-T, most certainly smaller than the stock unit and we can say goodbye to the goofy 4 wire servo (Losi.....what were you thinking). It also leaves enough room for the micro 2.4ghz receiver to be installed. I soldered on a Deans plug on the ESC for the battery and a Deans plug on the battery itself. Remember, female always goes on the battery side!





    A little bit of time was spent tidying up the wires, a few zips here and there and it is pretty tight! Powering it up I found that a few tweaks on the controller to get her driving straight, and a throttle trim tweak and it drives and steers great!

    Now for the ultimate test...hand it over to the boy and see what new ways of breaking a Mini-T he can discover. Ah....the joys of RC!



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