PROJECT "FULL SPEED AHEAD" FACTORY TEAM RC18T
The Associated RC18T is one of the latest entries into the 1/18th scale mini-truck market. There is no doubt that AE did their homework with this little tyke however as with any truck, there is room for improvement. Project Full Speed Ahead is all about toughening up the RC18T and making it a more reliable bashing machine.
Project FSA will be loaded with premium hop-ups from FullForce RC, Lunsford Racing and other well known and respected RC manufacturers. FullForce RC in particular has really gotten behind the RC18T and offers a TON of goodies for the little pocket rocket. We will be utilizing everything they have to offer.
First things first. What to buy? The RTR or the Factory Team version? With the numerous upgrades we were planning on installing, the Factory team version of the RC18T made sense. We were going to use all of our own electronics and install a pile of other goodies so why not do it while we built the truck from scratch?
After talking to some friends in the industry, it became apparent that some modifications to the differentials would be required. The RC18T is known for popping diff's and we wanted to prevent this, especially as we would be putting MAMBA power through them. To strengthen the diff's, we added some shims to get the pinion and ring gear as close as we could for maximum gear mesh. We also beefed up the out drives. A quick trip to the hardware store and we had a handful of 5/16 compression sleeves that fit perfectly over the out drives, preventing them from expanding and allowing the dog bones to escape. To hold them in place, we applied a small amount of CA glue between the sleeves and the out drives.
While building the diff's, the first FFRC upgrade we applied were super smooth rubber sealed bearings. Out with the metal shielded bearings that came with the kit and in with some quality. Anytime we install new bearings, we always take the time to rotate each one and get a feel for it. Is it smooth? Does it need a little oil? The FFRC bearings required no extra oil and felt smooth as silk right out of the package. The kit comes with 15 rubber sealed bearings, enough to replace every bearing in the truck. All popped right into place and fit beautifully. Quality bearings will reduce resistance in the drive system and add to battery life. Rubber sealed bearings do a better job of keeping dirt out and oil in versus inferior metal shielded bearings.
On to the steering assembly! For the steering servo, we opted for a simple yet effective Airtronics. It was a great fit and all the required parts to make it work were included in the Factory Team kit.
The steering link that comes with the kit is made from plastic and is doomed to wear prematurely and increase steering slop. That's not cool especially when we plan on our little truck hitting some substantial ground speeds. FFRC offers an excellent upgrade with their T6 6061 aluminum steering link. It fit perfectly into place and will certainly provide a definitive steering system for many miles to come.
FFRC offers some very high quality T6 6061 aluminum shocks towers for the front and rear of the truck. They offer several additional mounting positions for the upper shock mounts giving greater ability to tune the trucks suspension. The lack of sharp edges and use of smooth radiuses add strength to the towers and will reduce the chance of breakage. Both the front and rear shock towers fit into place without any trouble. Besides a high level of functionality, they also take things up on a notch on the bling scale and have a very nice polish to them right out of the package.
The next stage of our build brought us to the installation of the suspension arms onto the chassis. A cool feature that AE designed into the truck is that the front and rear arms are identical. That means easier ordering and fewer parts for the LHS to keep on their shelf. FFRC to the rescue once again. They offer some exquisitely made T6 6061 aluminum suspension arms for the RC18T. No sharp edges, smooth corners and an almost chrome like shine kicks the little truck up to a new level of durability and looking good. Each arm has four lower shock mounting positions giving you more than enough options in the suspension setup department. Fit and finish on the arms is A+.
Along with suspension arm mounting goes the rear pivot block. In plastic form, it is a sloppy mess waiting to happen. FullForce has the answer with a T6 6061 aluminum rear pivot block to keep the arms inline and without slop. The front pivot is actually integral to the front bumper and is not a separate item like the rear pivot. We used the stock front bumper on our truck….for now anyway.
Hooray! The most excellent postal delivery person (sorry for the Bill and Ted flashback) delivered our Lunsford goodies just in time! We opted for the Lunsford titanium turnbuckle and ball stud kit. The Factory Team RC18T comes with titanium turnbuckles but we heard that they were too long and they would have to be cut down in order to provide any adjustment. Chop up brand new titanium turnbuckles? Screw that! The better solution is to just use the right parts. As with every BYT truck, one of the very first upgrades is some Lunsford backbone. The upgrade included some slick little ball cups with holes in the ends. What are the holes for? So you can slide your allen wrench through and remove the ball without having to pop off the plastic rod end. Big deal? It really is. The fewer times you remove and reinstall the ball ends from the ball studs, the tighter they will stay and frustrating pop offs will be less likely. This is a small thing but important! You also get a sweet little wrench to use when assembling and adjusting the new tb's. The Lunsford stuff mated beautifully with the FFRC goods and a high performance marriage was at hand.
Side note on turnbuckle assembly: the Associated RC18T instructions
give lengths that the turnbuckles should be built to and they are
wrong. The measurements are much too short!
suspension upgrades included T6 6061 aluminum c-hubs and T6 6061 aluminum
steering blocks. They fit together like a hand into a glove and mounted
to the suspension arms with great accuracy. The hinge pins slid smoothly
into place and everything was really starting to come together! The
suspension in the RC18T looks kick butt at this point. FFRC did not
offer rear axle carriers. They were the only remaining components
made of plastic in the suspension system!
Finishing the suspension required building the aluminum threaded shocks from AE and installing them. Upon opening the package, we were very disappointed. The shocks in the Factory Team kit are cheesy at best. Light duty shocks with wimpy springs. The lower shock caps "snap" into place...no threads. That is not good and we were not going to put them on our sweet looking ride! Hmmm? Perhaps these spare aluminum Mini-T shocks will fit? Nah…that would be too easy. Oh yeah, they fit! We ended up installing a set of Team Losi aluminum shocks on our RC18T and they work great. Some minor modifications were needed to mount them (primarily removing the pivot balls from the lower shock ends) and they were a direct fit. The Mini-T shocks are a little longer than the AE units but the numerous mounting positions offered by the FFRC shock towers and suspension arms remedied the situation! This was an unplanned but great upgrade to the project truck.
It's motor time! Our choice for motor was the 5400kv Mamba brushless system from Castle Creations. It is compact and super powerful. A perfect match for our project as space is a little tight on the RC18T and we did not want to sacrifice power. The Factory Team kit comes with an aluminum motor mount with cooling fins. Cool eh? Well, FFRC also has a T6 6061 aluminum motor mount with cooling fins. What's the difference? Why did we go with the FFRC unit rather than the included AE mount? The answer is simple. The AE cooling fins are vertical and not terribly conducive to airflow. The FFRC mount has horizontal cooling fins and the air flows over them with ease and greater contact. Theoretically it should cool the motor better than the AE mount. Do you see motorcycle engines or lawnmower engines with vertical cooling fins on the cylinder heads? Nope. They are horizontal. It makes sense to us! The Mamba was able to find a nice set of holes to mount to and the look of that green motor can in the natural/silver aluminum mount brought visions of great speed to our heads!
Before mounting the motor and motor mounting plate into the chassis, we decided to seal up a hole in the chassis that allows larger motor cans to fit. After all, there was no reason to have a big rectangular hole in the chassis to let dirt, grime and moisture into the trucks interior. We chopped a small piece of Lexan and CA'ed it into the chassis to help keep the bad stuff out. It looks pretty sweet, almost like a window to the underside of the Mamba. The clear, see through property will go away soon, especially after a few high speed runs in the gravel pits!
The last piece of our project puzzle would be a receiver. While at the LHS, we immediately went to the Novak XXL, the same RX we used in our Project Rocket Ship Mini-T. It is small and has worked very well for us. The XXL retails for about $60 and then you have to buy a crystal for it. Our LHS only has crystal sets and that would have cost us $15. So we would have $75 tied up in a compact high quality FM receiver. Not too bad really. Then the handy dude behind the counter said why not upgrade to the synthesized Novak? That sounded expensive! When in reality, it was $98, $23 more than the XXL setup and we would have infinite control over what frequency we would run. No matter where we were or who we were running with, we would always be able to run our truck! The Synthesized Novak combined with our JR Xs3 would hand us every possible FM frequency. That was an easy up sell and that is what we bought.
We mounted the Novak to the upper support bar on the truck, plugged everything in and set the frequency. Bingo! It worked without flaw and only took a few seconds to match up to our JR transmitter.
After programming the Mamba, charging up some batteries and double-checking
our work, the final touch was a sweet carbon fiber battery strap
from FFRC. Talk about icing on the cake!
TIME TO DRIVE
The 5400kv Mamba provides a nice balance of power and speed and seems
to be a perfect match to AE's smallest truck. We powered the Mamba
with a variety of batteries including: Apogee 2 cell and 3 cell LiPo's
Distribution) and a "Sport
61" NiMH 6-cell Pack from United
RC. Obviously the LiPo's provided the most punch and run time
(that will always be the case when comparing LiPo to NiMH) however
we were quite impressed with the URC
It is a treat to see the little guy LAUNCH whenever the trigger is pulled. The fresh step pin tires combined with a sweet suspension and four wheel drive made for a dirt rocket! Our track is hard packed dirt and the RC18T was right at home on this surface. However after about 4 hours of track time, the tires were getting pretty tired and hooking up became more of a problem. It is no wonder why guys who race go through tires so fast!
The BYT track is amidst a wooded lot and the occasional contact with trees and other immovable objects is not uncommon. Sadly the RC18T was being driven by a bad driver and often found itself banging into stuff it should not have. Not a thing was broke during any of the impacts. The only real damage was a shock that popped off and a bent hinge pin (stock hinge pins were used......dang it I knew we should have ordered the Lunsford ones).
Being that the tires were starting to loose their grip in the dirt,
we felt it was a good time to hit the street and see what it could
do on the REALLY hard stuff! The low center of gravity and wide stance
make running on the street a blast. Just know that it will wreak havoc
on your tires and a set of street meats is best for this operation.
PROJECT "FULL SPEED AHEAD" - PROJECT
UPDATE (February 19, 2006)
We have been busy adding some new upgrade to Project FSA. Here is what we have added lately:
More updates: Ditched the rear wing and installed a dedicated rear wing. SWEET!