As a full-size Jeep aficionado, I’m naturally a sucker for scale Jeeps. Tamiya’s hard-plastic Wrangler YJ is, arguably, the most detailed RC Jeep body available. This shell is offered on the CC-01 chassis that is as fun as they come, but with its independent front suspension and tub chassis, it’s not a scale match of the real deal. This is where RC4WD comes in with its Trail Finder Jeep Edition scale chassis. The Trail Finder gives you a ladder frame and realistic suspension setup for solid axles. Check it out…
> Aluminum ladder frame
> $69.99 (chassis with leaf springs)
> Steel leaf springs
> Realistic shackles
> Large X style battery brace
> 4-link version also available
> ARTR version also available
The Trail Finder consists of two main frame side rails, a front cross member/servo mount and a large “X style” radio tray–all made of CNC machined and anodized aluminum. The frame rails are a robust 6mm think. The center section offers a number of positions to mount RC4WD’s R2 transmission. It’s worth noting that even though the chassis is designed to accommodate the R2 transmission, a small aluminum spacer, sold separately, is needed as the chassis is spaced slightly wider than the R2.
Because the Trail Finder tested here is designed to fit the Tamiya Jeep Wrangler body, the wheelbase is fairly short (more on that later). The wheelbase can be adjust from 9.5″ to 9.75″. In comparison, the standard Trail Finder wheelbase is a full 2-inches longer.
The Trail Finder Jeep Edition is offered in two versions: one with realistic leaf springs (like the original YJ Jeep) and one with a more high-tech and capable 4-link setup. Being most interested in the scale realism for this build, I opted for the leaf spring version.
The leaf springs are made out of thin steel and are a 2-leaf pack. The main springs feature slotted mounting holes that allow a 1/4-inch of wheelbase adjustability. The secondary spring can be placed above or below the main leaf. Placed under the main leaf, the secondary leaf stiffens the overall suspension. Placed above the main leaf, it’s pretty much just along for the ride.
Each spring is hung at the outboard end of the chassis rail via a shackle which means the leaf spring setup looks and works just like the real thing. The shackles and the spring mounts are made out of steel.
U-bolts, as used on full-size trucks, wouldn’t be practical, so the leaf springs attach to the flat spring perches machined into the axle housings via cap head bolts. In order to have proper driveline angles, separate wedge-shaped aluminum shims need to be purchased.
The D35 axles are CNC-machined aluminum and appropriately narrow at only 7-inches wide. The axle features a hardened steel spool and the gear ratio is 2.66:1. In comparison, the Axial SCX10 axle ratio is 2.92:1. RC4WD offers the D35 is two versions: front and straight rear. The knuckles on the front axles are the high steer style and the diff cover removes in the same manner as a real diff cover. The axles are available for $119.99 each.
The R2 transmission is one of RC4WD’s trademark items and has been used in a huge number of scale builds. The aluminum case transmission comes pre-assembled and features steel gears. The downside of the R2 is that it is hard to completely seal against water and mud. That said, when using a R2 transmission I simply pack the internals with waterproof grease.
I started with the chassis and added RC4WD D35 axles, a silver R2 transmission and slowly pieced together all of the hardware needed to complete the build. Since no instructions are available, the build process took a bit more time than I would have liked as I had to rely on a good amount of trial and error to figure out the best way to mount certain components and what hardware was needed. The easy fix is to save yourself some time and go with the ARTR (almost-ready-to-run) version.
If you do start with the chassis, you’ll need links and rod ends for the steering, spring axle mount wedges (for proper driveline angles), a R2 transmission, RC4WD scale shocks, D35 axles, transmission spacer, rims, tires, assorted hardware, Punisher driveshafts and whatever electronics you decide to run.
While getting from box of parts to running truck took some time, everything is easy to assemble. No hand fitting was required. I do wish there was more adjustability in the body mounts. No matter how much I messed around with the setup, I found the body to sit either too high or too low for my liking. I also didn’t like how the front body mounts are designed to have you drill rather large body post holes in the hood. I couldn’t see doing this, so I fabricated my own body front mount using Velcro brand fastener.
The specific Punisher driveshafts RC4WD recommended seemed a little short. With the transmission mounted dead center in the chassis, the rear seemed spot on, but the front was shorter than I’d like.
Again, don’t forget the little stuff such as the transmission spacer and axle shims.
RUNNING GEAR USED
> Axial AE-2 brushed speed control
> Axial AX-3 2.4GHz radio system
> Integy brushed motor
Remember how I said there would be more on the short wheelbase? Well, the reality is the short wheelbase of the Jeep body significantly limits the performance potential of the Trail Finder. When you add in a top heavy hard-plastic body, you need to start off with some realistic expectations to match the realistic setup. I was pleasantly surprised with the side hilling capabilities of Trail Finder. The stiff leaf springs helped here. Going up steep uphill obstacles, however, proved to be tough. The short wheelbase just about killed the climbing ability in comparison to my far more low slung 1.9 scale rigs with wheelbases stretched out to 12.5-inches. With the Jeep bodied Trail Finder, as soon as the headlight pointed towards the sky, the Jeep would slowly roll back onto the spare tire. The good news, this was all with the stock setup and I knew some tuning and tweaking would go a long way. After I long and fun first run, I decided to head back to the bench and make some changes.
The first change I made was to take the memory foam out of my spare tire and cut down the unseen back of the rim and tire. I also removed the big X style brace. Over three ounces was removed from the rear of the Jeep, but the biggest change–in terms of weight distribution–was the moving of the large LiPo (14 oz.) I was running from the now-gone X style brace to the front of the chassis. Since I was running Pro-Line’s Titus rims, I added the included weights to the front rims. Each wheel received 2.10 oz. of weight. After these simple changes, the weight bias was completely different. Approximately 17 oz. was removed from the rear half of the Jeep and a little over 18 oz. was added to the front half. I also moved the secondary springs from under the main leaf to above it.
The end result of these changes was a Jeep that performed profoundly better. Little climbs that were previously impossible were now a breeze. There’s a reason why serious full-size off-roaders stretch the wheelbase of their Jeeps. A short wheelbase simply limits the potential of the vehicle’s off-road capability. That doesn’t mean the Trail Finder Jeep Edition can’t go off-road, it just means setup, specifically weight bias, is critical.
It’s worth noting that I decided to place the secondary springs back under the main leaves on the rear spring packs. I did this because a harsh fall resulted in bent rear springs. The springs have an unused hole on the main leaf and the bend occurred right at that weak spot. I took the rear spring packs apart, reshaped each bent leaf and placed the secondary leaf back under the main leaves.
If you’re the instant gratification type, the Trail Finder Jeep Edition probably isn’t for you. How’s that for getting right to the point? If you, however, aren’t afraid to tinker and tune, well, you get the idea. To get the most out of this chassis, be prepared to do a little work. The overall quality of the RC4WD chassis and components doesn’t disappoint, and performance is much like the building process. If you’re willing to do some work, you’ll be well rewarded. I may have had more work in store for me than I originally expected, but I was pleased with the final product. The combination of the ladder frame, leaf springs, those D35 axles and the Tamiya body is well worth effort. In the end, I’m looking forward to running this Jeep–a lot.
> Takes Jeep Wrangler body to a whole new level
> Fully functional leaf springs
> No instructions
> Requires a good amount of work
About the Author: Matt has over 25 years of experience in RC and has worked professionally in media for over a decade. Matt enjoys everything from racing to rock crawling to bashing, and he believes RC should be all about having fun. Matt is as at home covering a world championship in an exotic country as he is showing a new hobbyist how to set gear mesh. His desire to share the hobby with as many people as possible inspired him to create RC Truck Stop and RCTruckStop.com.