What is Scale RC? Scale Comp Crawling And Rules

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A scale model is a smaller version of a real thing. In the context that we’re concerned, it’s a small version of, typically, an off-road vehicle. Seems simple, but the reality (pun intended) is the concept of “what is scale” is pretty ambiguous and very much open to interpretation.

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When RC rock crawling first took off, even the comp crawlers were scale. The Super Class (remember those?) looked like real trucks, but took some license with proportions. Even with a Daddy Longlegs like stance, Supers looked, or at least resembled, real rock crawlers. I know mine did. The 2.2 Class looked even more realistic–at first. As everyone built rigs for a competitive advantage, the comp rigs looked less and less like anything you would ever see at a full-size rock crawling competition.

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In a perfect storm type scenario, scale rock crawling grew. Rather rapidly scalers became the dominate part of the segment. Some turned to scalers because the whole reason they were attracted to the rock crawling segment in the first place was scale realism, many got burned out on the increasingly complicated and highly competitive comp side of things and still others, well, followed the crowd. While comp crawling isn’t a thing of the past, RC rock crawling is scale rock crawling. What I mean is scalers make up the vast majority of the segment. Further, most people who own scale rock crawlers don’t go to comps because they either aren’t interested or don’t have events taking place near them. So, for most people, what is or isn’t scale doesn’t matter to them in the least bit. For those who do compete, what is considered scale gets tricky.

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The first scale comps had no rules other than the typical course penalties (e.g., reverses, gates, rollover/touches, etc.). If you had a scaler, you showed up, ran the course and oohed and aahed at the other crawlers. Some were nothing more than a full-fendered body on straight ladder frame and others were scale masterpieces. With such a wide range, it didn’t take long for rules to be needed. Unwritten rules such as no comp-style TVP chassis allowed and no comp tires understandable became some of the first written rules. Next, came the rules that rewarded scale realism. That quickly got out of hand with points being given for almost any scale accessory. While ladders and potted plants (yes, I’ve seen potted plants listed in older rules) are quite realistic for some trucks (like one sitting in front of The Home Depot), they are not going to ever be found on a full-size truck competing on a gated course. Real off-road vehicles used in competition are not likely to have too many visible items. Secured Hi-Lift Jack? Yes. Loose ax floating around in the bed? Not likely allowed.

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Eventually the rules got scaled back (another bad pun) and maximum points awarded for scale accessories have been pretty much universally reduced. Different clubs often use slightly different rules, but every club that I’ve seen that awards points for doodads also limits how many points you can get. Yet the debates continue. Debates about what should garner points and what shouldn’t continue because the rules don’t/can’t always offer highly detailed descriptions for every scenario, and even if they did, there is going to be a lot of subjectivity. Opinions are all over the proverbial map and rules get interpreted differently by different people. A comp is, obviously, a competition and people will chase points. It’s not as bad as it once was, but most competitors make sure their rigs reach the maximum. This leads to more than a few slightly over-accessorized vehicles (guilty as charged on at least one of my rigs) and those debates about whether one person’s scale accessory is legit. And, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that one person’s “discussion” is another person’s fun-killer. When it stops being fun, people move on.

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Certain scale points make a lot of sense. Good examples, in my opinion, are: hard plastic body, chassis-mounted servo, working winch, working lights, full interior, driver figure. These items add a high degree of realism at the expense of performance (specifically they add weight where it often isn’t ideal). These rules, and rules that ban TVP (Twin Vertical Plate) chassis, MOA (Motor On Axle) drivetrains and comp tires, keep it a scale competition. The other rules are in place essentially in an effort to appropriately award scale realism. Again, the problems are almost always with the scale accessories.

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While it’s understandable how people come to the conclusion that the rules need to be fixed or improved, the solution is not an incredibly complex rulebook. While that may provide a temporary fix, it wouldn’t provide a long-term solution. You can add rules, but more and more rules will have to be added as people come up with new concepts or find ways to get “creative” with the rules. Also, many people migrated from comp crawling to scale crawling for a more laid-back experience. Piles of rules aren’t most people’s idea of fun. And, when it stops being fun, people–you guess it–move on.

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The solution is two-fold. First and foremost, reduce the maximum scale points awarded–again. It’s an instant fix and it works. With less points to chase there is simply a lot less to argue and worry about. As an added bonus, with fewer accessories flopping around, the vehicles will actually be more representative of full-size competitive rock crawlers. Part two of this two-fold solution is to offer a best-in-show award at bigger events. Many bigger comps already do this and it is the best way to recognize those scale masterpieces. Have best-in-show for each class, make it open only to vehicles seeing competition and have it voted on by participants. Make scale fun again. Make it a true honor to win best-in-show, but let’s keep the rules from getting out of hand.

Scale rock crawling is very popular right now and I’d love to see it continue to grow. I’d also love to see the competitive side grow. I do not, however, want the rules get out of hand and push people away. Keep it simple, keep it fun and people will keep coming back.

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Filed Under: CommentaryFeaturedRock Crawlers and Scale

Matt Higgins 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.

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  1. josh says:

    i agree ive seen people that get a lot of scale acsesories such as tow stropes and stuff of that sort my bone stock scx had a 31 for scale points

  2. David says:

    My Honcho is used exclusively for recreation and I have to admit the ENTIRE bed is filled with accessories. But it just looked naked and needed to be covered. I went crazy with my approach. But it was fun and I enjoy showing it off. I remembered back in the day of grassroots racing a lot of races had a separate concours event. Why can’t the Scaler competitions go in that direction? Keep the scale realism and course competition separate.

  3. Edward says:

    Concourses already do happen on a regular basis. I believe the maximum point for c1is 60 c2 is 50 and c3 is 40.. this weeds oit points chasers. I tho choose to always go above and beyond on my builds. I don’t mean for them to be so high they just end up that way. And I don’t have gobs of “scale acc”. I just build my rigs to be as realistic as possible and I get awarded for it. My current c2 rig has over 65 points and that’s with only 6 non functioning scale items. My point is you don’t have to load your rc up with scale shit to make it look real. Build like you would a full size and you’ll see that it pays dividends.

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      First, thanks for reading the article and leaving a comment. Unless I am missing something, which is entirely possible, the points breakdown (60, 50, 40) you mentioned is not universally used. I like the idea of the points allowed being different for each class, but still believe the total rewarded points can be set very low. People can add as much as they want, but would be doing it only as they desire and not getting rewarded for a bunch of stuff.

      • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

        I forgot to add that I meant to be clearer that I knew some big events had concours d’elegance or best-in-show. I’d like to see it done more often so the guys devoted to building scale masterpieces get the credit they deserve

      • Edward says:

        Your right its not universally used but I’ve seen it used a lot. Mostly as it rewards those who do in fact go beyond what most will. As far as interiors, tube cages, metal bumpers ect ect.. esp cms, and rigs with tranfer cases and leaf springs. Really lets the creative building happen and reap the rewards. Because the more scale your rig is it does infact become less capable, hence the reason behind awarding points for scale realism to compensate for the loss in performance because of it.

        • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

          Like you, I am a fan awarding for the functional scale parts such as chassis mounted servo, transfer case, working doors and hood because, as you said, they do reduce performance as they add realism. I don’t see those items as accessories and you would think it would be hard to debate if someone had one of not. Surprisingly some of those items have been debated, but more rules aren’t needed (or at least shouldn’t be) to explain that points for leaf springs are awarded only if they are a functioning part of the suspension and not sitting in the bed. I personally wouldn’t get lured into the debate. The intention of a rule such as awarding for a transfer case is clear. The rules are enforced based on how the judges interpret the rules not how some creative participants can manipulate the wording. Each club is going to interpret some rules slightly differently and that’s okay. It’s far more important to be consistent than it is to the same as a club across the country. The rules that get confusing or are naturally more open to interpretation are the ones around scale accessories. For example, is a license plate sticker worth the same as a the same sticker on a rectangle of plastic or metal? Some debate there is reasonable. How about plastic windshield wipers versus windshield wiper stickers? Most clubs would not award points for windshield wiper stickers, but you can see how the arguments can start when a license plate sticker is legit and windshield wiper stickers are not. My point is take the debate out of the question by even further limiting the accessory points awarded. Once again, thank you very much for checking out RC Truck Stop and sharing your opinion on this article.

  4. Edward says:

    I’m not sure if your aware of sorcca but they have a standardized set of rules to make it even for all competitors as far as scale rules and course rules go..

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      I am familiar with the SORRCA (Scale Off Road RC Association) rules. There are also other “national” rules available. One club I compete with uses the SORRCA.

  5. RANDY CHUNN says:

    Great article and you are correct IMO about more rules. Keep them basic and make it more of a test of the driver and their equipment. Having a BOS for each class gives those that want all the “cool” or extra stuff can have bragging rights with it.

  6. wawing says:

    Hello Matt, ever since I stumble upon on your writting about the RC world (especially the adventure parts) I always wanted to translate your writting onto my native language (bahasa indonesia) so that those who “compete” can open their horizon. And also for those enthusiast who are still unable to read in english.

    Often the competition atmosphere here divided into two main groups: Extreme Class and Scale Class. The latter one are as you wrote compete for most accessories implanted on their rig(s)

    the link for your translated writting is >> http://wawingsasongko.staff.ub.ac.id/scale-rc-adventure-apa-itu/

    I do apologize for not informing you before I translate it but rather after I did it. Looking forward to translate many of your opinion Matt.

    best regards,
    wawing
    from Indonesia

  7. weellee says:

    dear matt,
    permission to translate this article into bahasa indonesia language and posting to our rc adventure community and share this knowledge to all rc adventure lovers in my region

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