Scale Crawler Must-Know Setup Tricks & Tips

scaler essential tips

Most people don’t start off in the hobby doing any sort of competitive RC such as racing or rock crawling comps. And while most everyone strives to have their RC truck at peak performance, competition is what really motivates us to get the thing dialed in, or at least shows us when it’s not. Running by yourself, you never really know how fast your truck is compared to others and, conversely, you never know how well your rock crawler crawls until you see what others can and cannot do. For example, I frequently see people show up to what is their first scale comp with crawlers they’ve had for a long time and have put many miles on. They’ve invested a lot of time and money into their rigs and yet they fail to keep up with the regulars. They, of course, want to know why? Besides comp driving experience, the answer is often that while they might have a good truck or the foundation for a good truck, running by themselves has never shown how capably the truck is or isn’t compared to other trucks. More to the point, solo running has never exposed its weaknesses. Instead of suffering through many unsuccessful comps always watching the same guys win over and over, we have the tips and tricks you need to know. Below are the top five elements of setup you need to address on your scaler if you want comp worthy performance.

2truckwarz

WEIGHT LOW
There is a big difference between low weight and weight low. Right now, the current setup trend in the 2.2 comp world is super lightweight rigs. The 2.2 comp guys are shaving every gram they can. That’s low weight, and it’s good for 2.2 comp crawlers and wannabe models. Low weight, however, really isn’t a concern for scalers. Here it’s all about weight low, as in low CG (center of gravity). While you don’t want a pig that can barely move, you need not be too worried about your scale truck’s overall weight. Adding weight may be a very viable option, especially if you have scale accessories mounted up high (I’m talking to you, the guy with the fully loaded roof rack). Try this: take all your scale accessories off and weigh them. Now, add at least twice that weight at the axle or lower. Even if you don’t actually perform that exercise, that’s the mindset you need to be in. The easiest way to get in the general area is with heavy wheels. One of my favorite ways to get a low CG is with Vanquish Brass Knuckles. These heavy weights have allowed me to setup a 2.2-tired Axial SCX10 with a lot of ground clearance and still maintain stability. Axle tubes that insert in your axles are most often used to increase strength (and repair stripped holes), but they also add weight just where you want it. While I’m not a huge fan of aluminum axles that are exact copies of the original parts (it’s a waste to not take advantage of the higher strength of aluminum and reshape the axle profile), Vanquish offers some exceptional aluminum axles that are anything but exact copies of stock.
Bottom line: go easy on the scale stuff up high and get the weight you have to have as low as possible.

ecrc6

STIFFER REAR SUSPENSION
Despite the hundreds of posed articulation shots found on forums, I am here to tell you massive amounts of flex are not where it’s at. Your suspension needs to work, but it doesn’t need flex nearly as much as all those photos would lead you to believe. Besides never encountering an upright soda can on a comp course, excessive flex will most likely allow your front and rear axles to get you all twisted and bound up in uneven terrain. The reasoning behind the massive amount of articulation is that it helps keep all four tires in contact with the ground. Makes sense if you have open diffs, but when you have locked axles, it’s a lot less of a worry. Why let a tire fall in a hole and have to get it out when you can just carry it over the hole without skipping a beat? While you don’t want to have a rear suspension with no flex, having it setup slightly stiffer than the front is often beneficial. When the rear suspension is too soft it can cause or allow for torque twist and allow for chassis roll and unwanted weight transfer on uphill climbs. A soft rear suspension can also cause rear axle steer depending on your rear suspension geometry. Rear axle steer is when your rear axle twists in a way that it impacts your direction of travel as it articulates.
Bottom line: don’t worry about having lots of articulation and setup the rear suspension slightly stiffer than the front if possible.

6172-00

STIFFER REAR FOAMS
This may be one of the best kept rock crawling setup secrets. When trying to conquer a steep uphill climb have you ever noticed what your rear tires do when they encounter the base of the obstacle? If it’s a hard climb, they rear tires twist and contort. While the front tires got push up and over, the rears often start twisting and squishing as the get bound up at the base of the obstacle. This relates to soft suspensions and soft rear tire setups. Think of it as torque or all that power you’re trying to put to the ground as taking the path of least resistance. Meaning if there’s grip to be had and you’re on a difficult obstacle, the power from your motor is going to squat and twist the suspension and do all sorts of evil things to the rear tire before it gets applied to actually moving the vehicle as desired. This is a case of too much of a good thing. The soft rear tires provide lots of traction—a good thing—but when those tires stick too well, the above described scenario happens. The ideal setup is to run a slightly firmer foam in the rear tires. Not too firm, mind you, but just not soft. There are a lot of foams out there. Compare all that you can get your hands on. You can also check out Crawler Innovations, which offers a wide variety of foams. Crawler Innovations has multistage foam (memory and standard foam), closed cell foam and a variety of all of the above in different densities. Pro-Line offers a dual stage foam for for 2.2″ tires in addition to their memory foams.
Bottom line: slightly firmer rear foams will help on difficult climbs.

vanquish knuckles

STEERING
The key to steering is really twofold. Well, you can make it more complicated, but there are two main points you need to address—steering throw and durability. Increased steering throw is achieved by using universal front axles and knuckles with more clearance. The good part about the knuckles is that all of the knuckles that offer more steering throw are made out of aluminum and far stronger than stock plastic knuckles. One of the absolute best choices for knuckles in Vanquish Racing 8 degree knuckles which have zero Ackerman for a tighter turning radius. Most universal axles also increase durability, but their main benefit is that the offer far more steering throw compared to dog bone style axles. When you combine these two items, your steering will be vastly better than stock. You will immediately notice a difference. Also, you if you haven’t already, go with an aluminum servo horn. There are a lot of choices, but Axial Racing offers excellent clamping horns that are a perfect fit. Further improving steering is done by going with a high toque metal gear servo, but once you start down that path, you will also need an external BEC. By far, the Castle Creations CC-BEC is the most often used BEC.
Bottom line: the foundation of a good steering setup are aluminum knuckles and universal axles.

drivetrain

DRIVETRAIN
The drivetrain components offered with stock rock crawlers have come a long way in a few short years. The Axial SCX10, for example, comes stock with a slipper and a far improved driveshaft design. Ironically, the slipper clutch is something we actually took off the transmissions we were originally enlisting for use in early crawlers. They idea of slip seemed like a bad idea. I can tell you now that a little slip is a good thing. Use that slipper. Most people don’t know this (now you do), but Axial’s slipper assembly actually spins truer than its one-piece plastic spur gear mount. Driveshafts designs such as Axial’s WB8 mean you can run it pretty tight, but you should still use it. Early driveshafts designs popped apart and failed very easily. The WB8 style design stays in one piece no matter how hard you abuse it. You may put a nasty twist in the plastic splines, but that usually won’t end your day and after you replace the plastic shafts, you can slightly loosen that slipper clutch we were just talking about. The stock Axial WB8 driveshafts are good for just about every application, but there are all metal options that will not only not pop apart but will not twist. Whatever driveshaft you use, I suggest using a dry lubricant. Grease retains dirt and contaminated grease will do a lot more harm than good. Dry lube may not squelch squeaks as well as gooey grease, but I’ve had universal axles and driveshafts last for an amazingly long time while only using dry lube. Another running change improvement we’ve see made by Axial to its crawlers is a gear cover. When we were just puttering along strictly on rocks, we really didn’t need a cover. These days, we’re climbing up dirt hills, plowing through sand and blasting around in mud—all on one course–so, we need the gears protected. I haven’t really seen too many spur gears bite the dust while on course, but if you don’t have a gear cover, get one.
Bottom line: make sure your SCX10 has all of the updated drivetrain components—slipper, WB8 driveshafts and gear cover.

Links
Axial Racing
Castle Creations
Crawler Innovations
Pro-Line Racing
STRC
Vanquish

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Filed Under: FeaturedRock Crawlers and ScaleTech

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.

RSSComments (49)

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  1. Gery says:

    Hi, very good article!
    I would like to publish this article in German on my blog?

    Would that be okay?

  2. paan says:

    I plan to have a axial honco scx10. So would you suggest what part i need to upgrade for a better performance? ( power & speed )

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      The Honcho is currently only available as a RTR, so I suggest that you stick with the stock setup for a little bit. Axial uses a Castle Creations built AE-2 speed control that is actually very good for a RTR unit. It had drag brakes and a smooth throttle. And, the SCX10 comes with Axial’s 27-turn motor. So, the stock setup isn’t all that bad. The only downside is that it can only handle 2S LiPo packs. When you want to upgrade, check out Novak’s Crusher speed control. I suggest matching it with their 21.5-turn brushless motor and a 3S LiPo pack (you could also go 4S for lots of power). Gear the truck, so that it never gets hot and consider running an external BEC such as the Castle Creations unit.

      • renee strubberg says:

        3s 4s o ya !!! You are the only one I’ve seen talk about using these I have been for 3 years and every one thinks I’m crazy but the power is awsome . Thanks Matt.

  3. Rafe says:

    Thanks for the great compilation of quick tips!

    I’m loving your articles especially the product reviews :)

    Keep’em coming Matt!

    -Rafe

  4. nova says:

    WOW just what I was looking for. Great setup tips

  5. Jacko says:

    Hey Matt
    I have been into scale crawling for 2 years now, started with a stock axial honcho and have slowly built it up into a 100% custom rig with a tuber boyer truggy frame. My question is about the stiffer rear suspension? My truck is a truggy with a simple lightweight rear bed, all my electronics (battery, servo, servo winch, esc, bec etc) hidden away under the body in the front so there is a lot more weight on the front axle. Am I still better off with a stiffer rear suspension setup even though there is little weight in the rear? I have overdriven the front diff (front does 1.5 revolutions for every 1 revoloution of the rear wheels) wich has stopped almost all torque twist in most situations. Would stiffer rear springs still benefit my situation?
    also how stiff is to stiff? My truck is a crawler not a speed demon so it is RARELY jumped. Should my shocks bottom out at full articulation under the weight of the truck or should there be a little travel left for those extreme circumstances?
    Any imput would be greatly appreciated.

    FYI, I only found this website tonight and havn’t explored much yet so I apologies in advance if this topic has been covered already somewhere here haha
    Thanks.

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      First, I’m glad you found RC Truck Stop. Second, that is a great question about the up travel!

      Before I get to that, yes, stiffer rear springs would help with torque twist. On scale crawlers I almost always run the same springs weights on both rear springs, but it is common to see 2.2 comp crawlers use a stiffer rear spring only as a replacement for the rear spring opposite the front tire that lifts during torque twist. There is no reason why you couldn’t add one slightly stiffer rear spring. I suggest getting a selection of springs and experimenting. You asked about when is stiff too stiff. That’s another great question. For crawling, I rather err on the side of too stiff compared to too soft. So stiff that the suspension does not articulate is obviously no good, but an overly soft suspension allows the chassis and body to flop around and transfer weight as it does. I see this often when mushy suspension trucks attempt to side hill. The soft suspension eventually compresses on the downhill side, weight transfers and the truck rolls. A stiffly sprung truck can, as long as the suspension actually moves, be driven slowly through the same situation.

      To answer the question about up travel, I do not recommend a setup with zero up travel (meaning it’s bottomed out when the truck is static). This can work on a solid axle linked suspension, but I don’t recommend it. Up travel allows the truck to cope with smaller obstacles and irregularities in the terrain. Now, it sounds like your crawler has some up travel, but does fully compress one shock at full articulation. That is fine. I hope this answers your question.

      • Jacko says:

        Wow! Thankyou for the fast reply, you have given me a lot to take onboard. I am using the rc4wd king 110mm shocks and with the current springs I get about 30mm of up travel on each corner of the truck and now that you mention it I can’t help but notice just how much the weight transfers through the truck when one wheel hits an obstacle or under hard cornering and tackling side hills is pretty much something i had given up on. After driving it today after work, the word “mushy” describes my truck in a nut shell so I went out and bought a king tune pack to experiment with over the weekend. I think a bit of trial and error is in order to dial this in just right. Just curious to what angle of side hills your rigs can handle and what I should be aiming for? Should it be able to drive across a 45° slope or even steeper than that?

        • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

          That question is a little hard to answer because there are usually so many irregularities in the surface in question. One little bump can change the angle from a tame 30° (for an RC crawler) to a rolling-down-the-hill 55°. Also, I know from my full-size off-road experience that it is very hard to visually estimate angles. People say they have done 45° side hills like it’s no big deal, when most of us start to panic when we get all four tires on a 20° side hill. Anyway, for a scale crawler–or any crawler for that matter–a true 45° side hill would be pretty impressive, but you got me thinking. I’m going to do some measurements and get back to you with more info. You have brought another good topic here.

          • Jacko says:

            Haha Iv got many of these irritating questions, so many that you will dread seing my name come up at the top of posts and im sure you will hear a lot of them in the future. This is the first website I have found where someone actually has knowledge and not just putting their 2 cents in for the sake of it.

            I think 45° would be a good slope to aim for but in a scale comp would that be enough? And im concerned that I will have to give up articulation by making the springs stiff enough to handle the slope without any body roll. After sitting and staring at my truck for a while just now I have been thinking wider wraith axles might be better in this situation compared to scx10 axles to distribute the weight better and prevent rollovers but that creates more questions such as shock placement and length, how it will peform in the rocks, how it will change the scale look (wich isn’t a huge concern to me) ground clearance, wider track width and will the added weight be helpfull or will it hinder peformance… just when you think your truck is done, BAM!!! Your mind is blown by such a simple dilemma and back to the drawing board I go, or maybe I just love building this thing up too much haha. Any more info on how your rigs peform would be great
            thanks for all the help

          • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

            Thanks for the kind words.

            One thing to keep in mind and a concept you’re probably well aware of is every crawler setup is a compromise. What helps a lot in one area probably hurts performance somewhere else. Wider Wraith (AR60) axles do increase stability, but do so at the price of less maneuverability. The weight difference between the SCX10 axles and the AR60 axles won’t hurt performance. If you run on a course with gates, the wider axles could be a problem, but it all depends on how the course is built. Some courses are technical and others are more wide open. Some also have few if any side hill areas. Now, if you’re out wheeling for fun, there is a good argument to be made for the wider AR60 axles. No gates, no worries . . . Well, almost, as the wide setup will be harder to get through tight spots. As for scale looks, I think the SCX10 with AR60 axles looks plenty scale when running 2.2 tires.

            As far as springs go, I think you totally get it. You want to firm up the setup you have without compromising how well the suspension articulates.

  6. Jacko says:

    So today I stole a set of vanquish currie rockjock dana 70’s with wraith tubes I had on another build with the same over driven front and underdriven rear with mickey thompson 2.2 baja claws (star cut supersoft foams) on rc4wd steelies, weighted front’s, standard rears. Standard lower rear springs and twice the compression rate springs on top (because the king shocks use 2 springs on each shock) and up front I backed the pre-load collar all the way off, kept the standard front springs but added a third short spring from the stock scx10 shocks. I had to change the gearing to handle the heavier and bigger 2.2’s and it Took a few hours to tune the upper and lower links, panhard bar and drag link to fit the wraith axles but….
    This truck has been reborn completely!!! I get zero torque twist, zero bump steer, have lost almost none of my turning radius. It peforms amazing!! I actually used a spirit level to check this side hill I was driving and it handles 45° without missing a beat and could go even more im sure. I was taking lines the truck would have never handled before on side hills, up hills and in the most hardcore rock piles I could find and it just ate up everything I could throw at it. I am deadset amazed how capable it is now!
    the only thing I would change now is some heavier weight shock oil to stop a bit of the bounce and maybe some breather holes in the wheels.
    The ONLY downfall of using the wider axles is exactly as you said, maneuvering through gates or around trees is that the rear axle takes its own path instead of following the front wheels but I think some adjustment in my driving will solve that in no time.
    Thankyou so much for all your input and help! Its really appreciated.

  7. Rob says:

    Love the forum gives me a lot of onsite
    Thanks Rob

  8. joseph says:

    good article sir i love it.. is axial deadbolt rtr is a good rig?thanks

  9. John Stewart says:

    Hi there. I wanted to take the time to say this article has revolutionized the way I comp crawled! However I went into scaling and then completely forgot about the lessons learned here. So I wanted to ask ya about the new scx10 beef tubes that modify the steering to the massive xr10 design. I was planning to use the downtime of this winter to redesign my rig and implement that modification as well as a lower cg transmission and to upgrade to ceramic ball bearings thru out the entire rig. Name of the game is to get way more steering and add a dig unit, reduce parasitic drag on the drivetrain, remove overall weight and move the weight into the axles itself like u describe above. Mainly I wanted to know your take on the xr10 steering mod for the scx10?

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      Wow. Thanks so much for the compliments.

      I love Beef Tubes. I don’t think you can go wrong with them as a modification. Not sure you’ll get a return on investment with ceramic bearings. I use them on certain race vehicles, but highly doubt they’d be worth the expense on a crawler.

      The XR10 upgrade is interesting, but there are other ways to get serious steering throw. Universals are a must. Check out Vanquish’s knuckles and C-hubs too. You have the right idea–low CG and maximum steering.

      • John Stewart says:

        I just finished the front axle and am beginning on the rear now. I have the vanquish dig unit I got in a trade from a buddy as well. So far its definitely looking like it will be worthwhile also installed gmade 93mm piggyback shocks and I notice the awesome ability to instantly adjust shocks for different terrain! So far the uograde is coming out well. I cant wait for spring so I can try it out. Ill let ya know if it preforms as well as I think it will. =)

  10. Joe Conti says:

    A well written article. Was looking for a solution to my constant axle twist when climbing steep hills and you gave me the solution on a silver platter. Thank you for that :)

  11. james says:

    Hey man great post, I’m new to scale crawlers and this really helped me out, so thank you for that, what brought me here was that my truck always leans to the left I CNT figure it out for the life in me any suggestions would help, thanks

  12. rcjunky3 says:

    Awesome article and it touches on what I believe are some very majorly overlooked areas. So many times I see rigs and talk to people about the importance of steering and what can actually be gained by purchasing the correct steering components. I hope you dont mind me sharing a link to this info over on our local club website

  13. john says:

    I have a scx10 honco. I’m new with r/c. You gave me good ideas. I what to upgrade my servo. Which one should I go with? I’m running 1.9 swamper tsl.

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      There are too many options to list. Metal gears are an absolute must. Pick up a metal servo horn as well. Axial has their own that are perfect are a perfect fit for the SCX10. I also highly recommend at least 125 oz.-in. of torque. The more torque the better, but make sure the speed doesn’t get slower than a 0.20 second transit time. Lastly, look for a waterproof servo. This isn’t essential, but is nice to have if you plan to get your SCX10 wet.

  14. Clint Wood says:

    Just found your website, some great articles…Quick question for Matt Higgins, I see your running the VP 1.9 LH ProComp,wheels on your SXC10 and I was wondering what knuckles/chubs are you running? And did you have any clearance issues with the VP wheels, I’m wanting to run the VP 8deg setup but I’ve heard of guys having clearance issues with a few differance wheels, did you have any problems with the LH ProComp wheels on yours?
    Cheers Clint..

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      I wouldn’t say I had problems, but I did have to experiment with hubs of different widths on many of my crawlers. Some of the wheels have the hex adapters of different widths too, and I have experimented with a few to get proper clearance.

  15. Robert Hendrickson says:

    Hey I just recently found this site and am loving reading the articles and seeing the vast amount of knowledge, I do have a question tho. I am running a axial scx10 with vanquish titanium links, king 110 mm shocks, 1.9 rims with pitbull rock beasts, and I am getting a huge amount of body roll to left under throttle…. looking to get some suggestions for correcting this situation

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      This will be fixed via suspension tuning, but first try to optimize your rig’s center of gravity. An overly high center of gravity will make body roll much worse. In fact, it just about ruins your truck’s potential. Okay, now that you’ve removed the scale stack of bricks from your roof rack, you need to remove the shocks. You might consider Axial’s aluminum shocks. The reason being is that they have a huge selection of springs and finding the right spring rate is going to make the biggest difference in controlling the body roll, which is being caused by torque twist. For now or if you want to keep the shocks you (and I wouldn’t blame you as those are nice shocks), remove the shocks you have and rebuild them with 30 to 40 weight shock fluid. Make sure the shocks cycle smoothly without the springs on. RC4WD does offer different spring rates and you’ll need them. Check them out here. Stiffer springs are going to make the biggest difference. Also, try experimenting with the upper shock mount, especially on the rear shocks. Let me know if these changes work.

  16. piccione says:

    I just replaced my stock 80mm shocks with 100mm shocks on my gelande II D90 and put 1.9 tires on. My trouble is the my wheels are pointing in too much now but I have no way to adjust my tie rod bar. How could I solve this issue.

  17. Brian says:

    i would like to post this article to my cralwer pafe on fb is that would be ok matt

  18. Dan says:

    Hi Matt,

    I bumpewd into this very informative website. Keep it up!.

    I am new to scaling trailing with sa bit of crawling hobby and my two boys age 11 and 12 are loving it. Its a form of a father and son bonding. :)

    Anyway, i do have some query. I upgraded the stock SCX10 RUBICON JEEP to 4 link aluminum. I bought the (AX30550 SCX10 TR Links Set – 12.3″ (313mm) WB) because it includes aluminum steering too.

    I also bought the 25t servo horn (AX30836 ) and replaced the stock plastic horn. Now my problem is teh steering adjustment. The S/T throtle trim stays only in the middle although i adjusted it using the transmitter trim. Everytime i turn the S/T throtle to left it stops on the center but if i turn it on the right it does move. Unsure if it was affected after the servo replacement. How would I resolve the issue? How will i adjest the end point adjust ment (EPA)?

    Thanks in advance.

  19. Cymern says:

    Hi…im using a gmade komodo.what i want to ask is what are the best length for all the 4 link to make it more further wheelbase than the stock one..which is mean im already changing my stock wheelbase length almost the same with scx10 power wagon.so far feel more flexi then the stock which is using a sprung setting for the shock but beneath the lower spring inside i choke up with some bushing about 2.5mm and its look like a droop setting.but the problem is once overdrive on a high hill while trailing my rig always seems to keep on bouncing once i punch the throttle..just using a 27turn stock motor from axial…and i dont understand too much how to set up my rig to face any type of terrain surface.also now im more likely to use ripsaw than the stock tyre too

    ..

  20. jesse says:

    Hi, I’m putting on 110mm boomerang piggy back shocks on my gelande 2 D90 to fit my Mickey Thompson Baja claws in 1.9. How do you figure out what MM you need your panhard link to be? With the stock 90mm shocks Rc4wd used a 70mm link. Thanks for any help!
    -Jesse

  21. Bob Lowe says:

    Thanks for the post. I always thought more flex the better. I really like that you talked about how your suspension needs to work. I can see how bad it would be to have to much flex resulting in problems.

  22. Guy says:

    Hi Matt,

    Very good article, I’m a very experienced RCer… been flying racing, sailing etc for 40 years… Did a lot of 1/8 track IC back in the day. Been thinking of giving my multirotors a rest and trying cars again… Since I’m getting on a bit, I’m thinking that a Rock crawler (maybe competition) would be fun.

    So thanks for the tips, I will take note on my build.

    All the best,

    Guy

  23. Kyle says:

    will that drive train work in a team associated sc10 2wd

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking. The Team Associated 2WD gearbox could be used in a crawler and has been. There would be no real advantage in using one in an Axial SCX10. In fact, the gear box has to be modified to work effectively in a crawler. The Associated differential would need to be locked, for one.

  24. Ben says:

    Hi I want the ability to have multiple speeds in transmission what do I need to buy? I want super slow crawl ratio. I’m new btw. I am going to buy rtr trail finder two that’s been up graded but only has single speed.

  25. Ken says:

    Hi Matt,
    Just ran across this article. Loved reading the tips and the other comments. A lot of useful information here. I see you mention the Axial SCX10, which is a good truck with lots of upgrades available. But, I’ve been looking into buying the Vaterra Ascender. What are your thoughts on this truck? Also, what would be a good truck to start a 7 yr. old on?
    Thanks for your time,
    Ken

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