Pro-Prepped Motors in Spec Racing

I recently wrote an article called 7 Ways to Cheat at MudBoss Racing. Little bit of a spoiler, but if you haven’t read it, the article isn’t really a how-to guide on cheating. It’s meant to expose some ways people may cheat at one of the most popular spec classes in RC and to remind all of us that while cheating does happen, it probably happens a lot less than we think. But to back up a bit, if you don’t know, the Salvas Sportsman MUDboss class is a dirt oval class that uses the Traxxas Slash with the stock Titan 12T motor. There is some variety, but the bulk of Mudboss racing is done with these sealed endball 550 12-turn motors. When the article made the social media rounds, the topic of pro-prepped motors came up as an example of cheating. It wasn’t in the original article and it still isn’t . . . because it’s not cheating.

A little bit of my background: I’ve raced RC cars since the mid eighties and during this time period I’ve done a lot of spec racing. For years, I raced Street Spec on paved and carpet ovals. I raced Bolink Legends. I raced SK cars when that was more of a spec class. When the Traxxas Slash was first released, I raced that in the box-stock class found at many tracks. I now race a Sportsman Mudboss and I also race in a street stock class that requires the use of a specific motor. I always wanted to race in the Tamiya Championship Series, but never had the chance. Bottom line is I love spec racing. Some racers look down on spec racing, but in reality, NASCAR, Indy and even F1 are all a lot like spec racing. If you think NASCAR, for example, is “open class” racing, you’re not watching. For me, RC spec racing usually simplifies things and allows me to enjoy close, competitive racing while spending a lot less time and money compared to other classes.

While spec racing differs from class to class, one commonality is everyone in the class runs the same motor. Often, even in these brushless days, the spec motor is a sealed-can brushed motor. And, unlike brushless motors, brushed motors definitely benefit from a break-in procedure. And, that break-in procedure can greatly influence peak performance. This is where the black magic comes in. This can be in the form of the water method or special drops or any combination of secret tricks and techniques. When it comes to making these motors fast, some people know how and some people don’t. If you don’t know how to make a fast motor, you can buy a fast motor–for roughly twice the price of new-in-the-bag motor. The pro-prepped motor is 100% legal, but you didn’t do the work. While there are no rules, at least that I’m aware of, that say this is illegal, some people still say this is cheating. Is it? As I said before, it’s not. We can really get in the weeds on a “spirit of the rules” debate. I’ll dip my toe in this toxic pool of opinions presented as facts with a somewhat hypothetical example. If I do all the real prep on my son’s car (he’s 12) and he wins, did he cheat? Of course not. But, he didn’t do the work. If some guy buys a prepped motor and he wins, did he cheat? All of a sudden some people say yes.

I’ve never bought a pro-prepped motor for spec racing (I’ve bought more than a few for stock class oval racing), but here’s why I’m in favor of pro-prepped motors: first, when someone is faster, we naturally think it’s because they have more motor. While top speed by itself wins few, if any, races, getting a pro-prepped motor will at least give you peace of mind. It eliminates the is-it-my-motor factor. The downside is if you install a pro-prepped motor and still get smoked by two laps, it’s not the motor that’s the problem–it’s probably the dumb side of the transmitter. Second, I like keeping racing cheap–especially spec racing. So, why would I be in favor of spending twice as much for a motor if I want to keep costs low? Because buying one pro-prepped motor is a lot less money than buying a three or four or more motors trying to find the one. The one that stands out from the pack. Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve found motors such as the Traxxas Titan 12T to be pretty consistent from motor to motor, but every once in a while I’ll get one that is a step quicker. In reality, it’s probably one in six that are better. The odds may be worse. Like I said, overall, the motors are pretty consistent. Point is one pro-prepped at $50 is a lot cheaper than six motors at $25 each.

So, what’s your take on pro-prepped motors? Cheating? Legal but bad for spec racing? Or, all good in the hood? Do you run one? Was it money well spent?

If you absolutely hate the idea of pro-prepped motors, here are five things you can do:

  1. Hand-out motor class. I raced in a Bolink Legends class that used hand-out motors and it was great.
  2. Claim rule. Some guys hate claim rules, but they work. I’ll cover the pros and cons of this highly debatable topic soon in another article.
  3. Petition to have pro-prepped motors declared illegal at your track . . . and hope everyone follows the rules. Good luck.
  4. Race in an open class. Here you can listen to guy’s complaining about getting beat by stock motors in the mod class instead of guy’s complaining about pro-prepped spec motors.
  5. Suck it up, spend the $50 or so and get one (see below). If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Pro-Prepped Motor Sources:

AK-47 Power and Design

BLT Motors

KHD Speedlab

RC Speed Shop/Putnam Propulsion

 

 

Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual Charger Review

When it comes to RC, I bash, crawl and race. Almost anything RC interests me. And, I’m not just a landlubber as I also love RC boats and planes. But, for some reason–and I know I’m not alone–I tend to see everything through a racing perspective. I’m not likely to win a world championship anytime soon, but I still have what is honestly described as racer’s bias. I tend to look for the best products for racing and tend to judge a product’s worth based on racing. Yet, what’s best for racing isn’t always as easy and convenient as I’d like it for bashing or crawling. A perfect example is a charger. My search for a new easy-to-use bench charger led me to the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual–the subject of this review.

FEATURES
As the name indicates, the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger is capable of charging two packs at once. This is a huge plus, as charging two packs simultaneously obviously allows you to get batteries for two vehicles ready or double your runtime for one vehicle in the time it would normally take to charge just one pack. The overall footprint is small, at 6.75 in. wide by 5.25 deep. It also features a built-in fan for cooling. It’s important to note the EZ-Peak Dual charger is an AC-powered charger with built-in power supply. That means wall outlet only. The EZ-Peak Dual charger uses numerous LEDs and solid push buttons. No LCD screen and no touch screen selection. But, it does have a sub-$100 price tag.

The Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger can charge NiMH and LiPo packs, which is nice, but the more battery chemistries a charger can handle, the more complicated it can get. This is where the iD Auto Battery Identification aspect of this charger comes in. When used with Traxxas iD batteries, the EZ-Peak Dual charger automatically identifies the type of battery being used and the proper charge rate. If you are unaware, iD batteries feature a new Traxxas High-Current Connector with built-in balance ports. If you’ve been running Traxxas for a while, don’t worry. The EZ-Peak Dual charger can still charge packs with Traxxas’ original High-Current Connector, which plugs right in, no adapter needed. When not using an iD battery, you can access balance ports under removable covers on the front of the charger. Each side has ports for 2- and 3-cell packs using JST-XH balance connectors.

When charging a LiPo, the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger offers three charge modes: Balance, Fast and Store. Balance is the default and preferred method of charging. In Balance mode, the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger makes sure all cells in the battery pack are fully and equally charged. This is best for the maximum life of the pack. Fast mode doesn’t not balance the cells and stops charging as soon the first cell reaches peak voltage. Store is a storage mode that partially charges the pack, which is ideal for a pack that will not be used immediately.

The Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger features a High Output Mode that will charge 5000 mAh NiMH pack at 5 amps and LiPos over 4000 mAh at what is called a 2C rate, which means a rate twice the capacity. So, for example, a 4000 mAh LiPo will charge at 8 amps. 8 amps is the max, so a 5000 mAh pack won’t charge at a full 2C or 10 amps. It will charge at 8 amps. It’s also worth noting that in High Output Mode, the EZ-Peak Dual charger loses its dual capability. In High Output Mode, it can charge one pack and only on the right-hand port.

The Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger also offers an Advanced Mode, which allows for manual operation. If you have a Traxxas iD battery this will allow you to select the rate you want. If you don’t have a Traxxas iD battery, Advanced Mode is required.

Should an error or problem occur while charging, the Charge Status LEDs will flash an error code. Make sure you keep the manual so you can decode the error indicated.

TESTING & FINAL ASSESSMENT
I first tested the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger with two Traxxas Power Cell 5800 mAh iD LiPo 2-cell packs. I then used it to charge a Traxxas Power Cell 8.4V 3000 mAh iD NiMH pack. And, I also tested an older Traxxas Power Cell 11.1V 5000 mAh 3-cell pack. The latter required the use of the Advanced Mode because it was not an iD battery. Whether in Advanced Mode or regular charging, I found the EZ-Peak Dual charger to be appropriately easy to use. Just as important, I found that it fully charged each pack. When I charged the two 5800 mAh 2-cell LiPos, it charged at 4 amps. That means it will take over an hour to charge. If I’m in a rush, I can combine High Output Mode with the Fast mode. This isn’t bad for the battery once in a while, but I prefer and personally recommend using the Balance mode as often as possible. While it might not seem important, I am happy to report the built-in fan doesn’t sound like a pair of Black Hawk helicopters. You can hear it, but it’s not obnoxiously loud like so many chargers and power supplies.

To somewhat quickly describe how the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger works: when first plugged in the charger briefly lights up all LEDs. Both vertical rows of Charge Rate/Charge Status LEDs will flash. If the EZ-Peak Dual charger is in High Output mode, only the vertical column of LEDs to the right will flash. When a Traxxas iD LiPo battery is plugged in the Balance mode and LiPo battery types will illuminate. The appropriate charge rate will also illuminate. The unused side will still have its vertical column of LEDs flashing. At this time, you can change LiPo charge modes–Balance, Fast or Store. Again, Balance is the default, but you can switch to Fast or Store. The bright blue iD Start/Stop button will be on. When this button is pressed and momentarily held, the EZ-Peak Dual charger will start charging. A chime will indicate its started and the fan will turn on. Once the pack is being charged, you are not able to switch between modes. The vertical column will now indicate approximately to show how close to completely charged the pack is. To see the charge rate again, press the Charge Rate Select button. To stop charging, hold the blue iD Start/Stop button. Interestingly, when charging in Store mode, the Charge Status LEDs show how close the battery is to reaching the ideal storage. Basically, if you were charging a pack in Balance mode and two Charge Status LEds were illuminated, but you then stopped the charge and switched to Store mode, three Charge Status LEds might be illuminated. The battery didn’t instantly get closer to fully charged, but it is closer to being “done” in Store mode.

Specifications

  • AC only
  • LiPo and NiMH compatible
  • 2S to 3S LiPo
  • 5 to 8 cell NiMH
  • 1 to 4 amps (single and dual charging)
  • 5 to 8 amps (High Output charging) 

If you run Traxxas vehicles and use Traxxas iD batteries, the EZ-Peak Dual charger is well worth the modest cost. In addition to being inexpensive, it is essentially foolproof, which, in this age of LiPo batteries, a lot of people want. While racers may want the ability to adjust dozens of variables, far more people just want easy and the EZ-Peak Dual more than lives up to its name.

Update (12/27/2019): I original saw the Traxxas EZ-Peak Dual charger as “just” a bench charger, but as I’ve continued to use the charger, my opinion has slightly changed. I’m not saying it’s a racer’s charger, but if you’re club racing in one class, the High Output mode will definitely get you through the day–especially combined with the Fast charge mode. I’m specifically thinking of the racers participating in a spec Slash class. You’re probably only using a little more than half the capacity of 5800 mAh, in a five minute run, so you’re really only “topping it off” between races.

Traxxas Slash Dirt Oval MUDboss Conversion

These days, one of the most popular vehicles at the RC dirt oval track isn’t even a dirt oval car. It’s a short course truck. Specifically, it’s the Traxxas Slash. Not only is dirt oval racing with a Slash a thing, it’s a big thing. And, we really like the idea, so to get in on the action, we built what’s called Mudboss.

There are two types of people in the world. People who know what a Mudboss is and people that don’t. Hopefully by the end of this article not only do you know what one is, but you also want to build one. So, what in the heck is a Mudboss? Let’s get that out of the way. Well, it’s an offbeat nickname for the RC version of a rather old and odd class of race car. A Mudboss, or more specifically a Salvas MUDboss, is a scale version of an eastern modified dirt oval race car that uses a Salvas brand body and, as previously mentioned, is based on the Traxxas Slash. It’s also worth noting, because it’s essential to what Mudboss racing is all about, that this is spec racing. But, don’t let the spec designation fool you. Mudboss racing is anything but slow or for newbies. This is some fast, action-packed wheel-to-wheel racing.

BODY BEAUTIFUL
To most people, a Mudboss is an odd looking machine, but it’s also a pretty good scale representation of an eastern dirt modified car, or EDM. Under a variety of different sanctioning bodies, full-size, real-deal eastern dirt modifieds “bang fenders” on dirt tracks from Canada to Florida. The distinctive features of the modified are the big panels making up the back of the car and the open-wheel front end. It’s kind of like a late model and a sprint car “got together” behind the grandstands after a race.

The Salvas MUDboss bodies are made from sheet Lexan and come pre-cut and pre-drilled. All screws are included. These bodies can be painted in the same manner as a molded Lexan shell, but most racers opt for a vinyl wrap. Eric Salvas, the creator of the body and class, suggests wraps over paint (see the interview below for more on this). Following his advice, I too went with a custom wrap. And, based on a recommendation from Salvas, I sought out Lyle Hoover of Hoover Graphics & Race Wraps. While installing a wrap is definitely a DIY project that just about anyone can successfully complete, a service I really liked about Hoover Graphics & Wraps, in addition to the awesome graphics, is that you can buy a body with the wrap applied. That’s a nice time saver and stress saver if this sort of job makes you nervous. As far as the design goes, he nailed it. Best part, it’s a computer file. When I need to replace the body and repaint–I don’t. Instead, I contact Hoover Graphics & Wraps and order a new wrap. How cool is that?

To mount the Salvas MUDboss body you need to remove the front bumper and front body mount assembly. Replace the front bumper with Traxxas part number 2735, which is a Bandit front bumper. The trick here is to mount the new much smaller bumper upside-down. This creates a surface for the front of the Mudboss body to sit.

Next, completely remove the two nerf bars. Leaving the left nerf bar is optional. Now, remove the two body posts from the front body mount that originally attached to the front shock tower. Use the 3×10 mm screws originally used for the body posts and install the posts in the forward holes originally used for the nerf bars.

You’ll probably notice the body contacts the steering servo. One fix is to raise the body posts using spacers. Another is to use aftermarket longer body posts. The best “fix,” however, is to remove the servo, which is mounted on top of the chassis, and mount it to the bottom. This will allow the body to sit lower, which will lower the center of gravity and improve handling.

One last point is the Salvas MUDboss body includes four front body post holes. The forward most holes are used for the stock chassis and the holes slightly further back are for the Low-CG chassis.

STEERING
The Sportsman class allows a couple steering upgrades. One is the optional use of the Traxxas 2075X metal gear servo. This is the quick and easy way to get the durability of metal gears. The rules also allow the use of the black 6845X bellcrank style steering setup that has a built-in servo saver.

TIRES
Since I am running in the Sportsman class with the Mudboss, I am limited to Traxxas tires. Any Slash tires are allowed, except the S1 compound. This means three tread options exist–Traxxas SCT,  BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 and Kumho Venture MT tires. The general consensus is the original SCT tires provide the least amount of traction and the Kumho tires provide the most with the BFGs in the middle. That is rather subjective, but it will give you at least something to play with for tuning.

BATTERIES
Oval racing and batteries go together like peanut butter and jelly or, depending on your perspective, as Cal Naughton Jr. put it, they go together like Chinese food and chocolate pudding. So, whether you see it as good or not so good, batteries are a big part of oval racing. You are not going to be competitive with any old pack. It used to be a lot worse. 4-cell racing was a lot of fun if you had a hot pack, but if that pack was just a little bit soft, it was, indeed, about as enjoyable as someone dumping a Snack Pack on your General Tso’s. The Sportsman Mudboss class I’m racing in has a battery limit of 5200 mAh  with no more than a 50C rating. This prevents if from being a battery budget war, but having a good battery can and will make a big difference. For that reason, I hooked up with SMC Racing. Look, there’s a lot of hype (read: false information) out there when it comes to battery ratings, specifically C rating. Go with a company you can trust. More on that here. There’s no industry standard when it comes to rating, so someone’s 50C might be more like 40C or even 25C. SMC has been in the performance RC battery business since long before LiPo cells were a thing and have lasted this long on a reputation built on trust (and a whole lot of race wins).

The specific SMC Racing battery I went with is the True Spec Extreme Graphene 7.4V 5200 mAh 162A 50C hard case pack, which features 10AWG wires soldered directly to the tabs for lowest possible resistance. It’s a spec pack, but make no mistake, this is a race battery. The best part, besides providing a competitive advantage, is this pack costs less than $50. You’re getting a lot of quality and performance for your money with SMC.

SUSPENSION
The Sportsman Mudboss class allows for only a few adjustments. You can change shock fluid. I swapped the shock fluid for 30 wt. on the left front and left rear shocks and 40 wt. on the right front and right rear. I did this to slow weight transfer. I want my car to have as much steering as possible. I want to carve turns with as little turning of the steering wheel as possible. That said, there are three conditions I want to avoid. First, I don’t want the car to spinout. To start out, I’ll give up a little steering for drivability. Second, I don’t want the car to traction roll. Third, on a car with a high center of gravity and a relatively plush suspension, I don’t want to transfer too much weight or transfer weight too abruptly. When this happens I find the car is too unpredictable. A few things happen. The left rear gets unloaded and the car diffs out and when weight shifts hard to the outside while corning and it just as abruptly shifts the opposite way when the car straightens out. So, that’s why I went with thicker fluid on the outside. And, odds are I’ll make adjustments.

The Mudboss rules allow you to cut up to five rounds off each front spring. This, of course, lowers the car significantly. When you do this, it’s easiest to use handheld snips, but you must wear eye protection. Internal spacers on the shock shafts are also allowed. I went with .6 in. in the right front, right rear and left front. In the left rear shock, I went with a slightly shorter .4 in. spacer. This allows the inside rear tire to stay in contact with the ground during hard cornering. Installing the spacers requires dissembling the shocks. The spacers (I used fuel tubing) go inside the shock, on the shock shaft, under the piston. Be extremely careful when pulling the shaft out of the the shock body and reinserting it. The sharp threads on the shaft will easily cut the seals if you don’t go slowly and use a lot of care. To install spacers, remove the shock from the vehicle and remove the shock cap. Drain the fluid and discard. Next, remove the lower shock mount known as the rod end. If you have a tool specifically made for gripping shock shafts, use it. If you don’t you can protect the shaft with multiple layers of paper towel between the shaft and your pliers. It is extremely important you do not scratch the shock shafts. When the rod end is removed, carefully slide the shaft and piston out of the shock. Slide the spacer on the shaft and seat it all the way up against the bottom of the piston. Now, reassemble the shocks.

Since I lowered the front suspension with internal spacers and cut down springs, I used the inner suspension arm holes. On the rear arms, I used the second from the outside. This is hole number four on the setup sheet I created below.

GEARING
The Sportsman MUDboss class require 16-tooth pinions matched with 90-tooth spur gears. This is what is included with a stock Slash. The rules also require no gear cover to allow for quick and easy gearing inspections. In addition to Sportsman, there are other Mudboss classes with different gearing rules.

POWER SYSTEM
Like the majority of the spec racing classes based on the Slash platform, the Sportsman class is limited to an unmodified Traxxas Titan 12T motor with stock XL5 speed control. We’ll cover race prepping one of these motors in another article. For now, keep it simple and use some bushing oil (thicker than nearing oil) on the bushings, run the motor and then thoroughly clean it and lightly relate it.


UNDERSTANDING CAMBER
There are two important things to know about camber when it comes to racing Slashes on oval. One, it’s one of the few adjustments you have, so take advantage of it, and, two, camber is crucial to oval racing.

The simple definition of camber is it’s the angle, looking from the front, that the top of the tire leans in or out. The top leaning towards the center of the car is negative camber. Positive camber is just the opposite. As a car corners, the cornering forces encountered cause the car to roll to the outside and causes the tires lean to the outside. So, to maintain traction, by having as flat of a tire contact patch as possible while cornering, negative camber is used. Say the cornering forces cause the tire to lean to the outside by 2º, if you start with -2º, in theory, the tire would have 0º as it cornered. That would mean more contact patch and more traction.

Race cars that turn left and right, off-road or on-road, will run negative camber on all four tires. Kids driving their mom’s old Honda will a lot of negative camber.

Oval cars are a little different because they only turn left. An oval car will run negative camber on the right front and right rear (known as the outside tires). The left front, or inside front, can have zero camber or even positive camber. There’s no rule saying negative camber can’t be used on the left front tire, but it isn’t a typical setting. Negative camber is common, however, on the left rear. A common setting is -2º for both rear tires.

Camber Starting Point
LF     RF
+1º    -2º

LR     RR
-2º    -2º


TRACTION ROLL
If you’re flying down the straight and as soon as you cut the wheel, you’re witnessing more flips than an Evel Knievel highlight reel, you are not going to win many races. That sudden snap flip when cornering is called a traction roll. With high speeds and a lot of cornering forces, it’s fairly common in certain classes of oval racing. Any car can flip over if a large enough force is applied to it, and the more traction the outside tires have, specifically that right front, the less force is needed to cause a roll. A traction roll problem can be extremely frustrating. Instead of pulling your hair out, try these tips:

Right front tire with less grip. Less traction at the right front of the car means less traction rolling. For a Sportsman Mudboss this may mean going from a Kumho tire to a SCT tire.
Firmer Insert: If the rules allow, trying a firmer insert will help prevent the tire from deforming or rolling over, which can initiate a traction roll.
Lower center of gravity. Consult your rules on this move. If the class you’re in allows the LCG chassis, install it. If the Low-CG chassis isn’t an option, cutting the springs may be. This will lower the chassis. Again, consult your rules first. Moving the lower shocks mounts further out on the suspension arms will also lower the center of gravity.
Decrease right front camber. If you’re running -1º, try -2º. Try even more. It’s counterintuitive to why we use camber, but we’re trying to add so much camber that the tire doesn’t reach its maximum contact patch when cornering. The idea is to prevent that outside edge from digging in and rolling the car.
Stiffer right front spring. Most likely different springs are not allowed, but if they are, a stiffer rate spring will help alleviate a traction roll problem. Please note that adding spring clips or spacers does not increase spring rate.
Thicker right front shock fluid. While changing springs usually isn’t an option, changing shock fluid usually is. Since it’s next to impossible to tech, most tracks allow you to run any shock fluid you want.
Track width. Increasing track width by using different offset wheels and/or wider hexes will reduce traction rolling.
But weight, there’s more. Check those rules, but if you’re allowed to add weight, add weight to the left side of the chassis–as close to the edge as possible.


BEHIND THE SCENES
To get on the Salvas MUDboss fast track, we went right to the source, the mastermind behind Mudboss racing, Eric Salvas.

RC Truck Stop:
Tell the RC Truck Stop community a little about your RC background?

Eric Salvas:
I’ve been racing RC cars since 1989–30 years now. All oval—carpet, paved, dirt.

RC Truck Stop:
That’s a lot of experience. When did you come up with the Mudboss body idea and the concept behind the class itself?

ES:
In the spring of 2014, the idea evolved from the fact that an entry-level class in oval racing was not present. Also, I wanted to bring the ‘easy way’ of RC back into the hobby. I wanted to bring a new class that would bring new blood to the hobby. I decided to go with the Traxxas Slash chassis because it’s sold almost everywhere, is inexpensive and parts are readily available. I decided to design a body that would suit better the oval racing tracks that we were running on weekly, loose dirt oval. Being from the North East, the premium dirt oval full-scale class is the Super DIRTcar series modifieds. I designed a body that would almost be race-ready—predrilled, pre-bent. In matter of minutes, the body is assembled and ready to go!

RC Truck Stop:
What’s the story behind the Mudboss name? Is it a play on the mud bus name that has become somewhat synonymous with eastern dirt modifieds?

ES:
Mud bus was a name used in the early ‘80s by Maynard Troyer, a full-scale dirt modified builder, on one of their own chassis designs. I decided the MUDboss name was good to use for my new class that was, at first, mainly running on loose dirt oval tracks.

RC Truck Stop:
Did you ever imagine this class taking off as much as it has?

ES:
The first five bodies were handmade. It quickly came obvious I could not supply them fast enough, so the CAD conception came into effect to have these CNC cut. Doing so, I also made sure all these would come out exactly the same. The first summer, 100 or so bodies were made. Now, in 2019, it’s twice this number monthly!

RC Truck Stop:
That’s a lot of growth. How has Mudboss racing changed since it first started?

ES:
At first, only one class was available, 13.5 brushless motor with 2S LiPo. But with popularity, and improvement in electronics performances, that class became way too fast for newcomers. Mainly, the rule set has not changed much from the beginning—stock parts, no modifications to the chassis and suspension. But in 2019, we implemented a new class structure that would fit all racers needs. We now have the Sportsman class, which is stock 12-turn and XL5 electronics, fixed gear and any Traxxas tires); Small Block class, 17.5 spec ESC, fixed gear and Traxxas spec tires); Big Block class, the ultimate Mudboss class with 13.5 blinky ESC, HOOSIER tires and LCG chassis. This way, we now have a true entry-level class, Sportsman, and a class that fills “the need of speed” for the experienced racer, Big Block.

RC Truck Stop:
Those sound like solid improvements and something for everyone. What do you have planned for the future of Mudboss racing?

ES:
As of now, I want to bring stability of the class structure, so no ‘big’ change in the near future! Stability is key in RC health.

RC Truck Stop:
What tips do you have someone assembling a Mudboss body?

ES:
The body comes predrilled, pre-bent, with 32 supplied screws/nuts. Only a few handmade final bents are needed to complete the build. Simply bend all the edges to a 90º angle so the body fits nicely. All useful info is right up there on our Salvas MUDboss Facebook page.

RC Truck Stop:
Do you prefer or recommend wraps or paint for these bodies?

ES:
Wrap is really the way to go. First reason, the look! A lot of full-size wrap companies offer clone style wraps of real dirt modified designs. Secondly, longevity. I have bodies that are close to four years old, and been rewrapped multiple times. One negative side of using paints, is that, if not handled properly, paint could harm the plastic—polycarbonate—and crack the edges. Racers that choose paint should make sure to use real thin layers. The aerosol in paint is real cold and it could damage the folds.

RC Truck Stop:
After the get the body done, it’s time to hit the track. Do you have any racing and setup tips for someone just starting out in Mudboss racing?

ES:
There are as many setups as there are tracks and racers. The cool thing is not much can be done to the cars. Mainly the only thing that we can work on are shocks and camber. The best advice would be to talk to local, fast Mudboss racers and ask for advice. The Mudboss community is strong and helping others is the best way to improve the popularity of the hobby . . . and class.

RC Truck Stop:
And, speaking of racing, what is the biggest race of the year for you?

ES:
Being an oval racer at heart, the biggest race on my calendar is the Snowbird Nationals down in Florida. That’s a carpet race, but the Mudboss class was kindly added by race director Mike Boylan a couple years ago, and it’s become one of the popular classes of the event. This is exactly what is cool about the class, the exact same car can be raced on dirt or carpet. Only a few minor changes are made for Snowbirds, such as the tires since foam tires are used on carpet at this event.

RC Truck Stop:
Thanks, Eric. Hopefully we’ll see you at the track.

TUNING ADVICE
The Internet is an amazing volume of information. Some of it’s actually useful. Of course, I hope you find this article useful. If you want even more, I found a few resources online that I believe have good information. One is Allen’s R/C Cars, a hobby shop and track, and a second is Murfdogg Racing, a dirt oval manufacturer and retailer. Allen’s R/C Cars’ info is geared more towards carpet, but if you want to learn the basics, it’s a great resource. On Murfdogg Racing is Chassis Tuning 101, Matt Murphy’s Dirt Oval Chassis Tuning Guide. This guide is exceptional. The only advice he gives that I disagree with is part of what he says about toe-in and toe-out. I believe slight toe-in increases straight-line stability. It makes the vehicle track straight, not twitchy. Decide for yourself. Another resource if you’re looking to take a Traxxas Slash dirt oval racing is, well, Traxxas. See the link below and check out how they built some Slashes to go fast and turn left.

Allen’s R/C Cars
Murfdogg Racing
Traxxas

RACING
My choice of race venue for the Mudboss is Thunder Alley R/C Speedway in Wilson, North Carolina. In addition to the dirt oval track, this outdoor facility features a large off-road track, which is perfect for 1/8 scale and short course action. There is also a well-stocked hobby shop, World of R/C Parts, on site. Check the schedule or give a call before heading to the track, but they race oval on every other Wednesday evening and every other Saturday. They also frequently have trophy and cash-payout races, as well as points series. In fact, the first time I raced this Mudboss was a trophy race.

In my first qualifier I fought a horrible push, but ran a consistent race. That’s code for I was slow but didn’t crash too much. But, of most importance, at least to me, I had a lot of fun.

I made a few changes for the second qualifier, such as front camber. The car still wouldn’t carve turns, but it was clearly faster. I was on pace to go a lap faster. I might have been able to go two laps faster than my first effort with some good driving. Instead, I decided to park my race car on its roof on the back straight. I couldn’t pick a worse place to crash. The push (aka understeer) was better, but still required me to run wide down the back straight. On occasion, the tires would harmless hum as they brushed the yellow corrugated pipe. Well, this one time the right front tire didn’t hum. It caught and over I went with no corner marshal in sight. My fault, not theirs. Overall, it was still a good run. Not enough for the A-main, but I was in easy position to bump up. I’m not one to count my proverbial eggs before they catch, but it was looking good.

As it turned out, I didn’t even have to run the B-main. I started near last in the A-main, but with changing track conditions and a few tweaks in the pits, my push was replaced by slightly loose. Well, lose is fast. I wouldn’t say I was anything close to a threat for the top three, but I worked my way through a large field, had some good luck along the way and finished fourth. Not bad and certainly a respectable finish.

WRAP UP
Want to try dirt oval? I hope so. There’s a reason why dirt oval is one of the fastest growing segments in RC. Thanks to classes based on popular and relatively simple platforms like the Traxxas Slash, dirt oval racing is fast, fun and action packed. With the Salvas MUDboss, specifically the Sportsman class, I was able to quickly, easily and inexpensively get in on competitive dirt oval racing. I had a blast, and after just one race at Thunder Alley, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go back.

SETUP SHEET

You might also be interested in these Mudboss articles: “7 Ways to Cheat at Mudboss Racing” and “Mudboss Setup Tips & Tricks.”

Links
Hoover Graphics & Race Wraps
Salvas MUDboss
MUDboss Rules
SMC Racing
Thunder Alley R/C Raceway
Traxxas
World of R/C Parts

Dirt Oval Traxxas Bandit Project

While the perceived upper echelons of full-size dirt oval racing may be sprint cars or late models, a huge amount of grassroots racing is done by regular Joes wheeling Street Stocks. Not only is this class a common stepping stone for up-and-coming drivers as they pursue dreams of NASCAR, but it’s the Saturday night, under-the-lights racing class of working folks. All across America, drivers spend their time and money transforming Camaros and Monte Carlos into fender-rubbing, dirt-slinging, V8-powered race machines. This is real racing. And, as it often goes, the way things work in full-size racing is how things work in RC. While some race carbon fiber-equipped, high-tech and expensive sprint cars and late models, others get dirty and up and personal with street stocks built out of old buggies. This gritty style of racing is just too cool to pass up, so I decided to build my own street stock ride. My platform of choice was the Traxxas Bandit. I could have gone with the latest and greatest 2WD buggy such as the current IFMAR world champion Team Associated B6 platform, but I decided the buggy basher’s best friend, the Traxxas Bandit, just seemed right for this down and dirty class. Don’t worry, I had a few tricks up my sleeve that I knew would turn the almost 25-year-old fun machine into a true racetrack contender.

THEN:

NOW:

ABOUT THE BANDIT
As said above, the Traxxas Bandit has been around for a long time. Released in 1995, the Bandit uses the same Magnum 272 transmission found in the 2WD versions of the Slash, Rustler and Stampede. It shares other parts such as the same chassis as the Rustler and the same shock towers seen on the entire stable. There’s no missing that they’re all related, but the Bandit is noticeably narrower than its siblings. Like the other models, over the years, to keep it from getting long in the tooth, Traxxas has updated it. Body, graphics and wheels got a modern look along the way. Metal gears replaced plastic transmission gears and the transmission now rides on ball bearings. A much better slipper clutch was also incorporated. The Stinger motor has been replaced by the Titan 12T, and a VLX brushless version, which features hex hardware, bigger 5×11 bearings in the hubs and adjustable camber links, has also been made available. The Bandit has grown up, but it is still basically the same buggy it was way back in 1995. It’s simple, fun, easy to work on and a great value. An RC car doesn’t stick around for over two decades if it isn’t a rock solid platform.

LET THE MODS BEGIN
This wouldn’t be much of a project if I left the Bandit bone stock. In addition to the obvious body and tire changes, I made improvements to the suspension and drivetrain. Overall, I kept the chassis stock because the rules where I’m racing require the battery to stay in the original centerline position. I rather offset the battery, but those are the rules. And, speaking of rules, I can’t stress enough that knowing your local rules and what is and isn’t allowed is a must-do step before you start modifying. The rules aren’t the same everywhere and what might be perfectly legal and how you TQ at one track might be blatantly illegal and get you  a DQ at another venue. Know before you go.

Now, all of that said, I knew the rules where I planned to race specifically said no aluminum suspension arms or shock towers. Okay, good. I went with graphite shock towers. At one point, the local street stock class was limited exclusively to Team Associated B4 buggies and the rules stated only stock or RPM parts. While the towers I installed weren’t aluminum and, hence, legal, they also weren’t stock or from RPM. It was a little fuzzy as to whether the graphite towers were allowed under the new rules, but with the class now allowing such high tech and high dollar buggies such at the TLR 22 5.0 and the Team Associated B6.1, I didn’t think anyone would complain about some graphite shock towers on a Traxxas Bandit.

As almost everyone in NASCAR knows and believes, at least in the good old days, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” And, as Darrell Waltrip said, “If you don’t cheat, you look like an idiot; if you cheat and don’t get caught, you look like a hero; if you cheat and get caught, you look like a dope. Put me where I belong.” He said that back in 1976 after his team was caught cheating with nitrous oxide. I might be a dope, but nitrous is a bit worse than graphite towers. Anyway, I ain’t takin’ the body off unless they make me.

CHASSIS
As I previously mentioned, the chassis is essentially stock. I did, however, make some changes to be able to mount a full-fender street stock body on a buggy. First, I added RPM’s wide front bumper. This part is a classic in RPM’s lineup. I mounted this upside down and added universal body posts mounts from Parma. This takes care of front body support and offers some additional protection. In back, I used RPM’s Adjustable Rear Body Mounts & Posts, which are typically used on the Traxxas Slash and Stampede platforms.

CHASSIS PARTS

  • Parma Body Posts 4 1/2″ Long Nylon Part Number 18053
  • RPM Adjustable Rear Body Mounts & Posts 81142
  • RPM Wide Front Bumper 81162

SUSPENSION
Buggies, which are made to tackle off-road terrain, which includes ruts, bumps and big jumps, usually have plush, long-travel suspensions. That really isn’t needed for dirt oval, so I lowered my Bandit down and upgraded the suspension at the same time.

For shocks, I went with Pro-Line’s top-of-the-line Pro-Spec shocks. These aluminum 12mm shocks are ridiculously nice. They are precision machined and high quality. The 3.5 mm shock shafts aren’t bending anytime soon and the hard chrome shaft combined with the X-ring seal is as low friction and leak-free as you need to get. The caps feature bleeder screws, so properly bleeding and matching the shocks is easy. These shocks come preassembled, but I took them apart and added 3/8 in. of fuel tubing under each Delrin piston to get the buggy lower to the ground. I filled the shocks with 30 wt. silicone fluid. The one exception was the right front shock, which I filled with 40 wt. fluid. One of the many things I love about the Pro-Spec shocks is Pro-Line offers spring assortments. And, it’s worth noting that I ran front shocks at all four corners.

For shock towers, I went with Xtreme Racing’s carbon fiber dirt oval shock towers. These are a new dirt oval specific design and, like the Pro-Line shocks they’re working with, they are very high quality. At 4 mm of glorious carbon fiber laminate, these things really dress up the Bandit. These will also fit the Traxxas Slash, Rustler and Stampede.

In addition to looking completely trick, the Xtreme towers provide a whole lot more tuning options than the stock towers. The Xtreme Racing front shock tower provides five inner camber link mounting points and 12 upper shock mount locations. The rear tower has four inner camber link mount options and 16 upper shock mounting locations.These towers worked perfectly on the Bandit, but are wide enough to accommodate the wider stance found on the Slash and Rustler. There are no compatibility issues, but most of the upper shock mounting locations won’t be used on the narrower Bandit. The rear tower also features an aluminum adapting mount and both towers include shock mounting hardware.

Between the competition on the track and occasional brushes with the outside wall, dirt oval racing is definitely a contact sport. For years, RPM has been one of the top names in RC durability, so to make sure the suspension arms wouldn’t literally snap under the pressure, I went with RPM Heavy Duty Front and Rear A-Arms. Between the beefed-up design and RPM’s tough nylon, these parts are nearly indestructible. RPM offers the front arms in blue and black and the rear arms in black. I also added RPM’s front and rear outer hubs (bearing carriers). I wasn’t really worried about the stock hubs breaking, but I know for sure the RPM parts won’t.

The Bandit, like its stablemates, uses screw-in hinge pins. The drawback of this design is as the suspension cycles up and down, the movement actually unthreads the hinge pins. This problem gets worse with use and requires constant maintenance. Pro-Line’s Pro-2 Hinge Pin Set completely solves this problem and is an upgrade that is 100% worth every penny whether you’re a backyard basher or a racer. And, in addition to being secured with a locknut, the hinge pins are hardened steel for durability and wear resistance.

SUSPENSION PARTS

  • Pro-Line Pro-2 Hingepin Set 6096-00
  • Pro-Line Pro-Spec Front Short Course Shocks 6308-30
  • Pro-Line Pro-Spec Short Course Front Spring Assortment 6308-21
  • RPM Front Bearing Carriers 80372
  • RPM Heavy Duty Front A-Arms 80492
  • RPM Heavy Duty Rear A-Arms 73282
  • RPM Rear Bearing Carriers 80382
  • Xtreme Carbon Fiber Front Shock Tower 10641
  • Xtreme Carbon Fiber Rear Shock Tower 10642

DRIVETRAIN
I once again turned to RPM. This time it was their aftermarket transmission case made for the Magnum 272. This isn’t my first rodeo with this item. I’ve used this setup for years on a brushless-powered Stampede. You can read a review here. The RPM kit replaces the transmission halves, and the RPM case design seals the hole at the bottom. The main benefit, arguably, is the 3 mm thick 6061 T6 aluminum motor plate. This helps with motor cooling and is far superior at holding the motor in position compared to the stock plastic motor mount. The real secret weapon, however, is the fact that RPM went with separate suspension arm mounts. This is a huge advantage for dirt oval because it allows you to adjust rear toe differently on each side. For example, I can, thanks to the RPM design, run 3º on the left rear and 0º on the right rear. Of course, I could run identical toe on both sides, as well. To protect the gears, I installed RPM’s popular gear cover for the Traxxas Magnum 272 transmission. The stock cover has a hole for clearance around the drive output. The RPM case fixes this problem. Be aware that the depending on the inner camber link mount locations you use, you may not have enough room for any gear cover. While I’d prefer to run a cover, if given the option, not using one isn’t a big deal. While it isn’t the case in street stock, to make tech inspection easier, many of the spec classes require you not use a gear cover.

DRIVETRAIN PARTS

  • RPM Gear Cover 80522
  • RPM Gearbox Housing and Rear Mounts 73612

BODY, TIRES & WHEELS
Five companies come to mind for Street Stock bodies–Custom Works, JConcepts, McAllister, MR/Kustoms and Shark RC Bodies. Four of the five offer Camaro shells with MR/Kustoms being the one exception. JConcepts and McAllister have ’70s-era Camaros, which are extremely popular at the track–RC and full-size. The Custom Works is a more late model ’80s Camaro and the Shark RC Bodies is a true modern-era Camaro. Did you know that the internal nickname at General Motors for the Camaro was the Panther? If that particular bow tie isn’t your thing, don’t worry. McAllister has a wide range of other offerings ranging from Mustangs to Monte Carlos, and Mr/Kustoms and Shark RC Bodies have alternatives. I guess this goes with any race class or type of RC racing, but it’s definitely true with dirt oval, you need to check your local rules before settling on a body. Some tracks have approved body lists, so check first.

I chose the McAllister 70s Camaro Street Stock body, which as I said, is probably the most popular choice. It’s made out of o.040 Lexan, but McAllister states different thicknesses are available. Matt Bury Digital Designed cut the custom vinyl numbers and lettering. If you want custom vinyl, I highly suggest hooking up with Digital Designed. As cliche as it sounds, from mild to wild, Digital Designed has you covered. Can you identify where I got the paint scheme?

[Insert grumpy old man voice] If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, tires are the single most important part of setup. [Okay, back to normal] All other things being equal, any day of the week, a car with a poor suspension and chassis setup but the right tires will beat a car with a good setup and the wrong tires. Whether you agree with me or not, at least you know how important I believe tire choice is, and with that I went with Pro-Line’s still-new Hoosier Angle Block rear tires and Super Chain Link front tires. These tires not only look scale, but are made to perform. The Angel Block tires feature a rounded side tread that, according to Pro-Line, is designed for a consistent slide that will not catch ruts. The inside of the front tires are smooth while the rear tires have reinforcement bars to help the carcass hold its shape when accelerating and cornering. The Hoosiers include Pro-Line’s blue closed-cell foam inserts and offer the tires in “soft” M3 and “super soft” M4.

We wanted learn more about the Pro-Line Hoosier tires, so we went right to the source–the designer, Pro-Line’s Gerardo Gonzalez.

RC Truck Stop:
The Pro-Line Hoosier Angle Block and Super Chain Link tires are obviously race tires, but they’re also realistic tread patterns. Is it harder to design a tire that must factor in both performance and appearance? What challenges did you encounter?
Gerardo Gonzalez:
Yes, it’s harder because you want to match that scale look, but a real car is a lot heavier, so trying to get that same grip out of a scale tire can be difficult. The challenge to get a tire to work in RC is the tread spacing can only be spaced out so much before you start losing that scale look. We believe we hit that right balance with the Hoosier tires.

RC Truck Stop:
The Pro-Line Hoosier tires include closed-cell foam inserts. What advantages does closed-cell offer open-cell inserts and how do the two materials impact handling?
GG:
The closed-cell inserts give the tire better sidewall support and it lasts longer than open-cell inserts. Dirt oval racing generates a lot more sidewall force, so that support is key in maintaining  a consistent run.

RC Truck Stop:
Do you recommend venting the wheel or tire on Hoosiers and how big and how many holes?
GG:
We generally put two holes in the wheel and two holes on the tire opposite of each other just offset from the top center of the tire. Both around 2 mm wide.

For wheels, I decided to switch from the pin-driven Traxxas wheels to hex-driven Pro-Line Veleocity 2.2 wheels. I went with what are “AE offset” wheels. To be able to use hex wheels, I installed Slash front axles and used Traxxas black hexes on all four corners. I will also use Traxxas gray hexes on front wheels when I want to increase wheel spacing, which impacts handling. It’s worth noting that the rear outer axles, not the drive shafts, are the same on the Bandit, Slash, Rustler and Stampede.

BODY, TIRES & WHEELS PARTS

  • Digital Designed Cut Vinyl Numbers
  • McAllister 70’s Camaro Street Stock Body 264
  • Pro-Line Hoosier Angle Block 2.2 M3 8274-02
  • Pro-Line Hoosier Super Chain Link 2.2 M3 8275-02
  • Pro-Line Velocity 2.2″ Hex Front Wheels 2735-04
  • Pro-Line Velocity 2.2″ Hex Rear Wheels 2736-04
  • RPM Adjustable Rear Body Mounts & Post 81142
  • Traxxas 12mm Hex Wheel Hubs w/Axle Pins 7154
  • Traxxas Slash Front Axle 3637

ELECTRONICS
For battery power, I turned to SMC. Lately, this company has been a go-to source for bashers, but, make no mistake, SMC is well known in oval racing. I chose a SMC True Spec Premium 5200 75C 2S LiPo. This is a high-quality pack offered at a reasonable price. While there are plenty of companies with much higher claimed C rates, the SMC 75C has plenty of punch and I trust the SMC numbers. To learn more about LiPos and why higher C rating labels don’t always equal more performance, check out this article.

My transmitter of choice for this build is the Hitec Lynx 4S 2.4 GHz system. This is a high-end system that is perfect for racing, as it’s loaded with adjustability. It’s just as well suited for crawling, as it has four channels and ton of programability. In this application, I most often reply on it’s exponential adjustments, for throttle and steering, and the dual rate for steering. Some of my favorite features are the built-in antenna and 30-model memory. I also love that the 12-character model naming means I don’t have to use cryptic abbreviations. My guilty pleasure on this radio is the ability to upload and program in .wav files for custom tones. The Hitec Lynx 4S is literally every radio I’ve ever loved rolled into one.

I did swap out the standard RTR Traxxas servo for a more high performance servo. Between the pipes and the other cars, a servo that’s fine for the backyard will quickly give up the ghost at the dirt track. so, for steering duties, I also went with Hitec. While hardcore racers know it, many people may not realize that Hitec makes some of the absolute best servos in the business. For this project, I’m using Hitec’s DB777WP low-profile brushless servo. This servo has a full metal case and is completely waterproof–all good features–but the reason it’s ideal for this application are its metal gears and lightning fast speed. At 6 volts the transit time is 0.08 seconds. At 7.4 volts it’s an even faster 0.06 seconds. Word of warning when using a low-profile servo such as the DB777WP, it does require some trimming of the servo mount to get the servo to clear without the servo lead getting pinched.

ELECTRONICS

  • Hitec Lynx 4S transmitter 16201
  • Hitec DB777WP Brushless Servo
  • SMC True Spec Premium 5200 75C 2S LiPo 52390-2S1P

RACING
My local track, for both off-road and dirt oval, is Thunder Alley R/C Speedway in Wilson, North Carolina, which is part of the World of R/C Parts hobby store complex. It’s a small, flat outdoor oval with clay-mix surface. It can, at times, have a thin, loose layer of dust on top and at times it gets partially grooved, meaning it’s not a full blue-groove track. Regular watering and/or use of a leaf blower on race day keeps the dust at bay and the traction up. Overall, it’s not so small that it’s a crash-fest bullring and it’s not so big that top speed is the only determining factor.

My first run with the dirt oval Street Stock Bandit was just a shakedown, but it also happened to be a trophy race. On one hand, I just wanted to make sure my best-guess baseline setup was close enough to make it around the track and, on the other hand, I wanted the car to be as close to competitive as possible. The good news is it didn’t want to instantly spin out. Okay, so I knew the tires would work. Second, I was looking for excessive body roll. Here, I’m just trying to see if I have way too soft of a suspension setup. Next, I try to eyeball where my gearing is at. I should mention that these three things–traction, body roll and gearing–are all interrelated. How so? Well, if the car wants to spin, I will probably try a gearing change before a tire change. To be more specific, if the car is spinning out, I’ll swap in a larger pinion. This is especially true if the car is on-power loose. And, if the car is rolling over too much in the turns, I’ll typically try stiffer outside springs. If that works, I’ll quickly try going down a tooth on the pinion and see if I can get away with it. Now, if the race car is loose on- and off-power and I just can’t drive the thing, I will try softer compound rear tires or a different tread pattern. Anyway, my initial goal is to just get the car race-worthy. After I have the car where I’m comfortable with it, I try to see where it might be pushing–if it’s pushing at all. This is where I’m trying to go from drivable to fast. I want the car to turn with as little steering input as possible.

This trophy race was a night race, under the lights, and consisted of two four-minute qualifiers and a five-minute main. All qualifiers and mains featured rolling starts. The qualifiers were your typical racing-again-the-clock affair, which means the rolling starts are a bit counterintuitive, at least in my opinion, but they add some fun and excitement and are good practice for the mains. I started in the back of the pack in the first qualifier and quickly moved up to second. I knew I didn’t have anything for the leader as my Bandit had a horrible push. It just didn’t want to turn, but it was fast enough and handled well enough that I easily held on to second, finished a lap down to the leader and a couple laps up on the third place car. For the second qualifier, I added a softer right front spring and stiffer right rear spring and added traction compound to both front tires. Even though I was racing in typically warm North Carolina, this night it was only 40º and getting colder. The Pro-Line Hoosier Angle Block rear tires in M4 were perfect, but I selected M3 Super Chain Link front tires. The front were probably too firm in this cold weather. The changes I made definitely helped, but the outcome was the same in the second round. I picked up a lap, but so did the race leader. I settled for second again, but was pleased to be going in the right direction. By the time the main rolled around, I found the track to be a bit slicker, which worked in my favor. I got a decent start, but I ultimately just wanted to avoid a first turn wreck. The racer starting third must have felt he had a little less to lose and dove hard into the first turn. I let him have the inside with plenty of room. I just as quickly reclaimed second and took advantage of a couple mistakes by the leader and took the lead. So, here I was leading the A-main with a Traxxas Bandit built with a bench setup (aka best-guess setup). Right then I knew it was mission accomplished for this Bandit dirt oval conversion. Since he had an overall much faster car, when the leader caught me, I didn’t exactly pull over, but I didn’t fight too hard either. I was content to let him eventually pass. I just followed in the ready for any slip ups. We had a good race going until I heard a beeping. A loud ominous beeping. My Hitec Lynx radio was dying. I hadn’t charged it in weeks and I had left it in display mode on my bench accidentally for about five minutes. Those dumb moves combined with the really cold weather meant I didn’t have enough radio juice for a five minute race. With my transmitter beeping away, I hung on for a few rather-distracted laps until while throttling down the back straight, I turned and, well, the car didn’t. Interestingly, it wasn’t the failsafe that kicked in, the metal screw backed out of the metal gear servo. Talk about the fates not being with me. Even if I had charged my radio, I never would have finished the race. Oh well, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. It seems like I was determined to be a bug actively aiming for the windshield. The Traxxas Bandit, all of the modifications, the Hitec radio were all great. I was undone by my own rookie mistakes. I’m not exactly crying a river. Like I said, it was clearly mission accomplished. I froze my butt off, but I had fun and this car will be back at the track as soon as possible.

WRAP UP
Well, that was fun. I absolutely love the Street Stock class and was thrilled with my Traxxas Bandit race machine. While I’m not 100% sure it wasn’t the only Bandit out there, I liked having something a little different and I got a thrill out of running up front with a more budget build–at least in comparison to the brand new buggies. For more on the budget build aspect, see the “epilogue” below. While it’s built for fun, there’s no doubt the Traxxas Bandit can be a competitive dirt oval race car. If you already have a Traxxas Bandit or have a line on a good used one, doing a Traxxas Bandit dirt oval conversion is a no brainer. If you’re racing a Traxxas platform in another class, such as Mudboss, it also makes sense to go with a Bandit for the convenience of parts interchangeability. The Bandit I created is going to see a lot more track action. In fact, I’ve been so impressed with it, I plan to build a second one for my son. Hope to see you at the track.

Links
Digital Designed
Hitec
McAllister
Parma
Pro-Line
RPM
SMC Racing
STRC
Thunder Alley R/C Raceway
Traxxas
World of R/C Parts
Xtreme Racing

Epilogue
I’ve worked in RC media since 1998. First, as a freelance writer and eventually as a group editor-in-chief. Over the years, I’ve built many project vehicles and have seen many more. I have tried to avoid the bolt-on bonanzas. I’ve never been a fan of installing every widget just for the sake of replacing every part. These sort of project vehicles almost always end up being really expensive shelf queens. Usually, loaded with aluminum, they shine like a Cadillac bumper, but weigh three times as much as stock and often perform worse in every category. For me, I always start with a theme and/or purpose for each build. The purpose for this project is pretty obvious–race performance. In my opinion, the goal was achieved. But, I believe it would be a bad idea if you built a Traxxas Bandit Street Stock exactly the way I did. What? Some of the parts didn’t work well? Nope. The parts and Bandit all kicked butt. So, let me explain. One of the best and most frequent reasons to go with a Bandit as a race platform is that it can be done on a budget. The second best reason, maybe even tied for first, is the substantial factory and aftermarket support. If you take full advantage of the second reason all at once, spend a good chunk of change and bolt-on a bunch of awesome modifications, you kind of defeat the first reason. Hey, it’s your money, but I advise building as you race. Slow your roll. In my opinion, if you’re going to cruise into the hobby store and drop hundreds all at once, you might as well get a buggy kit that’s made specifically for racing. Granted, the Bandit will probably still win the budget battle in the long run. My goal is to show what could be built, not what needs to be built all at once. So, by all means, do it your way, but please just realize you don’t need to go on a spending spree to get a Traxxas Bandit ready to race on a dirt oval.

Update (1/7/2020): I finished my project dirt oval Bandit weeks ago. Between racing and going up to practice, it’s been to the track multiple times. But, is an RC project ever really done? Since finishing my original build, I have messed with setup and I’ve also added a few parts. The first addition is an aluminum bulkhead from STRC (ST Racing Concepts). This CNC-machined piece replaces the stock plastic bulkhead and provides a secure mount for the front suspension arms, bumper and shock tower. Besides being beautifully machined, what I like most about STRC’s bulkhead is it isn’t just an aluminum exact copy of the stock component. The geometry is the same, but front of the bulkhead is hollowed out, which creates the perfect spot to add chassis weight if desired. If you know 2WD buggies you know it’s fairly common to add nose weight. Today’s buggies are light enough and so overpowered that we can add weight where we want it instead searching for ways to shed every ounce possible. Not only does the STRC aluminum bulkhead easily accommodate ballast, but it’s slightly heavier than the stock plastic piece it replaces–39 grams versus 25 grams. That’s not exactly a profound difference, but it does add weight where I want it. I choose gum metal, but STRC also offers this part in blue, green, red and silver.

The other part I added was also from STRC. This time it was their CNC Machined Heat Treated Polished Front King Pins. The kingpins on the Bandit, Rustler, Stampede and Slash are notorious for bending and that exactly what one of mine did. Dirt oval is a contact sport. These are sold in pairs, so even though I bent one, I replaced both.

Last, in addition to trying a variety of spring combinations, messing with shock fluid (I’m now running 30 wt. in all four shocks), tweaking camber and front wheel spacing (I’m using a gray wide front hex on the left front tire), I switched to “super soft” M4 compound on all four Pro-Line Hoosier tires.

NEW PARTS

  • Pro-Line Hoosier Angle Block 2.2 M4 8274-03
  • Pro-Line Hoosier Super Chain Link 2.2 M4 8275-03
  • Pro-Line Velocity 2.2″ Hex Front Wheels 2735-04
  • Pro-Line Velocity 2.2″ Hex Rear Wheels 2736-04
  • STRC Aluminum Front Bulkhead ST2530GM
  • STRC CNC Machined Heat Treated Polished Front King Pins ST3640-FK

 

RPM Roof Skid Rails for Traxxas X-Maxx

As RPM points out a fast, big rig like the overpowered and oversized Traxxas X-Maxx is going to spend some time on its lid. Accidents happens, and with all that power and all that mass, it won’t take too many trips down the road upside down to eat right through the Lexan roof.

RPM’s new Roof Skid Rails are a simple add-on that bolts to the roof of a Traxxas X-Maxx truck using three screws for each rail. Support plates go under the body and prevent the mounting screws from pulling through. Two rails are included in each package. It’s a pretty straightforward mod and well worth it if you know how much a replacement X-Maxx body will run you.

Learn more here.

RC Race Day Bingo

Some crazy stuff goes down at the RC track on race day. Instead of just shaking your head at all of the shenanigans, you can now have some fun with it and make it all part of the competition with RC Truck Stop’s version of RC Race Day Bingo. Below are three cards for you and a couple race buddies. Good luck!

JConcepts Creep Body

There are a lot of ways to go with JConcepts new Creep body. It’s perfect for use on a crawler, but will also make an excellent mud truck shell. The body is made to drop on a 12.3 in. wheelbase chassis. The Creep is narrow and even features a dove-tailed rear section for improved clearance when navigating tough trails. JConcepts includes a Creep decal sheet, overspray film and window masks.

Learn more here.

 

 

Traxxas TRX-4 Sport Body with Camper (Cap)

Pretty straightforward release. Traxxas has a new version of the Sport body for the TRX-4, but this one has a cap, or as Traxxas is calling it, a camper. The Sport body is a generic pickup that with a little creativity can be made to resemble any number of late model designs. The new Traxxas body comes with overspray film, window masks and a decal sheet.

Learn more here.

Traxxas Maxx Accessories

 

Traxxas has always offered an excellent selection of hop-up parts for its vehicles and the new Maxx looks to be no different. At the recent SEMA Show, Traxxas unveiled a bunch of new Maxx parts.

The aluminum parts included caster blocks, steering blocks, and stub axle carriers that are all precision-machined and anodized red, green, orange or blue.

The Tubes links add adjustable toe-in and anodized color to the Maxx. The aluminum and steel hybrid construction offers incredible strength yet minimizes weight. Traxxas will offer the links in red, blue, green and orange to match the other anodized Maxx upgrades.

The GT-Maxx Shocks take the Maxx suspension to the next level. Super-slick TiN (titanium nitride) coated shock shafts reduce “stiction” to extend seal life and deliver ultra-smooth action. You can add anodized aluminum shock caps and upper spring retainers to tie your whole custom look together.

Learn more here.

Pro-Line 2020 Jeep Gladiator Body

You had to know this was coming. Well, here it is. This Pro-Line version of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator body is a perfect fit for any 12.3 in. wheelbase scaler.

It’s a Lexan one-piece body with all the details down from the new hood design that started with the JL to the Gladiator’s pickup rear box.

As usual, Pro-Line includes window masks, overspray film and decals.

Learn more here.

Pro-Line Street Fighter HP 3.8″ Street Belted Tires Mounted

Going fast. It’s why most of us are drawn to RC cars. Speed is fun, and specialized equipment such as LiPo batteries and brushless motors have it much easier to go fast–really fast. But, until recently, one part of the package wasn’t keeping up with the technology. If you’ve ever seen a big brushless truck grow pizza cutters, you know I’m talking about tires. Pro-Line is changing that with its lineup of belted. The Street Fighter HP 3.8″ Street Belted Tires are, as the name indicates, belted tires and pre-mounts. And, as you can guess from the name, they are on a 3.8 in. monster truck wheel. The come in Pro-Line’s soft M2 compound.

The Street Fighter HP tire comes in at 6.22 in. tall and 3.11 in., and includes soft foam inserts. The Raid 10-spoke wheels are molded in a DuPont nylon and feature removable 17 mm wide offset (1/2 in.) hexes that can be replaced.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Pro-Line’s HP Belted tires have a herringbone weave integrated into the carcass of the tire. The purpose is to eliminate the ballooning caused by high RPMs.

Learn more here.

Arrma 1/5 Kraton 4X4 8S BLX Brushless Speed Monster Truck

 

Brushless and LiPo technology have sure changed this hobby. When I got into this hobby, you were crossing your fingers for four minutes of runtime and world championships were won with cars that barely broke 20 mph. That was the best equipment available. These days you can stroll into a hobby store and get a 1/5-scale off-road monster that is capable of doing highway speeds over off-road terrain. It’s a good time to be in the RC hobby. Clearly built to take on the Traxxas X-Maxx, Arrma’s new 1/5-scale Kraton takes full advantage of brushless and LiPo power.

A Spektrum DX2E Active transmitter matched with a SR6100AT AVC (Active Vehicle Control) receiver enable the telemetry technology found in the Spektrum Smart Firma brushless motor and speed control. Users can download the free Spektrum Dashboard App to a mobile device to view motor RPM, speed control temperature, receiver voltage, drive pack voltage and more in real-time. Extra stability can be dialed-in via the radio’s AVC system.

According to Arrma, the big 1/5-scale Kraton 8S BLX 4WD is capable of over 55 mph MPH speeds when equipped with two 4S LiPo batteries and optional pinion gear that’s available separately.

Features

  • Laser-etched aluminum anodized chassis plate
  • Composite chassis side pods
  • Triangular structured center brace system for maximum durability
  • Fluid-filled adjustable shocks with 20 mm bore
  • Thick composite plastic front and rear shock towers
  • Easy-access 3-bolt sliding motor mount for quick motor removal
  • Aluminum motor mount and hubs
  • Heavy-duty drivetrain
  • Durable steel driveshafts throughout
  • Easy-access front and rear diff module design
  • All-metal diff outdrives and gearbox internals
  • Easy-access waterproof electronics module
  • Heavy-duty dual spring servo saver
  • Multi-split spoke wheels
  • Durable wheel hubs for increased strength
  • Multi-terrain dBoots COPPERHEAD 2 SB tires
  • High downforce wing
  • Integrated internal body protection tower
  • Spektrum DX2E Active 2.4 GHz Radio with SR6100AT AVC Receiver
  • Spektrum Firma 160A Smart speed control
  • Spektrum Firma 1250 Kv brushless motor
  • Spektrum S905 Metal-Gear digital servo

 

Metal shafts, turnbuckles and outdrives, plus all-metal internal gears, give the drivetrain and suspension system the strength need for 8S power. The anodized aluminum chassis plate features composite side pods and a triangular center brace for maximum durability. Thick composite plastic front and rear shock towers hold massive 20 mm bore, fluid-filled adjustable shocks.

For power, a 1250 Kv Spektrum Firma brushless motor is mounted with three bolts onto a sliding aluminum mount for quick access. The waterproof electronics module, designed for easy access, houses and protects more Spektrum gear. The motor receives power through a Firma Smart 160A speed control.

 

Available in two color schemes, the Kraton truck body, like other “monster trucks,” looks more like a truggy than a car crusher and includes a high-downforce wing. A center protection tower on the chassis interfaces with the roll cage for increased body durability. The big basher rides on multi-split spoke wheels with aluminum wheel hubs, and dBoots COPPERHEAD 2 SB tires.

How Big Is It?
The Arrma Kraton 1/5 8S measures in at 29.92 in. long with a wheelbase of 19.33 in. Width is 23.7 in. All of this means it is definitely shares similar dimensions to the Traxxas X-Maxx, but has far more of a low-slung truggy look compared to the X-Maxx’s somewhat more monster truck stance.

Learn more here.

JConcepts 2005 Chevy 1500 Samson Body

The Samson car crusher, with its muscle-bound arms running along the fenders, is one of the most iconic vehicles in monster trucks. The unique creation is the work of chassis builder Dan Patrick, who is undeniably a legend in the sport of monster truck racing. The Sampson monster truck concept was created when Patrick was contracted by a TV company in the early 90s to produce something for the show, American Gladiator.

The body includes window mask, 2005 generation Chevy Silverado specific decal sheet, racerback, and visor. In addition, JConcepts includes the Samson graphics wrap.

Learn more here.

RC Discharger Logo Contest

Are you the creative type? If so, try your hand at designing the new RC Discharger logo and you could win a free Resistor Bank for the iCharger DUO. Value of this prize is $179.

RC Discharger states there are three steps to participate:

Step1: Follow and like Facebook Page “RC Discharger”
Step2: Share the post publicly
Step3: Submit your logo design by December 4, 2019 as a comment of the post.

RC Discharger will choose the logo that best fits the brand and announce winner’s name on Dec. 11, 2019.

Visit the RC Discharger Facebook page here.
See and learn more about the prize here.

STRC Aluminum and Brass Shock Parts for Element RC Enduro

Adding to its growing list, ST Racing Concepts (STRC) has more option parts for the Element RC Enduro. This time it’s CNC-machined aluminum upper shock caps, brass lower spring retainers and brass lower shock/suspension link mounts.

The machined grips around the shock caps are designed for easier maintenance. These are available in black, gun metal, silver and limited edition red anodizing. Sold as a set of four.

The CNC-machined brass lower spring retainers and lower shock/suspension link mounts add a combined weight of nearly 60 grams to the lower portion of the Associated Element RC Enduro, which should lower the center of gravity for more stability on steep climbs. The lower spring retainers are sold separately from the shock/link mounts and as sets of four.

Learn more here.