| |

HPI Desert Trophy Truck Ivan Stewart Edition Review

It’s not hard to see that this RC truck is perfect for RC Truck Stop. After all, it even has truck in its name! But, this isn’t one of those deals where it’s called a truck, but looks more like an open-fender buggy or a “truck” built on a car chassis. This little truck has the looks to prove its “truck-ness” and is probably one of the most realistic looking bashers I’ve seen in a long time. And true to being a truck, it is built to bash. Check it out:

> Fully assembled and RTR out of the box
> $269.99
> Rigid but light plastic chassis
> 4WD drivetrain
> Highly realistic roll cage
> Body comes in sections
> 4-wheel independent suspension
> Two spare tires
> Threaded plastic shocks
> Adjustable slipper clutch

You may know that HPI stands for Hobby Products International, but did you know that the company was first founded in the U.S. and not Japan such as similar companies such as Tamiya and Kyosho. HPI was launched 1986 and now has multiple offices around the world.

For its main foundation, the Desert Trophy Truck utilizes a conventional composite nylon plastic tub chassis. While this may seem somewhat old-school, it provides a smooth bottom to glide over rough terrain, keeps the over all weight of the truck low and still provides the strength a truck like this needs. The molded composite plastic roll cage ties into the chassis in multiple locations, adding stiffness and more strength. The chassis is also well balanced due to the placement of the motor and battery. The motor and slipper clutch sit on the right hand side of the chassis tub while the battery has a cozy little spot for it on the other side.


The section of the cage that holds the two spare tires is hinged and secured with an easy to use thumbscrew. The rear section flips up to allow access to the battery.

Ivan Stewart has been inducted in multiple motor sports hall of fames and is still the only driver to win the Baja 100 overall while driving solo.


Overall, the Desert Trophy Truck’s suspension is anything but conventional. The front is straightforward with beefy double A-arm setup.  The rear suspension, however, is truly unique. It utilizes what is known as a trailing arm setup. In addition to the long arms that sweep back along the rear portion of the truck and attach to the rear suspension, each side has one upper A-arm and three plastic links underneath that add additional support. The front and rear shocks are threaded, plastic-bodied, fluid-filled shocks that aren’t necessarily anything out of the ordinary, but threaded bodies are a very nice touch. HPI states the stock fluid is the equivalent of 35-weight silicone shock fluid. Up top, the shocks mount to the roll cage, instead of conventional shock towers. The Desert Trophy Truck comes with aluminum front and rear suspension blocks or uprights (usually an option part) that add durability over plastic pieces.

The drivetrain is pretty simple. It’s a sealed shaft driven setup that is built to be tough and not require a lot of maintenance. The center transmission is connected to the front and rear differentials with stout plastic universal shafts. The drivetrain has gear differentials front and rear with an adjustable single-pad slipper clutch on the center transmission, which will help protect the drivetrain. To get the power from the differentials to the wheels, steel dog bones are used.  The motor mounts securely to the chassis thanks to the aluminum motor mount which also acts as a heat sink to help reduce temperatures. Everything on the Desert Trophy Truck rides on ball bearings to keep friction low, reduce wear and generally increase performance.

Masami Hirosaka, who has won more RC world championships than anyone else, won his first world championship using an HPI motor in 1987.

Just like the shaft driven drivetrain, the electronics that come installed in the HPI Desert Trophy Truck aren’t anything complicated, but they definitely get the job done. For a speed control, the truck is outfitted with an HPI SC-15 speed control which features reverse and comes with a standard “Tamiya connector.” To get the truck moving, an HPI 15t Firebolt sealed-can, non-rebuildable brushed motor is used. A standard, plastic-geared servo is used to turn those scale-looking tires and wheels, and to control it all, an AM 27MHz 2-channel is included.


Tires, Wheels & Body
I hate to say it, but even if this thing performed like a dump truck on a race track (which it doesn’t, thankfully), I’d still buy it because of the scale realism! HPI did an amazing job on the scale detail of this truck, something that is very rarely found on anything but trail trucks. The truck utilizes a paneled-body that is secured on top of the roll cage, which gives it a very realistic look. The wheels and tires aren’t any less realistic than the body. The tires are extremely scale, but I’m just not sure why HPI chose to use a somewhat on-road like tread when this is an off-road vehicle. Even so, they sure look cool!

The Ivan Stewart Edition of Desert Trophy Truck is built on the original TSA Motorsports version which, in turn, is a scale replica of the full-size TSA Motorsports race truck that uniquely uses independent front and rear suspension.  All of Ivan Stewarts trucks that he fielded for Toyota actually used solid rear axles.

After checking all the ins and outs of the truck, like should be done on every ready-to-run vehicle, I decided to hit my track, also known as my driveway! I was surprised to see just how much pep the stock, n0-frills Firebolt 15t brushed motor exhibited. From a standstill it would reach top speed within several seconds, partially thanks to the 4WD drivetrain. Due to the traction that the pavement gave the grippy little stock tires, the truck exhibited very realistic body roll which closely mimicked the way full scale off road trucks look when making a sharp turn. This just added to the scale realism of the truck, which is already amazing when it’s just sitting there! Even though the truck had body roll, it very rarely flipped or got off the ground, which is perfect for an inexperienced driver.

Next, I decided to test the truck where it really belongs–the dirt! In loose dirt, the Desert Trophy Truck would pretty much just drift around corners, throwing up rooster tails the whole way. Off-road is where I really started to notice the weak stock servo. It never showed signs of giving out on me, but the servo did lack adequate torque, which is needed in most off-road conditions. This is no big worry, though, because there are tons of aftermarket servos on the market now that cost under $20 and perform well. Other than the servo, the truck performed very well overall on almost all surfaces, and could easily be made to conquer even rougher terrain with the installation of bigger and more aggressive tires, although I have to admit that I really do love the scale look of the stock tires and wheels. The best part about taking the truck off-road was that it never needed additional maintenance because of the sand or mud.  HPI did an exceptional job preventing debris from interfering with the driveline, which is mainly thanks to the scale body and tub style chassis.

Lastly, I wanted to test the truck’s durability. As a basher and only a basher, I beat the you-know-what out of my RC vehicles! That’s just what bashers do. So naturally the truck was put through its paces during testing, taking plenty of spills and tumbles. During all of testing (and video and photo shoots), the truck never broke anything except part of the front bumper. This was from repeated hard front end impact that few RC trucks this size would likely survive unscathed, so I’m not going to count that against the HPI Desert Trophy Truck. Other than that and normally scratches that come with running on pavement, the truck held up perfectly.

At the end of the day, I had a lot of fun with the HPI Desert Trophy Truck. Even though it may only have a brushed motor, AM radio, and relatively weak servo, it still scoots along pretty well and is blast to watch just because it’s so scale.

I was very pleased with the Desert Trophy Truck’s performance overall. There’s no doubt that it’s pure basher with outstanding durability, but it’s also fun to run around. The design and build quality of this truck is killer. No expensive or unneeded materials were used, but the neat and sturdy roll cage remained solid, while the innovative trailing arm rear suspension works great.

This RC truck would be the perfect addition to anyone’s collection, but more specifically if you’re relatively new to the hobby or if you’re just looking for something a tad more  than the standard RC. Or, you could just be somewhere in between with just a desire to have fun!

The stock AM radio system works fine, but this technology is starting to show its age and become outdated compared to what many RTRs are coming with, so I would like to see a 2.4GHz system used in the near future.

> Scale roll cage and tires look awesome
> Body comes in panels like the real thing
> Overall design is different than average RC
> Electronics offer reliable performance

> Stock servo is slightly underpowered
> Truck is geared too high out of the box
> Battery wires can contact the center driveline

HPI Racing

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.