This is a story of transformations, rebirth, second chances, rebuilding and ultimately new beginnings (yes, use your inner deep movie trailer voice while reading that). No, it’s not a Nicholas Sparks novel tuned into a Hollywood melodrama. I’m talking about a Traxxas Rustler stadium truck that was once reconfigured into a monster truck, bashed at the BMX track and skate park until it was a pile of bent and broken parts and then rebuilt and taken in an entirely new direction. As many of you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for versatile RC cars. While I like my specialized vehicles such as my carpet-only racers and my 2.2 comp crawlers (actually I’m kind over the latter), I love rigs that aren’t one-trick ponies. So, versatility was the mission with this build. I wanted to build a truck that could go directly from the backyard to the track. You get a lot for your money when you can get twice as much use out of a truck. I also wanted to maybe inspire a few people to see a pile of parts not as discarded junk, but instead as a plethora of potential.
This whole idea of a basher/racer started with STRC’s Slash 2WD LCG Conversion Kit that is designed to stretch a Traxxas Rustler chassis to short course dimensions thus creating a low center of gravity Slash. This kit has been available for awhile and is a simple and affordable way to create a low CG Slash. Traxxas now has its own conversion kit will an all new chassis, but I wanted to make good use of the broken down Rustler monster mashup I had collecting dust and spider webs. I was also curious how well the STRC conversion worked.
The STRC kit includes a number of aluminum plates to move the transmission back from the chassis. The end result is a short course appropriate wheelbase. To shave a few grams of weight (17 g to be exact) and add some racer styling, I used STRC’s optional lightweight plates (graphite upper and fiberglass lower) that replace two of the aluminum plates.
The installation was easily done. STRC has instructions online, which I ended up needing to check out when I second guessed if I was putting it together correctly. Don’t let that fool you as the build is more than pretty easy. Typically, six bolts (four big, two small) go into the transmission, so I originally kept trying to figure out how to arrange the plates to get all four big bolts into the transmission. The trick is the conversion only uses two. When I eventually conceded and looked over the instructions, I got the conversion finished in a matter of minutes. I did have to improvise the mounting of the upper plate to the chassis, but more on that in the suspension section.
The end result looks good and feels sufficiently rigid. While the wheelbase stretch is significant compared to the Rustler I started with, the end result is about 10 mm shorter than a Slash. The kit is only $49.99, which is pretty inexpensive in my book. It costs more than Traxxas plastic LCG chassis, but less than the performance conversion kits.
- Aluminum Caster Blocks Gunmetal >> ST3632GM >> $19.99
- Heat Treated Steel Lock-Nut Hinge-Pin Kit Black >> ST3640BK >> $17.99
- Light Weight Chassis Components Combo >> ST5822-LW >> $20.99
- Oversized Aluminum Front Knuckle Gunmetal >> ST3636GM >> $25.99
- Slash 2WD LCG Conversion Kit >> ST5822S >> $49.99
The Pro-Line name is synonymous with tires and bodies, but in recent years they have expanded their offerings to include numerous performance accessories and even a complete short course kit, the Pro-2 SC. I used Pro-Line’s ProTrac suspension kit for the Slash with their Power Stroke shocks. The kit, which includes new suspension arms, shock towers, camber links and ProTrac offset wheels, widens the suspension, improves the overall geometry, increases durability and offers more adjustments. I mounted the shocks using Pro-Line’s universal mounting kit. If you own a Slash, Rustler, Bandit, Monster Jam truck or Stampede, this hardware kit may be the best $10 you can spend on your vehicle. Traxxas shoulder bolts are notorious for backing out on one side, and this collection of bolts and nuts completely eliminates the annoying problem. Because, at the time of this writing, it’s mid winter, I also picked up Pro-Line’s front and rear spring assortments to be able to tune for indoor off-road racing.
The only hitch I had with the Pro-Line system really has nothing to do with it. The issue was the base of the rear shock tower is thicker than stock for increased durability. This meant I had to alter how the top plate of the STRC kit got bolted to the chassis. No big deal really.
I also upgraded the hinge pins with STRC’s Lock-Nut style hinge pin kit. Like the shoulder bolts used for the shocks upper mounts, the stock screw-in hinge pins loosen on one side as the suspension cycles.
- 1966 Ford F-100 body>> 3408-00 >> $37.36
- Performance Transmission >> 6092-00 >> $114.71
- Power Stroke SC Shock Mounting Hardware Kit >> 6063-05 >> $9.31
- Power Stroke Shocks Front >> 6063-00 >> $53.51
- Power Stroke Shocks Rear >> 6063-01 >> $53.51
- ProTrac Suspension Kit >> 6062-00 >> $62.01
- Spring Assortment Front >> 6063-00 >> $17.81
- Sprint Assortment Rear >> 6063-01 >> $17.81
Traxxas’ Magnum 272 transmission has received some nice updates over the years, but it still isn’t ideal for racing. It’s 100% fine for bashing and sportsman class racing, but my dual purpose short course needs to be able to hold its own in a competitive environment. I once again turned to Pro-Line and its still new line of accessories. Pro-Line’s Performance transmission is a direct swap, but is a huge improvement in many ways. The motor plate is aluminum for durability, heat dissipation and far less flex than the stock plastic motor mount. The materials used are extremely high quality and comparable to what you’d fine used on any high end racer. The gears are lighter and more efficient and the gear diff is sealed and prefilled with silicone fluid.
BUMPERS & BODY MOUNTS
If Pro-Line is synonymous with tires and bodies, RPM is the name of durability in RC. They were a natural when it came time to look for the perfect bumpers for a basher/racer. Besides wanting a setup that could take a serious hit, I wanted some of the scale realism that has already started to fade from the short course scene. RPM’s front bumper/slid plate combo is a stout piece of flexible nylon. The absence of a top brace enables the assembly to flex and absorb impact. I trimmed away the front bumper of the Lexan body for a clean look and to provide plenty of room for the bumper to flex and do its thing. RPM has truly perfected its blends of nylon, so between the design and the material, I foresee this bumper doing its job and preventing other parts from getting damaged and I highly doubt it will break any time soon.
- Adjustable Front Body Mounts >> 81122 >> $9.95
- Adjustable Rear Body Mounts >> 81142 >> $9.95
- Mud Flap System >> 81012 >> $10.95
- Rear Bumper for the Traxxas Slash 2wd Black >> 81002 >> $11.95
- Tail Light Set >> 81030 >> $9.95
- Traxxas Slash 2wd Front Bumper & Skid Plate Black >> 80952 >> $12.95
- Traxxas Slash Rear Bumper Mount Black >> 80901 >> $9.95
The rear bumper is a very scale representation of what real short course trucks have hanging out back. To further add realism, I added RPM’s optional mud flaps and brake lights. The rear bumper was not a direct fit on this project because I was using the Pro-Line transmission, but with some head scratching and a little bit of creative trimming of RPM’s Rear Bumper Mount, I eventually got the bumper securely mounted.
Because body mounts take a beating on a big bodied short course truck and because the stock Traxxas body mounts don’t really offer any adjustability, I used RPM’s front and rear body mount kits. Besides being durable and an improved design, the RPM mounts have generous mounting pads for the body to test on. As someone who has punched a few body posts through Lexan, I really appreciate this.
BODY, TIRES & WHEELS
While the STRC chassis conversion was the main inspiration or kicking off point for this build, Pro-Line’s 1966 Ford F-100 body was a close second. Besides its cool retro styling that just about everyone loves, I was drawn to the non-fastback bed that was, instead, molded like a real pickup bed. I didn’t want a body that only looked at home at the track, and this body fit the bill perfectly. That said, I didn’t want it to look out of place at the track, so Bill Zegers of Zegers RC Graffixx put down a paint scheme that, in my opinion, looks fresh without compromising the classic lines of the ’66 pickup.
As much as I’d love to have a truck that was grab-and-go, when it comes to tires, unfortunately, what works well in the backyard isn’t likely to work well at the track. Heck, what works at one track won’t necessarily work at another track. For backyard bashing, I went with Pro-Line Gladiator tires in the M2 compound. The tires are super aggressive and the M2 isn’t so soft that the lugs roll over without digging in. The M2 will also survive occasional blasts across pavement far better than tires molded in M3 and M4 compounds. I mounted the Gladiators on Pro-Line’s Split-Six wheels. Out of habit, I opened up each of the stock breather holes to 3 mm to cut down on tire induced bounce when landing from jumps. As for the tires I will use for racing, that will depend completely on my venue of choice.
As I said above, as I write this, it’s winter and outdoor racing just ain’t happening. To get my track fix, I paid a visit to Wolcott Hobby’s indoor track in Waterbury, CT. Indoor racing is far more setup dependent than outdoor racing. Tires are still the most important aspect, but all the other details do matter more when running on the brown pavement indoor aficionados like to call an off-road surface. I’m not a hatin’ (as the kids say) on indoor off-road racing. I enjoy it when I get to go often enough to dial in a setup and learn the track–same way I feel about touring cars. Outdoors, I just show up, and that’s what this truck is all about. Point is running indoors makes it a bit more difficult to get a truck that you can bash on Saturday and race on Sunday.
Since a racer has got to do what a racer has got to do and because we actually do real testing here at RC Truck Stop, I put in a little tuning effort on my part. I added 4 mm worth of spacers to the inside of the front shocks and 7 mm inside the rear shocks. I went with 40 wt front shock fluid and 35 wt in the rear. I used stiffer front springs and didn’t use a two-stage spring setup on the front or rear. Even this relatively mild tuning and tweaking goes against the nature of the project, but I was committed to getting a good assessment of the truck’s track potential. Since indoor dirt racing was my only option, I departed a bit from my goal of creating a basher/racer that is grab and go.
Once at the track, the non race specific body got some looks, but the truck quickly proved it could handle itself. From the outside, this truck may look more like a basher than a racer, but under the big body is some well designed suspension and drivetrain parts. Pro-Line nailed it will this gear. Add in the low CG that the STRC conversion provides and the end result is a pretty track-worthy truck that gives up none of its ability to bash. I entered the 17.5 class and held my own just fine. I ran Hot Bodies Beams in their pink compound mounted on Pro-Line Split-Six wheels. I nabbed second, but really had nothing for the guy who finished first. While my driving was less than spectacular, the real problem was a lack of speed. A fresh pack in place of the old Enerland 25C pack I was using might have made a big difference. If I were planning to race this truck weekly, I would probably also switch out the HB Beams for Pro-Line Ion tires and drop in a new motor (the Tekin I used has many miles on it). The main point is the truck itself is fully capable of racing.
I am 100% confident I have a truck, that come warmer weather, I can both bash and race. I hope this build inspires you do add something similar to your RC collection. I know a lot of “serious racers” who still, even to this day, scoff at the short course classes, but I think a build like this would be perfect for them. They don’t have to take it too seriously and they can get a lot of use out of it as a basher and as an additional race machine. If you’re one of those racers who doesn’t own a basher, this style of truck is the perfect way to have some fun away from the track. If you’re a casual racer who just wants to have fun at and away from the track, you need a truck like this. Not everyone is so committed to racing that they like the idea of having a truck that only gets use at the track.
Overall, this truck is a budget build, but it does add up. Please realize that all of these mods don’t need to be done at once. Take your time and start with the cheapest platform you can. I started with what was once a Rustler, but you can probably score a thrashed on Slash on the cheap and pick and choose your upgrades as you go along. I hope you give it a shot.