The year was 1988, I was 11 years old. The Minnesota Twins were fresh off a World Series win. After taking my Sears Lobo II to it’s limits (whatever that means to an 11 y/o), it was time for an upgrade.
I had purchased a copy of Radio Control Car Action magazine from the local hobby shop – Jolly’s Toys and Hobby in Apache Plaza. Inside, I found this article with all of its 80s flair:
The Raider was my first real R/C kit model. I put it all together myself, with a little help from my dad. I remember my parents got me a small tool kit to get started. I bought the cheapest Futaba stick radio possible to go with it, reused the battery and charger from my Lobo II, and off I went.
The best part about having a kit model was all of the upgrades I could do to this entry level car. One of the first things I did was upgrade the bronze bushings to full ball bearings. What a difference!
I also bought some full aluminium oil-filled shocks to replace the stock friction dampers. At one point I had mounted the front as a mono-shock, similar to the Tamiya Hotshot:
I didn’t do this because it was a better suspension setup (clearly it wasn’t). I did it because it “looked cool.”
I had also crashed it enough upside-down that the included wing was trashed and torn. At Jolly’s I bought a generic aftermarket wing and made it fit. The wing was positively huge. Even tackier, I had painted it black and wrote “Raider” in cursive on it using some sparkly gold nail polish that belonged to my mom. It certainly clashed with the black/silver paint scheme I had on the body, but it was the 80s so I give it a pass.
I upgraded the mechanical speed controller to whatever Novak’s cheapest model was at the time. I remember having to choose carefully because most ESCs did not have reverse. As a kid I couldn’t fathom why anyone would not want reverse. I wanted 100% reverse speed for stunt driving.
At one point, for my birthday a friend bought me 3 Sanyo NiCad cells. Sanyo was the gold-standard of batteries at the time. Why 3? I don’t know, maybe that was all he could afford. But rather than me buying another 3 to construct a new battery, I just took the end-cap off of my Sears Lobo stick pack and wired them in like a saddle pack to make a 9-cell battery. My speed controller was rated up to 10-cells, so why not?
I’m pretty sure I only ran the 9-cell a few times. I remember the car handling very differently because of the extra weight, but it also had a new insane top speed. When I got done with the run, the plastic shielding on the wires to the Tamiya battery connector were melting.
The final iteration of the Raider was when I turned it (briefly) into a rocket car. My interests were leaning towards skateboarding and probably girls, so racing toy cars probably wasn’t considered cool.
My Radio Control Car Action subscription had lapsed, but I still had the May 1990 issue with an article called “The Final Countdown” where they made a rocket car out of a 1:12 scale pan car.
I may have stripped some gears during my 9-cell adventure. So I figured why not take this thing to it’s conclusion. I removed the motor and all the gears from the square gearbox and took a 1″ drill bit to the back – just the right size to jam in a D-size Estes motor.
I only left in the electronics to control the steering – no brakes. I set a cinder block behind the car and launched it down the street. It was a sight to behold.
Since I had a few rocket motors, I did another launch but this time I aimed it at a quarter-pipe ramp that my brother and I had built for skateboarding. I remember it went off of the ramp, almost straight up. It stalled and seem to hang in the air, the rocket was still going full blast but couldn’t overcome the weight of the car. Finally the car came crashing down, right on my custom rear wing. It was an epic swan song for the Kyosho Raider.