The 10 Best RC Rock Crawlers
A Brief History Of RC Cars
These staggering speed records were a precursor to what the 1990s held for RC cars — a focus on speed.
Along with the first computer game and the compact disc, the 1960s gave us another iconic invention — the radio-controlled car, the first of such being a 1/12-scale, nitro-powered Ferrari 250LM created by Italian electronics company Elettronica Giocattoli in 1966.
By 1968, a number of other manufacturers were already selling their own RC cars in both 1/12 and 1/8 scales, including WEN, Mardave, and Model Car Enterprises. Throughout the end of the 1960s, RC cars were only sold in Europe and the UK. In the 1970s, a few small American slot car companies started developing their own nitro-powered RC vehicles. This is also the decade that saw the emergence of on-road electric RC cars, the first being a 1/12-scale Porsche 934 by the Japanese company Tamiya in 1976. Tamiya is also responsible for producing the first off-road style models in 1979, which featured real suspensions systems and textured rubber tires.
In the 1980s, the RC car market received an overhaul when manufacturers went from focusing on simple scale models to high-performance models featuring larger and more powerful motors. Between the advent of 4WD off-road trucks and buggies, and high-performance racing models, the popularity of RC vehicles skyrocketed. Towards the very end of the 1980s, Kent Clausen set an impressive speed record of 57mph running the RC10L electric pan car. He would go on to break his own record in the 90s by driving that same model 70mph.
These staggering speed records were a precursor to what the 1990s held for RC cars — a focus on speed. This decade saw the emergence of high-performance racing trucks, as well as the onset of the touring car era. This is also a time when manufacturers began scaling their vehicles down from 1/8 and 1/12 all the way to 1/18, starting the mini and micro racing trends.
If the 90s was the decade of speed, the 2000s was the time of the crawlers. Manufactures began competing to see who could build the most rugged rock crawler. Models capable of tackling nearly any type of terrain hit the market. It is also the time when the standard radio control systems switched from AM/FM to 2.4GHz and serious hobbyists started purchasing more ready-to-run models than build kits.
How To Choose The Right RC Rock Crawler
RC rock crawlers are fun for the old and young alike. Most children get their first experience playing with an RC vehicle before the age of 10, and for many it becomes a lifelong passion. With a wide variety of models available, there is one for just about any need. It is easy enough to find basic, budget-friendly models that are simple for kids as young as five or six to control, as well as high-performance models that can climb over practically any obstacle and reach impressive speeds. While this is great, it does mean that when it comes time to buy you'll be spoiled for choice, making it difficult to pick the best one.
More than likely if you are a beginner, it is best to go with an RTR model.
When browsing the various crawlers, there are two decisions that must be made before you can start comparing potential models. First and foremost, you must decide if you want to buy a kit or ready-to-run model? More than likely if you are a beginner, it is best to go with an RTR model. Except for people who truly love to build models, and don't mind a few frustrations along the way, most beginners will find a kit too daunting. Experienced hobbyists will find a kit more satisfying though, especially the first time they fire it up on the track.
Next, you'll have to choose between a nitro and electric model. Each of these offers their own pros and cons. Nitro models require more maintenance, but allow you to fine tune the engine and other components for the maximum possible speed and power. This means they may be difficult for those who aren't mechanically inclined to keep in good working order. Electric models require almost no maintenance and start at the flip of a switch.
Nitro models also offer a lifelike motor sound and driving experience. They roar down the track, releasing exhaust as they go. The flip side of this is that you will definitely annoy your neighbors if constantly driving one in front of your house. Electric models are quiet and easier to drive, making them good for beginners, children, and those who just want to drive them around the neighborhood.
Finally, nitro-fueled models can get anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes on a single tank, and can then just be refilled to continue driving. Electric models often get 20 minutes or less of run time from a battery. Then, you'll need to wait for the battery to recharge before you can drive again.
Don't Want To Compromise On Speed?
Rock crawlers are great for some hobbyists, but may not be the ideal choice for others. If you love watching a truck scale seemingly impossible terrain, then you will no doubt love a crawler. On the other hand, if speed is what you are after, then a crawler would be a poor choice. Luckily, there is another type of RC vehicle to choose from that performs admirably off-road yet is designed for higher speeds than crawlers — the monster truck.
Monster trucks are the bad boys of the RC world. They feature massive, deeply-treaded tires and powerful motors, the combination of which is capable of propelling them up and across some seriously imposing terrains, from rock-studded inclines to muddy tracks and sandy dunes. While they may not have as much low-end torque as some crawlers, they make up for it with brute force. Since they are faster than crawlers, they can often use their momentum to scramble over rocks that crawlers meticulously climb over. This does make for a fare bit more crashes though.
Monster trucks are also more fun on flat surfaces than crawlers, since they are generally fast enough to keep people entertained on speed alone. This makes them a great choice for someone who enjoys off-roading, but doesn't live close enough to rugged terrain to go there every time they want to use their RC vehicle.