Wait! Because of the overwhelming amount of mail that I get plus my full-time job I can no longer answer support type questions for vintage Tamiya items. Feel free to continue to write to me. Especially if you have comments about the site. Even though I may not be able to answer your emails, I do read all that come in. I want to thanks those that have written and indicated that they really liked the site or that it brought back a lot of memories. In some cases, people have told me that they feel redeemed knowing that others in the world share their love of these little buggies.
To assist you, I've put a series of FAQs on these pages to help you with your pursuit of your addiction. If you think there should be more questions, let me know and I'll try to update the list from time to time.
Note: this address is now redirected to Black Hole Sun
Where can I get parts for my old Tamiya car?
Most popular question I get. You have two alternatives. If you live in a major city, chances are that some of the older established hobby stores still have a cache of older Tamiya parts kicking around somewhere. It's not unusual to find hobby stores with rare parts hidden in the back room that someone forgot.
Be sure to ask the owner. Many times, the items are not on display because they simply do not sell.
Your other alternative is to shop online. EBay (www.ebay.com) is your best bet. Parts rarely ever come online via other internet auction sites. Be patient when checking on Ebay, if something doesn't appear right away, don't give up. Some very rare parts may only come up for auction 3 or 4 times a year.
EBay provides the option of notifying you by email when certain items come up for sale. If you sign up for this service, you can avoid having to check on a regular basis.
When purchasing from Ebay, always check shipping charges and take a look at feedbacks left by previous buyers. Some people like to buy from news forums or online discussion forums. I urge caution when purchasing parts from a member of a newsgroup or online forum. I've heard more than enough horror stories of misleading descriptions and blatant fraud. Always verify the seller prior to sending money.
Where should I sell my Tamiya car?
To assure the largest audience possible, your best bet currently is EBay. With the largest returning audience of any online auction site, posting on EBay will bring you the best chance of selling the item for the highest value.
Before posting an item for sale, familiarize yourself with the selling policies and standards on EBay. The process of posting an auction presents a myriad of options that will prove confusing to the beginner.
Also, check past sales history of your Tamiya car to see how much previous auctions have been selling for.
What's the value of my Tamiya car?
This is really hard to answer via email. The problem is that unless it's brand new, the condition of the car is of tremendous influence on the price. If you want an accurate estimate of your car's value you should email a couple of good photos along with your inquiry.
Further, some of the rarer cars are difficult to pin a value on because they come to market so rarely. Whatever value I am able to provide is based on market trends, current activity and comparisons to other vehicles of the same vintage that have come up on the auction block.
As a general note, summer is a bad time to sell cars. For whatever reason there's just not a lot of activity in the market during the summer months. Fall and the two months heading into Christmas are the peak selling months. Prices can almost double or triple for certain items during the peak buying season. Something to keep in mind if you're thinking of selling that old Tamiya car.
Why is it that some parts seem to be widely available while others are so difficult to find?
Basically you can blame this on the pricing strategies that Tamiya and its distributors took with replacement parts. Typically the cost of replacement parts is very high. So much so that to build a car from spare parts will cost you double to triple the cost of the entire kit. To counter this problem, many hobby stores and the previous North American distributor Model Rectifier Corporation would "breakup" new car kits for the parts instead of buying them from Tamiya. That's why a lot of the old parts were sold in funny little bags back in the late eighties.
Even today you've probably come across Tamiya parts that are packaged in plastic bags with white backing colors. These are from a car kit that's been broken apart for parts.
True "replacement parts" that come from Tamiya are packaged in brightly colored packages and boxes.
The problem with breaking up kits for parts is that some parts just never ever sold. That's why even today, you can find spare parts for kits that were discontinued more than 15 years ago. Unfortunately they're usually parts that you'll never need either because hardly ever break. I'm mean, how many box wrenches are you really going to need?
Why are Tamiya car bodies always considered to be the best?
Depending on whether you're a collector or a racer, you may not think their bodies are the best! In terms of scale accuracy and attention to correct detailing, no one bests Tamiya; no one. The attention to the small details is what sets Tamiya lexan bodies apart from the others. Here are some of the major differences between Tamiya and the other manufacturers.
Scale realism - where other manufacturers such as HPI or Parma will alter the scale proportions of a car body, Tamiya will adhere to the actual dimensions of the real car. If you look carefully at a HPI body, you'll notice that the wheel wells are very high into the body work. This gives the car the appearance of being very low slung and racy, but is not scale in appearance; Tamiya doesn't do that.
Attention to details - Tamiya is famous for their attention to detail. It mostly stems from their plastic model heritage. For example, Tamiya will never create generic door handles decals for their car, each car kit gets an accurate set of door handles. Looked at the ones on a Parma body recently? The biggest differences can be seen in the frontal and rear areas of the body (where there is the most detailing). You'll notice that Tamiya has phenomenally accurate detailing.
Three piece molds - Tamiya is able to create their realistic bodies because of the use of a 3 piece mold for the lexan bodies. The vast majority of manufacturers utilize a single piece mold where the lexan sheet is draped onto the mold and vacuum formed. Unfortunately this technique precludes the ability the ability to have a realistic "tuck-in" for the front and rear overhangs. This is something that Tamiya can accomplish by using a three piece mold where the middle piece can be extracted first and the two end pieces moved in prior to removal.
Official licensing - This may seem like a strange reason, but it makes a big difference; Tamiya ALWAYS officially license their car designs. The official licensing ensures two things. First, Tamiya has access to information and scale drawings that otherwise would not be available. Secondly, they have the ability to be absolutely scale with the correct emblems and logos without having to worry about copyright infringement. Many of the other manufacturers only license some of their products. For example, Parma never officially licensed their Ferrari 360 Modena body from Ferrari. It's obvious because they do not refer to the body as a Ferrari body. Rather, it's a F360 Modena!
Are there any differences between the kits sold in the USA with kits in Japan?
Yes, but they're subtle. First off, the manuals are country specific with respect to the language. Next, depending on the local distributor, Tamiya sometimes includes a mechanical speed controller with their kits that otherwise would not have been included. In fact, in some markets know, Tamiya offers a basic electronic speed control.
For example, you'll find that a lot of Tamiya kits in the US carries a bright sticker that says "three speed forward and reverse controller included". This has been added in after the fact. Tamiya of USA realized that their kits were being purchased by beginners and it was critical to keep their price point at a reasonable level.
Also, the manufacturer may release a kit that the local distributor may not choose to carry. This is usually for business reasons. I.E. the distributor doesn't feel that the kit would be a big seller in their marketplace. This is more common with hop-up parts than with entire kits. Tamiya produces some seriously wild (and expensive) hop-up parts.
Lastly, Tamiya sometimes assembles kits that are exclusive to a country. Released exclusively in the United States, the TRF414X purebred 1/10 racer is the latest example. Tamiya also sometimes release kits with different bodies for specific countries as well. In Europe, they've teamed up with Carson to create some exclusive Europe only kits.
What's the market like now for vintage Tamiya R/C cars?
Right now the market is growing and is quite strong. You can probably thank the progress of the Internet for that. Tamiya collectors world-wide probably only number in the thousands. Isolated from each other, they were unable to really trade or sell their products to the correct audience. But with the growth of the Internet and online auction houses, collectors are now able to span continents and connect with others.
Although some are concerned that the increase in price will make collecting expensive, I would argue that the increase in price will encourage more items to be pulled out of closets, garages and back storage rooms and put up for sale. Further it interests others to get into the hobby thus increasing the number of collectors world wide.
Recently the re-issue of some vintage kits by Tamiya has triggered some panic seller among some collectors. Fearful that Tamiya would re-issue other vintage kits, some "collectors" are taking the trend as a signal to get out of the market. You can expect that the recent re-issue of the Hornet will trigger a lack of interest in used cars and parts. And prices have dropped accordingly.
Will current Tamiya kits be as collectable as the old ones?
This is really hard to say. If you were to ask my opinion I'd have to say no. The problem is that Tamiya's current lineup is mostly touring cars. Which is fine, except that most of these touring cars are based on just three or four different chassis. Among many of their releases only the bodies and wheels are different between the kits. This is intentional of course, Tamiya is trying to realize some economies of scale in this competitive market. Unfortunately it detracts from the unique nature of the individual kits and thus decreases its collectibility.
I think what you're going to see is that among the touring cars, limited editions and kits of popular cars/trucks will increase in value while others will stagnate. For example, keep your eyes on the Taisan Porsche 911 GT2, it's going to be climber. First it's a Porsche, second a unique chassis configuration and third a killer paint scheme. Another good one is the Juggernaut. Whether it be the short-lived original model or the new Juggernaut II, monster trucks are always a big hit and the Juggernaut will hold it's value quite well.
Another trend that you'll see with the modern kits from Tamiya is a strong trend towards "mint in box" collectibility. With so little to differentiate the different car kits (chassis being the same), the collector will prefer to have shrinkwrapped kits. This ensures that the car they're getting is factory original and not made up of spare parts from many other kits combined.
So what are the best models to hold from Tamiya?
The "golden age" of Tamiya was probably the first 25 kits or so. And of those, the off-road buggies are the most desirable. These were kits that had all-metal construction and were designed to resemble their full size counter parts. They're kits that could never be produced today for a reasonable amount of money. These are ones that will go up in value.
Are people collecting R/C cars made by other manufacturers?
Depends. Without a doubt Tamiya is the most collectible of all the radio controlled car kits available. There isn't a single competitor that comes close. But in terms of long term interest, Kyosho is probably the only other truly collectible out there. The following is a list of other notable companies:
ABC Hobby - ABC Hobby is a full-line R/C company originating from Japan. In the 80's they had some serious competition 1/12 scale pan cars. They products were designed for the racer and featured some exotic materials for the time. Unfortunately, the poor exchange rate between the Yen and the US dollar made it difficult for them to sell their products here. Today, ABC Hobby still produces some very nice 1/10 touring cars, boats and other R/C equipment. Very few of their products are imported into the country anymore other than the boating equipment.
Aristocraft - They produced products which really appealed to the beginner or entry level hobbyist. Most were pre-built and came ready to run with radio gear installed. Their car/buggy products included the Kangaroo, Dolphin and Wildebeest. None of which were well received. Their lack of success could be traced back to a poor quality product which was prone to failure. Their line of accessories did better though, the "Challenger" series of radio equipment and other accessories sold well because of their price point. The brand Aristocraft is no longer around, but I believe the company is operating under a different name now.
AYK - Trivia - The name of the company is derived from the real name of the company owner. Perhaps the most famous product from AYK was the Radiant. This car was a chain driven 4-wheel drive unit featuring gold plating wheels (cool!). It was campaigned by racers for a short time as a competitor to the Optima series of cars.
AYK also produced other vehicles and a full line of accessories including motors (the Magnum series) and performance parts.
AYK no longer produces cars anymore but I believe they still sell performance parts under the "Race Prep" name.
Bolink - Bolink was an american company that - during the 80's - specialized in aftermarket parts for other manufacturer's vehicles. They were known mostly for their lexan bodies, motors and other accessories. I cannot think of a single product that they made which would be collectible today. Unfortunately the quality of their lexan bodies really paled in comparision to Tamiya or Kyosho. Their real claim to fame was a line of American muscle car bodies which were not made by anyone else. They also produced a line of pan cars which did not sell as well as their competitors. Bolink is still in business today and produces a line of inexpensive road cars and dragsters among other things.
Great Vigor Model Company - Here's an interesting footnote on R/C racing for the 80's. Great Vigor Model Company produced only one car; the Beagle 4WD buggy. What's interesting about the Beagle is that - with the exception of the lexan body - the entire chassis was a knock off of the Kyosho Optima. Right down to the last screw!
In fact, some hobby shops stocked Great Vigor replacement parts for their Kyosho customers because the parts were half the price or less. Even today, if you're buying a Kyosho car; check carefully, you may be purchasing a Great Vigor car with a Kyosho body on it!
It seems that Great Vigor is still operating and production R/C equipment but they lack a distribution network (at least a visible one anyhow) in North America.
Hirobo - Here's an interesting company history. Hirobo who made their name in Helicopter products branched out into R/C cars during the height of their popularity. They brought to the R/C car scene all of their engineering prowess that helicopter building gave them. This meant that cars like the Alien Mid4, Jealousy and Invader cars were technology jewels, but were expensive and lacked an audience.
Even their entry level buggies had belt drive systems! And their Jealousy and Invader cars were engineering marvels. Unfortunately, their distribution network was weak in North America and their cars were never picked up by the mainstream racer which was so vital to cars in their price range. Hirobo quickly dropped out of the R/C buggy market.
Hirobo is still around today and producing high quality helicopters and accessories.
Kyosho Corporation - Back in the 80s, Kyosho came out with some really innovative chassis designs and car bodies. The Maxxum FF was a front wheel drive car that had no competitors at the time. Or the Toyota 4-Runner which was a very popular truck for them. New in box examples of some of their race winning cars such as the Ultima and Optima still fetch some serious coin on the open market. Quality and engineering standards were very high and second only to Tamiya. In some areas - such as overall durability - Kyosho far exceeded what Tamiya was producing.
The company is still in business today, but their portfolio of cars has been significantly scaled back from their heyday in the eighties.
Marui Corporation - Initially famous for their production of plastic display models (which included guns!), Marui branched out into R/C cars in the 80's. They produced such notable items as the Big Bear, Samauri and Ninja cars. Their cars were interesting in design and similar to Tamiya in the use of plastics. They were also priced cheaper than a comparable Tamiya. Unfortunately, the quality of the plastic was poor and reliability was a big issue for these cars.
Marui as a company, is still alive and well, but no longer make 1/10 scale R/C cars. Their most recent venture has been 1/24 scale R/C in their home market of Japan.
Nichimo - Here's an interesting company with great ideas and so-so execution. Nichimo came out with such products as the Exceed and Spirit FF. The Exceed with a pretty balant copy of the Tamiya HotShot but featured 4-wheel steering and a central differential. Very innovative for its time. The Spirit FF was a front wheel drive off-road buggy. It was released years before the Kyosho Maxxum was released. Again, very cutting edge.
Unfortunately, Nichimo never matched the plastics quality of Tamiya and it meant that their products were unreliable and in constant need of new parts. Plus, their products were only slightly less expensive than a comparable Tamiya product.
Nichimo is still around today but produces plastic models only.
Nikko - Everyone has heard of Nikko and of those, many have owned a Nikko product at one point or another. Never a serious threat to products from Tamiya or Kyosho, Nikko still enjoyed a strong position in the R/C market. Their focus was on entry level RTR (ready to run) units which had a lot of strong visual appeal. Nikko made excellent use of hard plastic bodies to make exciting products at an great price. Still, Nikko did produce some hobby quality kits which would surprise most people. The Dandy Dash was a 1/10 scale 4WD buggy which could challenge the best products from Tamiya. It featured a quiet belt drive, independent suspension, oil filled shocks and a Futaba made radio system. The car came either fully assembled or in kit format. North America only received the fully assembled version. Nikko also produced a gas powered 1/10 scale car during that time period as well. Nikko is still around and is one of the industry leaders in radio controlled toys.
Royal - Anyone that's ever bought a Royal product will never forget this company. Producing such cars as the Royal Ripper and Crusher, this company was famous for having the worst quality R/C products out there.
The Royal Ripper (nicknamed the "Royal Ripoff") was a 4 wheel drive, 4 wheel steering off-road buggy feature shaft drive and oil filled shocks. The quality of the plastic was similar to static display models (read brittle) and broke with alarming regularity. In fact, I stripped the differential on one during the first run!
Royal is no longer around as a brand, it is possible they've been swallowed up by another company, but certainly their products are no longer made.
Yokomo - In the 80's, Yokomo shocked the R/C world with their Dogfighter 4-wheel drive off-road buggy. It took home the world championship under the skilled hands of Joel Johnson. The Dogfighter was a strange vehicle indeed. It was 4WD utilizing a steel chain to connect the front to rear, the car featured trailing arm suspension and a zip tie to hold the rear suspension in place! Noisy as hell, the car had a very low slung suspension which basically dragged itself to a world championship win.
Yokomo also produced a complete line of performance parts and other vehicles. Many of you may remember the "Hot Laps" series of tires and wheels which were not only colorful but of very high quality as well.
Yokomo is still heavily involved in the R/C car scene. Yokomo still produces a full line of cars and accessories and campaigns heavily in the racing scene. In fact, you could say that Yokomo has taken over the position that Kyosho enjoyed in the 80's for electric racing. Employing such famous drivers as Masami Hirosaka, they have won numerous world campionships.
Other notables that I haven't had time to write about (no prejudice intended!):
- Team Losi
- Team Associated
- World Engines