This is my original Rough Rider photographed in the fall of 1981 shortly after I built it. There are a lot of great memories of this car. I purchased it at the now defunct Allied Hobbies in Montgomery Mall, Montgomeryville, PA, USA. At around $150 for the kit alone, it wasn’t cheap, especially for a kid working part time making minimum wage. But, Tamiya has a way of roping us in.
First, there’s the overall size of the box. Just the right chunky dimensions to convince you that there’s something substantial inside. Then there’s the exsquisite artwork on the front of the box, designed to be a combination of the actual model, and the real vehicle.
All around the sides of the box are various engineering drawings and schematics to give one a real sense of what they’re buying. How can anyone resist? I remember wanting it just so I could see the suspension built up and up close. Also, at that time, I didn’t know of any RC car that could run off road. This seemed truly revolutionary to me. The RC cars I had up to this time were very much toys. Slow, cheap, and real battery hogs. The Rough Rider was followed up by the incredibly successful Sand Scorcher. It used the same chassis, drive and suspension components as the Rough Rider, but had different body, wheels and tires.
So you buy the thing, take it home, and now the fun begins. Tamiya continues the visual spectacle when you open the box. Various mechanical parts are neatly arranged and labled under vaccu-formed blisters. You’ll notice right away the plethora of metal parts, most notably, the intricately molded metal weatherproof gearbox flanked by the two rear tires. Also striking is the, for the time, monster-sized 540 electric motor. I remember thinking how big and powerful it looked when compared against the rc toys of the day. Today, of course, the 540 sized motor is standard stuff.
Another shot of my original Rough Rider, taken in the Fall of 1981, just after I built it. For power, the only viable option back then was the Tamiya “Hump Pack” battery, given its name by the characteristic “hump” in its case. It was a 6-cell nicad pack producing 7.2 volts at 1200mah. It gave the heavy, power-hungry Rough Rider about 10 minutes of run time. The hump was Tamiya’s way of putting an extra battery cell in a case with the same length and width as their 5 cell 6 volt pack that was commonly used in their various on-road cars. This preceded the now popular “stick pack”. This battery set me back over $30 in 1981. The two channel Futaba radio was another $99! So, let’s see, $150 for the kit, $30 for the battery, $99 for the radio, $150+$30+$99+sales tax = $300!!! I could have bought a real car for that much in 1981!!!!
I wish I still had my original Rough Rider. Sadly, as parts broke and were no longer available, it languished in storage and eventually, after several moves, it disappeared. I picked this Rough Rider off of ebay. For the collector, ebay has been a great place to pick up spare parts, entire vehicles, and even unassembled vintage kits. The only downside is the prices are usually at a premium, driven up by a fairly large community of collectors. Occassionally, you might come across some old stuff in at a hobby shop or at a garage sale, but ebay is hard to beat with the quantity, quality and ease of finding what you need.
This Rough Rider came fully equipped with vintage Kraft gear. This is a two channel single-stick transmitter. The car is steered with the stick while the speed is controlled by a slider on the left side of the center power switch.
Since it was in relatively good shape to begin with, I began restoring this Rough Rider. First, the decals were peeled off, then paint was removed with a product called Motsenbockers Lift Off Spray Paint and Graffiti Remover (Google it and you find it easily). This was then followed by a shot of primer. I usually shoot it with primer first because primer reveals imperfections in the surface. If the imperfections are small enough, like light scracthes, a few coats of primer will fill them, otherwise I use putty.
With the help of my friend Bill, owner of Joe’s Auto Body and Restoration, we laid down a base coat of Tamiya orange (TS-12). Yes, we started with the orange first instead of the white. This was done when looking over the model and planning the masking tape job. It just seemed easier to put the orange down first, especially for the front. Once the orange had a few days to dry, I did the masking tape edging for the white areas.
Next came a dusting of Racing White (TS-7) to seal up the tape edges. Some prefer Tamiya’s Pure White (TS-26), but the box for the Rough Rider spare body indicates the white as TS-7 Racing White. Racing White has more of an off-white cream tone to it. Oddly enough, none of the Rough Rider assembly manuals indicate a color code for either the orange or the white.
A coating of clear coat gives the paint a wet, shiny look and smooths out the surface nicely. Next came the flat black anti-glare patch on the hood just in front of the cockpit. I also painted the underside flat black to cover up the white and orange overspray and give it a nice even look. Decals next!
Decals, thirty in all, have been applied. The decals used are original Tamiya Rough Rider decals and are almost 30 years old! It’s surprising that the adhesive is still perfectly sticky after all these years. A good tip for getting decals nice and straight is to cut a thin vertical (top to bottom) or horizontal (left to right) slit out of the center decal backing to expose a small amount of the decal adhesive. Use the exposed adhesive to “tack” the decal in place and then align the decal properly. Once alignment as been achieved, remove the remaining decal backing and press the decal into place. As a shortcut, I simply pulled the decal backing about halfway back, cut off the exposed backing, and then put it back in place, slightly offset, to expose decal adhesive roughly in the middle of the decal.
Painting and decaling the spotlights came next. Decaling the front of the spotlights is a bit tricky because the fronts are so very slightly curved. This can lead to wrinkling of the decal and/or eventual “lifting” of the decal on the edges. To prevent this, I quickly clear-coated the decals once they were in place with Tamiya Clear. Make sure to press the edges of the decals down firmly to prevent clear coat from seeping underneath.
Painting the driver is not one of my favorite activites. It has to be done largely by hand with small brushes and I’m not very good at it. One thing that helps me do an acceptable job is to use a workshop magnifying glass to magnify the driver figure’s head. It tricks me into making the small and subtle movements necessary to do a good job. The results are “good enough” for me. Without the magnifying glass, it would impossible for me to do a decent enough job.
White-lettering the tires is a real nice detail touch. Some people use a brush, but I got a tip from tamiya101.com to use a small phillips head screwdriver instead. It holds paint nicely at the tip, and you can use it like a pen to “draw” the lettering in between the raised lines.
It’s great to restore an old buggy like the one above, but it would also be great if we could buy one new for cheap (less than $1000). Can it be done? Yes! Tamiya has released the Rough Rider as the Buggy Champ. It’s slightly different than the original, but improved in a number of ways without detracting too much from the charm of the original.
Compare these photos of the new Buggy Champ to the old Rough Rider. Wow, pretty cool, even down to the box artwork and blister parts packaging. See my Buggy Champ article for more details on this incredible kit!
Vintage Tamiya Scorcher Video (and others) here.
Originally posted 2007-09-22 09:32:37.
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