So you're wondering where all this Radio Controlled fun began are you?
Would you be surprised if I told you it all started way back in the 1940's?
Well it did but the technology back then was quite crude (no surprise there hey) and back then you could get cars up to 70 mph (very fast even for today), but they did only go around in circles tied to a rope or string or on a groved track.
Click on the image below to see another old film about model cars.
It wasn't until the late 1960's (around the time I was born) when technology started to get a lot better and the introduction of miniature solid state radio control systems came onto the market. This is when some clever people designed and built cars which could be controlled from a control transmitter unit with remotely controlled servo-assisted steering, throttle and brakes. Finally we had arrived where radio controlled model vehicles of all kinds could be run on a race track rather than simply going around in circles, and because of the precision of control, these vehicles could be driven in much the same way as a real one (you just werent sitting in it).
Now even though they made some terrific advances in the 1960's, you couldn't purchase a remote controlled car until 1976. These were produced by Tamiya (yep that same Japanese company with a reputation for supplying detailed plastic model kits), and again these early R/C cars were very crude in mechanical terms and quite expensive for the average guy but, nevertheless, they sold like hotcakes.
Tamiya decided to concentrate its attention on the mechanics of these early models for the next few years, then by the mid 1980s, they were turning out some of the most popular models, some you may even remember depending on how old you are. Models like the Hornet (1984), Grasshopper (1984), Blackfoot (1986) and Clodbuster (1987) were produced with working suspension systems, textured tyres, and of course more powerful engines. As you can imagine sales were again going well.
This was when the radio controlled hobby really took off and became what we know it today, because of their success, many other R/C producers came into the market with their creations. Names like Schumacher Racing (the British company responsible for replacing the then standard solid axle with a ball differential. This allowed cars to be finely tuned for various track conditions). There was also Associated Electrics (the California company which was responsible for introducing the RC10 off-road electric car which dominated the off-road racing market very quickly).
Now if you were born after the 1980's you may not know that radio controlled cars used to be known as toys. It was during the '80s the R/C car moved away from being known as a toy towards what are now classed as a highly crafted, precision models of the highest standards. Manufacturing companies moved away from the traditional materials and as a result, a lot of the production methods used at the time had to be changed. Chassis were now being made from high-grade anodized aluminium alloy, this was also used to manufacture the oil-filled, machined and tunable shock absorbers. Many of the components which were normally pressed from plastic were now being replaced with high-impact nylon, including suspension, control arms and wheels. Also back in the 1980's, Schumacher of the Competition All Terrain (CAT) vehicle, which won the off-road world championship in 5 out of the 10 years following its introduction, sparked the interest in off-road 4 wheel drive vehicles which has carried through to today.
Just like in the real world of car racing, competition is the driving force behind any market today. This is also true for the market for radio controlled cars, and for several years a strong rivalry between Associated Electrics and Team Losi (founded by Gil Losi Jr., a racetrack owner from California) resulted in rapid development of high quality models, both technically and in terms of the quantity and variety of cars available.
Today Associate Electric and Team Losi are still major players in the market and have been joined by others such as the US-based Traxxas company and the Japanese-based company of Kyosho. As these major players continue to compete against each other, and others join the market, so the market for radio controlled cars will go from strength to strength for many years to come.
Discover more about the history of radio controlled cars at Wikipedia.