4x4

Radio controlled 4x4s or full-size..or both?

What can the RC crawler crew learn from full-size 4x4s and vice-versa?

OWNING AND RUNNING a 4×4 is one of the cheapest forms of motorised recreation, but it’s still more expensive than scaling everything down to 1/10th of the size.

We talk to Steve Price of Pricey’s Custom Crawlers, a man with extensive experience in both camps:

What is Pricey’s Custom Crawlers?

Pricey’s Custom Crawlers is what I have created to showcase what RC crawlers can be built, which include both my own collection and customer’s cars that I have built over the years, The builds range from stock looking cars that resemble a registered vehicle that could be driven to work each day with realistic barwork that incorporate winches, LED bars and recovery points, to a highly modified vehicle that would enter the Tuff Truck Challenge and has all the same features as a very capable TT rig such as portal axles, rear steer, etc etc and lastly the full tube frame W.E.Rock style buggy with the same driveline as the TT vehicles.

Also featured are the extremely capable “pro” style crawlers with MOA (motor on axle) which have a separate speed controller for both front and rear diffs. What these style of crawler can drive is crazy to say the least!

What’s your 1:1 and RC background?

My 1:1 background is having caught the off road bug from my dad Tony from an early age, watching him compete in the very first Nissan Trials, and spending weekend after weekend out in the bush and touring around Australia.

My first Four Wheel Drive was a MWB BJ74 Landcruiser which I had on my P plates. That was a great car, over the years it ended up a very capable and modified car with 60 series diffs filled with Air Lockers and 6:1 centres, 4″ lift, 35″ tyres and a Warn hi-mount winch.

These days I have two Cruisers, a relatively standard factory TD 100 series Landcruiser to tow the comp/trail 40 series I have. The 40 sits on GU diffs with 4.6 ARB Air Locked centres, and powering the 40 is a healthy 350 Chev and T400HD, with an LT230 transfer that has been modified for front and rear drive disconnects which are pneumatically  shifted. Some 40″ Trepadores on Trailgear alloys certainly help with traction. The 40 will be sitting on coilovers and full hydro steer very soon to replace the coil/shock setup.

I’ve been either competing or managing competitions for 17 years. My first comp was a Nissan Trials in the stock class with my MWB Cruiser and not long after, in 2002 I navigated in my first Tuff Truck Challenge.  Since then I’ve competed in numerous events such as Willowglen, Nissan Trials, Ateco winch challeges, numerous funkana style events, W.E.Rock, Tuff Truck and King of the Hunter.

I’ve been involved with Tuff Truck since 2005 where I helped my dad run a stage, then progressed to running the stage the following 2 years and in 2008 stepped up to run the competition side of the event with Tony up until 2015. Since then I have navigated for a very mate good mate Matt.

I bought my first crawler (a Tamiya TXT) about 14 years ago and have been addicted ever since! As a young fella I had RC cars which were regularly used, broken, repaired and somewhat modified but only cheaper off road buggies and a couple of on road touring cars.

Now my collection of RC cars and parts is a bit on the silly side but as I say to my very understanding wife it’s an addiction! But she does admit our daughter will have a rather impressive range of complete custom crawlers to choose from to use when she is old enough!

What could RC drivers learn from 1:1 drivers?

RC drivers can learn from 1:1 drivers that picking a good line is one of the most important aspects of four wheel driving, regardless of if it’s trail driving or the harder, more extreme type of rock crawling.

If it’s the more extreme side of rock crawling that appeals, going to 1:1 rock crawling and social events and watching how some of the best drivers in the country drive, knowing how and when to use each function on their car. . . when to use just front drive, rear drive or how to most effectively use rear steer.

So much can be learned watching some of these drivers choose a line that best suits their vehicle.

What could 1:1 drivers learn from RC drivers?

1:1 drivers can learn those same driving skills from an RC driver, such as choosing lines and understanding how to use each function on an RC car (especially if the 1:1 driver is a novice). What 1:1 drivers will quickly learn is recoveries are much, much easier and repairs are usually much cheaper too hahaha!

What’s your most common request or job?

Most common request is from mates or a customer wanting a replica of their own car (either road driven or Tuff Truck/W.E.Rock buggy) for their kids or them to use.

How do you make your parts?

99% of my builds use 3/16″ automotive brake tube. The bigger builds use 1/4″ tube. I braze all cages/barwork together using Mapp gas and self fluxing braze rods. When steel sheet is used i have both 1mm and 1.6mm mild steel sheet which is shaped with a 4″ grinder and files.

All bends are bent using a proper tube bender and are notched with a chainsaw file in prep for a nice and strong weld just like 1:1 cages are. Once a cage is completely finished and welded, i have a sand blast cabinet where the frame/cage is cleaned up in prep for either painting or powdercoating.

I have a range of different size mild steel gussets and tabs that have been laser cut which give the builds that extra realistic and cool factor.

Advice for a 1:1 driver starting out in RC?

Talk to people who own a range of styles of crawlers and see what type of crawler will most suit you. The crawlers are no different in choice as it is in the 1:1 world and can vary from stock, realistic looking to out and out performance based rigs and everything in between.

These days we really are spoilt for choice with the huge amount of options and upgrades available for RC crawlers, and just like the 1:1 cars, your crawler can be driven stock or as modified as your wallet and imagination will allow! There are many groups on social media that can point you in the right direction as well as joining in on social days.

I have helped out countless people over the years giving them advice from what car to buy, what parts to upgrade to ensure reliability, what brands I prefer to buy and how to service/maintain their crawler and avoid making the mistakes i made early on with buying the wrong or inadequate parts.

Just remember, you don’t need to spend a small fortune on an RC crawler to go have fun! Stock out of the box crawlers are surprisingly capable.

The most important piece of advice though is to always have fun with the crawler! The best part of having a crawler is the social factor and you can involve the family and teach the kids from an early age to service, maintain and take ownership of their cars!

Advice for a RC driver starting out in 1:1?

Biggest difference teaching an RC driver starting out in the 1:1 cars is safety first in both driving and when performing a recovery. Obviously things can go wrong much faster in a 1:1 car compared to using a 1/10 size car! As you push yourself and the car’s capabilities then you should be considering upgrading the cars safety equipment and look at installing a good quality rollcage, proper seats and harnesses, window nets and fire extinguishers if not already fitted. Check with what you are and aren’t allowed to use on a road registered vehicle with a reputable engineer before modifying your vehicle though.

Again as per buying a 1:1 car as opposed to an RC car is talk to people who have been around the off road scene and have the experience to offer advice as to what car will suit you best.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper