The Tamiya Sand Scorcher RC off-road buggy may well have been the RC car you first lusted after if you were born in the 70's or 80's. Based on the classic beetle shape, this faithful copy of the Baja bug brought "real" RC cars to the british public for the first time.
Realising the potential for "nostalgia sales", Tamiya re-released The Sand Scorcher in 2010 with a number of upgraded parts and subtle design changes.
The re-released kit is still in production and available here now! Below is one of the original promotional films.
Improved re-release version of the sand scorcher from 1979
Length: 400mm, Width: 230mm, Height: 180mm, Weight: 1820g
Fully enclosed electronics case, motor and gearbox
2 types of gear ratio included
2mm thick FRP chassis
4-Wheel independent suspension with die cast arms and oil dampers
Full ball bearings
Classic 3-piece Tamiya wheels with "The Smoothee" front tyres and "Padlatrak" rears (these were actually available for real 1:1 scale buggies at the time!)
Tough ABS shell
Decals are stick on (and awesome!).
Officially licensed by Volkswagen, the iconic baja bug shape still looks as good now as it ever did, either painted in the box art colours of White and French Blue or in your own colour scheme. (Alternate stickers are supplied if you choose to go off book) Taking your time with the details really pays dividends with the stickers and even white lettering the tyres making all the difference.
Building the Sand Scorcher
In a word it is great! The kit has a real quality feel from the moment you open the box. The suspension is a fairly accurate representation of the original Beetle suspension all die cast in metal. It all fits together beautifully if you follow the very detailed pictorial instructions. One thing to note it is worth spending 5 minutes reading the key as the symbols for things like lock-tite and grease (all supplied) are easy to miss.
The oil dampers are self assembly and are surprisingly effective. It appears they have a tendency to leak a bit, especially when just filled as the excess oil can squeeze past the plastic rings. We mounted ours as per the Tamiya instructions but we have seen them mounted upside down which must help with leaking. This will increase unsprung mass but we bet you couldn't tell.
The other area that we would suggest not following the Tamiya instructions is in the placing of the electronic components in the waterproof box. If you blindly follow the placement suggestions without mocking it up you can end up with a bit of a rats nest of wires. The electronic speed controller (ESC) supplied with the kit is suitable for both brushed and brushless motors. The instructions were written before this item was updated. The ESC has 3 wires and the supplied brushed motor just 2 FYI the yellow wire goes to yellow and the blue goes to green the other wire is unused if you are using the stock motor.
There is plenty of space in the box (as it was designed for a mechanical speed controller) so it should be easy to position the components so that everything is neat and tidy. All electronic parts are plug and play and everything should work first time even if you haven't done it before.
Painting the kit
Arguably the hardest part of the build as it requires careful masking and the use of good materials, all of which we can supply. We wanted to follow the box art scheme so painted the shell white using Tamiya white TS1 spray paint. The nose piece was fitted first as it is a very tight fit and easy to damage if you try and fit after painting. Don't be impatient at this point as the paint will come off with the tape if you mask to early. We would suggest waiting at least 24hrs if not several days before applying a good quality masking tape such as Tamiya's own brand. A top tip is if the paint smells like paint, it isn't dry!
The instructions give you a bit of leeway with where to set your masking tape on the car so it is helpful to refer to the box art if you are after that look. The bonnet, rear engine cover and gutters are easy to mask and cut out because there are lines to follow in the body shell. More difficult is the panel on the roof that has to done either by eye or with some measuring. A couple of goes and you should get something that looks very similar to the desired effect. Another tip is to place sticky circles in the corners of the roof panel to give you something to trace around with your knife to get a nice radius on the painted panel.
Where to paint the door panels is also open to interpretation but in reality using the tops of the wings and the door handles as a guide getting the tape even and straight is quite simple.
Don't forget to mask the inside to prevent overspray and press the tape down very well on the painted edges to prevent paint bleed.
Spray the French Blue (Tamiya TS-10) in 2 or 3 coats and remove the masking tape after it is touch dry.
After this has dried there is the very enjoyable task of attaching the stickers, this transforms the body shell, at this point you can also paint the letters on the tyres white. Although a trivial point it makes a huge difference to the finished model and using one of our white roll pens it is not difficult just requires patience.
Driving the Sand Scorcher
Although not in the same league as a modern brushless motored buggy the sand scorcher is fast enough to entertain and driving around the limitations of the Beetle swingarm suspension is all part of the fun of these classic kits. Because it doesn't have a diff it is very easy to drift it around every corner, very hard cornering will result in the outside wheel tucking under and the car rolling, just like the real thing!!
The Sand Scorcher re-release is everything you want it to be, difficult enough to build that you have achieved something, easy enough that it will look good and work ! It's fast enough to be fun to drive and handles the bumps with more aplomb than it should.
If you've ever wanted one, buy it now you won't be disappointed.