With such a wide variety of cars to choose from making a decision about which one to buy can be difficult.
WHAT MAKE SHOULD I BUY?
A tough question. You need to be sure that what you are buying will suit the purpose you intend for it, so if you are racing, pop down to your local club and see what everyone else has got. If you are driving with your mates find out what they have bought and try to match (or slightly better) their models. Make sure that you have different frequencies in your radio, otherwise you will experience interference.
You should aim to try and get a proven make that will be durable and long lasting. Good instructions are a must if you are buying a kit. As are spares lists. On this point it is essential that you are readily able to buy spares for your car otherwise you could find yourself with a broken model and nothing to fix it with, leaving you in the pits for weeks!
Choose where you buy your car carefully. Second hand is always a bit risky at beginner levels, especially if you are buying engine power, try to choose a reputable source. Your model shop should be friendly and helpful (like us!) and offer sound knowledge, impartial advice and a good aftersales and back-up service.
ON ROAD OR OFF ROAD?
On road touring and sports cars have a low ground clearance and consequently need to be run on tarmac or smooth surfaces (if you are not interested in racing try and ask permission from your local supermarket car park!). They will run on flat grassy surfaces however performance will be impaired and you are likely to damage your body shell. These are the sorts of cars you are likely to find down at your local on road racing club.
Rally cars have a greater ground clearance and, like their full size brothers can be run on more uneven surfaces. This sort of model is a good compromise if you want a vehicle which looks recognisable but has the versatility of an off road buggy. These cars are great fun but if you want to get onto the racing scene opportunities are more limited. Off road vehicles are exceptionally versatile and can be driven just about anywhere making them a great first car. If you get bored with the look you can usually convert them to a saloon with a change of body shell and a set of body mounts - great if you can't afford a second car. If you do want to get into racing there are off road series' for buggies. When weighing up these ideas it is more beneficial to look at the chassis and the ground clearance rather than the body shell itself. This can always be changed!
KIT OR ARR?
Almost Ready to Run (ARR) kits are becoming increasingly popular, especially as a starting point for new modellers. These models are 90% assembled leaving you to fit suspension, wheels and tyres, radio control and to sometimes spray the body shell in colours of your choice.
Kits are sold in component form leaving you to assemble the whole car from start to finish. This takes a little longer and will mean that you have to do a bit of work before you get on the road but it is not difficult and can help you to learn a bit about your car (useful after your first crash!). You don't need any specific skills, just a bit of common sense and the ability to follow a good set of instructions. Younger racers should seek help frim an adult, especially when using sharp tools or paints.
TWO OR FOUR WHEEL DRIVE?
You now have the option of buying front, rear or four wheel drive. Models perform in the same way as full size cars when it comes to handling. Two wheel drive cars are generally less expensive, more easily maintained and a lot of fun if you like skidding around corners, however, they do not handle particularly well in poor conditions. You also wear more tyres out. Great for learning the basics and racing with your mates but not so suited to club racing.
ELECTRIC OR FUEL?
Electric power is usually a first choice. They are easy to drive, need less maintenance at a basic level than their fuelled counterparts and can be driven anywhere at any time because they are so quiet. Performance wise they can be just as quick as a fuel powered car depending upon your choice of battery and speed control. If you get into racing electric cars you will be amazed at the kind of performance which can be achieved. Typically you will get ten to fifteen minutes running time out of a battery and charging can be anything from fifteen minutes to overnight depending upon what type of charger you buy.
I/C cars are powered by small 2-stroke engines which run on special methanol based fuel. Compared to electric cars these require a lot more maintenance and it does help if you are mechanically minded. Nevertheless they can be great fun and it is a bonus not having to constantly charge batteries. You will typically get about 10 minutes running time out of a tank of fuel depending on how your car is set up, and you will get around 13 tanks of fuel to a litre. It is worth bearing in mind that fuel powered models are not welcome everywhere because of the noise.Clubs are very limited that have the correct facilities to cope with NitroPowered Car/Trucks.
Both types of model can be upgraded in terms of power and handling. It is worth asking around to see what car clubs are in your area or if you are just fooling around, what sort of cars do your mates have, it works better if you can race like for like.
You need to purchase a two channel radio system to control your car, it must operate on either 27 or 40MHz frequency, or the new Spectrum format. Stick sets operate with one hand for throttle (forwards/reverse or brake) and the other for steering (left/right). If you choose to buy a steering wheel set, you have a trigger to operate the throttle and a steering wheel to control the steering. Neither set is better than the other, it is simply a matter of personal preference.
Radio Control cars can be very fast and therefore potentially quite dangerous. When driving you must always consider the safety of yourself and those around you.