Monday, March 6, 2017

DT-02 - Tamiya's do everything 2wd buggy

So lets talk about the DT-02.  

It's got all the features of a fancy buggy, at a hilariously low cost.  For reference, I bought one of the midrange models, for $110.  

A Little History

First, lets talk a little history.  In the early 1980's, Tamiya started releasing "cheaper" off road kits.  Tamiya had sold off road cars before, but they were high end products for them.  First came the Frog, in 1983, and in 1984, everyone's favorites, the Grasshopper and Hornet.  

This was just the start of a long list of cheap, versatile chassis that Tamiya would sell.  

Jumping forward a decade, Tamiya began the DT series buggies.  The 1996 release of the DT-01 was more or less, a Hornet, with decent shocks.  Still live axle in the back, still swing arms up front.  A transverse mounted battery.  The DT-01 was a kit dancing on the edge of Tyco, Nikko, and other toy store brands.  But, we're not here to discuss the merits of a fancy Grasshopper are we?  

In 2005 Tamiya released the DT-02.  The chassis was set to bring back at least one classic car from Tamiya's history.  The holiday buggy.  As well as provide a platform for other hard shell, and polycarbonate bodied cars.  

About the Buggy

In comparison to Tamiya's other buggy designs, it was a very modern design.  Four wheel independent suspension, with a-arms and upper links.  The steering setup is classic Tamiya off-road. (for better or worse...)  And the gearbox is just about what you'd expect from Tamiya.  That is, nylon gears, sealed, and .6 metric pitch.  

The high points:
  • Plastic Tub Chassis
  • Sealed Gearbox
  • Crud Proof Steering
  • 4 Wheel Independent Suspension
  • Durable Tamiya ABS plastic
  • Reasonable Upgrade Path
  • Easy Battery Management
  • Just One Bearing Size
  • Dirt Cheap
  • Includes a Motor
  • Sealed Power Switch

The low points:
  • Most models come with friction dampers
  • Limited Gearing Options
  • No Slipper Clutch
  • Soft Front Shock Tower
  • Designed for Stick Packs
  • A Bad Case of Bump Steer

Criticism of the DT-02

One of these days, Tamiya will start building their kits without bumpsteer in them.  But 2005, was not that day.  Between the unequal length steering links, and the absence of a rack to get pivot points in line, there's really not a whole lot that can be done.  

Access to the steering servo, for replacement or maintenance, is a bit troublesome.  It's a six screw job to get in there.  And being trapped under the chassis brace also limits the choice of servo saver.  

The chassis tub, and battery retention strap are really, very specifically, designed for stick packs.  With a little trimming you can get hardcase lipos to fit.  But it's not an ideal situation.  

Due to the motor surround, and gearbox design, getting wide gearing options is more or less a non-starter.  The gear cover holds one end of the spur gear shaft, this prevents easy changes of spur gear.  

Building the DT-02

First, this is now departing into "my experience" with the DT-02.

Building the DT-02 is typical Tamiya.  That's high praise.  The manual is good, and is specific to the version of the DT-02 you buy.  (I bought a Desert Gator)  And if you follow the directions, it all comes out perfectly.  

Be sure to have a JIS screwdriver, as that helps with the initial threading of screws into plastic.  A decent set of needle nose pliers will help assembling the CVD shocks if you got one of the ~better~ models.

Not counting the body, it took me about 3 hours to go from "pile-o-Tamiya parts" to "complete DT-02."

Painting the body was easy.  It's not easy to cut out, but the paint job is certainly easier than doing the paint on my Miata body for the M05.

Just a few words of advice.  First, pearl white, is not a solid coat, and needs a backing white paint.  Second, be sure to let your coats dry, and use very thin coats when painting over an existing coat.  

The decal job, is big.  But covers up most sins.  

The wings are usually molded "inside out."  so you need to do all the masking instead of trusting the build in overspray mask.  

All done, it looks a bit like this.  

It's a good looking buggy.  At least the desert gator is.  The Holiday Buggy, and other hard body buggys look pretty good too.  But are a good bit heavier.  I bought this for running on the local off road track while my on road batteries are charging.  

So how about yours?
I bought a Desert Gator.  Which is about the same as the Sand Viper, minus the speed control.  As opposed to something like the Super Fighter G, which has bushings, and friction dampers, it's got CVA shocks and bearings throughout.  

Sadly, the bearings are "just" shielded, as opposed to sealed.  But it's definitely something.  

So instead of going to the track I've been jumping off of things.  It handles stairs happily.  It jumps well.  On high traction surfaces, it will even wheelie!  

With the stock motor, it's slow enough that it handles being run into things very well.  It's also fast enough to impress people.  (if not someone who's really into r/c...)

When I bought mine, I also bought one for a friend of mine.  We built ours slightly differently.  

My car is built light.  I have a Turnigy D-Spec shorty steering servo.  A 2600mah 90c, ultra shorty battery pack, and team blue spektrum receiver.  It's very light, to get the correct ride height I only need about 3mm of preload.  

The other buggy, is set up with a standard size steering servo, and a compact 4600mah battery pack.  It needed almost twice as much preload to get the ride height proper.

Both cars are a blast to drive.  But there are some things were both looking to improve.  

What needs fixing.
With many low end cars, it's tempting to go nuts "fixing" everything on the car.  Eventually you end up deep into a car, where you could have just spent the same money and bought something better right off the bat.  

Realistically, this is why I bought the Desert Gator, as opposed to a Super Fighter.  Adjustable upper links, Bearings, and CVA shocks is a lot of value.  

The car could really use a ball diff.  Or sealing the gear diff, and filling it with something really goopy.  

A brace between the front shock towers should help the cars tendency to bounce the front end over ridges.  

There is some room to run bigger pinions, but you'll need to enlarge the motor mounting holes.  

How can I buy a DT-02, whats the best to buy?

  • 93031 Super Fighter G Black edition
  • 58340 Super Fighter G
  • 58344 Desert Gator
  • 58374 Sand-Viper
  • 58401 Neo Falcon
  • 58470 Holiday Buggy 2010
  • 58485 Super Fighter GR
  • 84212 Holiday Buggy (2010) Red version
  • 58500 Sand Rover 2011
  • 58522 Street Rover
  • 58511 Nissan Titan
  • 58536 Super Fighter GR (Violet Racer)
  • 58553 Fighter Buggy SV
  • 58615 RC Buggy Kumamonbajon
  • 49475 DT-02 MS

If it were still in production, the "car to have" would be the DT-02 MS.  Sadly, it's long past it's production run.  Today, the car to buy is the Sand-Viper.  It comes with bearnigs, CVA shocks, adjustable upper suspension links, and an ESC.  (one that supports brushless motors too!)

The cars start at $100.  They're a lot of car for $100.

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