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With modern sub categories like Rock Bouncers, Ultra 4 Rigs and True Scalers. The modern RC Rock Crawling community can trace it's mainstream roots back the first home made RC Crawler rigs, built in the USA around the early 2000's. Often using locked Tamiya TLT Axles, these rigs also used Buggy Transmissions with a high torque Brushed Motor, turned sideways and hand fabricated TVP (Twin Vertical Plate) chassis rails or braced Tamiya Clod-buster Axles and a simple 'Stick' chassis.
Some say that Tamiya invented the 'True Scale' Rig back in 1981 with their Toyota 4x4 model, but although realistic, even including a Driver Figure, 2 or 4WD and a 3-Speed transmission, it didn't have the outright performance of modern purpose built Rock Crawlers and Scalers. This genre of RC, regardless of it's size, is all about a rigs outright crawling abilities and creating the most realistic look possible.
Since these early days things have progressed significantly. In 2005 A group of ex HPI employees set up Axial Racing and developed the first commercially available Shaft Driven (or 'Shafty') RC Rock Crawler, the AX10 Scorpion. That rig then evolved over time to become the SCX-10, a more realistic and 'Scale' offering, losing the TVP plate chassis and being based around a Twin C-Section Steel Ladder Chassis like a real 4x4 often is, Locked Solid Axles, a centrally mounted Transmission, Beadlock Wheels, Soft Compound Tyres and a soft coil-over Suspension that allowed the rig to articulate its axles and generate grip in use.
This blueprint is the origin of most of the RC Rock Crawlers we see on the market today. Some brands have moved the motor up front over the front axle, to offer a better Weight-Bias, others added motors to each axle and lost the central transmission and driveshafts to create the MOA class (Motor On Axle) Rig, but many kept the 4x4 'Shafty' design and just refined aspects of it like the component layout, more realistic Axle designs, different transmission and gearbox configurations, and far more realistic Bodyshells and Scale Accessories.
Today you can buy, and build a variety of Kits or pre-built RTR (Ready To Run) rigs by over a dozen dedicated brands. You can choose and drive a 4x4 rig that has a True-to-scale Fully Licensed body, often a retro design that's a design classic in Off Road Circles, that runs Realistic and functional Beadlock Wheels, Deeply treaded Tyres that are Licensed 1:1 All Terrain or Rock Crawling brands, with rubber compounds that have been formulated to generate grip on a variety of surfaces. You can have LED lights, A Light Bar, Sound Generators that mimic real engines, A working Winch, even a Full Interior with driver and passenger figures. The only limit is your imagination and how much additional detail you want to add to the stock rig.
RC Rock Crawlers are now perhaps the biggest growth area in the RC Car Genre. Their strength is that they can be run almost anywhere and single speed rigs run times are often significantly longer than any other type of RC Car. It's not about going fast all the time. It's about choosing a line, attempting an impossible looking ascent or descent, challenging yourself and the rig, and learning complete throttle control and driving finesse. There are rigs that offer the best of both worlds and models like Cage Chassis Rock Bouncers and Ultra-4 Rigs often have mechanical multi-speed transmissions run from a 3rd channel and can go from normal bashing type speeds, to a Rock Crawling pace and back again at the flick of a button.
Here at MIBI we can offer a wide variety of Kits and RTR rigs. If unsure of a starting point into Scale Adventure or Rock Crawling, we can help suggest suitable rigs based on budget and your intended use. This genre of RC is like a blank piece of paper. You choose the rig that most inspires you. You determine the level of detail and the look you want it to evolve into. Never before has going slow been so much fun. Enjoy your RC Crawling adventures!