A few considerations about the 58391 “Hotshot 2007”

After having read many Tamiya enthusiasts’ reactions to recent news about the Hotshot re-release, it feels appropriate to make a few comments. The text below is solely my subjective opinion, but the opinion is based on using the Hotshot and the subsequent models in the “Hotshot series” for organized racing on national level for three buggy racing seasons and servicing countless of customers’ Hotshot series models (Hotshot, Hotshot 2, Supershot, Boomerang, Bigwig and Super Sabre). In other words, my opinion is at least not just based on random guesses.

Many enthusiasts have commented that they would like Tamiya to re-release the Hotshot in its original form. For nostalgic reasons I’m tempted to agree, but for anyone who would like to run the “new” Hotshot and already have extensive experience with the “old” one, it’s rather obvious that a re-released Hotshot would need major improvements to be durable and have acceptable wear and handling. As nice as the original Hotshot is for static display and the occasional very careful run, it’s pretty much useless compared to practically any modern model. As virtually any part on the original Hotshot has major flaws in the design and/or choice of material, what I consider to be a good re-release can’t possibly have much in common with the original.
Before addressing the Hotshot’s many and among longtime enthusiasts well known flaws, I would like to make a few comments about some of the models that Tamiya has already re-released, more or less in their original form. Many of them have kept many of the flaws they had when they were first released “back then”, but most of these flaws are acceptable, as they don’t reduce performance and durability to unacceptable levels. Though being rather outdated as “racers”, the Top Force and Manta Ray are still relatively close to current technology and both handling and durability are fully adequate for fun runners, and as such fully acceptable that they were released without any major improvements. That is certainly not the case for the Grasshopper, Hornet, Frog and Brat, but having very simple and basic designs, no sensible enthusiast would expect fine handling and even the durability and wear issues can be tolerated. That would in my humble opinion certainly not be the case if the Hotshot would be re-released with most or all of its original flaws. After all, Tamiya hasn’t offered the other re-releases as “fragile, outdated, unsuitable for anything but light running, static model collector’s” items”! The re-released Hotshot should also be suitable for what RC-cars are primarily made for; running, not just displaying.
When the Hotshot was first released in 1985, it was a pioneer in using low profile tires, and arguably being the first electric 4WD buggy with a reasonably efficient and reliable drivetrain. However, measured against its major serious competitor of the time, the Associated RC10, it could hardly be considered a serious attempt at making a competitive buggy for organized racing. Even the Kyosho Progress would have been totally superior, if it hadn’t been for the excessive complexity that caused maintenance and durability issues. At the time, my work and sponsorship meant I had to and benefited from racing Tamiya products, and in hindsight, I can easily admit that I was pretty biased at that time, and didn’t want to realise how “weak” the Hotshot was in most terms.
Though I loved the Hotshot back then and still love the look of it, I think hardly any other Tamiya model is so unsuitable for re-releasing in its original form. Apart from the rollcage and the improved second generation bumper, there are almost no parts on the Hotshot that I would consider to be of good design, have a suitable choice of materials or acceptable durability, especially when measured to today’s standards. As nice as it looks and as important as it is to Tamiya’s heritage and myth, the Hotshot must be the Tamiya model with the most flaws of all time, even when considering the Juggernaut, Striker and a few of the not so great models made by Tamiya.
The red parts were all very fragile, except for the rear uprights and stabilizer mounts (though they shattered too). Cracking front uprights, servo mounts, battery door hinge, the damper plastic parts and of course wheelhubs were all big problems. Disintegrating propshaft and dogbones, although very expensive compared to later and simpler onepiece designs, was very common too. The first generation Hotshot also had a big problem with bent kingpin threads as they were 3mm instead of the later 4mm, causing even more rubbing of the front wheels against the suspension arms, a big problem even with all parts intact, especially before many improvements were introduced. Needless to say, the MSC was crap and also very difficult to maintain, as the cramped radio box was mounted to the upper chassis with long screws that were often difficult to unscrew without stripping their heads. This problem wasn’t solved before the introduction of the Hotshot 2, using selftapping screws. The resistors’ ceramic material pulverized due to the constant vibrations, making the resistors rattle about inside the aluminium housings, and mostly sooner than later fail completely. Having turned aluminium housings for improved cooling, they cost a whopping USD10,- each to replace (in 1985!), without offering any actual benefit over the regular (and cheap) “sugarlump” resistors. Yes, they look great, but my appreciation for a design where the traditional wisdom “form follows function” must have been completely ignored, is very limited. An important reason for welcoming the ESC of the re-release, regardless whether it will be placed “unreachable” inside a tub or not!
Furthermore, front stabilizer mounts broke easily, especially the “fork” part, rear stabilizer practically never stayed in the mounts on the rollcage, making the rear stabilizer useless most of the time, the aluminium bumper mount hex easily stripped (before being changed to brass), and the first generation front gearbox was also weak in the bumper mount area. The upper rear suspension arms used to break in the “L”-mount area for the monoshock when both sides bottomed out at the same time and also simply for general fatigue. The upper front suspension arms were extremely sloppy, causing severe wobbling of the front wheels at high speed, and all suspension arms would break at a rate unthinkable with any current design. Diffs were pretty unreliable, and the slop in the whole diff design caused gearbox joints to wear out prematurely. This could to some extent be counteracted by placing 850 bearings outside the original 1150 bearings, like the racers started doing right after the Hotshot’s release and Tamiya themselves introduced later (too late!) on the Bigwig. Springs, not being of spring steel, caused the (front) suspension to sag after a short time, making it necessary to run the front at the stiffest setting, which again of course wasn’t exactly beneficial for handling, with the inappropriate ride height and the already inadequate front suspension geometry getting even worse. By the way, as for touching handling, though not being durability issues, the hard tires, poor dampers and extreme bumpsteer were joykillers as well, especially for the owners who struggled to be competitive in organized racing.
With this long list, we’re only talking about the problems for knowledgeable and experienced owners, and I’m sure I have forgotten something too! For the majority of customers, the poor design combined with lack of knowledge, caused even more problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the re-release too, but rather than a model just suitable as a “static” model for the showcase, I would prefer a massively improved design, or even better, a completely different modern design like the DF-03 chassis, but with monoshocks, rollcage and correct colour coding of all visible parts. After all, a re-release identical to the original would not convey the same nostalgic feelings or appreciation of collectibility as an original model anyway. A completely new model with the basic looks of the Hotshot would allow for the best of two worlds in my opinion; a greatlooking model suitable for resurrecting those mid-eighties memories, but suitable for running, with handling and durability we could only dream of “back then”.
As relatively little information has been made available about the “Hotshot 2007” at the time of writing this (April 27th ’07), it remains to be seen how far Tamiya has gone with the redesigns and improvements, or if they have even opted for a totally new interpretation of how the chassis of a revived Hotshot should be.
With the release of the Avante Mk. II, Tamiya has demonstrated their understanding of what the market really wants. Outside Japan, the Mk. II has been criticised for being too far away from the original Avante’s concept, and though surely a few Japanese enthusiasts would agree, I’m confident that the sales volume on Tamiya’s most important market (Japan), will prove Tamiya’s strategy to be correct. Only time will show whether the same strategy will be applied for the re-release of the Hotshot. Regardless how the Hotshot 2007 turns out to be, and the occasional miss in the past (unavoidable for a big, innovative and trendsetting company like Tamiya), rest assured that 6 decades of success means that the people at Tamiya’s Shizuoka headquarters know very well what they are doing.