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TAMIYA Mini 4 wheel drive cars

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History of Mini 4WD

The current Racer Mini 4WD was introduced after the evolution of the Mini 4WD series developed by Tamiya in 1982. Two series of Mini 4WD have been launched in the US market in 1997: a racing oriented Super Mini 4WD series, and a Fully Cowled Mini 4WD series.

A cement-free snap kit, Tamiya Mini 4wds are basically "plastic model kits". Many upgrade parts are available for performance improvement. For example, using optional ball bearings helps in minimizing friction loss and utilizes motor power more efficiently. Selecting the right upgrade parts, you can enhance the performance of your car’s stability in curves and acceleration.

Another enjoyment in "tuning-up" besides enhancing performance is that you can create your own machine by customizing it. You can get creative while tuning up your car. Try hollowing out your car to make it lighter or painting it with vivid colors.

The excitement you get with Mini 4WD is as great as the one you get with Radio Controlled Car racing. The Mini 4WD gives you the excitement of racing as if you were a car designer, engineer, and racing driver.

Mini 4WD snap kits are reasonably priced and can be considered a learning experience for many kids. They are easy to assemble and objects of pride and accomplishment for children and their parents. Through assembling their own cars and racing them, children will be able to gain a sense of competitiveness and creativity. Fun and learning can be had at the same time!

Mini 4WD Basic Knowledge

You can enhance the performance of your cement-free Mini 4WD by using Tamiya's various upgrade parts and provide it with increased power and faster speed. To do this, you need to know the basic element of the Mini 4WD.

  • Motor

Installation of tune up motors is the best way to increase the speed of your car. There are seven kinds of motors available for upgrade. All of them achieve higher performance than the standard motor included in the kit. It is essential to select the right motor since some are designed for top speed, while others are set up for cornering.

  • Gear Ratio: At a given output power of the motor, top speed and acceleration is determined by a gear ratio. In the comparison between a 4:1 gear ratio and a 5:1 gear ratio, the smaller 4:1 ratio is more suitable for speed oriented circuits, while the bigger 5:1 produces more acceleration.
    • Performance Difference Among the Various Gear Ratios. Different gear ratios are available for your choice. Use a small ratio for straightway courses and a big one for technical courses with many curves and ups-and-downs. Set up gears according to the track you are racing on.
  • Tires: Tires are an important part of your car and have a great influence on its performance. In combination with the wheels, weight, diameter, and width should be considered according to the type of course you are running.
    • Difference in Diameter
      • Small diameter: Good for a quick start, but not for top speed. Small diameter tires lower the center of gravity and helps your car corner better.
      • Large diameter: Good top speed and suitable for straightway. Better shock absorbing for bumpy course joints.
    • Difference in Width
      • Wide tires: Provides stability during cornering. Good for technical courses with up-hills, curves, and ups-and-downs.
      • Narrow tires: Good for straightway courses. Less drag on the motor and may have the advantage of longer run times.
  • Difference in Material
    • Rubber: Included in a snap kit. Weighs more than the sponge type, but useful for jumps and lowering the center of gravity.
    • Sponge: Weighs less than rubber type but with lower grip characteristics.
    • Reston: Lighter than the regular sponge type and better gripping. Good speed stretch. Can be used for all kinds of wheels.

Tire Maintenance

Use transparent tape to clean sponge type tires. Clean rubber type tires with an eraser and remove the eraser pieces with tape.

Wheels of Mini 4WD

Wheels, as well as tires, play an important role in tuning up your car. There are various types with different diameters and structures. Select the right one for your application. All of the different sized wheels can be used for the Super Mini 4WD series, however, if you have a Fully Cowled Mini 4WD, body modification will be required if you use anything other than the standard, small-diameter type wheels.

Types of Wheels

Small diameter type: Narrow Wheel which is a standard for the Fully Cowled Mini 4WD, Wide Super Low-Height Wheel, Wheel for semi-pneumatic tires.

Large diameter type: Included in a Super Mini 4WD snap kit. Lots of designs are available pick your favorite.

One Way type: Light One Way Wheel, Wide One Way Wheel, Low-Height One Way Wheel, Narrow One Way Wheel (exclusive for the Fully Cowled Mini 4WD).

Normal Wheel vs One Way Wheel

Normal: The speed of the wheels at both sides of a car is the same. This is good for the straights, however the outer wheel tends to be dragged during cornering and this may slow your car down.

One Way: The outer wheel rotates faster than the inner wheel does. Ensures smooth cornering and is preferred for technical courses with many curves.


Rollers are a must when racing on walled circuits. They help your car negotiate corners smoothly. Key points in using rollers is their size, location and angle.

Handling Settings by Roller Size

Same size: Standard setting. Front and rear rollers have the same diameter. This makes your car easier to run straight since rollers are lined parallel when they contact a wall. Also minimizes power loss.

Bigger in front: Front roller diameter is bigger than that of rear roller. Suitable for courses with many corners since this pushes your car towards inside of the course when rollers contact a wall.

Smaller in front: Rear roller diameter is bigger than that of front roller. This makes your car run along with a wall. Gives stability during cornering, but creates power loss.

Racing with Mini 4WD

The true appeal of Mini 4WD can be found in racing them. It is as exciting as real full size racing. Bring your own Mini 4WD and see what you can do. In 1997 Tamiya Mini 4WD Racing Tour will be held in numerous locations across the US.

There are formal rules and regulations for the Tamiya Mini 4WD Racing Tour, This makes the racing consistent and fair. The excitement of Mini 4WD racing is not just making them go fast. It is in analyzing and improving your car, expressing your creativity and making new friends. This is what sets Mini 4WD racing apart from many of the other activities available to youngsters today, and what has made mini 4WD one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world!

Tamiya's Mini 4WD Racers

Tiny Traffic Builders Pack Big Kicks for Kids of Every Age Group

By Jeff Troy

Tamiya’s 1/32 "scale" Mini 4WD racers can do wonders for boosting or rejuvenating a hobby shop’s in-store traffic. These inexpensive, quick-building little cars are designed to race under their own power in portable, three-lane mini-raceways. The cars are not controlled by radio or wire, but they do travel under their own power. Racers just turn on their cars’ motor switches and place the cars into the designated lanes of the track. Each car is powered by a pair of AA batteries and propelled by a small electric motor that turns a 4WD mini-gearbox and allows the tiny racer to power down the course’s walled lanes like a toboggan.

Although Tamiya’s Mini 4WD racers have been with us for awhile, many retailers and consumers may not really be aware of just how effectively these low-energy racers can be used to generate store traffic and community awareness of model hobbies and hobby shops. Mini 4WD racers are snap-together models that require no glue. They’re very simple in concept and only cost about $10 each. Each car assembles in about an hour and can be painted or modified to suit any racer’s personality or racing specialty. The cars come with bold and creative sticker sets and are molded in bright colors that stimulate younger children’s built-in sense of action and anticipation. Watching a single Mini 4WD run is entertaining, but watching two, three or more at a time seems to trigger a built-in emotional release in most young kids, and it causes them to go wild with excitement.

In addition to the wide selection of Mini 4WD car kits, Tamiya offers an extensive line of aftermarket parts for the cars, which allows modelers to stretch the performance of their models as far as they’d like. Seven different motors are available, as are genuine ball bearings, gold-plated battery terminals, special gears and gear sets, hollow drive shafts, heat sinks, weights and a surprising number of colorful sticker sets, lightweight clear bodies, wheel and tire sets, rollers (to prevent the cars from slowing as they contact the walls of the lanes) and sophisticated roller hardware.

Tamiya makes two- and three-lane Mini 4WD raceways for store or home use, and there are several action and expansion accessories that can be used to build the various tracks’ levels of intensity even higher. Two or three sets can be combined to create some very interesting course configurations, and just as in slot car racing, straight sections, loops or crossovers can be added to the layouts to further enhance the thrills and challenges of Mini 4WD racing. Tamiya even offers a lap timer and a speed checker for the ultimate in professional racing setups and making the best impressions.

In 1990, I worked with a mall shop that ran Mini 4WD races on Thursday evenings at 7:00 P.M. We kept a fairly small, three-lane raceway setup at all times, so kids — regardless of age — could come in after school or on weekends and test their latest additions or modifications in preparation for each Thursday’s race events. By 6:00 P.M. every Thursday, rain or shine, the store was full, Mini 4WD kits, parts and accessories were literally flying from the shelves and the sound of excited children were filling the air. It was almost like the RC car boom of the ’80’s all over again.

Older kids helped younger kids, teaching them to place their cars on the track in the proper direction. A few of these children were still too young to walk, but even the toddlers weren’t too young to get excited. They would laugh, point, bounce up and down and yell as their colorful cars shot down the track, while their parents or older siblings cheered the cars along and kept them in working order. In many cases, entire families brought their cars along to take part in the action.

Local RC car racers got involved, too. The store ran special classes that had no limits on what could be done to the cars, as long as any modifications were made with only Tamiya parts that were available for sale at any hobby shop. Despite the feeling that some racers might tend to stretch the boundaries of fair play, we found them to be extremely helpful in getting the inexperienced "drivers" started out right. Later on, when it came for the pros to go at it, there was really no need for creating an excess of rules; the speed of the cars and the confines of the course would dictate the performance rules by causing the overdoers to fly off the track. The sensible way to run was to find the combination of cars and parts that would deliver the greatest speed while ensuring that the cars stayed on the raceway. For that, Tamiya has all the parts that anyone could ever ask for, and there’s no need to start cutting frames and lightening suspension arms to get there.

Mini 4WD racing is fun. It was fun when Tamiya introduced the concept in 1982, it was fun when I experienced it, firsthand, in 1990, and it’s fun right now. Today, 15 years after its inception, Tamiya has three series of Mini 4WD vehicles. There is the Fully Cowled Mini 4WD series, where each car’s body shell incorporates fenders above the tires. Then there’s the Super Mini 4WD series, where, like Formula 1 racers, the cars are open-wheeled. Finally, there is the Racing Mini 4WD series, where the name speaks for itself. No matter which series your customers purchase, Tamiya Mini 4WD racing is way cool.

Racing Mini 4WD vehicles is also fun and profitable. The cars are inexpensive and easy to sell. Fast equals fun, so faster equates to even greater fun. Everyone who runs a Mini 4WD wants to go faster and have more fun — so you are very likely to sell a lot of Mini 4WD accessories. Finally, you are absolutely going to love what you’ll do for the kids who get involved, the kids who will buy your science kits, plastic kits and railroad sets, and eventually become the very foundation of your next consumer base.

For more information, contact Tamiya America at 714-362-2240 (Pacific time) or circle #107 on HM’s Reader Service Card. By speaking with a Tamiya representative, you can receive information on how to get started with an in-store Mini 4WD racing program. Tamiya’s Mini 4WD Dealer Guide includes everything you’ll need to know about 1/32-scale racing, and it even includes a sample press release and a qualifier-to-final racing flow-chart. There’s no limit to the fun you can have and the number of people that can become involved. Race layouts can be setup or taken down in minutes, so no permanent space is required. Of course, you get the benefits of consistent walk-in traffic if you leave the raceway standing for practice running and performance evaluation.

Give Tamiya’s Mini 4WD racing a shot. Wait until you see what it can do for you and for your business.


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