Throwback: RC Drifting – Realism Gets You The Win

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2024 Introduction

Last week, we revisited Dino’s 2014 story on the show side of RC drifting in Japan. That feature was a follow-up to our most-read post of 2013, which also took a look at the unique events happening at Hobby Garage in Saitama.

Today, as a throwback finale for those stories, we’re getting down to ground level to check out the crazy custom details that RC drift fanatics in Japan were putting into their scale creations a decade ago.

2014 Feature

When faced with the dilemma of which two cars to pick out of a 40-long selection of meticulously-executed custom RC drift bodies, there was no other way around it. Seeing as it was all about creating something as realistic as possible, the guidelines had to be pretty strict; it’s the only way that you can start eliminating cars that just don’t stack up.


With this in mind, I made my way around the line-up that was neatly set up on the carpeted floor. One of the first cars I took a long hard look at was this Hilux truck. Now, it’s already surprising enough that scale bodies of these things exist, but what the owner’s done is combine the sort of touches you would see at a Mooneyes custom car event and throw in some one-off touches. Look at how one of the front fenders is finished off in marbled primer, making it look like it was recently involved in a little crash and is on its way to getting fixed up.


The stance it was sporting suggested the owner was inspired by the bagged or hydraulic look, sitting lower in the back like it was trying to show off what that suspension can do.


One glimpse at the bed revealed a cut-out section exposing the suspension underneath, as well as a safety fuel cell. Hawaii plates and a heat-stained, twin side-exit exhaust complete things beautifully.


Speaking of Hawaii, here’s another one with the plates everyone just wants to have. I thought I was at the Exciting Car Showdown in Nagoya looking at this Osaka-style S13 drifter, its front and rear overfenders attempting to contain the aggressive negative camber.


Misaligned body panels probably hint at the rough use it’s subjected to in the docks at night. Oh, and sun roofs were all the rage this year – a variety of types, either fixed, tilt-able or even sliding back to reveal the interior beneath.


The whole USDM thing with flashy coloured wheels and an obligatory BMX bike on the roof is another popular look that some of these detail-obsessed scale modellers are opting for. We saw an Estima van last year with an LCD screen in the trunk, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise seeing a tiny screen squeezed in the back of this EK Civic. That doesn’t make it any less impressive of course.


Ah, yes the FC3S RX-7, we all love them and they look so good done up as drift cars. This one sported a nice and aggressive aero kit and through the rear glass you can make out the roll cage.


But the surprise came when you viewed it from the front. How about that for a front end swap?! We’ve seen BMW front ends on S14 Silvias but never a CLK face on an FC, unless I’ve obviously missed it in real life. Again, the whole thing was very nicely done with the joint lines hidden away and a set of LEDs to give the effect of HID headlights.


For me, the more grassroots the approach is, the better. That means cool, old school JDM rides, bulbous flared fenders, and lots of details in the interior. This was probably the first time I’d seen gusseting done to a roll cage.


Some guys preferred to save all the attention to detail for the paint, like this lowrider-style Aristo. Having painted my fair share of polycarbonate bodies, I can’t even begin to imagine the skill this complex air brushing required.


While most of these bodies get painted from the inside so that the glossy exterior can hold up to the unavoidable crashes and damage, matte or rust-like finishes require the paint to be applied on the outside. This also makes it possible to add some scuff and paint damage for yet another touch of realism.


Camo paint too is applied to the exterior. Like the military-themed S13 above, this 180SX not only had a similar Rocket Bunny overfender kit fitted, but even tiny little rivet details for authenticity. It’s touches like this that score highly with the judges.


The realism of it all takes a big step up when people start taking things to new levels, paying more attention to the interior of the cars as well as other touches. Aside from the caricature driver behind the wheel and the kanjo-racer-style window net, what I really liked was the slightly tilted bonnet, something that many drifters and track racers do in an attempt to cool their engines a little bit more. Of course, it’s more about looks and when done in a scaled way it’s even cooler.


Then there are those that really truly impress, and Hulk Hogan had much to be proud about here. I thought I was up at a Drift Matsuri in Ebisu Circuit when looking at this AE86 missile. It’s had a hard life this car, drifted and banged around to within an inch of its life and it sure shows as it’s missing all its bodywork from the front end. To get this look, the owner had to hand-build the chassis, and right down to the welded-on fender reinforcements, the suspension turrets, radiator support and subframe.


Then of course there’s the engine: a micro 4A-GE, hand-formed out of plastic, sporting even all the pulleys, alternator and the belts connecting them up. The key here is to form and shape its underside so that it slots onto the RC car’s front diff casing. Mind blown!


The beaten look extends all the way around the car, with a mismatched yellow trunk lid and the fuel filler cap that’s just about ready to fall off.


And it doesn’t end there. There is of course the interior, and depending on the chassis used, the motor and the battery position, there’s usually enough space to allow the addition of interior pieces like the instrument panel and steering wheel. However, what made this particular AE86 special was the servo-operated door that can be made to swing out at any time. The owner was opening and closing it while drifting the car on track, which made everyone laugh.


Seeing the different levels of standards, it was becoming a little easier to separate the amazing from the truly mind-blowing.


This was one car that really stood out: a homage to Mike Burroughs’ roof-chopped E28 street rod, albeit finished off with some USDM touches like the rusted bonnet and skateboard, and curiously enough, a kyusha-style bumper-mounted oil cooler. Ok, so it’s not roof-chopped and the shell is of an E30 M3, but you can’t deny the amazing execution of it all. The Speedhunters tyre bombing stickers we’d already seen before, but the TAKATA Racing x SH tow strap? Just awesome!


This was the only kaido racer-style body I saw this time, but all the right touches were there, starting off with the race-inspired Bridgestone livery.


At the back we have a puttied-off rear section, much like the back end of the Mizuno Works-built Liberty Walk Kenmeri, also finished off with round tail lights and the naughty folded-up-at-the-corners number plate.


Obviously half of the satisfaction of creating these one-off works of miniature automotive art is seeing them paraded in a line-up like this. Lots of picture taking is always a must.


The 86 seems to have lost its popularity as people prefer to concentrate on the more old school stuff, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a couple worth checking out.


If you ask me, the rarer the shell the better, as this JZX81 perfectly shows. Pumped fenders mean aggressive offsets can be run for that perfect grassroots drifter stance.


Looks pretty mean from the back too. Check out that poke!


If it’s realism mated to perfect execution that I was to find, then I was pretty sure my search was over when I saw this Z10 Soarer. The body was pretty simple and stock – no crazy paint jobs in sight, just a glossy white finish with black body protectors all the way round. It sat low on a set of what could be described as reversed BBS-type mesh rims with gold centres.


The ‘basic’ things ended here however, the bonnet dampers sort of hinting that there was much more to be discovered. Underneath was a perfect replica of a 6M motor.


It also sported a full interior, including suede-wrapped front and rear seats, transmission tunnel console and dashboard. There was no doubt in my mind that for 2014, this was the car that really pushed the envelope. I was sure my choice was the right one.


Along with my pick, two other cars were selected and added onto the scaled RC Custom Body Show stage for the award presentation.


Along with them was the ‘Best of Best Award’ car, which went to the blue Aristo. This was combined choice between myself and the rest of the judges, picked for its authentic representation of the modern day VIP scene and the fact that it really pushed headlight design with the replica Cima multi-LED reflectors built into the stock housing.


The happy winners were also given some Speedhunters goodies to take home along with that flashy laser-etched glass award.


I still find it amazing how this whole RC drift scene goes so perfectly hand in hand with the car culture that we cover around the world. It’s the challenge of recreating these styles faithfully that keeps this dedicated group of guys going, and if what we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, we’re in for even more of a treat in the years to come.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare

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