As Marty McFly said, “All the best stuff is made in Japan.” Cars aside, this also holds true for hobby products. And in the land of remote controlled model cars, one kit persistently remains the best of the best in terms of realism, ingenuity, and sheer awesomeness: Tamiya’s metal ladder frame chassis Toyota pickup truck. As a tribute to its status among otakus, somebody has made a life-size, 1:1 scale version of it.
The Tamiya kit originally appeared in 1981, simply called the “Toyota 4×4 Pickup.” It wore a red N30 Toyota Hilux body with step-side bed and blue California license plates. Good-looking as it was, the running gear underneath was the true gem. The chassis was a ladder frame made of aluminum alloy, with actual functional leaf spring suspensions. In addition, the truck had a three-speed transmission attached to the electric motor. The higher two speeds were selectable in two-wheel drive mode, while the low gear was for four-wheel drive. “Toys they’re not” is a tongue-in-cheek tagline for Tamiya R/C models. They have a point.
Over the years, Tamiya would update and further develop this kit. In 1985, it was updated to the Bruiser kit sporting an N30 body in blue with the iconic “Hog Heaven” graphics. The suspension now included oil-filled dampers to assist the leaf springs. In 1993, it returned to a red body and was now called the Mountaineer. The kit would later be re-released as the Mountain Rider. The biggest update came in 2006, when Tamiya completely redesigned the chassis. Initially fitted with a Ford F-350 body, it was subsequently reunited with the Hilux body and then, appropriately, with a second generation Tundra one as well. A Tamiya tradition, this kit remains one of the most realistic, intricate, and rugged R/C models ever created.
Recently, Toyota in the UK commissioned a life-size replica of the Tamiya Bruiser kit based on the current Hilux. Besides the Bruiser livery — which was faithfully recreated — the truck sports some smile-inducing touches such as an “antenna” that resembles that on R/C model cars, the on/off switch in the bed to scale, and even the body clip in the middle of the hood. Furthermore, the truck was actually built by Arctic Trucks wearing Fox shocks and giant BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A tires, meaning it can frolic over dunes and dirt hills as you would with an R/C truck. Check out the video below.
This is actually not the first time someone recreated the Bruiser in 1:1 scale. In 2012, an exact replica to the Bruiser was built using a third generation Hilux.
A case of life imitating art imitating life? The Tamiya Toyota 4×4 Pickup Bruiser, along with some iterations of the metal ladder frame kit, remains in the model maker’s lineup to this day. The price is steep, but it promises to be one of the funnest things one can build. And for car and hobby enthusiasts who grew up in the 80s, it’s a double dose of nostalgic bliss.
I wanted one so bad when they came out, 30 years ago. Realistic ladder chassis, suspension, and drive train. But, I couldn’t come up with the $300 (in 1980s $!!!) PLUS the cost of the R/C radio kit, $150 (again, in 1980s $$). Now they are just ridiculously priced. Oh, well, that’s life; it’s all about timing…
Tamiya is awesome.
I actually spent my (then) life savings on the original kit in 1984. I can report that it was an awesome build – a rugged aluminum frame, with working leaf springs, locking differentials, and gearbox. The early kits had huge batteries and analog throttle regulators, as well as brass U joints which would break after a few months of use.
I replaced it in 1998 with the King Hauler, which was a nearly identical build, save the additional axle, updated componentry, and a different body. Just 2 years ago a bought the add-on kit, which adds lights and sound to the model. Amazing that after 30 years, the kit (and iall the accessories) Is still available, almost unchanged.
Awesome looking trucks (both RC and the real thing). Those videos are an eye opener.