HPI Nitro Monster King

Get in the waaaaaay back machine and come with me, 20 years ago, Rose Cottage Inn on the Monaro highway, the second Sunday of every month.

Tamiya Frog

Here you would find me and dad setting up a rickety old cards table and crappy fold up chairs, pulling a car battery out of the boot of the car connecting some wires to it then to another smaller battery. I would then be carefully removing a small 1:10 scale buggy from the boot, in the early days a Tamiya Frog then later a Tamiya Hornet and a Tamiya Hotshot. Checking the battery level of the stick (then later, wheel) radio control unit, chatting with friends, selling my home made battery eliminators, eating terrible half cooked hotdogs from the Inn and finally putting my charged car on the starting line, ready to race.

Hornet

I was pretty good too, in the early days due to the quick reflexes, some driving tips from dad  and enthusiasm of youth and in the later days to sponsorship I managed to secure from a hobby shop (Zanter Hobbies, Google has failed me in finding any trecent trace of them except for this) my car and I were competitive and I still have a box of trophies in the shed to prove it. Unfortunately, despite the sponsorship, skill and enthusiasm the hobby got away from me as more and more adults and their full time jobs and full time salaries joined in, spending more and more money on much more expensive cars than I could afford put me out of competition, the hobby had ceased to be fun and turned in to a business.

Hotshot

Since then I haven’t really kept up with RC technology but have occasionally gone to watch the weekend races hosted by CORMCC Club in Canberrra and casually look at hobby shops to see what sort of cars people were racing/driving these days and it wasn’t hard to tell that the trend which began when I stopped racing has continued and grown since then.

From my little research on local forums and the CORMCC site the racing scene is just as big as it was back in my day, we would regularly get 20-30 racers out on an average day and by the looks of the results page on the CORMCC site they get about the same. The main difference being that back when I was racing there was only really one class of car available, 2WD or 4WD electric 1:10 scale. These days the classes seem split between 1:8 electric, 1:8 Nitro, Buggies and Truggies, and then there is a whole different set of racers for on-road electric, nitro or drift. As far as I can tell Nitro Buggies are the most popular format and a little more research reveals that the average budget for a race competitive buggy would be close to $2000! ….and I thought it was expensive back when I was making my own electronics and buying drive shafts from guys cutting them on a lathe in their garage….crikey!

Just before Fathers Day a friend sent me a link to some cheap RC helicopter a friend of his has bought from RC Hobbies, and while I wasn’t terribly interested in the helicopter I ended up browsing around the site and found this RTR (Ready to Roll) HPI Nitro Monster King, the perfect fathers days present.

I figured for $200 I’d get a fully assembled nitro monster truck ready to drive out of the box, this includes the engine, radio unit and almost everything else you need to get driving, little did I know it needed an additional $150 worth of batteries, fuel, glow plug ignitor, charger and other accessories but it was still a good way to get back in to the hobby, so I figured.

Here’s the beast in the flesh, after going through the quite extensive run-in procedure I am yet to complete the engine tuning process but these are well documented so hopefully I’ll have it fully tuned and ready to belt around the back paddock in no time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

The next stage in the master plan is to get on the ride-on and mow out a track in grass, then carve out a track in the dirt complete with jumps and other monster truck appropriate obstacles (not alpacas).

In the back of my mind buying this truck was mostly to see if driving was still fun (it is!) and if Alex would like it (he does!) with the ultimate aim being that I would eventually be able to buy a competitive buggy (electric or nitro, I’m undecided) and go racing again, giving us something to do together much like my dad and me did all those years ago.

Now that I’m one of those adults with a full time job and a full time income I can go back and have my revenge on the hobby which cast me aside all those years ago, finally, MU HA HA HA *cough* *cough*.

More on the Volt

I’m not a stinking unwashed long hair hippy but I do like the idea of paying less to run my car so I’ve been following the Chrysler Volt with a vague interest. Wired just posted a big article on the progress of the Volt’s development, you can read the whole thing here but for the lazy (like me), here are the interesting bits:

The Volt, which General Motors finally unveiled Tuesday, is a series hybrid, also called a range-extended electric vehicle. Like the Prius, it’s got an electric motor and a gasoline engine, but the engine merely charges the battery as it approaches depletion. Electricity alone turns the 17-inch wheels. The Volt is designed to travel 40 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery, meaning most drivers will never burn a drop of gasoline.

and

General Motors wants the Volt to recharge in eight hours using a standard 120-volt wall outleta or three hours with a 240. Of course, that won’t do you any good if you’re miles from home when the batteries are winding down. At that point, the Volt’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine kicks on, powering a 53-kilowatt generator that will keep the battery going.

and finally

GM says the drivetrain will produce acceleration similar to that of a V-6 engine.

So we’re looking at an electric car which can do 4.7l/100, that’s almost half what my 1.8l Civic does and it sure as crap doesn’t accelerate like a V-6 (unless I’m in a bad mood).

Oh, the Volt also looks freakin awesome:

My next car will be 100% electric

With petrol prices approaching $2/Litre I have noticed the reduction in the number of obscenely large 4WD vehicles on the road. From a personal perspective this is a good thing because I’ve always hated sharing the road with vehicles which were designed to be off the road, not because I hate soccer mums but because I hate driving behind a brick wall in heavy traffic.

On a side note, in the last week or so the prices dropped about 15-20c/Litre and I noticed an increase in the number of cars and particularly large cars on the road, maybe $2/L is the magic number to kill of Humvees forever.

Having said that, we do own a Subaru Forester XT which isn’t known for it’s fuel efficiency but we own it through necessity, for the business…and becasuse it’s a Turbo and it goes fast. It’s ok, I offset that extravegance by driving a Honda Civic which does 7L/100km.

Anyway, I’ve been saying for a while now that my next car will be fully electric because even the fuel efficient Civic is still costing almost $100 a week to run, in fuel costs alone.

So reports that Nissan (and others) are working on 100% electric vehicles to be commercially available within 3-4 years is good news.

What remains to be seen is the initial cost and running costs, electricity isn’t free. Also, how do you bill your running costs to a lease since you (theoretically) just plug the thing in to your house socket and charge it from there?

How much you’ll pay for one remains an open question, and one answered by the price of the lithium ion batteries. “They’re over $1,000 a kilowatt hour,” Tom Turrentine, director of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC-Davis, told Wired.com. “The Volt battery is 16 kilowatt hours. That’s $16,000 just for the battery.”

See the full article on the Chevrolet Volt.

Here’s some more info on plug-in electric cars:

It all starts in 2010. General Motors promises to have the Chevrolet Volt rolling into showrooms by then. Toyota says it will roll out a small fleet of plug-in Prius hybrids to see how they do. Volkswagen has similar plans for its plug-in Golf. And Fisker hopes to have a few dozen pricey Karma sedans in driveways within 18 months. Ford and others are moving more slowly, aiming for 2012 and beyond.

More good news is that going off the design for the Chevrolet Volt not all electric cars have to look like bulbous ugly overly streamlined rejects designed by aerodynamics computers, oh wait…

New car

So after much research, a lot of test driving and a lot ot time with a calculator scratching our heads and lamenting that fact that we have to live off 2 minute noodles for the next 5 years, we have decided on a new car:



The 06 Honda Civic beat off the competition (Mazda3, Holden Astra, Suzuki Swift, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla) because it has the best combination of price, performance, standard features and economy that we could find, no wonder there’s a 2.5 month waiting list for them.

The final 2 cars we had on the list where the Civic and the new Holden Astra, the Astra lost because while it was more fun to drive, had a better stereo and looks better (in my opinion) it was more expensive to run, has reliabily problems and is very expensive to repair/service in comparison to the Honda.

Come on September the 30th!

Yeah, one of those photos

Being the only person at work with a card reader a workmate comes up to me this morning and asks me to download a photo off his MMC for him:

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Hot off the presses, this poor guy misjudged the height of the carpark downstairs and ended up redecorating the ceiling and his poor little truck, I thought I should get in and post this before it becomes internet famous..when that happens I can claim that I posted it first!

In other news, Kristie and I have done some sums (1+1=3) and come to the realisation that the Skyline is costing us more to keep on the road than it’s worth. In fact, if my 3rd grade maths if correct if we have bought a new car at the start of the year we would actually be better off than we are now if you take petrol and repair/service costs on the Skyline into account.

As good a car as it has been, it has to go. So we’re looking at some options, which shall be the subject of an upcoming update, soon.

The crap I see on the way to work

After my Canberra Drivers Suck post last week I was surprised to find this morning that a hot air balloon (which usually cause traffic chaos) was actually about to land in the middle of the road (well, a divided road) near Dairy Flat Rd this morning with little or no disruption to traffic flow at all.

In fact, I was so confident that the cars in front of me weren’t going to come to a screaming halt (as they normally would) that I was able to snap off a few pictures.

Canberra Drivers Suck

Why is it that in Canberra that if there is ANYTHING at all on the side of the road that traffic in a 100km/h zone will slow to less than 50km/h..Anything, I mean anything, a hot air baloon, an empty parked car, a person, a sign, a frog..anything at all will turn Canberra drivers into rubbernecking retards and destroy all traffic flow, WHY GOD WHY?!

Oh hey, while I’m complaining about Canberra drivers, hey dimwit, the space I leave in front of my car is FOR MY OWN SAFETY, it is not a invitation for you to change lanes, especially since you’re not actually turning off for another 10km, idiot.