The vintage Tamiya SRB series
For today's collectors, the Tamiya SRB series (SRB: Special Racing Buggy) represents the ultimate in scale off-road electric rc cars, and it's very easy to see why.
The series only consisted of four vehicles, the Rough Rider, Sand Scorcher, Ford Ranger XLT and Super Champ, all released within 3 years of each other.
The Rough Rider was the first release in November 1979, quickly followed by the Sand Scorcher just a month later. Although the Rough Rider was first, it's actually the Sand Scorcher that is regarded as the biggest prize for vintage rc collectors - and current prices of the cars show it!
My personal interest in the Tamiya SRB series comes from having owned a Rough Rider, round about 1983/4. My father bought it for me, second hand, and it was missing the bodyshell. I remember that it had very worn Sand Scorcher rear tyres on Rough Rider rims, and that the speed controller must have been faulty, as it often jammed in reverse! As a result of that, I got through quite a few rear cages.
By saving my pocket money, I could eventually buy a new set of Rough Rider tyres and even a bodyshell which I painted to match the standard blue colour scheme (standard 'box art' RR colors were blue/white or orange/white).
With time, my beloved Rough Rider got sold on as my interest moved to rc flying. With hindsight, seeing today's prices of the vintage Tamiya SRB cars, I really wish I'd kept it!! But, thanks to good ol' eBay, I'm now the proud owner once more of a Rough Rider, and indeed a Sand Scorcher!
Above: my recently acquired Rough Rider is in great condition but will get a strip down,
rebuild and box-art paint job.
Below: the Tamiya SRB series shown in order of the release dates.
[Images reproduced from the 1983 Tamiya catalogue, © Tamiya.]
Making RC car history
Before the release of the SRB series, Tamiya had already begun manufacturing electric rc on-road cars, starting with the release of the 1/12 Porsche 934 Turbo in November 1976. This momentous occasion marked the start of the rc car market as we know it today.
The release of the Rough Rider, and then the Sand Scorcher, in 1979 made rc history because they were the first radio controlled cars to be built specifically for off road racing. But what made them so much ahead of their time, and a big reason why they are so collectible today, is the sheer quality of the components.
All four SRBs shared the same basic chassis and running gear - a fibreglass chassis plate with aluminium components for suspension, steering, motor/gear casing etc. The most impressive feature was the off-road suspension featuring 4 oil-filled dampers, rear swing arms, hairpin springs and torsion bars - a full set-up that closely resembled the suspension of the real-size Funco SS1 and VW Baja Bug dune buggies that the Rough Rider and Sand Scorcher were modelled from, respectively. On that note, even the Tamiya SRB decalling reflected the real life racing sponsorship.
The radio gear (Tamiya recommended the Acoms 2 channel system) and motor battery pack for the SRB series were housed in a clear plastic watertight box. This was another first, as it meant that the cars could be driven through water without any danger to the electronics. Even the radio gear on/off switch had a rubber cover - yep, Tamiya had thought of everything!
Although this chassis and running gear set-up is the same for the 4 cars of the SRB series, the exception is the Super Champ buggy.
Released in 1982, the last SRB release, the Super Champ was aimed at the next level up - club racing. The most obvious change was to the rear suspension; Tamiya equipped the Super Champ with an oil-filled mono-shock unit which could take more of a beating. The oil bottle sat over the motor casing and kept the unit topped up, thus negating the need for regular oil-level inspection.
Also on the Super Champ, the plastic radio box was replaced with a non-watertight quick release tray, and knobbly tyres were standard.
For all 4 cars of the Tamiya SRB series, the stock motor was the tough Mabuchi 540. There were two battery pack options available, the 6V flat pack or the 7.2V humpback pack (recommended), with the extra 1.2V cell sitting on top of the other 5.
The 540 motor did give adequate performance with the 7.2V pack, but by today's standards the SRBs were noticeably sluggish - the sheer weight of the cars, because of the amount of metal in them, slowed them down considerably. But the reassuring trade-off was their toughness and durability, it took a great deal of disrespectful handling to break an SRB!
The Tamiya SRB fan base
As previously mentioned, the Tamiya SRB series has a very strong following. The Rough Rider, Sand Scorcher, Ford Ranger XLT and Super Champ are, without doubt, the most collected rc cars of all time.
Unassembled NIB (New In Box) examples can exchange hands for anything up to several thousand dollars at today's prices. Even a mint condition empty SRB box can cost a hundred bucks, and the SRB spare parts market is very lively indeed.
As with all things collectible, prices will increase with time as fewer original SRBs continue to survive. But survive they will, and they'll continue to be loved by rc drivers all over the world, including myself!
Tamiya SRB eBay listings - USA & UK
Shown in the tables below are current (real-time) eBay listings for Tamiya SRBs and parts. The first table is for US listings, the second is for UK listings.
Please note that these are genuine eBay listings, and clicking any of the links will take you through to eBay.
US listings (ebay.com)
Uk listings (ebay.co.uk)
Update: Tamiya Rough Rider & Sand Scorcher re-release
Well, who'd have thought it?
Tamiya surprised the SRB fans in May 2009 with the shock announcement that the Rough Rider would be re-released, to mark 30 years of the original!
This was just fantastic news for the Tamiya SRB fan base, myself included, and the 2009 Rough Rider marketed as the Racing Buggy 'Buggy Champ' appeared in the shops in July '09 - and sold fast! Then as if that wasn't enough, the mighty Sand Scorcher was re-released in 2010 - hats off to Tamiya for making these SRBs available again!
Related pages & Resources
Tamiya Rough Rider - my Rough Rider restoration project (future page).
Tamiya Buggy Champ - my 2009 Rough Rider re-release.
Tamiya Club - for vintage and modern day Tamiya lovers.