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Product Lab - December 2007

Published: November 14, 2007
Losi Mini-Slider sprints into action
Product: If you don't already know, mini R/C cars are a big deal right now. They don't need as much room to race, are (for the most part) less expensive than big ones and can be improved and adjusted just like their larger counterparts.

Losi, a long-time player in the mini-R/C segment, has blazed the way with triumphs such as the Mini-T and Micro-T trucks and has now released the ready-to-run 1:18 Mini-Slider.

The Slider comes with a Losi DSM 2.4GHz radio system featuring dual-rate, trims and throttle and steering reversing. The four AA batteries for the transmitter, an 1100mAh NiMH battery pack and wall charger are also included, so everything your customer needs to drive the Slider comes in one package.

Performance: Interestingly, the Mini-Slider's design, while it shares components that are common to all R/C cars, isn't derivative of others in Losi's mini lineup.

The look and functionality is taken directly from "outlaw" sprint cars. Of course, there are some exaggerations, like the oversized oil-filled shocks, but the overall impression is good.

The chassis is carbon fiber while the roll cage, A-arms, shock towers and battery tray are made from heavy plastic. Of course, Losi has made the Slider very adjustable. The angle of the top wing can be changed to modify the amount of downforce. Camber, toe-in and ride height can all be adjusted to suit the sort of driving your customers will be doing.

I found removing the "hood" to get at the battery compartment to be somewhat trying. It's not hard, but you have to bend the Lexan uncomfortably to get the piece in and out of a fairly tight space. The nice part is it's held on with two strips of Velcro, so there's no need to worry about a tiny body clip.

Getting inside the car is a tight squeeze, no matter how you look at it, and once I got the battery in and the clip in place, I decided to leave it, only removing the hood when the battery needed a charge. It's not a great solution for someone who wants to race and has a spare battery waiting to be slapped in, but for me, fitting my hands into the chassis to get the battery in and out is a bit of a chore.

Once charged, it's just a simple matter of going out and driving. Luckily, there's a dirt oval not too far away from my house. If you've ever seen full-size outlaw sprints, you know that they're racing sideways almost as often as not. In the turns, the Mini-Slider can emulate that feel, especially with the steering rate turned up.

The Slider handles asphalt very well too. With just a 370-size motor, it really moves out, and I was getting 15-minute runs with very hard driving.

Marketing: Without a doubt, the Mini-Slider's interesting appearance will catch the eye. Outlaw fans will want one just because it's cool.

However, find out what sort of driving other interested customers want to do. In my opinion, while it's durable, the Mini-Slider is not for bashing. If your customers are interested in doing some dirt oval or asphalt racing, the Slider can fit the bill.

If you have a couple of customers who have picked up Sliders, it wouldn't take much to set up a small course in your parking lot and let them race. It also might get others interested in the product.

As add-on sales, a second battery would be good (No. LOSB1210, $39.99). Losi is also releasing a Late Model body (No. LOSB1316, $13.99) for the Mini-Slider chassis that gives it a modified stocker look.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

VITAL STATS
Product: Mini-Slider RTR
Maker: Losi
Scale: 1:18
Stock No.: LOSB0205
MSRP/MAP: $279.99/$179.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

Bottom Line
  • Authentic outlaw look

  • Good run times

  • Fun to race


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    Great Planes adds airworthy expansion to RealFlight
    Product: RealFlight's Expansion Pack 4 (EP4) is another reason why Great Planes' flight simulator just keeps getting better. EP4, which requires Great Planes' R/C flight simulator RealFlight G3 or above, expands your collection of aircraft by 12 planes and four helicopters. It includes four new flying fields: two PhotoFields and two 3D flying sites. EP4, like the previous expansion packs, installs quickly, and in a few minutes you're up and running.

    Performance: EP4's mix of gas and electric airplanes includes the World War II warbirds B-25 Mitchell, Mosquito and Spitfire, along with a slew of Great Planes' proprietary offerings. Tucked in among the four helis are a tandem rotor CH-46 electric and the challenging Heli-Max MX450 XS.

    As I have come to expect, each aircraft is rendered in stunning detail and flies and crashes like the real thing. Part of this flight sim's experience includes RealFlight's "full-coverage" detection technology that ensures that if an impact occurs, the virtual aircraft reacts just like the real thing.

    I was re-acquainted with full-coverage detection technology when I clipped a fencepost with the EP4 Python Biplane and took off the wheels and lower left wing; the plane still flew but required additional right aileron input to stay level.

    And while the PhotoFields are my favorite sites to fly, EP4's new 3D obstacle course is definitely fun to navigate.

    Marketing: Use the Great Planes kiosk or your own computer to get customers flying on the sim. It will practically sell itself.

    If customers have G3.5, all of the RealFlight expansion packs are a great addition to an already fabulous R/C flight sim. EP4's additional electric mini helis are a lot cheaper to fly - and crash - than the real thing. The sim is definitely not a 100% replacement to real R/C flying, but it's a great learning tool.

    Reviewed by Jim Schweder

    VITAL STATS
    Product: RealFlight Expansion Pack 4
    Maker: Great Planes
    Stock No.: GPMZ4114
    Street price: $29.99
    Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Easy to load

  • Realistic interactivity

  • Lots more proprietary aircraft


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    Create a buzz with Hobbico's Swarm
    Product: Swarm is a simple, counter-rotating micro-heli with a fuselage that looks like a bug from another planet.

    It comes in a brightly-colored package with a window to show off the contents. Besides the bug, an infrared (IR) two-channel controller and instruction leaflet are also included.

    Performance: The controller requires six AA batteries, and Swarm's LiPo battery fully charges directly from its controller via a small cord in about 30 minutes.

    A nice burst up to half throttle will get the bug off the ground. More than likely it will spin on its axis either to the right or left. By adjusting the trim knob, customers will be able to eliminate a lot of spinning.

    However, they'll find that as the battery runs low on power, they'll have to make minor corrections to the trim to keep the bug from turning on its own.

    Only small changes in throttle are needed to get the Swarm to gain or lose altitude. And while flyers can turn the Swarm left or right, where it goes beyond that is pretty much up to air currents in the room.

    Since the controller is IR, customers should avoid flying the Swarm in sunlight or where something might get in between the controller and the heli.

    Marketing: Swarm is clearly targeted at children 8 years and up. Its design nearly assures flying success, and the Swarm's body fits into an interesting niche that makes it appealing to both boys and girls.

    It comes in a variety of vivid colors, including bright blue, green and pink. And while boys might think that the alien-bug body is cool, it has attributes that girls might find cute. Point out the crossover appeal to parents.

    Since it is small, having a Swarm out to demo is a good idea too.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Swarm
    Maker: Hobbico
    Stock No.: HCAE12R2
    Street Price: $39.99
    Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Appeals to girls and boys

  • Easy to fly

  • Parental supervision a must


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    Losi's Dodge Raminator packs plenty into small package
    Product: Losi's ready-to-run 1:18-scale 4WD Dodge Raminator monster truck packs plenty of fun into its relatively small package.

    The single-motor truck features a dual-deck aluminum chassis, dual steering servos and a high-torque Frenzy 370 motor. The officially licensed body has been approved by Hall Brothers Racing.

    The radio is a 27MHz synthesized FM unit with six frequency options; eight AA batteries (included) are required for transmitter operation. The onboard battery is a six-cell 1100mAh NiMH, and a charger is supplied.

    Performance: Install the transmitter batteries, charge the onboard pack, route the antenna, and you're ready to go - it's that simple.

    Be careful during antenna installation, though. It's a snug fit into the mounting collar. I used a motor tool to cut a notch into the collar, and I beveled the end of the clear antenna tube to make this task easier and to prevent chafing the antenna insulation.

    My sons, Robby and Bill, have plenty of experience racing R/C cars and trucks, so each of us took a turn at the controls.

    We agreed that the truck handles quite realistically. The tires are very grippy, and the suspension "loads" and "unloads" in a manner that's similar to the 1:1 monster trucks. The oil-filled coil-over shock absorbers do a good job here.

    We also discovered that the truck rolls easily, especially with the steering rate dialed all the way to full and the throttle way up! Raminator has a very small turning radius set up that way and will do quite a few "cyclones" (donuts) that look just like how the big boys do them.

    The dual-rate feature is really nice. It allows each driver to dial in the amount of steering desired, instead of just high/low rate settings.

    The suspension is set up soft; Raminator settles quickly after it jumps a curb or other obstacle. There was no evidence of bottoming out, even after tests on carpet, gravel, grass and concrete, so the suspension travel is more than adequate.

    Despite rolling the truck several times, Raminator escaped with only a few scratches on its roof and a tie rod that popped off its ball joint a couple of times. No big deal. We just snapped it back into place and kept running!

    The truck's on/off switch came loose after a couple of uses. We anchored the review truck's switch with servo tape.

    Marketing: This truck is just plain fun to drive. It's not race-truck-fast, but it's surprisingly quick and agile. Losi's left room for a second Frenzy 370 (LOSB0835, $13.99), and you'll want to point that out to customers.

    According to George Andritsos of Greenfield News and Hobby in Greenfield, Wis., a good marketing possibility is to do a cross promotion with local Dodge dealers. Maybe with the purchase of a $20,000 car, the customer gets a coupon for a percentage off the Raminator's retail price at your store.

    Andritsos also says that while they do feel the hit when they open a box to turn a car into an in-store demo, it's often worth it, especially with the mini and micro vehicles. The car can still be sold or used as a contest prize or giveaway.

    Finally, I'd suggest customers buy at least one extra battery pack, too, so the action and fun can go on without interruption.

    Reviewed by Jim Haught

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Raminator 4WD RTR
    monster truck
    Maker: Losi
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock No.: LOSB0219
    MSRP/MAP: $269.99/$174.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Fun to drive

  • Easy setup and operation

  • Realistic looks and handling


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    Piggyback on multiple sales with Walthers HO flatcars
    Product: Walthers' new Bethlehem flush-deck piggyback flatcars are sharp-looking models of popular trailer haulers of the 1970s and '80s.

    The ready-to-run models are based on the flush-deck flatcar design first used in the late 1960s, which was originally developed as an all-purpose car for hauling containers or trailers. Many cars were also built without container pedestals, which is the basis for this trailer-only model.

    Cars were initially set up to haul two 40-foot trailers (TTX reporting marks), but the coming of the 45-foot trailer in 1981 required a different end hitch moved farther toward the end of the car (WTTX), or moving the hitches to opposite ends (the KTTX cars). Another variation was adding a middle hitch to enable hauling three 28-foot trailers (RTTX cars).

    Performance: The cars have injection-molded styrene bodies, with a metal weight hidden under the deck. The detail is very good, with many separately applied parts, including grab irons, stirrups and trailer hitches.

    Brake details include the lever, rod, cylinder, valve and reservoir. Three different trailer hitches are used to match specific prototypes. Extra parts are included, including bridge plates and down-position trailer hitches.

    The model is equipped with metal wheels and knuckle couplers with coil knuckle springs. The couplers pivot to help them track better on curves, but you'll still need at least 22-inch minimum curves for these cars.

    Marketing: These cars are appropriate on any layout set from the late 1960s to today. They could be found on any railroad across the country.

    Piggyback cars often travel in dedicated trains, or in blocks of several cars, so look for multiple sales. Look for opportunities to sell trailers (28-, 40-, 45-, 48- and 53-footers) as well.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Flush-deck 89-foot piggyback flatcar
    Maker: Walthers
    Scale: HO
    Roadnames: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; Florida East Coast; New Orleans Public Belt; Southern; Southern Pacific; Trailer Train (TTX, RTTX, KTTX); Wisconsin Central (re-stenciled NOPB)
    MSRP: $26.95

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Smooth operation

  • Metal wheels

  • Prototype-specific details


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    Tales of rails fill the pages of Transit Maps of the World
    Product: Deciphering the colorful dots and squiggles on a subway map in an effort to calculate the best way to get from Point A to Point B can be tricky, especially if you're in a major metropolis like New York or London.

    Reading a book about urban-transit maps, however, can be entertaining and informative, particularly if that book happens to be Transit Maps of the World, written and compiled by London-based writer and broadcaster Mark Ovenden.

    Performance: The 144-page paperback (ISBN: 978-0-14-311265-5, $25) contains 660 full-color images, including maps, diagrams and photos of transit systems around the world. Instead of chapters, the book is divided into six zones. Zone 1 represents the transit systems with the most historical information available, and includes Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo. Zone 6 features the newest systems.

    Besides informing the reader about urban-transit maps, Ovenden offers statistics and histories about each system, including the population of each city, the route length, number of stations, date of when the first section opened and how much of the system is underground. When I began reading the book, these numbers didn't mean much, but as I got further into it, I had fun comparing these numbers.

    For instance, only 40% of the London Underground is actually underground. Now compare that with Chicago's system, which, despite being known for its elevated trains, is actually 95% underground. Ovenden's uses words like "tendrils" and "tentacles" to describe the layouts of transit systems, making the text as vivid as the maps and diagrams. The book is also well-researched and current, presenting information about systems that are in the process of being built or will be started soon.

    Marketing: Readers interested in transportation and history will find something to like in this book. Customers interested in educational books may enjoy this title too, so stock this title in those sections of your store.

    Reviewed by Sue Brettingen

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    ISBN: 978-0-14-311265-5
    MSRP: $25
    Availability: www.penguin.com

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Well organized and researched

  • Full of fascinating facts

  • Colorful text as well as images


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    Trainman's RS3 a good value
    Product: New in Atlas O's Trainman line is a model of Alco's maid-of-all-work RS3. One of the stars of the early diesel road-switcher days, the RS3 was equally at home hauling freight on a bucolic branch line or passengers in hectic urban commuter service.

    The Trainman version accurately captures the look of the real locomotive, featuring separately applied wire grab irons, etched-metal grille with fan detail and directional lighting. The 3-rail Train Master Command Control versions have prime mover, horn and bell sounds and electro-couplers.

    Railroads big and small owned RS3s, from the Pennsylvania down to the coal-hauling Interstate Railroad. That means if your favorite road isn't represented in the initial offerings, it might be eventually.

    Performance: I never cease to be impressed by the level of value Atlas O offers in its Trainman models.

    Our sample RS3 is lettered for Great Northern, and the paint is crisp and opaque.

    The body detail is sharply rendered, and the grab irons and handrails are well executed and durable.

    The walkways feature a nubby traction pattern as does the vent cover on the long hood. As Alco diesels were fairly spartan, so is the model. The fan on the long hood covered by the etched-metal grille moves if you blow on it.

    Under the hood, customers will find a durable stamped-metal frame and a smooth, powerful motor driving each truck. In service, the locomotive pulls powerfully and quietly. DCC installation is uncomplicated with the included harnesses.

    To give an idea of consistency for Atlas O models, I mated the Trainman RS3 with an Atlas O GP9. Using straight DC, both models pulled together flawlessly.

    Atlas O recommends minimum O-31 and 36" radius curves in 3- and 2-rail, respectively. Our sample negotiated 36" curves with ease.

    Marketing: Two things bode well for this locomotive model. One is that many railroads each owned quite a few of these locomotives.

    The other is that the Trainman model is at a price where a modeler can afford multiple copies of his prototype railroad's RS3 fleet at a reasonable price.

    Atlas O also offers Trainman cabooses to match each roadname it offers for the RS3, so don't let your customers get out the door without a few. Also, tell them DCC decoder installation in these locomotives is a snap.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Trainman RS3 locomotive
    Maker: Atlas O
    Scale: O
    Roadnames: Delaware & Hudson; Great Northern; Reading; Rock Island; available in 2-rail, 3-rail and 3-rail with TMCC; two road numbers each
    MSRP: 3-rail TMCC, $369.95; 3-rail and 2-rail, $229.95

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Great "fleet" model

  • Price allows multiple buys

  • Solid detail and running


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