Toy R/C Car Upgrade to Hobby Grade Parts

[HobbyPartz] wanted his toy grade Radio Controlled (R/C) to drive a bit more like the real thing, so he upgraded it to hobby grade electronics.

If you didn’t know, there’s a pecking order in the R/C world. There are the toy grade cars which you can find at your local big box store, and the hobby grade cars, which grace the shelves of the local hobby shop. Toy cars often come with great looking shells – Corvettes, Lamborghinis, Porsches,  or even Ferraris. It often seems like the manufacturer spent all their money licensing and molding the shell though because the mechanics and electronics leave a lot to be desired. You could pull the body off and put it on a hobby grade R/C car, but that could get expensive. It also can be tricky to find a car with exactly the right width and wheelbase.

[HobbyPartz] had just this problem with a great looking Ferrari Enzo model that you can see in the video below the break. As expected, the pretty shell hid some really cheap electronics underneath. This is easily fixed by pulling and tossing everything electronic. The steering system was non-proportional — only full left or right turns. He removed the existing steering hardware and hot glued in a standard R/C servo. Once the servo is in position, it’s  easy to connect the linkages to the wheels themselves.

On the drive side, the receiver and speed control were replaced with a 2.4GHz receiver. A brushed electronic speed control gave the car a proportional throttle. Only the original drive motor remained stock.

Once back together, the car performed much better than it ever could have in stock form. It obviously is no speed or performance demon. However, a scale model like this would never make a good racer. If you want to know more about commodity radio control systems, check this out.

11 thoughts on “Toy R/C Car Upgrade to Hobby Grade Parts

  1. That’s definitely a hack!

    The guy presenting the video definitely doesnt get electronics. The “weird spring” at 4:20 is the switch for the end position sensing for the end of movement for the steering – he cut the wires of to it a few minutes earlier,

    It’s actual a shame that that type of control is allowed to be sold it turns a nice looking model into a piece of junk – but upgrading it like he did makes it some what useable

  2. Good for proof of concept. Why not just keep the original switch? I would’ve removed the battery wires, threaded them through the original hole then re-soldered them, or cut and soldered them if needed. 3D printed mounts for the electronics would also be a nice touch. I’d also design a 3D printed mount for the servo, either a total replacement for that upper part or made to glue/screw to nicely cut ends. I’d also incorporate steering stops that would allow for more travel but without allowing the tires to rub.

    Lastly, it needs better tires to handle the higher torque and speed.

  3. Well, it definitely counts as a “hack”, but I agree with the other commenters that it seems there’s some obvious room for improvement.

    I don’t know personally that I would go through all that trouble and keep the original junk motors/gears either. Better steering is a welcome improvement, but the drive system is still pretty poor.

    1. far more easier to go with the standard rc road and you can hack that all the way up, for example if you put any serious motors in this plastic toy then the plastic will melt :) cause there is no bearing, also the tiers are plastic as well

  4. That’s fun, quick and easy. The materials put a lazy man smile on my face… i.e. 3M VHB tape (I went to Google as I wasn’t sure if meant Very High Bond or what and found an interesting scooter build on 3M’s website using only the tape), Hot Glue, Dremel Cutting Tool and a soldering iron.

    Not the modification I was expecting. I was thinking of more heavier duty aluminum suspension or body, higher quality steel drive train, motor mounts or better material gears. Maybe that was part of the smile, a surprise lower budget not highly detailed upgrade. More a mid range upgrade to hobby grade.

    Really neat though for a quick hack.

    I like the article and video in general and the link to commodity controllers is neat also since those are items that can be hacked into and upgraded. I’m working on upgrading my Futaba T6EXA into a licensed long range remote controller for a licensed drone. One of the visions is a RC B-52 (more likely with a U-2 design) style X-15 launch and/or drone-balloon/dirigible rockoon cube/cell phone size sat launch. I almost want to have three options… the ~72MHz stock, ~433MHz Immersion (though a Thomas Sherrer system was hard to ignore) and a 2.4GHz ?. That’s not even including the ~900MHz telemetry. I’m still shopping around for the best pricing since on an extremely limited budget.

    Awesome article and really brings back the memories!

    Here is the VHB site:https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/All-3M-Products/Adhesives-Tapes/Industrial-Adhesives-and-Tapes/Double-Sided-Bonding-Tapes/3M-VHB-Tapes/?N=5002385+8710676+8710815+8710960+8711017+8713604+3294857497&rt=r3&utm_campaign=lead_vhb&utm_medium=ps&utm_source=googlepaid&utm_content=askexp_b&utm_term=ibg-iatd-assembly-en_us-lead-vhb-ps-googlepaid-na-askexp-b-dec17&WT.mc_ID=ibg-iatd-assembly-en_us-lead-vhb-ps-googlepaid-na-askexp-b-dec17&WT.srch=1

  5. This sort of hack was really a right of passage back in the 80’s. When your hobby grade R/C car was broken, and you were waiting for the hobby shop to get your parts in stock… You pulled out your old toys and started converting them.

  6. RC? I did a slot-car hack at 12. Bent up a $2 frame and, ahem… shoehorned a huge 6v rotary shoe polisber motor into it to create the only front-wheeled drive slot in town. The body was the most crudely formed piece of flexible sheet acrylic I could find, because. “a body was a track requirement.” HobbyParts did a small quick neat lil hack. Like a Dino Ferrari with only 6 cylinders… or a Delorean. Imperfect? Sure. That’s ok. It’s cool without being fast. But anyway, what’s its time in the 1/4 block? Or 0-100 feet? LOL! Enjoy! They are just jealous…

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