It’s fascinating to see what happens when a creative hacker is given a set of constraints to work within. [rctestflight] found themselves in a very specific set of circumstances: Free RC cars from sponsors, and no real purpose for them. Instead of just taking them apart to see what made them tick (itself the past time of many a beginning hacker), [rctestflight] decided to let the RC cars disassemble themselves, destructively, on their way to 100,000 (scale) RC Car Miles, tallying up the distance (and the carnage) in the end as you see in the video below the break.
Re-using a jig and test track (his backyard) from another test, [rctestflight] set up solar powered tether that could power any of the vehicles under test. The vehicles were modified as needed to drive along the circular track on a tether, and once stability was achieved, the cars were set on their own to either drive 100,000 scale miles or die trying.
Seeing as how [rctestflight] hales from the Pacific NorthWet of the United States near Seattle, the endurance test turned out to be not just a test of distance. Among the factors evaluated were how well each vehicle could withstand the mud, grime, and yes, even earthworms, that awaited them.
After each vehicle failed beyond the point of a quick fix, they were all torn down. Where each manufacturer cut corners could clearly be seen, and the weaknesses and strengths of each vehicle were pretty interesting. Plus, there’s a pretty great (awful) uh… rendition… of an iconic 80’s song. Twice. And of course the final conclusion: Exactly how many miles did each vehicle go before catastrophic failure? Check the video for results.
The core of this project is a battery-powered belt sander by a well known manufacturer of gnarly yellow power tools. With an eye for using bespoke 3D printed parts, the conversion appeared straightforward – slap on (or snap on) a pre-loved steering mechanism, add a servo for controlling the sander’s trigger, and that’s pretty much job done. Naturally the intention was to use sandpaper as tread, which is acceptable for outdoor use but not exactly ideal for indoors. A thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) tread was designed and printed for playtime on the living room floor, where sandpaper may be frowned upon.
The finished product is a mean looking toy with plenty of power. What we really like most about this hack is the commitment to the aesthetics. It’s seriously impressive to see a belt sander so convincingly transformed into a three-wheeler radio-controlled car. The final iteration is also completely reversible, meaning that your belt sander can keep on sanding two by fours on the job site. All the printed parts snap snug into place and are mostly indistinguishable from the stock sander.
Speaking of reversible, there were just a couple of issues with the initial design, if you catch our drift. We won’t spoil what happens, but make sure to watch the video after the break for the full story.
The build starts by disassembling the original car, and pulling out the original wheels. The baseplate is then modified to accept a new rear suspension and axle assembly. A small DC motor is mounted to the assembly to drive the rear wheels. A set of front steering knuckles are then installed up front, with their own suspension and hooked up to a tiny servo for steering. Everything’s controlled by a compact off-the-shelf RC receiver, which even features a gyro to help keep the tiny car straight under acceleration. The bodyshell is then stripped of paint, and given a sweet bodykit, before receiving a lurid orange paint job and decals. It’s reattached to the car’s baseplate via magnets, which make taking the car apart easy when service or modifications are required.
While the build doesn’t go into the nitty gritty on some of the harder parts, like the construction of the incredibly complex front knuckles, it’s nonetheless a great guide to building such a tiny and well-presented RC car. In looks and performance, the result trounces typical commercial offerings in the same scale, as you’d expect from such a hand-crafted masterpiece. It may not be the smallest RC car we’ve featured, but it is one of the coolest. Video after the break.