New Mini RC Drift Build, Converting a Model Car to RC: Part 1 Overview, Teardown, and Test Fit Axle

New Mini RC Drift Build, Converting a Model Car to RC: Part 1 Overview, Teardown, and Test Fit Axle


hello everyone in today’s video I’m
gonna be introducing a new RC drift build. I’ve had a lot of fun these past
few months with a budget 180 drift project and I’ve really enjoyed the
build process, and the added challenge and realism of rear-wheel drive drifting.
I have been making some progress both with the suspension and weight
distribution as well as the body and interior so I’m hoping to have a part
four video of the budget RC drift build up in the next week or two. But with
winter arriving and with it bringing freezing temperatures, ice, and snow
driving RC vehicles outdoors or in non-climate controlled environments
becomes a bit less enjoyable. So it’s this time of year that I like to turn my
attention to some indoor projects like the scale shop build and some smaller
scale RC vehicles. I decided I wanted to build a small scale RC drift car so I
logged into eBay and began searching for the cheapest model car I could find to
use as a base. After some deliberation I placed a few bids and five days and
three bucks later I wound up with this 1991 Pontiac Firebird. I believe this is
a Monogram model kit and if my measurements are correct this is a 1/24
scale replica. As you’d expect for a built model car at this price, this isn’t
exactly gonna be winning any Best in Show Awards but it’s perfect for a cheap
RC build. Aside from rear view mirrors and the passenger seat
this car is complete and the body looks great with no cracks or damage. For those
who don’t know the Firebird was built on GM’s f-body platform which it shared
with the Chevy Camaro. The third generation of this platform which is
what this car is replicating was introduced for the 1982 model year and
ended in 1992. You don’t really see that many third gen f-body drift cars despite
these cars being relatively prevalent and cheap rear-wheel drive vehicles, at
least here in the US. As it turns out there’s a lot of reasons why these cars
aren’t an ideal platform for drifting from the often lackluster and brittle
drivetrain, manual transmissions being uncommon and completely unavailable from
the factory on the most powerful v8 engines, and these cars notorious lack of
uni-body structural rigidity are just a few reasons why many drifters shy away
from this platform. However while researching and collecting information
for this project I came across some epic 3rd gen drift builds including several
built by some guys in Japan that not only drift on point but look
incredible as well and I’ll definitely be using those cars as inspiration. I
don’t recall ever seen a rear-wheel drive RC drift car in this scale and I
haven’t seen too many model car to RC conversions, so I’m limited on what I can
use as a reference. I have done several model car to RC conversions in the past
but this is my most ambitious project yet.
Initially when planning this build I wanted to use an independent rear
suspension. This would allow for more adjustability than a straight axle like
what came on all Firebirds from the factory. However I happen to already have
a straight axle that I designed a while back that I used for a drag car that I
think will fit nearly perfectly onto the Firebird. The differential is locked and minus the lack of a torque arm, it’s the same basic layout with two control arms and
a mount for a panhard bar behind the axle although using this axle won’t allow for
any camber, caster, or tow adjustability like an independent suspension would.
It’s already built and looks super scale so I’m gonna try it out and see what
happens. Hopefully the resin gears in this thing end up holding up. I’ve beaten
the crap out of this axle and I haven’t had an opportunity to re-grease the gears
in a long time since I stripped one of the tiny screws, and now I can’t open up
the axle housing to access the gears also this giant crack running along the
bottom isn’t really inspiring confidence but it feels pretty smooth when rotating
so we’ll see what happens. Ideally I’d like to keep the interior intact or at
least as much as possible. This is going to drastically reduce the amount of
space for electronics but I think I can work around it fortunately this car has a relatively
large front-end which should easily house the motor, steering servo, and
hopefully the ESC as well before going any further with this build,
I needed to completely disassemble the car. It can sometimes be a huge pain to
disassemble a built model car like this however this car was effortless to take
apart. I started with the hood and intake and then moved on to the bumpers there’s a fairly large cavity between
the back of the interior and the top of the chassis piece accessible by removing
the rear bumper. With some luck I might be able to squeeze the battery and
receiver in the back, though it will be very tight if it does fit. This is at
least a great place for the battery as it fits perfectly and is easy to access
by simply removing the rear bumper piece all it would take is a few magnets to
hold this piece and allow it to easily be removed. I was really lucky that this
chassis wasn’t glued to the Interior tub or body also this chassis is one
solid piece which will provide a great platform to mount everything to. And again
the interior simply slid right out I definitely got lucky with this model the undercarriage of the car looked
awesome whoever painted this did a good job
although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gold catalytic converter before the interior looks nice but very plain, I
think I’ll be trading the stock steering wheel for a racing wheel and putting in
some racing seats, a roll cage, and a new handbrake lever. At this time I don’t
have any climate controlled environments that I can paint in so painting the body
is probably gonna have to wait until spring. For now I’ll be rocking the
primer and maybe adding some bolt on fender flares. What do you guys think I
should do with the body? with all the major parts separated I
wanted to focus on the chassis. I needed to remove everything until nothing but
the chassis piece remained. Stripping all the parts off the chassis was a bit more
difficult than the previous disassembly but still not too bad. I did my best to
be careful not to damage the chassis and the components being removed in case I
wanted to use them for something else in the future. To remove the rear end I was
able to drill out the control arms to disconnect them from the chassis and
then I wiggle everything back and forth until it came loose with the rear end off I did a quick test
fit of the new rear axle. I will be removing the old control arm mounts from
the chassis before installing this axle the fitment looked great but to give
myself some extra room I decided to remove the exhaust system. The exhaust
was glued pretty secure but I was able to get it out undamaged and in one piece with the exhaust out of the way there’s
now far more room for the axle Next I removed the front suspension and steering
linkage piece. These cars used both a McPherson strut suspension in the front
and used a linkage steering system both of these will be tricky to build in
1/24 scale but I’ll see what I can do otherwise I’ll be going with a less
scale but more conventional RC front steering and suspension setup. I ended up
taking a chunk of plastic out of the chassis while removing the radiator but
fortunately it’s not in a critical place and will be easy to repair. Finally the
last part to go is the engine and transmission. I was able to get them out
without damaging the mounts, although I think I’ll end up removing them anyway and here’s the completely stripped
chassis ready to have electronics mounted to it to power the Firebird I’m using this 130
size high torque DC motor. I like this design because it has two threaded holes
on the front end which allow for easy and secure mounting. I’m hoping that this
motor has enough power that I can connect it to the rear axle without any
additional gear reduction necessary. I’m also hoping I can achieve a good drive
shaft angle since the shaft of the motor is in the center as opposed to down low
like on the engine and transmission. The motor will have to sit quite low in the
chassis to achieve a nice drive shaft angle. I will need to build a custom
motor mount that lets the motor sit as low as possible which shouldn’t be a
problem. As you can see the car is completely stripped down to just the
bare chassis and body. From here I’m ready to start building the car back up into what will hopefully be an epic mini RC drift car. Although I bought this car
primarily because I like the body style and it was cheap, so far this looks like
a great model kit to do a conversion on it’s got a great one-piece chassis it’s
roomy and it looks like the rear axle I have is going to fit like a glove,
so I’m really looking forward to making some progress on this build. But that is
all for this video thank you all so much for watching and let me know what you
want to see done to the body of this car. I’m still undecided at this point and
I’m interested in any ideas you might have so let me know in the comments
section below. Thanks again and I’ll see you next time

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. Mad max the hell outta it my brother has that car it was built in California comes with a TPI that can flow 1000 CFM l.
    Also its not a [TA] its a [Firebird Formula] just for people that don't know.

  2. Also respect the car its not a tuner its not a ricer its a American muscle car at least make it look like one V8 Firebird formula red and call it the Red Queen.

  3. I liked my 91 Firebird, but the Automatic and the 6cyl engine, weren't that desirable. Leaks are always a problem with these cars, as the t-tops always fail, leaving a swimming pool in the spare tire compartment. As a model, I built that model in 1992. I have however, drifted my firebird around a corner… The tires lost their bite on the asphalt.

  4. how do ppl sell things on ebay for $3 after your fee's and shipping you're basically paying someone to take your shit away

  5. People in the PNW (Sno & King counties) have been converting model cars to R/C for the last 15+yrs..(even running mini NASCAR race series at Broadway Hobbies) completely gutted interiors tho.. Very cool and inspiring project..

  6. Where did the functioning 1:24 scale Driveline and rear-end come from that's the biggest question everybody wants to know????

  7. Alright alright cool as hell man but lets try to get a 1/32 airplane to taxi on the ground. Flight surfaces working and lights especially. I can build the model and send it to you ready for electronics. We'll worry about flying later lets get it to taxi first.

  8. The firebird was built for scca racing and other things so it had enough frame strength to go around the tracks, Not drifting, there were plenty of manual cars running around. If you had a motor with more torque then you had to fabricate something, I used bed frame rails. Car has been running in the 9’s with no issues.

  9. Very nice. Im new to rc and don't know where to start but would like to get hardcore into it. Were can I get 1/12 rc cars?

  10. 89377 Old Mohawk Rd Springfield Oregon (ZIP)- 97478 If you believe on karma I know that would pay you back and in the way of hella Phat!!!…ya know EVEN JUST ONE XMOD OR ANYTHING!!! would put the biggest smile on my face and even everyone around me it be grinning soo but reminiscing the best of my childhood, Ohh gosh I beg agh lord please what more could I convey "make my day"

  11. subbed first video i watched just got into this and have a question what do u need for a full car build if any one could write it in my reply i sub to them please guys

  12. I have an Nissan Skyline BNR32 GTR 1:24 scale and when I finish it I wanna convert it into a rc drift car so I'm watching you convert them.

  13. This video is exactly what ive been looking for. Im planning on taking a ten dollar 1/18 scale batmobile model and converting in into a hobbygrade rc. Like you said theres not a lot of refferance material for these kinds of projects so im very appreciative of this video.

  14. I've actually painted outside while it was raining and then just brought it inside as quick as possible and stuck it in my dehumidifier and never had an issue. May help you in a future build. Great looking build btw!

  15. You could just buy a model car from a shop and then you don't have to worry about it being glue together cause i have model cars that i want to make rc cars

  16. Firebirds aren't ideal for drifting, because back in 1984 they're made for the "Foundation" to crush walls and jump high using turbo boost 😉

  17. If the screw is striped, push down really hard on the screw with the screw driver and turn it sometimes that works for me

  18. Where do u get the parts to make it an RC? I was hoping to just turn a model car body into a body for my kyosho Mr-03 mini-z

    But this looks interesting I have a sick rocket bunny Nissan r35 model car I’d like to make An RC if possible it’s 1:24 scale to too big to make a body for my mini-z

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