First drive: Kyosho Mad Force
There are basically two ways to build a nitro-powered 4WD monster truck. You can use the standard, modified 1/8-scale– buggy formula, or you can clone a T-Maxx. Kyosho could have chosen either formula for its latest monster machine but instead went for something entirely new. As a follow-up to the small-block MegaForce and spiritual successor to the protean Nitro USA-1, Kyosho has created a bold vision of nitro monster truck performance that owes nothing to past or current designs. The Mad Force is a straight-axle, 3-speed, .21-powered machine that certainly is something different, but is it something different that works?
1 TORSION-LINK SUSPENSION. See the “It Takes Two” sidebar for details on the Mad Force’s unique suspension setup.
2 THREE-SPEED, CHAIN-DRIVE TRANNY. The Mad Force has a substantial stack of gears under its hood. The 3-speed shifts via centrifugally activated drive dogs and spins a transfer gear via a steel chain. From there, steel dogbones reach out to the axles. The small top sprocket is steel, but the larger, lower sprocket that spins the drive shafts Is (yikes) plastic. Hey, If It holds up, fine, but man-plastic?
3 NITRO USA-1 TIRES. The Mad Force’s rubber is the only part to come from the USA-1. Bravo, we say; the USA-Is tires have long been popular with monster fans for their good grip and light weight. The tires are mounted on USA-1-style wheels; they are slightly different from the old USA-1 hoops but have the same chrome-plated good looks.
4 GS21R PULL-START ENGINE. It takes only a tug or two to fire up the Mad Force’s .21 engine. This powerplant, coupled with the truck’s low gearing, light weight and slick– shifting tranny, delivers a Lennox Lewis-size wallop and a best-in-class top speed of 43mph (other .21 monsters we’ve tested topped out at 30 to 35mph). The GS21R Is fully tunable thanks to its 2-needle carb, and the piston and sleeve should be durable, thanks to their ABC construction.
5 LADDER-FRAME CHASSIS. The Mad Force’s chassis is very simple: just a couple of 3mm aluminum side plates joined by a shelf that holds the engine, transmission and fuel tank. The thick vertical plates give the chassis tank-like ruggedness.
6 WHEELIE BAR. Nothing says “I do wheelies” like a wheelie bar, and rest assured, the Mad Force can do wheelstands all day long. Lofting the Mad Force’s nose is as easy as pulling the trigger. We wish the wheelie bar had a cooler look, but as a purely functional part, it gets the job done.
7 SUSPENSION-MOUNTED BELLCRANK STEERING. The Mad Force gets a little funky here. The steering servo Is mounted at the front of the chassis and reaches way back to the chassis’ center via a long steel linkage to turn a servo-saver-equipped bellcrank. From there, another link reaches back to the front axle, passing the steering servo, to turn a pair of bellcranks and, in turn, steer the front wheels via tie rods. It’s more complex than it needs to be (mounting the servo on the axle would be easier and neater), but the stock setup works well, with no bump-steer despite the servo’s being fixed on the chassis.
Tug, tug, braaap … that’s how easy it is to start the Mad Force’s GS21R engine. After a dutiful break-in and the requisite needle tweaks, we tore into the Mad Force like a Slim Jim. The key word here is wheelies. Only the late, great Doug Domokos could out-wheelie the Mad Force. Just grab the trigger, and the front wheels are airborne. The wheelie bar really gets a workout and quickly shows wear; its thin plastic wheels are rapidly chewed up on pavement, and on dirt, the wheels act more like plow discs, but they do a good job of preventing the truck from flipping. (Our “4×4” guy, Kevin Hetmanski, plans to mount mini-chevron tires on a trick custom wheelie bar; can’t wait for that). OK, back to the action.
With its front wheels back on the ground, the temptation was great to “see what it can do.” With a slow roll-on to keep the front end planted, we brought the leaned– out Mad Force up to maximum warp factor. If you think it must be awesome to hear a 3-speed nitro machine shift twice on the way to full toot, you’re right; it is awesome. And you’re also right if you think the Mad Force is fast, because it is. It’s the Lamborghini of monster trucks, with a top speed of 43mph (confirmed by our better-than-the-cops-use radar gun), and it’s surprisingly stable at speed. Most monsters get a serious case of the wugga-wuggas during speed runs, but the Mad Force holds a line very well; corrections don’t cause a tough-to-break, side-to-side oscillation cycle as many other big trucks are prone to develop.
At slower speeds and in its intended milieu of dirt, grass, rocks and roots, the Mad Force proved it had its climbing and crawling chops down. It doesn’t have quite the same massive single-wheel articulation as a 4-link truck or a long-travel, independent-suspension machine like the T-Maxx, but it has more than enough for all but the gnarliest rock piles (and much more travel than the prototype Mad Force we drove and dubbed “Monster X” for the June 2002 issue of RC Nitro).
What the Mad Force gives up in trials-style climbing, it more than makes up for with its highly competent handling. It’s great that the Mad Force can tear up a drag strip, but we’re particularly impressed by the big truck’s drivability. We’ve never seen a straight-axle truck (not to mention a nitro straight-axle truck) that could be pushed so hard and so deep into a turn without flipping. Now, don’t get us wrong; it’s no touring car, and it will flip if you push it hard enough. But those limits are higher (and reached more predictably) with the Mad Force than with other monster trucks we’ve tested.
HOW GOOD IS IT?
Kyosho scores big in the big-truck category with the Mad Force. Big-block power, a 3-speed tranny, an attractive body and wheel package, a healthy infusion of Inferno durability, and scorching straight-line performance combine with track-friendly handling to make this a monster like no other. And come to think of it, it’s durable, too; we never did toast that plastic sprocket. The Mad Force isn’t just something different, it’s something different that works. The monster-truck world just got a little more interesting!
Copyright Air Age Publishing Aug 2002
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