Heavy metal-Wedico tri-axle tow truck
THE TRUCK STOPS HERE
It’s about time! I’ve teased you with progress reports on my Wedico tow-truck project, and now it’s finished and ready to hit the streets. This is the Cadillac of RC big rigs; all of its parts are top quality, and just about all of them are metal (so it’s almost as heavy as a Cadillac!). Although there are truck fans who build the Wedico rigs as static models, these big rigs can also be built for RC. I hope you have a lot of time on your hands; I have a lot to tell you.
Buying a Wedico
Buying a Wedico truck is a unique experience. It’s kind of like buying a real car; you can purchase one that is already on the lot, or you can custom-order one. Your choice is limited when you purchase a complete kit because only three versions are available, but you have your choice of three colors.
And the price? Two words: not cheap. You’ll put a hurtin’ on your Visa to the tune of more than $4,000 to build a rig like mine. But you don’t have to buy the whole truck at once; start with the chassis. When you’ve finished building the chassis, save some money and buy a cab; then purchase the axles. Remember, you don’t have to build it to run on RC power. You can build it as a static model and install the electronics last.
The chassis rails are constructed of extruded aluminum and are connected by aluminum cross-members. The parts are clear-anodized to prevent them from oxidizing. Tiny screws and nuts hold the whole assembly together; tweezers are a must-have-unless you have girly fingers. The leaf-spring suspension is also part of the chassis. Each leaf-spring assembly must be bolted together, and then you attach the tops of the springs to the chassis with plastic shackles.
Two tow beds are available-a dual axle and a tri axle. The bed is constructed of die-cast metal and features a red powdercoat finish. The box in front of my tow bed hides the wiring, battery and electronics for the lights, tow boom, winch and sound unit. A scale-looking “diamond-plate” cover protects that gear from the elements. The four “handles” on top of the box are actually the locks that secure the cover. Twist them out to unlock it, and twist them in to lock it down.
I swapped out the stock, non-functional safety lights on the light bar with optional working units. Each one has three bulbs that light in sequence to give the appearance of a rotating safety beacon. Cool, eh?
The tow boom is also functional; there are two motors and two gearboxes attached to the end of the boom. With a clever system of gear reduction units, one gearbox assembly moves the boom in and out, and the other works the winch. Each unit has a set of gears inside, and the total gear reduction is determined by the number of linked units. The winch is radio controlled, and a three-way switch on the bed operates the boom.
The separately packaged axles are fully assembled. Inside the cast-aluminum housing, you’ll find a metal gear differential and metal ring and pinion. Hex axles drive the wheels, and everything is supported by ball bearings. You can buy the axles with just an input shaft or with an input and output shaft; the latter configuration allows you to link the three rear axles with short plastic dogbones, as I did.
Just like the bed, the cab is constructed of die-cast metal and is full of detail: a tilt nose, headlights, polished grill, sun visor, smoke stacks, air horns, side-view mirrors, windshield washers, seats, door panels and dashboard, just to name a few. The doors are hinged to open, and the “handles” are actually clips that lock the doors. The diamond-plate steps are also a part of the cab kit.
The sleeper compartment that fits behind the cab is sold separately. The side doors open, and they’re spring loaded to keep them closed when the truck is in motion. The sleeper provides valuable additional storage space for the truck’s electronics, and a hinged rear panel allows easy access.
The sound system really brings the truck to life. The speaker is mounted behind the grill-right where the engine would be on a real rig. The volume is adjustable, so you can have it as quiet or as loud as you want. An optical sensor that is mounted to the truck’s motor measures the armature speed and adjusts the engine sound to match the truck’s speed. You can start and stop the engine sound with the radio. It sounds just like a real rig firing up and even produces an air-brake hiss when you let off the throttle.
All the parts that come with the truck are designed to accept Wedico’s lighting system, which features low and high beams, turn and hazard signals, roof-markers and brake lights. The low and high beams can be wired so you can turn them on and off from the radio-as long as you have the channels to spare. If you don’t, the two beams can be wired to light together.
The all-metal 3-speed tranny uses a lever on the side of its housing so you can shift gears with a servo. If you don’t want to shift from the radio, you can rig the tranny to stay in one gear. It has an output shaft on the front to drive the optional front differential. A single 12V motor drives the gearbox in stock trim, but since this truck is a workhorse, I opted for Wedico’s dual-motor setup.
Two electronic speed controls are offered for the truck. Functionally identical, they differ only in appearance; one looks like a conventional ESC, and the other is disguised as a realistic aluminum fuel tank. I couldn’t resist the cool look of the fuel-tank version, so I added it to my rig. The ESC uses the aluminum tank as a ground, so it will short out if it touches the chassis rails. To prevent this, plastic strips insulate the tank from the chassis. The ESC requires a 12V power source to operate properly, so I put together a 10-cell pack with Trinity GP^sub 33OO^ cells. That capacity allows me to run my truck for an hour or so, depending on how many lights are burning, how much towing I do, etc.
There’s nothing more exciting than driving your Wedico truck for the first time. After all that work, you really vvant to see it go, I fired up the engine’s sound unit, and the truck “idled” realistically and rose to a growl as I accelerated. The rig’s scale speed is perfect, and the extra-low gearing gives the truck its genuine
Copyright Air Age Publishing Sep 2003
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