Radio Control Car Action

How low can you go? Lowrider

How low can you go? Lowrider

Conrad, Paul

It’s not hard to drop a slammed Impala body onto a chassis and call it a lowrider, but building a functional chassis that actually has the power to hop from side to side and even do a three-wheel crawl is a whole ‘nother story. It’s just the sort of R/C toy I like to play with, so I decided to take on the challenge and build a lowrider of my own complete with “hydraulics”-sort of. Here’s how I did it.


I decided on an OFNA* Z-10 electric touring-car chassis as the starting point because its fully independent suspension allows plenty of wheel travel. I removed all four shocks and considered replacing them with the Robart air cylinders usually used for R/C airplane landing gear-the closest thing to hydraulics in R/C. Instead, I activated the suspension with Futaba* 132H and Hitec* HS101 servos because the hopping action and constant motion required to drive the car like a real lowrider would quickly bleed off the air supply required for use of the Robart system. An added servosetup benefit is that you can install a Kimbrough* servo-saver on each servo to act as a suspension spring.


Having sorted out the basic concept, I had to figure out how to install the four servos (one for each wheel). I made two 3×1-inch brackets from Kydex sheet (available from plastic supply stores). The brackets are basically shelves that each hold two servos so that their output shafts are positioned over the suspension arms. Steel 4-40 screws hold the brackets to the Z-10’s upper deck, and the servos are simply taped into place. I mounted the 132H servos up front because they have the speed and torque it takes to get some exciting action out of the front end, while the HS101 servos were mounted in the rear to manipulate the rear of the car up and down during a three-wheel crawl. Four 11/8-inch titanium rods with short Associated* ball cups link the suspension arms to the Kimbrough servo-savers. I didn’t have to modify the Z-10’s arms to install them; all I had to do was to screw ball studs into the existing holes.


My lowrider was ready to hop-almost. A simple, 2-channel car radio would not support the “hydraulic” functions, so the search was on for a 6-channel radio that would do the job. I needed six channels because four are used for hopping, one for steering and another for throttle. Unfortunately, 6-channel surface radios are hard to come by. I ultimately solved the radio problem by converting a 72mHz Futaba Conquest AM airplane radio to 75mHz (I sent the radio to Futaba for the retune). Last, I installed a Novak* Duster II ESC and competition stock motor.


When the chassis was ready for movement and action, the car needed the perfect body. Hmmm; how about Bolink’s* ’64 Impala? Yeah, baby! That’s the one. I painted its shell Pactra* Candy Red with silver accents and, boy, that sure does it justice. I added a touch of realism by installing an 1/8-scale model rearview mirror and fuzzy dice to the front windshield.

To hide all the electronics, I needed to come up with a shallow but realistic interior, so I cut a piece of Lexan to fit the interior exactly and painted it red. I then cut a small length of 14-gauge wire (red, of course), bent it into a half circle to form a steering wheel and mounted it in the Lexan “interior.”

They aren’t actually installed on the body, but I did add RIC Neon* “rocker panels” for an authentic street look. They are attached to the chassis via L-channel runners covered in chrome MonoKote trim sheet material and powered by a 9V battery stowed on the chassis’ top deck. For the final touches, I tinted the windows using Candy Red paint for that transparent look, installed RPM* Slim Twinz exhaust tips and Kyosho*’s wire-mesh wheels with Pro-Line* Road Rage tires to complete the hopper. This thing rocks-literally!

At this point, I thought my project was complete, but then I found a toy lowrider that made electronic engine and alarm sounds and also played the melody to “Lowrider” by the seminal 70’s band, War; I knew I had to add these electronic noisemakers to my R/C machine. I Shoe-Goo’d the speaker to the underside of the interior tray, used hook-and-loop tape to secure a 4cell AA battery box to power the electronics and screwed the circuit board/button panel to the rear bumper. Now my R/C lowrider was complete. Yo quiero Taco Bell!

*Addresses are listed alphabetically in the Index of Manufacturers on page 209.

Copyright Air Age Publishing Oct 1999

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