For newcomers to vintage Tamiya R/C cars, or people just starting to think “I used to have a Tamiya…”, hunting down and collecting the cars from the 1980s is a little trickier these days than it used to be because Tamiya has now remade many models – and the remakes are different!
So if you want to re-live your childhood with a truly original Tamiya, here are some quick buying tips.
As many people know, Tamiya was the most popular R/C car brand in the 1980s. And the 1980s was when R/C cars experienced a huge growth in popularity. Hence, Tamiya cars are highly sought after to this day.
More on this subject:
Tamiya was such a ubiquitous brand back in those days, that their models were sold at hobby stores, toy stores, electronics stores, and even department stores and discount stores. With their superb marketing and massive parts support, Tamiya became the iconic brand that most people grew up with (if they were lucky enough to own a hobby-grade R/C toy).
But in the early 1990s when I first started collecting Tamiya cars, spare parts for the early and most popular kits were becoming hard to find, as those kits had been discontinued.
When the Internet arrived, and in particular eBay in the late 1990s, many out of stock vintage Tamiya collectibles began to change hands around the world for ever-increasing prices. It even turned out that, thanks to old leftover shop stock and treasures found in the vast mall districts of Akihabara in Japan, there were still some whole unbuilt Tamiya R/C kits out there in the world. Naturally, these began to soar in value as thousands of fans could think of nothing better than to own one of these classic kits – still in brand new shape. Either to relive the process of building it, or just display the kit with all it’s beautiful internal blister-packing (something long-gone from today’s model kits).
Seeing this popularity and seeing the value of some of these collectibles, in the early 2000s Tamiya began to remake one or two vintage Tamiya kits, in order to cash-in on everyone’s nostalgia.
In 2005 this process gathered pace as Tamiya began to remake some of their most popular off-road buggies and trucks of all time, and the process has continued to this day. To date, Tamiya has issued remakes of dozens of their most popular models.
So what are the differences between original Tamiya kits, and the remakes?
Fact: Every single Tamiya remake kit is different to the original kit.
Many people are happy to buy the remake Tamiya kits because they offer a relatively cheap way to re-live the experience of an R/C car they used to own back in the 1980s.
However, for me personally, this experience just isn’t quite the same if the product isn’t the same. And this view is shared by many collectors, in all areas of toy collecting… from Transformers to Care Bears. Most companies have launched remakes of popular vintage toys over the years. But collectors are usually driven to collect out of nostalgia and memories. So for them, it’s often important that an item is truly vintage – i.e. an example that actually sat on a toy store shelf when they were children, as opposed to something that was manufactured just last week.
It’s a bit like listening to a remix of a classic rock song, rather than listening to the original. The new version might be good – the familiar tune is there, the lyrics are there… But it just doesn’t have quite the same meaning as the original.
So if you’re just beginning your search on eBay or Google for a vintage Tamiya R/C car from the 1970s or 1980s, this article is intended to be a one-page cheat sheet to help you understand how the remake kits differ.
The main differences are of course in the cars themselves – parts, bodies, tyres, electronics etc. But before we even get into those technical differences, there are some very quick and easy ways to identify an original kit from a remake kit.
The Top Ways To Spot An Original Tamiya Kit
Before Tamiya began remaking many of their classic cars from the 1980s, the values of unbuilt kits were soaring. But after those kits were remade, naturally some people were happy to grab the cheaper remake, causing a temporary dip in demand (and value) of the original kits.
Despite this, original kits remained a lot more expensive and collectible than remake kits. Let’s take the example of a really popular model like the Tamiya Frog.
Here’s a new kit that recently* sold for AU$192.50
And here’s one that recently* sold for AU$551.65
(*Note: both of these examples were current as of 2013. Prices are likely to increase over time)
No prizes for guessing which one is the original unbuilt kit from the 1980s.
Fact: Original kits are worth at least twice the value of the remake kit. But they might be as much as 3, 4, or 5 times more expensive, depending on the model.
But what happens if someone is simply selling a remake kit for an inflated price? Well, just look a little closer at some other things, like…
2. Kit Number
Thankfully, Tamiya has a fairly well-organized numbering system for each model they have ever released, and the remakes all have different numbers to the originals.
Between 1976 and 1991, Tamiya released only 100 models. These 100 models are most commonly considered to be the bulk of the “vintage” era, and Tamiya even created a poster to celebrate them…
The models in this picture are numbers 58001 (the green Porsche 934 at the top left), to 58100 (the green Top-Force buggy at the bottom right).
To use our example of The Frog again, the original Frog is kit 58041 – in other words, the 41st R/C model ever released by Tamiya.
When Tamiya began remaking lots of cars in the mid 2000s, the remake of the Frog was kit 58354 – the 354th R/C model ever released. In the past 15 years or so, Tamiya has been swamping the market with a lot more models per year, than they used to.
Any honest seller of R/C kits will be up-front about which model number they are selling.
3. Kit Box
Another easy way to spot an original vs a remake Tamiya, is the famous kit box.
Tamiya’s iconic R/C kit box art is an enormously popular aspect of their kits – the dynamic and exciting illustrations by amazing graphic artists were excellent marketing back in the day, and they were usually the first things that inspired people to become interested in these models. Today, they even inspire some collectors to print and frame these pictures, and even empty original Tamiya kit boxes can command high prices on eBay.
When Tamiya began remaking kits, one of the big changes was the decals. The original cars had decals of real world sponsors and brands, but for the remake kits Tamiya only included fake and “made up” brands on the decals – probably to save on brand licensing costs. But not only did this affect the cars themselves, it meant Tamiya had to change all the box art to use the fake brands as well.
And it’s not just the decals – in some cases, physical aspects of the car changed, and even the entire name of the car was changed, hence these aspects needed to be reflected on the remake’s box art too. Personally, I believe that some of these changes were an intentional move by Tamiya to help distinguish the original kits from the remakes.
Here are some popular examples. The red arrows below indicate some of the larger box changes. However, there are many more small text changes around the sides of the boxes as well.
4. Kit Box Internals
A quick look inside most kits will also reveal whether they are vintage or remake.
Here’s a good photo of someone’s original Hotshot (left) and remake Hotshot (right) that I’ve pinched from the interwebs…
Vintage kits normally carry “blister packs” inside – in other words, a selection of key parts labeled and displayed under clear plastic bubbles. Collectors love this style of packaging for it’s presentation value, and because it showed the care that Tamiya (and other brands – because most of them were doing it) took in making the experience of building a vintage R/C model memorable and fun.
Remake kits normally just have cardboard boxes inside and nothing much else.
One exception to this rule is the remake of the Sand Scorcher and the Rough Rider (which Tamiya called The Buggy Champ), which do have blister packs.
In the 1970s and 1980s, toy companies were more free to use other company brands and names on their toys and products, and Tamiya really took advantage of this, covering their racing buggies in authentic brand names – all in the name of scale model realism. They were a big part of the fun of building and detailing these models.
But practically every single remake Tamiya comes with fake sponsor decals.
Tamiya tried to make these new fake logos seem like real brands by using words like “Forward”, “Brite” and “Z Point”, but these brands don’t exist in the real world. In some cases, Tamiya also included their website address as a decal – which of course, did not exist back in the 1980s.
It is generally thought that this has been done as a cost-cutting measure.
For example, here are the original, proper decals that came with the Tamiya Sand Scorcher from 1979…
And here’s the sheet of decals in the 2010 Remake Sand Scorcher, which as you can see is a much smaller collection comprised entirely of fake name brands…
6. Speed Control
Another easy thing to spot is the orange Electronic Speed Control sticker that usually appears on the front of remake kit boxes…
1980s Tamiya kits never included electronic speed controllers. Back then, these devices were expensive and few people, aside of racers, invested in them. Hence Tamiya decided to trumpet their inclusion in the remake kits.
While they do deliver better performance, part of the charm of running vintage Tamiyas comes from the technological levels of the era when they were released, and the early mechanical speed controllers included with original Tamiyas were often an integral part of how the models both looked, and worked.
7. Construction, parts, & everything else
Last but certainly not least, are the actual parts differences.
This is a huge topic with too much information to be covered here, especially since I titled this A quick guide…
But if you talk to other collectors and learn about the physical differences between original and remake Tamiyas, you will be able to spot the parts differences more easily.
Here’s one example – the original Grasshopper/Hornet chassis versus the remake version…
Don’t believe any website or person that tells you the original and remake Tamiyas are “the same” or “practically the same” as this is simply false. From body and chassis differences, to parts and gearbox differences – there are definitely differences. To use an analogy from another type of collecting – book collectors will regularly pay tens of thousands of dollars more simply to own first edition books, when they differ from second editions by only a few printed words. Compared to book collecting, the physical differences between collectibles like first and second edition Tamiyas, are quite significant (while the prices are nowhere near as astronomical).
Fact: Every single Tamiya remake has physical/parts differences, to the original.
What about when buying used / second-hand Tamiyas?
If you’re looking for a second hand Tamiya and you’d prefer to make sure it’s an original release, then be sure to ask the seller for details about the model before buying it. Many people are using remake spare parts to ‘restore’ their original cars, and while in some instances you might consider this to be fine (such as if the remake part is truly identical to the original), in other instances you will want to be aware of what people have done to their cars. Many people are going to end up having created hybrid original/remake models.
When I look at used Tamiyas on eBay, I can sometimes tell that the seller is selling a genuine relic from the 1980s by the fact that it still includes old radio gear, an original box, or other original paraphernalia like batteries, chargers, manuals and so on. Such cars often look like a time capsule that has been left untouched since about 1985 – a toy someone hasn’t used for years and has now decided to sell on eBay. These kinds of examples often represent a good opportunity to buy a “true original” car from the 1980s, because you can tell that it has been sitting in someone’s cupboard since the early days.
So are Tamiya’s remakes of old cars a good or bad thing?
Tamiya’s remakes are good for people who’d like to buy a new kit of a retro toy, at a cheaper price. For the most part, they have been met with a positive response, and are seen as an economical way to enjoy something that looks vintage.
For some collectors and fans of Tamiya who prefer the original versions, the remakes came as something of a bitter pill at first. Mainly because many had spent a lot of years (and dollars) hunting down and restoring the originals, only for remake versions to suddenly appear for sale in their thousands. That said, and with the benefit of hindsight, the remake kits have proven to contain numerous changes and differences anyway. And this has meant that the original kits remain very much their own unique beasts.
I don’t collect the remakes. But their existence in recent years has, ironically, made it a little easier (cheaper) to collect some of the originals. Each time a remake comes out, prices of original examples of that car tend to dip a little. But they inevitably climb back up again once things settle down.
Personally, while I don’t begrudge anyone enjoying the remake kits one bit, I would prefer if Tamiya concentrated on creating brand new models that appeal to retro R/C collectors rather than endlessly rehashing the glories of the past. Once they’re done remaking every past hit, they will have nothing left to remake. If consumers are willing to accept and buy kits based on 30 year old technology, why not also create some new buggies and trucks based on the same old vintage design and technology spirit? If they managed to create a few new cars that felt like “lost” 1980s designs, I would buy them in a heartbeat.
The closest thing Tamiya have ever done to something like this was probably the Ford F350 High-Lift kit (and related kits) which harked back somewhat to their early 3-Speed trucks but without being remakes. But there has been little in the way of retro buggies. Although I did enjoy their now-defunct line of Tamtech-Gear buggies. These were 1/16 scaled R/C buggies that were inspired by a few of the 1/10 scale classics. But they were completely different in parts and design to their larger siblings, and this made them feel like retro-themed tributes – yet without just being note-for-note repeats of the past. It was a way of mixing the old with something new, and they even came beautifully packaged. In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is – I bought all 5 (Frog, Hornet, Fox, Hotshot, Rough Rider) that were based on 1980s models.
The affect on the value of original Tamiyas
Tamiyas remakes have caused dips in the values of originals – but only on those models that were actually remade. And only really for a limited period after the remake came out.
I’ll admit, I have found this annoying at times. And it’s not a matter of seeing these things as an “investment”, as it has nothing to do with investing. The simple fact is: nobody likes it when something they’ve just spent a lot of money on, undergoes a decrease in value. To phrase it another way: I could have saved money, had I started collecting my original Tamiyas a little later.
Having said all that, in the longer term, original Tamiyas do bounce back and regain their pre-remake value. We have already seen this happen with a number of kits, and in the long term I suspect original kits will only become more collectible particularly as their numbers dwindle.
I would also speculate that vintage R/C collectors are relative newbies to the notion of remakes.
In other fields of toy collecting (e.g. action figures) remakes have been around for decades – even going back to the 1980s and 1970s – and they have seen many ‘waves’ of remakes. Those collectors are so accustomed to remakes, that they’ve had a lot of time to think about the differences between them, and about what “owning an original” means to them. The end result being that first release originals have skyrocketed in value, even in cases where they differ only marginally from remakes. It’s all about having the original toy and the packaging that was actually on store shelves when you were a kid. It has got to the point where the type of glue seal affixing a toy in its packet, can mean hundreds of dollars difference in value if it proves an item was a true original. The demand for original toys is enormous, and it usually doesn’t matter if they are only slightly different to the remake examples.
For vintage R/C car collectors, remake kits are still a fairly new concept that has only been around since the early-mid 2000s, and one which – at first – seems to fulfill a need and offer the same thrill as buying an original. And for many people, they do just that. But as the existence of remakes, along with their many differences, become more common knowledge over time, those who are more deeply interested in Tamiya history from a collecting or even curating point of view will come to the conclusion that it means somewhat more to own original examples of each car. Even if they do buy some remakes as well.
There’s nothing unique about this. In every field of collecting in the world, a majority of interest always tends to be reserved for the original or “first issue”, of pretty much anything – from Posters to Pokemon.
The affect on Tamiya’s brand
Another aspect that few people talk about is – how are the remakes affecting Tamiya’s brand?
Firstly, any company that remakes it’s own classic products for quick profit, may damage their brand’s prestige and “collectability” a little bit. People like to collect things, and the culture of collecting things often relates to the satisfaction people feel when finding rare things, and owning them. It’s a fun challenge.
When items are remade, this can cloud the market. And if collectors start to feel that everything in a particular field is fair game for a remake version, they might lose some interest. The rarity of something naturally remains a bit more “pure” if companies never flood the market with similar new versions of their past classics.
Having said all that, collectors are very particular about the differences between originals and remakes. And over time, such differences become more well-known to everyone.
The demand for original examples of anything collectible, means prices for original items always remain strong. Further, the value of remake items can also increase in future years when they are inevitably discontinued as well. Such rises only make originals even more collectible.
Another possible effect of remaking items, is that their visibility in stores draws more interest from past or casual fans, and that this has a flow-on effect whereby a percentage of these additional buyers begin seeking out original vintage items as well.
To summarize, there are several competing factors at play:
- Remake kits have been popular for Tamiya. This can temporarily slow demand for originals.
- However, once the uniqueness of original items becomes more apparent, demand for them inevitably climbs back up.
- The supply of original cars left (especially new in box kits) is strictly limited to whatever is left in the world today. This number will only decline further in the years ahead.
- Remake kits will eventually climb in collectability, once they are discontinued themselves.
- Remake kits may awaken more “past fans”, who begin to seek out both remake and original items.
Please note: whilst I have talked a lot about value and so forth here, I only do so in relation to the cost of collecting, and people’s ability to afford to collect. Some people seem to get defensive about the notion of “investment” – I am personally not an investor. I do not begrudge anyone who is – people are allowed to do as they please. But this page has not been written as “investment advice”, merely from the point of view of an interested collector. However, it is impossible to discuss collecting, collectability and our ability to collect without also speculating a little about current and future rarity and value.
Country of manufacture
Another aspect to consider is that back in the 1980s, pretty much every single R/C model was manufactured in the country where the manufacturer was based. Japanese companies manufactured their models in Japan. American companies generally manufactured their models in the USA. German companies in Germany. And so on.
Today’s remake kits exist in a vastly different world. Modern Tamiya releases and remakes are now made in the Philippines (not Japan), though many of Tamiyas products are still made in Japan.
All of Kyosho’s remakes are made in Taiwan, which is at least a democracy.
The story of other brands is that most if not all are made in China.
Does this makes a difference? That’s up to you to decide. It does in the full-size automotive industry. The quality of output from factories in foreign countries cannot be controlled as tightly as many companies would like you to think. And the standard of output often varies depending on where an item was actually manufactured. When it comes to full-sized cars, even different factories within countries can have varying output to one another. There is a reason why certain factories win manufacturing plant awards, yet others do not.
When it comes to R/C models, some collectors have noticed differences in quality between Japanese-made originals, and foreign-made remakes. With that said, I think the quality of Tamiya and Kyosho remain extremely high, and these companies in particular, deserve support.
When it comes to Japan, there is also something to be said for the level of pride that Japanese companies and their staff have traditionally put into their products. I do not believe this sense of pride and purpose can be easily replicated by low-paid workers, working in offshore factories where they have little affiliation to the brands they are working for.
Another issue I have is that I refuse to support products made in mainland China, for ethical reasons. And further, if we ignore the quality debate for a moment – there will always be a certain appeal for collectors to own things that were made in their country of origin (e.g. Japan), than those manufactured somewhere else (e.g. China). This is often just part of the history and nostalgia of owning the model.
What about other brands? Will they remake their vintage kits?
Since originally writing this article, some other brands have also joined the remake bandwagon, looking to turn their own profit from the interest in vintage models. Many R/C brands of the 1980s no longer exist, or no longer have the capacity to produce R/C models. But it seems that any of the companies that are still operating today may decide to remake popular models from their past, if they feel there is a market for them.
Need more info?
Please see my follow-up article A detailed guide to Vintage vs Remake Tamiya R/C kits.
Great article, and terrific blog.
Can understand collectors not being interested in the re-issues. For me, I could never afford these great RC’s back in the 80s. Could only dream of a Hornet whilst driving my Jet Hopper. So the re-issues offer me the chance to experience these cars now that I’m nearly 40.
Are you thinking/able to do an article soon on the Super Shot from the late 80s?
Thanks for the compliments Dylan.
Yes, can totally see the attraction of the reissues for many, and was thinking the same thing only today when I saw some Star Wars reissued toys at a toy store – it’s nice that toys are still being made for a film released in 1977, so that kids of today can enjoy them as we did back in the 80s.
The Supershot is definitely another one I have in the collection, and definitely on the cards to be profiled here in the future…apologies for the lack of recent updates, just haven’t had much free time. But the good news is my actual accumulating never quite stops, so to be honest there’s probably enough vintage kits and toys to photograph and review for the next 20 years (!)
Would love to know your thoughts of the differences between the Hot Shot, the Supershot, and even the Hot Shot 2.
Great Article – thanks so much. I can remember back to the days when I had my RC. I was lucky – very lucky that my dad owned a toy stores in South Africa. I must have been 15 at the time – and fell in love with the hotshot. I built it over a three week period (every night) slowly and methodically.
I now have three boys of my own and want to let them experience this as well.
Any ideas as to where to purchase a re isssue hot shot or similar (I am finding the Tamiya site a little confusing)
Cheers and thanks
Thanks for your comments!
Some local hobby stores (at least in Australia) have been stocking the reissued kits.
But if you’re unable to find them locally, then one online store I would recommend is http://www.stellamodels.com.hk/
I have bought from there before (I’m not affiliated with them in any way), and found them to have good prices and reliable postage.
I am interested in the cost comparison of the 1980’s price (the actual retail price back in the 80’s, maybe even the inflation adjusted price too) vs. the current reissue price.
The only collect-ability I could see in the reissues would be maybe an investment in the future if the collector already has the original. So it would be a side by side collection to show the differences between the original and the reissue.
I just got the reissued grasshopper, partly nostalgic given that I would have loved to build an RC when I was a kid (though I wasn’t immersed enough in the RC world back then to know what the brands and models were, and I was still pretty young in the mid 80s), but mainly because I wanted to build an RC kit now. I am doing my own paint scheme as well, only planning on using some of the decals. Even though it is the first time building any RC, I am impressed by the quality of the components Tamiya has provided. My 5-8 yr old kids will be the ones who are ultimately going to be playing with the finished product (another reason why I chose the grasshopper: the reported durability and ease of use).
Good points Ben.
I can confirm that the cost of buying a new R/C car back in the 1980s was definitely higher than it is today. For example, a Tamiya Hornet kit back in 1985 might have been about $150. Accounting for inflation, paying $150 for something in 1985 is about the same as paying $385 in 2012 (in Australia). Yet the reissued Hornet kit can be found online for about $110. This is because it has become cheaper to manufacture toys as time as passed, and Tamiya has also cut costs by no longer manufacturing many things in Japan like they used to. But it’s no wonder so many of us grew up wishing we could buy more toys in the 80s (but not being able to afford them).
In terms of collect-ability, the reissued kits may appreciate a little bit over time. However, they will always play “second fiddle” to the original kits. The original kits have several things in their favour – first, they’re different (as described in this article). Second, they’re simply “the originals” and people always value original releases more, no matter what the item is (books, music, art etc).
And third, they’re from the 1980s when R/C cars were still a new hobby and the level of interest was higher than it has ever been since. Hence, a lot of people today still remember that era when they first owned (or wished they could afford) those early R/C models.
Sure, people who buy new Tamiya kits today will probably feel nostalgic about them in the year 2044 (30 years from now), and this may affect values. But as the 1980s were the biggest boom period for the hobby, nostalgia for the reissues will probably never match the nostalgia for the originals. As you say though, some people may enjoy having both – for side-by-side displays, and for the sake of having “complete” collections (fyi there are some huge collectors out there who literally buy EVERY SINGLE Tamiya kit ever released!)
And finally, yes Tamiya has managed to continue releasing high quality products, despite lowering costs over the years. They have always made fantastic products, and the reissued kits are incredibly good value for what you get, imho.
A really great article! I have bought a vintage Tamiya Grasshopper in 2012.
It was a real vintage one and looked untouched for years. It still had the mechanical speed controller installed when I received it.
The problem was, that it was never painted. But it already had the decals on it, so it didn’t look to good. Because I wanted to use the Grasshopper for one of my Youtube videos, I decided to restore it. There were no broken parts on the chassis, so I only had to concentrate on the body. I used putty on a broken edge and afterwards it received a new painting.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a vintage decals set, so I decided to use decals from the reissue (a white Grasshopper wouldn’t look good on video).
How do you think this affects the value of my Grasshopper? Is it already one of those hybrids you were talking about? Oh, by the way: I left the inside of the body unpainted, so you can still see the original yellowed plastic.
Hi Nils. Thanks for writing. It’s nice to hear you focused on an original Grasshopper. Personally I think that you should have got an original decal set, because they are around and are not that expensive. I may even be able to help you if you get in touch via the contact page. Anyway – point is, for not much more money you could remove those decals and make it all original again.
If not, I think the value of the model will be affected a little by the fact that the decals are not original. If you ever sell it, some buyers may not believe that the whole rest of the car is an original, unless they can see all the parts differences too. Would be a lot simpler for selling, if the whole car was straight up original.
On the other hand, if you are happy with it the way it is, then of course keep it that way 🙂
Thank you very much for your reply! I think, that’s a great way to do it, so I will wait for an original decal set to appear somewhere and than bring my grasshopper back to original. Thank you very much!
Hi there, thanks for your article! My dad bought me a Hornet in ’84 from Hobbyco in George St in Sydney. It cost $105 and the radio controller cost $110. It was the best toy I ever had. In the 90s I stupidly gave it away to a kid down the street and now I regret that. I was interested in buying a new Hornet but I don’t really like the controllers these days. In the mid 80s everyone had a 2 stick controller, but I see now that every controller has a little steering wheel. Is it possible to buy the old sort?
Thanks for the comment Christof. Wow, Hobbyco in George st Sydney, 1984…I wish I had gone there in those days. The good news is you can still get those 2 stick transmitters. A few companies still make them, and they are pretty much the same as they were in the 80s (albeit with different styles). If you can’t find one at Hobbyco anymore, I would try a smaller store. Or eBay. Here’s the Sanwa Dash on the Hobbyco website (sold out). Others to look for include the Futaba 2DR or the Hitec Ranger. I think even Acoms still sells a model called Techniplus. I personally dislike the wheel radios as well, and every single kit model I build gets a standard, 2channel, AM radio like one of the ones I just mentioned. Old school, but simple and reliable, and sometimes they can be found cheap. The other alternative is to buy an actual vintage one on eBay, but they can sometimes be a bit dearer and collectors want them.
Hello, I have an original Tamyia Vanessa’s lunchbox. I have the instructions and all parts are original. It was bought as a gift years ago but only used once. Where would be the best place to look for a good buyer? Any info would be good. Thanks.
Hi Joe. The easiest place to sell it will be eBay. But if your country has a competing online classifieds site that is popular, try that too. Another option is to try an RC forum such as http://www.ultimaterc.com – there are other similar places too, but some of them require membership. It’s nice to hear that the model is all original and with box – that is exactly the kind of thing collectors look for.
Wow! What a great site / blog.
I stumbled across this site while doing some fairly generic searches for The Hornet. I’m in my mid-40s now and wanted my little ones (11 & 7) to have a similar childhood experience as I had when I was 13/14, so was looking to see if Tamiya even existed any longer. Low and behold, they exist and are still making kit based, hobby grade RCs.
I had a Hornet when I was a kid (with a really cool custom paint job I did myself), so my inclination for my older son was to get him The Hornet, albeit a re-issue. He found it under the Christmas tree a couple of months ago and we started the build the first week of February. I wanted him to not only experience the pleasure of playing / driving the car, but to experience the build process. I find the “kids these days” (yes, I sound old) don’t have the mechanical inclinations many of us did when we were younger…the electronic devices is another story! It’s really too bad because I think these types of toys taught basic analytical and problem solving skills. Anyway, we did a little bit each night; I’d say 70 / 30, him-to-me doing the build…I was there for guidance mostly…and maybe a little muscle. We finished up four days ago and it was great to see same sense of excitement in his face, as I remember having as a child. In the four days since, the car has been put through its paces…it very much like I remember…very robust, can take a licking and keeps on ticking. The quality of the re-issue kit is really very close to the original. I understand, some things have changed, but the car itself feels and performs just as I remember it.
It was a blast! Probably more for me than him. I can’t believe how much I remembered in detail from 30 years ago on the build. I could vividly remember as a child, sitting at the desk in my bedroom, laying everything out (yes, the blister packs), and methodically piecing it together night after night, until finally, it was time for it’s first test drive and alignment…exciting times indeed.
In 1983/84, my best friend and I got hooked on the world of RC cars. They were great times to be a kid! We both had paper delivery routes, so we had some income that allowed us to get into the hobby…we both picked The Hornet as our first car. I never went beyond the The Hornet; however, I did make some simple modifications, e.g., upgraded motor, bearings, etc. that enabled me to be more competitive in local RC races, sponsored by my local hobby shop. My best friend, however, went beyond and “jumped ship” to Team Associated…yes, the oft coveted RC10. I couldn’t compete, nor did I have the means to acquire one myself. That said, I was quite content with my Hornet, viewing myself as the “underdog” as kids in neighborhood started to build Frogs and Hotshots. I won my fair share (if not most) of my races with my modified Hornet…a lot of it came down to the skill of the driver. I don’t remember ever losing to a Frog.
Well, as a couple of years went by, and our interest moved from RC cars to something else (for me it was surfing), the cars took up residence in our basements. I ended up selling mine to my friend’s cousin, and used the money to buy a surfboard. My friend has kept his perfectly preserved to this day…we were both rather meticulous about the maintenance and keeping of our cars. I’m now kicking myself for having not held onto my first Hornet.
Just a few finishing thoughts. What I find truly endearing and remarkable about the articles and comments on this site, is the commonality of experience and sentiment about the cars and hobby, regardless of geographic region. There are people from all over the globe that have posted here, all talk of similar experiences of how much enjoyment the cars provided, experiences with local hobby shops, experiences in local races, and so on…right down to the reverence (maybe even a little envy) you’d have for some kid in the neighborhood who owned the vaunted RC10 or a Hotshot. Yes, I really had those very same feelings / experiences as you have written about here.
Lastly, I realize for collectors of the originally issued cars, the re-issues may not hold much value or place, but for the rest of us where collecting isn’t our focus, they have enabled us to relive and share some wonderful childhood experiences. And while we’re at it, open the world of RC cars to a whole new generation! Hopefully, we keep that in perspective.
On order, a Hotshot for my 7-year old (obviously he’ll need some assistance), and a Super Hotshot for me! It’s been 30 years, but I’ll finally have my “seat at the table.”
Keep up the good work with the site!
Really appreciated this comment Justin, and it was fantastic to hear your story. “a lot of it came down to the skill of the driver” – so true.
And yes, the reissued Tamiyas certainly make it easy for anyone to relive the experience of building the model from a brand new kit again (for a lot less than finding an original). Inevitably, the reissues themselves will be discontinued (many have been), gain some value of their own, and be coveted too. While the originals will always be somewhere further out in front, as they dwindle but forever remain “the originals”.
Nevertheless, it’s fans like yourself who rediscover the fun with their own children, who truly keep the whole thing rolling for the future. Thanks again for such a well written comment, and hope you continue to stop by (I have been pressed for time lately, but there are many years of articles ahead!).
Yes, I’ll certainly be back…probably as I experience (for the first time) the thrill of building and driving a Hotshot (yes, a re-re, but still…).
Re-reading my initial post…a couple of typos and grammatical errors in there, but hey, it was a “first draft”…apologies.
Looking forward to future reads.
Great to hear your story as well Justin! I have/had the same feelings as you described. I had a Hornet growing up, probably around 10 years old. I’m 41 now with a wife and 4 year old daughter. Reliving the memories has been fun.
I had a tamiya fox as a kid back in the 80’s …. I’ve since collected enough parts /radio gear to build at least 7 full buggies .. Original and now ‘vintage’.. All parts are still sitting in boxes but I’m about to pull it all out and build them back to as original and running car as I can ….
Excellent to hear Jason – sounds like you’ve gathered a fantastic array of items there, and are about to have a lot of fun restoring all that vintage gold.
I have been picking up these old vintage Tamiya cars for years, don’t even know how many I have. Local garage sales, yard sales, flee markets, thrift stores. Always wanted to build a place to display them. Haven’t restored any of them, tires seem to go to crap over the years. Some, like the bigwig are still factory sealed in the box. I wanna build it someday just haven’t got around to it since life happens…
I have a (used) Tamiya Wild One from the 1980’s (I’d guess 85/86) had it when I was 15yrs old and built painted etc to look like the box.
I’ve just found it in the loft with the controller and charger, the 2 batteries maybe in there also.
I haven’t used it in almost 30yrs, is there a market for such an item? If so what’s it worth and where is best to sell it.
I don’t know if it still works……
Norm, you have an original Tamiya Wild One, and yes – there is definitely a market for them.
All vintage original Tamiya models are collectible. Their value depends mainly on:
1. Condition. The cleaner and less worn-out, the more valuable. Obviously.
2. How original they are. Having all original parts (not reissue parts) makes them more valuable. Serious collectors don’t want reissue parts (and can always identify them).
Also, having other original extras – like the original box, any spare bits, and period correct radio gear etc, also helps.
3. Box-art paint job. The more original a car was painted and built, generally, the better. Some custom designs are valuable too, but only if they’re done well.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what it’s worth without seeing it. But a never-built original Wild One kit is (currently) worth around AU$600 or above, so all built and used examples will be below that amount. Used examples generally around AU$300, or below.
I just got a Vintage Grasshopper, its mostly complete other then its missing the battery door. Do you know if the re-re door fits as I cant seem to find a vintage door anywhere.
Hi Brian – sorry for the delay. I believe the reissue battery door will fit. I can’t recall exactly whether it has any little differences, but I am pretty sure it will fit. In the case of some parts, the reissue item is made with the same or very similar mold as the original. And it’s more a case of the fact you can say your car is “all original” if you ever decide to sell it, that makes it worth finding an original issue part if you can. And I just searched eBay and found this original one for you – http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage-Tamiya-Hornet-Parts-Tree-C-X8615-Grasshopper-Original-Issue-/262070087680?hash=item3d04983000
Hi, I’ve actually got an original boxed unbuilt Rough Rider from the 80’s which I’ll be looking at selling soon. I wonder if you could give me any tips on getting a fair price for it?
A boxed, unbuilt original Rough Rider is gold, Chris. Very lucky to have it.
When advertising it for sale, the most important thing is: photos. Clear photos, preferably on a white background. Describe the condition honestly.
If it happens to have a black version of the bumper in the kit, make note of that too – as it just means the kit is an early issue example. Another thing to note is that the box art changed. Early kits had a different bumper on the box art, later ones had the actual kit style bumper. It’s just trivia really – some people prefer one box or the other. There are some other details about parts in this kit which were altered slightly during the production run between 1979 and 1985. But for the most part they are smaller trivia for collectors. Being discontinued 30 years ago, any surviving unbuilt example is “gold”, pure and simple 🙂 So the value is determined mainly by general demand. If you’d like my thoughts on likely value, feel free to drop me a line via the contact page.
Its an interesting article, a good read and extremely informative!. I was under 10 in the 80s, but i still remember seeing the Lunchbox at the model shop. Back then it seemed massive and just looked so right. Now im mid thirties and I’m just starting to collect Tamiya cars, but not the originals. Im hugely grateful of the reissues, and i don’t mind if it was purely a cash in. More money in their pocket keeps an old school company in business. I also don’t think it reflects badly on the company at all. I think it shows the company well and truly understands their roots and iconic status and, considering the reissues are good quality and extremely close to the originals shows they want to deliver a solid product respectful to the originals and their fans. Im not a hardcore rc collector but i am a hardcore retro game collector, and i think true collectors don’t worry about price. I know you are a little peeved at prices dropping a little, and i understand that, but i know people who collect for value and that’s all they talk about (please don’t get me wrong, i don’t mean you bud). For me that’s annoying, they won’t stop till everything is out of range for most people just so they can boast of what they own. All this does is price out genuine collectors who truly enjoy and treasure what they own. This is hugely important to me and collectors i associate with. Least said about price driving traders the better. With the reissues i don’t have to worry about any of that. Plus i get brand new parts with exactly the same nostalgic value. Win win for me. Price your collection by nostalgic value and not monetary value, its far more rewarding! Now I’m off to spend a fortune on reissues lol. Hope to be reading more on this great site in the future.
Cheers for the comment (and compliments) Ian! I’m honestly glad to hear you are enjoying the reissues. I believe they are likely to become more collectible in the future too – that is, somewhat more sought-after over time (in some cases we are already seeing it, as some of the reissues have already been discontinued). Although as with all things, reissues never quite become as sought-after as originals.
To quickly address a couple of your other points… I do agree that if people only collect for value, it seems like they are missing out on the fun of doing it for nostalgia alone. However, I’d just add that I’m yet to meet another vintage R/C car collector who did it for any reason other than love of the hobby. I’m sure there are probably a few speculators out there. But the highest prices in vintage R/C are lower than those in vintage video games though. So that may be why you see a bit more speculation among the video game crowd, what with some rare NES games hitting the tens of thousands.
The affect of the reissues on the price of originals doesn’t actually bother me 🙂 (as you said), except in the sense that originals I bought prior to a reissue could have been bought later for a little less (thus saving me money!). But on the other hand, it’s now been 10 years since Tamiya began reissuing in earnest. And in some cases, values of originals have begun to climb again, regardless of the existence of a reissue.
My only other concern about Tamiya’s reissue frenzy has been that it can’t go on forever (as there are only so many classic R/C cars to actually reissue). And if they’d spend some time now, designing some new kits that had serious retro R/C appeal (I’m talking – kits where both the chassis and body appeal to 80s fans by being old school and realistic, and which are based on other 1980s dune buggy styles from the Baja 1000 or the Paris Dakar) they might actually have a way of both appealing to the current reissue fans whilst also setting up a future income stream with longer-term potential. Like you, I want Tamiya to survive.
Regarding one other point you make “i get brand new parts with exactly the same nostalgic value” – for me, I guess part of the nostalgia value of my own vintage R/C collecting is that I like the toys I collect to actually come from the 1980s. I like the idea that they were sitting on toy shop shelves back then (when I wanted them but couldn’t afford them!). So in that sense, a reissued example just doesn’t have the same magic for me as owning an original. And when you add in all the differences (old technology, original box art, manuals, decals etc), I just love having them the way they were, when first released. I guess it’s the same as when full-scale car buffs like to restore cars with authentic period-correct parts, right down to the washers – it’s all about the truly old-school experience, warts and all. It’s a reflection of the life and times that you are celebrating.
Nevertheless – nothing I say should prevent you from enjoying the current access to reissued examples 🙂 So good luck with your collecting. And I completely agree on “Price your collection by nostalgic value and not monetary value” – it’s the reason why (in the past) I have paid in some cases hundreds of dollars for old R/C items that were special to me, yet barely worth $10 to anyone else on the planet (and which I can now never sell). Nostalgia is without doubt (and unfortunately for my wallet!) the #1 driving force for me.
Man i never get sick of reading this page. Thanks again for sharing your information and for the hard work involved
Cheers Sub, much appreciated!
I think it’s great that Tamiya has reissued their retro models! Being a product of the 70’s/80’s, I owned many old Tamiya buggys. I didn’t collect them, I played with them and modified them. It taught Me how to build, how cars and electric motors work and left me with great memories! Just the smell of the tires, the blister packs and the box art was great! So not having to pay $500 for a grasshopper that sold for $80 so I can relive that building experience as well as my son is great. This hobby shouldn’t be about money. I still have many originals in great condition and I really don’t care that the value has dropped because of the rereleases. It’s not about that. And I definitely don’t agree that Tamiya has done this for a quick buck. They are a company of modelers and builders who received pressure from modelers to rerelease these. I can remember many petitions online. People want to relive their heyday. Look at real vehicles. Ford, dodge and Chevy have all release retro versions of their 60’s vehicles. So no offense, but this article seems like it’s more about you complaining that the value of your models has decreased and not about us being able to relive our childhood experiences. Yes, I’m sure it’s has been very lucrative for tamiya but that is one reason they are here. There are not many company’s that care about the quality of their products. Tamiya isnknenof the few and I for one hope they continue to rerelease there vintage models!
Good for you Jeff. You should certainly continue to enjoy the rereleases, if you enjoy them.
And no offense to you either, but I’m not complaining about anything 🙂 I’ve actually never been happier with my collection. Unfortunately, you appear to have missed (or ignored) the primary purpose of this article, which was: to help collectors spot differences between vintage and reissue Tamiyas, and examine how the reissues have affected the hobby of collecting vintage Tamiyas (a hobby I was involved in for nearly 15 years before the first reissue arrived). By your own admission, you are not really interested in collecting the vintage models. You are quite happy with the vastly cheaper, modified reissues. I mention clearly in the article that “Tamiya’s reissues are good for people who’d like to buy a new kit of a retro toy, at a cheap price”.
But even in the Ford, Dodge and Chevy examples you gave from the real car collecting world, owning a modern reissue of any classic car is no substitute for an original – to a collector or enthusiast. This is because not only are reissues different, but because they have no provenance relating to the era that an object was first made. Vintage collecting is all about provenance relating to an earlier time in life, and the feelings of nostalgia that come with it. To collectors, there’s value in simply knowing when something was made. And most collectors (of anything) enjoy having things that actually are vintage, not just things that look vintage. This is in addition to the often extensive lists of physical differences between originals and reissues.
More recently, I have been considering the possibility that the Tamiya reissues have had an unforeseen effect that I did not cover in this article, that being: the reissued kits have simply reminded a lot of people about the Tamiya R/C cars they used to have in the 80s. Many have then bought those reissued kits. But many have also begun to seek out the true original kits and cars. And any additional demand for the original kits and cars will only make those originals more desirable, and more challenging, for anyone else to find in the years ahead. Since there is a strictly finite number of them left in the world.
Regarding Tamiya, I think it’s fair to say that they are a large business, and large businesses exist primarily to make a profit. The plastics modelling industry has been struggling a lot in recent years too (most kids these days have never built a model, and you’ve got to wonder where the industry will end up as all the older modelers pass on). I don’t think any plastics modelling company can afford to release products simply out of the kindness of their own heart, or because a few fans create a petition. They may be attentive to feedback. But they will only manufacture things if it’s very cost-effective to do so, and that means: profit. And reworking old products into new products (rather than designing entirely new products) and trading off old brand familiarity, is one of the most cost-effective ways for any business to make a profit. I don’t begrudge Tamiya for doing this – they are only trying to survive. But I don’t find these products to be very significant or interesting. Just as I don’t find endless movie sequels significant or interesting, yet almost every major movie released these days is part of an existing franchise – for easier profit.
Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative guide to vintage/remake kits. It was a blast to read and made me weigh the pros and cons on the early birthday present that I’m spoiling myself to. My budget couldn’t allow me to go after a vintage Hotshot but nonetheless, picking up a remaked Hotshot today at a decent price soothed my retro longing for an RC kit that I could only stare at in awe back in the hobby shop as a kid in ’85.
Love the article. Personally I am weird inbetween rc fan. For me re-re or original has the same value. I just look at their design, looks and performance. So original and re-re have almost the same effect on me. I also run all my cars.
Original MkI Hotshot, Hotshot II, Hornet and Fox. Re-re Buggy Champ, Fighting Buggy, Wild One. All pilots have to go out and drive the heck out of their machine. If it breaks, it breaks. We’ll patch her up and get ready for the next run. If they ever end up on the shelf, it will be because I will be next to them 😉
My favorite is the Buggy Champ. The way that car looks and feels, it’s like a buggy from Mad Max and a 1980’s Formula 1 car had a baby.
If it was not for the re-re’s I would not have started collecting as I used the re-re parts to restore my old buggies. This lead me to expand and start collecting. I have a mix of re-res and vintage. The re-re’s all have MCI decals to mimic the originals. I basically now have the contents of my totally destroyed Guide book on display to enjoy looking at every day. Most of the tatty vintage ones I have also replaced the body with a TBG body with MCI decals. Each to their own- I am not precious at all about vintage vrs re-re as long as the look is tidy. BUT you know it takes all sorts to make the world and if we were all the same the world would be a boring place!-
Thanks for commenting Andrew 🙂 That’s great to hear, honestly, because it’s always better to have people re-entering the hobby (and the remakes have encouraged many to do so)
Agreed – it takes all sort of fans, and you should do whatever it is that you enjoy the most when it comes to restoring. I tend to write here from a purist perspective – because it’s about preserving the history, and the changes that have occurred along the way. As with all collectibles of all kinds, there are always original releases, followed by other generations and remakes and so forth. And in all areas of collecting, there are those nerds (like me!) who try to catalogue the history a bit – so that everyone (yourself included) can fully decide which items to seek out and collect.
Anyway, thank you for joining up 😛
I could not come to terms with the rerelease kits but when i met the guy behind the rerelease kits when i was in Japan i warmed up to them. They give me the chance to get that feeling of buying a Tamiya rc car from a hobby store. Ok still hurts inside lol. If it’s not vintage it still bugs me in a way.
Yes, even I was lured by the novelty of buying them from a shop again – which I did when they first came out 🙂 Later though, I decided to sell them and went back to only collecting the vintage versions.
I bought a rerelease Hotshot just to see what its all about and in the servo tub it reads rcc hotshot 2, strange. I looked at my vintage 1985 hotshot and it reads nothing in the tub any thoughts?
Yeah, that’s because for the remake Hotshot kit, Tamiya opted to use the chassis mould from Hotshot II (the one with the hatch opening on the top).
Hence top and bottom of chassis in remake Hotshot are the Hotshot II chassis (but probably with different embossing to the actual, original Hotshot II chassis)
Oh i see yes i noticed the abs written on it. Thank you for the reply i was thrown off because of the rcc hot shot II marking but all clear now thanks.
Oh also – yes the original 1985 Hotshot (not Hotshot II) has nothing at all embossed on the bottom half of the chassis. The top half of the chassis does have embossed writing, which reads “RCC Hotshot”.
Thank you, yes the top half of mine reads RCC Hotshot awesome thank you for the quick response.
Something i always wanted to find out was i bought a Wild willy 2 a couple of years ago from a local hobby store. Its made in Japan. Then while on holiday in Japan i bought 3 Wild Willy 2s all made in the Phillipines ,did they rerelease the kit at some stage? My first one has a mechanical speedy the others electronic.
That’s interesting to hear Branko. I actually did not realise that early Wild Willy 2 kits even had a mechanical speed control in them.
The kit has been in continuous production, there has never been a “rerelease” per se.
Thats what i thought. A friend of mine has a metallic edition wild willy 2 with mechanical speedy made in japan also. Interesting stuff.