Tamiya Monster Beetle (1986)

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Tamiya Monster Beetle1986 was a big year for big toy monster trucks.

And combining their high-rise, go anywhere looks with the evergreen shape of a VW Beetle resulted in yet another hit for the Japanese model company Tamiya.


With the advent in 1985/1986 of such big-wheeled off road truck kits as the Marui Big Bear and the Tamiya Blackfoot, monster trucks had truly arrived in the R/C toy world. Full size stadium Monster Truck events were of course popular in the US, and like all popular full-scale motor sports, the action was bound to end up recreated in toy form sooner or later.

By 1986 Tamiya was firmly entrenched as the world’s most popular hobby-grade R/C brand thanks largely to it’s colourful buggy models. And despite rival Japanese model kit company Marui being quicker to release a 1/10 scale monster truck with it’s “Big Bear” kit, Tamiya soon followed with the Blackfoot and then the Monster Beetle.

The Monster Beetle was first released on the 23rd of December, 1986… some 27 years ago, as I write this.

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Example On This Page…

  • Tamiya Monster Beetle
  • Tamiya Monster BeetleYear: 1986
  • Made in: Japan
  • Model #: 58060
  • Release: Tamiya (Worldwide) Original Release
  • Variant: N/A

Variants of this Release

  • Mk1 – Notable for the body being molded in white.
  • Mk2 – Difference: Body molded in red.
Know Another Variant? Contact Me

Other Known Releases…

  • None.
Know Another Release? Contact Me

Related Models…

  • Tamiya Monster Beetle 2015 RemakeTamiya Monster Beetle (2015 Remake). Modern remake with new model number. Contains many changed parts, decals and box.
Know Another Model? Contact Me

It’s funny to think that none of these kit based monster vehicles were 4WD though – as you’d expect monster trucks to be (and, as I assume, most of the real ones were). The complexity and cost of 4×4 transmissions in a model kit were apparently not good economics, in 1986, for the price-point at which these vehicles were aimed.

Tamiya had already released some far more expensive, scale truck models with full 4WD gearing (and even shiftable transmissions), but it seems they wanted to keep their first big-footed vehicles as 2WDs. And they were none-the-less still highly entertaining to both build and drive.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m quite a VW fan when it comes to toys. And while I’m more into off-road buggies than anything else, the Monster Beetle was a model I came across many years ago in lucky circumstances. And I developed a great appreciation for this model.

The Monster Beetle is of course another 1/10 scale, kit-based, hobby-grade R/C legend from the golden era of Tamiya R/C models in the mid 1980s.

Growing up back then, I had no chance of owning it. But by 1994 I was in my teens, and already something of an avid hunter/collector of vintage R/C items. One day in 1994 I had decided to ring around a few hobby stores, out of the blue, just to see if they still had any old kits from the 1980s left in stock. Looking back now, it was a very real possibility that I might find some classic models – but despite this I only managed to find one store that had anything interesting – they had one Monster Beetle left.

On my limited budget, I saved up for several weeks to pay it off – and finally purchased what might have been the very last “retail stock” Monster Beetle kit left in Australia.

This is it today…

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Tamiya Monster Beetle

I actually built part of this model in 1994. And the rest of it many years later, eventually completing all the small details. The joy of building a model like the Monster Beetle is that if you make the effort to do everything, there’s a fair amount of small detail that ends up being really satisfying to complete.

Before I continue any further, let’s have a look at the original Monster Beetle video promo clip…

These old videos often used to appear on TV sets in Hobby Shops, as in-store promotion to help tempt customers.

Elsewhere, the legendary Tamiya catalogues – for me, their best marketing – featured the Monster Beetle in the 1987 annual issue…

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Also seen in the catalogues were these two images…

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Tamiya Monster Beetle

I tried to carefully recreate this exact look, when building this model. So I hope it looks pretty close.

The Monster Beetle is actually based on an earlier chassis that Tamiya had created – initially for the Subaru Brat, but it is equally known as the chassis of the Tamiya Frog. It’s an unusual chassis for it’s time – referred to as a “space frame” because it consists of two lightweight plastic halves that are screwed together and have a lot of holes in them to save weight, while still remaining rigid.

Tamiya has always had a tendency to adapt it’s models into other models, in an effort to conjure something new at the same time as saving on tooling (molds were very expensive items back in those days!). So the Monster Beetle is also an adaptation of the Tamiya Sand Scorcher, their original VW off-roader from 1979, in the sense that the highly detail hard plastic body of that earlier car has been re-used and adjusted slightly, for this release.

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Despite looking like a 4WD (yet being 2WD) as I mentioned earlier, one area in which the Monster Beetle didn’t cut corners was suspension – it is fully independent, both front and rear, and features Tamiya’s yellow “CVA” (Constant Volume Adjustable) shock absorbers, which you fill with oil to provide sophisticated damping. The earlier “Blackfoot” monster truck didn’t have these oil-filled units, so in that sense the Monster Beetle was a step-up from that model and a bit more capable.

Having said that, I’ve always found that if you leave a Monster Beetle on the shelf for a long time, and then run it, you may need to “wake up” those shocks and get them pumping again (depress them a few times) as they do have a tendency to stick a little bit due to lack of play, and the suspension movement on this car is a little “tight” compared to some other hobby grade models.

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Tamiya Monster Beetle

In the photos above, you can see the large, silver Mabuchi 540 motor – standard in most Tamiya kit models, yet still to this day a powerful engine that really marks the difference between most of the toy-grade R/C cars (like many of those featured on this site) and the hobby-grade ones. Any car with at least a 540 motor, is likely to have a top speed of over 20km/h.

Also visible above are the rubber boots that house the rear drive shafts. With hard running, this system is a bit of a weakness of this model (and others in the Tamiya range that use it) as the driveshafts have hexagonal ends that can eventually wear down. It’s also funny to think that the rubber boots were held on by plastic ties! But this was the official way to build the kit. And if you don’t run your cars *too* hard, and keep the stressed components like these well lubricated with Molybdenum grease, then they will operate well for many years.

This car is also equipped with enough space inside the chassis for the 4 x AA cells that most early hobby-grade R/C cars used to require, to power their radio receiver units – something I usually opt for whenever I build vintage cars, because it means the car always has battery power for steering (and therefore there’s no risk of losing control of it once the 7.2v pack has run out).

Tamiya Monster BeetleThe car is covered in real brands and logos, some of them humorous.

I had a lot of fun painting and detailing this model, including the window frames and the driver figure inside. It wasn’t really that hard – just time consuming. The key is to be patient and take your time. It may take quite a few days as you let the paint dry, and do a bit more each time.

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Aside from all the obviously excellent body details, right down to the silver VW badge on the bonnet, one of the most noticeable features of the Monster Beetle are it’s gold wheels and the introduction of the large, pin spike tyres that it uses. It was the first Tamiya model to use these particular tyres and wheels. They’re quite tall and soft, which means they are quite flabby under hard cornering and a bit bouncy as well. But this is part of the joy of old 1980s R/C cars – big, soft tyres that look great and work best when digging through sand dunes.

After all, who cares about racing performance – the Monster Beetle was designed for bouncy, big wheeled fun!

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Tamiya Monster Beetle

Driving the Monster Beetle is pretty easy. Despite being fast, like any 540 motor powered model, the car is quite wide and stable. So on dirt at least, it never really feels like it’s going to topple over. It’s not as fast as the more racing oriented R/C trucks from the late 1980s, but it’s still pretty entertaining in my experience. It’s very much a fun vehicle that looks amazing with it’s highly detailed body.

Tamiya Monster Beetle

I’m slightly surprised Tamiya didn’t give it a more colourful name like their other cars of that era, but I guess “Monster Beetle” is a pretty straightforward and literal way to sum it up!

2015 Monster Beetle Remake

In 2015, the Monster Beetle kit underwent a remake. The new kit has a new model number (58618). It is therefore a new model in Tamiya’s history. It differs from the original in many ways.

Tamiya’s remake kits can be easily spotted by collectors, due to new box art/graphics, inner packaging, and loads of actual parts changes – as well as different decals and a different build manual. They are also not always made in Japan, unlike the originals. For a general overview about this, please visit: “A quick guide to vintage vs remake Tamiya R/C kits”.

A particularly notable difference with the remake Monster Beetle is that the body has been changed: the remake window glass is different (you don’t get the full glass), and the remake body itself is made of seemingly thinner plastic.

As always with remakes – they offer a cheaper way to build and play with a car that looks vintage. However if you want something that actually is vintage, and to relive what it was like to build or drive the original car, there is no substitute for buying an original with all it’s quirks and charms.

In conclusion…

At the time of writing, the original Monster Beetle, with all it’s pure California summertime logos, and 1980s technology, is quite collectible and sought-after. And there will always be a strong market for this one, thanks to the perennial love we all have for VWs, combined with the outrageous and fun looks of this particular Tamiya off-roader.

So if you like off-road Volkswagen Beetles as much as me, or if you’re a fan of monster trucks, the Monster Beetle is a quintessential R/C model that you simply must have in your collection.

At a glance…
Scale: 1/10
Length: 42cm
Drive: 2WD
Motor: RS-540S
Gearbox: 1-Speed
Differential: Yes
Suspension: Yes
Digital Proportional: Yes
Batteries: 1 x 7.2volt, optional 4 x AA (Car). Transmitter purchased separately.
Original price in Australia back in 1986: AU$250
What this would equate to, in 2012 money: AU$590 (calculated using this)
Top Speed (measured so far): TBA

Issues collectors should look for…

Being a high-rise truck with large tyres, the Monster Beetle rides over most obstacles. But it’s height can also mean used examples have rolled onto their roof a few times. Fortunately there aren’t too many accessories that can break off this car and go missing – but there are still one or two. The hard plastic body is also not designed for heavy impacts, so be sure to check for cracks.

You should also check carefully to see whether the one you’re buying is an original or remake.

  • Original vs Remake:
    • This model has undergone a remake, and the original is far more collectible than the remake. If buying a used example, ask about the history of the model and whether it is 100% original, a remake, or a hybrid of original and remake parts. You can also check the embossed stamps on larger plastic parts. For more on this, see: “A detailed guide to vintage vs remake Tamiya R/C kits”
  • Things you should ALWAYS look for:
    • Clean/working battery compartments free of battery residue and rust
    • General wear & tear, scratches, dirt etc
  • Items often missing on this model:
    • Driver figure (1)
    • Window glass (1)
    • Rear license plate (1)
  • Items often broken on this model:
    • The original mechanical speed controller is often worn out, and may need replacing with a fresh original
    • The rear driveshafts are prone to wear under heavy use, so be sure to ask about those
    • The window “glass” (which is transparent plastic) may be cracked due to impacts
    • Likewise, the entire body shell should also be checked for cracks and damage

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12 responses to “Tamiya Monster Beetle (1986)”

  1. Dylan says :

    Loving your increased number of articles lately. Keep it up.

    D

  2. Saito says :

    Great review of one of my favorites. The Monster Beetle. This was it. This was the RC vehicle that hooked me on Tamiya. I was familiar with the Grasshopper and Frog beforehand as most young kids my age were, but lets face it, in reality the best we could hope for was a Tyco, Nikko or Radio Shack buggy. My grandfather was an avid wooden ship modeler and my father was no stranger to plastic models so I was lucky enough to visit these more grown-up toy stores better known as hobby shops. One day my grandfather needed to run to the hobby shop for some balsa wood and as usual, I gladly went along. I still remember coming through the glass door and seeing the newly released Monster Beetle in all its glory sitting high up on the shelf behind the counter with all the other Tamiya vehicles. It was life changing. As funny as that sounds, it was. Something about the Monster Beetle spoke to me. Its the reason I collect (and run of course) RC to this day. The menacing name. The big red Bug perched on the huge tires mounted on gold rims. Those neat yellow CVA shocks. It all combined to draw me into the world of hobby-grade RC and Tamiya. There would be others…the Lunch Box, the Wild Willy, the Clod Buster, but the Monster Beetle was the first. The store owner wanted $360 for the kit + radio + battery + charger. It might as well be a million dollars for a kid my age but perhaps the unattainability made the desire all that much stronger. I settled for one of my first Tamiya models, a Monster Beetle Jr. (I’d eventually collect all the available Jr. models from the time period). It influenced me to the point of owning several full size Beetles as an adult (the Wild Willy would do the same as I’ve had a Jeep as well). Thanks so much for the review of this iconic Tamiya monster.

    • rctoymemories says :

      Great story, thanks for sharing 🙂 The sense of ‘first impressions’, seeing one of these iconic cars sitting high up on the shelf of a store (out of reach in more ways than one) is one I can relate to so well. I too have the little “Junior” somewhere, and recently got hold of the impressive Quick Drive version – which I remember seeing for sale in Dick Smith stores here, while visiting with my Dad. The Monster Beetle – in all guises – always seemed like the pinnacle of off road beetle toy concepts, in both title and physical stature!

  3. rhoonah says :

    I still have my original Monster Beetle and actually spent a little time driving it last weekend with my son. I loved that truck since it was an upgrade of the Blackfoot and like you said, basically the same drive train and gear box of the Brat/Frog. Mine has all ball bearings and a Technigold motor in it so it moves pretty fast. I had painted it a sky blue and it was pretty slick at the time. The monster trucks were a lot of fun. I also have a Tamiya “Hog Heaven” Bruiser which is 4WD like you said but it was REALLY expensive… I just happened to catch my dad in a generous moment with that I guess… lol. I also used to have a Varicom Bug Grizzly but it had its share of problems and I got rid of it in favor of the Monster Beetle.

    Anyway, great review. You are right on about the “half shafts” I think they were actually called being a strange design. With hopped up motors one was constantly stripping them out. I probably had a dozen in my racing kit for road side replacements that could happen at a moments notice.

    I always loved these cars and am somewhat excited about getting my old collection going again. I raced and played with them pretty hard so some are in rough shape.

    Keep the reviews coming!!

  4. Anson says :

    I also have a box of brand new

  5. Benjamin says :

    When I was about 12 yrs old in 1987, the Monster Beetle was THE RC I wanted. I had a copy of Radio Control Car Action that had a monster truck shootout article that featured all of the popular RC monsters at the time and read it over and over again. My Dad surprised me by buying me a Blackfoot which was great, but to me was no Monster Beetle. I remember replacing the half shafts or “dogbones” as we called them, quite frequently.

  6. Rolando says :

    My parents bought it for me when they did a big trip to Asia. They bought it in Singapore…around May 1992.
    Was my first RC Tamiya and the first RC that I have to assemble. Thankfully I didn’t through to the basket the original case, instruction manual and the beetle.
    As you say the transmission was it weak problem, it has gone, but now im looking for parts to make it run again….with just a slight difference it will run on some low power and low speed brushlees motor.
    Now that I have kids, I remember those times and I enjoy everything related to those times…this model make a huge path…was the first and since that I have never stopped (I also have the Honda Civic VTI, my dream car to have when I had driving licence, and the Lancia Delta HF Integrale)…plus some other racing RC cars, buggys and truggys
    Thanks a lot for your review, pictures and the video!!! I enjoy a lot reading it!!!
    Cheers from Chile!

  7. Aaron Li says :

    Great read. I’m so happy to know that tamiya is re-releasing the monster beetle! I will definitely be getting one, at least.

  8. Billy says :

    Hi
    I just wanted to say that I really love your website.
    I am also abig fan and a collector of toy grade RC cars. It seems that the fact that I wss born back in the seventees and rais in the ”golden era” of RC – left me with the same psssion you have, and almost the same memories (despite the fact that I grew up in israel, thouthnds of kilometers away….).
    Just wanted to note you(though I am sure you know) that the monster beetle was re issued… you should update the text…
    Reall enjoy learning and watching everything in you website! Thank you 🙂
    Billy
    (From israel)

    • rctoymemories says :

      Thanks Billy! Great to hear from someone so far away, and yes I think the fun of this hobby is definitely universal. I will endeavour to post more new articles soon as well, I’ve been a bit slack lately.

  9. Steven says :

    What is the biggest motor i can fit onto the monster bettle

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