Shinsei Mountain Man (1981)

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain ManThis early, high quality R/C Chevy Blazer 4WD was a big hit in countries like the USA and the UK, and many remember it as their first R/C car. Some are willing to pay top dollar just to get their hands on one today, and with good reason – the Shinsei Mountain Man was one of the most beautiful and rugged R/C 4×4 toys of the 1980s.


There’s little doubt that of all the Japanese toy companies making R/C models in the 1980s, some were far more successful than others. In terms of kit-building and scale modelling, Tamiya stood the tallest with their massive market reach. While other kit based brands also found success through competition racing.

Example On This Page…

  • Shinsei Mountain Man
  • Shinsei Mountain ManYear: 1981
  • Made in: Japan
  • Release: Shinsei (Japan) Original Release
  • Variant: Mk1

Other Variants of this Release

  • ShinseiMountainMan_External2Mk2 – Difference: Different decals. Came in either black or red.
Know Another Variant? Contact Me

Other Known Releases…

  • Gama Chevy Turbo-BlazerGama Chevy Turbo-Blazer (Germany)
Know Another Release? Contact Me

At the ready-to-run end of the market, Nikko and Taiyo were releasing at least a dozen new R/C toys every year throughout the 1980s, and I suspect Nikko was the most prolific of the two. But behind them, other smaller companies managed to produce some truly beautiful R/C toys, a few of which were very popular. One such company was Shinsei Kogyo Co. Ltd., from Tokyo. They also used the branding “Radio Elecon” on most of their releases.

Sadly, as far as I can tell, Shinsei no longer exists today. For many years they manufactured a range of die-cast and R/C models, and their history certainly dates from before the 1980s. But it seems as though the company disappeared at some point in the 1990s.

I want to take a moment to point out that if you google for Shinsei, and you think you’ve found their homepage at http://www.shinsei.in – that website is not the original Shinsei R/C company. For some reason, an Indian company has taken over the Shinsei name and even uses the original Japanese Shinsei logo (a cute leaping Dolphin symbol) and is now making diecast models under that name. Their website says “Shinsei Industries was founded by Mr. Vijay Kukreja on 20th March 1985. Mr. Vijay Kukreja has been in the toy field since 1965, with experience in manufacturing and retailing.”  But this is not the original Shinsei Kogyo Co. of Japan who produced R/C cars in the 1980s.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at what the real Shinsei company were capable of, as early as 1981…the Mountain Man.

Shinsei Mountain Man

The example here is brand new in box, and an original from Japan – where it was manufactured. Finding one in such condition today is virtually impossible, and it took me a long time to find this one – particularly since this is a Mk1 example.

I should point out that nowhere on this box, car, manual or transmitter is the year of manufacture actually mentioned.

So how do we know the Mountain Man dates from 1981? Well, the internet is amazing these days, and even old databases of trademarks that were filed for toys back in the 1980s, can be found online. If you visit this link you’ll see the actual trademark details of the Shinsei Mountain Man, which were “filed” in 1981. So I think we can assume for now that 1981 was the year of this model’s inception.

Given how advanced this toy was for it’s time, it couldn’t really have been released much earlier either.

In 1981, there were very few other ready-to-run R/C toys that were as sophisticated and well-made, as this car. At the beginning of the 1980s, R/C toy manufacturers were generally a long, long way behind the standard of hobby grade R/C kit manufacturers. Kit companies – like Tamiya and Kyosho already had large ranges of highly detailed model kits. But if you just wanted an R/C car that you could take straight out of the box and play with, most of the options available at the time were simple on-road sports cars, with only basic functions.

So Shinsei’s Mountain Man – a Digital Proportional 4×4 off roader that was ready straight-out-of-the-box to power through sand, scoot across the kitchen floor, and even climb over mum’s garden – was a toy with very few peers in 1981.

And the price reflects that too. The box of the example shown here still has the original price sticker on it – apparently it sold for 18,900yen. Time for some quick math: if the US Dollar was worth about 220 Japanese yen in 1981, this Mountain Man would have cost about US$95 in 1981. Which is the equivalent of about US$248 in 2014. So this was certainly an expensive toy for it’s time.

Here’s some more production images taken from the box of the car…

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

The Mountain Man is a 1/16 scale off-road toy of the sort of quality that could only have come from Japan in the 1980s.

This is basically a Chevrolet K5 Blazer – possibly a late 1970s, second generation model, emblazoned with cool “Turbo” stickers and built like a very respectable scale-model of the real vehicle, yet designed for real off-roading as well.

I’d have to say that for supposedly “1/16” scale, this is a pretty big car – it’s probably more like 1/14 scale (and is even a decent size for that)…

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

Requiring a huge and heavy 8 x “C” cell batteries in the car (more than a typical 1/10 scale Tamiya buggy), even it’s battery requirements seemed to mimic the gas-guzzling, full-sized Chevy truck. But they certainly made this quite a powerful and versatile off-roader, that was ready to go just about anywhere.

In addition to being one of the most gorgeous 4WD toy trucks of the 1980s, the Mountain Man is also a pretty interesting mix of realism and practicality that proved you didn’t need to sacrifice one for the other.

It’s funny when you look at some of the off-road R/C toys available these days with their huge, ridiculous looking wheels, made from cheap plastics and rubber. The Mountain Man has only slightly oversized wheels – but they’re highly realistic, with semi-pneumatic tyres and authentic tyre tread.

Shinsei Mountain Man

These “BF Goodrich” tyres give it attractive proportions. But Shinsei were also mindful of the fact that a perfect miniature scale model of a real 4WD vehicle would probably not be all that practical when being driven over terrain. So the Mountain Man has slightly elevated ground clearance, and a very smooth, flat underside to ensure that it can step over most ordinary sized stones and other obstacles with ease.

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

As you can see, the end result is a 4×4 toy that still looks real, yet has 4cm of ground clearance at it’s axles, and 6cm of clearance to it’s underside.

Numerous other realism touches helped to make this an appealing toy – from the Florida numberplate (which is even registered from 1981-1982!), to the real spare tyre and jerry can at the back, to the superb front bull-bar, headlights and grill.

Once again though, Shinsei wanted actual “play” to be a priority, and the car’s most unique feature is actually operated via a switch located on the roof. No need to pick up your Mountain Man to search for a tiny gear shift lever underneath the car somewhere… Just flick the easy roof switch to go from 2WD to 4WD, and back again.

Shinsei Mountain Man

Yes the Mountain Man was almost unique among ready-to-run toys for it’s time in offering the ability to completely disengage and reengage the front transmission. 2WD meant you could enjoy some higher speeds on easier surfaces, thanks to less transmission friction. But if the going got tough, 4WD mode would usually get you through.

The roof switch doesn’t really detract from the look of the car either, and the car’s off-road ability was a resounding success to all who had one back in the day. Despite carrying a fair amount of weight, the Mountain Man delivers quite reasonable power and speed to make this a truly entertaining and practical R/C toy.

Of course it’s not as fast as the numerous off road buggies that were released in the mid-late 1980s, but it’s easy to see why those who owned a Mountain Man grew up really loving this little car. Kids always want their R/C cars to go fast, and for such an early, vintage 4WD, this would actually have been one of the fastest toys for it’s time.

Elsewhere, I’d have to say that one of my favourite things about this car are the ‘4×4’ and ‘Turbo’ logos. It’s pure retro 4WD cool…

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

Even the antenna has a 4WD sticker on it…

Shinsei Mountain Man

Of course, being from 1981, the Mountain Man couldn’t come with every possible feature. Suspension is pretty basic and limited to those soft tyres…however it does have a rocking-rear-axle mechanism to allow the rear to adapt to the terrain independently of the front of the car. In lieu of any sort of spring suspension, it was great that Shinsei included this – it means the Mountain Man is a little less rigid and slightly more able to “crawl” over obstacles, while keeping the rear wheels on the ground.

Shinsei Mountain Man

Shinsei Mountain Man

The other really great thing about the Mountain Man of course, is that it’s Digital Proportional – the transmitter allows you to accelerate or steer to gradual degrees, which is an essential feature for the most realistic running. Short of owning a hobby grade kit car, owning a Digital Proportional ready-to-run toy R/C car back in 1981 was almost like owning a Rolls Royce – in a toy sense – as it was a feature reserved for only the most expensive and exotic R/C toys of the time. Even today, it’s funny to see how many R/C toys (some costing $100 or more) still don’t bother to have this feature.

In summary, the Mountain Man is probably one of the greatest R/C toys of the 1980s – realistic, well made, tough, powerful, and versatile.

I mentioned earlier that it has now become quite collectible thanks to it’s popularity back in the day. As of the time of writing, I’ve seen some examples sell for up to $500… and none of them were brand new. But the good news is they do come up for sale semi-regularly, so at least there are a few chances every year to nab one.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Shinsei later released the Mountain Man II with heaver, lug-pattern tyres, and working roof lights. Due to it’s new name, and the fact it came from Shinsei, I consider the Mountain Man II an entirely new model. (Learn more about models, releases and variants).

Shinsei (the company) may be long gone, but their eclectic range of high-quality R/C toys during the 1980s is something I have always admired, and the Mountain Man was one of their greatest releases. A true classic, especially if you love retro 4x4s.

As always, happy collecting.

At a glance…
Scale: 1/16
Length: 33.5cm
Drive: 2WD/4WD
Gearbox: 1-Speed
Differential: Yes (at rear)
Suspension: No
Digital Proportional: Yes
Batteries: 8 x C (Car). 4 x AA (Transmitter)
Original price in Japan back in 1981: 18,900yen
What this would equate to, in 2014 US dollars: US$248

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22 responses to “Shinsei Mountain Man (1981)”

  1. Chris Booth says :

    This certainly is a very nice looking Blazer, nearly better than the look of the Blazing Blazer??? My Opinion only perhaps. I wonder if that decal that says “ALLRAD” was intended to be ‘ALLROAD’??? Spelling/translation error. I can’t see the box details all that well, but I noticed the box art license plate is in red color vs your blue plate.

    • rctoymemories says :

      The Tamiya Blazing Blazer is amazing… I guess both cars are essential if you’re a fan of Chevys! Well spotted with the license plate Chris.

      And you might be right about the “allrad”, however it might also just be a German word for some random reason (because in German “allrad” means “all wheel” – you might spot the word used on the box of the Unimog too)

  2. Team Ingel says :

    Yes, Allrad is the german word for all wheel drive.

  3. rctoymemories says :

    I have updated this article with a year of “1980” instead of “1981”, as the trademark of Shinsei Mountain Man was first used in 1980, and the toy was also sold at JC Penny stores as early as 1980.

    Quite extraordinary really – it was a very advanced toy for it’s time, and this example of an R/C Chevy Blazer actually pre-dates Tamiya’s “Blazing Blazer” by two whole years!

  4. Justin Discoe says :

    Holy cow… this brings back memories. This was my all-time favorite R/C, well tied with the Radio Shack Sherman Tank and ultimately help lead me to designing R/C’s for Tyco RC after design school. I striped the stickers off my Mountain Man and went all black, then painted “Little Mule” on the doors in sky blue Testors paint after watching Romancing the Stone as a kid. Great times and that truck was amazing.

    • rctoymemories says :

      Romancing The Stone 🙂 That’s awesome. I love that your memories are connected to a film – so often we remember playing with toys as kids as part of a connection to something else from that era. Some of my memories are connected to The Neverending Story.

      • Mark Hennessy says :

        Romancing the Stone. Great pick up. Loved that Movie and absolutely loved the “Little Mule”.
        I am 42 years old sitting hear playing with my Red Mountain Man Turbo Blazer with my son which I got brand new when I was approx 12 years old. Still have box and everything.
        So I thought I would look it up which lead to this site.
        Don’t know what country you are in. I am in Sydney Australia.

      • onepartartdesign says :

        Ha. Same age, but in Colorado. I don’t know what happened to my Mountain Man, but I wish I still had it. I have saved just about every R/C prototype I made for Tyco R/C and at least two of every radio control car I design to make up for it. I may have to look one up on Ebay.
        Cheers

  5. Boyd says :

    There was a Mountain Man 2 with tractor type ag, or also called lug tires on them. I had one from 1980 and it was fun to operate and I got a lot of use out of it until the RC stopped working. I took it apart a few times and found a way to engage low range and keep it in 2wd. I rolled it many times, hit things, painted the wheels black and gold and wore the tires down about half way. I built a little snow mountain on the back patio with a tunnel and a trail going up and over it. I had to leave the truck outside about 10 minutes or more to cool down to outside temperature, otherwise any snow that touched the steering melted then froze the steering. I think I sold some parts off of it to another kid in school. I still have the steering servo.

    • rctoymemories says :

      Great info Boyd. Did your Mountain Man II have lights on the roof? I think the Mountain Man II qualifies a different model from Shinsei. So I have removed the small pic I have under “Variants” of the one with the roof lights, because I think that one is actually a Mountain Man II with the lug tyres, as you described.

  6. James Evans says :

    I found a Mountain Man Blazer with a shockwave? like design on the side at a yard sale for $2. Had to use the spare tire lol. Cleaned battery terminals and put in new batteries and started driving it. Had to fight my 2 yr old grandson over it. Did find a charging socket between spare and gas can. Plan on getting rechargeable batteries and building a charger.

  7. Patrick Gonz says :

    I have this model since childhood. However, the transmitter suffered a blow giving off two wires. I do not know where to connect.
    Can you share a photo someone inside the transmitter showing how the cables are connected?
    Many thanks.

  8. john lewis says :

    I have one and I have the BOX and instruction sheet bought in 1981 for $89.00 at Toys R Us in New Jersey. Have ni cad rechargeable batteries for truck and controller.Also have charger that plugs in rear of truck

  9. Paul Pulman says :

    I have four of these superb little 4×4’s. Got my very first one back in 1981 for xmas. It was the black model with i think gold windows and a competely different side panel decal layout. I was devastated as this wouldnt work!! Took it back to the shop – Leslie Browns (UK) and they replaced it with a red one and blue windows with the different side panel graphics as it was the only one they had left!!. Bit disappointed as i really wanted the black one :-). Nevertheless, it was played with plenty and often around the farm, woods and nearly ever grasstrack meeting i went too 🙂 the running time was fantastic using nicads. The other three came early 2000-2005 off ebay. Was in middle of changing the RC on my first one as water ruined the original circuit board setup. The servos fit into the original steering slot which was perfect and then was going to fit a ESC and even a third servo to be able to select 2wd and 4wd on the move so to speak.Looks like i will be pulling this out the loft soon 🙂 Be good to see something like this re-released. Closest i have seen so far to similar tub chassis lay out is the Tamiya landfreeder type. Put a chevy blazer body on and hey presto 🙂 Will take a pic or two to show the decals mine had.

    • R/C Toy Memories says :

      Great comment Paul, thanks for sharing. A shame you never got the black one! But at least there was one left at the store, albeit in red. I have heard of Mountain Mans occasionally having a circuit board issues, but by and large the vast majority of the ones I have dealt with have proven really hardy and long lasting, with great radio reception. They really were a fantastic model for their time.

  10. Nate Zelk says :

    I received one of these Mountain Man RCs for my birthday in, I believe, 1984 or ’85. So, I would’ve been 11 or 12 at the time. Although I’m an American, I was living in Taif, Saudi Arabia (my father worked for McDonnell Douglas aircraft at that time) and a friend of mine at the compound where we lived had one and once I saw it I knew that’s what I wanted for my birthday. It seemed pricey at the time, being the 80’s, but I want to say it was about $125 or so, once we converted Riyals to Dollars. I loved this toy more than any other I had as a kid, and Saudi Arabia, surprisingly, had all of the latest tech toys from Japan, so there was plenty of competition.

    Someone else mentioned a Sherman Tank RC and another neighbor in Saudi had that RC! But the Mountain Man was the one to have over there.

    Anyway, I had a black model with the pseudo-lightning bolts on the side, light blue windows, etc. Exactly like the one I saw in your “SOLD: Shinsei Mountain Man” web page. Eventually, it experienced issues with the white, plastic gears at the wheels breaking off teeth and so it would “slip” sometimes. To this day, I’m not sure what became of it. I had it until I joined the military. I think my parents might’ve sold it at a yard sale.

    Question: Awhile back I managed to find another Mountain Man, exactly like the one I had as a kid, in perfectly mint condition — except the digital proportional controller was missing. Besides eBay, where might I find another controller, and also at what frequency or frequencies does it operate? Is there an aftermarket controller that would also work?

    Thanks!

    • R/C Toy Memories says :

      Thanks for the great comment Nate. It’s interesting you mention Saudi Arabia having a lot of tech toys from Japan in the 80s… I have met many collectors from that area in recent years, and it confirms that lots of Japanese toys (specifically R/C cars) made their way to parts of the middle east in those years. Yes, the black one with the more “lightning” style decals on the side was the later Mountain Man variant. Glad to hear you found a mint one. Finding a transmitter is going to be difficult, and eBay really is your only realistic option for this. I have seen them come up over the years, so be sure to setup saved searches for “shinsei transmitter”, “shinsei control”, “shinsei remote” and things like that. If you see one, be sure to check the frequency, including the “band”. If your car does not have a band sticker on it, you may need to open it up and find the crystal on the receiver board, which should have the exact frequency number printed on the side of it. For a transmitter to work, it needs this same frequency. Other transmitters on the exact same frequency may also work, but performance may vary…these old toys were often tuned somewhat to perfectly suit only the original transmitter. But you have nothing to lose at this stage, so see what you can find.

      • Nate Zelk says :

        I can certainly confirm that Saudi Arabia had a plethora of tech toys — at least in the 80s. There’s certainly no shortage of money in that country, although there was a vast divide between those who had it and those who did not. I remember arriving there and going to the souks and seeing versions of Sony Walkman, not sold in the US, that were amazing in quality (both sound and construction). There were handheld LCD Nintendo video games (Game&Watch) — I had the Donkey Kong II and Mario Bros versions — long before anyone in the states knew who Mario brothers were, and I’d never seen those types of toys in the US. And of course the latest and greatest RC toys straight from Japan. Another thing that struck me, was the quality and availability of the best BMX bicycles from the US that were also present. Who knew?

        And of course, there were the gold souks — filled to the brim, with wall to wall gold chains and every other type of gold jewelry you can think of. Most of it in 24 karat gold, and no less than 18 karat.

        I look back at that time of my life with much fondness, which I have been told sounds strange coming from an American when speaking of Saudi Arabia.

        Anyway, I appreciate your response and your helpful information regarding the controller. I will set up a search on eBay. I really enjoy your site and all the research and excellent information provided here. It’s already been a wonderful trip down memory lane. Thank you.

  11. Leopoldo Kahn says :

    My Grandma bought me one of these when I was about 5 years old, I still have it although it’s not running because me being that young, I couldn’t understand that if Ieft the batteries in the car the batteries would corrode. but I kept it and I hope I can get it fixed some time soon. Best gift ever, my Granda was a visionary!!

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