Tandy Christmas Sale And Gift Catalogue 1987

What are your Christmas R/C memories?

Tandy Christmas Sale And Gift Catalogue 1987In the spirit of the festive season, perhaps it’s time I dedicated a page to everyone else’s R/C car memories (not just mine)…

What memories do you have of receiving R/C cars (or other cool retro toys), at Christmas?

What cars did you receive (or miss out on) back in the 1970s, 80s or 90s?

And what are some of your best (and worst) memories of R/C cars around Christmas time?


There’s definitely a very strong connection between Christmas time, and R/C cars. At least, there is for me.

I think I spent just about every Christmas of the 1980s hoping to find toy cars, particularly R/C cars, under the Christmas tree. And to this day, every year, there’s often still an R/C car (or three) under the tree thanks to my very understanding wife (who also does some retro collecting of her own).

After all, Christmas itself is all about memories. Hopefully happy ones centred around family and peaceful times. And not too many involving Christmas trees being set ablaze, drunk uncles, or handbag fights between mothers-in-law.

There are also some real reasons why R/C cars have a close association with Christmas. For one, they were so expensive in the 1980s that many of us only stood a chance of our families buying them for us, at Christmas. And secondly because many of these toys were only widely available at Christmas.

Hobby City Sydney advertisement for the Tamiya Fox, December 15, 1985
A vintage newspaper ad for the Tamiya Fox at “Hobby City”, a long lost hobby store in Sydney. Published December 15, 1985.
They were certainly a huge Christmas craze in the mid-1980s, and for a while it seems R/C vehicles were among the very best-selling items available – right up there with the familiar retro stuff that the history books always bang on about, like Cabbage Patch Kids and Transformers.

I’ve shared many of my stories about R/C cars I had in the 1980s. And there are more to come. But I’d love to hear more of your stories as well!

So what are some of your favourite memories of Christmas, and the R/C cars you had (or wanted), and the tales that went with getting (or not getting) them? Perhaps you’re even getting an R/C car for Christmas this year?

(If you don’t happen to celebrate Christmas, then please feel welcome to post a non-Christmas tale of an R/C car you had back in the day.)

Please post your tales below!

To kick things off, here’s another Christmas story of mine…

Back in the 1980s, I was desperate to own a Tandy/Radio Shack 4×4 Off-Roader. I was lucky enough to get one. But the process was arduous to say the least…

After begging my parents for this car for many weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, they remained entirely coy about my chances. “We’ll see” was about the best information I could get out of them. And while deep down I knew this probably meant “yes”, there was still an element of doubt in mind, and it was keeping me on my toes.

Tandy/Radio Shack 4x4 Off-Roader in a 1988 catalogueMy father and I were close though, and he was just as keen on R/C cars as I was. I knew that if he had anything to do with it, there was a good chance there’d be an Off-Roader under the tree on Christmas morning that year. But on this occasion, even he was remaining tight-lipped – probably on specific orders from my mother.

But one day, sometime in mid-December and on a day when my mother was out of the house, I decided to confront Dad about it and see if I could get him to spill the beans.

“So, about Christmas presents…”, I began. “I know what you’re getting this year!”.

He’d been sitting reading a newspaper, ignoring (11 year old) me hanging about in the living room. But now I’d got his attention. So I pressed on with my plan.

“If you want, I could tell you what you’re getting. That is, if you’ll tell me what I’m getting?”

There was pause. Then we both laughed. And so commenced a sort of cat-and-mouse game that lasted at least an hour, or more. At first, he refused point-blank to tell me what my secret Christmas present was. But being something of a child himself, he was keen to hear what his was. And eventually I wore him down with the idea. “It’s a perfect trade!” I’d say, and at one point we were even pegging lounge cushions at each other. But we got there in the end – he was getting a fancy new german-made electric shaver. And as it turned out, I was getting the 4×4 Off Roader!

Come Christmas morning, there was no surprise as to what was under the tree for me. But I didn’t regret it one bit. The anticipation of actually knowing what was coming, in the lead up to Christmas Day, made it all worth it. And my mother (who would have immediately had us both drawn and quartered if she’d known about our secret Free Trade Agreement) was entirely unaware of what we’d done.

Then on Boxing Day, just day 2 of my ownership of this excellent little truck, I promptly mis-steered my new 4×4 while racing it along our concrete front verandah… smacking it into a pillar and breaking off one side of the rigid front bumper. I was devastated. Fortunately, Tandy Electronics actually had after-sales spare parts for their R/C cars back in those days. And despite it taking 4 whole weeks to arrive, I was able to get a replacement bumper set for my little truck (and I never broke it again). I don’t think you could even get such spares for a lot of ready-to-run R/C toys these days.

Anyway, over to you guys… what are your Christmas R/C tales?

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Dave
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Dave

Metro Jet Hopper (Tyco Turbo Hopper to the rest of the world 😉 ). My parents had even bought NiCd batteries, and had them charging for 2 days prior in a 4x AA slow charger. My older brother also got one. I still have both!
Earlier than that, I got my Nikko Mini Thunder Buggy (also still have it, while my bro got the Tandy Lambo Countach.
Even earlier than those, was an AFX slot car track, around 1980 I’m guessing.. slot cars are still my “other” hobby, in the same miniature scale 🙂

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

So many classics in that list Dave. And the battery story is something that I am sure everyone will relate to. My first R/C car was given to me on Christmas day 1984 with alkaline batteries. They lasted 1 hour. And then I had to wait 2 whole days for my Dad to get to the nearest Tandy (when they reopened), as he insisted I needed rechargeable batteries. When he finally got them, I then discovered I had to wait another 12 hours for them to recharge overnight (as rechargeables never came charged in the packet!). So much waiting 😐

avasalehi
Guest

Great post! Some of my best Christmas memories were from the mid 80’s getting RC cars. When I was younger, I got slot car tracks like Dave above mentioned as well. My favorite was a Tyco “Super Duper Double Looper”. I managed to find one NIB on Ebay about 6 years and just opened it for the first time last month to play with my 4 year old daughter. Amazingly it worked perfect! My first RC car for Christmas was a Kyosho Optima in 1985. I still remember the box looking SO AWESOME, just like the ads in the Tower… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

I think it’d be fair to say that I’ve met very few people who had more awesome Christmas gifts in the 1980s than getting a Kyosho Optima, followed by an RC10 (over consecutive Christmases, no less). Amazing, and I can totally see why those years would be something you’d remember. You must have been the envy of your entire neighborhood!
Those Tyco train sets were crazy-fast as well, I remember the ads on TV.

avasalehi
Guest

I was very lucky to have giving parents, absolutely. We never got any toys or presents throughout the year but for our birthday and Christmas they really went all out.

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

(Just fixed about 18 typos in my previous comment – Sorry about that!)
But yes, I totally know the feeling about birthdays and christmases being the only real time for gifts. It seemed to be more the convention back then too, and maybe it even helped us grow up a little less spoiled and more appreciative of what we had. Who knows.

Chris Sutton
Guest
Chris Sutton

My best Christmas memory was in 85 or 86 when my parents got me a Nikko Turbo Panther. I was snooping around in their walkin wardrobe about 4 weeks before Christmas and there it was hidden amongst the shoes. At first I just checked out the box, then as time went on I opened it, then I removed it from the box to get a real good look at it. I was always so careful to put it all back exactly as I found it so suspicions weren’t raised. I loved that car and drove it every day. I recently… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Chris, this is pretty much exactly the same as what I did one year, digging deep in my sister’s wardrobe 😀 She had so many clothes hanging, and piles of plastic bags (with presents, but also other stuff) piled on the floor underneath the clothes. I snuck into her room one day, and opened the wardrobe door to see what I could see. I was pretty sure she’d bought something for me and hidden it in there, and she knew I might try to find it. It took me ages, but I managed to carefully get a glimpse of a… Read more »

Nathan
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Nathan

The best Xmas I can remember was receiving a Tamiya Fox (I think 1988). It was my first 1:10 scale Tamiya car. I was SO excited during the lead up to Xmas day. We purchased it ( and a Sanwa Dash controller) about 3 weeks before Xmas which meant it was in the house unguarded during the start of the school holidays when my mum was out during the day. I was into the wardrobe where it was ‘locked away’ constantly sneaking looks. I remember my Mum asking the hobby store owner when we were paying for it, if I… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Fantastic story Nathan, thanks for sharing. “…unguarded during the start of the school holidays when my mum was out during the day. I was into the wardrobe…” – describes perfectly what was going on at my house. But getting a NIB Fox would have been something else! I think Christmas Day botched builds were pretty standard too, and those servo setups required a lot of patience (which no kid has). I remember rushing a Hornet body (trimming and painting) one Christmas morning, purely to have it ready by lunchtime to show everyone (??). But of course I didn’t mask the… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Also, come to think of it, what a good guy the hobby shop owner was!

scott
Guest
scott

Christmas in the 80’s was the best! all the best toys came outta the 80’s. I know I’m biased because I grew up then but most toys then seemed well made and well thought out as opposed to the mainstream crap there is out there today. The Radio Shack Wild Champ got me hooked and like you I next set my sights on up grading… to the 4×4 off roader which thanks to my grandfather I received that wonderful Christmas eve. What I really had my sights on was the Tamiya Midnight Pumpkin that I had been drooling over in… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

You’re so right Scott. I mean, one look at the ready-to-run R/C cars these days from craptastic brands like Fastlane and New Bright, really exposes the nonsense level of “quality” kids have to put up with. You’ve done the right thing though, with the reissue Scorpion and reissue Sand Rover. They are both leagues ahead of most other readily available R/C toys, and they still have a strong retro feel to them being modern reissues of classic kits. Your daughter is very lucky! I’ve always been envious of folks in the US too, with their memories of the Sears and… Read more »

Hotrodmike
Guest
Hotrodmike

Hi There RC Toy memories, I So agree with you!!I love That word,craptastic!lol,and This is So True!!lol,I went into a Toys,r,us,and a RadioShack This month just To see What They had for The holidays,and all They had was fast lane,and new bright,and They were So LAME!!cheap flimsy plastic,non functional shocks,oversized Tires That look so silly,and The most craptastic part of all,painted on images of mud,What’s That all ABOUT!?lol

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Completely agree Mike 🙂 And yes, you’ve summed it up well – cheap plastics, hard “tyres”. Comically oversized wheels. The hobby grade R/C segment still has some decent/realistic stuff, but the toy R/C market has mostly become a parody of itself with only a handful of exceptions.

Nick
Guest
Nick

Hi all

I chose and my parents bought me a remote controlled green beach buggy from Hamleys at around 1968-1970. It was one of my very best toys ever..
But a very close second was a helicopter you could control with two little leavers that would go round and round for hours.
Eventually when compitant enough you could pick up things with the hook underneath.
If any one has either and is thinking of selling, perhaps you could contact me.

Many thanks

Nick

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Hey Nick, I suspect your green beach buggy had a wire connecting the handset to the car? Most such toys did back in those days. I feel like I’ve seen your helicopter toy before as well, but can’t remember what it was called…

Mike
Guest
Mike

Hi Nick,I read your post about The helicopter,That went round,and round,and you could pick Things up with it,I had one back in The mid 1970s,and I So enjoyed playing with it for hours,What an Awesome Toy!!and a few years ago,I found one like it at a Thrift store,and its part of my Toy collection.

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Feel free to post a pic sometime of this helicopter game Mike, it sounds pretty cool.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Hi There,I was Trying To post some pics of My helicopter game you were asking about,only I could not figure out how To post Them on here?

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Hey Mike – try using a regular html tag for an image. Refer here for an example – http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_img.asp

Hotrodmike
Guest
Hotrodmike

Hi There Everyone,OK,The first RadioShack RC car I owned was The Audi Quattro, I bought it myself in The Summer of 1986,and I Thought it was so cool!!and Then after That Summer I started looking at all The Awesome Tamiya RC cars,and Trucks,and remember The one That I Really wanted was The Tamiya Falcon,and I started hinting To my Dad,when we would go To The local Hobby shop,and sure enough,That Christmas,he got me my first Tamiya RC buggy,The Tamiya Falcon,and I still remember how Stoked I was,just looking at The Awesome image of The buggy on The front of The… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

Very lucky experience, getting both a Falcon and a Golden Arrow. Loved the image of someone driving a 1966 Mercury through thick snow, to the nearest town, just to get replacement parts!

Nidz
Guest
Nidz

I was about 10 and me and my brother both god Jet Hoppers. I got the black and my brother got the Red one. Was a really awesome toy. I must have worn through a few sets of knobby tyres. Later when I was about 14. My family moved over to Hong Kong for a few years around the 89s – 90 period. I really wanted a good RC car. We went to one of the Hobby shops they had over there. They had EVERYTHING! Compated to here it was RC heaven. Wall to wall of Kyosho and Tamyia cars.… Read more »

R/C Toy Memories
Guest

If only we could go back to Hong Kong in 1989… I can only begin to imagine the great stock that would have been there Nidz.