While less well-known to most backyard R/C drivers than Tamiya, Kyosho was another Japanese icon of 1980s R/C modelling who created a range of stunning, high-end, kit-based vehicles in their heyday – often with a race-winning edge.
Like Tamiya, original examples of their early R/C models are now highly sought after by collectors.
Some of those kits are now being remade as well, and the new models are different. So if you’re nostalgic for the original Kyosho models, here are some quick buying tips to help identify them.
The explosion in retro toy nostalgia was always going to catch up with the R/C car hobby, and it was inevitable that a few of the bigger brands would delve into their past to release new versions of their popular cars of the 1980s.
I’ve written in the past about Tamiya’s foray into this. And in recent years, the second most famous Japanese R/C kit maker, Kyosho, has followed suit.
Early Kyosho R/C cars were works of art in construction, performance and even packaging. Their involvement in R/C actually pre-dates that of Tamiya. But Tamiya produced electric R/C cars first, with Kyosho starting a year afterward.
Many people have a great fondness for Tamiya’s iconic white R/C kit boxes with their hand-drawn illustrations. Kyosho meanwhile, did things a little differently – their models were beautifully photographed and colourfully packaged, making them every bit as inspiring if you were a kid gazing up at those huge car boxes on the shelf at the local hobby store. Inside, they featured blister pack displays of fat sand dune tyres, often lots of metal parts, and plenty of realistic touches like driver figures, decals, headlights and window netting, making them a joy to build. Components were well made and sometimes embossed with “Japan”, even on metal. Kyosho was a company proud of it’s miniature engineering skill. And out on the racing tracks, there were certainly periods of time in the 1980s when Kyosho buggies were the ones to beat.
With Kyosho continuing today as one of the few surviving R/C companies with a history dating to the hobby’s boom years of the 1980s, inevitably the company has seen fit to reproduce some of those classic 80s kits as a tribute (and to earn a few extra dollars from the popularity of nostalgia in the wider toy and hobby market).
The remake Kyosho kits are nicely presented, and on first glance they even look quite similar to the original kits. They are definitely worthy if you are interested in re-living the look of vintage R/C models, without owning cars that are actually from the 1980s. Like so many products out there these days, they are by definition “retro style”.
But as with Tamiya’s remakes, closer inspection reveals that the new Kyosho remakes are also quite different to the original models. And since plenty of original Kyoshos are still out there being traded, this article is a quick summary of the basic differences between those original Kyosho R/C kits of the 80s and the new retro tribute kits – should you wish to go on a treasure hunt for an original.
If you’re already an experienced hand at collecting vintage R/C cars, this article will be too basic for you. It is aimed mainly at those who are just getting into vintage R/C, and are interested in learning about the original models, and knowing the basic differences between them and the remakes.
Easy ways to spot an original Kyosho kit
In short, every single Kyosho remake kit is different to the original kit. From the price, to the box art, to the kit contents, it’s easy to spot an original Kyosho once you know what to look for.
Recent years have seen the market for collectible vintage R/C cars mature somewhat. Initially, when the very first remake kits began to appear in the mid-2000s, they did have an effect on the market value of the original cars. But as the years have passed, the market has matured and most collectors have accepted that nothing ever replaces “an original”. Thus I think originals are more easily holding (and increasing) in collectability/value these days, regardless of whether a corresponding remake kit has appeared. I say this from personal experience of buying, selling, and watching market prices literally daily, year in and year out.
In the longer term, original kits really have nowhere to go but upward in price. They’re the originals. Nothing ever beats having an original, to a collector or serious enthusiast. And the number of examples left in the world that are brand new or in excellent condition, will continue to dwindle with time – ever so slowly. Because inevitably each year, a few minty original cars somewhere in the world are going to be built, run and enjoyed by their owners. And there’s no harm in that. It just means, on a purely statistical level, that fewer mint examples will exist.
So as a general rule of thumb, an obvious way to spot an original Kyosho R/C car is if it has a much higher price.
To give a real example, here’s a remake version of the Kyosho Optima buggy kit that recently sold for around the AU$400 mark – a fairly typical price…
Compare that price to two original Kyosho Optima kits from the 1980s that recently sold for over AU$1200 each…
As a general rule, 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 valuable, depending on a particular model.
But what about if someone were simply selling a remake kit for an inflated price? Well, you can check some other simple details such as…
2. Kit Number
Just like Tamiya remakes, Kyosho remakes are not “repeats” of the original models. They are newly made models with new Kyosho model numbers.
At the time of writing, Kyosho has remade 4 models – the Scorpion, the Beetle, the Tomahawk and the Optima.
The original kits had the following model numbers:
Kyosho Scorpion (1982): #2136
Kyosho Beetle (1982): #2138
Kyosho Tomahawk (1983): #3065
Kyosho Optima (1985): #3032
The remake kits are new models, with the following new model numbers:
Kyosho Scorpion (2014): #30613B
Kyosho Beetle (2014): #30614B
Kyosho Tomahawk (2015): #30615B
Kyosho Optima (2015): #30617B
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 remake kit, is the box itself. Not just the model number, but the box photo.
Kyosho kit boxes have almost always used actual photos rather than illustrated box art. The Kyosho remake box photos attempt to emulate the look of the original boxes, using photos of the new cars. But since the cars themselves are entirely recreated from new molds and with new parts, the photos are different.
(Photo courtesy for remake boxes: Wandy)
4. Kit Box Internals
A quick look inside a Kyosho kit will also reveal whether it is vintage or remake. Provided you know what to look for.
Here’s an original Kyosho Scorpion kit…
And here’s a remake Kyosho Scorpion kit. While the remake also features those clear “blister” displays, the layout of the parts has completely changed…
5. Country of Manufacture
Another change is that in the old days, all Kyosho products were manufactured in Japan. You could always see “Made in Japan” on the boxes, and some of the parts even had “Japan” embossed on them, such as the rear gearbox of this model.
But today, all of the remade Kyosho kits are made in Taiwan. They appear to have pretty nice quality, comparable to the original. And since Taiwan is also a democracy, you get the sense they were manufactured with a degree of care and quality control.
6. Construction, parts, decals & everything else
Last but certainly not least, are the actual parts differences.
Virtually none of the parts in the Kyosho remake kits are identical to the original parts, and there are two reasons for this. The first is that the new models are made from new molds because Kyosho no longer has the original molds from the original kits. The second reason is that the new models have been redesigned for different performance to the originals, and are designed to handle newer equipment, batteries and motors.
Tamiya’s remakes differ from the originals for similar reasons. But if anything, the differences in the Kyosho remakes may be seen as more extensive. To give just one notable example, let’s take a closer look at the rear tyres of the Scorpion, Beetle and Tomahawk and see how they have changed from the original kits to the new kits…
Original Scorpion Rear Tyres
First, here are the original tyres.
- They are made from a hard-wearing compound.
- They have alternating 3 and 4 larger knobs per row of tread.
- They have raised/embossed “Goodyear” tyre letter outlines that you can colour-in yourself with white paint. (Note also that some original kits may have “Sand Super” as the sidewall writing).
Remake Scorpion Rear Tyres
Now here are the remake tyres. They are not “repeats” of the original tyres, but rather, entirely new tyres made from different molds and with a different material.
- They are made from a different compound.
- Many buyers have said they have a strong smell when you take them out of the kit.
- They have alternating 4 and 5 smaller knobs per row of tread.
- The white tyre lettering comes pre-sprayed and has no raised/embossed outline.
- Many examples arrive with the tyre lettering paint coming off. And with no outline, it may be hard to touch up.
Kyosho have done a good job with their remake kits, paying homage to the original kits with a line of new cars that emulate the spirit of the originals. They have been met with a positive response by many, and as with all ‘retro’ products, if you’re happy with something that just looks vintage, they’re the ticket.
For those who’d prefer the truly vintage original cars though, they can still be found. The original cars also differ significantly from the new kits, which means they will forever remain unique and highly sought-after classics of the R/C world. So if you’re on the lookout for them, your mission will remain a highly rewarding one.