Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Model Tire Sidewall Lettering

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sand tires

In 1980 I saw a TV commercial for the most remarkable model car that I had ever seen. It was a radio-controlled off-road buggy from Tamiya called the Sand Scorcher, and it could jump through the air, blast through water, and generally tackle the terrain like no other “toy” that I had ever known. I would do whatever was necessary to own one.

A new class of RC Car

The Sand Scorcher chassis was an amazing piece of work. The die-cast metal suspension was pretty much a scale replica of the actual Volkswagon setup that was used by the full-scale baja racers of the day, with a twin trailing arm, torsion-bar sprung front end and a swing-arm in the back.

The kit was also available as the “Rough Rider”, which had a baja desert racer body instead of the VW baja dune-buggy motif of the Sand Scorcher.

Sand Scorcher

This car launched a massive interational off-road RC car craze. The problem was, that these were expensive kits to manufacture and purchase. To meet the exploding demand for Radio-controlled action, Tamiya soon abandoned the scale, precision beauty of the Sand Scorcher and moved on into their “plastic era” and brought cheap, high-performance RC action to the masses.

Sand Scorcher

I really like scale stuff and was never able to embrace these “plastic era” cars. Compared to my Sand Scorcher, they just seemed well, sort of Radio Shack. The bodies and chassis were not so much models of actual 1:1 vehicles, but a whole crazy thing of their own.

Project Sandhopper

A while back, my friend Hugh brought his Tamiya Fox back from his parents house back East. This got me thinking about my old Sand Scorcher, which I had long ago cannibalized for parts for other projects before selling what was left at a garage sale.

I thought that it would be cool to pick up another Sand Scorcher so I hit ebay looking and quickly found that they were pretty much now worth their weight in gold, with mint-in-box kits selling for as much as $2,500.00. A basket-case Scorcher could be had for $200.00 or so, but that’s without a body, or radio. You could expect to spend triple that amount restoring one.

The Tamiya Re-issues

My browsing on the topic revealed that Tamiya has been re-issuing many of their early RC buggy kits. Unfortunately, due to the cost and quality of the early cars, a Sand Scorcher re-issue seems unlikely. However, the entry-level Grasshopper has been re-issued, and although it has a cheap, crappy-looking plastic chassis/supension, it does use the same tires, and sport a similar wheelbase and track as the Scorcher, so I have chosen this to serve as the platform for my Grasshopper-Sand Scorcher hybrid, the Sandhopper.

I got a Grasshopper re-issue kit with futaba radio and 1900MAH battery for about the cost of an NOS Sand Scorcher antenna whip. And although NOS Scorcher body kits are going for $300.00, the tooling for the Tamiya bug body was pressed into use into the 1990′s. The VW beetle shell was used on the later “Monster Beetle” and “Blitzer Beetle” models, so I was able to get a Blitzer Beetle shell for much cheaper. It should be trivial to adapt the Beetle shell to the Grasshopper chassis. All I need to find now is an appropriate sheet of vintage off-road sponsor decals, and I’ll be set.

Tire Sidewall Lettering

As of today, all I have is the rear tires, so I will show you how I paint the white lettering on the sidewalls of the rear tires. It really does add a nice scale touch.

sand tires

  1. Wash the tires with soap and water to romove any oil or mold-release compound that might prevent the paint from sticking.
  2. Find a sharp instrument like a dental pick or a needle.
  3. Carefuly paint the moulded sidewall lettering with white latex paint using the sharp instrument. The latex is pretty flexible, and won’t crack of flake off right away. You will botch the first one as you figure out your technique, but you can wash it off and start again if you dont let it dry for too long.

*This is really a display model technique. The lettering will hold up alright under the stress of running the car, but it will rub off pretty easily.

Vintage Tamiya links:


Tamiya Base
Club Tamiya

Stay tuned for the rest of the Sandhopper buggy build. I promise to follow up on this one.

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12 Responses to “Model Tire Sidewall Lettering”

  1. vladimer kerchenko Says:

    interesting… check out this footage:


    how big are these ?

  2. Christian Says:

    Great, last year I bought the R/C car I always wanted but couldn’t afford as a kid: Tamiya Wild Willy. The original, not the re-issue. Great fun.

  3. Mark Says:

    Oh, man. Awesome fun. I had a bunch of Tamiya R/C kits when I was a kid — my dad raced them and I would run his cast-offs for fun. I had the Frog to start. My best friend had the Grasshopper — ye gods did we brutalize that thing.

    I bought a modern Tamiya kit a few years ago — an AWD Lexus. Running them is still absurdly fun, though the AWD doesn’t drift the way the buggies used to. Looks like they re-issued the Frog, too. Man, that’s tempting. I could scavenge the radio and servos out of the Lexus…

    Look forward to seeing this project unfold; have fun!

  4. Steve Says:

    Vladimir –

    These are 1:10 cars, so the wheels are around 3.75 inches in diameter.

    The paint dish in the bottom picture is a bottlecap if that gives you a sense of scale.

  5. Steve Says:

    More vintage video with great soundtrack.

  6. Willi Says:

    I want to see how the lettering turned out!

  7. Steve Says:

    Willi, The top picture is post letter painting.


  8. Willi Says:

    HA! They looked so good I thought those were stock. Nice job.

  9. Tim Gorman Says:

    At JaxTires you can find the latest performance TIRES.

  10. car lettering@ebuysigns.com Says:

    I use to buy RC cars AULDEY brand cause I cant afford to buy Tamiya

  11. boat Says:

    JaxTires does have the best tires for Tamiya cars.

  12. boat lettering@ebuysigns.com Says: