Micro RC cars - A Primer
What are they
Micro RC cars were all the rage in the early to mid 2000s. Initially imported from Japan, these tiny racers ranging from 1/43 scale all the way down to 1/70 were huge hits due to their affordability, tunability, and indoor fun. It became a worldwide phenomenom with American stores RadioShack and Toys ‘r Us joining the market alongside Japanese hobby giants Tomy and Takara. Now, in 2019, nearly every mention of the cars on the internet is offline or hidden in Archive.org and the market for new cars is non-existent.
Why do you care?
Because they’re stinkin’ cool. I have fond memories of going to the local hobby shops and buying engine upgrades, new bodies, better tires, and other upgrades. Tuner culture was at an all time high during the (roughly) half decade stretch these were available, and how awesome was that to be able tune your own RC car, and affordably. They were surprisingly cohesive product lines, whichever manufacturer you bought into, and essentially RC cars’ dying breath as a mainstream consumer product, alongside more expensive 1/28 scale minis also initially imported from Japan (and unlike micros, minis are still available today with many options).
What were your options?
There were essentially four big players in the market with RadioShack’s ZipZaps line being the most attainable in the United States. After all, despite RadioShack’s financial woes in 2002 when ZipZaps were released, the stores were everywhere. 7,400 stores were open at its peak in 2004. To put that in perspective, in 2005 CVS had just opened its 5,000th location. The fact that you could walk into any one of them and purchase ZipZaps gave the brand a huge edge. These cars didn’t take up much shelf space, that’s for sure. Tomy’s Bit Char-G (sold in the US as MicroSizers) and Takara’s DigiQ you’d have to head to a hobby store to buy with MicroSizers being much easier to find in the US thanks to their partnership with Hobbico. As someone who wasn’t a Toys ‘r Us kid, I didn’t even realize the toy giant had their own competing line and judging by available listings on eBay their Fast Lane branded Super Slicks didn’t sell all that well. Interestingly, Super Slicks were 1/43 scale, much larger than the 1/64-1/70 cars afformentioned. There were other options, but they were far more niche and less avaiable. Click on each brand for photos and more info!
- Fast Lane Super Slicks
- Hot Wheels Micro R/C (2003-2005)
- Kyosho dNaNo (2008-2015)
- Radioshack ZipZaps (2002-2010)
- Silverlit X-Trek Pro (2008-????) - Info
- Takara DigiQ
- Takara Tomy Q-Steer
- Takara Tomy Caul
- Tomy Bit Char-G/Hobbico MicroSizers
Should I buy one?
It depends, but probably not with cars’ internal batteries being the biggest barrier. While the controllers used AA or AAA to recharge the car, most cars used small rechargeable cells that have sat discharged for a decade or more. If you are familiar with NiCD technology, this is a big no no. LiPo upgrades are a common path to making them usable today, but require time and DIY skills. If this sounds fun to you - go ahead, they are dirt cheap on eBay due to this! If you just want to grab a cheap car and drive, I highly recommend buying a modern 1/28 scale car from a Chinese hobby brand such as Mini Q or WLToys.