Monthly Archives: March 2018
In addition to their high-end touring car kits, with the latest release being the WildFire D10 Dynamics Edition (reviewed here), VBC have also long offered a more affordable option in the Ghost line of club racing touring cars.
The latest VBC Ghost car kit has just been released as the Ghost18, following on from the GhostEVO of 2015 and the original Ghost released back in 2013. The Ghost18 is here in Europe offered at a price of around 210 €, which is not even half of most high-end TC’s, making it an interesting option.
Let’s take a closer look what you’ll get for 210 €!
As always, let’s start by taking a look at the foundation on the car – the lower deck or chassis.
VBC’s marketing material states that the car has “composite carbon fibre chassis, upper deck, front and rear shock tower mounts”. The key there is in the word ‘composite’, as the chassis (and other mentioned parts) is not normal carbon fibre as found on high-end cars, but something that looks more like glass fibre with carbon fibre outer layers.
With a kit costing less than half of high-end cars, of course this has to be saved somewhere, and I feel the material used might well be a good choice for a car like this. Don’t be fooled thinking it is real carbon fibre though.
The material is 2.15mm thick, with the chassis 84mm wide and a weight of 81g, so it is a bit heavier due to the material. The cutouts under the diff/spool/spur gear are not cut through all the way, leaving a bit more material to not make the chassis too soft.
The bulkheads are black anodised and a bit simpler than on most high-end cars, but still machined out of proper aluminium, making for a good base to the car together with the chassis. Two screws secure each bulkhead, no locating pins.
The motor mount assembly is made up of three pieces; the center pulley mount, motor mount, and motor mount support. As you can see, these parts are grey anodised and not black like the bulkheads.
Up next in the manual step 2 is the front spool. A composite spool housing is used, to which you mount a 38T pulley using three screws. Composite outdrives are used, and the spool rides on normal 10x15mm bearings inside eccentric holders used to adjust belt tension.
The rear gear diff is again the same as on the recently reviewed FF18 and D10 kits, with the only difference being that the Ghost18 diff features steel outdrives instead of the alu outdrives on the other cars.
The same diff also means the same problems, in that you have to spend a lot of time on the plastic parts to build a good diff. I really wish VBC would spend some time to improve the quality here, although you can say that it is more acceptable in a kit at this price point.
With the steering system next to assemble, it is quite surprising to find that VBC have specced a unique ‘sliding rack’ system for this budget car, and not just used traditional parts from their other kits.
The steering rack parts are easy to build and seem to work well, but obviously only track testing would tell how well it works.
The steering mounts with two screws and a pin to the centreline of the chassis.
Next we move onto the centre shaft. The shaft itself is a beautiful light aluminium part.
Once built, the centre shaft assembly looks like this.
The Ghost18 features 20T plastic pulleys, locked into place by 2mm pins and set screws. The centre shaft runs on two 5x8mm bearings, and a high quality Kawada 64P 110T spur gear is included.
At this stage the second ‘centre pulley mount’ is attached to support the shaft on the right side.
The belts included are regular Bando S3M belts, 522mm (174T) front, and 177mm (59T) rear.
Time to fit the upper deck, and as already mentioned it is of the same ‘composite carbon fibre’ material as the chassis, but 2mm thick. The design is very much typical of a modern touring car.
The belt tension adjustment is done with the diff eccentrics as usual, but they are locked into place with small M2x6mm screws instead of the more usual tab on the lower bulkhead.
You can see the screw in the next picture in the cutout at the front of the bulkhead.
The ‘spine’ of the Ghost18 completed with the upper deck.
With that completed, it’s time to move onto the suspension.
One-piece aluminium suspension mounts are included all round, housing composite inserts that are used to adjust toe and inner pin width. The FF and RR mounts are the same, while the FR mount is of a ‘bridge’ type to clear the belt, and the RF mount has a centre cutout.
Upper bulkheads and towers are up next.
The towers are again the same ‘composite carbon fibre’ material, but 3.3mm thick. The rear tower has 8 positions for the dampers, and 2 positions for the upper arm.
The upper bulkheads are aluminium and black anodised. They also have a hole for the upper arm ball nut, although there is some confusion in the manual whether to use this or the positions in the tower.
The front tower features 7 damper mounting hole options, and again 2 upper arm options.
All four upper bulkheads are the same.
Rear suspension all built, featuring D09 type components. Again, all suspension plastic parts are of the ‘silver’ medium material, with harder options available.
The rear end use 49mm aluminium driveshafts and 4.5mm wheel hexes. The driveshafts come pre-assembled per normal on VBC kits, but should be cleaned and greased. 36mm alu turnbuckles are used.
To get the deltrin blades, or ‘shaft end shoes’ as they are called in the manual, to move freely in the steel outdrives and not bind up the suspension, I had to sand them quite heavily. Not good.
Surprisingly the front end features VBC double joint driveshafts! Surprising in the sense that this is very much a budget car kit. Why they are included here, but not on the VBC FF18, is difficult to understand. But of course very much a welcomed inclusion on the Ghost18!
Otherwise the front suspension is much like the rear, with ‘silver’ plastic parts, including steering blocks and c-hubs. The wheel hexes are again 4.5mm wide, just like at the rear.
The steering links, built per manual, are much too long. Some shorter ‘S’ type ball cups are included, but don’t use these as they will bind up the steering and suspension. The solution I used in the end was to carefully drill out the standard ball cups slightly to allow the turnbuckle to thread deeper into the cup. This way it was possible to get the steering links short enough.
The roll-bar is simpler than on current high-end kits, but would do it’s job just fine if it weren’t for the ‘S’ ball links (ball cups) used, binding up the whole suspension as they are way too tight on the used ball studs.
So you either need to change these, work on them until they free up, or run without the roll-bars.
Roll-bars both front and rear are 1.3mm and marked pink for identification.
Once again, VBC includes the TBBS-P progressive dampers on the Ghost18 kit, just like on the high-end D10 and FF18 FWD kits.
And just like on those kits, the dampers are easy to build all the same and work well once assembled. A big plus for VBC including proper dampers on a club race budget car kit!
A simple one-piece aluminium ‘floating’ servo mount is used, mounted to the centreline of the chassis with three screws, but featuring no pins to help keep it straight in all circumstances. Three screws should do fine though.
The front end use a standard TC design with a lower and upper plastic bumper sandwiching a foam bumper, and used to mount and support the front body mounts. These parts are not the same as on the D10 big brother, although their function is very much the same.
At the rear, the standard design with body mounts mounted to the outer part of the tower is used.
Simple plastic battery mounts are to be used with battery tape to hold the battery in place.
Screws and spacers in the motor and servo mounts are used as stoppers to keep the battery away from the front belt.
With that the VBC Ghost18 is fully assembled and ready.
Overall the built car is suitably stiff with a similar amount of flex compared to most current high-end TC’s. The drivetrain is not as free, and the car is a bit heavier. The steering is free but with very little play, while the suspension unfortunately does not move as free as it should due to the previously mentioned issue with the roll-bars.
With a bit of work on these few issues, the car should work quite well on track.
When rounding up the build, I’m afraid the verdict is very much the same as on the other VBC cars I have built recently. VBC really need to step up their manuals, improve quality control and control over kit contents, as well as quality on a few of the parts.
While these issues are a lot more acceptable on a 200 € kit, it’s still at times hard to understand the mistakes in the manual and kit contents. More than once you get the impression that no-one built a production kit using the manual, before the cars were released to dealers and customers. Why the rush? These are such simple issues, but which make a huge difference to the experience of building a car kit.
If we get over those issues, the end verdict is that you certainly get a lot for your money with the Ghost18.
Shared this on Facebook a couple of days ago, but just realised I did not post on here.
So here you go, although you will probably already have seen it – the latest A800FX FWD prototype. Great to finally see more action around the FF class!
TRF (Tamiya Racing Factory) were in attendance at the successful Thailand International Touring Car Championships (TITC) 2018 to provide support for Tamiya users, and get some racing in too.
March 1st – 4th, 2018
Infinity Addict Circuit, Bangkok, Thailand
Held like last year at the Infinity Addict Circuit located just 30km from Suvarnabhumi Airport, the Thailand International Touring Car Championship (TITC) is one of the largest R/C events of its kind in Asia.
219 drivers took part in this year’s running, across five classes: F1, Non-Boost, Tamiya Truck, Open Brushless and Modified.
Tamiya Racing Factory (TRF) team members Kiyokazu Suzuki and Takayuki Kono were in attendance to offer advice and answer questions from Tamiya fans and drivers. They also found the time to get on the track, Suzuki in the Tamiya Truck and F1 classes, and Kono in Tamiya Truck and Open Brushless. Reports follow.
Tamiya Truck Class
With rules limiting the optional parts available, this class was a great choice for all-comers: highly popular Tamiya R/C racing truck models fitted with stock Torque-Tuned motors distributed at the track. Motors were shuffled among the drivers for the finals, ensuring a level playing field and some great action that enthralled the onlooking crowd.
Kiyokazu Suzuki gave the recently-announced TRF103 chassis kit its bow in a public Open Class race, piloting it to a respectable 5th place finish. Feedback from the pressured race environment will be invaluable in the development of future TRF products.
Open Brushless Class
This class saw the most Tamiya chassis entrants of the weekend, and Kono was on hand to give advice, as well as run the TRF419XR with a number of potential Hop-Up Options still in the development process. A friendly atmosphere abounded as Kono shared his setup with Tamiya drivers, and he made a real impact on the field, bringing the car home in 3rd overall.
Regular readers know that this is my favourite class of all, as I always mention it when I write about FF cars. Therefore it is only logical that when a new FF car kit is released, we take a closer look on it. Welcome to the VBC FF18 kit build!
The number one issue when it comes to this class of RC, is the lack of new car kit releases. They unfortunately tend to be few, and far between, but luckily there are a couple loyal supporters among manufacturers as well. Tamiya is the originator and so far has released 4 generations of cars (FF-01, FF-02, FF-03, FF-04). During the last few years it could be said that the number one supporter among manufacturers has been VBC, and for this they should be lauded. Thank you VBC!
With the class enjoying renewed popularity, at least in Europe, let’s hope we will see more car and conversion kits released in the future.
The VBC FF18 follows the FFTwelve, FF17, and FF17 Belt Drive versions from VBC, and first kits were available at dealers late February (2018).
Time to start building, and as we’re used to by now, first a look at the main chassis of the VBC FF18.
As is so far the norm on FF cars, the chassis is a rather long piece. On the FF18 it is cut out of 2.25mm carbon fibre, 88mm wide, weighs 82g, and fairly stiff. As you can see it has numerous slots for battery tape, already giving a hint of the flexibility it offers when it comes to battery placement.
I find it surprising that most FF cars so far use the long front chassis design, as it could easily be shortened 30-40mm here by using a different bumper/bumper-mount system. Of course having a long carbon plate like this is the easiest solution to keep the motor low and bumper simple, but anyone who has raced FF cars (especially on asphalt) knows how much the front touch the ground. Shortening the chassis at the front helps avoid this problem, and allows a lower ride height, which in turn is a much more effective way of lowering the CG than any short damper or similar, as you are lowering the weight of the whole car.
The first assembly step of the FF18, when following the manual, is the front gear diff. The gear diff is exactly the same as on the VBC D10, which I built recently, so all its features are the same, and my comments from that build still stand. Therefore I can also use exactly the same picture from the D10 build to show the diff parts.
Unfortunately that means that the quality of the composite diff parts is also the same, which in turn means that you have to spend a bit of time here to build a smooth diff.
While it is nice that VBC includes stuff like damper and diff oil in their kits, the bottle of 1000 weight diff oil included with the FF18, is totally useless on an FWD car. The instructions are also exactly the same as on the D10, with no proper advice on suitable diff oils for the FF class.
I built mine with 1 million weight silicone as a starting point. Obviously with these weight oils used on the FF cars, the quality and smoothness of the diff should not be as critical as on 4wd ISTC cars.
Bulkheads are up next, and the FF18 follows the same theme as the D10, with some alu parts anodised red, others anodised black.
The front bulkheads are again exactly the same part as on the D10 chassis, with the same narrow 19mm spacing.
It’s the same with the split suspension mounts, these being the exact same parts as on the D10, using plastic inserts for toe and width adjustments.
At the rear we find the same split suspension mounts anodised black, but FF18 unique one-piece bulkheads. These rear bulkheads feel a bit heavier than they would need to be, and while they could have been made smaller/lighter, once put on a scale they are actually fairly light.
The rear bulks are also spaced 19mm apart, just like at the front of the FF18.
While the steering also looks verys similar to that on the D10, it consists of different parts, actually from the previous D09 chassis, and hence the same as on the FF17.
The steering features a steering stopper under the centre ball stud, allowing two setups by flipping the stopper, giving either a 27 deg or 31 deg maximum steering angle.
The steering rides on black anodised alu steering posts. I used 0.1mm shims here to remove a small amount of play.
Next we move to the front transmission assembly.
The main shaft is mounted to shaft supports ,which are screwed onto the upper bulkheads. The supports are black anodised, while the upper bulks are red anodised.
The main shaft is a fairly heavy 5mm steel piece, riding on 5x8mm bearings either side. Since the FF18 is belt driven, it needs a belt pulley on the main shaft. This is a nice looking 16T aluminium pulley, held in place by a 2x10mm shaft and a lock spring.
Together with the 38T diff pulley, this setup gives an internal ratio of 2.375.
While most ISTC touring cars have been belt driven, it is more unusual with belt driven FF chassis’. The previous VBC FF17 was first released with a gearbox drivetrain, but a belt conversion, and a belt version featuring these parts, were later released.
The FF18 is indeed also belt driven, featuring a short 144mm or 48T standard S3M belt.
Unfortunately the belt included with my kit looks worn (or ‘B’ quality) already as new. This is really strange as it is the first time throughout all my years building cars that I come across a belt that is not perfect when taken from its bag.
Coupled with some reports from early owners of the FF18 of very short belt life, this is a bit worrying. VBC really need to step up their quality control department.
All assembled, the belt drive transmission feels very free. The initial belt tension might need to be tightened, but I need to run the car to be sure. Anyway, with the very short belt and small 16T pulley, it will be important to have the right belt tension. The diff rides on normal eccentrics, so adjustments are easy.
The way the transmission is constructed, and then built per manual, makes the final step of transmission assembly slightly tricky as there is not much extra room with the short belt and many parts that need to go into place. Take care when doing this assembly step.
The front tower is carbon fibre, 3.5mm thick, and features 5 options for mounting the damper as well as holes for the front body mounts.
The tower is secured to the upper bulks with two flat head screws and two round head screws.
The upper bulkheads have four options for the upper arm, with the default setup using the shortest setting and a 1mm spacer below the ball stud.
Also visible in this picture (below) is the 0.5mm suspension mount shims included and used on the standard setup.
The rear bulkheads use separate ‘camber link adjusters’, screwed into the bulkheads from the side using countersunk screws. This setup give complete freedom in upper arm length and height adjustment.
The rear tower is again 3.5mm thick carbon fibre and features 5 different holes for rear upper damper mounting, and mounting holes for the rear body mounts that are fairly widely spaced for an FF chassis.
It’s time to start assembling the suspension on the VBC FF18 at this stage, and it’s slightly surprising (perhaps even disappointing?) to find the older VBC D09 suspension on the car and not the latest D10 suspension.
The suspension mounts are exactly the same as on the D10 though, black anodised aluminium pieces holding the inserts which you change to alter toe and width.
All composite suspension parts are in the ‘silver’, or medium compound material, with optional harder ‘gold’ and ‘red’ parts available as options.
Everything fits together quite well, and it’s nice to see alu spacers included. However, use of a 3mm arm reamer tool is very much recommended for both the inner and outer pins, both front and rear.
The rear uprights feature an inverted design compared to your normal TC rear upright, taking the form of an A. Obviously if you are familiar with the VBC D09, this is no novelty to you as the suspension is the same as on that car.
Personally I really like the look of this design, but VBC already moved away from it with the D10.
Simple steel wheel axles with good precision are included, and ride on conventional 5x10mm bearings inside the uprights. Red alu 5mm thick wheel hexes are included.
At the front very standard looking suspension arms are used, offering multiple options for damper mounting positions. The arms are reversible, and hence the same left and right.
The front c-hubs and steering blocks are again very much standard design items.
Included driveshafts are unfortunately not of a double-joint design. Instead standard steel driveshafts is what you get with the FF18 kit. These come pre assembled, but as always it is recommended that you disassemble and grease the parts before re-assembling them.
Plastic blades are included to fit onto the inner pin and into the diff outdrives.
All turnbuckles on the car are black anodised aluminium.
The motor mount and bumper mount on the FF18 are black anodised aluminium and looks very familiar from previous FF cars, all the way back to the Huge FF11 which then morphed into the VBC line of FF cars starting with the FFTwelve.
Overall these pieces, especially the bumper mount, feel overly heavy to place so far forward. The overall weight of both parts is 21g.
The foam bumper is of the very hard type, which I know some people like, but I have never liked. This is also much heavier than the normal bumper material, and the FF18 foam weighs 12.5g despite there not being much material on it.
Overall with the lower and upper plastic bumpers, foam bumper, and screws, the bumper assembly weighs a hefty 31g at this very far forward position.
While my view on the hard bumper material is just an opinion, there are some real problems with the fitment of the lower plastic bumper to the front of the carbon chassis plate. To able to fit it at all, I had to remove quite a lot of material from the chasssis to make it narrower. This is really unacceptable, and it almost feels like no-one even built a car before it was put into production for an obvious issue like this to pass quality control.
A carry-over design all the way from the original Huge FF11 is this motor mount bridge, that binds the motor mount and bulkhead together to stabilise the motor mount. Main shaft removed from this picture to show the bridge clearly, as access s very tight otherwise.
The spur gear mount is a simple but beautiful red anodised aluminium part, secured to the main shaft by a simple 2mm pin over which the spur gear is mounted to lock it into place.
Unfortunately again fit and finish was not what it should be here, and it was a struggle to slide the pin through the parts together.
A high quality Kawada 48P spur gear is included (78T).
A floating servo mount, fully aluminium, is included. Mounted with three screws and two locating pins. The holes in the chassis for the pins were too small to be able to fit the chassis, so I had to use a drill to slightly enlargen them.
Servo mount in the car. This is not mounted to the centre line of the chassis which I found strange. I suppose it is because the default battery position is a full size lipo on the other side of the chassis, so by offsetting the servo the battery can be moved inwards.
A front roll-bar is thankfully included, and the 1.3mm bar is mounted to a small carbon fibre roll-bar mount plate.
There is a 1.3mm rear roll-bar included as well. The plastic roll-bar mounts are the same as at the front, but requires a bit of modification to work at the rear of the car. This because at the front a screw is threaded into this piece, while as it is used at the rear the screw is threaded into the rear bulkheads. So the screw hole needs to be opened up to let the screw go through it and then thread into the bulkhead. There is no mention of this in the manual.
There are no stoppers included, so the rear bar is free to move left/right, which is obviously not ideal.
There is also some confusion with regards to the location of the ball studs for the roll-bar in the rear arms. When assembling the arms, the manual shows that the innermost hole should be used. However, this will not work with the included bar. So you need to use one of the outer holes. This is also suddenly shown in the manual at this stage, even though you were shown the other position when assembling the arms, as described above.
The upper deck is unique on the VBC FF cars, with the FF18 following in the steps of its predecessors using a 5mm vertical carbon fibre top deck.
The upper deck is mounted using special aluminium mounts.
Upper deck on the car. Fitment is very tight, as the alu mounts slide between the left and right bulkheads both front and rear. It’s a good idea to spend a bit of extra time on this assembly step to make sure everything lines up and remains straight when all screws are tigthened down.
As you would expect with this design, there is no front to rear flex, while the assembled FF18 has a fair amount of left to right flex which feels about right, at least for outdoor running.
A close-up of the front upper deck and roll-bar mounting.
Dampers on the FF18 are again VBC’s latest offering; The same TBBS-P progressive dampers as they include on the D10. They go together without any real issues and seem to work OK.
SMJ silver springs are included for the front, with SMJ blue’s for the rear of the car.
Both the front and rear towers feature 5 mounting options for the dampers.
Another time when you wonder if someone actually built a production kit before release, is when you try to fit the front body mounts as shown in the manual.
The picture below shows them mounted to the rear of the front tower, while the manual actually shows them mounted on the front. The only problem is that if you try to mount them like that with the included 78T spur gear, the body mount will lock the drivetrain. Hence, I mounted them to the rear.
A minor thing, but things like these unfortunately give a bad impression.
An overview of the finished VBC FF18 fwd touring car chassis.
Things not shown in this build, but included with the kit, are battery stoppers to position the battery, and servo arms and associated hardware. No advice on the different battery mounting locations is mentioned in the manual.
Time to round up this VBC FF18 build article with some impressions now.
My first thought is that I’m happy for every FF chassis released, and as I mentioned at the start VBC should be thanked for supporting this class. When it comes to the FF18 itself, my impression based on my experience of FF cars, is that it should work well on track straight out of the box. Indeed, first reports from drivers who have run the car confirms this. Unfortunately I don’t have a chance to run this car until the conditions up here allows outdoor running.
For the design of the FF18, I had hoped for a few more new ideas from VBC. The FF18 is a very conservative design with a lot of carry-over from previous versions. There are many parts of the car that could have been optimised and taken further, so I find it unfortunate that VBC have not taken this chance.
However, what should be first on VBC’s list of things to do is definitely to step up quality control and documentation. Just like on the D10 reviewed a few months ago, the FF18 suffers from various small but irritating issues of fitment, but also wrong info / lack of info in the manual. This should not be present on a product like this in 2018.
There are not many options to choose from if you want to buy a competitive FF chassis, and with the FF18 you are sure to get a well performing one once you take your time to build it right. Let’s just hope VBC sorts out the issues asap.