For most of us, radio controlled racing has always meant 1/10th, 1/8th or 1/12th scale vehicles, in all shapes and sizes: buggies, trucks, sedans, GTP cars, Formula 1, and so on. Travel back a few years to ask the average racer if he or she could see themselves racing a1/28th scale R/C car and you would have received a "you are crazy" look in return.
Fast forward to 2003, and small-scale racing is not just a reality, it is quickly becoming one of the more popular forms of racing out there. HPI moved things in that direction with the release of their ultra-popular Micro RS4 platform, and Kyosho has taken it one step further (and considerably smaller) with their Mini-Z Racer, Mini-Z F1 and Mini-Z Overland kits.
Combining all the aspects of "normal" scale racing with small size, convenience, and a ludicrously low price, it is tough to argue with the appeal of the Mini-Z.
The Mini-Z Racer kit includes both the fully-functional R/C car and a fully functional pistol grip radio.
The Mini-Z's specifications:
Length: 6.5" (165 mm)
Width: 2.8" (71 mm)
Wheelbase: 3.5" (90 mm)
The Mini-Z's features:
Coil-over spring "shocks"
High-frequency electronic speed control
Micro receiver with efficient, FET high-frequency amplifier
Rear "T-bar" chassis design
High-grip rubber wheels
Rugged polystyrene body
FA-130 electric motor
The Kyosho Perfex transmitter features:
Adjustable rate for steering
Steering and throttle trims
Servo reversing switch
LED battery power indicator
Charging jack for optional NiCd rechargeable battery
The radio is powered by 8 AA-sized batteries, while the Mini-Z itself requires 4 AAA-sized batteries. No batteries are included with the kit.
Out of the Box
Not only does the Mini-Z come with all that is mentioned above, it is truly a ready-to-run car. Just add batteries (not included) to the car and radio, and you are off and racing. Standard alkaline AAAs will do the trick for the car, but I recommend finding some rechargable NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries to run with; NiMH batteries will not only give you more runtime, but more speed as well.
Mini-Z Racers come in a variety of different pre-painted body styles. Additionally, there are further options to choose from in colors and paintjobs (e.g. the Castrol Mugen NSX versus the Loctite Mugen NSX). If that is not already enough, there are three unpainted body sets available for the Mini-Z racer (Mugen NSX, Mercedes AMG CLK-DTM and Ferrari 360 Modena) so you can add your own styles.
Since the Kyosho Perfex radio system is included and the electronics are pre-installed in the car, setting up the car to be run for the first time requires very little effort. You might need to set your throttle and steering trim adjustments on the radio, but nothing more than that.
The Mini-Z may not set a speed record any time soon, but it is plenty fast for its size. Ideally, Mini-Zs are meant to be raced in small, technical areas, be it an actual track or at home in your living room or basement. To test that theory, the first thing I did when I got the car was turn it over to a few of my friends to drive around my living room, on an impromptu race course made up of books, magazines and other small obstacles. We used a stopwatch as a lap timer and spent close to an hour turning laps before our car's NiMH batteries became an issue.
The car had plenty of traction on the regular carpet, though the dual rate setting on the Perfex radio needed to be carefully monitored to keep the car's steering where we wanted it. Since it's so small, the Mini-Z tends to feel much, much more responsive than a "standard" 1/10th scale R/C vehicle. This makes it perfect for racing in small, tight areas, where a miniscule turning radius is required.
The next step was to test the car out at the local R/C track: MARCCA Raceways in Madison, WI. The track features a rather low-bite ozite carpet surface, perfect for running the Mini-Z on. Just like on the carpet at home, the car felt very responsive, and the dual rate had to be adjusted accordingly to make it around the track safely. A little bit of traction compound on the car's rear tires helped us out, as did "locking down" the rear differential with as much diff grease as we could pack in. With a stable rear end, the car flowed freely through the corners and did not feel all that different from the touring cars that we know and love.
The car's body holds up well, being made of hard plastic resin, but scratches and paint flecks will appear over time, especially if you are racing against other cars. Still, the cars don't just perform well, they make good display models, with highly detailed styling and painting. In fact, the Mini-Z F1 is something that every Formula 1 fan needs to have sitting on his or her mantle.
A faster motor (the X-Speed) is available from Kyosho, but I think that the standard F-130 is plenty for most situations, especially if you are using NiMH batteries. Another interesting tuning option is the inclusion of different sized pinion gears (6T to 9T) for tracks of varying sizes. Who would have thought about gear ratios on a car that is just over six inches long? Kyosho, that's who!
Driving a car around one's house is not a bad way to pass the time, but sooner or later, people will want to race these things, and Kyosho has responded in a big way. The inaugural Kyosho Mini-Z Cup will be held throughout 2003 in different parts of the country, much like Tamiya's TCS races.
There are six races scheduled around the USA for 2003, in New York, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Idaho and California. The top six finishers in each class from each regional event will be eligible to compete in the finals in November in Las Vegas, Nevada. A full set of rules, race dates, and other information is available on Kyosho's web site.
To make scoring easier, Kyosho is producing a wiring harness that will allow for the connection of an AMB personal transponder to the car, which will run off of the car's batteries and provide the same scoring capabilities that we enjoy with regular R/C racing. Not only that, Kyosho has a full line of option parts for the cars, including ball differentials, suspension upgrades, caster and toe in/out options, different tire compounds and more. You'll know you're in trouble when you're spending as much time wrenching on your Mini-Z as you do on your tenth-scale cars!
There is really very, very little that I can find wrong with the Kyosho Mini-Z. This is a fun car with a ton of potential at an absolutely outstanding price. Perfect for the serious racer and the casual enthusiast alike, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Mini-Z to anybody. Not only that, this is a great and inexpensive way to get people into the hobby, since it requires virtually no extra equipment.
The only complaint I could find with the car is the choice of the 27 MHz band, which limits races to six cars at a time in the US (since there are only 6 legal 27 MHz frequencies). Still, I had to dig deep to find even that, and in most cases it will not be a problem.
Everybody needs to experience the fun of driving these little cars at some point or another. And if the Mini-Z Racer does not suit your fancy, Kyosho also makes Mini-Z Formula 1 cars, as well as the new "offroad" Mini-Z Overland. The bottom line? Go get yours today, and you won't be disappointed.