Over the years Tamiya has released a few strange chassis layouts that, fortunately, have gained huge followings. One of them was the FF-01, a FWD, plastic-tub chassis that really had no place in the RC world…or did it? This car was extremely popular and had quite a bit of aftermarket support. Jump ahead some 15 years to the release of Tamiya’s next-gen FWD, the FF-03 Pro. This new FWD is not your standard tubbed chassis with some suspension bolted to it; it’s a super-sleek, low profile racing machine with just the right amount of TRF goodies thrown in. This time around, Tamiya means business!
WHO MAKES IT: Tamiya
WHO IT’S FOR: Beginner to Advanced Racer
HOW FAST: 46.15 mph
HOW MUCH: $220
BUILD TYPE: Kit
VEHICLE TYPE: 1/10-scale electric FWD touring car
THE BOTTOM LINE: A definite low-cost alternative to the mega-bucks TCs available; and in most cases just as fast!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
– The Pro version of the FF-03 comes with a lot of killer blue TRF option parts including turnbuckles, fluorine-coated shocks, 3mm motor mount, ballends and servo saver.
– With a FWD chassis layout, you don’t need a top deck to hold it all together. This also means you can mount the battery down the centerline of the chassis with the electronics on either side. This configuration means a very low CG (Center of Gravity) and a car that handles very well.
– The FF-03 Pro includes Tamiya’s high-end racing shocks. These bladder-built, Flourine-coated shocks are among the best on the market.
– Tamiya has included their IFS (Inboard Front Suspension) front suspension. This front suspension lays the shocks down to help facilitate the front motor design. It also moves the shocks and cantilever system rearward for better weight distribution. The rest of the suspension is from Tamiya’s top-of-the-line 4WD TC, the 416X.
– Tamiya didn’t want to create another FWD TC, they wanted a ‘next step’ FWD TC. To do that, they fitted the FF-03 Pro with basically the same transmission used in their TRF201 2WD Pro Buggy. The tranny was flipped to put the motor up front and then bolted into place. A blue milled aluminum motor plate helps dissipate heat from the motor. 3mm dogbones transfer the power to the front wheels.
1. The front-mounted motor and down-the-center battery give the FF-03 Pro a surprisingly balanced feel. The tall battery box basically does the same thing as a top deck by keeping chassis flex to a minimum.
2. Tamiya’s IFS front suspension has additional benefits besides its cool factor. It allows the shocks to be mounted farther back in the chassis; it eliminates the need for a shock tower and lays the shocks down for a lower CG. Finally, this setup gives you additional body options, including any of the super-low front end cars, like the NSX.
3. The servo, ESC and receiver all mount on a little shelf right next to the battery compartment. This keeps them as close to the center of the chassis as possible.
4. The rear of the FF-03 Pro has three length options; short, medium and long. These provide a slight handling change and allow additional body options.
5. The transmission and motor are mounted in front of the front tires. While you might think this would create a severely difficult car to drive, it actually handles quite well! Acceleration and braking are not affected (as much) as you think from a mid-motor 4WD TC.
6. The FF-03 Pro rolls on a full set of Tamiya’s quality ball bearings. These bearings provide very little rolling resistance and help the FF-03 obtain much greater speeds.
– 7.2 or 8.4V stick pack, or 2S 7.4V LiPo
– Transmitter and receiver
– Electronic Speed Control
– Battery charger
– 8 AA’s for transmitter
+ Reedy 40C+ 5000mAh LiPo
+ Team Associated XP 1015
+ Airtronics M11X
+ Tekin RS Pro
+ Tekin 17.5 Brushless
+ Jaco Blue Premounts
+ Tamiya Nissan GT-R
+ LRP Pulsar Competition 3
+ Turnbuckle wrench
+ Tamiya 4-Way
– Phillips screwdriver
– A quality SAE Allen Driver set is recommended
Test Conditions: Smooth with high traction
Performance driving is typically judged by corner speed. If you can get around the corners faster than anyone else, you have a really good chance of winning. 4WD Touring Cars have a definite advantage in this department because of the 4-wheel braking and the extra set of tires pulling them out of the corners. With the FF-03 Pro, I pretty much thought this might be the case. I was very surprised when I found out that not only did it enter a corner really well, it finished it well, too. It does take a little different driving style to be fast but once you understand what you need to do, fast lap times are a cinch! The FF-03 felt really good in the corners unless I pushed it a bit too hard…then I felt the understeer I expected.
This was a hard category to judge because I had to take into account that it was only 2WD. With my 17.5 Tekin motor installed, there was certainly no lack of power and, if I wasn’t careful, I could light the inside tire up coming out of the corners. Roll the throttle and the FF-03 appeared to have a lot more motor than it actually had! Not having the 4WD-drag definitely made the FF-03 Pro appear quicker than the 4WD’s in some areas of the track.
When you apply the brakes on any car, all the weight shifts forward and the nose of the vehicle will dive. The FF-03 is no exception to this, but since all the weight is ahead of the front wheels, there was a tendency to lock the front tires up. This would cause a pretty nasty push entering corners, causing the car to slow down quite a bit. To remedy this, I adjusted my brake EPA (End Point Adjustment) on the radio. Now, instead of the nose diving when I applied full brakes, the FF-03 slowed more consistently, allowing me to keep up the corner speed. I still couldn’t outbrake the 4WD cars, but if I slowed down a bit sooner I could stay with them.
The FF-03’s suspension really makes this car feel like it is 4WD. It’s completely tuneable and should allow you to adjust the car to any track conditions. The IFS front end works flawlessly and gives you the chance to play with some new setup ideas thanks to its laydown design. The 416X-inspired rear suspension is pretty simple and also provides plenty of tuning options. On the track, the FF-03 feels stuck and is really fun to drive.
During my test session I had zero issues with the FF-03 Pro. I thought I might have to keep an eye on the spur gear or IFS front end but neither showed any signs of wear or failure. The motor stays nice and cool being up front (with the massive 3mm motor mount), and the tires didn’t show any abnormal wear from being a front-motor car. Honestly, with that motor up front I’d be more afraid of the car you HIT than the FF-03!
PROS & CONS
+ Suspension is derived from the 416X
+ IFS front suspension allows you to use really low-slung bodies
+ Pro version includes a lot of Tamiya’s TRF upgrades in the box
+ Very well balanced despite the motor being way up front
+ Will accept standard TC bodies and wheels
+ Drivetrain can handle some big horsepower
– A wee bit of slop in some of the parts; unusual for Tamiya
– Phillip-head screws?
LENGTH 15.1 in. (384mm)
WIDTH 7.3 in (185mm)
WHEELBASE Short – 9.2 in. (233mm), medium – 9.6 in. (245mm), long 10.1 in. (257mm)
WEIGHT 3.2 lb. (1451g)
• Shock position— ball end spacing on the front, 3 on rear tower, 4 on suspension arms
• Camber (F&R)— turnbuckles
• Toe— front; turnbuckles, rear; toe plates
• Wheelbase— rear hubs can be spaced
• Droop— set screws in the arms
• Diff stiffness— adjustable ball differential
MAINTENANCE AND TUNING TIPS
• After your first full battery, check the tightness of the differential. Being in the front will definitely give it a work out, so you’ll want to make sure it is set correctly to keep it fresh.
• Experiment with the shorter/longer chassis. During the test session I tried it and felt a noticeable difference in some of the hairpin areas of the track.
THE LAST WORD
Tamiya has proven that you don’t need an uber-exotic TC to be competitive in the high-priced touring car class, to do so. In fact, the FF-03 showed that it could definitely keep up with most of those carbon-fibered supercars with equal equipment. While the FF-03 didn’t have the benefit of the 4WD acceleration, it certainly made up for that with superb corner speed. Maintenance was also an obvious benefit as the FF-03 lacks many of the issues a standard double-deck touring car has. Bolt on some already proven TRF components (i.e., the TRF201 transmission and TRF416X suspension) and you have a very capable platform.
Team Associated, www.teamassociated.com
Reedy, distributed by Team Associated, www.teamassociated.com
Jaco Racing, www.jacoracing.net