Radio-controlled model cars were first developed in Europe in the mid-1960s, when the Italian company El-Gi (Elettronica Giocattoli) from Reggio Emilia introduced its 1:12 scale Ferraris. Then, in the early ’70s, a British company known as Mardave produced its own nitro- or gas-powered RC cars.

Around the same time, American manufacturers like Associated Electrics, Thorp, Dynamic, Taurus, Delta, and Scorpion—many of them recovering from the failing slot-car market—as well as Japanese firms like Tamiya and Kyosho, produced nitro-powered RC car kits on a 1:8 scale. These cars, often using the K&B Veco McCoy engine, became popular for racing, leading to the formation of the Remotely Operated Auto Racers club. Around 1974, Jerobee, now known as Joma, launched its 1:12 scale nitro-powered RC car, eventually leading to official U.S. races in this scale, too.

Radio-controlled cars are sometimes interchangeably called “remote-controlled” cars—”RC” can stand for either term—but in the past, “remote-controlled” meant the cars were attached to a device through wires. These first RC cars required a kerosene-like fuel, usually a combination of nitromethane, methanol, and oil, along with an auxiliary motor to start its engine.

The first all-electric-powered RC cars appeared in the U.S. in 1976 as plastic model kits by Tamiya. These model cars could be outfitted with a radio-control system, sold separately. At first, these vehicles had to run on smooth surfaces, but by the late ’70s and early ’80s, Tamiya had developed all-terrain vehicles as well. In the ’80s, American companies like Losi, Associated Electronics, and Traxxas (known for its T-MAXX and the REVO 3.3), as well as Tamiya and Kyosho in Japan, continually introduced innovations in radio-controlled model-car designs.

RC cars on the 1:8 scale tend to be two feet long by less than a foot wide, whereas 1:12 scale is approximately one inch to one foot, meaning the cars are generally 14-by-6-inches. Those on the 1:12 scale, which can attain speeds of 35 mph, are usually sold in pre-assembled or kit forms. Cars of 1:8 scale, which can go as fast as 50 mph and are favored by serious hobbyists, are generally built from scratch, as parts like bodies and brake systems are made by different manufacturers. Electric-power models come in four- or six-cell battery versions, too.

The radio systems, which can be adopted from those sold for model airplanes, are available in two- or three-channel formats. Generally, one channel controls the speed of the vehicle, while the other controls the steering. The FCC has sanctioned 19 channels for radio-controlled model cars, which can be operated without a license because the signals on the controls are so weak, only working when the car is within sight of the operator.

Toy radio-controlled cars sold at places like Radio Shack and department stores over the past few decades come in scales ranging from 1:12 to 1:24. While these generally offer less control over aspects like the degree of a turn, they often have fun features like working headlights. They also tend to move at slower speeds, so they are less dangerous for younger children.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

VW Toys and Models

VW Toys and Models

A comprehensive site completely dedicated to miniature Volkswagen vehicles. Browse hundreds of toys by country, man… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1970's 1/8 Scale Rc Nitro Gas Car Associated Kyosho ? Great Old SchoolVintage Kyosho Turbo Optima 4x4 Buggy For Parts Or RepairVintage Tamiya Ford Ranger 1981 Sand Scorcher/rough Rider /super Champ StyleRare Vintage Kyosho Hanomag 66c Rc Radio Controlled Construction Loader 1:12 Used, Vintage, Nitro Racing Car/buggy With Veco-19 Engine, Vintage Kyosho Ultima 2wd Turbo Optima Rc R/c Car Truck Buggy Roller Parts LotVintage Tamiya Blackfoot Ford F-150 Ranger #58058Kyosho 1/10 Optima Mid Custom 4wd Off-roader Buggy Chassis Tamiya Vintage RareVintage Team Losi Rc Chassis W Electronics & Futaba Magnum Jr Controller 4 PartsVintage Tamiya Blackfoot Ford F-150 Truck Nice Vintage Team Associated 1/8 Rc500 2wd Complete Chassis & Body R/c CarVintage Rc 10 Rc10t Junk Parts LotVintage Rare Tamiya Tamtech 1/24 Scale Rc Electric On Road CarVintage Team Associated Rc10ds Rc10 Dual Sport Box Rc Car Parts Lot Clean RareVintage Kyosho Chassis R/c Vintage, "pb"? Porsche 917 Body+bare Chassis Racing Car With Os Max 21rf EngineRare, Vintage Jenco "whirlwind 6", 6cc Spk Ign, Aero/tether Car Model EngineRare, Vintage, "drome Demon", 6cc Spk Ign, Aero/tether Car Model EngineVintage Tamiya Volkswagen Race-touareg 1/10 Scale 4wd Off Road Rc Car Cc-01 NibVintage Kyosho Rc 4wd Sand Super Racing Team Off Road Car Spares OnlyTamiya Vintage 1:10 Monster Beetle Assembled, Need RepairVintage Team Associated Graphite/carbon Rolling Chassis W Electronics For PartsVintage Kyosho Slingshot 4wd Belt Driven Rc R/c Car Truck Buggy Roller Parts LotVintage Tamiya Blackfoot 1/10th Scale Monster Truck Chassis Parts Or RestoreVintage Losi Xx Bk Buggy Roller Xxx 22 17.5 Brushless Futaba ServoVintage Tamiya "the Frog 1:10 Rc Car Rc10t Team Associated Vintage Novak 1/10 Radio Control TruckTamiya Vintage Rc Rough RyderVintage Kyosho Optima 4 X 4, Kyosho Turbo Optima Body, 360st Motor, Novak EscKyosho Raider 1:10 Rc 2wd Off-road Buggy Vintage Remote Control Electric Vintage Aristo-craft (hitec) Restored Wildebeest Rare Rtr Rc 4x4 Monster Truck!!Vintage Kyosho Optima R/c Buggy 1:10th Scale Almost Ready Just Needs ElectronicsVintage Tamiya AvanteVintage Kyosho? 4 Wheel Drive Rc Car Chassis For Parts Or RestorationVintage R/c Radio Controlled Dragster Built 24" 75mhz Am Futaba 2 Chan ReceiverVintage Rare Graupner Rc / Rugged, Gas Powered Buggy / Runs Great / Box Included Vintage Team Losi Jrxt Radio Control Truck 1/10 Scale Electric Ready To Go 1991Tamiya Vintage R/c Buggy Parts Package,rock Crawler,4x4Vintage Jerobee Rc Car Roller ChassisVintage Rc Royal Crusher Monster Truck For Parts Or RepairTamiya 58017 B2b Racing Sidecar 1/8 R/c Vintage Kit NibVintage Tamiya Road Wizard F-1 1/10 Electric Indy Vintage Tamiya F1 Radio Controlled Rc Pan Race Car Electric Carbon Fiber CannonTamiya Falcon Vintage R/c Buggy Shelf QueenYokomo Vintage Yz10/870c Slipper Clutch With Oneway Bearing Super DogfighterSchumacher Vintage Bosscat Buggy Roller & Parts LotVintage 1/8 Scale Nitro BuggyVintage Tamiya Tb Evolution Rc Chassis KitTeam Associated Vintage Rc10 With Box Very Little Use Ready To RunVintage Traxxas Rc 1/12 Scale Gtp Pontiac Fiero Race Car In BoxVintage Team Associated Ds 1/10 Scale Electric Rc Chassis New ??? Please Read Vintage Tamiya F1 Ferrari F103 Rc Car PartsVintage Trx Traxxas Rc Truck Chassis For Parts Or RestorationVintage 1993 Tyco Half Traxx Pull Back MocVintage Yokomo Front And Rear Gear Box Cover Nip Yr-4 Zr-305Vintage Kyosho Inferno St Rc Remote Radio Control Buggy 1/8 Scale NitroVintage Team Losi Radio Control Car With Motor & Transmission, No Remote Vintage TamiyaTamiya Qd Remote Transmitter 27mhz For Jeep Subaru Ford Etc No Rtr Rare Vtg RcTamiya Vintage Twin Detonator