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]

Race Car Toys And Automobilia

Race Car Toys And Automobilia

Paul Chenard's impressive collection of vintage model race cars (mostly European) including Hotwheels, Dinky, Match… [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    

Rc10 Team Associated Ds Dual Sport R/c 1/10 Corvette VintageKyosho OptimaVintage Associated Rc10 Gold Pan ***original Classic Buggy*** Rtr W/boxTamiya 58003 Tyrrell P34 Six Wheeler Rare Vintage 1/10 Scale R/cVintage Rare Kyosho Usa 1 4x4 Nitro Rc Car W/ Cs21 Kyosho Engine Has CompressionTraxxas Bullet Vintage Electric 1/10 Buggy RtrNew Vintage Mccoy.21 Abc Glow R/c Race Car EngineVtg Kyosho Optima Tamiya And Lots Of Parts Gold Look!!Vintage Yokomo Yr-f2 Front Drive Chassis For Parts Or RestorationVintage Kyosho Plazma Mk Ii 1/12 Scale Jaguar Xjr-5 Kit With Original BoxTamiya 1/10 Rc 80's The Frog 2wd Offroad Buggy Original Vintage RcTamiya Vintage Subaru Impreza Wrc 2001 Prototype Tb01 Chassis, Rare, W/ BoxKyosho Turbo Optima Mid Se - Vintage - One Owner.Vintage Beagle Corp - Remote Control R/c - Chain Drive - Battery PoweredKyosho Ultima Vintage Buggy Never Ran! W/ Futaba Rc10 Gold Chassis Era Servos Vintage Original Issue Tamiya Monster Beetle And Subaru Brat Huge Lot Must See!Vintage Tamiya LunchboxNew Vintage Tamiya Ta03r Ta-03r 4wd Rolling Chassis (avex Dome Nsx) Ta03f DriftVintage Radio Shack Ford Bronco Mangler Rc Truck For Crawler Or Rc 4wd ProjectsVintage Kyosho Gas Rc Car Truck Chassis O.s. Max Cv-r Engine Pro-line Wheels Vintage 1/4 Scale Rc Raco Jac RabbitTamiya 1/10 Vintage 58116 Rc Off-road Dyna Storm 2wd Super AstuteVtg Tamiya Frog Original Rc Buggy 1/10 2wd Offroad Car Radio Control ElectricComplete Vintage Tyco Fast Traxx Rc Turbo 9.6v Monster TruckVintage Tamiya Altezza Ta04r Rc Racing Kit With Painted BodyNew Team Associated 7066 1/10 Gas Rc10gt Rc10 Gt Factory Team Kit VintageVintage Original Rc10 Championship Edition 6011 Team Associated Off-road BuggyTyco Rc Car Fast Traxx 9.6 Turbo Green/ Yellow VintageVintage New Bright Caterpillar D10n Remote Control BulldozerVintage Tamiya Corvete C5-r Ta04 Rc Racing Kit With Painted BodyVintage Nikko 1/10 Scale Rhino Rc Off Road Buggy Car Made In Japan For Parts Vintage Tamiya Blackfoot Rtr#a18 Castrol Honda Civic Vti Ff ( Vintage 1993 Tamiya Rc Car R.c. R/c ) Vintage Rc10 Black Pan R/c TruckVintage Traxxas Buggy Car Racer - Remote Control R/c - Battery Powered -Vintage Tyco Fast Traxx Rc Turbo Fast Race Car Ncc 2608 NeonVintage 1/8 Kyosho Rc Sand Super Super Buggy With Mrc Radio And Extra PartsVintage Kyosho Gp Ultima Rc Car Buggy Gx15 Nitro TamiyaRare!!! Vintage Team Losi Jrx2 Electric 2wd Rc With Body L@@k!!! Tamiya Vintage Ta02 Ford F-150, Touring Chassis, Skyline Drift, Big Lot Of StuffRc10 Vintage Rc 10 T Vintage Tyco Fast Traxx Rc Turbo Fast Race Car Ncc 2608 RedVintage Team Associated Rc10t Truck W/ Bodies Chassis Batteries Charger Lot EucVintage 1/4 Rc Raco Jack RabbitVintage Nationals Race Ready Rc10 Rc Car Buggy Remote Control Racing ElectricVintage Tamiya Striker .rtr Old School Rc Car. Htf CarVintage Rc Car Team Associates Nitro Buggy And Futuba Receiver Rc Funny Carset Vintage New Blue Dragster Fine Design Rc Shelf Queen RareVintage Kyosho Gas Rc Car Truck Chassis Engine And Tires Pull Start ControllerVintage Kyosho Ultima 2 Ii Rc Running Rtr Futaba Magnum Sport Car Charger R/c Vintage Kyosho Gas Powered Rc Race Car -parts Or Repair Vintage Rc Nikko Turbo Panther Frame Buggy VehicleTamiya 1/10 Rc Bigwig 58057 Sticker Decals Nib Original VintageKyosho Vintage Bmt 891 Nitro 1/8 Scale Racer Blitz Model Tecnica Os 21 Ex-r MotoParma Hemi Coupe 1/10 Scale VintageRare Vintage Kyosho Burns RcVintage 1980s Tyco 9.6v Turbo” Baja Bandit” 49mhz Remote Control Truck, Works Vintage Kyosho Gas, Gasser Rc Car - Rolling Metal Chassis For Parts/repairBlack Foot Custom Tamiya Vintage Precut Red Decals Stickers 1/10th Rc CarsSchumacher Nitro Rc .21 Xtr - Vintage 1/10 Fusion Menace