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]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Team Associated Rc10 Gold Pan 6016 New Built BuggyKyosho Vintage Heavy Metal Monster Tank Blizzard Tamiya Vintage Custom Works Dominator Iv 4wd Dirt Oval 1/10Vintage Tamiya Can-am Lola Racing Master 1/12 Pan Car New BuiltVintage Rc10t Truck Converted To Brushless Motor And RemoteVintage Kyosho Javelin 4x4 / Almost Restored /arr~1986! Huge Kyosho Lot!Vintage Team Associated Fiberglass Rc10l Pan Car Super Nice Not A Scratch!Vintage Tamiya Rc 10 Buggy? Clean!!1/10 Tamiya Blazing Blazer Rc Truck Rc4wd Vintage 1982Tamiya 1990 Vintage 1:10 Avante 2001 #58085Vintage Tamiya Road Wizard 1980s F-1 1/10 Rc Race Car Novak Chris Chan RacedVintage Tamiya Sand Rover 1/10 Scale RcVintage Rc 10 RestoredSprint Car ~ Team Associated Rc10 - Street/dirt Oval - VintageTamiya Hornet 1/10 Scale Chassis - Vintage 1983 Tenth Tech 1/10 Alfa Romeo Predator R/c Vintage Rare Made In UkVintage Tamiya Blackfoot Rc Monster Truck - Parts Or RepairCox Chev Vega Dragster Funny Car .049 Gas Cool Like The Testors 57 Chev Vintage Vintage Tamiya 1/10 Special Racing Buggy For Parts Or RepairVintage Associated Rc10Vintage Marui Coors Melling Thunderbird 1/10 Rc Remote Control Car Box Parts LotTamiya Vintage Clod Buster Hirobo 44b Chassis 4wd Full Belt Transmission (1983 Vintage Rock'n Vega)Kyosho Vintage Heavy Metal Monster Tank Blizzard Chassis Parts Lot Tamiya Vintage Tyco Taiyo R/c Turbo Hopper 049 Radio Control Buggy[tamiya] #58215 Vintage 1:10 Piaa Porsche 911 Gt2 (limited Ed.) - Ta03r-s (nib)Vintage 1/8 Scale Kyosho Phantom R/c 4wd Nitro Racing Car Vintage Team Associated Graphite Rc10l Pan Car W/ Extras + UpgradesTraxxas Revo #5310 Trx 2.5r Rc 4 X 4 Truck & Accessories - Vintage 10+ Lot BThe Real Vintage Tyco 9.6v Turbo Outlaw R/c Dirt Car " Aero Turbo Hopper" Rare!Vintage Tamiya Thundershot 4wd Racing Buggy Model # 58067 ProjectRadio Control Truck Roller Vintage Mrc Mt 10 Vintage Team Losi Jrx2 Vonats Ready! Futaba, Novak, Sanyo, Trinity ArtrTeam Associated Vintage Rc10 T3 2wd Stadium Truck Titanium Hopups Pro-line BodyVintage Mrc Mt 10. Ready To Run Roller. Team Novak Esc And Traxxes RadioVintage Radio Controlled Mrc Mt 10 Rolling Chassis Vintage Tamiya Chevy Ta02 S-10 58146, NibVintage Tamiya Stadium Blitzer 1/10 Scale Radio Control Rc Pick-up Truck[kyosho] Vintage 1:10 Nissan Double Dare Monster Truck (usa-1, Hi-rider)Vintage Traxxas Rc Remote Control CarVintage Original Tamiya Hotshot 1985 Parts LotVintage Tamiya Wild One 2wd Rc Parts Buggy Original IssueVintage R/c Dragster Top Fuel Astro Flight Motor Rc10 Bolink Funny Car New Era Tamiya Blitzer Beetle 1 / 10 Scale Kit 58122 Racer Vintage 1993 Vintage Mrc Mt-10 Radio Controlled Truck Roller Parts Or RebuildNib Vintage(1987)tamiya Midnight Pumpkin 1/12 Rc Kit 58070! Factory SealedVintage Yokomo Yz10 4wd Offroad Buggy Box Art Excellent Condition Yz-10 870cVintage Nikko Dandy Dash 4wd Buggy For Parts OnlyRadio Controlled Truck Vintage Mrc Mt 10 /hammerhead Parts LotVintage Mrc Mt-10 Radio Controlled Truck Roller Parts Or RebuildNikko Scorpion Ii Rc Truck - Very Rare Nm/mint Shelf Queen Original Vintage BoxKyosho Double Dare Very Rare Vintage Rc 4wd 4wheel Steer TruckVintage 1993 Tamiya Rc 1/12 Qd Jeep Wrangler Vintage Lil Bubba 4x4 Truck By Nikko 1983 RcVintage Original Tamiya The Hornet Rc Radio Controlled 1/10 Scale Buggy With BoxVintage Tamiya "the Frog" Radio Controlled CarVtg 1986 Road Champs Mini Grasshopper Rc Buggy Sealed Tamiya Knock Off Toy Rare Nib Vintage Kyosho Qrc Wild Dodge Ram 4x4 Rc Truck 1/10 Scale With ControllerVintage1977 Movin On Remote Control Truck In Mint Original BoxVintage Radio Shack R/c Thunder Express.. Looks Like The Air Beam !!super Rare!!