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 Tamiya Sand Scorcher Rough Rider Mk 2 Chassis Ford F-150 RangerVintage Schumacher Cat T400 4wd Buggy Lot Original W/extra Parts / Radio / TiresVintage Rc10 Team Car Associated Edition Graphite 1/10 With BoxVintage Super Rare Kyosho 4wd Turbo Optima Electric 1/10 Scale R/c Car Rc10ds Vintage Never RunTamiya Wild Willy M38 58035 Short Wheelbase Vintage Rare (audi Blazer Ascona)Vtg Novak Purple Rc10 Car-rare-not Team Associated-excellentRaco Jac-rabbit Vintage Rc 1/4 Scale Car Buggy 2 Cycle Gas Engine W/instructionsVintage Marui Big Bear Rc Truck With Tamiya Motor New Vintage Associated Original Rc10t Rc 10 T Team Truck Black Tub # 7035Vintage Mantua 1/8 Rc Model Car 2000 F1 Full Suspension Italian Rc500 AssociatedVintage Tamiya Ford Ranger Early Wide Front Rim Wheel/tyre Set Sand ScorcherVtg Rc Tamiya M38 Wild Willys Jeep 1/10 Scale Must See Vintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Mirror Set Inc Brackets New Rough Rider Vintage Cox .049 Command Jeep, Gas Powered Army JeepVintage Acoms Ap-227 Mk 2 Radio Set Suit Vintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Etc Tamiya 1983 Vintage 1:10 The Fox #58051 Used Operation Is Unconfirmed X 2 SetVintage 1993 Pontiac Firebird Rocket Powered Funny Car Dragster. -parma, KyoshoVintage Team Associated Rc10t2 Rc Remote Control With Custom Boat Trailer Cool!Vintage 1/8 Scale Kyosho Mint Las Vegas Rare Working O.s. .21 Nitro Chain DriveKyosho Circuit 20 Fiat 131 Abarth Rally 1/8 New Unused Rare VintageVintage Acoms Ap-227 Mk 1 27mhz Radio Set Suit Vintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Etc Rare Vintage Kyosho Superten Fw04 / Fw03 Gp 4wd Nitro On Road Rc Car RollerVintage Tamiya Ford Ranger Xlt F150 Body Rc 1/101/10 Tamiya Original Hotshot 4wd Rc Buggy Airtronics Am 27 Radio 10 Vintage Hot Vintage Super Rare Kyosho 4wd Turbo Optima Mid Se Electric 1/10 Scale R/c Car Tamiya Bruiser Vintage Rc Vtg Cox-beetle Rc Car-in Orig Box-vw Bug-hardly Seen-rare-1/10th Scale-not SlotVintage Tamiya Blackfoot Subaru Brat Monster Beetle "for Parts Or Restoration"Vintage Radio Control - Model Car Enterprises Mce Pan Car Veco 19 Gas Engine[nib] Vintage Kyosho 1:8 Nitro Landmax2 Subaru Impreza Wrc Rally Unassembled KitVintage Tamiya Porsche 959 4wd Radio Controlled Car Paris Dakar Rally EditionVintage Rc Team Associated Front And Rear Tires Rc 10 Team Losi Tamiya KyoshoVintage Team Associated Rc10 B3Vintage Rc Dirt Burners Thorp Tamiya Frog, Blackfoot Monster Beetle Diff Vintage Team Associated Rc10 B3 Off-road Buggy Rc10b3 Gold Shocks Motor Body LotVintage R/c Kyosho 1/10 Raider 2wd Buggy Car Kit Roller For Parts Repair RestoreVintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Rough Rider Mk1 Narrow Suspension Arm Set Ball CupsTeam Associated Vintage Rc10t TruckVintage Tamiya Super Blackfoot "parts Or Restoration " W/ Electronics And Motor Tamiya Vintage Rx-540vz Technigold Motor Used Unconfirmed OperationVintage Team Losi Street Weapon RollerA Vintage,new-in-box, Uctkam, 2.5kp-ac, Glow,tether Car Racing EngineVintage Tamiya Toyota Hilux Bruiser Cab Mirror Blazing Blazer 3-speed Vintage Tamiya Toyota Hilux Bruiser Headlights & Lenses Blazing BlazerVintage Rc Off Road Buggy, Baja 1000 Funco Body Bolink MotorRtr Vintage Team Associated Rc10t2 Truck With ExtrasVintage Tamiya Toyota Hilux Blazing Blazer 3-speed Mechanism Box Top Vintage Rc Team Losi 4wd Main Chassis Xx4 Radio Control Part NosVintage Tamiya King Cab ChassisTeam Associated Rc Mega Vintage Parts LotVintage Tamiya Toyota Hilux Blazing Blazer Rubber Motor Cover Vintage Yokomo Mx-4 Mr4 Dogfighter 1/10 Rc 4wd Race Buggy-associated Losi KyoshoVintage Tyco R/c Remote Control Indy Turbo Car Pennz Oil Computer Vision MibVintage Rc Team Associated Gold Rear Shock 0.4 By 1.02 Stroke Radio ControlVintage Traxxas Tmaxx Nitro Rc Truck For Parts Or RepairCox Control Line .049 Gas Engine VintageVintage Rc Dirt Burners Thorp Tamiya Frog Blackfoot Monster Beetle Counter GearVintage Tlr Losi Xxx4 1/10 Rc 4wd Race Buggy-associated Rc10 Yokomo Kyosho MipVintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Rough Rider Mk1 Twin Bearing Wishbone Set New Nos