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 Schumacher Cat Rc Buggy Model Parts 1/10Used, Vintage, Nitro Racing Car/buggy With Veco-19 Engine, Rare, Vintage Jenco "whirlwind 6", 6cc Spk Ign, Aero/tether Car Model EngineRare, Vintage, "drome Demon", 6cc Spk Ign, Aero/tether Car Model EngineVintage Tamiya Srb Sand Scorcher Chassis Mk1 Rough Rider Ford Ranger W/parts! Vintage Tamiya Sand Scorcher Chassis Mk1 Rough Rider Ford Ranger 150 Rc H Hilux Vintage 1980's Tamiya Clodbuster 4wd / 4ws 4x4x4Vintage Losi Jrx2 RollerVintage Tamiya Juggernaut 2 Truck Project Chassis And Parts Lot! Look! #58256Vintage Tamiya R/c FrogVintage Team Associated Gold 1/10 Scale Rc CarTamiya 1986 Vintage 1:10 Monster Beetle #58060 Body PartsKyosho 1:10 Scale Vintage Roller Buggy. Ultima?Tamiya Bull Head Clod Buster 4x4 Vintage Rare Vintage White Traxxas Rc Truck Blue Eagle Ls Vintage Tamiya Monster BeetleVintage Tamiya Rc M1025 Hummer & RadioVintage Ford Gt Rc Car Slick Tires Stainless Steel Chassis ,veco .19 Nitro MotorTamiya Vintage Clod Buster Kit # 58065 New NosVintage Cox Dune Buggy For Parts Car Or RestorationWild Willys M38 Tamiya 1/10 Vintage Rc Remote Control Car Old Vintage Toy CarVintage Tamiya Advan Courage F103gt Race Car ! Very Rare!Vintage Tamiya Wild Willy 1/10 Scale 2wd M-38 For Parts Or Repair Or RestoreVintage Kyosho Lazer 4 Wheel DriveVintage Tamiya Wild Willeys Parts CarVintage Tamiya Hks Opel Vectra 1/10 Rc Car #58159Vintage Rare Kyosho Tomahawk 1:10 R/c Car -collectibleTamiya Vintage Clod Buster Chevrolet Grill For Kit # 58065 Vintage Team Losi Radio Control Car With Motor & Transmission, No Remote Custom Works Dominator Rc Chain Driven Pro-comp-series Vintage Kit+electronics Vintage 1980's Team Associated Rc10 Gold Pan Airtronic Transmitter Super ChargerVintage Traxxas? Team Associated ? Rc10 ? Tamiya ? Losi ? Check It Out!!Vintage 1/8 Delta Fuel Tank Rc500 Rare Original Not Re Pop P4 P2 Vintage Rc Truck Rc10 AssociatedVintage 1991 Tyco Rc 9.6 V Turbo Wild Thing Remote Control Car TestedVintage Trc Pro-10 Rc Fiberglass Chassis Version Kit In BoxTamiya 1986 Vintage 1:12 Porsche 959 Paris-dakar Winner No.5306 Spare BodyVintage 1980s Tamiya Grasshopper 2 - Radio Controlled Car/ Buggy 1/10 Scale Nr!Vintage Tamiya "the Frog" Rolling Chassis 1:10 Rc Car Vintage Tamiya Volkswagen Race-touareg 1/10 Scale 4wd Off Road Rc Car Cc-01 NibMarui & Tamiya Vintage Rc Car LotNew Losi Mini Lst Rc Truck // Vintage Classic - 2 Motors / 2 Servos Tamiya 1/10 Sonic Fighter 2wd Off Road Buggy Vintage Original Rare (used)Vintage Serpent Bmt Nitro Not Brushless Rc, Not Kyosho Tamiya Or YokomoVintage Tamiya Hornet Rc Radio Remote Control Car Buggy Vintage Roar Rc Decals Jerobee Delta Asociated Mrp Thorp MarkerNew Losi Mini Lst 2 Rc Truck // Vintage Classic - 2 Motors / 2 Servos Hilux Mountaineer Tamiya Bruiser Highlift Original Vintage TransmissionVintage Cox Sandblaster Sand Blaster Dune Buggy #7 Rc Car ~~check It Out!!!Kyosho Hi Rider Ii Vintage Wheels And TiresVintage Tamiya Cpr Unit C.p.r. Body Shell Servo Rc R/c Lancia? Porsche ? TamtechVintage Tamiya HornetVintage Tamiya "the Frog 1:10 Rc Car With Original BoxVintage Tamyia Blackfoot Rtr L@@k!!!!!!!!Vintage Associated Porsche 917-30 Can-am Clear Lexan 1/12 Rc Body Jerobee DeltaRare Vintage Remote Controlled Car By Lima Of ItalyVintage Trinity Oval 1/10 Pan Car! Complete! Nr!Vintage Tamiya Super Hornet Rc Off Road Buggy Custom Works Carbon Fiber Intimidator Vintage Kit With - Associated - RearendTamiya 1991 Vintage 1:10 Bush Devil #58101 Assembled, Need Repair