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    

Yokomo Rps Special Edition Se - Vintage - Yz-834b (rc10, Losi, Kyosho, Tamiya)Associated Rc10 Vintage No TransKyosho Ultima Rc 1:10 Car Kit 3115 Vintage With Extra Parts Tires Manual Vintage Kyosho Optima 1/10 Scale Buggy. Untested For Parts Or Restore New Vintage Losi Xx4 Xx 4 Four Wheel Drive Buggy Xxx4 WorldsTamiya Midnight Pumpkin Old School Vintage R/c Electric TruckTamiya Rc 1/12 Porsche 959 Vintage Unassemble Kit New In Box NibVintage Kyosho Electric Radio Control Racecar 4wd 210 Le Mans Monster Model RcVintage Team Associated Rc10 Gold Pan With Original Assembly BookVintage Tamiya Blackfoot Electric R/c Truck Used Rolling Frame!! Rebuild Or Part New Vintage Losi Xxt Graphite Plus Xxxt Cr JrxtKyosho Double Dare 1:10 4x4 Vintage Nissan Truck With Kyosho Carry BagTamiya - The Grasshopper 1/10th Scale Rc Off Road Racer W/radio - VintageVintage Marui Electric Radio Controlled Ninja 8 Racecar 4wd Rx-54050 Rc BlackVintage Kyosho Turbo Optima 4wd Rc Buggy 1/10 Parts LotVintage Kyosho Mini Z Chevrolet Corvette 1958 Rc Car Missing Remote Control Vintage Tamiya "the Hornet" Nib - 1984 Original - Kit No. 5845Vintage Xtm Mammoth 1/8 Scale Nitro Monster Truck.Vintage Rc Buggy 4wd,alloy Red,futaba RadioDelta P12 Conversion Kit In Box Vintage Rc Radio Control PartsVintage Black Foot Tamiya Monster Truck - Remote Control R/c - Battery PoweredVintage Nikko Very Rare Mint In Box Works Original R/c Stingin' Scorpion FirstR/c R C Remote Control Vintage Tamiya Project Blackfoot Frog Monster BeetleVintage Team Losi Jrx2 BuggyVintage Tamiya Blackfoot TruckAndys Pro Race Chassis Kit In Box Vintage Rc Radio Control PartsLosi Xxxt Roller Graphite Chassis Tlr Stadium Vintage Traxxas Ofna Proline AkaNever Run! Vintage Team Losi Xxt Xx-t Hydra DriveMonogram Tornado Rc 4wd Buggy Vintage Ban Dai Made In Japan 1985Vintage Bolink 1/10 Scale Radical Ranger R/c Car Kit Read DescriptionVintage Associated Electronics Rc10 "a" StampVintage Thunder Tiger The Challenger Rc Fuel Buggy In Org Box Plus Extras Vintage Tamiya King Blackfoot Monster Truck Restoration Project Airtronics LookHot Tricks Rc Stuff Lot Vintage Rc Radio Control PartsTamiya Vintage Radio Control Boomerang 1/10th Scale Offroad Racer. Vintage Wen Mac Gas Powered 67 68 Camaro ?? Must SeeVintage 1980's Cox Electric 1/10 R/c Bandido Sand Buggy Car Very Good ConditionRare Vintage Tyco Rc 9.6 Volt Scorcher .tested Great WorkingRc10 Gold Pan Radio Control Car/buggy - Team Associated, 1:10 Scale, 80s VtgVintage Tyco 9.6v Turbo Outlaw 7 Pistol Grip Remote Control R/c Dirt Car & BoxVintage Nikko Big Buba A Rare PeaceVintage Jrxt & Team Associated Rc Cars+new Rc10 World Series Shocks Front/rearVintage 1985 1/10 Scale Nikko Pepsi Advertising Firebird Radio Control CarVintage Delta On Road Vintage 1/8 Nitro Chassis New Impulse Eagle ? Rc 500 PbTraxxas Spirit Model 1209 VintageVintage Planet Toys Radio Control Toy Car Amc Gremlin,nice Remote Control Car Nikko Rc Turbo Panther Red ( Vintage ) Free Shipping World Wide !!!Vintage Tyco Turbo Fast Traxx Rtr Mint Condition W/box Electric Rc Car Lks New!!Dans Rc Stuff Lot Vintage Rc Radio Control PartsHardee's Vintage Pan Car. Fair ShapeTeam Associated Vintage Rc 10 Gt Nitro Truck .ready To Run Vintage Alloy Wheel For Tamiya 58519 Mountaineer Bruiser Rn36 Toyota 4x4 Hilux Vtg Nikko Phantom Fighter R/c Car+battery And Controller Rc Remote Control WorksVintage Alloy Rear Wheel Adapter For Tamiya Fox ,nova Fox , Falcon Collector's!! Tyco Turbo Fast Traxx 9.6v Tested, Vintage Rare Collectable Rc CarVintage 1.9" Alloy Wheel For Tamiya Blazing Blazer Toyota 4x4 Hilux ProjectVintage Alloy Wheel For Tamiya 58519 Mountaineer Bruiser Rn36 Toyota 4x4 Hilux Vintage Alloy Wheel For Tamiya 58519 Mountaineer Bruiser Rn36 Toyota 4x4 Hilux Vintage 1.9" Alloy Wheel For Tamiya Blazing Blazer Toyota 4x4 Hilux ProjectVintage Team Losi Xxx-t- 2wd Stadium Truck 1:10 Electric Just New Part