Tamiya DT03 Neo fighter Buggy Build and Review

At the recent Nuremberg model fair Tamiya released a range of new models including the latest offroad racer chassis such...

At the recent Nuremberg model fair Tamiya released a range of new models including the latest offroad racer chassis such as the TRF503. At the other end of the buggy market was the DT03 Neo Fighter buggy, an entry level 2WD buggy succeeding the popular DT02 chassis that has been released in a range of guises over the last 7 years.

So like the TT02, this car is an important model for Tamiya, it will be around for some time and it will be many peoples first off road car. I was really keen to take a closer look and as soon as it was available here Fusion Hobbies dispatched the DT03 Neo fighter Buggy to my door :)

Getting started

The Manual is Typical Tamiya quality, but it is always a good idea to give it a quick read and check you have all of the needed tools to start the build. You will need
  • Phillips drivers (Std and a smaller one for the Diff screws)
  • Cutters (For the sprues)
  • Tamiya Wrench (included)
  • 1.5 mm Hex head driver (There is an alan key included)
  • Sharp knife (to cut off any excess plastic)


The kit includes bushings which are fine for most casual users, however bearings really help a car run better. They increase running time, overall speed and also dont wear down. I intend to do a lot of running / racing and testing with this car so I included them in my build. You will need the following bearings,
  • 14 X 1150 bearings (Note this is the same as the DT02).
You can buy them here

So lets get on with the build.

Step 1 - Chassis Foam

This is molded in the Tamiya re-enforced hard plastic
The chassis parts are reminiscent of the Tamiya TL01, two long sections that need to be screwed together. This replaces the tub that was used in the DT02, and this monocoque design will provide a very stiff and light frame for the car to be built around. This stage you just need to First up we need to simply add some foam sponge to the new chassis parts. 

This is to stop the battery moving around. I only added one piece on the front and rear to stop the battery hitting the plastic. I will use more foam later as a tuning aid so I can move the battery to tune the car.

Tip - Positioning the battery is an important tuning aid for any car, moving a battery forward and backwards in the chassis can make a large impact on the weight distribution, especially as the battery is the heaviest component in the car.

Step 2 - Attaching chassis halves

Nice and simple, and the chassis snugly fits together, thanks to the legendary Tamiya quality. There are only 3 screw needed to attach this together at this stage, although by the end of the build there will be many more attached to the chassis to hold it firm. Once they are all seated, just tighten them down, ensuring you do not warp the chassis.

Step 3 - Front stays.

The new chassis has front stays which you will attach the front tower. They are made from the normal plastic and attach on the rigid chassis. This will help soak some of the impact when you land a jump.

Ensure you use the 15mm screw in the lower left screw hole, as this screw also fits across both chassis halves.

Step 4 - The Servo saver / Mount

Ensure Make sure the servo is centre on the mount.
The DT03 has a centrally mounted front servo. The design of this is a big improvement over the DT02. The new design still gives you a direct steering system instead of a bell crank, but now you have turnbuckles that are even length, ensuring steering throw is better.

Note - Take care to ensure that you fit the mount the right way around, with the short gap at the end where the servo spline is.

One thing to do here is to fit 4 screws in the servo mount. The instructions show 2 screws, but it will be more secure with 4 screws.

The servo saver is a basic Tamiya kit version, I have kept it for this review, however I would usually swap it out for a Kimborough mid size one, or the Tamiya Hi Torque servo saver.
TIP - Put a drop of super glue on the plastic servo saver to make it stiffer, it will still work in a high impact but will be more precise. Make sure its dry before attaching it to the servo.

Step 5 - Attaching steering rods

As mentioned above, one big advantage is now it has equal left and right turnbuckles. This will make the steering better as you will have even steering geometry.

Kit settings requires you to set the ball cup inners 50mm apart.

Step 6 - Attaching steering servo

The part slides in and you just need to attach it with 4 screws from the side.
The new mount is really good, and its important to ensure that the servo sits correctly.
Improved kick up angle will improve the capabilities of the DT03 over the DT02
Here you can see the angle of the servo. the DT02 was all wrong, the servo was both not inline with the suspension arms and also not central.

Step 7 - Front lower arms

Here you can see the lower arm arrangement. The arms are the same as the DT02, the suspension mount is new, and again made from re-enforced plastic.  Also the car now has the arms attached via a metal U section. This will ensure that the arms can take the extra stress of a bad landing without coming loose.

Step 8 - Attaching front lower arms

This stage is simple, the bumper has to hold the metal arm mount. The bumper itself is not as wide as the previous one, but the material it is made out off is slightly softer so it should absorb impacts well.

Step 9 - Attaching front upper arms

The uppers arms are molded on this buggy. Ensuring that the suspension geometry stays even when being thrashed about. There is a turnbuckle kit that can be purchased as a Hop-up for those who want more tuning options.

Step 10 - Front Axles

These are also the same as the DT02 versions they have an inline axle, although square do an option part that can give you a trailing axle like the classic B4 and a lot of other competition based buggies.

Step 11 - Attaching front axles

Attaching the step screws and now we can look at the new 25 degree kick up angle on the DT03. This increased angle will help the car get over and absorb the bumps on the track. The servo is also mounted at 25 degrees inline with the arms, creating a much better handling car than the DT02. I really cant wait to get this car out and test it :)

Step 12 - Differential

Here you can see that the car has a std gear diff. The gears are all steel and will last for ages.
Just add a small bit at first and keep adding it until you get the setting you like
TIP - although this differential is not sealed you can tune how it feels with a bit of thick grease or thick oil.
I use 500,000 oil as it is so thick it will not leak out of the differential. For this build I only put a small drop in the diff as I wanted it to be very free, also its much easier to add a little more, than take some out, as this stuff is really sticky if you want to get rid off it :)
Finished diff, you can buy an optional ball diff (Tamiya 53563)

Step 13 - counter gear

Now its time to make up the gearbox. This is the same as the DT02, and the design is well renound as being almost bullet proof.
First up we fit the counter gear, just check it spins freely. Then place the bearings in the two diff halves.
Once the bearings are fitted, then place in your diff.

Step 14 - Gearbox

Just ensure that the two halves fit together and then fit the screws. Make sure they are nice and tight.

Step 15 - Spur gear and motor

55T spur gear with a Tamiya Hop-up motor (included in the kit)
The spur again is from the DT02. You just have the one option of a 55T spur, although maybe a speed set will appear soon to allow different gearing options.
The spur shaft and spur fit snugly and then its time to fit the motor. Tamiya includes the Torque Tuned motor with this kit, and its faster than the standard silvercan motors that you will usually find in their kits.

The pinion is a 17t, and its made of aluminium. Whilst this ensures that it will be responsive, these pinions are not hardened, so they can wear over time, so it is worth checking them every couple of months.

As you can see here the gearing options for the car are limited. The supplied set-up gives a FDR of 9.33 which is fine for a quite hot motor. The 19t pinion will give you a higher top speed with the loss of some acceleration.
Now its just time to attach the gearbox cover. This will help keep all of the dirt out when you hit the beach.

Step 16 - Attaching Rear Lower arms

These fit via some long step screws, they move freely once fitted. You are offered two setting postions for the shocks on the lower arms.

Step 17 - Attaching rear upper arms and diff cup

Here we attach the large plastic diff out-drives to the diff. They are plastic so this will bother some people who expect metal ones. I have had these on my DT02 Holiday Buggy for over 3 years and I have never had to change them, so I feel they are fine for this type of kit.

Now its time to fit the rear upper arms. They are again fixed length, providing a robust buggy, and you can get the turnbuckle kit to replace them. However before you fit the arms you might want to take a look at this.

TIP - Upper arm mod
When jumping the buggy, the arms can fall to their full range. When this happens they can sometimes rub against the diff out-drives.
See the arms hitting this out-drive, adding load to the drive train
There are two ways to fix this

  1. Add a limiter to the shocks, although I want the full range of movement for my offroad car.
  2. Shave off some of the plastic

Needless to say I went for the second option. 

I just used a file and sanded down the sections you see in the picture above.
It took a couple of minutes and it gives you a free spinning car when jumping as you can see in the picture above.

Step 18 - Attaching rear axles

These parts all fit well. The plastic re-enforced dogbones are chunky and last well. Although they can be upgraded to a universal drive shaft, which will be more efficient if you want to race the DT03 in competition.

Step 19 - Attaching Receiver Switch

The DT03 allows you to mount the switch externally to the car by the rear wing. This also acts as a way to strengthen the rear gearbox and to mount it to the main chassis.
The rubber switch cover will ensure that the contacts stay clean.

Step 20 - Attaching Gearbox

The gearbox has two mounts that fit in the chassis, they fit into the chassis, and they are made of the same strong plastic. Looking at these mounts you may be able to add some anti-squat/dive (although not much) with some 1mm shims.
With the plastic mounts in place you can then attach the rear gearbox. There are 4 machine screws in the bottom of the gearbox, along with two that fit into the upper section.

Step 21 - Dampers

The kit comes with the DT03 hop-up dampers in the box :) No more friction shocks.
Here are the parts for the front damper
Tamiya dampers are renowned for their quality, so do not be put off by the fact that they are plastic. These units are well built, leak free and require very little maintenance.
Rear Damper parts
The kit supplied oil is 40wt and the pot that comes with the shocks is quite small, I just scrapped enough to fill all 4 shocks. The only other thing I would note about these shocks is that you are not able to change the piston holes as the piston is a solid metal piece. This is fine for the average person, but if getting into racing you may want to get some shocks that allow you to do this for fine tuning your shocks.
TIP - Ensure that you cut off any remains of the plastic sprue to ensure the springs move smoothly up the cylinder

Add plastic collars to change spring tension, these are the recommended kit settings 
With the shocks made, its time to get the car together.

Step 22 - Dampers stays

Made from strong plastic, these are much more chunky than the DT02 versions. they also sit lower ensuring they are less likely to get in the way if you crash.

I fitted these to the car, along with the shocks. We are nearly there now

Fitting electrics

The Neo Fighter buggy comes with a new Tamiya ESC called the TBLE-02S. It is a small unit that is able to run both brushed and brushless motors. I will cover this in detail in another article, however let me tell you that it works very well, and you can go as low as a 10.5 for off road and 9.5 for onroad.

There is ample space to fit the electrics in the car. There are some nice small touches as well such as the channel to fit the steering servo wires down.
Lipos fit well in this new chassis
There is also a dust cover, which clips over the receiver. It is splash proof but it is not waterproof. The electrics are mounted above the lipo, very similar to the Losi 22 buggy. This is fine as the lipo is the heavy part. You could look a fitting a shorty pack if you wanted to move some electrics lower into the chassis.
A battery bar holds the battery firm in the car.


The kit comes with std 2.2 wheels so you can fit most popular tyres. The ones included in the kit are made of a nice soft rubber. There are no inserts included.


Next up is the body. There is a strong resemblance to the classic Frog which was released just over 30 years ago. However this body is much sleeker, and it looks fantastic in the flesh.
Neo Frog or Neo Fighter? 
The decals allow you to actually choose between the Neo Fighter or the Frog which is a nice touch as I am sure there will be a fair few people tempted to enjoy a modern take on an iconic Tamiya buggy.
I painted the shell in my racing colours, the metallic Blue looks great in the sun.

Finished result

Here is a quick video of the final car.

Track test

Once the battery was charged I took the Neo Fighter out to a local skate park. With the torque tuned motor the car was spritely, and it was comfortably getting some air on the kick-ups. This is where one of the big things struck me, the car felt really good on the uneven surfaces. The modifications and improvements over the DT02 are noticeable even when bashing around on this surface.
The Neo Fighter was epic on the skate park! 
The strength of the car was put to the test as I gained more confidence and tried to chain the humps to get a larger amount of air, the car managed some spectacular air, along with some hard landings. The shock towers remained firm, and the car just shook off anything that I would throw at it.

I was really enjoying myself, I have always had a soft spot for the DT02 as a basher, and this car has improved on it, by being that little more capable and also proving that its very strong. I ran a couple of lipos down and left with a massive smile on my face.

Later that evening I took the car to my local club night. It was not a proper off road track, but it was still a tight indoor circuit. I popped out the shock spacers to make it a little softer and lower and took the car out. It handled surprisingly well, the tyres are not suited for racing on indoor carpet, but it still felt responsive, and I was able to dab the brake and throw the car around the tighter sections.

Later on I just took it out on the slippy wooden surface, the direct steering helped make a car that was fun to drive and slide around, I was doing large controlled drifts and the car felt responsive and crisp.

DT03 on the race track?

Lots of tuning parts available for the DT03
Tamiya has a large amount of hop-ups available which will allow you to improve the tuning options, and we will have a TRF DT03 article here very soon where one is taken to a race track. One thing to consider is that the DT03 Neo Fighter Buggy fixes the severe bump steer of the DT02 series, this explains why it is better to drive, and will help its chances on a race track.


  • Strong and nimble
  • Eliminates DT02 handling issues,minimal bump steer, better steering throw and increased kick-up
  • Easy to build
  • Brushless esc allows a good upgrade path
  • No bearings in the kit
  • Rear upper arms can rub on the out drives
  • Not many gearing options
  • Tyres are not great for bashing
Tamiya have made another successful update of one of their classic chassis. The changes here have eliminated quite a few of the issues of the DT02 and the result is a car that is better in every possible way. 

The Neo Fighter buggy is the latest in the fighter range, a brilliant introduction to 2WD off road racing, with great handling on the track, and its tough enough to bash on the street. This car deserves an A*
The Neo Fighter buggy is a great introduction to electric onroad for all ages, and it can be upgraded as you develop
Coming soon, see how to make a TRF spec Neo Fighter Buggy, and see how it goes on the track!


You can buy the Neo Fighter here

Remember you can get 10% off with your RC racer discount.

DT03 Manual is here

tamiya 6452070942065433224

Post a Comment


    Tamiya Build DT-03 is having major issues with the TBLE-02 S ESC!!

    Alright so, here's the issue, can't believe not ONE stupid build hasn't gone painless.

    The issue is that after tons of attempts to bind my Receiver with my Controller, the only way I could do that was attaching a battery pack on to it and then it would, going through the ESC didn't send power to the receiver at all.

    So, what I'm looking at now is that unless I attach an external battery pack the car won't work at all, which makes it even more confusing here's why:

    • With the battery pack both servo and speed controller works fine
    • Without it, nothing works, yet I have it hooked up the right way.
    • With JUST the battery pack it's only the servo I can control with the controller.
    • Without the battery pack I cannot control anything.

    This leads me to believe that the TBLE-02 S isn't sending power to the receiver at all. It is beeping green (short tones).

    I have the Channel 1 for the servo and Channel 2 for the ESC and STILL nothing. I put the ESC into the Binding or battery slot and nothing happens. I then add the external Battery Pack and into the binder battery slot and it works.

    I just don't get it, does anyone one know what to do with this TBLE-02 S??? It just isn't playing nice. Does it need to be set up?

    When I turn it on it's just beeping right away, nothing happens. I have configured it to run with Brushed Motor as I'm just using the Torque Stock 540 engine it came with.

    Please guys if you have any clue, please help cause this is wreaking my brain here.

    Any help at all would be massively appreciated!


    It's the Neo Fighter Buggy I'm working on and the electronics just don't want to play nice. 

    PS. CARSON Reflex Wheel Ultimate Touch 2.4Ghz is my controller. It did bind well with the extra battery so it's not that, it's the TBLE-02S that's not playing nice again

    1. That is a strange one as the TBLE02S sens 5v to a receiver, I've never had an issues with it not powering it.

      The flashing green error isn't listed in the manual (http://www.tamiyausa.com/pdf/manuals/45057ml.pdf) I know if the motor isnt set correctly for the motor type that the car will not steer etc but that has a red / green light flashing.

      Also does your reveiver have a light on it? it should light up no matter what the esc is doing

    2. That's the thing, if I attach an extra battery pack (4 AA batteries) to the receiver then everything works flawlessly. The ESC works great, the receiver etc. But the moment I take out the battery pack, the ESC doesn't send power to the receiver at all. I'm stumped at this odd behaviour as it's just this, everything else works fine. But it just doesn't send power to the receiver at all. :(

      I looked at the manual to the point of tears, I reread it so many times, I almost know it by heart, but it doesn't mention anything about an issue like this. It's supposed to be the new version from Tamiya but it just doesn't work at all the way the others do. It's set to the Brushed motor but I don't know what else to do. Is there a reset somewhere?

    3. Hmm. the other things I would do for peace of mind is to try it with a fully charged battery. maybe the battery is not putting enough volts out and the low voltage cut-off is making it shut down.

      Also plug the esc into another receiver to see if it works on that.

      It sounds like it must be faulty, I've never seen one that just flashes green.

    4. Firstly, thank you for replying, I will try this method to verify one last time if it's not the receiver but I doubt it is because it works with a battery. The ESC works with the receiver and battery just not with the battery. So somehow the connection doesn't go through... I'll let you know when I get back if it worked :)

      Thanks once more and I really do appreciate you coming to my rescue :)

    5. I have a lot of TBLE02S since they come with most tamiya kits and some of them are broken out of the box. Also check to have the correct motor type set and the NiMh mode to disable the low-voltage cut off.



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