58519 Tamiya Toyota Hilux 4X4 RN36 Bruiser Build and Review

The Tamiya Toyota 4x4 Bruiser was originally released in 1985 and soon became a legendary model with it's innovative 3 speed transmission and solid leaf suspension topped with a highly detailed Toyota RN36 Hilux body. This re-release retains those cool features but updates the design to ensure that it can maintain its status as a flagship Tamiya model, providing a true scale model experience.

Indeed, scale is key to this kit. It has been engineered to replicate what a real Truck would be like in miniature. Tamiya invented the idea of a scale crawler, and it is now a genre of RC that has become increasingly popular. I was really excited to see if this latest Tamiya Bruiser was going to lead me off the track and into a world of adventure.


  • Highly detailed Bruiser body, including the sleeper cab, is made of durable injection-molded ABS plastic
  • Metal ladder frame chassis retains the original layout and features a black-finished surface
  • Newly-designed die-cast transmission is equipped with planetary gears
  • Refined clutch mechanisms offer smooth gear changes and superb durability. 
  • 3-speed gearbox 
  • 1st Gear 4WD - Gear Ratio 1:54.63, 2nd Gear RWD - Gear Ratio 1:40.49, 3rd Gear RWD - Gear Ratio 1:27.92 
  • Newly-designed front/rear axle housings are equipped with differential gears to offer smooth cornering performance
  • Front and rear differentials may be locked for enhanced off-road performance
  • 540 motor

Opening the Box

The large and heavy box is adorned with the classic Tamiya Box art.
When you open the box you can see the metal ladder frame chassis and the impressive aluminium axles. This is a serious kit and not one that you can build in few hours. Luckily it has a very comprehensive build manual. Tamiya are renowned for their clear and easy to follow instructions so even if you have never built a real gearbox before, you can be assured that taking your time and checking with the instructions will ensure that you will have a satisfying build.


As I have already mentioned, this is a complex kit and you will not be able to build it in one sitting as it will take many hours to build properly, so just take your time and savour the experience.
The first thing to do is to unscrew the pre-made metal ladder chassis and re-assemble it with thread lock. Tamiya supplies a pot of threadlock gel so you can get started although depending on how liberal you like to be with it all, you may want some more.
With the chassis re-assembled then you add some rubber damper bushings in one of the cross members, this will eventually help hold the gearbox.
More bushings are added to the steel damper mounts. These are attached to the outer chassis rails.
The rear of the chassis rails has a little more weight added as we add the rear bumper stay. This is finished in the same black coating.
The crank arm for the front steering is the first time you will see some plastic in the build. (There isn't much). Use a nice dollop of the included grease on the internal bushing.
Working on the front of the frame we attach the leaf spring stays. Make sure that you mount them even on each side as they are going to hold the springs, otherwise you might have a Truck that will not have straight axles when finished.
Swapping to the rear of the chassis we fit more of the leaf mounts. Again check each side is the same and apply the threadlock.
Now we start to work on the axles and differentials. First up we need to make a pair off the bevel pinions that will drive the differentials. These are solid steel and they rotate smoothly with the included 1050 and 1280 bearings.
Now we start to work on the differentials, the cast metal casing is well finished and they look like they will be very rugged. Again slap in some grease and fit the gears
The 8t gears have a little nub at the ends so you need to ensure they are seated in the casing to ensure the differential is nice and smooth.
The differential is held together with three 2x8mm cap screws and spins in the large 1280 bearings that are mounted on each side.
With the differentials finished it is time to fit the rear one in the aluminium axle housings. The drive shafts are made from durable 5mm steel and the ends of the shafts have some metal caps that will hold the rear wheel hubs. I just placed them in the axle case to check everything is ok.
For extra off road prowess you can lock any of the two differentials with the included screw pins. You do not have to do it at this stage as there are access holes in the axle case (With a Grub screw that fills the gap to stop any dirt entering). The trucks we built for the pull video had the differentials locked, but I intend to try this Bruiser with open diffs and will tune it at a later date.
 Slap on a lot of the included grease and check the gears spin smoothly.
 The final rear axle is then screwed together
Above shows the access point for locking or unlocking the differential in the axle. You fit a grub screw to plug the hole when not in use. 
Now onto the front axle, same procedure as the rear. With large E-Rings clips holding the strong 5mm shafts. However there are no caps for the ends as the we will have to fit the steering hubs.
 Lots of grease on the parts that make contact and checking it all spins freely.
 Held together with cap screws.
If you look at the ends of the front axles you might want to rub your fingers over it and feel if there are any rough edges. Your front steering hubs will move over these so I would suggest that you ensure that they are super smooth at the joins.
I just used a small file and rubbed them gently to ensure that felt smooth to the touch. It is not called out in the manual, but it is something I would suggest to ensure that the steering is always free and precise.
 The knuckle arms hold 1050 bearings to spin the wheel axles.
The knuckles are then attached, again with a nice amount of grease on the flange tubes that they rotate on.
 One of the knuckles has a steering arm attachment.
Now it's time for the leaf suspension. Each comprise of 3 springs. Some people like to leave Leaf spring 3 off each one to make it much softer. However I would suggest you build it as per instructions at first and then see how you like the ride.
Now it is time to fit the axles to the springs with the axle holder. I used rubber cement as per the instructions. This just helps hold things in place for assembly. Some of the other guys just used a drop of sticky grease at this stage.
This is a tricky part of the build, you also want to ensure that you have the align marks of the Axles perfectly matched. You can easily fit the long aluminium Radius arms at the end of the stage.
Mounting the front axle is a bit easier, just ensure that you move the align marks to ensure that the axles are mounted so there is an approx 5deg angle for the universal drive shaft going to the front gearbox.
The rear axle / leaf spring assembly is  bolted onto the rear of the ladderframe chassis.
And now onto the front... after 6 hours or so it feels that we are making progress. Now we need to build the dampers. 

The suspension is damped by 4 alloy shocks. The kit comes with some 900wt oil. These shocks are very easy to build. The trickiest part is fitting the O-Ring on the brass free piston.
The plastic shaft pistons are attached by E-Clips. Just attach the bottom one first and then attach the piston and lock in with the top clip
Before sliding in your shaft, you want to use some lubrication to stop any tears.. so a drop of shock oil rubbed on the shaft will help.
A bolt is mounted for when it the lower part is added to the chassis.
You then need to cut 4 rubber damper boots. The instructions give a good guide, although I would suggest to cut them a little longer and then trim if desired.
Now slide in the free piston once the shock is full of oil
As you pop in the free piston. The oil will come through the hole as it is pushed down. Once it is seated you add the small 2x4m screw and then wipe away the excess.
A spring is added to help keep the free piston down in the damper tube.
The final result gives you four shiny dampers ready to be mounted to the leaf suspension.
Before we add the shocks it's time to fit the large bearings into the die-cast wheel hubs. As you will notice the wheel fittings are quite different to the 12mm hex fittings on most RC cars. These take 3 screws in each wheel to ensure a very strong and straight attachment. Ideal for the rigours of off road running.

The hubs themselves need a large 1680 bearing fitted inside along with a plastic bearing mount. You have to ensure the plastic mount is trimmed as it is a tight fit in the hub, and any extra plastic will make it a very difficult job.
The rear shocks are now attached to the axle mounts.
As we move onto the front we add the dampers and also a 105m steering rod
This is covered with a large front skid plate.
At this point it is good to take a break. The ladder chassis is looking fantastic. We now need to fit the gearbox and motor. This next stage is best to give yourself 3-4 hours to take it easy as there are a lot of parts and you need to assemble this correctly for your truck to run.  I would recommend you ensure that you do not get the 1050 and 1150 bearings mixed up as it is easy to pop in the wrong one sometimes. I leave them in the packet until I need to use one.
The gearbox is made up of 4 large die-cast metal casings and contains a real shift fork mechanism. You start by attaching a 15t gear in the transmission case, it spins on the 850 bearings and you slap a lot of the included grease on.
The Transfer shaft is next, this spins one of the universal drive shafts.
You now attach the Rear transmission case to the Cover. Notice the shafts in the front. These are used to align it to the ladder chassis later.
Now it is time for the main shaft. Take your time on this. The first thing we mount are the shift hubs that the steel shift ring slides on. Then you add the 27t gear.
The remaining shift hubs, gears and shift rings are now attached. You need to ensure you use an 1150 bearing in the final 22t steel gear. These are then all held in place with a large E-Clip.
The shift fork is next, again take your time. The hard part it getting the little balls in the shift releaser. I added a little grease to stop them rolling away, although you do get a few spares in case you drop one or two. NOTE: The shift fork has two plastic runners attached (Part G3) you want to ensure those plastic parts have no excess otherwise it will make the gearbox very tight. Take your time.  These plastic parts just clip on to the metal shift forks.
The main shaft and the shift fork assembly are attached and then you need to attache a 1150 bearing on the main shaft as you slide it into the rear transmission case. Take your time and it will sit fine.
The sub shaft is now built. It is held in place with two small pins that are retained with rubber o-rings.
This is then attached to the rear transmission case.
Now we add the front transmission case. Do not worry if it is not perfectly flush when you position it on (Although it should be close) it sits tight once you attach the screws.
Now we need to make the planetary gear. This has a solid steel planetary holder and plastic planetary gears that rotate on 850 bearings. Take your time building this as you want the top and lower plate to be perfectly straight. The manual calls out that you should tighten it in a cross pattern.
A planetary Dog gear is added to the main shaft, alongside the planetary gear and the relevant bearings and spacers.
The plastic outer gear for the planetary gears is then attached to the transmission case. This is followed by the 70t spur gear that has a massive 2415 bearing attached. This is then slid onto the main shaft with its bearings and held in place with an E-Clip.
The spur gear cover is not attached... phew!
Now we fit the motor. Included is a standard 540 motor. This is all you need for the car thanks to the gearing it has. Although some people actually prefer a higher wind motor (35turn) as that makes it even slower and more scale. The motor pinion is 19t 0.6 module. You can fit a range of pinions from 20t -15t. Once the motor is attached we can then fit the front and rear Propeller joints on to the gearbox.
The gearbox fits longitudinally in the ladder chassis. The chassis is now essentially finished other than the electrics and wheels.
At this stage it just looks so good. Very realistic and detailed. The abundance of metal parts make it very rugged looking. I cannot wait to get it running.
The Tamiya Hilux Bruiser can run on a standard 2 Channel radio if you want to lock it into a gear. However you need a 3 channel radio to really unlock its potential. I used the excellent Carson Reflex Stick2 controller. It is actually 6 channel, which gives you a toggle button (Ch5) and a 3 position switch (Ch6). It also has adjustable manual trims so it can be used with the MFC and MF units supplied by Tamiya for sound etc
The electronics are housed in a large plastic box to help keep most of the water out. Although if you are going underwater you are best to also fit waterproof electronics. The rubber sheet is attached to allow the long servo shafts out of the electronics box to the steering and gearbox.
The Bruiser is heavy so it is best to fit servos that have high torque to be able to hold the wheels in a locked position as you are navigating the trails.
Tamiya's high torque servo savers are used. However for the gearbox you only need to attach two of the three springs. This is because the saver acts as a clutch, so it is a bit softer to ensure that the gears are not forced as you change between them. The electrics box is then attached to the chassis. This stage is a bit tricky as the rubber O-Rings can move as you are threading the screws. I just dabbed some sticky grease on to hold them in place as I mounted it onto the chassis.
Now we get to fit the chrome plated wheels. The 123mm diameter tyres ensure that the Tamiya Bruiser has high ominous stance. They are quite a tight fit on the wheel. Once mounted you need to attach each wheel to the hubs with three 3x10mm threaded screws.
The battery holder, bumpers and bodymounts are the last parts to be attached. After all these hours we have finished the chassis!
The electrics are all sealed in the box. The switch also has a rubber cover to stop dirt or water coming in. As I am using the 2.4ghz Carson controller I do not need an aerial popping out of the car, so I popped in some putty to block the hole.
I used the included cable ties to ensure the motor wires were tidy in the side rails. The battery tray can be a tight squeeze for square pack lipos, so you might need to file a little away from the plastic if you want yours to fit.
 Everywhere you look is metal. This kit resembles a real car not a toy.
The rubber gearbox plugs allow you to squeeze in more grease after running. It is essential to keep the gearbox running well. 
  The chassis in it's working glory.
With the chassis finished it's time to build the body. I used Tamiya TS-51 (Racing Blue) as I liked the metallic effect. I took my time and did a lot of fine layers and then did a wet layer to make it more shiny.
The glass parts were all painted, again I just used Tamiya acrillic pot paints and took my time with a set of brushes. I wanted to ensure that the Truck looked as good as possible.

For the decals I mixed a few drops of washing up liquid with some room temperature water into a little spray dispenser. I then sprayed onto the shell and attached the decal. This allows you to move it around a little. You then need to get the water from underneath the decal with some kitchen paper. I also used a hair dryer to make the decals form around the curves of the shell when needed. The shell took about 10-14 hours in total. However with it finished I couldn't wait to get it out on the trails.

Hitting the trail

After nearly 30 hour of enjoyable building the Tamiya Toyota 4X4 Hilux Bruiser was ready to hit the trails. I took a couple of batteries and headed down to the local nature reserve before the sunset.
I couldn't wait to start the run, although other than a quick test around the lounge it was going to be the first run for the Bruiser so I was just going to take it easy and coast around the paths and get a feel for how it would handle.
I started off in the 4WD gear and and I gently pushed the throttle forward and the Toyota moved away, as I pushed the throttle up to the maximum throw to sample the speed. It was around that of a good walking pace which made it look very realistic and scale as it moved around the forest.
On the relatively smooth gravel surface the truck soaked up the bumps and felt very stable. The steering was also more responsive than I was expecting thanks to the high torque servos so I was able to swerve puddles with ease (I just couldn't bare the thought of it getting dirty at first). The Bruiser looked fantastic as it moved around, the detail of the body along with the realistic suspension movement just put a smile on my face.
Now I was confident with the basics I decided to change gear. With a flick of the gear switch on the Carson Radio, the gearbox mechanism smoothly changed into the first 2WD gear and the Hilux picked up a little pace. The lack of torque was not noticeable as I was still on the path so and the extra speed felt good as the Bruiser started making little trails and I had to step up a gear myself to keep up with it.
To be honest this speed was more than fast enough on the rough surface, however like any boy racer I just had to see how fast this truck would go.
I notched the switch up to Top gear and opened up the throttle. The difference in speed was very noticeable and it seemed really fast for the surface it was on. Although realistically it was probably 15-17mph. It might not seem much compared to a race truck, but it feels very quick, especially when you are running around narrow paths with rocks and tree stumps ready to tip you over or Damage your lovingly prepared body.
And that got me thinking, I really had a sense of attachment to the Tamiya Bruiser that felt different to any of my other RC cars. It felt more akin to owning a real car. Maybe this is because the whole kit feels premium, from the intricate engineering to the realistic looking shell. It doesn't feel delicate but you know if you crash off a rock face it could lead to some serious wrench time or a trip to the model body shop.
Still this sensation was not enough to stop me getting carried away. The Hilux was chucking up some gravel and even making a small rooster tail on the very few dry parts of the path. Just then I hit a small tree root and the whole car unsettled whilst at top speed. I came of the power as I quickly tried to stop the Bruiser from rolling and damaging that lovely dark metallic paint. I managed to catch it and with a dab of the brakes the Toyota came to a stop amongst the dust. Phew!
Now had a feel for the truck I wanted to see how it would cope on the rougher terrain. I drove off towards a bumpy range of tree roots and changed down to the 4WD gear. As I approached the stumps I wondered how this 5kg truck would be able to cope. I drove up to the first root and gently pushed up against it with the throttle, the tyres gripped and with no wheel spin at all the Bruiser just crawled over it easily, I kept the speed low and drove it towards a few more closely grouped roots and again it just ate them up. I was really surprised how much torque the standard 540 motor was able to generate.
I drove the truck around, using a wide range of throttle control to pull it over the different sized roots and gravel / dirt piles. With the sun-light breaking through the dense trees and hitting the fantastically detailed shell it looked very real, very scale and I was experiencing the joy of scale running. It felt like the battery ran down quickly, but when I checked the stopwatch it was 24 mins (5000 mah battery). I had been enjoying myself so much time had slipped away!
I swapped in a new battery and then thought I had better move on and take in more terrain. It didn't take long until I found a large pile of rubble which was around 5 feet tall. I was a little nervous, but just like the real Hilux I was confident that this Bruiser would be able to tackle it.
As it started it's assent the huge amount of torque driving all four wheels had no problem lifting the truck up the first two feet. However the angle started to get more steep and the smaller gravel started to affect the traction and the truck started to dig in to the ground. I had been gentle on the throttle, but I was soon going to be stuck if I kept spinning the wheels so I quickly came to a stop and assessed the situation. Confidently I slowly went into reverse and then pushed the stick forward to hit full throttle, this extra kick of speed pushed the truck out of the grave that it had been digging for itself and it moved out and I slowly edged down my speed to ensure that I remained in control on the tricky surface.

The Hilux RN36 Bruiser looks superb with the gravel moving around from under the chunky tyres, the truck was sliding a little as the grip was fading so I added full lock, and upped the throttle. A large rooster tail of rubble shifted from under the tyres and it launched up again as I found grip and moved up at a good rate. I got a little too sure of myself and kept the throttle to the ground and the truck unsettled on a large rock as it started to roll to the left, I managed to save it by steering into it and coming off the throttle as I reached the summit. That was quite a buzz!

The decent was nice and easy. The light was getting low and it was time to head home.. although I will be adding a Tamiya TLU-01 soon as the body has all of the necessary fittings for LEDs to ensure all of the lights are able to be mounted.

Further adventures

I couldn't wait to get the Tamiya Toyota 4x4 Hilux Bruiser back out on the trail. Luckily the Hobby Company (Tamiya UK) wanted some help putting a group of Tamiya Bruisers up to a range of stunts to help promote the new 2017 land Cruiser.

So check out these videos that feature Stock Tamiya Bruisers which we helped build and run for the movies

These were standard Bruisers, pulling the 2017 Hilux.

This Bruiser had waterproof electrics installed and a sports tuned motor, otherwise it was stock.

The same 'Hero' Bruiser from the other advert.

There is more info of the event here (Click Here for behind the scenes)


Scale is the key to the Bruiser, it is not designed for the track or for catching air at the skate park. It is meant to simulate the real experience of owning a 4x4.  To fully enjoy this truck you need to couple real driving skill alongside the intrepid capabilities of the Tamiya Toyota Hilux RN36 Bruiser to experience the thrill of pushing both to their limits and seeing what you can achieve.
As you would expect, this is a high end kit and it is priced accordingly. However the Tamiya Bruiser is at totally different level to just about any other scale RC truck on the market. In my 30 or so years of building RC kits I have never experienced a model that has matched the Tamiya Bruiser in it's stunning detail, engineering quality and overall build enjoyment. When you consider the enjoyable hours you spend on just building this mechanical showpiece it works out much cheaper than many other leisure activities.
So overall I can honestly say that the Tamiya Toyota Hilux 4X4 RN36 Bruiser represents something very unique. It is an accurate simulation of it's real life counterpart. A perfect representation of the legendary Toyota Hilux, that you can take on a real life RC adventure. I'm really enjoying it and cannot wait to drive it again.
Big and small :)
If you want to treat yourself to the Tamiya Bruiser they are available from your local UK Tamiya Stockist. Contact http://www.hobbyco.net/ for more info.
Toyota 5955514560456893926

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