47330 Tamiya Bigwig 2017 Build and Review

Some cars are too good to be forgotten so re-releases of classic RC cars have become very popular over the last decade. It is no co-inc...

Some cars are too good to be forgotten so re-releases of classic RC cars have become very popular over the last decade. It is no co-incidence that the most iconic brand of them all Tamiya has lead that particular genre of RC. There have been some very notable buggies released such as the Grass Hopper and Sand Scorcher. Now Tamiya has re-released the Bigwig, the most desired car for a generation of kids in the 80's.

What was so cool about the Bigwig?

Lets got all the way back to 1986. The Bigwig was released to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Tamiya making RC models. It took the excellent Hotshot/Boomerang platform and spent time transforming it into the pinnacle of Tamiya Buggies.
Takuya Yura developing the Bigwig at Tamiya HQ
Tamiya enlisted the help of Japans foremost Racing Car designer Takuya Yura. He headed the Moon Craft design company, and had created the aerodynamics for a wide range of racing cars from Fuji Grand Prix championships to the Le Mans 24 hours races. The Tamiya engineers worked on the chassis, and Yura-san worked on the aerodynamics and styling.

As you can see there were a range of different designs, although all were based around the philosophy of the body being like a large wing, providing a good amount of down force at speed. Talking about speed, the Tamiya designers had ensured that the car was fully ball raced and was also endowed with the Technigold motor. Tamiya's fastest motor available, and much quicker than any other kit from Tamiya or other manufacturers. The whole thing was powered by an 8.4V battery, giving you even more umpff!

As you can imagine, all of those factors, combined with the excellent Tamiya video ensured that it was the car to have for the average enthusiast who wanted the fastest, coolest looking car available.

I was one of those kids, and whilst I never got to own one when they were originally available, the re-release has made it happen, so let's take a closer look!

Opening the box

The box has the classic Tamiya box art, slightly adjusted where the sponsor stickers have been changed, but it still brings back that classic Tamiya feeling.

The contents are arranged nicely and you can see a box full of goodies. You get all of the kit parts and a motor, but you will need to supply your own ESC along with the radio gear and battery.

Building the Bigwig.

So after all these years I was about to build a Bigwig. As yo would expect it is always best to take a read of the excellent and clearly illustrated manual beforehand to get a gauge on what is involved and to ensure you have all of the required tools on hand. As long as you follow the instructions even absolute beginners will have no problem assembling this kit.

We start by building the rear differential. The kit includes some ceramic grease so you can apply some of that to the steel bevels to ensure that they have very little friction and run smoothly.

The propeller shaft now needs to be assembled, to the yellow plastic cup snaps into place and you will then need to slide on an 1150 bearing. This fits inside the rear plastic gearbox and then you need to apply the thrust bearing, bevel gear and the 850 bearing at the end of the shaft to ensure that it is seated properly in the gearbox. I assembled it all to check the fitting, then slid the parts of the shaft before mounting it into the gearbox.

Take your time here, it is a bit fiddly, I used a set of long pincers to ensure that I could easily align everything. With these in place you want to fit the gearbox joint and attach it with the E-Ring.

A lightweight hollow shaft is now attached, along with a yellow plastic spacer ready for you to install the drive gear. The steel bevel gear is then attached on the thin 2x26mm shaft. Liberal amounts of the ceramic grease are swabbed on the gears.

The Right half of the gearbox finds you having to install the differential gear on top of the steel bevel gear. Again you want to slap on some of the grease (I hardly use any on my Onroad cars). With the gears all installed you need to add the gearbox spacers (Parts B4, and the funky blue C6). Ready to be attached.

Now it's time to connect the two gearbox halves and to slide in the motor.

The Tamiya Bigwig 2017 comes with a special version of the GT-Tuned motor. This is a more expensive motor that is able to be rebuilt and serviced. It is rated at 25T and turns at around 19000 revs per second.

The kit comes with two 0.6 mod pinions and a selection of spacers. You can either go for the 13t pinion to give you a gear ratio of 10.043 or the 15t pinion to give you a faster ratio of 8.704. No guessing which one I chose to fit. (You can also fit 16t :8.160 and 17t 7.680) pinions which are available separately.

The thin metal set-plates are used to ensure you mesh your gears correctly, it's very quirky but that is part of the retro charm with these kits.

The rear gearbox is now finished and we can move onto the front gearbox.

You need to mount the bearings into the counter gears and place the steel bevel gears into the differential gear.

You mount the differential and the gears into the right side box. The counter gears held in place with some nice hollow tubes and they spin freely. You then have to fit the yellow plastic spacer which looks a little bonkers in this day and age.

The left hand side nicely aligns with the gearbox and you then bolt it all together. That is it for messy fingers in the gearbox.

The rear shock tower is a funky chunky blue plastic and feels surprisingly strong. The rear upper arms are also heavy duty and are attached with the near legendary Tamiya screw pins.

The lower arms also feel strong and the rear hubs will be familiar to anyone who has owned a Boomerang. Each one houses a couple of 1150 bearing to ensure that the wheel axles will spin freely as the power is pushed through them.

The rear drive shafts are strengthened steel and will be able to take a lot of abuse. The manual recommends to put some grease on the ends of the dogbones, I personally would not recommend it as it will just attract dirt. They might wear a little quicker, but it would be negligible.

The lower assembly is now mounted. Sometimes people overtighten the screwpins so you just want to check that the screws are not over-tightened and that the arms drop under their own weight.

Rear underguard and bumper are the next things to add. The bumper is not exactly huge, but you will be racing ahead with this buggy so you wont have to fear anyone hitting you from behind.. infact do buggies even have a rear bumpers nowadays?

After finishing with the rear for the moment, it's time to pay attention to the front hubs. You want to use the ones that are not on the C-Parts Tree. The other pair are made from strengthened plastic and will be much more robust and provide a sharper steering response. Check the orientation of the alloy ball plates so that they attach to the plastic rings correctly. Then screw in the large 8mm ball connectors.

The ball plate rings are then held onto the lower and upper arms with some small 2x6mm screws. Once these are attached check it all moves freely and mount the bearings and axle and driveshafts to the front gearbox.

With the gearboxes and suspension arms assembled it's time to work on the bit in the middle that holds them together. The chassis is made from ABS and is a totally different design to the Boomerang and SuperShot, it's wider and has the battery fully enclosed.

Also you can fit a square pack lipo in there with a little bit of trimming of the round pack guides.

The Bigwig has a rack and pinion steering assembly which is very different to the bell crank affair that you will find on modern buggies. You begin by assembling the pinion part of the steering. Part C5 is a long tube with the teeth to move the rack on the end. It is added onto the end of a regular Tamiya servo saver and held together with a screw. (Note: a very small drop of CA glue on the servo saver spring Part s6) will tighten the saver and make the steering slightly more responsive, but you only want a small amount otherwise it will not snap under load and instead could damage your steering servo.

The servo mounts are then added. You want to ensure that they are aligned correctly as shown in the manual. Just ensure the centre of the servo matches the lines on the mounts, otherwise the pinion on the end of the servo may be slightly out and effect the steering.

Time to place the servo down on the chassis and attach the pinion cover which is screwed down to hold it all in place. Here you can add a little grease to stop dirt getting in.

The servo itself is not held down from the bottom but instead held in place with the speed controller mount plate and a layer of double sided tape. It does feel surprisingly stiff once assembled.
Dont make the rod like this, you need the steering boots etc attached
Now its time for the steering rack, Tamiya manuals are always so easy to follow and it must be remembered that you can always use them for measurements instead of getting out the verniers or a ruler.

The steering arms are made from threaded shafts, but they also have some steering boots attached that will stop dirt and gravel getting in.

They are easy to build, just take your time to add the boot stopper in each of the boots. Then you need to attach them to the steering rack via the 5mm ball connectors.

Attach a dollop of AW grease with the end of a small driver around the rim of the boots.

Here you can see the lower exposed part of the steering pinion popping out the chassis, ready to have the steering rack attached.

Now you just need to lay the rack on the teeth (Ensure your servo is set to neutral and the pinion hasn't moved or you will have to take this apart).

The rear gearbox is attached now, as you can see from the picture above you also need to fit the exhausts at this stage. Tamiya has made the rear of the chassis look like it has an engine exposed, do these compliment it superbly. The little details like this remind you of the 80's when form was pretty much as important as function in RC.

When fitting the front gearbox we also need to attach the main prop shaft that connects the gearboxes together to give you 4WD.

Shocks are next and the Tamiya Bigwig comes with 4 oil filled CVA dampers to help it keep planted on the bumps and land smoothly from jumps.

Once you have taken the rods and attached the (2 hole) pistons with the E-Rings you want to add a little drop of the kit included shock oil to the shafts as this will ensure they slide through the o-rings in the damper cylinder and do not snag them.

A drop of oil is also needed on the O-Rings that you are placing in the damper cylinders as you mount them into the bottom along with the rod guide parts (T2).

Now you just need to pop the lubed shaft into the small hole and thanks to the oil you will not tear the ring.

A bolt is used to determine the length of the shocks, again just follow the manual and ensure the front dampers are set to 6.5mm and the rear ones are at 5.5mm

The kit included oil is roughly 350wt so that is a good starting point. So I filled the shocks, moved the shaft up and down and waited for the bubbles to disappear before adding the oil seals and the damper caps.

Just need to add the springs and the lower damper mount and these are finished. They are very smooth when you give them a squish, and you can add the included spacers to firm up the springs and tune the buggy.

With the shocks mounted we have to fit the huge retro bumper. It should help protect the front arms and also act as a skid plate to help lift the Bigwig over any minor unexpected obstacles.

Getting onto the wheels, these are not attached by 12mm hex (although you can easily add them to the Bigwig if you wanted more wheel / tyre choice for retro class racing.

The cool Mooncraft disc wheels have to have the classic Tamiya Super Gripper tyres mounted onto them. They are directional so follow the instructions to ensure you fit them correctly.

Now we just have to fit the upper sub chassis, which acts both as a battery access door and importantly a chassis stiffener. Once attached we have a final chassis.

Even with the shell off the Bigwig looks great. The little details and the bright yellow and blue plastics invoke a lot of nostalgia.

I gave everything a once over and checked everything moved well and added the electrics before the final countdown begins to starting to work on the shell.

As mentioned earlier in the article the shell itself was an innovation in RC. Before the Bigwig most buggy shells went for a scale look, however Takuya Yura wanted to use aerodynamics as a design factor and the first 'Wing' shell was born.

The shell is very iconic and despite usually being tempted to not go box art I couldn't resist making a copy of the car that I wanted so much as a child. The Shell itself is fantastic with a lot of little details such as a metal instrument panel, and a driver, alloy roof and a scoop. It looks great and I cant wait to take it out for a spin.

Track test.

It had been over a couple of decades that I had waited for this moment. I was about to drive a Tamiya Bigwig. The battery was charged and I was keen to drive this buggy and see what it could do.

I had wanted to take it onto the local dunes but the spring weather was atrocious as the rain wouldnt stop, I decided that I cant wait another minute so I took it to the special top secret test track hidden in suburbia to give it a spin.

I pushed the stick forward and the rear of the Bigwig squatted down as the GT tuned motor put down the revs. As the wheels span up I was surprised by the speed of the kit included motor. This burning heart pushed the car along at a good rate and I soon started to get a feel for the car.

The Bigwig exhibited quite a lot of on power understeer, Whilst this is something that most 4WD vehicles will have, it was a little too much for my taste. I quickly adjusted the rear to be a little stiffer with the included shock spacers and also removed one from both of the front shocks.

This made a noticeable difference, giving me more initial steering. Obviously if you keep the hammer down the Bigwig will still understeer as the tyres can only grip so much, but with a quick release of the throttle as I cornered I could shift the weight forward and then either pivot the nose around a tight curve or add power and move the grip over the boarderline to make the Bigwig slide around.

The tyres are not the most suitable for the hard surface, but after a couple of packs they had softened and the grip level was surprisingly good.

After running the car for a couple of packs I was still really enjoying driving this buggy. The Bigwig felt very stable and planted, maybe because of its weight, but this brings on confidence and my caution started to subside as I started to wall ride and speed over the humps and jumps.

Again this classic Tamiya was also very stable when catching air. Most of the time I could just keep the throttle on as the Bigwig took flight and the car would stay flat. Sometimes I would release the throttle briefly as the Bigwig landed as there is no slipper in this classic car,  being mindful to protect the drive train. Although I have to admit most of the times I just kept the motor revving. The drive train had no issue coping with the included motor.

I was onto my 4th battery now and I was not on my own anymore as the Bigwig had attracted a crowd of onlookers who had been passing by. One trendy looking beatnik came over and told me that he had one of those as a boy and that it looked in fantastic condition for something so old.

I gave him a quick go on the sticks (something I dont really ever do) and told him to take it easy. He promptly managed to launch the Bigwig into the air it started to take my breath away as the Bigwig sailed majestically into a solid brick wall hitting it like a sledgehammer in slow motion.

With the guy looking horrified I told him not to worry and walked over to the Bigwig and everything was still fine with no broken wings, only a slight scuff to the front bumper. 80's design helped massively in that scenario and the renowned quality of the Tamiya plastics ensured that nothing broke and cracked. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and I drove the Bigwig for a happy hour or so afterwards with no issues.


We had a bit of fun doing a 2017 remix style soundtrack and video


After all these years it was great to get to grips with a Bigwig. Tamiya's 2017 version is essentially the same kit with only a few minor tweaks and changes.

I was surprised at how well the Buggy handled. I would recommend a decent steering servo if you are going to enter one of the many Retro Race series that are appearing, as whilst it was fine with my basic servo, the extra speed and torque that a better servo will give you will liven up the car even more.

The handling is good, for a classic buggy. Importantly it is just great fun to bash about especially as Tamiya's renowned strong plastics and good parts supply will ensure that you won't have to worry about pushing the Bigwig to its limits.

After all these years of wanting one and hunting high and low for an original. I was nervous that the Tamiya 2017 Bigwig might disappoint. Those fears were unfounded, and recently my favourite waste of time has been exploring the potential of the Bigwig has

Its a kind of magic combination of elements that have endeared me to the Tamiya 2017 Bigwig. It is a pleasure to build, the shell is an iconic and innovative work of art and the 80's design ensures that the Buggy has bags of character.

If you want to treat yourself to the Tamiya Bigwig they are available from your local UK Tamiya Stockist. Contact http://www.hobbyco.net/ for more info.
tamiya 5291176679796123388

Post a Comment

  1. Very informative blog. Could I please ask for some more details of the drop of glue on the steering servo saver spring? I am having problems with my build (limited steering lock and not returning to centre) and though this idea might help. . .



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