Tamiya TRF414 Retrospective Review

Here is something a bit different. A look at some of the classic TRF, a retrospective review. First up is the TRF414. TRF teams most important car, and the start of their record breaking dominance in the 1/10 onroad class.

The origins of the TRF414.

Despite being the pioneers of the 190mm touring car class with their affordable TA01 and TA02 cars, Tamiya soon fell behind as the class became more popular and specialist race cars were built by rival manufacturers. 

In 1998 Tamiya decided that they wanted to create a car that would put them back in contention. They set up a small team consisting of  Takahiko Yasui (Design), Masayuki Miura (Test driver, project lead) and Takanori Aoki (Test driver, platform geometry).  Thus started the development of the TRF404X.

The TRF404X
The TRF404X chassis had a two belt design with the motor central at the rear of the car, and saddle packs placing the weight in the centre of the chassis. It was soon apparent once all the test data was accumulated that the chassis was starting to perform very well.  

With the data accumilated from races in Japan and the US the team made several changes. The chassis became 6mm longer. The front and rear shock towers and suspension points were totally changed and the drivetrain was also changed from a full one way set-up. 

Tamiya TRF414X
This lead to the next iteration. The TRF414x. Initially sold to Tamiya Team drivers, this chassis was a move in the right direction, but it was still flawed in many ways. The top deck really did impact the balance of the car. The suspension arms were lengthened slightly, with more attachment points.  The metal uprights were also found to be unreliable and they were changed to stronger carbon plastic parts that were wider, used different bearing sizes and most importantly were lighter, providing better cornering response. 

Tamiya TRF414

After all of the feedback. Tamiya was confident that they had now got the recipe right for a successful race car. It was still sold in a limited numbered batch of 750 cars split between Japan, Europe and the US. 

I still have one of the boxes from my TRF414's so lets take a look inside the box

As you can see, the instructions were not at the same level as a standard Tamiya kit. The TRF414 was only sold to pro racers, and it had a limited run. 

It would have been silly to spend the same amount of resources on a more comprehensive set of instructions as this was only aimed for experienced modellers, and the drivers would have been able to get support at the track.

Here are the TRF decals that came with the kit

This was part of the driver's upgrade that was sent out to the drivers about using TA04 hubs.

You could register the kit and get sent a unique number. I never stuck them on the cars as it didn't make them quicker :)  Here is the letter which as you would expect is in Japanese, and hand signed by Satoshi Maezumi.

Here is the translation

Dear TRF414 Users,

We would like to thank you for purchasing TRF414.

I would like to take this opportunity to enclose a User ID Number and a TRF414 Serial Number Plate. Please attach them to your favoured location, e.g. RL bulkhead. 

With regards to TRF414 settings, we plan to continue publishing them via magazines and official Tamiya website. 

Thank you for your support and stay tuned for TRF achievements/success.
Tamiya Sales Dept
TRF ”2000”
Satoshi Maezumi

Most importantly, here is the chassis.

The kit was released in late 1999. It seems strange to see a TRF without the signature blue colour, but there is a nice stark utilitarian look to this kit. The set-up wheels that come with the kit are also in the matching silver colour, as opposed to the blue ones that were included with the TRF414X.

As you can see this one still has the earlier arms that are a light grey plastic. The front suspension mount is fixed with no adjustment, and is held via the front bulkhead. Even back in the day you would sometimes make a front mount with a piece of GRP to provide a bit of front arm swing to change the cornering characteristics.

The shocks are gold fluorine, these were the same as the pink units that were available for the TA01/02 other than the colour. You still had to use spacers to adjust the spring tension.

The wheel hex's were not a clamp type, they would use a rubber o-ring to hold in the pin. 

The inner front suspension mount was also mounted to the bulkhead and made out of resin. Not adjustability but you could just make GRP mounts and space them out if you wanted to make the car wider at the front. The steering set-up pretty much stayed the same for all of the TRF414 cars. If you wanted to play with the length of the steering linkage or ackermann, there were replacement carbon steering bridges available from Tech racing. 

Here you can see the centre one way pulleys. The drivetrain had 32t front one way pulley, the centre had 15t oneways and the rear was a 32t pulley ball diff.  This gave you an internal ratio of 2.133

The rear of the chassis and you can see the carbon mount, again that we would change for different rear toe in. You did not have a lot of adjustment though as the suspension pins did not have balls at the end, so you did have to try to file the inner custom mount a little to ensure the arms did not bind and would fall under their own weight.

As you can see the towers had a large amount of settings for the upper arms to allow you to change the roll centres and camber gain. 

It was great to get set-up wheels in the kit. The actual kit did come with Sorex wheels and tyres. These set-up wheels were the same diameter. 

Memories of Racing the 414

The 414x, and the 414 were a big step up from the chassis that I raced before. The drivetrain was much more free than the TA03-R TRF which I still raced at that time. The car was a big step forward in stability and corner speed.  It was able to compete with any car available at the time.

The 414 was also much more reliable than the earlier car, the new plastics were a huge win as the 414X's aluminium hubs would warp on large hits. The added reliability of the 414 gave me a lot more confidence when attempting to hit the apex. 

Despite being dual deck the chassis was not that stiff, this helped it a lot when running outdoors, the car just seemed to have a lot more grip than most other cars at the track, even when running old tyres at a club race.

The bulkheads on the TRF414's all had the bearings mounted inside from the factory. This did ensure that everything just felt really free, but servicing them was a pain, as you couldn't really get them out very easily. One of the front bulkhead bearings on my original car became very notchy after a year of running outdoors. In the end it needed replacing and spare parts were not that easy to get so I had to get someone to remove the bearing and seal another one in the bulkhead.. Even now the cost of this fix makes me weep, and it did scar the perfect looking bulkhead.

Importantly the obvious competitive advantage that the TRF414 gave me at the track really helped me refocus on racing as I had been getting distracted with other things at the time.

Beyond the TRF414

Tamiya Racing Factory were up and running before the TRF404x, but the TRF414 was first freely available kit that was sold on the strength of the TRF brand alone. 

The chassis design made and impact on the scene, and other manufacturers took notice. The Xray T1 released 18 months later shares many similarities.  Tamiya did not sit still, they had a goal to win at the very top of the sport. 

The TRF414m was quickly released. Providing a big update, allowing easier rear toe settings and the front bulkheads had mounting points for anti-roll bars. The batteries were moved forward to help steering response.

These years of innovation and development had set things up perfectly for the In 2002 Ifmar ISTC worlds event in South Africa. Here the talented Surikarn Chaidejsuriya surprised the crowds and took Tamiya's first worlds championship with his modified TRF414M2. The first of many Tamiya world championships.

Here is the worlds edition that Surikarn drove had lightened bulkheads that helped make the car more responsive, it also had revised suspension mounts and a different front sway bar kit.

Surikarn's winning world championship set-up

So in conclusion the TRF414 was an important chassis and a definite classic that began a new dawn of competitive chassis from Tamiya. Is it one of my favourites.. well I do like it a lot, but the the real classics are yet to come.. 

Additional photos www.Tamiya.com
Worlds 5747229656006245828

Post a Comment

  1. Great write up on the TRF414 - just a side note there was three variations of the TRF404x which i think the one you have shown is the 3rd evolution. The first prototype had a lot more blue anodised parts.

  2. Perfect chassis !

    Mine since 2 years restauration



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