A Brief history of RC Cars

October 14, 2022

A Brief history of RC Cars - Force1RC

So, you got your Force1 RC Atomic X and your Cyclone LED, and you’re up to date with the world of RC cars. But do you know about its history?

That’s right! Today, we’ll be looking at part 1 of a set of blogs dedicated to the origins of RC cars and their development through the decades. We’re only covering up to the 1970s, so if you want to know more about the history of this wonderful hobby, read on!

The ‘30s: Before RCs

RC cars weren’t even a thought back in the 1930s, but that didn’t stop people from racing their very own self-made toy cars. London was one of the first places where model car racing started taking shape, as hobbyists focused on racing cars with rubber band and clockwork mechanisms. These propelling methods sound archaic by today’s standards, but they weren’t as slow as you’d think. According to RC-Junkies.net, a 4-wheeled rubber band toy car could accelerate to 40 mph in 3 seconds or less. Car racing was so engaging back then that, in 1936, the Model Car Racing Association was created, offering a membership service and support to all existing model types.

The ‘40s: Tether Racing!

During the ‘40s, people in the UK and the US started customizing their model cars with miniature petrol engines. They were powerful but offered little-to-no control over car trajectory. To offset this, hobbyists developed tether racing, which takes place on a circular track where the car is tethered to a pole at the center of the field. The model car would be started and spun, and the tether would keep it inside the circular lane. Unfortunately, this type of racing didn’t allow cars to race each other, so hobbyists raced the clock for the best overall time. By this decade, model cars could reach up to 60 mph! Check out this video from the British Pathé website to see how they did it back then. Cool thing is that tether racing is still a thing today!

The ‘60s, RCs Incoming!

The first remote controlled model racing car was released in Italy in 1966 by a company called Elettronica Giocattoli. The model was a Ferrari 250LM and was nitro-powered, so it was still different from the modern electric RC cars we know today.

It was also during this time that other companies began to manufacture RC kits. These cars were 1/8th in scale, relied on model airplane engines for power, and had a flatbed chassis. Known as “pan cars”, these RC cars would rule the RC scene until the early ‘80s.

The ‘70s: Stepping Up the Game

The 70s saw an explosion of pan car racing, but this trend would be challenged by the end of the decade, when electric RCs were first introduced. In 1976, the Japanese company Tamiya released the first pan-shaped electric RC car kit, based on the Porsche 934 model. The car was 1/12th in scale, so it was smaller, cheaper, and more accessible. The idea of an electric motor became a hit, and soon other competitors began manufacturing their own electric RC car kits.

Finally, in 1979, Tamiya challenged the RC car world again by producing something thought impossible before: off-road RC cars! Made with a buggy-shaped chassis, rubber tires, and a suspension system, these off-road RCs could withstand almost any uneven road or track, making them instant hits on the market.

And that’s it for this blog! Did you learn something new about RC car history? Did you race RC cars during any of these decades? Tell us your story in the comments below! If this entry got you interested in RC cars or RC car racing, check out our Force1 RC catalog for the latest RC car toys. Stay tuned for part two, where we explore RC cars in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and beyond!