Tamiya On-Road chassis
A radio-controlled model is basically a chassis and a bodyshell, exactly what Tamiya did understand to its full extend since their introduction into the RC world back in 1976. The 2 star brand specialized in declining several models using a common chassis but varying bodies and rims. The interest in doing so is a triple combo:
- the offering range is wider
- development costs are limited
- the industrial tool is made more profitable
What I just described is the strategy used by real-size car manufacturers. VAG (Volkswagen) is a perfect example of that: the group produces platforms (chassis) and elements (organs) like motors, suspension etc... The brands of the group (12 brands in 2015) choose the elements they need in the group organ bank. So, basically, a VW Golf is also a Seat Leon, a Škoda Octavia or an Audi A3: several vehicles sharing a common base, but each with their own specifications in terms of look, price tag and brand identity. To my knowledge, Tamiya is still the only RC manufacturer using such a strategy today, and has been almost from the beginning.
Besides, developing a whole new chassis can take several years because it needs to meet real or expected market needs. Industrially, all parts need to be carefully designed and correct material chosen, and then molds for all these parts plus the bodyshell molds need to be built. In short, developing a new chassis only for one unique model is industrially and commercially a high risk:
- commercially, the model should be marketed long enough in order to have enough time develop the next. It should also generate enough revenues to recoup its own development costs, but also the next chassis development costs. This implies that the manufacturer must succeed: the model has to sell well and sell for a long time.
- industrially, the production volume needs to be very high unless the final price of the model is much too expensive for the public.
Many brands appeared and then disappeared in the radio-controlled industry, proving how real these constraints are. Manufacturers specialized in making only bodyshells also prove that the public needs custom bodies, or at least to find other bodies than those available at the model maker.
That's why Tamiya's strategy in this market is so interesting. The japanese manufacturer first designs a chassis and then produces different bodies in order to widen the offering as the public sees different models. Depending on the platform success, Tamiya keeps on offering new bodies to satisfy more clients. On several occasions, Tamiya brought evolutions to the chassis in order to conquer new markets. Widening or narrowing tread (arms length), giving more or less ground clearance or slightly modifying the gear ratio were often enough for this purpose. An on-road chassis could then become off-road(TL-01 / TL-01B) or the opposite (DF-01 / TA-01).
Since 1976, Tamiya's range of RC products featured several chassis families, evolutions of these platforms, but also adaptations to different markets. This article is not meant to be either technically detailed nor exhaustive on each chassis or platform. Over 30 years of production are reviewed: the release chronology of the models is not respected in order to remain accurate with the different product range logic. This is an overview, an analysis that goes beyond the models themselves, in order to unveil Tamiya's commercial and industrial strategies.
To better understand the models, both on and off-road, keep in mind that back in 1976, Tamiya was already a major and renowned actor on the static models market. Back then, they had a 1/12th scale line of products called "Big Scale" (this series still exists). Tamiya will use them for their first RC models, which explains why they were so detailed and their specific scale. Literally speaking, the first RC models were models in motion: on the box, it was written "Suitable for Radio Control".
Many people think Tamiya released their first RC models following the rule: 1 chassis = 1 model, especially for the 50 to 60 first released models. Not in a strict manner, but the general idea is that they still hadn't developed very effective industrial and commercial strategies by that time and that they were almost multiplying chassis at the same rate they released models. The period reality is somewhat different: yes, multiplying models on a single chassis was not reaching today's level, but Tamiya never got into the RC market naively. Just the opposite: there was already a true market strategy, very efficient, right from the very beginning.
This is a very long article, over 10 pages to cover all Tamiya on-road chassis. So you can read it like a book, turning pages thanks to the navigation commands at the bottom of every page. Or, especially if you are looking for information about a specific platform, you can use the article index just below.
Index of Tamiya On-Road platforms
6. TA platform
7. TB platform
8. TL platform
9. TT platform
10. FF platform
12. XV platform
Enough talking, let's time travel just a few millimeters above the tarmac.