So the big question is " Will my F103R go limp on the grid next to the F104?"
Well yesterday at the Shizouka Hobby show here in Japan we had a chance to see the car and meet the designer.
Looking at the pictures of the car in magazines the chassis didn't look like much. Seeing it in person and get the talk with the designer shined a light on a few things.
"How do you get the battery in and out?" Most of the cars with center batteries require some wrenching to get the battery out. The F104 has a very slick system to remove and replace the battery. Take a quick look at the picture on the left.
The battery acts as a lever of sorts for the receiver and speed control mounts pivot. To put the battery in you slide it in at an angle,as the battery is moved to the rear and centered the receiver and speed control move with the battery to line them back up.When the battery is completely moved back into its cradle a lock held in with two body clips is installed. That's it. It take about two seconds.
"What about the front suspension?" The front suspension also has a few tricks up its sleeve.Of course its is a link type suspension. That is easy to see in the picture,but what inst is that the camber is adjustable. Again looking at the picture to the left,notice the two nuts,one for the front wing and the other for the suspension arm. This is actually a plate that is reversible. You have the choice of zero or negative camber. Also you can adjust the ride height in the front suspension. Tamiya has went to larger wheels,this allows the use of standard F103 uprights and two spacers. The spacers can be moved from the top and bottom to adjust to your ride height choice.
"Look at that diff whats going on?" Its a classic Tamiya diff with a few new ideas. First there is no thrust bearing just some roller bearings and the pressure discs. Adjusting the diff requires removing the wheel and removing the pin that hold the threaded cap on to get at the adjusting nut. So you can remove the wheel without having to reset your diff.
"Will the gear box explode if i hit the left side hub?" Well yes! The left side of the plastic gearbox is even thinner than the F103. So Tamiya will sell you a set of alloy side plates for the F104. Its the first time Tamiya has ever made the left side in alloy,finally!!
" Those tires sure look big" They are big. 44mm tall. The front are 30mm wide and the rear are 35mm wide. Tall and skinny just like the current F1 cars. The wheels are sort of an illusion. To make them look like real F1 tires they have molded a foam pattern in the wheel lip. Its a little hard to see in the picture but the effect is a nice touch.
"That body looks great!" It sure does! Tamiya went with the Chevron approach and made the body out of different pieces. The only thing bad is they are still using the F1 helmet from 20 years ago. The HPI F10 has a nice new style helmet that would look great on the Tamiya F104 body. One nice detail about the body is that the rear hugs the gear box to direct air to the motor.
"Whats not to like?" Well the tie rods at at a very strange angle,bump steer might be an issue. Also link type suspension isn't loved by all. Most feel it cause to much over steer. It might be hard getting the front to act correctly. The center battery is not a proven way of doing business.
Most enjoy the battery weight in the rear.
"What about my first question? Will my F103 go limp?" No!! Its still an F1 chassis. There isn't any reason why the F104 and F103R cant be classed the same. The F104 is a nice bit of kit but the F103 is a legend. It will be hard for the F104 to over shadow the F103 on the circuit.