Words: Greg Vogel
Photos: Walter Sidas
Tamiya TA05 VDF II Drift Car
Pro Level Drift Ready
Drifting is one of those segments that rolls back and forth in popularity, but there are a number of groups out there that have never strayed away from their passion for driving sideways. With that underground following, the drift scene has evolved in many ways. No longer are people just converting sedans or adapting bodies, there are plenty of purpose-built kits and bodies that fit the part. Companies like Tamiya have addressed the needs of this segment with cars, bodies and accessories and now we’re seeing the evolution of some intense products. Tamiya’s latest high-end offering, the TA05 VDF II, is loaded with performance design that will give you the control you expect in a competition ready drifter. It’s time to look deep into this machine and see what makes it tick, and then we’ll see how it performs.
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Tamiya
WHO IT’S FOR: Intermediate
to advanced drivers
HOW MUCH: $529.99
BUILD TYPE: Kit
• New chassis and single plate upper brace allow more flex
• Top quality carbon fiber and machined aluminum parts
• Tuneable steering assembly
• Adjustable LiPo ready battery cradle
• Equipped with possibly the smoothest sedan shocks ever
• Would have liked carbon towers
When it comes to top quality sedans, Tamiya always hits their mark and they did so with this drift variant, the TA05 VDF II. The kit is a little pricey, but you get what you pay for in parts quality and precision performance.
• As you would expect, Tamiya chose carbon fiber as the chassis for this pro drifter. It’s a rather narrow chassis design with cutouts under the differentials, a cutout under the motor so it can sit lower and a number of machined areas that allow the chassis to flex. Moving up top, a vertical carbon fiber front and rear brace eliminates front-to-back flex but allows twist. All of the center bulkheads for the motor and drive assembly are machined from aluminum and anodized blue. The fit and finish of these components was what you’d expect from a kit at this price point. The battery cradle accepts LiPo and NiMH packs by adjusting little bumper pegs on the battery plates. A foam bumper is captured on top of a bumper plate up front to protect the car when you dive into corners too hard.
• Due to the forward mount motor setup which is optimum for drifting, Tamiya went with a triple belt drivetrain with thin belts riding on nylon plastic pulleys. Up front, a ball differential features plastic lightweight outdrives that send power through steel universal driveshafts to the wheels. The rear end gets a spool to push the rear around the corners with aluminum CV driveshafts to the wheels. Tensioner bearings help direct the belts and allow adjustment as the belts stretch. Tamiya even includes a pinion and several spur gears to get you going and I added a Yeah Racing spur brace plate for extra durability.
• The suspension was lifted from the proven TA05 racing platform with its reversible arms that allow different shock positioning depending on which way you run them. The upper turnbuckles are aluminum tie-rods with ball cups. The uprights and rear hub carriers are set up so the ball studs sit vertically and roll can be tuned by adding or removing washers. The shocks included with the kit are some of the best shocks you can buy for sedans. Tamiya’s hard coated shocks feature a lower aluminum cap and upper cap ring. The body is threaded for preload adjustments and the volume compensating bladder inside has foam inserts to prevent the bladder from collapsing.
• The steering setup, although it appears wrong, is a parallel crank system that swings the wheels for more precision while drifting. The cranks are machined from aluminum and the servo saver is mounted directly to the steering servo.
• Body, wheels, tires and electronics are all left up to you to purchase. I selected LRP’s Ultimo Drift Brushless ESC and Type 2 motor to power the car with Futaba’s 4PKS-R radio system and a BLS452 servo for steering; just the high end E-package the car deserves. A Venom 5000mAh battery dishes out plenty of power and run time. Topping the car off is Tamiya’s Nissan Skyline R32 body with optional light unit and lights. Although Tamiya offers a killer line of paints, I wanted to paint the body with a flip-flop color change scheme that I’ve seen used on a popular full scale R32 so I painted my body with Spaz-Stix paint. The tire/rim combo is Tamiya’s SuperDriftech. I highly recommend picking up Tamiya’s assembled wheels and drift tires; it’s so much easier to have the factory mount them!
Left: Inside the rear differential case is an aluminum spool that the rear diff gear bolts to. The outdrives on the spool are steel and mate up with blue anodized aluminum driveshafts. The wheel axle is steel. Center: The steering cranks are machined aluminum with ball bearings to swing ultra free because steering is so important on a drifter. Between the steering you can see the small carbon fiber brace plate and aluminum bulkhead that ties the front end of the car to the center assembly. Right: Tamiya equips the car with the same highly adjustable TA05 suspension components they use on several of their other race and sport platforms. 12mm aluminum hexes are standard equipment.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
OVERALL PERFORMANCE RATING: Very Good
Testing took place right outside the RC Driver office’s front door in the concrete parking structure. Some Road Domes, concrete pillars and lot walls made up the course. Since the tires are nearly plastic, I rolled on the throttle to build up speed for the first few switchback corners. The VDF II has good forward tracking so you can keep plenty of speed when entering corners. With a quick flick of the wheels, I sent the car drifting sideways into the first turn. At this point, the driving experience goes into slow motion as the car appears to slow, but the wheels are still spinning fast to keep the car pointed nose first at the inside line with some back and forth counter-steering. The car works well by rolling off the throttle and back on. Harsh on and off trigger movements may cause the car to come around too much and you’ll find yourself overcompensating to gather it back up.
I made lap after lap around my make-shift course, and found the VDF II to be very consistent, much more so than other drift cars I’ve run in the past. Then with my confidence secure, I decided to see what tricks I could pull off. Could I kick the car sideways down the lot’s ramp, around a wall and down the next ramp to the lower level of the garage? I ramped up the speed going down, kicked the car sideways and spun it right around the corner with a lot of counter-steering to straighten the car out as it went by the wall and down to the next level. It was an awesome thing to watch, close to what real stunt drivers do when Hooning around. Then I set up the classic empty Monster Energy drink can trick where you set the can up next to the wall and try punting it by swinging the rear of the car around to make contact. I hit the can without wrecking the rear body on the walls, over and over again. It was easy to get the VDF II to go where I wanted it.
THE LAST WORD
Drifters are a unique crowd and they pay close attention to scale detail on the modeling end of building their car while demanding that their car’s platform be set up with ultimate precision to carve the perfect line when pitching the car sideways in corners. It’s a lot to demand from a car and that is why Tamiya set out to build a high end platform such as the VDF II. Tamiya nailed it in the quality department and yes, the price does reflect that, but what you shell out is backed up by performance that will give you what you need in competition or will make you look like a pro if you are out drifting in front of the video camera.