What are RC Drift Cars ?! Overview and Guide

RC Drift Car Racing: Fad or a Driven Culture?

rc drift cars race track
photo courtesy of KumaKumaFilms

RC Drift Car History

In order to understand RC Drift Cars we have to dive into the origins of RC cars.

They have been around since the 1940s, and of course as have actual cars, evolved along with technology, laws, and consumer needs.

These first cars were powered by a tiny nitromethane engine, but could only operate on a tether, therefore could not get very far from the operator.

The first remote RC cars were introduced in the 1960s by an innovative Japanese company, Tamiya, that recognized the potential for these cars to catch on.

It seems Tamiya was right. These cars could do much more than their crude predecessors as they could actually race on a track emulating the growing popularity of speed racing.

It was actually during the decade of the 1960s that drift style racing originated in Japan. Japanese racing took place on roads in the winding mountains.

Drivers needed to be greatly skilled to maintain control of the cars on sharp turns on these roads to not only win the race but to avoid driving off the mountain itself.

red drift rc car

Apparently, the monotony of trying to achieve top speeds day in and day out became boring to the racing group called the Rolling Zoku.

They began experimenting with exceeding the grip limit with their tires and realized they could maintain control of their cars at top speeds.

This technique of exceeding tire grip limit was not implemented into actual track racing until the 1970s.

It then parlayed itself into drift racing with drivers using the technique to drift their cars at dangerously high speeds to maneuver corners.

The technique of drifting continued to evolve and was mastered by the drivers of the All Japan Touring Car Championship, with one driver, in particular, a former motorcycle racer.

Who realized he was able to master corners at their sharpest by using the tire grip technique which caused over-steering. The combination of tire grip and over steering is how drift car racing evolved as an extreme sport.

Meanwhile, RC car racing interest was becoming worldwide.

These tiny replicas of actual racing cars were very intricately made, with engines, transmissions, drivetrains, tires, and bodies very much like the actual cars.

These racing cars would soon leave the track and into the terrain of off-road racing.

The Japanese firm Tamiya still maintained their competitive edge as they were the first to introduce remote RC racing cars.

However, Tamiya had a competitor, and that competitor, Yokomo, in 2003 took RC racing cars into a new era with the first RC drift racing cars modeled after the 1970’s style of drift car racing.

allstars drift car

Since that time RC drift car racing has become a very popular hobby, and what some consider a sport, in both Europe as well as the United States.

Stuttgart, Germany was host to amazing RC drift car racing in 2016.

To see these cars drift racing around tight corners and around other cars is quite breathtaking.

Fair Erfurt, Germany was host to another awesome race in January 2017, getting the new year off to a good start for the world of RC drift car racing.

Before the start of the race, the cars were all on display, beautifully roped off where spectators could see, the cars from a camera angle do indeed appear to be the real thing.

Like real auto racing, the cars bear details of sponsors such as Good Year,LIPO and are advertising displays of products related to radio drift car racing.

Different Types of RC Drift Cars

Drift RC cars racing means that theres lot more involved in choosing the right car than just body style.

While most of these cars do look awesome, some downright scary looking, what goes on under those tiny hoods is even more important.

For example, there are two choices when it comes to powering RC drift cars, electricity (battery powered) or nitro, which is a fuel or ether powered car.

nitro moto cars kit
Nitro Motor Kit

Battery powered cars are lighter and this does give an advantage in racing.However, the nitro powered cars have more torque and can run for much longer periods of time.

It is important to note that due to the extra weight of the nitro powered cars, they do not last as long.

They require more maintenance, and when they collide, both your kit and the other cars involved are pretty much destroyed.

You might say the nitro powered car is prone to be a one hit wonder.

The electric powered RC drift racing cars while not as “real” as the nitro powered version, has the advantage of being light weight, and they have longer life span.

From an economic standpoint, the electric powered RC drift racing cars are more affordable for beginners.However they have continued cost with upgrades and battery packs.

rtr kit
Electric Motor Kit

If you would like to know different types of motors utilized by electric RC drift cars. Along with pro’s and con’s of the motors check out our article here.

There are many body styles for RC drift cars as there are in actual auto racing.

This is actually where this hobby can run into some real expense as well as fun.

Racers want their cars to look tough, gain attention and even the envy of their competitors.

For those RC drift racing car enthusiasts who simply love the thrill of the race, there are ready-to-run (RTR) cars available in the local RC car hobby shops and online.

However, make sure that the ready to run model comes with everything you need to play right out of package.

Some are RTR but need you to buy other accessories and paint it yourself.

The last thing anyone wants to do is order a fantastic looking ready-to-run car, that cannot run or cannot run for long periods because a battery pack was not included or ordered.

For those RC car enthusiasts who maybe got their start in building stationary model cars, the build it yourself kits are a great way to take that hobby up a notch.

Many of the build it yourself kits come with the base (inside mechanisms) with the option of interchangeable body designs.

While the kits do cost a bit more than ready-to-run cars, in the long run, they may actually cost less, unless the RC drift car racing enthusiast likes to have more than one car on the road at a time.

 Culture of RC Drift Car Racing and Racers

The RC drift car racing culture is growing exponentially. It is not only a participatory sport, it is fast becoming a spectator sport, with fans coming from all over to cheer on their favorite racers or cars.

drift car pre race

Along with friendly competition there are trophies that have monetary awards.

In addition to racing events, there are festivals, shows, and even social media groups.

People involved in this hobby come from all walks of life, all age groups, and all demographics.

RC drift car racing is exciting enough without adding fuel to the fire, right? Apparently not.

The ability to drift-style race and avoid fires set along the track is another added feature in some races.

This, of course, emulates real race car driving when there is a car that spins out of control, hits a wall, or other car and catches fire.

The race does not stop and the car drivers must use all their skills to avoid hitting the burning car or cars and finish the race.

There are costs to belonging to any sort of hobby or culture, this one is no different.

RC drift racing cars can cost anywhere from $50.00 to the thousands depending upon factors from whether the car is using the any trademark or replicas.

These licenses have to be paid for, and that means the consumer will pay more for the product.

In addition to the costs of the actual cars, there are accessories, the costs of events, travel, lodging, and food while attending these events.

There are even competitions on parking RC drift cars, as well as RC drift racing car shows.

While looks are not always everything, they can certainly make up for not winning the trophy for the actual race.

blue rc car

It is a good idea to plan ahead if you want to compete. Check out many of the various websites devoted to RC racing and drift racing.

Sign up for newsletters, emails, text messages of events, and also become a member of message boards, and/or social media groups.

Those who are seasoned RC drift racing enthusiasts can help newcomers avoid many mistakes and can provide some very useful tips for getting the most from events, while not spending the most.

There are less costly ways, at least monetarily to enjoy RC drift car racing.

There are apps/games available for smartphones and tablets that allow enthusiasts to enjoy drift car racing from the comfort of their sofas, office chairs, or (hopefully not) their own driver’s seat.


Evolving Technologies of RC Drift Racers

Today’s RC drift car racing would not be what it is, or at all, had it not been for the first RC cars.

The technological advances have come a long way for RC cars since the first tethered cars of the 40’s.

Since then the radio transmitters have gone from the size of a small boom box to the smartphone.

The earlier transmitters and cars both had antennas, and while the transmitters over time became smaller, there was still the need for the antennae.

Then there was infrared technology that did away with the need for a visible antenna.

As technology has advanced for computers, satellites, wireless, and Bluetooth technologies, RC car racing enthusiasts have also seen great advances in the design and performance of their cars.

smart phone app for rcThere are even smartphone apps for traditional RC cars as well as RC drift racing cars.

These apps use Bluetooth technology to control the cars.

Users are crazy about these apps because they can take their smaller RC drift racing cars with them anywhere, pull out their phones and start racing or just stunting.

These apps are available through Google Play for Android smartphones or the Apple Store for iPhones.

Although we are far from developing an app that can be used at competition level yet.

But companies such as Traxxas have introduced their own app for their higher end RC kits.

pvc drift tires
PVC Drift Tires

Obviously, RC drift car racing is relatively new itself and has benefited from improved and new technologies.

However, the ability to drift still goes back to the tires and over-steering.

Most RC drift racing cars are four-wheel drive, even though there are some that are rear-wheel drive.

Most cars come with rubber or foam tires, however, rubber tires need replacing often, just like tires on real cars.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or PVC tires actually perform quite well, and last a great deal longer than rubber tires.

Both types of tires can be bought premade through RC drift car makers, or the materials can be acquired at the local hardware store and fashioned into tires.

ABS comes in black, but PVC is white and not as desirable as the ABS, however, a little spray paint and the less expensive PVC is ready to go, with an added bonus of it performing better on concrete over rubber or ABS.

RC Drift Cars Buyers Guide

When choosing any type of RC car, there are many factors to consider.

First as discussed earlier, the type of fuel is important.

Nitro-fueled cars do initially go faster, but they are heavier, and due to actual combustion engines, need more repairs and simply do not last long.

The electricity powered cars are operated with rechargeable batteries and while the battery life is not as long lasting as nitro fuel, the cars themselves last longer.

There are quick chargers that can make for actual quick pit-stops for the cars, but batteries today actually last for several more minutes than batteries of just a few years ago.

For the beginner who is just exploring an interest in RC drift car racing, it is probably better to go with one of the less expensive models, and then build up to the more expensive as interest grows.

Remember, there are ready to run models as well as ready to build car kits.

rtr kits pack
RTR Kits

In addition to both the ready to run and ready to build kits, there are accessories that can really make drift cars stand out.

Some racers don’t care as much for the aesthetics, the appearance of the car, as they do mechanics.

While there are some that want their drift racing cars to appear like an actual drift racing car down to the most minute detail.

The available accessories range from fancy light kits to spoilers, or specialized decals.

For those more interested in the mechanics, there are also add-on kits to enhance the drifting ability of the cars, such as improved rear differential and suspension.

Those who are skilled in auto mechanics as a trade or a hobby can do wonders with their RC drift racing cars.

rc kit picture
Ready to Build Kits

Hobbyists and enthusiasts should know that when purchasing a RC drift racing car, the same features should be desired as if looking for a real life drift racer.

Things to look for are a polycarbonate body, it is sleeker which enhances maneuverability and speed; quality adjustable shocks- shocks tend to wear out quickly if this item is skimped on.

While it is great to have an eye-catching design, for drift racing the design needs to also be sleek to make taking those corners easier.

Additionally, the car, just like a real life car, is going to run only as well as the quality of the chassis, which for optimum endurance the grade of plastic needs to be of the highest quality.

However, whenever possible opt for metal or aluminum parts for longer lasting life and durability.

The inner workings of the car cannot be stressed enough. While the brushed motor does run into quite a bit more money, it is the chosen motor of serious racers.

Additionally, even though the lighter cars may have more speed, the frame of the RC drift car should be heavier, rather than lighter.

nimh packAs with real cars, obviously, the quality of tires is important, and the best drift racing cars are four-wheel drive.

When selecting the RC drift racing cars, it is important to be sure that the battery pack is included.

It not only costs more to purchase it separately, but you want to make sure it is the right battery pack for the specific model of car.

Additionally, be sure the proper tools for the specific car ordered are included or available for order.

The best thing to remember when investing in a RC drift racing car is that “you get what you pay for”.

Money well spent in the beginning can save on repairs and/or replacements later on.

For the new buyer or racer, spend some time with other racers or in an actual store before going to the web to purchase.lipo pack

While yes, generally online prices are lower, and many with free shipping, some with no tax.

It is best to get a literal feel of the product and get an up-close look at the detail.

Reading about a product and seeing and touching it are two different things.


Much has indeed changed since the first RC cars, and especially since those Japanese daredevils first realized the thrill of pushing the limits of tire traction and over-steering.

Today’s enthusiasts not only enjoy the thrill of buying but building and collecting RC drift racing cars.

The expense of time, travel, and money can be quite exorbitant.

However, the adrenaline rush of competition or the satisfaction of having the best looking car on the track, coupled with meeting new friends with shared interests make it all worth it.

Whether you are a beginner to the fastest growing hobby in the western world or a seasoned veteran.

It definitely pays to follow all the latest news and trends when it comes to RC drift car racing.

Check out local hobby shops, local groups, or on social media.

Inexpensive cars for beginners- these begin at less than $35.00.

Cars for the more seasoned hobbyists – ranging from $100 to thousands of $$$$.

Whether RC drift car racing for sport, or as a backyard hobby, there seems to be something about this style of racing that attracts a following.

Who knows, maybe this popular style of racing has become so popular; it just might become America’s new favorite past time.

Leave a Comment