In 2016, Kyosho released the Nissan 180SX MA-020S Readyset that comes with the optional light kit. My interest in Mini-Z was first piqued when I saw a listing on a local forum where this particular model was offered. This car reminded me of Initial D, which I wasn’t particularly fond of, but which I recall was wildly popular in Singapore in the late 90s. I did a bit of research, and found that the actual car in the anime (Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86) was also available as a body shell for Mini-Z, and I became intrigued. Also, it turns out that the 180SX was also in the show, though driven by a terrible driver (Kenji) in a terrible team (Akina Speed Stars)! Despite this unfortunate association, I decided to purchase the set anyway, since the Initial D series of cars costs around US$50 more.
Unboxing the Mini-Z
The car comes with a transmitter, a bunch of plastic spare parts, and some cones for practicing your driving. The MA-020S is an all-wheel drive (AWD) chassis, and a so-called drift kit. It is designed to allow for easy drifting, and because of that the wheels are made of hard plastic instead of rubber. On the plus side, the car really does spin its wheels quite a bit; on the minus side, the car is well-nigh impossible to drive on tiled flooring. I’ve found that driving on the cement flooring in the nearby parking lot gave the balance of grip and slide. It’s also a bit of a mystery that the Mini-Z drift kits are AWD, when in real automobiles the 2WDs are more typically used for drifting. The physics is unclear to me at this point.
As mentioned, the car comes with the light kit, with head and tail lights that brighten when moving forward and backwards, respectively. Both the transmitter and chassis are powered by 4 x AAA batteries. I use PN Racing NiMH 888mAh cells for the car, which gives a nice balance of power and longevity. In particular, the batteries are advertised to provide ‘constant voltage’. In practice, this means that the car performs at near its peak for about half an hour, and drops off precipitously for another two minutes before becoming flat. This contrasts with the Ace batteries that I also have, which sees a gradual degradation of car performance with drive time. For the transmitter, I opted for alkaline batteries, since they are slower to discharge and can last far longer in the battery pack.
Quick thoughts on driving Mini-Z
Mini-Zs are extremely responsive to the commands from the transmitter. As a beginner, it is highly recommended that one starts off in training mode, which limits the power to about 50%. They require high degree of concentration, though the open parking lot is far more forgiving than tracks. They are definitely not meant for little kids. Mastering driving the Mini-Z AWD has not been easy. It’s simple enough to get the car to drift, but controlling exits from drifts is a much tougher prospect. The cones are helpful for practicing drift runs, and I have also ordered the optional gyro, which is supposed to help with the counter steering and hence the drifting control. We’ll see how that turns out.
Even though I’m a noob at this, I’ve already noticed that the car isn’t really designed for dusty environs. Case in point – When I first drove at the parking lot, the car would occasionally stall. Inspecting the gears reveal that small pieces of gravel (~ 1 mm diameter) had become lodged between the pinion and spur. A small piece of tape over the hole fixes that, but begs the question why that didn’t come standard. The plastic gears also show signs of wear relatively quickly. Aluminum replacement parts have been ordered.
Another thing to note is that the body shell has many parts that can fall off, including the rear wiper, side mirrors, and tail pipe. In fact, I didn’t even realize when my tail pipe fell off, and the one in the image above is a replacement from an RX-7 kit (more on that later). This is really annoying since these plastic parts cannot be easily found on the market, and each model has a slightly different method of attaching its tailpipe to the body.
The Mini-Z drift kit is a lot of fun. The diminutive nature of the system, and the fact that a mere 4 X AAA batteries ensures 20-30 minutes of action, means that it is incredibly easy to get driving time in. Simply put the car and transmitter into a sling bag and you’re ready to go! I’m sure I’ll learn much more about the system as time goes on. For now, I’ll enjoy the simplicity of the speed and drift.