Kyosho Mini-Z White Body – Ferrari 360 Modena

I purchased another White Body to paint, because the first one was so much fun. This time round, I got a Ferrari 360 Modena (MZN121) that is designed for the MR010/015 Chassis. My general impression of the new body is that while it is quite a nice body, the quality seems poorer than the Mazda. For one, there are far fewer parts in this body than the Mazda. The headlight assembly is unnecessarily clunky – There are two pieces that had to be assembled into the main body, but there is really no reason why they couldn’t have been molded directly into the main shell. No spoilers, no side skirting, no flip up head lights. Just a very simple shell.

Painting the Body
Being a Ferrari, I naturally bought a can of Italian Red Tamiya Paint (TS-8) for it. I also learned from my first body, and purchased a separate bottle of red paint for touch-up purposes. Unfortunately, this time round there seemed to be some orange peel effect on the paint job, but I was too lazy to fix it. Having used up my Mr. Hobby Topcoat, I opted for the Tamiya Clear Spray (TS-13) to cover the body. Next, I masked to the best of my ability and carefully painted the windscreen and window frames. Far fewer smudges this time round, though still not perfect. Again, remembering the experience from the previous body, I let the smudges dry overnight before touching up with red paint. For the tail-lights, I painted the base silver, so that the color of lamps (came pre-colored with clear paint) would show through. Lastly, I re-covered everything with three coats of TS-13. That’s about it as far as the paint job is concerned. There was some frosting of the clear coat, but a little polishing with the Meguiar’s Plast-X cleaned that up.


Assembling the Body
The body assembly was fairly simple. Three headlight lamps are inserted into each assembly, and two tail lights on either end. There is no rear wiper so that’s one less thing to worry about. For this body, I decided to try a method called Heat Swaging. Basically, when a stem is pushed through a locating hole, there is a portion of said stem that protrudes out the other end. I used a propane torch to heat up a screwdriver, and melted the stem onto the plastic surrounding the hole. This ensures a good joint. Just to be doubly sure, I use the Tamiya Extra Thin Cement to finish the joint. For the windscreen/window assembly, I also used an epoxy glue to secure the plastic bits before swaging. The part that was most difficult to work with was the headlight cover. There were two small tabs on each cover that helps locate it on the front of the shell, but it didn’t pass through to the other side. Since the part is highly visible, I did not want to apply the cement on it, which may mar the appearance. Lastly, the edge of the cover shows up prominently due to refraction, so it had to be painted red before securing using fast-setting epoxy. The final appearance wasn’t quite satisfactory, but good enough.

Car Width, Wheelbase and Handling
The shell uses a wider set of wheels than the stock. With the narrow front chassis plate, I used Narrow front wheels with 3.5mm offset (N3.5) and Wide rear wheels with 1mm offset (W1) for the car. Being chrome in color, this was a nice touch for the flashy sports car. I bought some Firelap grip tires for these wheels. They seemed a little tackier than the stock tires. This wider body is also more stable than the narrower ones, especially when cornering.

This shell uses a longer wheelbase than all my other shells, namely 94mm. So I had to pull the rear-suspension T-plate out to the outermost position. It became immediately clear that the suspension was too soft. Even with the rear shock connected, the car rear swung around badly when driving. In fact, it felt as though the whole rear was oscillating and unstable. So I swapped the plastic T-plate with the graphite one from 3Racing, and could feel the difference in handling instantly.

At the end of the day, this seemed to be a pretty simple, no frills shell, which required modification to the width and wheelbase of the car. It does drive very well, probably due to the combination of greater stability and tackier tires. This is now my main bashing shell, and has unfortunately picked up many scratches as a result.


Factory Resetting KT-19 Transmitter

The Mini-Z cars come with Kyosho KT-19 transmitters standard. This morning, I was playing the cars with my son when somehow, the transmitter became locked in full reverse and left turn. It may have something to do with the power switch being turned off while the car was moving. No matter what I did, once the car/transmitter communication was established, the car will start moving. There didn’t seem to be any mention of this in the manual, so after an hour or so of frustration, I decided to look through the forums. Turns out there’s a way to perform a factory reset, and it goes like this:

To reset the transmitter:
(1) Turn off the transmitter if it is on.
(2) Make sure that the steering trim knob is at the center position
(3) Turn the G.SPD L (speed limiter, right side) knob fully to the counterclockwise direction.
(4) Position of G.SPD H (LED control, left side) knob does not matter.
(5) Turn the steering wheel to the fully right position and push the throttle away to the full-brake position and hold them.
(6) Turn on the transmitter. The LED should flash rapidly; this means you are now in the factory mode.
(7) Release the steering wheel and throttle lever.
(8) Turn the steering wheel fully to the left, right, left and right, and then release it.
(9) Pull/push the throttle lever to full-throttle, full-brake, full-throttle, and full-brake, and then release it.
(10) Turn the G.SPD L knob to the right most position. The LED should become solid.
(11) Turn off the transmitter and on it again. You are done.

See more here:

The transmitter was good as new right after the reset!

Mini-Z White Bodies

The Mini-Z body shells come in two general flavors. The regular Autoscale (ASC) shells are detailed, beautifully assembled and painted things that cost anywhere from $50 to $80. Limited editions will of course cost a lot more. On the other hand, so-called white bodies can be purchased for cheap, maybe between $20-25. These are frequently gaudily painted for use on tracks. The rationale for that is that they are more easily recognizable in this way. Also, since they are cheaper, it hurts a lot less when one inevitably crashes.

I bought a Mazda RX-7 FD3S body, which you may recognize as the car driven by Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D. I had intended to put it on the AWD chassis. Much to my chagrin, it won’t fit! Thankfully it did fit on the MR-03N RM chassis, though the frustration I experienced with being unable to find such simple and essential information is a huge motivation for starting this blog.

Painting Mini-Z White Bodies
Checking with the local Mini-Z shop, I was told that priming was not necessary for these bodies. Simply rinse in soapy water, and use the Tamiya spray paints, followed by glossy clear spray (2-3 coats of each). At the hobby shop, I purchased a Mr. Hobby Glossy Top Coat instead, at the recommendation of the owner. I wanted to ensure that the paint would stick, so proceeded to prime it anyway with the Tamiya fine surface primer. After leaving to dry overnight, I sprayed the paint and clear coat on, with 15 minute intervals between coats. Checking the forums, it was suggested that the clear coat be applied either at the same interval as the paint, or after the paint has been left to dry (estimates ranged from overnight to 7 days). I left them on overnight. As an aside, opinions were divided as to whether the parts should be cemented before or after painting. Worrying that the paint coverage will not be adequate, I opted to paint first, bond later.

After spraying on the various layers, the shell was left to dry for 24 hours. At this point, the finish of the model was excellent. The metallic blue showed up nicely, and the finish, though not quite mirror finish, was adequate for a spray can, without any polishing.

Masking the model to allow painting of the finer details. This was where things went south!

Next up, I wanted to paint the details, like the engine air intake mesh, window frames, wipers, etc. I had some masking tape cut around these features. Unfortunately, this was where it all went to hell. Turns out despite my best effort, the masking tape was not properly sealing off the areas. In particular, when one strip of tape crossed another, a small channel is formed where the edges met. Coupled with my less than careful painting, this meant that I was actually painting multiple lines all over the body!! While some parts were faint enough to paint over, the top, front and back of the car had huge paint smudges that I could do nothing about. Furthermore, instead of waiting for the paint to dry completely, in my haste I painted over these areas, causing them to run a little, and making the tones visibly different. Lesson learnt, for sure. To cement the parts together, paint was removed from the attachment points by sanding. A small amount of plastic cement is applied, and the parts were held together using rubber bands. Parts like the mounting point and windscreen were further reinforced with epoxy.

Given that this was my first attempt, I thought it wasn’t a terrible effort. I was particularly proud of the rear lights, since this was my first time working on a model like this. The plastic was completely clear, but I had to replicate the dark glass of the actual car (see above). Furthermore, I needed the rear lights to ‘pop’, while keeping one of the lights clear red so that the light kit can shine through. To achieve all these, I painted the lights with clear paint (two red, one amber). Next, I backed two of the lights with flat aluminum paint. The last one was left clear. Lastly, I painted the entire internal surface (minus the clear red portion) with black paint. The external surface was completely unpainted. This gave the glossy, dark glass result that I thought neatly captures the look of the original.

What I would do differently
What would I do differently if were given the chance? Firstly, I will bond all the parts that are the same color as the main chassis together before painting. Trying to remove paint and primer without scuffing other parts is incredibly difficult. Secondly, I’d definitely do a much better job with the masking. Thirdly, if there are spots and smudges, I’d wait a long while before applying new paint. I’d also buy both the spray can and the equivalent bottle, for touch-up purposes. Patience is a real virtue in this endeavor! Lastly, I’ll experiment with the Tamiya Clear Coat instead of the Mr. Hobby one, since the final product seemed to chip quite easily. Some users have commented that Tamiya’s clear paint seems to give a very hard finish. That should come in handy for Mini-Z racing!

White bodies are a whole other level of fun for Mini-Z. Sure, it’s a lot of work. But when you’re done, you end up with a car that’s really your own. That’s invaluable! I’m really looking forward to the Ferrari 360 MZN121 white body that should arrive in a day. I’ll also be updating this post when the light kit arrives. Watch this space!

Kyosho Mini-Z Nissan 180SX MA-020S Review

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.


First Post: Mini-Z Introduction

Welcome to the Mini-Z Noob blog! I started this blog because I’ve fallen in love with Mini-Z, but find the information out there bewildering, to say the least. I hope to be able to cover the following topics here:

  1. Introduction to Mini-Z system;
  2. Driving principles;
  3. Hop-ups and their purposes;
  4. Short reviews of parts.

To get us started, I should introduce my cars. I bought two of these at the same time, namely a Subaru Impreza KX1, MR-03S chassis, and a Nissan 180SX MA-020S chassis. Both cars came fitted with the LED light kit, and although I had intended to get only the Nissan, the Impreza was going at a 20% discount and I couldn’t pass up. For the uninitiated (as I was a mere week ago!!), the MR-03S is the new two-wheel drive (2WD) chassis that, I was told, is more popular for racing on tracks. The MA-020S is the new all-wheel drive (AWD) drift kit, and can be driven indoors, like in a living room.

To power these babies, I purchased two sets of PN Racing 888mAH batteries, as well as an Ace 800mAH set. Of the two, the PN ones seem to be punchier and gives good performance till the end (but with a precipitous drop-off in power in the last minute of drive time), while the Ace batteries seem to run at 75% speed, and seems to run out sooner but more gradually.

Having driven the AWD quite a bit in the past week, I have already noticed some things that I don’t like, and will take some time to describe these in the next couple of posts. I have also placed orders for a large number of optional parts, and will, in due time, give reviews of these items. Stay tuned!