I wrote my first guide on buying 1/16 scale tanks over a year ago and so much has changed I've decided to write a second guide summarising what is currently on the market as of August 2007:
Tamiya's: These are available in two forms on E-bay: as unassembled kits normally from Hong Kong or the US or as 'customised' and assembled models sold by private individuals. Tamiya make the finest RC models available but you have to pay for them. They have incredibly accurate detailing, move in a realistic manner, the sound is usually a recording of the real tank and increases in pitch as the tank moves forward. The gun flashes and recoils realistically... basically they're real tanks in minature. Price apart they have two drawbacks though: assembling the kits requires a reasonable amount of modelling skill and a lot of time. Unless specified you also need to buy two 7.2V batteries, a charger, a 4 channel RC transmitter and a reciever. Most retailers will help you buy the correct items but it adds at least 100 pounds onto the bill.
Currently Tamiya offer a range of full option tanks: the Tiger 1, King Tiger, M26 Pershing, Panther, Sherman and the more modern Leopard II. A Jagdpanther is due out anytime soon. I've read that the Sherman may be on the point of being withdrawn- if so I'll update when confirmed.
I recently built my first Tamiya (a King Tiger) and was blown away by the quality of it. Yes, it was expensive but it was also worth it. When I have time I'll write an account of the build and exactly what you need for other buyers tempted to buy their first full option tank.
WSN: WSN (the RC arm of trumpeter) make only 1 RC tank: the T34-85. Sadly this is out of production so if you see one don't miss out, especially as they only cost ~£40. These are beautifully made models although as RC tanks go they are 'beginner level' with basic electronics, single speed and no smoke and sound capability. Another downside is that most versions available will only run on alkaline AA's (rechargeable AA's don't work with them) so they can be pricey to run. Don't confuse these with the non-RC static models made by Trumpeter. Both companies use the same mouldings for their tanks but only the WSN is RC capable.
A US halftrack and a King Tiger are in production: these are static models but can apparently be converted to RC. If so they'll be worth looking out for.I've just found out that WSN have reworked their T34 & added a Tiger to the range. Both are available in summer or winter cammo, fitted with sound and an infa-red battle system (a luxury previously only made by Tamiya). The standard of finish on all 4 models is pro-standard and with an E-bay average price of approx £70-80 these look like a superb deal. I had a look at their 'summer Tiger' last weekend and was quite impressed. A little more delicate than a Heng Long or Tamiya Tiger but a very realistic model that drove well. The IR battle system is fun if you have two tanks- 6 hits and the 'dead' tank refuses to move for 30 seconds. The new generation of WSN's have a rechargeable battery pack which slashes the cost of running them.
Torro/Matorro: Rather like Toyota & Lexus Matorro is Heng Longs 'Luxury' models. They generally use better quality parts than Heng Longs and all come with full smoke & sound capability as standard. The main drawback is that they use a 9.6V battery rather than the standard 7.2V used by Tamiya/Heng Long so replacing parts can be a problem. Nice models though and good value. I have read on some US websites that many SturmTiger customers feel the model is a little underpowered (possibly as result of the battery only being 1500maH) and has problems turning. If any UK owners can confirm or refute this please let me know.
I've seen some pre-release pics of Torro's new King Tiger... very nice indeed. One of the most realistic looking 'ready to use straight from the box' tanks and should be compatible with Tamiya metal tracks etc. This will be the largest 1/16 tank available at over 60cm from muzzle to exhaust pipe.
Heng Long: Rather like Skoda in cold war Czechoslovakia for most us there is only one make of RC tanks thats an option: Heng Long. Equally rather like Skoda their reputation for shoddy quality control is actually several years out of date. Their current batch of RC tanks are of very high quality and you should expect them to work well. I've owned about 10 so far and only 1 gave me any real problems (and that was a dodgy main board that cost less than 10 pounds to fix). They're very study in construction and the range of upgrade parts and conversions kits is immense... so much so that I may write another guide advising how best to upgrade your HL soon.
Generally though all Heng Longs come in two variants: basic & full smoke and sound. If your seller doesn't advertise which version he's offering then 99% of the time its the basic option tank. Its taken me a year or so to work out how to quickly tell the difference between models and its actually stupidly simple: if the box is white its smoke & sound. If the box is mainly black it isn't.
The basic models come with three changeable frequencies that allows multiple tanks to run at the same time. Speed control is limited to 'fast' and 'very fast' and they make no noise apart from motor whine. They're a bit basic and for the extra money I'd recommend you get a smoke & sound variant. That said you can sometimes pick up a basic one for less than the price of some spare tracks so its often better value buying a new tank than some spare parts!
The smoke and sound ones are far more sophisticated: they have full engine, machine gun & cannon sounds effects, have better proportional speed control and a smoker unit that runs on light oil and pumps smoke from the exhausts. The smoker isn't terribly robust and needs to be kept filled with between 1-5mls of fluid. Too much and it jams- too little and it burns out. On the plus side replacements are cheap and easy to fit. All smoke and sound HLs have a fixed frequency crystal 1-4 that allows multiple tanks to run at the same time. You get 1 crystal with each tank so may end up with two on the same band. Spare crystals cost about 6 pounds and are fairly easy to buy.
All Heng Longs have an airsoft BB gun that fires 6mm balls. They all have motorised turrets that turn left and right and all have realistic individually linked tracks (rather than rubber bands)
So far Heng Long have 5 tanks on the market:
Tiger: The original and many feel the best. Allegedly a direct copy of the Tamiya Tiger Heng Long included 3 'errors' to avoid getting sued: the commanders hatch is in the wrong position, the gun is in the half recoil position and the gun mantle is upside down. These are all relatively easy to fix with a screwdriver, some epoxy resin & parts easily available on E-bay. Different variants are available (late model, early model) and plenty of variation in paint scheme. All are good fun so buy one you like the look of.
A new generation of HL Tigers are now appearing with metal running gear as standard and an extra 3:1 gear wheel to slow them down and increase the power of the motors. They're far more expensive than the older models but still several hundred pounds cheaper than a Tamiya. Check with your supplier exactly what spec the tank is if the ad isn't clear. The newer ones look far more realistic that the older plain-grey models.
Panther: Sadly a bit done on the cheap. Heng Long made a new top and mounted it on the Tiger chassis to get two tanks from one base unit. As a result its too wide, the sloping front on a real Panther is strangely 'kinked' on the model and the rear doesn't slope enough. Virtually all UK panthers are none-smoke & sound, although some S+S versions can be found. On the plus side Panthers are dirt cheap, can be repaired with Tiger parts and if you have some decent modelling skills you can make a new front, side skirts etc relatively easily and have a tank that stands out from the crowd. I suspect the Panther won't be in production for much longer as Heng Long switch to other, more accurate models. if you want one I'd buy sooner rather than later.
Panzer III: the newest and my favourite! Apart from an oversized barrel (because of the 6mm BB's) this is a very accurate model and shows Heng Long's design team could threaten Tamiya is a few years. Most have full S+S capability (although there are some basic ones going cheap in the UK) Best of all their smoker is proportional- the faster the tank goes the more smoke it makes. Loads of upgrade parts are available for it including correctly scaled barrels (Although you'll lose your BB gun if you fit these).
'Snow Leopard': Actually a copy of Tamiyas M26 Pershing. Basically 'the american Tiger' 200 of these fought in WW2 although most saw action in Korea. Being inspired by the Tamiya this is a great model with no serious errors. The only thing to be aware is that it needs dedicated spares: Tiger/Panther gears, smokers etc don't fit Heng Longs US tanks.
'Walker Bulldog': To my mind a strange choice for HL to build. This light tank saw very little combat with US forces (Although the S.Vietnamese used them heavily and with some success against T54's). As a model its excellent- very detailed and performs well, however being HL's only none WW2 tank it doesn't fit in neatly with the rest of the range. I bought my first M41 this year for a resale project and its a REALLY impressive little tank. More detail than most heng longs, yet at bargain price. The exhausts work particulary well and it has working front lights (white) and rear (red) . Its one of Heng Longs most ignored models yet this is wrong. If you're looking for a first tank you do a lot worse than one of these.
'Panzer IV' Yup... you read correctly. Heng Long are bringing out a Pz IV sometime in 2008. The first pics I've seen of it show an early model (short 75mm gun) in desert drab. It looks like many parts have been adapted from the PzIII so upgrading should be easy and the possibilities for re-painting are almost endless. A Stug III assault gun is due out ASAP once some problems with fitting the gear boxes into the small hull have been overcome.
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