Yes yes, I know that the trail finder 2 has been around for a while, but this one is new to me and the amazing team at RC4WD were generous enough to send me one to test out their amazing new 4Runner body which I built and reviewed earlier this year, details can be found here.
I have made a few kits in the past, although admittedly none have them have been rock crawlers, and certainly nothing like the Trail Finder 2 from RC4WD. To put it simply, opening the box is like uncovering a paint by numbers masterpiece, especially with the chassis rails taking centre stage when you first open the box. Every nut, bolt and screw is in i’s own clearly labelled bag, and the instructions are incredibly thorough with very little ambiguity, if you read them through. I was honestly amazed at how small the box was as well, however there is a lot packed into that box very cleverly. Another thing you will find is very little plastic, almost all of the kit is metal parts with a few small exceptions, so make sure you pack some threadlock if you don’t already have some ready when you are building this kit.
So you have gotten over your initial excitement and it is time to start building. The instructions follow a logical sequence stepping through the build of the vehicle. The screws and small parts are in bags labelled very clearly, and the instructions don’t presume to try and tell you numbers for the major parts, simply choosing to show an image which is more than enough to identify it by.
With all the metal screws in metal parts you will need your threadlock handy throughout most of the build. I found the build of the kit a somewhat cathartic experience compared to my past build of predominantly composite kits. once the two chassis rails come together for the first time to form that familiar ladder chassis was also a satisfying moment. With metal parts fitting so precisely and screws always just the right length, I know I sound a little OCD here, but I enjoyed the build.
Steps 29 and 30 however I had a little difficulty with as once they were fitted (and I had to back of the chassis side screws just a little to get the transmission to drop in), I was getting a little binding in the transmission and I couldn’t work out why or where. I ended up isolating the issue to the screws in step 19 which holds the transmission. It was like tightening them too much caused some tightness, however leaving them a little looser, but with some threadlock to hold them in place resulted in a silky smooth movement in the system.
One fascinating part of the Trail Finder 2 chassis is the 2 speed transmission, just like a full size 4wd. Initially I didn’t have a spare radio so I did not install the 2nd servo to control the High / Low shift. You still can use the vehicle and manually shift this from beneath the vehicle if and when it is needed, however there is something infinitely satisfying about hitting the channel 3 button to switch into low range from the radio. A 4 channel radio is the best money I have spent on a radio in years!
The place that I made the most mistakes in the build was step 46, the wheels. I got to this step on page 25 and thought yup, just bolt the wheels together. So I pushed and shoved the screws to try and get the wheel parts to clamp the tyres onto the internal beadlocks. It was hell on my hands and I ended up snapping one of the little M2 screws to boot. However I got them done and turned the page to 26 to continue the build. Then I saw step 48 where you use two longer screws to pull the wheel together before inserting the correct screws to finish the wheels. Then I cried for a while for being so stupid, dried my tears and moved on.
Then about 2 weeks later and a few runs on the trail I noticed I was missing wheel nuts on the right hand side of the vehicle, two on each wheel in fact. After puzzling over this for a while and examining the wheels I realised that after all the trouble I had with the beadlock wheel nuts and screws I had never thread locked those tiny nuts. I had also had trouble holding the nuts with pliers to tighten them as I didn’t have a small enough spanner to hold them, or so I thought…. I reached out to my local crawling group on Facebook and received an excellent piece of advice from Stephen (thanks mate) about a small set of Supercheap Spanners in a funky paint scheme. This rattled a memory and after a search of my tool box I found a set that I had purchased for a job on my Series 2 Land Rover, and low and behold, the smallest one (4mm) worked like it was made for the job, and made that job far simpler!
Building the body, well you can already read about the 4Runner build, so I won’t double up on that here. In terms of equipment, well an old 27 turn silver can took the motor stage as well as a couple of spare servos and finally a Spektrum DX4s took the radio slot and a spare hobbywing speed controller to drive the operation. Essentially what I had lying about the place. That said, a crawler isn’t a static thing, so expect that combination to change and evolve along the way, the same goes for accessories, a rig like this NEEDS some scale accessories added to the build!
Now came that part I had been itching to do since I started this build, drive it!
To begin with, most of the time I had spent behind the wheel of a crawler to date has been driving a SCX10, what is probably one of the most common rock crawlers out there. Now before anybody yells at me, the Trail Finder 2 really is a Trail Truck or Scale Truck, rather than a Rock Crawler I know, but the SCX is an excellent baseline for me to compare to.
Dynamics of the Trail Finder 2 (TF2) are somewhat different to the average crawler, it is a little heavier than your average truck, and a LOT heavier than your average racing buggy. As such it has a much higher centre of gravity than I am used to. This certainly has an adverse effect on some obstacles such as side slopes and climbing / ascending. Even with leaf springs it will not tolerate as extreme angles across a slope.
Crossing rough terrain is a similar problem, large rocks and cross axle situations see the TF2 struggling to articulate enough to gain traction, and the narrower tyres limit the opportunities for grip. The locked differentials do help keep the vehicle moving forwards however. Approach and departure angles likewise mean that larger obstacles soon stop progress as compared with a SCX10.
BUT, this is a Trail Truck, not a rock crawler. Both it’s appearance, and performance are fare more accurate representations of a real life leaf sprung vehicle, in fact on suitable scale terrain, it is an absolute delight to watch traversing obstacles and trails, something it does with aplomb and grace. The more you drive it the more the suspension seems to loosen up and move with the terrain. Yes, the body can be hung up, but that is part of the fun ensuring that you pick lines where this isn’t a problem, and it is so satisfying when you get it right and glide through a tough section of track. From rocky terrain, to walking trails, 4wd tracks, playgrounds and paddocks, i’ve not found anywhere that the TF2 doesn’t shine at doing exactly what it is designed to do, with zero complaints or problems. Even the low range change is smooth and satisfying when it snicks home.
In honesty, I think this truck has spawned a new addiction for me, and my land rover addiction has me eyeing off the RC4WD Gelande II D110 , but I have more plans for the 4Runner first……