“I live like I want to,
not like I should.”
Many of those reading this may not recognize the opening line of this review, as it’s from a lesser known 80’s band by the name of Junkyard. They never received the notoriety of some of that era’s bigger groups. However, those lyrics in their song entitled “Hollywood” wouldn’t stay out of my head as I began beating on the Savage in the backyard. With a lot of trucks becoming focused towards racing, it seems that any trucks in this genre need to have some racing characteristics to have much of a following. However, when HPI released the Savage, they broke that train of thought and wound up with a smash hit on their hands. It was a truck that was built with one true persona in mind, the backyard basher. The Savage truly, “lives like it wants to, not like it should”!
The Savage 25 is an upgraded follow-up to the original .21-equipped form of the truck. It offers a bigger motor, for more power, as well as several other upgrades. While some of these upgrades are not necessarily seen at first, they pack just as much benefit as the motor does. Once you read through all the truck offers, I think you’ll quickly agree that HPI has certainly been keeping an eye on what their fan base has had to say about the release of the Savage 21. Then they turned around and applied it to the Savage 25.
The Savage has always had a reputation of being a truly fun truck. With the improvements the new version has to offer things can only get better, right? I was certainly hoping so from the moment I opened the box and pulled it out. So join along and see exactly what all I discovered, and what all I decided to put this truck through before it was over!
Model Name: HPI Savage 25
Part Number: 832
Price: $400.00 (Approx. Street Price)
Type: 1/8 Nitro 4WD Monster Truck
Length: 21″ (533mm)
Width: 16.8″ (427mm)
Height: 10″ (254mm)
Weight: Approx. 11.2 lbs. (5.08 kg)
Wheelbase: 13.25″ (336mm)
Suspension Travel: 6″ (152mm)
Ground Clearance: 3″ (76mm)
Drivetrain: Two-Speed Transmission Dogbone-Style Axles
Brakes: Vented Fiber Disk With Stainless Steel Calipers
Shocks: Plastic With Preload Spaces
Wheels: 5-Spoke Plastic
Tires: HPI Modified Chevron V-Style”
Chassis: Twin Vertical Plates-2.5mm Aluminum
Motor: Nitro Star S25 .25 (4.09cc) Rear Exhaust w/Rotary Starter
Fuel Tank: 160cc
Radio: HPI TF-4
Additionally Required Items
Standard 6-Cell Rechargeable Battery Pack
Peak Charger Capable of Charging Standard 6-Cell Pack
8 AA Batteries For Radio
4 AA Batteries (or Receiver Pack) For Receiver
Glow Plug Igniter
Air Filter Oil
Very Tough Basher Truck
Big Block Muscle
Loves To Fly
Limited Suspension Adjustability
Electronics Box Clearance Tight
Would Like More Hex Hardware
The body for the Savage 25 is screen printed and nicely detailed in red and gray. The body itself is aggressively styled, and suits the Savage’s stance well. The windows are stickers which are already applied, and the body holes for the posts, motor, and fuel tank are already made in the body, courtesy of HPI. This makes dropping the body in place a simple task.
If you’re in need of documentation HPI certainly has you covered. One manual specifically covers the Nitro Star motor, detailing tuning and maintenance issues. Another manual covers the truck itself, and gives you general operational information regarding the Savage. This manual covers break-in information as well, and also has assembly diagrams to help assist you should you need to tear down the truck for repairs.
In addition to those items, you’ll find a separate sheet that covers changes made to the truck, since the manual has been printed. It covers information regarding the six-gear differential which was a running production change for the Savage. I’ll cover this aspect of the truck in more detail a little later in the review.
You’ll also see a set of stickers that allow you to detail the body of the Savage in the manner that you desire. However, since the body comes with a nice assortment of stickers already applied, they’ll work just as good on a replacement body as well.
If you’re looking for accessories, you came to the right place. Several of the items needed to ready the truck for running are included, such as the receiver box cover and the antenna tube. You may opt to use the AA battery holder, although I would recommend you using a receiver pack instead if at all possible.
You’ll find that the air filter is already installed on the motor’s carburetor. However, along with the accessories, HPI provides a spare pair of air filter foams. So right off the bat, you receive two sets making it easily to swap out the filter during extended runs. A spare body post assembly is also provided in the event you use a body that needs a taller set of posts in the rear.
Other accessories include a set of L-shaped hex wrenches, which is standard fare for most models. You’ll also find spare servo accessories to help in the event you want to use aftermarket servos with your Savage. However, the one item you may not be expecting to see is another clutch bell. HPI provides you with a 18-tooth clutch bell that you can swap out for the installed 15-tooth one. It allows you to reach higher speeds, but it only recommended for pavement use, as the increased tooth count will cause the motor to work harder in the dirt.
The Savage 25 is built upon the same chassis layout that the original Savage made popular. Two 2.5mm aluminum chassis plates form the foundation for the chassis, and due to the fact they’re positioned vertically, they offer a tremendous amount of strength. The transmission is positioned in the middle of the plates, and held in place by screws that run in from the outside. Most of the critical components are housed between the plates, although a few components do still hang outside the chassis plates. These are most notably the composite pipe and the fuel tank. Across the top of the truck, a rollbar serves as a carrying handle and offers excellent protection for the motor.
From the underside of the truck you can see that all the bottom hardware is countersunk into the skid plates. Underneath the plastic skid plates, aluminum plates serve as a foundation for the motor and steering components. I like this, as the plastic offers a great deal of protection and yet still can be easily replaced if the need arises. I’m not a big fan of actual aluminum skid plates as they bend easily and are not always cheap to replace. I think plastic does the best job for underside protection, and therefore think that HPI made a wise decision to make the actual skid plates plastic.
The 160cc fuel tank for the Savage is slung off the side of the vertical chassis setup. The tank can be easily removed due to the fact that small body clips are used to retain the tank onto the chassis. A spring loaded lid keeps the tank sealed, and is easily accessible when the body is mounted on the truck. The Savage 25 does away with the primer button that was found on the Savage 21. This is certainly a welcome change, as the primer button was often a source of leaks after a period of time had passed.
The shocks on the Savage are probably one of its most unusual features. They are super long, stretching a total of 6.75 inches. These long shocks provide the Savage with a whopping six inches of suspension travel. This puts the Savage in a class of very few trucks that offer this sort of off-road capability. To help establish a baseline for the length of the shocks, I’ve placed both a T-Maxx spring and shock body alongside it as a comparison.
The steering setup of the Savage 25 uses a bellcrank-style setup. It has a built-in adjustable servo saver, to eliminate the need for a separate servo saver setup. Rod ends and adjustable turnbuckles transfer the motion from the servo and servo saver to the steering blocks and wheels. Right beside of the steering servo is the throttle servo. The steering servo is an HPI SF-2, and offers 90oz/in of torque at 6.0 volts. This is more powerful than stock servos used in other trucks, and will certainly be put to good use.
The Savage 25 comes equipped with a plastic composite tuned pipe. The pipe is coupled to an aluminum header and flexible silicone coupler with zip ties. The pipe itself is slung on the outside of the chassis, and appears to be exposed to an extent. However, due to the tires and suspension, it’s better protected than it may first appear.
The braking power of the Savage is handled by a fiber disk and stainless steel calipers. The brake disk is vented with holes around its circumference, and rides on an aluminum hex which is secured to the driveshaft by a hex pin. This is a typical arrangement for a monster truck of this nature, and is a proven setup.
HPI puts a very nice set of rubber on the Savage. The tire’s compound is nice and soft, providing plenty of grip with its modified chevron-style pattern. Soft foams support the tires from the inside, and help provide support when jumping. The tires are mounted on plastic five-spoke rims that are finished in chrome. The wheels are vented to allow air to enter and escape the tires, which further helps with traction. The tires and wheels are glued from the factory, which certainly saves time while you’re getting ready to run.
The front shock tower is built to withstand about any punishment you will likely send the Savage’s way. It’s 16mm thick at its widest point, and secured to the bulkhead assembly with four screws. The placement, and thickness, of the shock tower is made with the intention of adding as much strength at the lower side of the tower. After all, if a truck is built with bashers in mind, it had better look for every possible angle to provide strength and durability.
The upper ends of the shocks are held securely to the shock tower by extra long screws with locking nuts. This is a slightly different approach to what is often used on some monster trucks, whereas they use an individual screw for each shock. The approach used by HPI makes it easy to remove the inner shocks, without having to try and get a screwdriver to a screw on the inside of the shock tower. Trying to use a screwdriver at that angle is often difficult at best, and a single long screw setup avoids this irritation.
The single screw setup for the upper ends of the rear shocks doesn’t work quite as well as it does in the front however. This is because the screw heads face the inside of the truck, making removal difficult since they are blocked by the motor and fuel tank. Even with the nuts removed, you’ll have to remove the motor and fuel tank to get the screw out. I would recommend considering flipping the screws around, which would make them easier to remove, and the shocks easier to access. With the nuts on the inside, an open end wrench can grip them than a screwdriver can get to the screw’s head.
The front and rear bumpers are designed in a manner that helps to absorb any impact that they might encounter. This helps to dissipate any shock to the truck itself, rather than to just pass it straight through to the chassis. The molded driving lights on the front add to the cool factor, and help the truck to stand out in the monster truck genre.
The body posts are adjustable to accommodate various bodies of differing heights. For extremely tall rear bodies, such as an SUV, you’re provided with an additional rear body post set. The height of the body posts are easily adjusted, and with the front and rear posts being assemblies instead of single posts, adjustment is made even easier. Having to match up the heights of two posts is a little more work than with HPI’s setup. Once the height is set, the post assembly is locked into place by body clips.
The suspension arms are the mounting location for the lower ends of the shocks, but they don’t offer any adjustability to their angle. However, this isn’t really necessary for a bashing truck such as the Savage. The steering blocks use a c-hub style design, and are plenty beefy enough to handle the stresses that the wheels will transfer to the suspension arms.
The 14mm hex adapter for the Savage is aluminum, which is tougher than the plastic adapters you’ll often see with other trucks. An aluminum adapter doesn’t experience the “mushrooming effect” that can often be seen with plastic adapters as the wheel is tightened down. The only downside to aluminum adapters is, that if the wheel nut loosens up, the hex adapter can quickly round out a plastic wheel making it useless. So always make sure that the wheel nuts are tight, and if the nylon insert seems to have lost its ability to keep the nut tightened, replace it. In addition, the fact the hex is 14mm means that the Savage can draw off of the large Maxx-style wheel aftermarket. This gives you a large selection of wheels to choose from if you decide to customize your truck.
The fastening approach for the lower ends of the shocks is different from the approach used at the top end of the shock. At the lower ends, individual screws are used to secure the ends of the shocks, instead of a long screw with a locking nut. Since ether side of the suspension arm is easily accessible, the individual screw approach poses no problem at all.
With the individual driveline components removed, you can get a good feel for what all the Savage makes use of when throwing its power to the ground. A dogbone axle, having a diameter of 4.5mm, transfers the power from the differential to the axle stub. A single 4x63mm pin with an e-clip holds the c-hub to the suspension arm while smaller screws and locknuts hold the steering and upper arms to the steering assembly.
The suspension arms themselves are built with durability as a primary concern. The lower suspension arms are made super thick and beefy with a width of nearly 20mm at its thickest point. The upper suspension arm is smaller overall, but doesn’t really need to offer the strength that the lower arm does. HPI uses 4mm thick suspension pins to attach the suspension arms to the bulkheads. The suspension pins are captured at both ends, which eliminate the problems that are often associated with screw-style pins.
The suspension arm components are the same throughout the truck. This approach can help you reduce the need to keep sets of suspension arms specific to each corner of the truck on hand. All you’ll need to keep handy is a pair of suspension arms which can be used to repair any corner of the truck that’s necessary. I like it when this approach is used by a manufacturer, and it certainly helps to keep things simple.
The axle carrier itself is a very impressive assembly once you look at it closely. It houses a pair of 8x16x5mm bearings that in turn hold the 8mm thick axle stub that is spun by the dogbone. The axle stubs are made in a fashion to help prevent wheelspin from loosening the wheel nuts. What this amounts to is the right-side axle stubs use a normal thread, while the left-side uses a reversed thread pattern. While this helps to keep the nuts tight, you’ll need to keep this in mind when purchasing spare axle stubs.
If the transmission’s two-speed assembly needs to be adjusted, reaching it is a very simple task thanks to the access hole that’s capped off by a rubber plug. This access hole is in the side of the transmission, and placed in a spot that can be reached through the aluminum side plate. Transmission adjustment is standard fare, requiring you to adjust a grub screw with a 2.0mm hex driver to adjust the shift to an earlier or later point. A clockwise adjustment gives you a later shift, while a counter-clockwise turn gives you an earlier shift.
With the transmission removed you can get a good glimpse of the fiber brake disc and stainless steel calipers. A 15-tooth spur gear resides above the brake assembly, and uses a disk-style slipper assembly that is attached with self adhesive backing to the spur gear. The slipper setting is adjusted by the nut and spring that holds the spur gear onto the transmission shaft.
When you crack open the transmission you’re greeted by a lot of metal and very little plastic. In fact there is just one single plastic gear in the transmission. This helps provide a very strong driveline, although the weight of the metal gears isn’t as efficient as trucks that use plastic gears. However, with the power of the Nitro Star .25 on board, a little more rotating mass is certainly not an issue. Plus the metal gears offer a great deal of strength and reliability that plastic simply can’t match. The gear layout is simple and straightforward should anything need to be removed at some point in time. If you’re looking for reversing capability, the Savage doesn’t come with it in stock form. However don’t fret, as HPI offers a reversing module (part #87032) as an option. If you’re looking for more low-end grunt and top end speed, the HPI 3-speed transmission kit (part# 87218) may be an item that will interest you instead.
The layout of the Savage makes inspecting the ring gear an easy task. It’s also easy to add additional grease to the gear as well. The only caveat to this is that you’ll want to ensure that the plastic skid plate is always firmly tightened down. However with a total of four screws surrounding the differential and holding the skid plate in place, you should have no problem keeping the skid plate tightly over the differential opening.
The entire bulkhead assembly of the Savage is designed so that it can be removed as a single unit. Even though the twin vertical plates surround the bulkhead assembly, I really haven’t found it anymore time consuming to remove it than most other trucks. Once you work on this area of the truck a few times, it becomes second nature and removal of the entire assembly comes fairly quickly.
The bulkheads themselves do an excellent job of trapping the differential case. An aluminum rod reinforces the bulkheads on their inner side, and serves as a threading point for the screws that run in from the aluminum side plates. The shock tower attaches directly to the assembly that surrounds the differential itself, while purple 3mm thick aluminum plates are used to hold the suspension pins to the bulkhead assembly.
The differential itself is housed inside a plastic case that splits into front and rear halves. This type of setup is preferred to a case that splits from left to right, as the gap between the ring and pinion can be altered by how tight the screws are in a left to right approach. A front to rear setup is typical of 1/8 scale buggies, and doesn’t suffer from this issue. See, those 1/8 scale buggy guys do know what they’re doing!
The ring and pinion are steel, and the differential itself rides on a pair of 10x16x5mm bearings for smooth operation. Hardened steel output yokes reside on both sides of the differential for the dogbone axles to fit into. Grub screw style pins hold the yokes onto the output shafts of the differential. Four countersunk screws secure the ring gear to the differential, holding it securely in place.
If you’re familiar with the Savage in a previous form, the inside of the differential may come as a shock to you. Look closely and you’ll see that HPI has beefed up the inside of the differential considerably. There is now a total of six gears in the differential instead of the four that there was before. Two extra center gears inside the differential mate with the two output gears, making this differential truly an 1/8 scale setup. This increases the resistance to the gears spreading under load that was sometimes seen when there was only a pair of center gears. Modifying the differential to accept four center gears was one of the first things many Savage owners did once they bought their truck. Now HPI includes this setup right out of the box eliminating the need for this modification. It’s always nice to see examples of a manufacturer noticing owner trends with their trucks and responding in this sort of manner!
If you thought the original Savage needed a little more kick in the pants, then you weren’t alone. So did HPI, once they started looking for areas to improve with the latest version of their truck. Taking a play straight out of most hobbyists’ handbook, they decided to drop a bigger motor in the Savage 25 from the factory. The Nitro Star .25 gives the Savage a lot more kick than its sibling and also the foundation for its moniker, Savage 25. Once the motor is coupled with the aluminum header and composite pipe, it offers plenty of power for those seeking the big block experience.
The Nitro Star .25 motor itself is a typical rear exhaust big block motor. A slide carburetor handles the fuel and air mixture duties, and includes a throttle return spring as stock equipment. It’s good to see that HPI recognizes the need for safety when operating the model, as there are many trucks that come with nothing of this nature. A two piece foam air filter is placed into a rubber housing and mounted on top of the carburetor. This ensures that the air that enters the carburetor is free of contaminants. To make the initial startup easy, HPI has pre-oiled the filter and even includes a spare replacement as well.
The clutch assembly of the Nitro Star is certainly designed to transfer the power of the motor to the drivetrain. A three-shoe composite clutch assembly handles the transition from idle to full throttle with plenty of bite against the clutch bell. The clutch bell rides on bearings, and uses a brass bushing and a screw to hold the clutch bell in place. The screw is a Phillips head screws though, and I do prefer to see hex hardware performing this duty. A hex screw is much easier to tighten down, and resists stripping better than a Phillips head screw. However, the Phillips head theme is something that’s echoed through the truck, so it doesn’t surprise me to find it used here as well.
The Nitro Star .25 uses a purple anodized aluminum heat sink to help shed heat created during the combustion process. The motor also utilizes a feature that’s often overlooked on many stock motors in the form of its replaceable glow plug button. With this part of the head being a separate part, replacement is easy and cheap should it ever become necessary. This is especially beneficial for a newcomer to the hobby, as they will often overtighten the glow plug leading to stripped threads.
The exhaust port for the Nitro Star .25 is at the rear of the motor, and rounded. The round exhaust ports use silicone gaskets which provide a much better lifespan than the paper gaskets found on the rectangular ports which are found on the sides of some motors. A big-block style exhaust spring retains the header onto the motor once the header has been slipped into place.
If you’re looking to avoid a pullstart due to the various reasons that many hate the handled string approach, you’ll be pleased to note the HPI has continued to use the Roto-Start with the Savage 25. A backplate resides on the back of the motor, under the exhaust port, and the wand from the Roto-Start fits into this plate. The wand is equipped with a dogbone-style end, and turns the motor over with it. The HPI Roto-Start has many fans, and for good reason too. As once an igniter is attached to the glow plug, the Roto-Start fires the motor up with ease.
The Roto-Start is comfortable to hold, and the wand slides in towards the backplate from the rear of the truck. Since the battery powers only the starter, and isn’t trying to light a glow plug as well, it can turn the motor over easier than some other onboard starting systems. A compartment in the lower section of the starter’s housing holds the battery securely and also keeps the battery protected in case the unit is ever dropped.
The receiver for the Savage 25 is actually a four channel receiver. However the truck will only use three of those channels at the most, and out of the box only two are used. The ability to use a third channel will prove useful however, if you would ever decide to add the HPI reversing module onto the Savage.
Underneath the receiver is a tray for the battery holder. While the truck comes equipped to be used with AA batteries, keep in mind that about any standard 5-cell hump-style receiver pack will fit into the battery tray as well. The major electronics of the truck are well protected by a cover that fits over the receiver area. While it isn’t waterproof, the cover will do an excellent job of protecting the truck from dirt, debris, and some mud. My only gripe regarding the cover is that it can be tough to install and remove due to its close proximity with the front shock tower.
Take note of the adjustable thumbwheel for the braking linkage. This makes dialing in a little more braking extremely easy, even if your radio doesn’t provide adjustable endpoints as in the case with the stock one. This is certainly a feature I like to see on a vehicle, as it eliminates the need to have to reset a linkage collar by loosening a grub screw and moving a collar. Adjusting a thumbwheel is much easier, especially when you need to dial in a small amount of brake.
The TF-4 is the radio included with the Savage 25. It is an AM pistol style radio that works well for the beginner. The servo-reversing and centering adjustment features it offers are basic, but likely to work perfect for most bashers. While more advanced hobbyists may want something a little more full-featured, the TF-4 will handle the duties it needs to until the day comes when you decide to look for a replacement.
The steering knob has a rubber grip for comfort, and a battery level indicator let’s you know when it’s time to swap to a fresh set of batteries. The third channel toggle is located on the handle, in case you ever need it for the HPI reversing module. While at first it may appear that the radio has a charging jack located on the rear of it, it does not. The hole is actually covered. So if you’re looking for a rechargeable power source, you’ll want something you can charge outside the radio.
When you’re ready to prep your Savage to run, you’ll find that HPI has already performed a great deal of the work for you. However, there are still a few small details you’ll need to attend to. First and foremost is supplying power to the onboard electronics. You can use the stock AA battery holder, or you can use a receiver pack. I chose the receiver pack route, and used one that I had modified with a plug that still allows the use of the factory on/off switch. Once the pack is plugged in, simply drop it into place at the front of the electronics box.
After the receiver pack you’ll still want to focus towards the onboard electronics, but shift to the receiver’s antenna. It’ll be coiled up beside the receiver. I found that the receiver has a tremendous amount of antenna wire, much more than I needed. However, I knew better than to cut it off and shorten it. Instead, I used a ziptie to bundle the excess wire together inside of the electronics box.
Next, you’ll want to thread the end of the antenna wire through the tube. Be careful when pushing the antenna wire through the tube, as you don’t want to bend or damage it. If you find it difficult to feed the wire through the tube, sprinkle some baby powder on the wire before pushing it through. Another method that works well is to place a couple of drops of bearing oil in the tube before pushing the antenna through. Once the antenna is threaded through the tube, push it into place on the receiver mount.
Even if you retain some of the excess wire in the receiver box, you’ll still likely wind up with some extra wire dangling out of the antenna tube as well. I don’t like to see the wire flapping around while I drive, so I will often use a various trick or two to secure the excess. A small piece of fuel tubing is one such trick. Simply slide it down over the wire and the antenna, and then cap the top of the tube off with the cap supplied by HPI. If you desire, multiple sections of fuel tubing can be used.
Once the receiver antenna is taken care of, you’ll want to close up the electronics box. The box lid is a tight fit. However, if you put the front in place first, the back should slide down into place with some reasonable effort. Once the lid is in place, secure it with the smaller supplied clips.
To ready the starter, for turning the motor over for the first time, you’ll need to supply a charged battery pack. A simple cheap 1500 MaH pack will work just fine, simply charge it according to the directions on the charger you’ve purchased. Once charged, slide the pack into place on in the bottom of the starter, and replace the cap that retains it. The Tamiya plug fits into the handle, and is keyed in manner to avoid you plugging it in incorrectly. HPI also marks the handle with “+” and “-” to help you identify the correct orientation.
At this point, there are only a few small tasks left to get you up and running. You’ve already supplied a power source for the onboard electronics, but the radio needs power as well. Eight AA batteries handle this task. I generally use rechargeable alkalines in a case such as this, but rechargeable NiMH AA cells will work as well. If you go with standard alkalines, make sure you use good quality AA batteries. Not only will they last longer, but they will help you maximize your range and signal strength.
Keeping the motor cool is important, especially in the heat of summer. So being that summer was in full swing, I knew that I had better cut a cooling hole in the front windshield. I used a 1.5 inch hole saw, and then cleaned up any excess lexan trimmings with a hobby knife. A hole saw is one of the quickest and easiest ways I know to get airflow through the windshield, making a perfect circle every time. It also avoids any sharp corners that can lead to cracks in the body. Obviously, for optimum cooling purposes, you’ll want to place the hole directly in front of the motor.
Once the cooling hole is made, nothing else is left other than mounting the body. HPI has already provided the rest of the necessary body holes and cutouts, making things easy. So drop the body into place, and slap on the body clips. It’s time to rumble!
Once the Savage was prepped to run, I took it out for break-in the first chance I got. While I normally follow the break-in procedure laid out by the manufacturer, I decided to shake things up a little with the Savage. This was due to the fact that I wanted to avoid idling any tanks through the motor. I prefer to focus on running a truck during break-in, as opposed to idling with no load on the motor. So I opted to heat-cycle the motor instead, using the method shown here. This method works well, but is best left to those who feel comfortable with their nitro knowledge and tuning skills. If you’re new to nitro, definitely follow the recommendations laid out in the manual that comes with the Savage.
The break-in procedure went smooth, and I had nothing that would be considered a real problem. However, due to the tight fit with the piston and sleeve, the motor was a little prone to stalling after it was first started if the throttle input was varied much at all. So I found that keeping a consistent amount of throttle applied for the first 30 seconds or so prevented this, and brought the motor up to acceptable temps quicker. Once the motor had started warming up considerably, there was no problem with varying the throttle during the break-in runs.
Once break-in was behind me, I began to tune the motor to “kick it up another notch” as Emeril would say. It only took a little tweaking with the high speed needle before I started to see good power and temps in the 230° range. That’s one of the nice things about a big block truck in an off-road environment, they do an excellent job of providing power without having to exert themselves as much as smaller motors do. The other nice advantage of a large motor, like the .25 that comes in the Savage, is that even if the tune isn’t perfect, you’re still provided with a decent amount of power. This can be an advantage for someone new to nitro and the tuning that comes with it.
After the motor was tuned, the Savage still seemed a little sluggish on the low end. My gut instinct told me the problem wasn’t going to be the low-speed needle, I could just “feel” that the problem lied elsewhere. So I drove the truck back and forth on some pavement a few times and quickly noticed that the two-speed transmission was shifting almost immediately upon take off. This was preventing the lower gear from pulling the truck off the line with the low-end grunt it should have. So I made a couple of adjustments to the transmission, and soon had the motor winding out between first and second gears. After I was finished with the adjustments, I had turned the set screw clockwise about half a turn.
With my tuning and transmission adjustments complete, the Savage was laying down some mean power. Soon I had dust, dirt, and rocks flying through the air as I sped around the backyard getting a feel for what the Savage was capable of. While the truck is made with one purpose in mind, I did decide to pull out the installed preload spacers almost immediately. It’s not that I intended to try to focus on handling, but I didn’t like the top-heavy feeling the truck had when the ride height was raised up. Removing the preload spacers bought the truck to more of a level stance, and made it much more predictable when power-sliding and spinning doughnuts.
While the Savage doesn’t have diverse handling options for racing, with the preload spacers removed it still handled rather well. While I wouldn’t expect to put it on the local off-road track and expect to compete with some of the more race-oriented trucks, I was more than satisfied with its feel in a backyard bashing environment. Quite honestly, if all you plan on doing is bash a nitro truck, you’ll likely never miss any advanced handling options that the truck may be lacking when compared to some of its counterparts.
I will mention one other item that would considerably help those seeking a little more stability in regards to handling. That is the wheel and tire combination. The tires that the Savage 25 comes equipped with are excellent in regards to being soft enough to provide good grip. However, this comes back to haunt the truck in regards to the tires high profile. The tires exhibit some serious sidewall flex when cornering at higher speeds. This is especially evident on pavement, but is also apparent in the dirt. Some lower profile tires, like something from Pro-Line’s 40-Series, would definitely help ease this condition.
During the course of running the truck around in a fairly sane manner, I also made some adjustments to the braking as well. As my speeds around the backyard increased, the brakes didn’t have the strength I felt that they needed. After a few twists of the braking knob, the braking action had firmed up considerably, leaving me comfortable with my ability to stop as I romped around the backyard. On the other end of the spectrum, I found that the steering servo was working remarkably well. Despite the fact that many hobbyists would claim that the servo needs more torque, the 90 oz/in the SF-2 provides worked rather well. While an aftermarket servo would certainly not hurt anything, I see nothing wrong with the steering in its stock form.
With some basic running and dirt-slinging behind me, I decided to spend a little time in the air. After all, a truck made for bashing is certainly going to spend a lot of time on ramps, whether they are man-made or earth-borne. I started out fairly mildly, by attacking the dirt jump in the backyard. It’s not overly high, but a good starting point to get a feel for how an off-road vehicle will take to the air. Even though the Savage has a tough reputation, I wanted to feel comfortable with it before I subjected it to the abuse I was starting to lust after.
The Savage took to the air well, and liked to fly nice and level off of the jump. The dirt pile doesn’t have much of a slope to it, so as long as the throttle input doesn’t change much at the launch, most vehicles will fly pretty level. The Savage was no exception, and looked natural after it left the air and began its flight through the air. After I did this a few times, I hit the jump in the other direction. This launched the truck higher in the air and gave me a precursor of what was going to come when it was time to perform some correcting action on the truck’s attitude in the air. After all, I think most people will know exactly where I’m going in regards to jumping!
With some easy jumping behind me, I decided to focus on something a little more intense. So I pulled out my curved ramp, which often serves as a good test for trucks that like to spend as much time in the air as they do on the ground. I started off by making a few easy run to the ramp, as I was still getting a feel for how the truck would handle in the air. Even though I had worked with it some before on the dirt ramp, this scenario was a little different. The curved shape of the ramp will shoot a vehicle nose first into the air, whereas the dirt ramp gives the vehicle a more level style of flight once it leaves the ramp.
After a few easy runs up the ramp, I started letting the Nitro Star .25 loose. As the speeds increased, the Savage would shoot higher and higher into the air with a nose up takeoff. Once the truck left the ramp, a simple tap of the brakes brought it back level for the landing. This truck simply loves to jump, and is very easily controlled while in the air. In fact, I’d have to say it’s one of the easiest trucks to control while it’s in the air that I’ve ever driven. Even at this stage of my testing, it was becoming very evident that this was going to continue to be the case with the Savage.
If I happened to over-compensate the flight angle of the truck too much, the power of the .25 powerplant HPI provides could easily spin the tire with enough force to push the nose back up again. This all falls back to the fact that the big block truck simply provides a great deal of torque and, when coupled with the large tires, can easily rotate the truck in whatever fashion is necessary. I spent a great deal of time with the ramp in this manner and, after watching how easily the truck could be controlled, started to consider pushing the jumping for the review to yet another level. After all the Savage is supposed to be tough, right?
With visions of grandeur in mind, as well as some memories of watching Tom Meents and Maximum Destruction on Monster Jam earlier in the day, I simply decided I just wasn’t getting enough air. So what’s an avid monster truck fan to do? Why make the ramp even taller of course. So I ended up placing the curved ramp on top of the dirt jump, and creating a jump worthy of “big air”. Big air was certainly the result of my efforts, and while I will focus on the results in this review, you will definitely want to check out the video to get the full effect. Without seeing the truck in action, you’re just selling yourself short!
I again took it easy at first, but that didn’t last long at all. Before long I was shooting up in the air higher than I would have initially tried pushing this truck. It seemed to take everything I dealt in its direction, and would come back begging for more. As the altitude increased, I simply was no longer content with simply bringing the nose of the truck back down to a level flight path. More time in the air means more time to rotate the truck and play around in my eyes, and things were definitely beginning to get interesting as playtime was getting ready to really get rolling now.
With the heights I was hitting, and the fact that the Savage was exceptionally easy to control in the air, I started performing some back flips. Nothing gives the wow factor like some well executed flips, and once again the Savage seemed to take to this type of action as well as it had with anything else up tot his point. After a couple of landings, in which I landed angled a little too much in one direction or the other, I got my timing down and started pulling off nearly perfect back flips one right after another. Once you spend a short amount of time getting accustomed to controlling the Savage, jumping with it simply becomes second nature.
The back flipping action was certainly impressive and made for a very nice sight while performing them, and while going back and editing the video footage. Watching the tires start to balloon and swing the truck around is something I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing. If one thing eclipsed this however, it was watching the cushy action of the suspension catching the truck once it landed. The super long shocks of the Savage work well in this regard, especially considering what they were being expected to put up with. As the jump height increased, thicker shock oil could have provided some more dampening action. However, I would recommend a change to aluminum shocks before going that route. Thicker shock oil would also be increasing the pressure the plastic cap and body would have to cope with in addition to increasing the dampening of the shocks. Overall though, the shocks provided plenty of travel for all the jumping I had subjected it to.
Once I started to get going with the backflips, one problem quickly raised its head. I noticed soon after I got a good rhythm going, that the tires had a pronounced wobble to them. Upon inspection, it became evident that two of the tires had started to separate from the rim. While I know that the tires ballooning and spinning madly in the air was putting the factory CA glue to the test, I certainly didn’t want to have to stop and re-glue the tires every so often. Then upon further examination I noticed that the factory wheels appeared to still have a significant amount of chrome in the area designated for the tire bead. So I used my Dremel to remove the chrome coating in this area, providing a much better surface for the glue to adhere to. Once the tires were re-glued, I had no further problems from them at all.
I did manage to do some damage once I reached this point though. However considering the height involved, and some of the rough landings I encountered every now and then, I think anything that happened was fairly minor.
The first of these items was the composite pipe. It has a plastic insert at the header end of it that became the victim of a bad landing. At one point, I managed to stress the header and pipe connection, resulting in this insert breaking. I should point out that if the header and pipe ever separate, you should shut the motor off and address the problem immediately. Otherwise you risk running the motor in a lean condition. You’ll know if this ever happens, as the exhaust note of the truck gets considerably louder. To fix this, I simply removed the rest of the broken insert, and attached the coupler straight to the header using a couple of fresh zip ties. It never gave me any more problems at all.
I also managed to blow off a shock cap one the right rear corner of the truck. It was the inner shock, therefore it faces the motor. The repair process was simple and, with the fact that HPI uses only o-rings pressed into the caps, I never had to replace anything like I would have if I had lost a shock bladder. Instead, I simply cleaned the dirt out of the shock, and then refilled it. I wrapped the threads with some Teflon tape, since once a plastic shock cap pops off it’s prone to do it again with relative ease,. This would help restore some strength to the threads since I didn’t have any replacement parts available. As a more permanent fix, replacement is the best option. However this allowed me to continue bashing that day with no further problems.
While performing my backflips, and beating on the truck in general, I did manage to chew up several spur gears. So, they are definitely something you would want to keep spares of. While I’m not a big advocate of steel spur gear setups in most cases, in the case of the Savage it is certainly an option worthy of consideration. With a combination of the weight and power of the truck, mixed in with the fact it will be undoubtedly be performing a substantial amount of jumping, a steel spur will have some benefits that simply cannot be ignored.
The last specific part that bears mentioning is the rollbar. It did get bent slightly. However, before I say much, let me add that it held up much better than I originally thought it might. I had expected it to be crushed badly each time I ended up landing upside down or flipping end over end. However, considering some of the hard hits it endured, it held up remarkably well and still offered the same amount of protection it did when I pulled the truck out of the box. You simply can’t ask for more than that!
As a side note, I should also point out that the factory radio box did an excellent job of shielding the electronics from the elements. While the box is certainly not waterproof, and I don’t advocate mixing electronics and water on a regular basis, I did have the Savage running during the early part of an afternoon shower during one of my bashing sessions. The big tires threw a great deal of water in the air, and the chassis had a fair amount of mud on it as well. However no problems arose from this experience, showing that shielding the electronics of a truck is a very important design concept to consider for a manufacturer.
I also did install the optional clutch bell for a few high speed runs on the pavement. With the stock clutch bell, I was seeing speeds around the 40MPH range according to my radar gun. Once I switched to the optional 18-tooth clutch bell, my speeds increased to the upper 40MPH range. However at this speed, due to the tire’s grip and sidewall flex, handling was pretty shaky and it was really easy to induce a rollover. If you plan on spending much time using this gearing combination, a nice set of low-profile tires would be a wise investment. You’ll certainly make use of it!
Overall this truck is simply a blast to beat on. It is produced with the basher in mind, and from that perspective it does not disappoint in the least. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun pounding on a truck. Sometime it’s nice just to sit back and enjoy what a truck has to offer instead of trying to tweak the last ounce of performance out of it on the track. The HPI Savage .25 is one of those trucks that is best enjoyed using a “go out and have fun” approach to the hobby.
The Savage is aptly named, as it is a brutal force to be reckoned with in the backyard bashing environment. With a combination of big block power, and a tough overall package, it’s ready for about anything you can throw at it for the sake of having some fun. I’ve been on the transmitter side of a lot of trucks, and I’ll say without a doubt that the fun I’ve had with this truck so far, will be remembered for a very long time.
The truck itself has proven to be tough right out the box. Quite honestly there simply isn’t a whole lot of room for immediate improvement. Most bashers will find the radio perfectly fine for the time being, as they’ll be spending most of their time in the air where advanced functions such as dual rate and EPA simply won’t matter. For those that would miss it however, a good FM radio may be a worthwhile upgrade. Also, as I mentioned earlier, a steel spur setup may be something you would want to consider as well. Outside of that, I’d recommend picking up a receiver pack to give the onboard electronics some juice. You’ll likely grow tired of replacing AA batteries over time, and a 5-cell receiver pack will provide a much more consistent power source.
If you’re in the market for a basher, or just starting out and don’t intend to do any serious racing, give the Savage a serious look. It’s tough as nails and, thanks to its rotary starting system, a breeze for beginners to start and operate. If you’re a more seasoned veteran, you’ll appreciate the power provided by the Nitro Star .25 powerplant, helping you soar to heights that used to be reserved for only 1/8 scale buggies. It has been a while since I’ve had a smile this big on my face while beating on a truck in this manner, but the HPI Savage 25 has certainly done exactly that!
70 Icon Street
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610 USA
Phone: (949) 753-1099
Fax: (949) 753-1098
70 Icon Street
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610 USA
Phone: (949) 753-1099
Fax: (949) 753-1098
Dynamite RC Products
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