RCU Review: DuraTrax FireHammer


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    Contributed by: Eric Hege | Published: May 2005 | Views: 122221 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Duratrax FireHammer


    Duratrax

    Distributed Exclusively By
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021 USA


    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Website: www.duratrax.com



    See the FireHammer in action!
    Resolution: Low Medium High

    Quality
    Performance
    Assembly Ease
    Handling
    Durability
    Speed
    Engine
    Price


    Very Durable
    Unleaded Gas Cheaper Than Nitro
    Motor Holds Tune Well
    Rollcage Protects Motor
    Large Fuel Tank


    Unleaded Gas Has Strong Fumes
    Must Mix Gas and Oil
    Some May Miss 4WD
    Differential Not Tunable With Oil

    Do you like the look of a buggy, but are turned off by the steep price of a gallon of nitro? If so, Duratrax may just have the answer you're looking for in the form of the FireHammer. The FireHammer is a 1/5 scale two-wheel drive buggy that uses a mix of regular gas and two-cycle oil instead of the nitro methane fuel that is so prevalent throughout the hobby. The use of pump gas is common in the 1/5 segment of the hobby, and in the long run it's a much cheaper source of fuel as well.

    The FireHammer is powered by a 23cc motor, and even though its two-wheel drive, the tires should easily be able to provide plenty of grip over most terrain. In fact, with the combination of ground clearance and power it offers, it should easily be able to tackle any terrain that many smaller four-wheel drive buggies can.

    All of the benefits of being able to use pump gas are null and void though, if the FireHammer isn't fun to drive. In my opinion it looks to be targeted towards someone looking to bash in the backyard. However, you can't write a review based solely on the vehicles looks. So to get an accurate portrayal one must get the vehicle good and dirty. With that in mind, I managed to stumble into a few muddy areas and plenty of dust and dirt. How did the FireHammer fare? Read on and find out!




    Model Name: FireHammer RTR
    Part Number: DTXD97**
    Price: $900.00 (Approx. Street Price)
    Type: 1/5 RTR Two-Wheel Drive Gas Buggy
    Length: 28.1" (715mm)
    Width: 16.5" (420mm)
    Height: 10.4" (265mm)
    Weight: 18.78 lbs. (8.52 kg)
    Wheelbase: 18.5" (470mm)
    Ground Clearance: 2.25" (57mm)
    Axles: Dogbone Style
    Brakes: Dual Disk Composite Fiber
    Shocks: Threaded Aluminum
    Wheels: Five-Spoke 4.25"x2.5" (118x63mm)
    Tires: Spiked 6.0"x2.5" (152x63mm)
    Chassis: 4mm Anodized Aluminum
    Motor: Duratrax 1.40 cu in (23cc) Two-Stroke Gasoline
    Radio: Futaba Magnum Jr. (2PEKA)

    Additionally Required Items
    8 AA Batteries or Transmitter Pack
    Unleaded Gas
    Two-Cycle Oil
    Flathead Screwdriver
    Air Filter Oil
    Documentation
    Body
    Window Netting

    The manual I received with the FireHammer details the basics very well, and will come in very handy if you're used to nitro-powered vehicles instead of those that use an unleaded gasoline and oil mix. While much of the FireHammer will be similar to other RC buggies, there are some differences. The biggest of these is the fuel mixture needed, as you'll have to add two-cycle oil to the pump gas, just as you would with a chainsaw. The manual does an excellent job of documenting the mixtures needed for both break-in and normal running after break-in. You'll also find any other typical information you need in the manual as well, such as tuning and after-run procedures.

    The body for the FireHammer is molded lexan, and comes without the stickers applied. It's plenty thick enough to endure the rigors you'll see while beating the buggy in the off-road area of your choice. The window netting is separate from the body itself, and is held onto the body by rivets and clips. The window netting allows plenty of airflow, while still keeping any large debris from finding its way onto the chassis. In the left-hand side window net, you'll find a cutout that provides access for the exhaust system to fit through.

    Accessories
    Stickers
    Optional Stickers

    Duratrax provides a host of accessories along with the FireHammer. Some of these items may seem familiar, while others may tend to come as a surprise. The item I was most surprised by was the overnight charger. The inclusion of this meant that a receiver pack was already installed in the buggy. That is a great addition on the part of Duratrax, as the large steering servo necessitates a good source of power. With Duratrax including this, it's one less thing you'll need to purchase.

    The other accessories you'll find packaged with the FireHammer are likely to be something you're more accustomed to. A combination wrench and Phillips head screwdriver will help you while working on the buggy, and also facilitate removal of the spark plug. Spare servo horns will come in handy if you might desire to swap out the servos later on down the road. An antenna tube and a buggy wing help to round out the accessories Duratrax provides.

    The FireHammer I'm testing arrived with stickers using a silver color theme. However, Duratrax also offers an optional set of stickers that includes several other colors. So I decided to go with a color combination other than what the FireHammer provided out of the box, and use orange instead. With all the bright blues, greens, and purples provided by Duratrax you're sure to easily find something that suits your tastes. So certainly don't worry if your local hobby store doesn't have the color you desire. With the additional sticker set Duratrax offers, you'll be set. I do wish that they offered each color individually however, as you have to buy the extra sticker sets in a complete pack containing them all.

    Left Side
    Right Side
    Underside

    The layout of the FireHammer is not typical when compared to smaller scale buggies. This makes sense when you consider the difference in parts used however. Instead of having to accommodate a smaller nitro powerplant, the chassis is home to a much larger 23cc two-stroke motor. In fact, everything you'll encounter on the chassis is much larger than what you might be accustomed to if you've spent some time with other nitro-powered RC models.

    The tires that get the power to the ground on mounted on spoked rims. The tires use a large spiked design, and are a fairly hard compound to help the spikes bite down into the dirt as much as possible. Between the tire and the wheel, you'll find foam inserts. These inserts help the tire support the weight of the FireHammer. You may notice that the buggy doesn't utilize a four-wheel drive setup, but instead only drives the rear wheels. However, with it's large ground clearance and spiked tires, there isn't much that the FireHammer can't conquer.

    From the underside of the buggy, you can get a good look at the 4mm hard-anodized chassis plate that serves as the backbone for the FireHammer. A big buggy needs a strong backbone, and this chassis plate delivers just that. Weighing in at close to 19 pounds, the FireHammer is certainly no lightweight. So the manufacturer needed to ensure that the chassis was up to the task. To help maintain a smooth bottom, for when it contacts the ground, hardware is countersunk where ever possible. Other screws, such as those mounting the motor to the chassis, are recessed so they don't stick out from the chassis plate. Towards the rear of the FireHammer you'll see a plastic protective plate that allows the differential to sit down low on the chassis. Since the ring gear sits down below the chassis, this plate prevents the gear from making contact with the ground.

    Front Bumper
    Bulkhead
    Suspension Pins

    The front end of the FireHammer is adequately protected by a large bumper. The bumper should cushion frontal blows if you misjudge the distance between the buggy and some other object that may cause the buggy harm if you hit it. Just behind the bumper are the bulkheads that support the suspension arms. Across the top of the bulkheads is a body post mount, and spanning the distances between the bulkheads are 4mm pins that support the upper ends of the front shocks. Aluminum collars keep the upper ends of the shocks properly located at the center of the pin.

    The bulkhead pieces themselves are a hefty 11mm thick, making them ideal for the task they have been assigned to. The upper and lower suspension arms are held in place by pairs of 6mm hardened suspension pins. The pins are held in place by large e-clips, and the whole front suspension assembly mounts onto the 4mm thick chassis plate with four countersunk screws that run in from the underside of the chassis.

    Keep in mind that the FireHammer is a two-wheel drive buggy, so the area behind the front bulkhead is rather void of anything. While four-wheel drive does have certain advantages, the FireHammer's size and stance offers some advantages of its own. Also, keep in mind that a two-wheel drive platform is actually much simpler overall when it comes to maintenance, and will not exhibit the on-power push when cornering that a four-wheel drive platform will.

    Front Suspension
    Suspension Arms
    Suspension Assembly

    Moving away from the bulkhead area takes us to the suspension arms which are given the huge task of handling the rigors of keeping the tires in contact with the ground. The front and rear suspensions are similar in design, but differ in the fact that the rear suspension has axles sandwiched between the upper and lower arms. The rear arms do offer a different approach to the toe-in adjustment and therefore differ slightly in their overall design.

    The lower suspension arms provide the mounting location for the lower end of the shock. A screw pin passes through the front of the suspension arm and passes through to the rear of the arm to support the lower end of the shock. A few twists of a 2.5mm hex driver easily removes the pin to allow removal of the shock as necessary. One need not worry about the capability of the suspension arms to handle their task, as their 11mm thickness will provide plenty of strength.

    A big and heavy buggy needs some beefy rod ends to connect the suspension arms to the steering blocks, or in the case of the rear, the axle carriers. It's hard to envision the size of these large rod ends, even in a picture. So to help showcase their large size, a measurement helps tremendously. The ends measure 13mm in wide where they screw onto the rod, and a whopping 16mm at their wider end where they snap over the ball. Large hexhead screws connect the rod ends and their captured balls to the steering blocks and axle carriers.

    The upper suspension arms use a turnbuckle between the rod end and the arm to facilitate camber adjustments. However the rear lower arm offers a substantial adjustability option as well. With two turnbuckles positioned at the front and the rear of the arms, the toe angle can be easily altered to provide you with whatever toe angle you might desire. This is provided as a means to adjust toe-in for the rear. The front toe-in is controlled by the steering linkage.

    Steering Block
    Rear Axle
    Roll Cage

    With the steering block removed, you can get a much more detailed look at the individual components of the business end of the suspension arm assembly. The axle carrier itself is sized rather large, and is home to a pair of 21x8x7mm bearings. The axle itself uses an 8mm shaft that rides inside of the bearings, and then continues to hold that diameter for the wheels to mate against. On the rear of the FireHammer, the axle stub uses a cup on the inside of the bearings. The axle shaft sets inside the cup, and then transfers the power from the motor to the wheels.

    A square shaped, hardened steel adapter is used instead of the hex adapter used with many vehicles. This is the more common approach with large 1/5 scale vehicles however, and is better suited to the larger wheels and heavier demands these vehicles place on the drivelines.

    The rear axles of the FireHammer are hardened steel dogbones. The axle diameter measures out at a thickness of 7mm, and is very capable of transferring the power from the large 23cc motor to the wheels. With the combination of their thickness, and the hardened steel, the axles are some very beefy parts indeed!

    I've mentioned before about the weight of the FireHammer, and a vehicle of this size certainly needs to make protection of the components a priority. After all, in a rollover without any protection, a heavier truck will tend to damage more parts. That fact is not lost at all in regards to the FireHammer. A nicely assembled rollcage protects the main components of the buggy, and even though it doesn't actually cover the radio tray, the height of the cage protects the electronics as well. The bars of the roll cage measure 11mm in diameter, and are made of plastic. At first, plastic may seem to be a poor choice. However, one must consider that the flexing action of plastic will help absorb any impact and walk away unscathed while an aluminum rollcage would likely suffer some bending.

    Electronics
    Steering Assembly
    Electronics Tray

    The electronics area is often considered the brains of any RC vehicle, and the FireHammer is no different. In fact, there's a lot going on in this area, and access to anything you might need is easily accomplished. A buggy of this size offers a fair amount of room in regards of where to mount the various components, but careful planning must still be used to use the space effectively. The FireHammer certainly showcases this well.

    The radio tray serves as a home for four primary items. These are the receiver box, battery box, steering servo, and throttle servo. Under the radio tray, you'll see the bellcrank assembly that transfers the steering servos commands to the front wheels. The radio tray can be easily removed to gain access to the bellcrank assembly. All that is needed is to remove a few screws from the buggy, and disconnect the servo linkages. The locations of these screws can be easily seen once the electronics tray is removed and examined from the underside.

    Throttle duties are handled by a Futaba S3003 servo which provides around 57 oz-in of torque at 6.0 volts. This servo is a basic servo in Futaba's arsenal, and while it's not regarded as a powerhouse, it works well for the duties it's been given. The steering servo is a whole different matter. Knowing that the FireHammer would be placing some extreme demands on any servo used for steering, Duratrax went for the Big Kahuna of servos. They chose the S3302, which is a ¼ scale servo packing just over 160 oz-in of torque at 6.0 volts. Since this servo was originally designed for large scale RC vehicles, you'll quickly notice its larger overall size when compared to the standard-sized S3003. Inside the S3302, you'll find a beefy metal final gear and output shaft, which is made to handle the rigors dealt by taking a large 1/5 scale buggy off-road.

    Receiver Box
    Receiver Tray
    Fuel Tank

    Diving further into the radio tray takes us to the receiver box. You'll find plenty of room inside it to house the factory Futaba receiver. In fact, the box could easily house a couple of receivers! The lid of the receiver box houses a power switch that is easily accessed through a cutout in the stock body, allowing you to easily shut the electronics off and on as needed.

    You'll also notice the Duratrax failsafe included, and installed, on the servo wiring harness. It's preset from the factory, and will return the throttle back to a neutral position in the event of radio interference or a low battery condition. With a large vehicle as this, that is certainly a nice feature to have included. Getting hit in the leg by a runaway FireHammer wouldn't be fun in the least, and the inclusion of the failsafe shows that Duratrax was thinking ahead. Before I ran the FireHammer, I opted to get the failsafe inside of the receiver box to help protect it from the elements.

    If you read closely earlier in the review, you heard me mention that the FireHammer includes a receiver pack as standard equipment. The 1800mAh Ni-Cad pack is a flat pack, and slightly larger than the standard receiver packs you may be used to. However, the large size of the FireHammer easily accommodates the larger size without a second thought, and the included trickle charger allows you to top the pack off before taking the FireHammer out for a spin.

    The fuel needs of the FireHammer make a small 125 or 175cc tank unrealistic. So a much larger tank was used to store fuel onboard the chassis. A series of fuel supply and venting hoses arise from the top of the tank, while inside a bronze filter keeps dirt and debris from reaching the carburetor. A large lid gives you access to the tank when refueling, making it easy to pour your blends of unleaded gas and two-cycle motor oil into.

    Motor
    Air Filter
    Air Intake

    The FireHammer is powered by a 23cc motor that is fueled by standard unleaded gasoline mixed with two-cycle motor oil. The fact it uses standard pump gas, provides a more cost effective option than nitro, which is often priced around $25 a gallon. The motor is started via a large pull start, and the spark to ignite the fuel is provided by a true spark plug unlike the glow plug found in a nitro motor. The motor itself has more in common with a chainsaw or weed eater, as opposed to what you'll normally find powering an RC car.

    Adjusting the 23cc Duratrax motor is similar to adjusting any nitro-based motor. You have high speed and low speed needles, as well as an idle adjustment screw. Adjustment of the needles is made in the same manner as tuning a nitro motor, and the needles are very easy to reach. The idle adjustment screw directly affects the throttle lever, which in turn opens the carburetor throat. To help ease starting the motor, you'll find a choke lever on the opposite side of the carbonator as the adjustment needles.

    The air filter is housed under an aluminum shroud that is anodized in blue. Once the shroud is removed, you can easily gain a good glimpse of the two piece foam filter that is cleaned and oiled just as a standard nitro motors is, when the need arises. The only difference is that the foam filter elements are larger than what you might be used to. The foam elements fit over an aluminum tube designed to help support the filter so that it retains its shape while air flows through the foam.

    Fuel Primer
    Spur and Pinion
    Rear Drivetrain

    On the top side of the carburetor, directly above the choke, you'll find a clear plastic bulb primer sitting on top of the carburetor assembly to also assist with fuel delivery. After filling the FireHammer with fuel, pressing this bulb a few times will draw fuel from the tank to the carburetor making starting much easier. With the bulb being clear, it's easy to see when the fuel reaches the carburetor, helping to prevent flooding by pushing the bulb more than is necessary.

    The pinion and spur gears are made of plastic, and sit on the shafts while being held in place by clips. A c-clip retains the pinion, while an e-clip holds the spur gear in place. This method makes replacement a breeze, although not everyone will have a set of c-clip pliers handy. I would certainly recommend a pair being added to your pitbox if you're planning on buying a FireHammer.

    While the FireHammer does not incorporate anything like a true slipper clutch, it does use a method to help prevent too much of a driveline shock being transferred through the spur gear. The four pegs that the spur gear rides on have rubber covers, which act as a cushion between the spur gear and the assembly behind it. So despite the fact the FireHammer is missing a traditional slipper clutch, measure have been taken to help prevent a premature demise of the spur gear.

    You'll find the differential housed between the rear bulkheads. From the rear, when looking at the differential, you can get a good look at how much lower the slot in the chassis plate allows the differential sit. Pressed inside the bulkheads, a pair of 28x12x8mm bearings supports the differential and keeps resistance to a minimum while it's being spun by the motor.

    Rear Of Chassis
    Differential
    Inside The Differential

    Once the differential is out of the way, you can get a good glimpse of the dual-disk brake setup. The dual-disk setup multiplies the braking force provided by the throttle/braking servo. You can also get a good glimpse of the assembly that the spur gear drives, which in turn spins the differential.

    The differential itself is very similar visually to the differential found in a real car. Internally there's a four-gear setup which is covered by an aluminum cover that's held in place by a small Phillips head screw. Unfortunately the differential itself does not facilitate the use of differential oil the way smaller 1/8 scale buggies do. So trying to tailor the differential action isn't really possible. The ring gear is straight cut, and not angled like many differentials. However for the FireHammer this approach works well. On each end of the differential an output cup spins the axles and transfers power to the wheels.

    Shocks
    Radio
    Radio Adjustments

    The FireHammer's shocks are top notch. Heavy duty springs support the large buggy, and are held in place by lower spring retainers which are typical fare. The shock bodies are aluminum and threaded with adjustable collars. The outer cap is aluminum as well, while the upper shock mount is a plastic insert. The shock shaft is a beefy 4mm thick. The lower end is home for a plastic rod end, while inside the shock body an e-clipped shaft holds the piston head in place.

    Just as with the servos, the Magnum Junior radio is provided by Futaba. While it is an FM radio, it comes with all the basic functions you'd expect out of a stock radio. You'll find the basic trim adjustment knobs towards the front of the radio, while the servo reversing switches are housed under a smoked plastic cover towards the rear of the radio. Below the steering wheel is a dual-rate adjustment and you'll find a charging jack that can be used to charge a transmitter pack or rechargeable AA cells.


    Antenna Installation
    Antenna Protection
    Charge Receiver Pack

    First, you'll want to address the receiver's antenna. You'll find the antenna tube in the bag of extra parts, take it and then thread the antenna wire through the tube. The antenna wire should be coiled up near the receiver box. Be careful when pushing the antenna wire through the tube, 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.

    Once the antenna is installed, find the black antenna cap. It should be in the spare parts bag as well. Use it to cap off the top of the antenna tube. If you want to protect the excess antenna that hangs out under the cap, you can use a small section of heat-shrink tubing to cover the antenna wire and the plastic tube.

    Before you run, you'll need to charge the FireHammer's receiver pack. To do this you disconnect the plug connecting the receiver and its battery pack. Then you simply connect the receiver pack's plug to the charger, and plug the charger into a wall receptacle. The light on the charger should light up indicating the receiver pack is being charged. Keep in mind that the charger is a trickle charger, so it will take around 12-14 hours to charge the pack if it's fully depleted.

    Connect Receiver Pack
    Apply Stickers
    Install Rear Wing

    Once the pack is charged, you remove the charger from the receiver pack's plug and reseat it back into the plug coming from the receiver. If it will be a few hours before you run the FireHammer, make sure the power switch on the receiver box is set to the off position so that you don't accidentally discharge the receiver pack.

    You'll likely want to take the stock body from the plain basic white to something that appeals to the masses on a much wider scale. So at some point before you run, you'll want to apply the included stickers to the stock body. Use whichever ones you desire and you can use as many, or as few, as you wish.

    Since some of the stickers for the FireHammer are rather large, a technique that works well is to coat the sticky side of the decals with some water mixed with dishwashing soap. The soapy water will allow you to slide the decal around for a good fit, and make it easier to squeeze out any air bubbles trapped during the application. After a few hours, the water under the decal will dry, and it will be stuck to the body as well as if you hadn't used any soapy water at all.

    Installing the rear wing is a simple task. You'll simply drop it into place on the rear of the FireHammer, and then use a pair of the supplied body clips to hold it into place as shown.

    Mount Body
    Body Clips
    Radio Batteries

    The body is easy to mount onto the FireHammer, but you should be aware of all the mounting points for it. After dropping it into place, you'll quickly notice the front mounting post. So push a body clip into that post to secure the front. Then look down towards the mud guards, and you'll see two body posts on each side for the lower half of the body. Use some of the remaining body clips to secure the body at these lower points.

    To ready the Futaba radio for operation, you'll need to have 8 AA batteries on hand. I strongly recommend using quality batteries, not cheap ones from a discount store. Not only will they last longer, but they will provide a stronger signal as well. Insert the AA batteries as indicated on the radio's battery holder. Then replace the cover.


    Even though the FireHammer runs on regular unleaded fuel, you'll still want to run through a break-in procedure just as you do with a nitro-powered RC car. The break-in procedure involves two break-in tanks which sounds quick, until you consider the fuel tank's large size. While the larger tank size is ideal for long bashing sessions, it will make the two break-in tanks take about 45 minutes apiece. So you'll want to plan accordingly.

    Also, before you start break-in, remember you can't just use the unleaded fuel straight from the pump at the local gas station without a little prep work. You'll need to pick up some two-cycle oil to mix in it from any number of places that sell this type of oil for weed eaters and chainsaws. The instructions specify a fuel to oil ratio of 25:1 for break-in. Since I would only be using this mixture for break-in, I only mixed half a gallon. I poured 2.5oz. of oil into the fuel container and then poured half a gallon of gas in it as well. Once that was completed, I shook the mixture very well to thoroughly mix it.

    Mixing the fuel is the hardest part of break-in. After it's mixed you'll fill the FireHammer up and start the first of two tanks. You'll want to avoid running the buggy hard during the break-in tanks, although you'll be varying the throttle input. Basically this just boils down to not running full throttle, especially for long periods of time. Save the wide-open action for after the break-in tanks.

    I did find it necessary to use the choke lever when starting the FireHammer for the first run session of the day, and this continued throughout the time I tested it. Simply close the lever, and try to start the FireHammer with the pullstart. Most of the time it never started, but you could tell it would try. At that point, I reversed the choke setting, pulled the pullstart a couple more times and it would fire right back up. Obviously, before using the pullstart or choke, you'll want to use the primer bulb to ensure fuel is reaching the carburetor.

    Once the FireHammer is started, I started driving lazy laps around the backyard varying the throttle input. I avoided leaning the carburetor during the break-in process although the motor was running very rough. This was due to the fact that the manual encourages you to make no needle adjustments during the break-in process. I did bump the idle up a little to keep it running however. Sometimes I don't worry much about adjusting the idle, but since the FireHammer fuel tank offers such long run times I figured that an adjustment would make break-in easier on me.

    Break-in went smooth as far as running goes. However, once I reached the second tank, I did run into a small hitch with the pullstart slipping. If you remove the pull start assembly, there's a screw easily accessible from the backside of the pullstart that hold the internal components together. This screw had backed out causing the pullstart to slip. When this happened the first time, I didn't think much of it and tightened it back down. However, later on the slipping started again, so I used some threadlock on the screw to hold it in place. From that point on I experienced no further issues with it.

    Once break-in was complete, it was time to start having some fun. Fun is the key word here, as the FireHammer is certainly designed with bashing in mind. This makes it solely about fun. The tires, with their large knobs could kick up a tremendous amount of dirt even on a hard-packed surface. In fact the tires could chew up any hard-packed surface I encountered, leaving soft loose dirt in its wake after it passed through a few times. Duratrax might also want to consider marketing the FireHammer as a combination lawn aerator and garden tiller as well!

    While running the FireHammer the first thing I noticed is the fact the whine of the gears can be heard over everything, including the motor. It isn't really a sign of anything being wrong, but rather a result of the large gears being turned by the motor. It reminds me of a gear drive or blower system on a drag car providing that low whine that seems to garner attention when the motor is fired up. In the case of the FireHammer, once you step on the gas, you'll hear the motor's RPMs increase, and as it gets closer to you the sound of the gears take on a distinctive and easily noticed sound that stands out from the exhaust note. It certainly helps to make driving the FireHammer a unique experience.

    When one considers the sheer weight and size of the FireHammer, you may think that maneuvering would feel rather clumsy. However, nothing could be further from the truth, as it is quite a nimble vehicle thanks in part to it being two-wheel drive. This puts all the braking and driveline action at the rear wheels, avoiding the cornering push that's often seen when a vehicle is four-wheel drive. The suspension, which at first seemed rather stiff due to the weight of the buggy, soaked up bumps rather well. The shocks, which often exhibit the need for more dampening on many vehicles I test, seemed to be matched rather well with backyard bashing. While stiffer shock oil may have suited some owners, I think it would have been detrimental to the buggies ability to conquer terrain that consisted of just a rough rutted area.

    I spent much of my time, right after break-in, in the backyard watching the handling and running the FireHammer over the dirt jump I often use for testing. The buggy easily took the jump in stride and, if given a good dose of throttle on the approach to the jump, would easily push further into the air than you might have guessed it would. This easily showcases the strength and power of the onboard 23cc motor that the FireHammer comes equipped with. The FireHammer exhibited typical buggy characteristics in the air as well, making it easy to control in flight. I'll admit I was skeptical at first, due to the vehicle's weight. However, the FireHammer flies and handles much better than one would think it ever would, making me one that is certainly impressed with its abilities.

    The backyard area I was running in was fairly smooth and therefore not too much of a test of whether or not the FireHammer is lacking due to the fact it's not a four-wheel drive buggy. So after running it for a while in this area, I ventured to a construction area to test the FireHammer's capabilities in a rougher environment. The driveway of this area was pretty rough to the minor grading that had occurred, and made even rougher due to the truck traffic in and out of the long driveway. The FireHammer seemed to take this in stride however, as the back tires easily bit down into the dirt and provided plenty of traction through the rough stuff. It was necessary to keep the FireHammer's speed up some in the roughest areas to provide some momentum, but I never had any serious problems due to the buggy lacking four-wheel drive.

    The amount of dirt and dust the FireHammer stirred up in this area surpassed anything I had seen previously, as the tires easily cut down into the dirt and then promptly tossed it into the air. The FireHammer even managed to get some decent air at times by simply hopping up over the edging left by the motor-graders at the sides of the driveway being cut in. I had thought the FireHammer was certainly in it's element in the backyard, but this terrain seemed to suit it even better. This area was shaping up to be the most fun I'd had with the FireHammer yet, but there was certainly more to accomplish and tackle. So after spending a couple of hours in this area it was time to head elsewhere.

    I started the next phase by pulling out my large plywood ramp knowing I was asking a lot of the this heavy vehicle. However if I'm asked to test a vehicle I'm certainly not going to wimp out and give it an easy ride. So, after pulling the ramp into position, I started my first approach up the ramp and into the air. As it was my first jump, the launch wasn't the best, but it was easily corrected. However once the buggy landed it was immediately apparent that all power to the driveline was lost. Suspecting the pinion and spur gears, I inspected them first and found the problem right away. The pinion was stripped clean all the way around its surface, and a small rock was wedged in between two teeth on the spur. I'm guessing the rock was picked up when running in the construction area, and that the driveline shock the FireHammer experienced upon landing caused the pinion to strip itself clean. It probably didn't help matters that I was trying to correct the angle that the FireHammer was flying, which may have also caused the buggy to land with some throttle applied. So I needed to get some replacement gears and, despite this slight delay, I wasn't deterred in the least and would return.

    Although you will want to have some c-clip pliers on hand, the replacement gears were easily installed in just a matter of minutes. Once the FireHammer was ready, I decided to gather some speed data on the FireHammer as that fit within my schedule better at the time. However, I had not abandoned the idea of getting some big air with the plywood ramp however and knew that time was soon approaching.

    I chose a local elementary school parking lot for my speed tests, and quickly began to gather some data. After making several passes, I saw runs right at the 40MPH range which is very respectable for a vehicle of this size. The buggy itself had a tendency to fishtail when starting out on pavement due to the spiked tires. After the speed test I decided to have a little fun with this characteristic of the FireHammer and goofed off by drifting it around a curb in the parking lot. The buggy responded well to this style of driving, and was easily controlled in this manner. I will say that tire wear was considerable, and this isn't something you'd do for long with the stock tires though!

    With the speed tests behind me, the last task at hand was to shoot for some big air again. So at the first available opportunity, I pulled out my ramp again and fueled the buggy up for some good ramp runs. After my first few jumps, I had the knack for controlling the buggy with jumps in the 6-7 foot range, and could set the buggy back down with ease most of the time. There was some rebound upon landing when coming down from this height, but for a mix of backyard bashing like I had been doing, I don't think changing anything would be necessary for my tastes.

    I had a couple of bad landings, that tested the buggy's durability fairly well, and I'm happy to note that it took the crashes in style and never had any issues at all that affected it's operation. The body and wing showed some scuffing, but it was fair from even being anything major even in regards to body damage. The FireHammer was certainly built with durability as a primary consideration. Even though a heavier vehicle such as this isn't normally jumped to the extreme the way 1/10 and 1/8 scale vehicles are, the FireHammer shows that it doesn't mind a healthy dose of that sort of action as well.

    From an overall durability perspective I had very few problems, and each of them is something I'd consider minor. The tires and wheels did scuff up the wheel wells on the body a little more than I would have thought I'd see. With a set of body posts on the mud guards, I didn't expect to see any signs of rubbing there, but I did. Still some body damage overall isn't a big deal, and it didn't affect any other aspect of my bashing sessions.

    Although I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened, at one point during my bashing sessions, I did manage to break off the front body post. With the body posts on the mud guards holding the body on sufficiently, I didn't concern myself with this however, and ran the buggy without even bothering to replace it. A broken body post is a certainly a minor item to replace anyhow, and is nothing to gripe about.

    I also replaced the pinion and spur gears after my first attempts at some big air. While I was partially to blame because I may have landed the vehicle with the throttle still active due to trying to correct the landing angle, the rock wedged in between the spur gear's teeth certainly helped strip the gears as well. Despite this, the plastic spur and pinion worked as intended and provided a valuable safety link between the motor and the rest of the drivetrain. Had gears been used that were less prone to stripping, something much more expensive and difficult to replace could have been damaged.





































    I did have to threadlock the screw on the starter mechanism due to it loosening up, and after the bashing sessions I lost a few knobs on the tires. The pull start issue was easily fixed, and not a big deal. As far as the tires go, when running on rougher terrain with high powered motors, it's not uncommon to see the tires exhibiting something of this nature at times. So the tires themselves held up very well considering some of the abuse I put them through. Overall the FireHammer has proven itself to be tough as nails throughout my experiences.

    I've mentioned the extended runtimes offered by the FireHammer on several occasions, so I should probably elaborate a little bit more. Overall I was seeing around 45 minutes on a tank of fuel with the FireHammer, which makes it absolutely ideal for the basher who doesn't care to refuel often. It also made it a perfect vehicle to take out a good distance from your pitting and refueling area, as you didn't have to worry about carrying fuel with you. In my case, this was very handy on the construction site I spent some time bashing at. I also found that the fuel tank itself tends to get fairly hard to open after it's been running. So when it was time to refuel, I found that it was handy to have a large screwdriver handy. I inserted the screwdriver into the slot on the top of the lid, and then used it as leverage to get the lid to start twisting open.



    See the FireHammer in action!
    Resolution: Low Medium High


    The Duratrax FireHammer has been an absolute blast to bash with. Its combination of durable construction and the fact it uses unleaded pump gas make it a good choice for the backyard bashing crowd. While the initial cost of the FireHammer may seem steep, one should keep in mind that it's priced in the same range as other 1/5 scale vehicles. The entry level price for these vehicles will always be a little higher than 1/10 and 1/8 scale, because of the larger components they use.

    Quite honestly, the FireHammer is excellent out of the box. There just isn't much on the truck that needs an immediate change due to performance of durability concerns. Simply mix your fuel well, and you should have nothing less than a enjoyable experience.

    I'll admit I was skeptical of whether the FireHammer could deliver a fun time. Bigger vehicles often carry the penalty of being more prone to damage, as sometimes they can't take punishment like a smaller scale vehicle can. However they FireHammer dispels that line of thought, and provides an overall platform that gives you lots of power and is just plain fun to drive. Congratulations Duratrax, you're going to have a lot of happy souls with this one!


    Duratrax
    Distributed Exclusively By
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021 USA
    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Website: www.duratrax.com

    Associated
    3585 Cadillac Avenue
    Costa Mesa, CA 92626
    Phone: (714) 850-9342
    Website: www.teamassociated.com
    Products used: Air Filter Oil

    Super Tech
    Distributed Exclusively By
    Wal-Mart
    7000 Marina Blvd.
    Brisbane, CA 94005 USA
    Phone: (800) 966-6546
    Website: www.walmart.com
    Products used: Two-Cycle Engine Oil

    Comments on RCU Review: DuraTrax FireHammer

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    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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