RCU Review: Internet-RC Vulcan SE

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    Contributed by: Eric Hege | Published: July 2006 | Views: 78001 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    IRC Racing Vulcan SE 1/16 Nitro Buggy

    IRC Racing

    P.O. Box 31189
    Phoenix, Arizona 85046 USA

    Phone: (602) 347-1600
    Website: www.IRC-Racing.com

    See the Vulcan SE in action!
    Resolution:  Low  Medium  High

    Assembly Ease

    Handles Well
    Loads of Adjustibility
    Aluminum Suspension Arms
    Aluminum Threaded Shocks

    Nickel-Plated Sleeve
    Air Filter Clogs Easily

    The mini scene has exploded since it was pushed to the forefront of popularity a few years ago. However, up until now, all the minis were electric-powered models. This left the die-hard nitro fans without a place to turn, until now.

    The time for mini-nitros is upon us and Internet-RC, who is the U.S. distributor for IRC Racing Products, is one of the companies leading the charge into this new uncharted territory. IRC Racing offers two versions of their 1/16 scale buggy, the Vulcan and the Vulcan SE. The SE is the premier version, offering a large number of upgrades and option already installed onto the vehicle, while the standard base Vulcan provides a potential owner the best possible price point to get them started.

    The Vulcan SE certainly looks impressive with all of its fiery red aluminum. However, we all know that a vehicle does not survive on looks alone. So it'll need to withstand a romp in the dirt as well as look good. Let's tear into the buggy and see how it fares!

    Model Name: IRC Racing Vulcan SE
    Part Number: 16600
    Price: $370.00 (Approx. Street Price)
    Type: 1/16 Nitro 4WD Buggy
    Length: 9.1" (232mm)
    Width: 7.4" (187mm)
    Height: 4.3" (108mm)
    Wheelbase: 7.0" (177mm)
    Ground Clearance: 0.7" (18mm)
    Drivetrain: Single-Speed Transmission Dogbone-Style Axles
    Brakes: Cross Drilled Stainless Steel Disk and Calipers With Fiber Pads
    Shocks: Threaded Aluminum
    Front Wheels: 1.0x2.0" (25x51mm) Dish-Styled Plastic
    Rear Wheels: 1.2x2.0" (30x51mm) Dish-Styled Plastic
    Front Tires: 1.0x2.0" (25x67mm) Pin-Style
    Rear Tires: 1.2x2.0" (30x67mm) Pin-Style
    Chassis: 2mm Aluminum
    Motor: Toki .8cc/.05ci Side Exhaust w/Recoil Starter
    Fuel Tank: 38cc

    Additionally Required Items
    8 AA Batteries For Radio
    4 AAA Batteries For Receiver
    Glow Plug Igniter
    Fuel Bottle
    After-Run Oil
    Air Filter Oil
    Flathead Screwdriver
    Manuals and Documentation

    The included lexan body for the Vulcan SE is decked out in a yellow and red color scheme. The body is completely prepped, having all the necessary holes cut out, and the stickers already applied. The body is a tight fit onto the 1/16 scale buggy's chassis though, so it'll take you a few times before you get the hang of getting it on and off easily. Cutting out a little extra material around the engine's cooling head can make body removal and installation much easier.

    The included instruction manual for the Vulcan SE details the assembly, operation, and initial startup of the buggy and its .05 cubic inch engine. Towards the back of the manual you're also given a parts list and diagram of the parts on the Vulcan SE. The manual will help you tremendously throughout the life of the buggy, although the English in some areas of the manual is somewhat broken and a little tough to understand.

    With the Vulcan SE arriving as a RTR (Ready to Run) model, you don't need very many accessories to get you up and running. However IRC Racing does provide you with a few odds and ends to help get you up to speed. These additional items include an antenna tube, transmission cover with double-sided tape, and spare servo horns.

    Left Side
    Right Side

    While the 1/8 scale buggy genre is all pretty much laid out in similar fashion, the 1/16 nitro mini market is a new platform altogether. The IRC Racing Vulcan SE is the first of this new crop of minis to hit the market so the general layout may seem different that what you are used to when compared to its larger brethren. With such a small chassis to hold everything, it looks a little crowded. Everything on the chassis can be reached however, although owners with larger-sized hands may fumble a little with the smaller parts.

    The engine and receiver boxes have swapped sides of the buggy when compared to their larger 1/8 scale counterparts. In addition to that, the Vulcan doesn't use a center differential, but instead uses a mini-sized transmission. IRC Racing offers two versions of the buggy, one that's basic and the other offering many of the upgraded parts already installed on it. These upgraded options are items such as suspension arms, and are found on the SE version of the Vulcan. The SE version is the specific version I'll be covering in this review. These individual items will be covered in detail as we step through the various components of the buggy a little later.

    The main chassis plate is 2mm thick stamped aluminum, which forms the backbone of the buggy and supports all of its major components. On the underside you'll see a showcase of stainless steel countersunk screws holding the buggy's components to the chassis. An opening at the front allows the transmission to sit low on the chassis, while cutouts around the engine mounts allow the spur gap to be altered by sliding the motor back and forth.

    Rear Wing
    Fuel Tank
    Wheels and Tires

    Just like many of the items found on the Vulcan, the rear wing mimics its larger scale counterparts. The slotted opening allows the air to flow through the wing while still providing enough downforce. Plastic washers and body clips hold the wing to the mounts securely.

    The fuel tank for the Vulcan holds 38cc of fuel, and seems rather small. That is until you consider the fact that the mini-motor found on this buggy doesn't have the gluttonous appetite for fuel you'd expect from a four-wheel drive buggy. The tank's lid is spring-loaded and provides you an easy method of filling the tank when the fuel level gets low.

    The included tires use spikes to help maintain good traction while the buggy is in the dirt. The spikes are rounded, and the tires are pre-glued onto a set of high visibility yellow wheels. Foam inserts help the tire maintain its shape as the buggy is driven and jumped. Unlike 1/8 scale buggies, the front and rear wheels and tires are slightly different widths. The wider footprint also helps the vehicle maintain optimum traction as well.

    Front Suspension
    Sway Bar
    Shock Tower

    The Vulcan's suspension offers nearly the same level of adjustability as a full sized 1/8 scale buggy does. The shock tower provides the upper ends of the shock four possible mounting points. Down at the lower end of the shock, the suspension arm has a single mounting point. The shock tower attaches directly to the bulkhead assembly, and is 3mm thick stamped aluminum that's anodized a fiery red.

    The Vulcan SE also comes equipped with sway bars, which help to stabilize and control the roll center of the buggy. The stock sway bars are 2mm thick stainless steel, and attach just like you'd expect to see on a full size 1/8 scale buggy.

    The shock tower of the Vulcan SE also has one other item that I didn't expect to see on a mini nitro such as this. That is the upper suspension pin is provided two possible locations on the bulkhead assembly. This allows you to change the suspension's roll center. Plastic caps in the shock tower and bulkhead assembly allow you to easily capture the suspension pin no matter which setting you decide to use.

    Front Assembly
    Suspension Adjustibility
    Suspension Arms

    The front and rear suspension assemblies are designed to be easily removed as a complete unit. This makes maintenance much easier, allowing you to work on the assembly when it is separate from the vehicle. With space at a premium on a vehicle like the Vulcan, this feature can come in very handy.

    The available adjustability features continue to showcase themselves as you work your way through the various suspension items. Turnbuckles placed at the upper arms and steering links allow you to easily adjust the vehicle's camber and toe angle. Plastic c-clips on the upper suspension pins allow you to adjust the Vulcan's caster angle, while the steering link gives you the means to alter the buggy's Ackerman angle.

    The Vulcan SE features a slew of aluminum parts that also fit the Vulcan, but are merely upgrade options on the standard Vulcan platform. The most notable of these items are the suspension arms, which are 4mm thick aluminum. These parts really make the Vulcan SE stand out with their fiery red appearance. In between the front suspension arms, a c-hub style suspension setup allows the steering hubs to turn when called upon by the steering servo.

    Suspension Components
    Rear Suspension
    Axle Options

    Several individual items make up the complete suspension assemblies. One item that could be seen earlier, although it's much plainer now is the grub screw that provides the droop adjustment on the lower suspension arm. The 3mm thick stainless steel pins vary in length depending upon whether they are intended for the upper or lower positions. Brass inserts and countersunk screws properly secure the steering hub in the c-hub, while the 4mm thick axle stub passes through a pair of 4x8x3mm bearings. A hardened steel dogbone with a center thickness of 2.5mm transfers the power from the differential to the axle stub and wheels.

    The inner ends of the suspension arms use captured suspension pins as mentioned earlier. However, the outer suspension pin for the c-hub uses a pair of c-clips to hold it into place. An 8mm plastic hex adapter transfers the axle's motion to the wheel.

    The rear suspension differs from the front suspension somewhat, although many of the key elements are the same. The suspension pin braces set the toe angle, so it's not adjustable via turnbuckles. This is typical on a buggy however. The inner rear suspension pins are not trapped, and therefore rely on e-clips to hold them in position. Since the rear suspension doesn't need to provide steering capabilities, a pair of standard bearing carriers supports the axle assemblies.

    I mentioned the Vulcan's dogbone styled axles as I discussed the suspension assembly. However, I should also mention that if you prefer the CVD route to dogbones you can easily do so thanks to an upgrade path offered for the IRC Racing Vulcan. The SE doesn't come with this part installed, but it can be easily found at any distributor who stocks Vulcan parts or online through IRC Racing directly.

    Differential Access

    The bulkhead assembly is split into front and rear halves. Inside the assembly you'll find an open differential that utilizes plastic gears. Plastic gears may not seem up to the stresses that a nitro powerplant offers, so in the event your driving style dictates something tougher, IRC Racing is planning to release an upgraded differential that features metal gears.

    The differential rides on a pair of 6x10x3mm bearings, while the pinion gear rides on a pair of the same size bearings as well. These bearings help keep the differential operating smoothly as the drivetrain spins. The differential gears are well greased from the factory. In the event you need to inspect them, the bulkhead assembly is open from the underside.

    Inside the Differential
    Steering Servo
    Steering Linkage

    The side of the open differential found on the IRC Racing Vulcan SE is greased completely just like the ring and pinion gears are. The ping gear houses a set of three gears that provide the differential action to each of the wheels. A stainless steel pin passes through the differential components holding all of the items in line.

    The steering duties are handled by a mini-sized servo connected to a turnbuckle and rod ends. That linkage connects to a bellcrank-style steering setup that is also fashioned from aluminum and anodized in red. The side of the linkage that sits alongside the steering servo features an adjustable built-in servo saver. Adjustable turnbuckles extend outwards from the draglink to the steering hubs.

    Braking Assembly
    Inside the Transmission

    The Vulcan uses a transmission to transfer the power from the motor to the front and rear differentials. The transmission is a compact unit, and also houses the braking assembly as well. All of the transmission's gears ride on a full set of ball bearings, helping to keep the transmission rotating smoothly.

    The braking assembly on the Vulcan's transmission uses a cross-drilled stainless steel brake disk and stainless steel calipers. The Vulcan uses fiber pads between the brake disk and the calipers to provide consistent braking action. A braking lever on top of the transmission transfers the servo's motion to the braking assembly as needed.

    The stock transmission for the Vulcan SE is a single speed unit. However, for increased power and speeds, IRC Racing also offers an optional two-speed transmission that drops in place of the single speed unit. According to IRC Racing, the different gear ratios can really alter the behavior and characteristics of the buggy. I also received a two-speed transmission along with my Vulcan SE, so later on I'll be checking out how well it performs during the driving phase of the review. Another future upgrade option for the Vulcan is a metal spur gear.

    Shock Components

    The Vulcan's rear driveshaft utilizes a dogbone approach as well, just like the axles do. It's hardened steel, and spans nearly the entire length of the buggy's chassis. The front wheels get their power from one of the transmission's shafts, eliminating the need for a separate driveshaft.

    The shocks are the Vulcan SE are top-notch units, providing very solid and reliable dampening. The bodies are much shorter than conventional shocks, of course, but they are threaded. This allows you to easily adjust the threaded collars up and down as needed. The caps use plastic mounts for the screws, but the outer edges of the caps are aluminum.

    The shocks shafts are 3mm, and should easily handle anything thrown their way. An appropriately sized rod end allows the shock to be firmly mounted to the lower suspension arm. An aluminum ball is pressed into the rod end, allowing for a smooth pivot point.

    Tuned Pipe
    Mini-Sized Motor

    Electric minis have their 370-size motors, and nitro minis have smaller powerplants as well. The engine for the Vulcan SE is a .05 cubic inch engine, manufactured by Toki, which is tiny when even compared to the .12-sized powerplants you'll find in most stadium trucks. However, don't let its smaller size fool you, as the motor is plenty big enough for the buggy's size and weight. Aside from its size however, the motor is very similar to larger nitro engines.

    The aluminum carburetor allows to easily adjust both the low and high speed needles, just as any other full-sized motor would. The needles are easily reached with the engine installed on the chassis as well. Down below the high speed needle, you'll find the idle adjustment screw in the event you need to adjust the engine's idle speed.

    One of the neatest items to look at on the Vulcan's engine is its aluminum tuned pipe. The pipe and header are single piece design units, using springs to hold them together and eliminating the need for a silicone exhaust coupler. The motor is a side exhaust styled motor, so naturally the pipe's header takes this into account. On the back, you'll quickly recognize the recoil starter that allows you to fire the engine.

    The engine's clutch design is a cross between typical small and block clutches. The carbon clutch shoes themselves resemble items typically found on a small block motor, but the clutch springs are individual springs which are something that's normally found on big block clutch assemblies.

    Motor Head
    Piston and Sleeve
    Throttle Servo

    The Vulcan's motor is crowned with a red anodized cooling head, as anything else with all of the red aluminum chassis parts just wouldn't have looked right. The head is a single piece design, providing the threads for a standard-sized glow plug. Underneath the aluminum head resides the motor's internals. It's easy to see the size difference of the small motor's piston, when a .15 cubic inch motor's piston is placed alongside it.

    The piston is aluminum, while the sleeve uses nickel plating. I would have preferred to see a chrome plated sleeve, as most manufacturers have moved to chrome plated technology. However, the small mini-nitro market is still in its infancy. So it still has a little catching up to do.

    To control the throttle and braking duties, IRC Racing has equipped the Vulcan SE with another mini-sized servo. This servo is mounted onto brackets built into the side of the electronics box, and uses a servo horn to connect the servo with the linkages to the carburetor and braking assemblies.

    Engine Brace
    Adjustibility Slots
    Rear Brace

    A u-shaped aluminum engine mount wraps around the lower half of the engine block. This mount is secured from the underside of the chassis, allowing the gap between the spur and clutch bell to be easily adjusted as needed. You can also remove the motor without altering this gap although, due to the fact the motor is a side-exhaust motor, and you will need to remove the header first. A separate motor brace is positioned between the engine mount and the chassis to further reinforce this particular area of the buggy.

    The front of the chassis uses an anodized aluminum brace over the steering linkage to help stiffen the chassis. The rear of the Vulcan SE uses a threaded rod with plastic ends to help reinforce the suspension assembly when the buggy is being jumped and driven across the rough terrain it's sure to encounter.

    Receiver Box
    Inside the Receiver Box

    The Vulcan's electronics box is designed to house all of the necessary components while being easy to remove for cleaning. A single body clip secures the lid closed, while at the rear of the receiver box you'll find a switch to turn the onboard electronics on and off. The box also allows you quick and easy access to the receiver crystals should you need to change it to avoid frequency conflicts with your friends or fellow racers.

    Inside the receiver box, most will see an unfamiliar sight when it comes to the battery holder. Instead of being sized for AA batteries, it is intended for use with AAA batteries. This was necessary due to the compact size of the Vulcan's chassis. With the mini servos the Vulcan uses though, AAA batteries should easily provide plenty of power for the mini buggy.

    The 27MHz AM radio is a basic unit, but it provides all the necessary functions most owners would probably need when starting off. Analog trim knobs allow you to easily center the servos as needed, and switches allow you to swap the servo's direction if it's necessary as well. The radio is comfortable to hold, and the steering knob uses a rubber edge to help you maintain your grip on the wheel as you are piloting the buggy around your favorite spot to run and bash.

    Receiver Batteries
    Antenna Wire
    Antenna Tube

    Getting the IRC Racing Vulcan SE up and running is easy, as they certainly don't leave you a lot to take care of before taking the buggy out to break it in. The first item is the power source for the onboard electronics. Simply remove the receiver box lid and plug four AAA batteries into the battery holder.

    While the lid is off, run the antenna wire through the hole in the lid and then through the supplied antenna tube. It should slide through the tube easily, but it you encounter any difficulty, sprinkling a little baby powder on the wire will help get it through. Once the wire is in the tube, use the supplied antenna cap to hold the wire in place. Then push the antenna tube into its resting spot on the receiver box lid.

    Antenna Cap
    Fuel Filter
    Radio Batteries

    Once the antenna tube is in its place on the lid you'll want to secure the antenna wire with the supplied antenna cap. The cap will also protect the end of the wire should the buggy roll over while you're driving it.

    Since the fuel tank for the Vulcan SE doesn't have a built-in filter, I thought it would be especially important that I install one on the buggy. So I grabbed a red Dubro filter, part #2307, and snipped the fuel line in half. I placed the fuel filter in the split and then secured it to the front brace with a zip tie.

    The onboard electronics were taken care of a few steps ago; however the radio transmitter must be addressed as well. Place eight AA batteries in the radio, ensuring they are oriented correctly. For the best range and longevity, use a fresh set of brand name batteries.

    After walking through the various components of the IRC Racing Vulcan SE followed by a quick preparation session, I was ready to head out and break-in the motor. Since the Vulcan's sleeve uses nickel plating, I decided to follow the instructions laid out in the manual instead of heat cycling the motor. Heat cycling works well on most motors, but was really developed as a procedure for engines using chrome-plated sleeves.

    I made sure the high speed needle was set around four turns out from closed, which should be in the general range for proper operation according to the manual. Then I primed the motor and fired it up. I started the motor, and began the break-in process ensuring the motor was running slightly on the rich side and that the temperatures weren't getting too high.

    After I had ran through a few tanks I had some problems getting the motor to re-fire. I tried replacing the glow plugs and trying numerous items, but to no avail. After tearing the motor apart I found that the piston and sleeve no longer provided a proper fit. I called the manufacturer and it was decided that the motor was evidently defective. IRC Racing rushed another motor to me, and soon I was back in business working on breaking in the new motor.

    It didn't take me long to walk through the break-in process for the new motor, and soon I was ready to head to the local track for a test session. The weather at Monkey Bottom Raceway was hot and humid as I pulled the Vulcan SE out for a run. With sweat already beading up on my forehead, I fired the buggy's motor up and steered it towards the track.

    I spent the first tank warming the truck up, and then tuning the buggy's motor for performance. After a few laps, with some high speed runs, I soon had the motor dialed in as I wanted it. I then refueled the tank, and the real fun was ready to begin as I could start hitting the jumps as I had been wanting to.

    The Vulcan SE could really take off with authority, much more than I would have considered it would. The tires gripped the hard packed surface well, allowing the buggy to pull away with plenty of acceleration for its size. The small wheelbase would have a hard time putting down the power reliably if the buggy had much more power, at least without some changes. With a mini-sized vehicle such as the Vulcan SE, the available power plays a crucial role in how easy the vehicle is to handle. The short wheelbase, combined with the lightweight chassis can make even a lightweight motor seem like an uncontrollable powerhouse.

    The Vulcan SE had plenty of power to clear the jumps on the track. Doubling any was really out of the question however, as the track is really designed for larger vehicles, and the power provided by the buggy's motor simply didn't provide enough power to grab that much air. However, coming from a racing viewpoint, I'll take a nice controllable setup over an overpowered chassis any day. The Vulcan SE met that classification perfectly.

    After running a few tanks through the buggy, I brought it in and decided to make a few adjustments. I set the roll center of the buggy in the lower of the two available positions, and then set the wheels up with a little negative camber. I also toed the front wheels out just slightly, to help keep the buggy more stable at speed.

    These few changes made a nice difference, even on the smaller platform of the Vulcan. While I have no doubt that even more tweaking could refine the buggy even further for each owner's actual conditions. However, the changes I made definitely allowed the buggy to act even more stable as I ran it around the track.

    I found I could run much harder through the corners, and the Vulcan rarely got itself out of shape. The short wheelbase of the mini made it a natural for carving through the corners, and especially the tight s-section of the track that will often give larger vehicles some trouble due to how far they like to understeer through the corners.

    The buggy remained nice and composed through the rhythm section on the track, with the small bumps not seeming to upset the buggy much at all if the throttle was worked well. The springs and stock oil seemed to work very well together, giving the buggy a very good balance of control and dampening action. I simply couldn't see any room for improvement in that regard.

    After spending some time with the buggy in a single speed mode of operation, I removed the transmission and installed the optional two-speed transmission on to the Vulcan. The two-speed transmission seemed to provide a nice boost in top speed, combined with the excellent acceleration I had seen with the single speed transmission installed. It was a rush seeing the little nitro buggy hit the straightaway and then shift into a second gear with a plume of dust rising behind it!

    The Vulcan handles very well, with it acting in a very similar manner to larger sized vehicles. The lack of this has been one of my major gripes with the mini-craze, as the smaller vehicles don't often behave the same as 1/10 and 1/8 scaled vehicles do. While you are still aware that you are piloting a mini with the Vulcan SE, the line distinguishing the larger sizes and the minis has definitely gotten a lot fuzzier now.

    I did find the air filter to be a little annoying. It filled up with dust at my home track very quickly due to the track's tendency to stay very dry and dusty. I also don't feel 100% comfortable with the fit of the foam element in the rubber housing either. Frequent inspection showed that if you were too negligent with air filter maintenance, dirt could possibly start to slip between the rubber housing and the foam element.

    I had a blast with the Vulcan SE, and aside from the earlier incident with the engine's sleeve I only experienced one other problem with it. This was a stripped spur gear early on during my test session at the track, and was soon rectified. I should take this opportunity to mention that IRC Racing is also working on a 1.0cc motor as an upgrade as well. While I think the stock motor provides plenty of power for the mini-sized platform, any power junkie should find the optional motor satisfies any desires they may have!

    See the Vulcan SE in action!
    Resolution:  Low  Medium  High

    The IRC Racing Vulcan SE has proven itself as a very capable blending of a mini-sized vehicle with nitro power. The buggy acts and feels more like its larger-sized counterparts than the electric minis I have driven in the past do. The level of adjustability and top-notch items like aluminum shocks help this substantially.

    The Vulcan SE is the first round in a new crop of RC vehicles, a group I expect to grow just as the electric have. I'd like to see the motor use the chrome plated standard that nitro guys have become accustomed to. The air filter seems to clog fairly easily as well, and needs to be examined very frequently to avoid dirt slipping by. Despite these items, the Vulcan SE is a very capable platform, and I expect it'll inspire many more mini-sized nitros to come!

    IRC Racing
    P.O. Box 31189
    Phoenix, Arizona 85046 USA
    Phone: (602) 347-1600
    Website: www.IRC-Racing.com

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

    Dubro, Inc.
    480 Bonner Road
    Wauconda, IL 60084 USA
    Phone: (732) 635-1600
    Website: www.dubro.com
    Products used: Fuel Bottle, Fuel Filter, Glow Igniter

    Distributed Exclusively By
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021 USA
    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Website: www.odonnellracing.com
    Products used: 30% Racing Fuel

    Trinity Products, Inc.
    36 Meridian Road
    Edison, NJ 08820 USA
    Phone: (800) 848-9411
    Fax: (732) 635-1640
    Website: www.teamtrinity.com
    Products used: After Run Oil

    Comments on RCU Review: Internet-RC Vulcan SE

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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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