RCU Review: ProBoat Formula RTR Hydro

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    Contributed by: Matt Gunn | Published: September 2007 | Views: 44001 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Proboat Formula Hydro RTR

    Review by: Matt Gunn

    Formula Hydro RTR
    Distributed exclusively by:
    Proboat/Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Support Phone: (877) 504-0233

    Website: www.proboatmodels.com

    Formula heating the water!




    Powerful .18 marine engine

    Sullivan Tiger Drive instead of pull start

    Improved hull design

    Composite propeller

    Non-adjustable strut

    Servo tray was loose

    Radio box
    can get damp inside

    As long ago as 7 years (think way back) the ready-to-run boat scene was limited to a handful of quality hulls. The rest of them were nothing more than ABS-constructed, 540-powered pool toys. In order to be competitive, or at least break the 25 mph barrier, you had to build a quality boat. This could involve anything from purchasing running gear to glassing a hull built from a box of wood.

    In recent years new breeds of ready-to-run boats have charged the scene and the leader of this high-performance flotilla has to be Proboat. Sporting more vessels than a Chinese fishing village, Proboat covers the spread with everything from sailboats to offshore cats to super-fast hydroplanes. This brings me to ask you one question: What's your weapon of choice? For me, the Formula Hydro RTR was a perfect fit.

    The 1/12th scale hydroplane is nothing new to Proboat, yet the Formula Hydro has been outfitted with a larger .18 engine, improved propeller and a redesigned hull in comparison to its predecessors, which enhances the owner's overall experience. With a top speed over 30 mph, I'd say mission accomplished.

    During the course of the review, I treated this boat as a newbie would, making common rookie-like mistakes in an attempt to break it of it's prowess. That proved to be a tougher task than I expected as the Formula Hydro took quite a little beating and still ran strong. Even though it has a few faults, it's still a top notch RTR boat. Now without further ado I give to you the Proboat Formula Hydro!

    Name: Formula Hydro 1/18th Scale RTR
    Price: $299.99 retail price
    Length: 26"
    Beam: 8.3"
    Engine: Dynamite .18 marine engine with tuned pipe
    Receiver battery used: 4 AA batteries
    Radio equipment: (Included) 2-channel 27MHZ AM, receiver, throttle servo, steering servo

    • Fuel Bottle
    • Glow Igniter
    • Flat head Screwdriver
    • 12 AA Batteries
    • 6-cell battery pack for the hand held starter
    • Fuel (20%+)

    Other Helpful Items

    • Temperature Gauge
    • After Run Oil
    • Fail Safe Unit
    • glow plug wrench
    • Rechargeable Battery Pack (Receiver)

    Right front
    Left rear
    Rudder, water pickup, prop, and strut
    Water discharge
    Turn fin

    The Formula Hydro comes packaged very well with styrofoam and cardboard used to keep the bright red hull safe during shipping. It arrived without a dent, scratch, or so much as a fingerprint on the hull. Upon initial inspection you'll find a well built fiberglass-composite hull with no signs of thin spots, which was a problem that seemed to plague previous 1/12th scale Proboat hydroplane hulls.

    The first thing you see when you open the hatch is the new Proboat Dynamite .18 marine engine. This engine is an update from previous .15 sized marine engines and sports a Sullivan Tiger Drive starting system and hand-held starter. The .18 has the standard water-cooled head found on other models and does an excellent job of keeping temperatures down. One item worth noting about the water-cooled head; if you remove the head, make sure to leave the 4 screws in the head. If you remove them the rubber o-rings can shift causing a break in the seal and water to flood the hull when underway. If this happens, just pull the head apart and re-align the o-rings with the screw holes and sandwich the head back together. The motor sits in a metal cradle attached to the hull by 4 rubber mounts. It does a good job of reducing most vibrations but does not eliminate them. I didn't think the vibrations were excessive by any means.

    Moving aft (that's rear for all you land-lubbers) we see Proboat has given the Formula a flex shaft which attaches to the engine via the collet. Make sure you remove the flex shaft and grease it after every 2 hours of run time. Doing so will ensure a long life for the shaft. Depriving it of grease will kill it, and I know your not that type of person. The shaft exits through the hull and meets the strut at the ferrule. The ferrule attaches the flex shaft to the prop shaft which extends through the strut to the drive dog, which holds the propeller to the prop shaft. There, now that we've covered that little bit of nautical knowledge, lets move on. But in case you got lost, it's all explained with pictures in the Proboat manual!

    The strut is a fixed design, which was a little disappointing. Considering the growing popularity of stock racing classes, it only makes sense to give the racer a means of adjusting the depth and angle of the prop for fine tuning. Fortunately, there are a few aftermarket struts that are a direct fit for the Proboat 1/12th scale hydroplane. At the end of the boat is the composite 2-blade prop and is an update from the original Octura Y534 plastic propeller. Proboat claims it's more durable then it's predecessor and I will agree with that statement, but I did break one during the review. Luckily, Proboat includes a replacement prop just for such an occasion. The stock prop provides great speed and acceleration, but if you decide to upgrade to a metal propeller, I suggest the Octura Y535. The result will be a noticeably quicker boat with a higher top speed.

    Dynamite .18 with Sullivan Tiger Drive

    Fuel delivery onboard the Formula Hydro consists of a plastic tank located in the nose of the boat. The pressure line exits from the header and enters the center of the top of the tank. The cap screws on and remained tight throughout the review. Aside from a low speed needle that's a little hard to reach, I experienced no problems with the fuel system. Fuel consumption is decent with run times over 10 minutes noted when tuned for performance and I always seemed to bring the boat in way before running out of gas, just to take a deep breath!

    The turn fin and rudder on the Formula are worth noting; they have been sharpened just shy of your favorite steak knife and they cut down on induced drag through the water. The turn fin hooked well and allowed for full throttle right-handed turns with no risk of flipping. I experienced no issues with their performance throughout the review. If I were to upgrade, I would opt for a break-away rudder and turn fin just incase your hydroplane kisses a turtle shell at 30 mph.

    The cooling system works well as I expected it to; water is picked up on the transom and is pushed through the hull to the head and is expelled out the left side of the hull. The water discharge hole is nothing more than a rubber grommet with the tube sticking through. Be careful not to accidentally push the tube into the hull because it only sticks out 1/16th of an inch. Also, when running the Formula, make sure there is a steady stream of water being expelled from the tube. This will guarantee a cool running engine.

    Proboat has included with the Formula Hydro a 2 channel AM radio on a frequency of 27mhz. The radio looks sleek with the antenna at the front of the case and ergonomically felt good in my hands. The flush trim knobs were a little bit of a pain to adjust while underway because I had to rest my thumb on the knob and rotate my whole hand to turn it. Again, pretty easy to do when at the dock but it can be a bit tricky when running laps. There is also a battery level indicator in the form of 3 LEDs which is always good to have on a controller. The radio box seems to be one area that needs a little work; the rubber boots for the push rods can leak water, the servo tray was loose, and the plastic lid was only taped on the sides. Addressing the servo tray, when the throttle is pulled, the torque of the servo moves the tray forward enough to turn the rudder slightly. This means you must trim the boat at full throttle for it to run straight. My other complaint is the plastic lid. It is held on by two strips of tape on either side. You must remove the lid to install the batteries in the receiver as outlined in the manual, so why not include some tape to reseal it? The manual does give you a part number so you can order tape to complete the prep work, but luckily I had some packing tape to fully seal the lid. I feel Proboat should include a roll of tape (part number ABC53009) for your convenience.

    The receiver and servos included with the Formula Hydro functioned flawlessly. The steering servo is quick enough to keep you one step in front of the boat; this is good because positive control is key to having a good time. The throttle servo also operated as expected. Battery drain is minimal and I am still on my original batteries after a few weeks of average use.

    Fuel tank
    AM 2 channel radio
    Radio box w/ cover removed

    The engine is set from the factory for break-in which is very rich. I had to lean it out 1/4 of a turn to prevent the motor from hydro locking. The boat was broken in on a bench with water being fed to the pick-up tube. I installed a valve on the tube to control the flow of water. The engine was heat-cycled at high-idle with short blips of the throttle used to clean it out. As the engine approached 200 degrees, I opened the valve to allow water to the engine. As the temperature dropped to near 130 degrees, I closed the valve to allow the engine to heat back up. This method was repeated for 4 tanks and then it was off to the river to tune it for performance.

    Please note the Proboat manual included with the Formula suggests you break-in the boat at the lake and unless your are comfortable with the bench method, take her to the water for break-in.

    I arrived at the Chattahooche River around 5:30 pm. There was a nice breeze out of the East which resulted in a direct headwind, and the river current flowed at 3 mph which meant my upstream pass would be against the current and the wind. I brought my kayak along for retrieval purposes and after carrying everything to the shore, readied the boat for her maiden voyage. This included a range check and a double check of servo throws.

    The .18 engine included with the formula is honestly the easiest starting engine I've ever had. I attached the starter to the Tiger Drive and before I realized I had pushed the button, the engine was already purring at idle. After securing the hatch with the two knurled aluminum nuts, I let the motor warm up for about 30 seconds, scanned the river for any ducks, and gave the Formula Hydro a toss into the water. What happened next was no surprise, the Formula instantly planed out and rocketed away from me in a cloak of rooster tail so fast, that I almost forgot to turn right! Regaining my composure, I began setting up an imaginary track by running a few laps and following in the previous laps wake. You will soon learn through trial and error where the sweet spot is on the high-speed needle. If you are too lean, the boat will run strong for a few seconds and then begin to slow as the engine starves for fuel; this is called a lean bog. Bring it in and adjust the needle in 1-hour increments until it runs strong and puts out a fine line of exhaust at high rpm.

    The hydro carries a lot of speed with the new .18 engine, getting airborne ever so often but always settling back down onto the sponsons. I'm unsure if the new hull design, in which the rear "winglets" have been removed, presents any real improvement in handling but it does turn very well and holds it's line in the straights so it's safe to say that no performance was lost due to the hull change. The Formula throws out a 3-foot rooster tail that definitely attracts attention, just in case the sound of the screaming engine doesn't! I felt at times that some park patrons were a little annoyed by the sound of my little red nitro boat running wide open at the river's edge. That feeling disappeared when a couple brought their 4 year old son over and asked if I would run it again.

    Running a race track pattern is what the Formula Hydro does best, and a clockwise pattern should be observed at all times. If you turn left too quick, the Formula will flip like Mary Lou Retton! When you do make the correct right-hand turn, you will see that the Formula Hydro can take them wide open without shedding a lot of speed. If you really tighten the turn, the propeller may slip so keep the turn sharp, but not too sharp; you'll soon get the feel for what the hydro can and can't do.

    After burning a few tanks of fuel and seeing what the hydro was capable of, I put the controller into the hands of my girlfriend, and instantly began biting my nails! She has never piloted an rc boat, much less a nitro hydroplane although she does have a little time with my nitro trucks. She surprised me with full speed laps right from the beginning and control like she had done it before, no coaching required!

    Overall, running the Formula Hydro has been great fun. It speeds along at or above 30 mph and corners like a on-road car with foam tires. The motor has performed above expectations, and that's on 20% nitro. I look forward to increasing the percentage for even more performance. Since the review, I have added a sharpened and balanced Octura Y535 prop with a noticeable increase in top speed.

    Formula heating the water!



    Proboat is the leader in ready-to-run boats for many reasons; they're boats are affordable, they require little-to-nothing to get on the water, and customer service is top notch. The Formula Hydro is the latest example of Proboat's dedication to bringing you quality without breaking the bank. Although I found a few flaws with the radio box, I feel they can be solved in the factory by securing the servo tray better and including tape to secure the plastic cover. Other than that, the Formula Hydro is the perfect boat for the beginner, novice, or professional rc boater and promises to keep you on your toes with high speeds and sharp turns. Thanks, Proboat, for another great hull!

    Proboat/Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Support Phone: (877) 504-0233
    Web Site: www.dynamiterc.com

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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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