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Making a Heng Long Challenger 2 battle-ready - how much does it cost?

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Making a Heng Long Challenger 2 battle-ready - how much does it cost?

Old 06-10-2021, 05:59 PM
  #1  
cleong
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Default Making a Heng Long Challenger 2 battle-ready - how much does it cost?

I have posted some of these photos in Tom Hugill's thread before, but never really gave this tank a thread of its own. Having found some additional photos stashed away in a forgotten folder, I finally have enough material to do so.

I am a modern tank nut - my last few tank acquisitions have all been modern, the T-55, a pair of Leopard 2A6, a pair of Abrams, etc. So naturally when Heng Long announced their Challenger 2, I got one. As I intended to go IR battling with it, that meant most of the innards would be removed and so I opted for the cheapest, most basic all-plastic version. ($200 including shipping). It was an exercise in finding out how cheaply I could put a HL tank onto the battlefield and have it be compliant to Tamiya battle standards. All prices quoted are in US dollars for ease of reference and dated from 2016.



Together with the other modern tanks in my motorpool at the time

As Heng Long electronics during that time were not Tamiya compatible, Clark's TK22 system got the nod, and I added his 3D printed recoil gearbox, which cost around $150. Finally, the Tamiya TBU apple itself, which was $100.

And so, in its most basic form, to make a Heng Long tank battle-ready, at least for me, is $450.

But as you might get the feeling, that's only half the story isn't it, because it is. This setup lasted me for only an afternoon's worth of IR gaming, because the plastic tracks stretched, causing track throwing issues, which led to the plastic clutches wearing out as well. But while it lasted, it was fantastic - the tank so light, and its tracks were broad, affording low ground pressure and great maneuverability. With the day cut short, its back to the maintenance depot then...

The PDSGB gearbox was new at the time, given that it worked like the other Tamiya gearboxes in my modern tanks, I got one. It was a well made piece of kit, but what I wasn't prepared for was the weight, which was so bad it sagged the rear end, and setting higher preloads in the rear springs didn't help much. In the end I scrounged the 4:1 unit from my Heng Long Abrams to make the suspension work ($130 for the PDSGB and $80 for the 4:1).


Dragging her butt on the ground


Using the highest settings for spring preload on the last three roadwheels didn't help much.

Fixing/adding a working track tensioner proved to be the most expensive part of the endeavor. DKLM RC had a beautiful CNC piece for $250, but with no other options I went for it. In for a penny, in for a pound! (I did find out Heng Long eventually revised the Challenger 2 to have a built-in track tension, you lucky people! I have always had good experience with Tamiya's Leopard 2A6 tracks, which are made of hybrid materials of high strength steel for the end links, plastic base with rubber pads, and I got a set for the Challenger ($90). The stock sprockets' teeth are of a different spacing, so a bespoke Challenger-style sprocket with Leopard teeth spacing was used ($50?).


The front hull was reinforced with epoxy to offer more rigidity (note how thin the plastic is)


Track tensioner in CAD


The mounts are machined brass, and the idler wheel is metal (not too sure if it was a metal 3D print or cast, due to the rough surface texture)


It was a waste to cover it with paint, but the tank needed to have a scheme.


Other nice features - a magnetic hub cap covers the axle stub. The idler wheel rides on ball bearings.


Challenger 2-style sprockets were made with Leopard 2 teeth spacing so that the tracks could be used


I did little aesthetic things as well, such as grinding the rounded LED bulbs in the headlights flat, even though they are not connected up.

The tank I elected to model was significant to me for two reasons, the first for having appeared in the UK motoring show Top Gear playing in the mud on Salisbury Plains with a Range Rover driven by Jeremy Clarkson. Though more than one tank was used in filming, Arethusa (DT23AA) was seen the most, and thus there was ample reference footage. The second, which I only found out later, was that it is also the last Challenger 2 produced:


Top Gear producers use a lot of filters and desaturation - actual photos were referenced in deciding the mid-00s color scheme

And so now she sits in all her glory, Arethusa of the Royal Tank Regiment.




To get her to this stage cost $920.

This is nearly as much as an equivalent Tamiya modern tank (full option L2A6 from RCJaz.com), except Tamiya doesn't make a Challenger (yet), which I feel is the bare minimum the tank needs, in order to perform as reliably as a Tamiya. I could have added metal roadwheels, a metal hull, or suspension kit to go with the PDSGB, and that would have taken the total spend even higher, not to mention aesthetic items like the add-on Chobham armour package. Aside from that, the only thing I found Heng Long superior is their rotation gearbox, which is much less fragile and finicky than Tamiya's WW2, and comparable to the ones in Tamiya's modern tanks.

But what's significant about this process is that the spending is incremental - instead of shelling out a grand or more, you start with $200, and add a couple of hundred now and then as you figure things out. Its less painful on the pocket for sure, but you spend more time tinkering and making things work together, as opposed to pulling parts off a sprue and screwing them together knowing that its a non-event, because they will simply fit and do the job. It is definitely different strokes for different folks!
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Old 06-10-2021, 10:43 PM
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I think many of us build our Tanks like that,
The total cost may be equal or more than its Tamiya equivalent but because the outlay is over a period of time the upgrades are more affordable than a one time layout of big bucks,
The best example is perhaps the Tiger 1 which is full of failings as represented by Heng Long or Taigen/Torros products but the Heng Long is almost free in its basic form compared to Tamiya's and yet there are more upgrades available in the market place for the Tiger 1 then any other Tank which allows you to transform it over time into a very personal affordable one off with the authenticity of a Tamiya well researched Tank,
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Old 06-11-2021, 03:34 AM
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This is great stuff, Leong, thanks for posting this. This is exactly the kind of thread that we need so that people who have never done something like this before have a good idea of what it takes and what it costs. This reminds me of when I took the $100 JP and made it hobby grade, I put about $800 into it, but it's still Airsoft. If I were to add the apple and emitter that would bring me up close to what you spent on the Challenger. And you're definitely right that it seems easier to do it a little bit at a time, the only reason I have never bought a Tamiya tank is because of the high initial costs.
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Old 06-11-2021, 07:02 AM
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cleong
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Yes, I intended to present a hopefully-balanced perspective (despite the bias of tank brands that I own) now that I've been there and done that. I am still pretty resolute that any tank that is expected to run reliably has to have track tensioners, durable tracks and good gearboxes. The other factor is the onboard electronics, which are central to the whole operating, aural, and visual spectacle. Aside from that, every tank is basically a plastic-and-metal box which shoots and receives IR beams.

Personally I'm not much of a tinkerer, as patience isn't one of my virtues, but even more so because I now have a toddler tearing about the house, which is why I can justify saving up to get Tamiya kits if possible (my cheat code is buying them used). But I can see how part of the fun of lower end tanks is bringing them up to aesthetic and mechanical standard which, aside from spreading out the spend, also increases the gratification of improving it over time with your own efforts. True, there will be dead-ends, like my little PDSGB experience, but then you get to learn about it and talk about it.

Tamiya vs. HL/Mato/Hooben/etc. debates often get a little heated, but my little Challenger adventure offered me some insight into "the other side". It hasn't changed my mind much, but I "got it" a lot better after that process. Where the clarity was lacking (and not for lack of existing tank hobbyists trying) is that potential newcomers can't really see how nuanced the different tiers of RC tanking are, and the associated costs:
  • Primarily mantlepiece queens and indoor runners - $200
  • Backyard bashers/soda can plinkers - $350
  • Its my first time at Danville - $500
  • I like a tank that runs well and looks accurate but don't participate in organized battles - $400-600 (depending on the brand, tank model and degree of accuracy)
  • I hit up Danville everytime there is a battle - $800 and up
I don't think I am too far off on these estimates, but it gives newcomers who are thinking about IR battles that reality check that just because their brand-new HL Panther looks almost-identical to an optimized Tamiya Panther with the necessary optimizations, doesn't mean that they will perform the same on the field. Its not about killing an opponent, or winning a battle, its about effort-to-fun ratio. For the most part, many guys have to travel (it was a round trip of 1150 miles for me from where I lived to Danville) and the last thing you wanted is for your weekend to be ended prematurely, or in the least-worst case scenario, spending most of Saturday swapping out a stripped gearbox.

I look forward to the day when Heng Long reaches Tamiya's current level of ability. Their steady improvement in stepping away from tanks "inspired" (ahem) by Tamiya to bespoke tanks of their own, and their recent release of updated control boards, gives me hope.Diversity and competition drives any environment because if the market is totally dominated by one entity, it is also a fragile market that could suddenly disappear due to a change of leadership and/or direction.
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Old 05-12-2022, 03:22 AM
  #5  
cleong
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Having taken a week off work recently, I set about checking through my tanks many of which have not been operated for two years.

All of my NiMH are dead, one of them tried to explode when I cycled it for charging. At least I had a couple of functioning LiPos.

Anyway, I’ve always had issues getting used to Clark’s control setup, which is different from Tamiya’s which is the majority of my fleet and what I’m used to. With some time and a programmable Spektrum DX8 radio on hand I dove in to see if I could get it working like how I wanted it……

I also took some time out to install a new gun barrel bellow.

(more in the next post, including piccys and videos)
Old 05-12-2022, 07:19 AM
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cleong
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It is generally fairly simple to set up the Clark board - all of my non-Tamiya tanks (T-55, Abrams and this Challenger) have had, or still run Clark boards. However I tended not to use the tanks very much due to a fundamental difference where gun barrel control and main gun firing is different from Tamiya's setup:



Raising or lowering the barrel of a Tamiya tank is as simple as pushing a stick up or down.



Firing the gun is only slightly more complicated because you need to activate the trim switch. But its still working off the same stick.



In contrast, Clark requires you to combine the axis of two sticks in order to manage your gun barrel, as well as fire the gun. In practice (and yes I have tried), in the heat of battle, I have either turned off my engine sounds, or worse, put my tank into neutral such are my hamfisted actions when the enemy is near! At least for me, when things get hectic, I want my controls to be as simple as possible. As mentioned above, I had some time, and a fancy programmable Spektrum DX8 transmitter, so I started playing with the mixes to see if I can program a Clark board to work like a Tamiya (yes, I asked Clark to provide a Tamiya mode before too).
Old 05-12-2022, 09:08 AM
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That's one of the main reasons that I don't buy Clark boards, I can't stand all those half stick commands. I must be fat fingered because I never seem to get them right and I always end up doing something that I didn't want to do and then have to start over again. I found the IBU was much easier when it comes to actually operating the tank. The ASP is even easier for me with machine guns and Main cannon fire being already on switches but unfortunately, that board is no longer available and I spoke to Kevin not long ago and he assures me that it will probably never be available again.
Old 05-12-2022, 09:26 AM
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The newer Clark boards (TK40, 50, and 80) with SBUS don't require all of those half stick movements. The standard 4 channel ones do all those half-movement things. Everything is done on switches for SBUS. My machine guns and cannon fire are on my top rocker switches and are just a quick flip of your finger. Driving on one stick, turret on the other. No accidentally firing the gun trying to raise the gun like a Tamiya. Gun firing is on the same side as the turret functions. Start up functions and lights are on switches. Smoke on a switch so you can turn it on or off at will.

I know Stian and Stanlley from RC Tank Legion have multiple videos out there on Youtube showing how the SBUS functions work.
Old 05-13-2022, 01:36 AM
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I should have been more clear, I don't buy the tk20 or tk22 because of the half stick commands, and I don't buy the tk40 and up because of the price. If Ivano would get his head out of his butt and fix the inertia issue I would buy more IBUs. But, at the end of the day, what I'll most likely do is just keep playing with my slot cars.
Old 05-13-2022, 06:10 AM
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cleong
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But what if I told you, you could program away the half stick commands?
Old 05-13-2022, 08:27 PM
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Old 05-13-2022, 08:56 PM
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So for $920, I have a tank that works almost like a Tamiya. But it still isn’t one. Here’s the things that are missing

- no bearings for the road wheels
- simplified suspension
​​​​​​- hardware of poorer quality (the screws)
- electrical fittings of poorer quality as well (Tamiya uses more copper in their wire, the wire sheaths are more flexible, and connectors more durable)
- lack of good-sized speaker box (poor sound)
- exterior of tank lacking in fine details

There aren’t many things in the tank that are better than a Tamiya, but the rotation gearbox and turret ring rotation is one of them. I wish more of Tamiya’s tanks use it.

Last edited by cleong; 05-13-2022 at 11:53 PM.
Old 05-24-2022, 06:19 AM
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Love the track tensioner, RCtank legion had one before, but they don’t have it in stock anymore
Old 05-24-2022, 08:04 AM
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What nobody has mentioned is that the later Heng Long Challenger 2 comes with the version 7.0 board which is both BB and IR compatible to Tamiya standard.and it allows for a massive financial saving.
Old 05-24-2022, 09:20 AM
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cleong
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Originally Posted by jarndice View Post
What nobody has mentioned is that the later Heng Long Challenger 2 comes with the version 7.0 board which is both BB and IR compatible to Tamiya standard.and it allows for a massive financial saving.
I have heard that they were compatible, but do they simulate battle damage/hit points same as Tamiya though? Even with Clark's configurable damage, there was always a bit of difference in how they slowed down as hits were taken.
Old 05-24-2022, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by cleong View Post
I have heard that they were compatible, but do they simulate battle damage/hit points same as Tamiya though? Even with Clark's configurable damage, there was always a bit of difference in how they slowed down as hits were taken.
The newer 6.0-7.0 HL systems are kinda compatible. To really make them work with Tamiyas one needs to add a better IR receiver like the LegoDEI receivers(with 360 sun shade). When fighting Tamiyas we have come up with the “LP 6-6”guidelines.

Which is to run the HL on Low Power, count to 6 (which ends up being 4-5 under pressure) between shoot and of course 6 hit until dead. This balances out to being equal to Tamiyas newer (DMD11s) Medium tank setting. The Tamiya tanks have an advantage at the beginning of a fight and are usually faster, the HL tanks have the advantage at the end of the fight, in the middle they are equal. When the guidelines are followed it works rather well at balancing out not having “damage” on the HL systems. The only real drawbacks are that HL tanks have to always (typically) be Medium tanks and must have a better aftermarket IR receiver installed.

Last edited by Fsttanks; 05-24-2022 at 11:10 AM.
Old 05-24-2022, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Fsttanks View Post
The newer 6.0-7.0 HL systems are kinda compatible. To really make them work with Tamiyas one needs to add a better IR receiver like the LegoDEI receivers(with 360 sun shade). When fighting Tamiyas we have come up with the “LP 6-6”guidelines.

Which is to run the HL on Low Power, count to 6 (which ends up being 4-5 under pressure) between shoot and of course 6 hit until dead. This balances out to being equal to Tamiyas newer (DMD11s) Medium tank setting. The Tamiya tanks have an advantage at the beginning of a fight and are usually faster, the HL tanks have the advantage at the end of the fight, in the middle they are equal. When the guidelines are followed it works rather well at balancing out not having “damage” on the HL systems. The only real drawbacks are that HL tanks have to always (typically) be Medium tanks and must have a better aftermarket IR receiver installed.
That's interesting to know that a HL in medium setting comes to battle "pre-damaged" and has 6 hit points to give before destruction, with no damage simulation throughout. In the Tamiya format though, it is especially evident where the first hit makes a big difference in the tank's mobility, such as with the Leopard 2. Experienced drivers will know that its not a good trade to let that first shot in. But once there, they can afford to trade shots knowing that in the heavy setting they have more hit points to give than their HL opponent.

I have had no experience with LegoDEI, but I am guessing there are performance differences due to the differing construction. Impact was the only one who made receivers close to, if not identical to Tamiya's configuration, which I would assume give identical characteristics. However as far as I know, those are out of production by now. Also, my gaming group uses the Danville TFA, which relies on clocking the prism in the receivers 45 degrees from standard, which I don't think LegoDEI can achieve without a redesign.

Last edited by cleong; 05-24-2022 at 11:27 AM.
Old 05-24-2022, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by cleong View Post
That's interesting to know that a HL in medium setting comes to battle "pre-damaged" and has 6 hit points to give before destruction, with no damage simulation throughout. In the Tamiya format though, it is especially evident where the first hit makes a big difference in the tank's mobility, such as with the Leopard 2. Experienced drivers will know that its not a good trade to let that first shot in. But once there, they can afford to trade shots knowing that in the heavy setting they have more hit points to give than their HL opponent.

I have had no experience with LegoDEI, but I am guessing there are performance differences due to the differing construction. Impact was the only one who made receivers close to, if not identical to Tamiya's configuration, which I would assume give identical characteristics. However as far as I know, those are out of production by now. Also, my gaming group uses the Danville TFA, which relies on clocking the prism in the receivers 45 degrees from standard, which I don't think LegoDEI can achieve without a redesign.
The LegoDEI receivers can be set up very easily to mimic TFA if that is your desire. It’s can be a simple as swapping the interchangeable sun shades.

LegoDEI receivers are far more **sensitive then Tamiyas. They can be easily configured with 45deg. shades (optional) to mimic the Tamiya receivers performance. But this is not recommended for use with the basic HL 6.0-7.0 system especially if the player is new to tank combat. The point to the 360 “hit” sun shade is to help balance the engagement between Tamiya systems and HL especially if newer players are using a HL tank. HL tanks are generally faster in shooting, turret speed and turning. The 360 shade balances this advantage with making them easier to hit. More advanced player that understands how to properly set up and use a 45 degree hit shade do use them and achieve performance equal to the Tamiya receivers.

**The LegoDEI receivers use four IR receiver bulb at 45 degrees to each other and four very bright hit indicator LEDs (red or blue options). The receivers are also very low profile. The four bulbs make the system reliable in taking hits from all angles. The problem comes when “new tankers” install them incorrectly. They often do not a-line the bulbs in the correct orientation (front/rear/sides). So then when using 45deg shades instead of the 360 shades this causes issues with the traditional “hit zones” (they become TFA zones) we expect from properly set up Tamiya receivers. As a matter of reducing any issues we recommend the 360 shades at our games and thus have few issues when they are used.


LegoDEI IR receiver indicating a hit. This is a 360 sun shade.

LegoDEI IR receiver installed on HL 6.0 T72 receiving a hit. It is tied into the rear tail light port of the system so it flashes with the headlights. Hard to not see it take a hit.

LegoDEI IR receiver with 45deg sun shade(same look as the 360 shade) mounted on HL 6.0 M4 Sherman. The hatch and MG do not effect or block incoming IR beams because the bulbs are very sensitive so the receiver can be placed lower and less conspicuously in turret hatches. This tank mimics the performance of a Tamiya IR receiver when “taking hit” at angles.

Last edited by Fsttanks; 05-24-2022 at 02:52 PM.

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