Dan Sleeth

Tamiya TA03F Drift

In 1998 I bought a Tamiya TA03F Subaru WRC kit. Twenty years later, I’ve decided to get it out of it’s box and rebuild it. This is the build blog…

Assessing the Damage

I was pretty savage with this car when I was younger. I had no idea how to maintain a car (nor did I care) and I was more than happy to drive it over ramps and through small puddles… I was fairly sure the car would be in a bad state when I got it out of it’s bag.

Looking at the car, the first things I noticed was the state of the underside of the chassis and the smashed front end. I’d obviously driven this along bumpy tarmac without setting up the suspension correctly and I had definitely kissed a few kerbs at high speed.

I jumped straight onto eBay and had a look for TA03 parts. I was hoping to find some bargains, as this car is pretty old now. My findings were exactly the opposite. This car is pretty sought after and the motor cover alone was going for about £25. In fact, there were some unopened TA03 kits going for between £300-£500. I realised this wasn’t going to be a cheap project…

I made a list of essential parts I needed to buy in order to get the car running again:

  • Damper part
  • Belt
  • ESC to replace the mechanical setup
  • Brushless motor
  • Receiver
  • Wheels and tyres
  • Body/Shell
  • Battery
The Electronics

I expected the electronics to be the biggest investment. Motors and speed controllers have come quite a long way since the 90s, so I figured I would get more out of the car if I bought a compatible brushless motor and electronic speed controller.

I read a few forum posts about the TA03 and drift cars in general and found that most people recommended motors around the 4000kv mark. Brushless was the obvious way to go for efficiency, but what I also learned was that sensored  motors was a thing, and that they help prevent cogging.

I had a look on a few sites and decided to go for the Turnigy motor below. It had the required KV value, it was a decent price and it was also sensored.

To compliment the motor, I went for another Hobbyking item; the X-Car 60A ESC. This had pretty decent reviews and was recommended on one of the forum threads I was reading.

  • Turnigy XK3650 3900KV (13.5T) Brushless Sensored Motor £27.29
  • Hobbyking X-Car 60A Brushless Sensored/Sensorless ESC £20.73
Chassis Repair

One of the dampers was missing a little part that I needed to replace. I looked at the manual and saw that these were listed as V-Parts 50598. Thankfully, this was only a £5 investment, but that was a pretty pricey bit of plastic!

The cage under the motor would also need replacing. This was a more significant investment, as it came on a part of the kit with much larger objects. I couldn’t see this for less than about £23 on eBay, so I decided to leave that out. I had also spotted an aluminium ‘hop-up’ from a US seller, which I would consider buying later on for a more pricey £38.

Parts A and V from the manual

I then needed to source the belt tensioner. I have no idea where mine had gone, but it was no longer attached to the chassis, so I assumed my younger self had destroyed it some how. The manual said this was on E Part 50717. On that selection of parts was the front bumper and rear skid thing (for lack of proper terminology). I figured this was worth the asking price, so I went ahead and bought it.

E Parts from the manual

Lastly from the chassis was the shell itself. Even if I knew where the original Subaru ’97 shell was, I knew it would have resembled something from Mad Max more than a car you would have seen Colin McRae in.

Vintage shells from Tamiya were not cheap. I considered buying a budget shell that would fit on the chassis, but in the end I decided to stay (a little) faithful to the original kit and bought a Matrixline Subaru shell. This came with a lighting kit, but still required some painting.

Instead of going with the classic blue colour, I opted for metallic purple. The decal sheet that came with the shell didn’t have the iconic yellow ‘echo’ decals from the original, so it would never have looked the same anyhow. This was going to be a custom design.

  • V Parts 50598 £5.00
  • E Parts 50717 £14.99
  • Tamiya PS-18 Metallic Purple £9.99
  • Matrixline Subaru WRC 201010 £24.69

Matrixline Subaru WRC Shell

Radio Gear

I decided to move away from the old crystal radio gear from the original kit. I had recently bought a Rattler buggy, which came with a cheap 2-channel radio, so I just bought a receiver  for the TA03 instead… I say “just bought”, I actually ended up buying two, as the first receiver was not compatible with the transmitter, despite it looking as though it would. Thanks Hobbyking.

  • Hobbyking 3ch GT2E £6.22
Other Purchases
  • Trackstar TS-D99X 10KG 0.008s Servo £17.50
  • Turnigy SUB-C 3000mAh 7.2v NIMH £9.20

In order to make this a decent drifter, I wanted to carry out a few upgrades to the original spec. This included basics like drift tyres, but also a few mechanical bits like one-way diffs and the PRO gears.

Thankfully, the original Tamiya one-way diff and PRO gears were relatively cheap. I bought them and kept them to one side until the build was ready for them. I also had a look for racing bearings, as the original kit used plastic bearings. The ball bearings were a little more pricey, but certainly worth it.

The last thing that would make this the ultimate drifter, would be te carbon chassis and roll bars. The carbon plates go for about £100, so I decided to wait a little while before considering that upgrade.

**Updates since the built**

I saw a hopped-up TA03 chassis pop up on eBay and thought I would stick a bid in, just in case. It had the carbon fibre plates, the aluminium damper set, the roll bars and even the motor cage I needed. In fact, this on it’s own was better than the chassis I had just rebuilt.

The starting bid was £130 and postage was another £10 on top. I figured I would stick in £150 as my highest bid and just forget about it. To my amazement (I never get anything I want in auctions) I was the highest bidder at the original £130 asking price?! Basically it was the same price as what I had just spent trying to rebuild the stock setup.

I am going to auction off my original chassis soon. Hopefully I’ll get £50 for that, which makes the carbon chassis an even more worthwhile purchase!

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