What’s up YouTu... err um oops this a forum not a video... Sorry about that, I guess when it comes to talking about mini-z I’m used to talking to a camera lol. What’s up guys, my name is Blake & I operate the BMR3 YouTube channel. I’m a huge mini-z enthusiast but I have only been serious about the hobby since June 2019.
My first experience with mini-z was back in 2010 when I saw a video of these crazy tiny RC cars drifting around & they looked amazing. So I decided to order one & I got the ma-010 AE86 rtr kit with the Falken racing decals. I was super excited to get the car, but I was underwhelmed with the performance & range. Back then finding information about upgrades & finding upgrade parts themselves was very very difficult. I had zero support from local hobby shops so I became frustrated & gave up. Sadly that car ended up in the trash. 😿
Fast forward nine years to summer 2019 & I decided to give mini-z drifting another try. This time around I was determined to successfully build a drift car so I ordered a new AWD rtr kit & got to researching. Unfortunately, reliable information was hard to come by & it seemed Kyosho was purposeful trying to be unhelpful with their marketing materials. Yet still I persevered & sifted through various website & I was able to piece together the parts compatibility through looking at Mini-z diagrams & parts sheets. Luckily, around this time I found Beavers Hobby Channel & he was a massive resource. The man patiently held my hand through the initial research phase & without him I never would have got this far into mini-z. I credit him with inspiring me to create a YouTube channel so I could share info & help newbies.
Beaver is the G.O.A.T. of 1/28 scale ANYTHING & I want to give him a huge shout out, much love brother!
Anyways, enough about me. I just wanted to give you some background & get a feel for my experience with mini-z. What follows is my attempt to create a beginners guide to Mini-z AWD & building a drift car. This will be a work in progress & I plan to continually update this guide with new products as they come out. One final warning, I am by no means a qualified writer... to be perfectly honest I failed or received dismal scores in all of my English classes, so please excuse the punctuation, structure, or any other flaws you see in my writing. I’m also terrible at making paragraph transition so let’s just dive straight in lol.
How to buy:
Most mini-z will come in a ready to run kit that cost around $200.00 & comes with the chassis, controller, autoscale body, & a set of rims and tires. This is perfect for beginners since you have everything needed to start driving right out of the box.
However, if you are more experienced & have a larger budget, Mini-z has a high end line called the EVO. These EVO chassis boast higher quality electronics, brushless motors, more responsive servos, as well as interchangeable receiver boards so you can use a wider range of transmitters. Overall, the EVO line is a step above their RTR kits, but significant price increase serves as a barrier to entry.
Something I see asked a lot is wither or not you can drift the RWD mini-z, & the short answer is no. They simply don’t have enough steering angle to effectively drift, they can do it, just not well.
An honorable mention & early consideration should be the surface you are planning to drift on. It goes without saying, but mini-z is intended for indoors only, don’t expect to be able to drift in a parking lot or even your drive way. The surface won’t be smooth enough & you will end up getting excess dirt & debris in your servo gears. Ideally you want a clean, hard surface with low grip, consistently smooth & even across the full length.
Surfaces I do recommend are polished concrete, laminate flooring, linoleum, hardwood, felt, tile, granite, marble & plastic or vinyl sheeting.
Avoid pavement, outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts, sidewalks, driveways, & long/high pile carpets.
Batteries & Chargers
Now that we can assume you have a car, we need to think about powering it. You have two options, disposable AAA batteries or rechargeable AAA batteries. Disposable batteries are very convenient if you don’t drive your car much, but they get expensive really quick if you drive often. Rechargeables are a must for most people but what do you choose, 750s, 800s or 900s? 750s will give you more punch, but the 900s will give you more runtime... well since we are just drifting & top speed does not matter, I choose the 900s.
Regarding chargers, I only have experience with the “Speed House AA/AAA NiHM USB Charger” by Kyosho. This is a very basic charger & an overpriced one at that. While it will charge the batteries, it won’t drain, cycle, balance or refresh. You are getting the most basic charger for a ludicrous price, don’t get waste your money on this.
I plan on getting a better charger soon & I will update this section once I have it sorted.
Tuning & Set Up
Before we get started I need to give you guys a *disclaimer* no amount of upgrades or tuning will magically make you a better drifter, you have to spend hours practicing & honing your skills. Think of it this way: a very skilled driver can drift perfectly with a stock untuned car, while an amateur will struggle to do simple doughnuts with a perfectly set up car. It comes down to skill & practice, not upgrades.
Also, I recommend taking my advice with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that everyone’s driving styles are different & tuning your car is very subjective. My ideal setup my very greatly from what works best for you, so use my advice for loose guidelines on your build & I encourage you to experiment.
Let’s get into modifying your car & tuning your set up for drifting. When it comes to setups, I have a tier list of changes you can make & I rank them from most influential to least influential.
#2 spring rates (& DWS)
#3 Tire compound
*Honorable mention* Body choice
# 4 Camber
# 5 Tie & toe bars
#6 aluminum heat sink motor mounts & clip
#7 all other aluminum upgrades...
When starting any serious RC build, be it grip or drift, the differentials should be your first consideration. The differentials are the single most important part in your drive train & greatly influence the steering characteristics of your car. Not only does the differential handle all the power transferred to the wheels, but depending on what type you choose, the diff can adjust how the power is applied to each wheel individually. For Mini-z there are four types of differentials to chose from, gear differential, ball differential, one way differential, & solid axles. Each has their own place & I’ll go into details below on each.
Gear differential: also know as an “open” differential, the mini-z AWD comes stock with two gear differentials installed. These are great for beginners, but they are also 100% plastic & the gears can be damaged in a hard crash. Normally larger scale gear differentials will be grease filled to help dampen the power transfer between wheels, but for the mini-z the stock differential is dry.
Something a lot of drifters do (but not all), is convert their rear gear differential into a solid rear axle or “locked diff”. This is easily achieved by preventing the spider gears from rotating. You can either glue the gears together for a permanent fix, or you can fill the gears with putty or clay that can be removed later.
Ball differential: this is a direct upgrade to the gear differential & essentially functions the same way by transferring power, & letting the wheels slip at different rates. The difference being instead of gears, the ball differential uses a set of ball bearings with a thrust plate, & by tightening the thrust plate you can adjust the amount of slip between the wheels. This design makes for a very smooth transfer of power, & adjusting the slip allows you to fine tune how the car handles as it turns a corner. A ball differential is truly the most versatile of all differentials since you can leave it lose & open, or tighten it to the point you have a solid axle.
One way differential: as the name implies, this differential only supply’s power in one direction. There is a special bearing installed that spins freely in one direction, but it will lock up in the other direction. What this means for mini-z is the differential can put down power moving forward, but as soon as you get off the throttle, the front wheels can rotate freely while the back tires lock up giving an emergency brake effect. Many drifters utilize a front one way differential since having the e-brake will allow you to whip the rear end around quickly & perform very tight maneuvers.
Keep in mind that by allowing the front tires to spin freely, you will lose the ability to use revers in the front tires. This is not a big deal since you can still use reverse with the rear tires, but this does cause issues with “drift ticks” since you will no longer be able to drift backwards, or do 360 reverse entries.
Solid rear axle/locked diff: this is the drifters go to for the rear differential since it provides equal power to both tires, which results in a smooth & consistent drift line. Since this style rear differential is so stable, I highly recommend it for beginners.
Springs are my favorite area to tune for two reasons: 1 they are cheep, & 2 they have a huge impact on performance. The mini-z will come with a neutral setting & this is fine for beginners but a spring kit should be included with your first batch of upgrades. Everyone will have different taste when it comes to spring settings, so this is something you will need to experiment with to find what works best for you. Personally I like to stiffen the rear springs & leave the front stock, or soften the front springs a tiny bit. Soft front end & a stiff rear end is perfect for me, but I have seen people champion the exact opposite setup, so it truly comes down to personal preference. Take the time to try different spring rates, & your efforts will be highly rewarded.
One thing to note is the individual weight bias & balance of the style Autoscale you choose. Each body has a different weight distribution & it can have a huge impact on balance & performance. For example, the RX7 feels terribly unbalanced to me & is difficult to drift. I mention this here because if you are swapping your bodies frequently, you may notice the cassis will handle wildly differently when swapping shells. This is because some cars are very rear weight bias due to rooflines & spoilers, & it taxes the suspension more. To help combat this issue, you may want to look into adjusting your spring settings to help deal with different weight distributions.
Another thing I noticed was it’s best to avoid the extreme, go with a medium hard, or medium soft setting & avoid super hard or super soft springs. Eventually you will reach a point of diminishing returns, the suspension will be too soft or too hard & the car will become difficult to drive or unresponsive.
Suspension Arms: The final consideration once you have your spring rates tuned, is the overall suspension travel allowed. At first you may be thinking “I want maximum travel right?” but no, the answers is more complicated then that. What you want is the maximum amount of suspension travel, without allowing the chassis to bottom out and rub the ground. As you can imagine, allowing the chassis to bottom out causes all sorts of steering issues & makes the car widely unpredictable since you never know when it will catch. This issue becomes more pronounced when you have a soft suspension setting, but luckily we have a way to adjust the travel limit.
As you can see above, aluminum suspension arms can add a few features that make life much simpler. First off, as you can see both sets of arms have screws protruding down into the springs, what these screws do is allow you to adjust the suspension travel. The farther the screws protrude, the quicker the suspension bottoms out. Another benefit is you can adjust the preload on your springs by adding spaces on the screw threads.
Both the Eagle Racing & Mpower suspension arms have screws to adjust the suspension travel, but they are not machined to the same tolerances. I noticed the EA arms had lose fitment on the camber knuckles, & they use the standard pin & clip system to secure the arms to the chassis. Mpower on the other hand had better fitment, & they have improved the pins by adding treads so you can screw the pins into the suspension arms. I cant tell you how much of an improvement this is! Clips are a major PITA since they are so easy to lose, but Mpower has solved this problem.
Your tire compound goes hand in hand with the level of grip provided by your drift surface. What this means is this is no “end all be all” single drift tire that is perfect on every surface. You will want to think about changing your tires depending on where you are drifting. For example, low traction tires are very good for high grip surfaces like carpet, but they will be nearly uncontrollable on low grip surfaces like granite, tile or glass.
The stock Kyosho drift tires that come with rtr kits are very good for beginners & I consider them to be medium grip. Stock tires maybe perfect for your situation, but if you find yourself wanting a little more or less grip, I suggest looking into DS Racing.
DS Racing makes a wide verity of mini-z drift tires ranging from super low grip, to high grip & everything in between. These tires are very high quality, but also relatively cheep so you can purchase multiple compounds & test what works best for you. Personally I have only used the DS Racing LF1 & LF4 tires, the former being high grip & the latter being very low grip. My current favorite is the LF1 tires & im using them on both my MA-030EVO & MA-020 for the high grip & precision transitions. I was previously using the LF4 tires, but I found the car would understeer & was harder to control.
If you want to purchase some DS Racing tires, I recommend ordering from them directly so you can specify the tire width. Normally the tires will come in four packs with two narrow & two wide, but I was able to get all narrow tires by simply asking. I contacted them through this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below I will list a quick break down of the tires DS offers & their hardness:
Mini F5 : Terrazzo and Marble surface
Mini LF-1 : Medium speed for hard surface
Mini LF-3 : Slow speed for hard surface or Medium speed on carpet
Mini LF-4 : Slippery on carpet
Mini LF-5: super slow speed
(High friction) Mini F5 > Mini LF-1 > Mini LF-3 > Mini LF-4 > Mini LF-5 (Low Friction
One final thing to note about tire compounds, I would recommend not mixing drift tires. So what I mean is don’t use LF4 in the rear & LF1 in the front. I thought this would be a good idea, but it ended up making the car very squirrely. My thinking behind this was to give the front end more bite, while encouraging the rear to oversteer, but it was too much. If you want more front-end bite, I have learned that adjusting the camber is the best way to fine-tune this.
Alright we are finally here, the elephant in the room for all drift builds, camber. I feel like camber is one of those upgrades that most people slap on their drift builds for ascetics, but they don’t consider how it influences steering performance. Normally camber is used to maintain optimal tire contact as a car rolls through a corner, but in my experience at this scale, AWD drift cars simply don’t pitch enough to utilize camber like real cars. So once you set the camber angle of the tires, the amount of contact surface does not change. This means you can use camber to adjust the amount grip by making the contact patch larger or smaller. As you increase the camber, you will have a smaller contact surface & less grip. (If you look at the ware pattern on your tires you can see what I mean, the contact patch will be scuffed.)
Ok great, we know that adjusting camber angle will influence the grip, but how does this help us? Do you want a neutral grip setting, front bias, rear bias?? This is where you will need to do some testing to find what works best for you in your conditions.
For me personally, I like a natural grip so I will have the car set up with zero degrees camber all around, allowing for maximum grip & control. The more grip the harder it is to break loose, but once it’s broken loose, it’s easier to control & hold the line.
Sometimes I will opt for a front grip bias to mess around, increasing the rear camber & leaving the front at zero degrees. This makes the rear very easy to flick out & the car becomes super agile (but also very easy to spin out), so you lose the predictability. To the point its almost unstable so you really have to be careful.
Camber is just one of those tings you will need to test & tune yourself to see what works best.
Toe & Tie Bars
Really quickly for those who don’t know, tie bars refer to the front of the car & toe refers to the rear. Both tie & toe bars influence the direction your tires point, negative settings will make the tires point out & positive settings will cause the tires to point in (towards the chassis).
Let’s start up front with the tie bar. For drifting we want a negative toe setting so that the front of our tiers will point out & away from the chassis. What this will do is help influence the car to oversteer & increase the turn radius of the leading tire just a little bit. For those curious, running a positive tie bar will cause the car to understeer & this is useful for racing setups where you want less twitchy steering.
Moving to the back of the car we have the more influential of the two, the toe bar. The DWS comes with a stock setting of 3 or 4 degrees of toe, which points the rear tires in significantly. This is great for straight line acceleration & stability pulling out of a corner, but that’s not what we are doing. We are accelerating sideways & when drifting with any rear toe what you have is one tire working to pull you straight & the other tire working to pull you sideways. Basically your rear tires are fighting each other & it causes the car to be very unstable. When accelerating sideways through the corner, you want a zero degree toe setting for optimal stability & consistency when transitioning corners.
Heat Sinks Motor Mounts & Clip:
Not a whole lot to say here aside from heat is your enemy. Heat will deteriorate the brushes in your motor & eventually kill it to death. To help prolong the life of your motor, we want to remove heat as quickly as possible to help keep the motor cool. The only way we can do this is to install aluminum motor mounts in place of the stock plastic, since aluminum will help pull some heat out of the motor & dissipate it quickly.
Adding an aluminum motor clip can help further dissipate the heat, but requires aluminum motor mounts to be installed; it won’t transfer & dissipate heat with plastic mounts. One consideration when buying a motor clip is to look for ones with grills covering the motor, for example PN Racing. These grills shield the motor & will prevent you from burning your finger.
Aluminum & Durability Upgrades:
While aluminum components can offer durability upgrades, the biggest benefit comes from the bling they offer. As well all know, shiny parts add +5 base horsepower per component, with colored pieces adding an additional +2HP & red components gaining a further +3HP. These of course stack with the power benefit from racing stripes, stickers, spoilers & lighting kits.
Ok ok jokes aside, there are a plethora of upgrade parts available for the mini-z AWD & just as many companies offer them. PN Racing, M’s Racing(out of business), GL Racing, 3Racing, GPM Racing, Eagle Racing, M-Power, XPower, & Atomic all produce upgrades of some sort. With so many companies to choose from, you may be wondering if they all produce parts of equal quality? The short answer is no. Machining tolerances very from company to company, but as a general rule of thumb PN Racing, M-Power, GL Racing & Atomic all produce top tier quality products. I have never had any issues with these companies, & I have not seen anyone complaining about their offerings. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Eagle Racing. Their products are very cheep, dirt cheep in fact & this shows in their machining tolerances. I personally have experienced issues with their fitment & I have seen people in the Facebook groups complaining about screw holes not lining up, parts bent out of shape, & of course more fitment issues…
Quality aluminum parts are not cheep & I recommend getting them as needed when stock plastic parts fail. Once you upgrade to aluminum you will most likely never need replace that part again. For example, if you manage to crack the stock rear end, you can upgrade to the PN Racing aluminum rear end & you wont have to worry about brittle plastics or soft threads stripping out. A further bonus on some aluminum parts is they can offer added features such as the sway bar pictured below.
Another consideration is aluminum parts will generally be smoother then plastic. This is a factor for parts in the suspension system since it can help prevent sticking or binding. One part that is notorious for sticking is the rear camber knuckles. The edges of the posts tend to catch/stick on upper & lower guide holes, but you can upgrade to Teflon post that will fully smooth this out. If you have the PN Racing rear end coupled with Teflon camber knuckles, the rear end will never stick again since machined aluminum has zero sharp edges & the Teflon easily glides across the aluminum.
AWD Standard King Ping: Coming Soon
DWS: Coming Soon
MA-020: Coming Not as Soon
MA-030: Coming Not as Soon