Tamiya Manta Ray· 16 minute read
I’ve finally found some time to look at my old remote control car again - I was so happy when I bought it as a kid nearly twenty years ago. I’ve still got the original nickel cadmium battery (all 1300mAh!) and charger so I charged it up expecting that there’d be little to no response from the car. Amazingly the kids and I got about 5 minutes of full throttle action out of it before it slowed to a halt.
As I picked it up and the wheels spun, winding down the last of the charge in the old battery, I noticed that it was quite a bit noisier than I remembered as a kid. Especially from around the rear differential area so I figured some grease was required. Naturally, I looked around online for stories from others who’d resurrected their old cars and surprisingly there was a lot of information out there.
Most of it in quite difficult to find tidbits that are spread out across many different online forum threads. So I’ve assembled all the information I found useful here for my own reference and yours too.
Parts compatible models
The Manta Ray (58087 and the later 58360 re-release) it would seem is a much loved car both back then and now. It was part of the first wave of modern 4WD Tamiya remote control cars and was the first to carry chassis designation of DF01. There were other DF01 cars including the Blazing Star, Top Force, Top Force Evolution, Dirt Thrasher and Terra Conqueror.
Later Tamiya made a number of other rally (such as the Lancia Delta Integrale) and road cars (including the Nissan Skyline) that shared many of the same parts and chassis as the DF01 cars. These later cars were designated as, first, the TA01 and then later the TA02.
Some parts on the later cars are considered to be stronger or better designed so most of the people rebuilding will replace broken or worn parts on a DF01 with parts for the TA01 or TA02 chassis. Being rally/road cars though there are a couple of differences and deviations:
- the suspension strut towers (front and back) are shorter than the buggy
- in sympathy the struts themselves are shorter
- with that the body mount pins are in different positions too.
It is important to note that parts from the DF02 or DF03 are completely different to the DF01, TA01 or TA02 so you can’t use them in your Manta Ray. Some people have mentioned that you can use the wheels from a DF03 on the DF01 as they’re both compatible with 12mm hex wheels - the advantage of swapping here is that you can use newer (read better) tyres in the new 2.2 profile.
Also, note that the re-re-release and Quick Drive version of the Manta Ray is also incompatible - you can tell these easily as they’ve got little impact wheels on either end of the front bumper and/or are smaller.
As mentioned there are a number of common parts between the DF01 and the later TA01 or TA02. After reading around I noted down the parts that people were having issues with or those that regularly break and ordered the recommended Tamiya part numbers.
- Tamiya 50197 Snap pin set - my model was missing a few securing the body - there are after market alternatives too
- Tamiya 50478 TA01/TA02 Skyline rear drive/gear case - a weak point on the original so I wanted a spare and apparently these are an improved design
- Tamiya 50602 Bevel gear differential set - can be worn so I got these as spares (you’ll probably want two - one for the front and one for the rear)
- Tamiya 50541 TA01/TA02 4WD rally car front drive/gear case - another weak point like the rear
- Tamiya 50529 TA01/TA02 4WD plastic gear set - replace the aluminium gears with a stronger, improved plastic gear set designed for the later cars
I may refer to the above part numbers later in the article, but these should give you a go to list of compatible part. These parts are relatively easy to find on Amazon, eBay and rcMart.
The upgrade parts for the DF01 are all but impossible to find - Tamiya called these Hop-Up parts. There are some companies like Fibre-Lyte, Carson, GPM and Yeah Racing that do provide some after market parts for the TA01 and TA02 so you can use some of those.
If you can find them then the following Tamiya parts are highly prized:
- Tamiya 53079 Stainless steel prop shaft for Manta Ray
- Tamiya 53099 FRP double deck chassis plate set
- Tamiya 53100 Top Force double deck carbon graphite chassis plate set
- Tamiya 53070 Manta Ray/TA01 ball diff set
- Tamiya 53071 Manta Ray/TA01 torque splitter set
- Tamiya 53164 Hollow carbon gearshaft set
- Tamiya 53073 Bearing set for the Manta Ray
Some of the more desirable after market parts include:
- Fibre-Lyte TOP 01 & TOP 02 chassis set (you’ll need to choose the straps to pair with it based on the battery pack you intend to use - you’ll also need two of each strap)
- Fibre-Lyte TOP 03 front strut tower/mount
- Fibre-Lyte TOP 04 rear strut tower/mount
- GPM TA1012 front gear case cover - this is good to have as the suspension arms connect to it and this upgrade will strengthen the front end in case of a crash
- GPM TA1025 prop shaft or main shaft
- Yeah Racing TA01-027BU rear gear case cover
Most of the Tamiya parts a really hard to find and cost exorbitantly large stacks of cash. It’s not uncommon for a chassis to be above $200USD or the bearing set to be in excess of $140USD. Thankfully there are after market parts that can fill this void and make upgrades to the Manta Ray affordable.
To help reduce the wear on moving parts it is recommended that one of the first and most valuable upgrades you could do to the car is to replace all bushings with ball bearings. Due to exposure to dirt (being a buggy rather than a street car) it is recommended to go with a plastic/PFTE/nylon shielded sealed ball bearing as opposed to the slightly cheaper metal shielded variety.
You’ll need 22 bearings made up of:
- 6x 1150 bearings (5 x 8 x 2.5mm)
- 16x 850 bearings (5 x 11 x 4mm)
These can be bought as kits (look for TA01 kits) or you can use the bearing numbers/dimensions to buy them individually from a bearing or hobby shop.
Manufacturers of kits include:
- Tamiya 53073 - rare as hens teeth
- Acer Racing ceramic bearings
- Alicenter Bearings
- Yeah Racing YB0018B
- Fast Eddy 769173950092
- VXB Ball Bearings Kit177096
- Boca Bearing #55-145, #55-145GS, #55-145C-YZ, #55-145C-YS and #55-145C-YU in ascending order of price
If you’re going to be installing a more powerful motor then you really should install the bearing kit beforehand.
Propeller shaft or main shaft
By far and away the easiest method of getting a new prop shaft (sometimes known as a main shaft) is to buy a Yeah Racing (TA01-134BU) after market alloy one. Some people using fast brushless motors have reported shearing the dog bones off the end of shafts like this. I am not sure how much abuse they were giving them, but it might be worth the extra dollars up front to get a more sturdy GPM (TA1025) or Tamiya Hop-Up (53079) part if you intend to go crazy brushless.
Whilst the next one is not a Hop-Up, but it is more substantial than the wire prop shaft that comes by default in many of the DF01s you can use the Top Force shaft apparently, which is Tamiya 3485025 (also X10185). As they were standard with a few models they can be easier to come by one eBay - bear in mind you may need the shaft, two circlips and the end cups. Jury is out on that one as I’ve also read some people have had success with the standard prop shaft cups.
The standard Manta Ray prop, should you need it, is even cheaper and easier to get as it is not desirable - look for Tamiya 3485039 - sometimes derisively known as the twisted coat hanger in RC forums.
If you’re installing a more powerful motor then this is definitely a sensible upgrade to make to ensure the power is being expended to the wheels and not in deforming the prop shaft!
ESC (Electronic Speed Controller)
Most Manta Rays weren’t fitted with an ESC but with an MSC (Motorised/Manual Speed Controller) and these aren’t really up to modern batteries or motors - quickly burning out. On top of that they’re less efficient and heavier than even the cheapest of ESCs.
You can swap in a new ESC very easily as they will plug right into the radio receiver already in your car so you don’t need to change your radio equipment. The connectors for the motor will probably also be compatible, but there may be some soldering required.
Interestingly you’ll also no longer need the additional power wire that runs from the MSC to the radio receiver. The ESC will power the radio receiver via it’s one control/power cable triptych.
I just went with the simplest and cheapest ESC I could find that had some positive reviews. A Hobby King X-Car 45, which is simple, small and suitable for brushed motors and up to a 2S LiPo battery - perfect!
If you want something waterproof or just that bit better then I’ve not seen any bad words said about the Hobbywing QuicRun WP 1060 Brushed or it’s rebadged clone the Yeah Racing Tritronic (ESC-1060WP).
As I am not running a brushless motor or ever intending to in this car I’ve not looked into brushless ESCs, but you need to ensure the ESC you select is specifically for a brushless motor if you intend to run one. You cannot, generally, use a brushed ESC with a brushless motor and vice versa so make sure you check carefully if you intend to do so - you’ll probably be able to tell by the crazy price you’re paying!
So if you plan to go to high capacity LiPo or NiMH batteries it is important that you look into replacing that MSC with a nice new ESC. In the case of a LiPo this is especially true as you’ll see in the batteries section.
Batteries and charging
Battery technology has really moved on since the Manta Ray was released along with its low capacity NiCd batteries (1300mAh!). The next step up from a NiCd is probably a NiMH battery, which is an improvement in terms of capacity and charge time. You can handle this pretty much like you would your NiCd pack from the past and they come in a similar form factor - round cells in a shrink plastic wrap.
They can be a bit of pain like the old NiCds though in that they do end up suffering from the memory effect over time and they display voltage sag during use. Another aspect to consider is whether your old charger can charge a NiMH battery properly.
After looking at these options I decided that as I needed to upgrade the charger and I wanted to run an ESC anyway I might as well go for a LiPo battery pack and enjoy the longer and more consistent power delivery. The cost difference between a LiPo an NiMH battery also appeared to be negligible for a similar capacity.
Some anecdotal evidence suggested that the greater output of a modern NiMH battery would be enough to burn out the MSC pretty quickly as well anyway so I saw no point in keeping the old technology.
It is important that LiPo batteries are not discharged too far so you’ll want to select an ESC that is designed to cut-out/off when the battery voltage drops - most LiPo compatible ones will provide this feature.
Charging a multi-cell LiPo battery is different to a NiMH or NiCd as the cells need to be balanced so it is best to get a charger that can do this for you. I went with a tried and trusted iMax B6 charger that can do up to 60W and 5A. As you shouldn’t charge at greater than 1C and the battery I intended to buy was 4200mAh a 5A charger should be more than enough.
The C rating is something that I found confusing at first, but it essentially means charge rate so if your battery capacity is 4200mAh then 1C would be 4200mA or 4.2A and 2C would be 8400mA or 8.4A. This can apply to charge and discharge rates - usually a batteries charge rate is lower than it’s discharge rate. This means it will take longer to charge than it will to be discharged - presuming it is discharged at its maximum rate.
You’ll also need to be a little more careful with your LiPo batteries as they can catch fire if they’re incorrectly charged or damaged. Most people recommend charging them in a fireproof container like a sealed metal tin or a specialist LiPo charging bag. It is recommended that you only charge them on a solid non-flammable surface like concrete to further minimise any risk.
Now choosing a LiPo for your DF01/TA01 chassis cars isn’t as easy as you’d think. To reduce the chance of damaging the battery it is recommended that cars use the hard case packs - given their position in the buggy they could come into contact with something during a crash or hard landing. Most hard packs have a rectangular profile so they simply won’t fit into the chassis oval shaped battery receptacle.
So you’ll be looking for what are known as car stick packs or hardcase stick packs to use in your car. Choose a 2S pack (means that there are 2 cells in the battery) - 3S will not be the right shape for the Manta Ray or other DF01s.
I went with a Turnigy nano-tech 4200mAh 2S (NC4200.2S2P.4) LiPo battery that claimed to fit the Manta Ray chassis, but it doesn’t, I discovered, without some modification to enlarge the ovalised shape in my chassis. Others have claimed to get a good fit from the following batteries, but they weren’t available to me when I was buying mine:
- Speed Energy SE-4800/30/TP 7.4v 4800mAh 30C 2S
- Core RC CR158 7.4v 4000mAh 20C 2S
- Core RC CR293 7.4v 4000mAh 30C 2S
- Jamara #141390 7.4v 5000mAh 30C 2S
- Gens ace #8 7.4v 4000mAh 25C 2S
- Intellect IP2500 7.4v 2500mAh
- Intellect IP4000 7.4v 4000mAh
- Hyperion G3 SWIFT HP-SW20-4000CP-2S Classic Pack 4000mAh 7.4v 20C 2S
I also took the opportunity to change the old Tamiya battery connector over to a Deans connector, which has a larger contact area for better power transmission and they’re easier to use. They were marketed as T connectors by the shop I bought them from, but they’re the same as the Deans as far as I can tell.
Motor and pinion gears
With the standard motor (silver can) you probably want a 19 tooth or (19T) steel pinion gear - the more powerful the motor you run the fewer teeth you’ll want say a 16T. Confusingly, motors are also rated in terms of T except in this case it stands for turns. So a 9T motor will be faster than a 21T motor. For a hot, but still brushed motor consider something like a 17T motor with a 19T pinion. You’ll want to be looking for 540 sized motors as replacements.
This steel pinion gear should be 0.6 pitch and there are at least two manufacturers currently making them Robinson Racing (USA) or RW Racing (UK). Their part numbers are simple and you can adjust the last two numbers to the number of teeth you want.
- Robinson Racing RRP1119
- RW Racing ARW0600-19
Many people have gone with the newer brushless motors to get top speed out of their models such as 9T motor paired with a 16T pinion gear. You will need a brushless specific ESC too, but I’ll cover that later. So back to pinions 16T would be:
- Robinson Racing RRP1116
- RW Racing ARW0600-16
Another good upgrade is to replace the plastic motor mount with a metal one for increased strength. There is evidence that the plastic mount can deform or crack allowing the motor pinion gear to move around and crash into the gearbox destroying the gears. A number of people mentioned that they preferred the mounts that had fixed posts like the Yeah Racing one rather than those with screw on posts like the GPM.
It was also noted that some cheaper eBay versions don’t have one post shorter than the other like they should to match the factory plastic one. I ended up going for the Yeah Racing one based on recommendations although I was initially attracted to the GPMs heat sink style design - it has screw on posts. Whilst looking I found the following mounts available:
- Tamiya 53142
- Yeah Racing TA02-013BU
- GPM TA1002
- Pargu MS0104
If you do decide to fit a more powerful motor then ensure you install an aluminium motor mount, a set of bearings, a compatible ESC and a more substantial prop shaft as well. These are considered the basic essentials before introducing more power to the DF01/TA01/TA02 chassis. You should also upgrade the gear set to the Tamiya 50529 and use one of the pinion steel pinion gears discussed above.
Obviously the faster you go the harder you impact when you crash so maybe sticking the fastest motor the chassis can handle into a 20-30 year old RC car isn’t the best idea…
Wheels and tyres
You’re going to be looking for 12mm hex drive off road buggy wheels.
The wheels from a Tamiya DF-03 Dark Impact look good on the Manta Ray with the advantage that you can use newer (read better) tyres (2.2 profile) than the Manta wheels. You’d need both front (Tamiya 10440209) and rear (Tamiya 10440210) wheels with tyres:
- Tamiya 54185 (front) and Tamiya 54186 (rear)
- Tamiya 51240 (front) and Tamiya 51241 (rear)
- Tamiya 53878 (front) and Tamiya 53879 (rear)
Other cheaper options also abound on eBay, but fitting may be more hit and miss with diameter, offset and interior space within the wheel for the axle stub/wheel hub.
You can use pretty much any remote control car alloy strut that is between 95mm and 100mm long. I’ve not bothered looking into this so far as my dampers are in really good condition luckily. There are Tamiya rebuild kits available, but they seem very difficult to come across.
If mine do need replacement then I think I’d be looking for some generic aluminium dampers that are the correct length to suit the car. This looks to be an easier and cheaper way of fixing the suspension than buying replacement Tamiya parts - plus they look better than the yellow originals!
It is also worth pointing out here that some people have spent an awful lot of money improving their cars or replacing bits with up-spec parts. One build I saw was over $1k AUD and another around the $700 USD mark - so you can go nuts with aluminium, carbon and titanium. Set yourself a budget as all the tiny parts at $15-20 each very quickly add up too.
A few of the most hopped up cars I found whilst looking for information:
Some other places to get parts excluding the obvious:
- Twokey’s RC Parts - Australia
- Jason’s RC Store - Japan (cheap international postage)
- rcMart - Hong Kong (cheap parts - reasonable postage)
- Asiatees - Hong Kong
- Stella Models - Hong Kong
- Goldstar Stockists - Tamiya parts UK
- Hobby King - (Australia, US, Hong Kong and UK warehouses)
- Fusion Hobbies - UK
- Modelsport - UK