Building The Grasshopper

01
of 30

The Grasshopper Kit

Tamiya Grasshopper is a kit for beginners.
The Box, Ready to Get Started Building the Grasshopper Tamiya Grasshopper is a kit for kids and adult beginners. © J. James

1:10 Scale Off-Road Racer from Tamiya

  • The Kit: The Grasshopper by Tamiya
  • The Builder: Jacci James, a first time RC modeler
  • The Review: 5 Stars for The Tamiya Grasshopper Kit

    First released in 1984, The Grasshopper was a popular kit for young modelers and first-time RC owners before ready-to-run became the norm. The re-release is still a great entry-level kit for new modelers and RC enthusiasts of all ages. With only a few hitches along the way I (a first time RC kit builder) built the car in one day, painted it the next. It looks good, runs perfectly.

  • The Details: See the images in this gallery, below.

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Follow along as I build my first RC from a kit.

Here are the specs for the Grasshopper:

  • Length: 389mm
  • Width: 223mm
  • Height: 135mm
  • Weight: 830g
  • 380 type motor (can upgrade to 540 type motor, sold separately)
  • Transmission Type: Rear 2 Wheel Drive
  • Independent swing axle front suspension, rolling rigid axle rear suspension, friction dampers
  • Sealed rear gearbox
  • 3-piece assembly wheels/rims
  • Straight ribbed racing front tires
  • Paddle rear tires
  • Front and rear axle are compatible with ball bearings (sold separately)
02
of 30

What's in the Box

All the parts and instructions included in the Grasshopper kit.
Building The Grasshopper All the parts and instructions included in the Grasshopper kit. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

You'll find bags of plastic molded parts, several bags of screws, the chassis, the unpainted body, decals, and an instruction booklet that walks you through (mostly in pictures, some text) the 24 steps in building the Grasshopper (that includes painting). It also includes a troubleshooting guide and cartoons showing how to operate the RC.

03
of 30

The Electronics You Need to Supply

Controller, Servo, Receiver with Crystal, Battery Pack
Building The Grasshopper These used parts are from an electric Traxxas truck: Controller, Servo, Receiver with Crystal, Battery Pack. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

In the spirit of recycling, Mike raided his stockpile and came up with these parts. So my Tamiya Grasshopper is sporting used Traxxas electronics. Of course you could buy new as well. You will need:

  • Pistol-grip or stick 2-channel transmitter
  • Receiver
  • Crystal set
  • 7.2V battery pack
  • Steering servo
You'll also need batteries for your transmitter, charger for your battery pack, and paint.
04
of 30

Suggested Tools

Tools needed to assemble Grasshopper
Building The Grasshopper Left to right: Needlenose, side cutters, Phillips-head screwdriver, precision screwdrivers, hobby knife, scissors, tweezers, nail file. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Needlenose pliers and tweezers are handy for picking up small parts. Both regular size and precision size Philips head screwdrivers are needed. The hobby knife, scissors, and side cutters all come in handy for separating molded plastic parts as well as trimming other parts. Although not specified in the instructions, a nail file or small piece of sandpaper is also handy for smoothing rough edges. I also made frequent use of a magnifying glass to get a closeup of the instructions and parts of the vehicle from time to time.

05
of 30

Tip: Handling Tiny Screws

Tweezers help with handling tiny screws and nuts.
Building The Grasshopper Tweezers help with handling tiny screws and nuts. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

For some tiny parts even needlenose pliers are too big so tweezers come in quite handy. Additionally, some of these screws are just a millimeter or two different in length. In the event your screws get all jumbled, a ruler with millimeter measurements can help you sort them out so you use the right screw each time.

06
of 30

Tip: Use a Craft Box

Plastic craft box with dividers helps to sort parts.
Building The Grasshopper Plastic craft box with dividers helps to hold and organize screws and other small parts. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

A craft box with dividers helps to keep small parts safe and organized. Be sure to label the sections. For bags containing lots of small parts in large quantities I further separated them into their own sections as well.

07
of 30

Tip: Taking Apart Molded Pieces

The main plastic gearbox parts, taken apart.
Building The Grasshopper The main plastic gearbox parts, taken apart. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

You could take apart pieces as you go but you may need to stop and trim or file off nubs as you go. Or, you could take apart the pieces in advance. However, the labeling for these molded pieces is on the waste plastic holding them together. If you have the room, lay out the pieces in the same order they appear when attached and keep the labeled scrap. You can do all your trimming and sanding at once then have everything handy immediately as you start to assemble your RC.

08
of 30

Tip: Filing Off Nubs

When scissors aren't enough, file down the nubs on plastic parts.
Building The Grasshopper When scissors aren't enough, file down the nubs on plastic parts. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

For most of the plastic molded parts you can use scissors or side cutters to detach them. However a small nail file or piece of sandpaper is handy for getting a smoother surface. Leaving sharp edges can lead to cut fingers or cut wires over time.

09
of 30

Tip: Lubricate

Grease is supplied in a small tube.
Building The Grasshopper In addition to the gears, you'll need to grease down rods on dampers and other small parts. © J. Bear

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The Grasshopper kit comes with a small tube of Tamiya grease. Use it liberally on gears, shafts, and other parts designated in the instructions.

From the instructions: "This is a very effective ceramic grease formulated with Boron Nitride and is ideal for lubricating all gears, bearings and joints on radio control cars. Reduces friction and prolongs life of parts."

10
of 30

Attaching the Rear Shaft and Assembling the Gearbox

Top: All the parts for Step 1; Bottom: Assembling the gearbox.
Step 1, 2 of Building the Grasshopper Top: All the parts for Step 1; Bottom: Assembling the gearbox. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The Grasshopper features a sealed rear gearbox protecting the differential. The first few steps in building the Grasshopper involve putting that gearbox together.

Step one is to grease up and attach the rear shaft through each piece of the gear box and place the bevel gears inside the differential gear. In step two you close up the two halves of the gearbox. Be sure you've greased all the gears and the differential shaft before sealing the gearbox.

There was one screw that I never could figure out so I left it out. Mike took a look at the finished car and after a while finally figured out where on the gearbox that missing screw should have been. Fortunately I'll be able to add it after removing a rear wheel -- no major disassembly required.

11
of 30

Tip: Add Oil to Gearbox

Access hole allows you to easily add oil to enclosed gears.
Building The Grasshopper Access hole allows you to easily add oil to enclosed gears. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

If you followed the instructions you greased up the gears before sealing the gearbox. But for later on -- or if you forgot to add the grease -- there's a handy little hole in the gearbox for adding oil. It's even labeled. Held on with one screw it simply slides to the side to reveal the hole. Make sure you screw the cover on tight enough (but not too tight) so that the hole stays covered while running your RC. (This is done in Step 1)

12
of 30

Attach the Motor

Top: Attaching plate to motor; Bottom: Two screws hold motor in place.
Step 3 of Building the Grasshopper Top: Attaching plate to motor; Bottom: Two screws hold motor in place. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Sometimes a single, seemingly simple step can take much longer than expected. Case-in-point, attaching the motor. It seems straightforward. Attach a plate to the front of the motor. Stick the motor into the gearbox and attach it with screws through a cap on the other side of the gearbox.

Here's the tricky part -- for me at least. Two tiny nuts go into holes on the back side of the plate facing the motor. Two tiny (be sure to get the right screws!) screws go into different holes on the front side. When I go to attach the plate to the motor, the nuts fall out. So out comes the blue tape (a low tack painters tape). A little piece of it (as seen in picture) holds the nuts in place and removes easily when no longer needed.

When attaching the motor with screws from the other side of the gearbox, the screws go through the cap, through the gearbox, and into the plate and screw into the nuts on the motor. I found it very tricky to get them all lined up correctly. Be sure both screws are properly seated and screwed in firmly. As I mention in my review of The Grasshopper kit, I had failed to properly seat one of the screws holding in the motor so it vibrated loose and I had to go fishing for a missing screw inside the gearbox later on down the road.

13
of 30

Attaching the Drivetrain

Drivetrain attaches to rear of chassis.
Step 4 of Building the Grasshopper Drivetrain attaches to rear of chassis. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

After assembling the differential and gearbox and attaching the motor you'll want to install it in the vehicle. This very simple step involves attaching a couple of plastic supports at the rear of the vehicle into which the drivetrain sits.

14
of 30

Assembling and Attaching Rear Dampers

Rear shocks or dampers attach to the drivetrain.
Step 5 of Building the Grasshopper Rear shocks or dampers attach to the drivetrain. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The rear shocks or friction dampers consist of a shaft, tube, spring, and connectors at each end. A small metal tube goes inside the hole in each plastic connector (see image) which are then attached with screws to the gearbox (bottom) and with screws and plastic caps to the top supports.

15
of 30

Checking the RC Equipment

Hook up and test electronics outside of the car.
Step 7 of Building the Grasshopper Hook up and test electronics outside of the car. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Just before moving on to installing the servo, ESC, and receiver you need to hook up everything to make sure it all works properly and that you know how to connect the cables. This step also includes a diagram showing the parts you need to install on the face of the servo for operating the steering rods (assembled in next step).

16
of 30

Tamiya Electronic Speed Controller

How to connect the wires on the ESC
Tip: Hooking Up the TEU-101BK ESC (Supplied with Kit) How to connect the wires on the ESC. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Included with the kit, you'll find a separate set of instructions for the TEU-101BK Tamiya Electronic Speed Controller (ESC).

17
of 30

Attaching Steering Rods and Steering Servo

Steering arms attach to the servo and hang underneath chassis.
Step 8, 9 of Building the Grasshopper Steering arms attach to the servo and hang underneath chassis. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Although you'll have to supply the servo, the kit comes with parts needed to attach it to the vehicle. For attaching the steering rods, choose the appropriate plastic part that fits your servo from the two provided. The kit also has the screws and washers you'll need to install the servo.

Each steering rod is a different length. A ruler with millimeter measurements is handy for getting each one to the right initial length. Once all assembled you may need to change the length slightly to adjust the toe angle for your vehicle. Do so by holding the rod, detaching the adjuster at the end of the rod from the ball on the upright then twisting the adjuster one or more full turns.

18
of 30

Install the Electronics

Battery goes under chassis. Other electronics go on top.
Step 10 of Building the Grasshopper Battery goes under chassis. Other electronics go on top. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

At this point I installed and connected the ESC and receiver. Although it doesn't come until Step 19 in the instructions, I went ahead and put in the battery pack as well.

As a newbie at building RCs I wasn't sure how much leeway you have for placing the electronic components. The size and configuration of my Traxxas receiver meant that it and the ESC simply would not fit the way the diagrams showed in the instructions (receiver to the rear, ESC in front of it. But with assurances from Mike that it didn't have to be exact, I placed them side-by-side with the receiver on the left and the ESC on the right (so that its connectors were right there by the motor wires).

One small snag I encountered was that while the ESC instructions designated which wires were negative and positive I didn't find the corresponding instructions for the motor cables until I was writing up this description you're reading now. It's buried in tiny print in the sidebar to Step 10.

There was another minor adjustment that wouldn't faze most modelers but as a newbie I had to puzzle over a bit. Rather than using the designated screws and washers and fasten the on/off switch in place, you simply remove the faceplate, put it beneath the chassis, and screw it back in place with its own screws. Minor to some of you, perhaps, but worth noting for anyone less experienced.

Also, be sure to turn the switch in the direction noted -- ON toward the front. Why? Because there's a nice little decal included in the kit that you can place near the switch on the side of the car. It lets you know -- without turning the car over -- which side the switch is on and which way to flip it. Put the switch in backwards and the sticker would be wrong.

19
of 30

Tip: Use Zip Ties

Kit comes with two zip ties.
Building The Grasshopper Kit comes with two zip ties. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The kit comes with two plastic zip ties for tying up wires to keep things neat. It's good to have extra on hand in case your wires are especially unruly or if you need to remove and reposition cables.

20
of 30

Tip: Routing the Receiver Antenna

Routing the receiver antenna.
Building The Grasshopper There is a neat way to route the receiver antenna, but you have to figure it out on your own -- no instructions. © J.James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Here's another of those little nit-picky things that most modelers can probably figure out on their own. But for newbies like me, a little mention in the instructions would have been helpful.

On the left side of the chassis there's a little molded piece with a hole in it that the antenna tube fits in. On the side is another tiny hole. Pass your receiver antenna down that little hole (into the battery compartment) and then immediately back up the hole for the antenna tube. Run the rest of the antenna wire into the tube then stick the end of the tube into its holder there in the chassis.

21
of 30

Attaching Front Arms, Bumper, and Coil Springs (Shocks)

Clockwise from top left, assembling the A-arms for the front suspension.
Steps 11, 12, 13, 14 of Building the Grasshopper Clockwise from top left, assembling the A-arms for the front suspension. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

After installing the servo, receiver, and ESC the next steps involve putting together the front suspension. You'll be assembling and attaching the front arms which provide support for the front coil springs or shocks. You'll also attach the front bumper during this step.

When assembling the arms, use the crosswrench that comes with the kit to attach the little brass ball connectors (it can take quite a bit of force to get them through the hole in the plastic pieces) to the uprights.

Each front damper (shock) consists of a shaft (apply grease), coil (spring), and a small piece of rubber tubing. The shaft goes through the chassis (then through the coil and tube) into a pivoting spring mount on the front arm.

22
of 30

Assembling the Front Wheels

Front wheels consist of tires and three part rims and very tiny screws and nuts.
Step 15 of Building the Grasshopper Front wheels consist of tires and three part rims and very tiny screws and nuts. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The front wheels of The Grasshopper consist of straight ribbed racing tires and three piece rims. It's a little tricky to do it but one piece of the rim goes inside the tire. The other two pieces go on either side covering the inside tire rim and holding it on the middle rim.

Five tiny screws hold the pieces all together. While you could hold the nut in place with a finger and screw in one screw at a time, I found a faster way. Place all the nuts in place on one side of the rim. Cover with a piece of low tack tape (such as blue painter's tape). It helps keep all the nuts in place while you screw in all the screws from the other side.

23
of 30

Assembling the Rear Wheels

Seating the nuts on the back side of the rear tire rims.
Step 16 of Building the Grasshopper Seating the nuts on the back side of the rear tire rims. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

As I note in my review of The Grasshopper kit, the most difficult part of the entire kit was putting together those rear tires with their three-part rims. I confess that I gave up and asked for help. Then I spent another 30 minutes trying to get them screwed together properly.

Like the front wheels, part of the 3 piece rims goes inside the tire. While it was tricky getting the piece inside the front tires, it was finger-numbing and near impossible to do it for the rear tires. I got help from someone with stronger fingers than mine and even he had a hard time. But once that was accomplished it was time to screw all the parts together.

Unlike the front rims, the nuts for the rear rims must be deeply seated in their holes. Just dropping them in place doesn't work every time. They'll end up sideways or they won't go deep enough without some prodding from a small screwdriver (or the end of the tweezers). If not seated properly it will be impossible to get the screws in so spend some time making sure all the nuts are flat and tapped into place before starting to screw the rims and tires together.

24
of 30

Tip: Painting Rims

Four completely assembled tires and rims for the Tamiya Grasshopper.
Building The Grasshopper Four completely assembled tires and rims for the Tamiya Grasshopper. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

White rims are OK but I think painting them to match one of the paint colors I used would be nice. But it's probably something I should have thought of before assembly. Want painted rims? Do it before you've spent all that time getting the rims in the tires and screwing in all those little screws. Otherwise, you may end up with paint on the tires themselves or in the screw heads -- making it harder to remove them later when needed.

25
of 30

Attaching Front and Rear Wheels

Mount tires with the nut side to the car.
Step 17, 18 Mount tires with the nut side to the car. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Use the crosswrench to attach the wheels. The nut side of the rims goes to the inside. Be sure to note the rotation direction for the rear wheels both during assembly and when attaching them to the vehicle.

26
of 30

Assembled But Unpainted

Grasshopper completely assembled -- but without paint or decals.
Step 24 of Building the Grasshopper Grasshopper completely assembled -- but without paint or decals. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

I initially skipped over steps 21 through 23 (painting) and took the buggy for a very short test drive. That's when I discovered the loose motor connection. Also had to go back to step 20 and make steering adjustments.

27
of 30

What I Used to Paint The Grasshopper

Basic Testors Airbrush Kit with paint and compressed air
Testors Model Car Spray Paint Set (With Airbrush Propellent) Basic Testors Airbrush Kit with paint and compressed air. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Purchased at Hobby Lobby, these aren't the traditional Tamiya colors for The Grasshopper. I used the airbrush kit and compressed air to create a two-tone body. I used brushes and other Testors paint colors for details and for the driver and headlights.

Although Testors makes many types of airbrush kits (compare prices), I used one of the Testors Model Car Spray Paint Sets (compare prices) that comes with Airbrush propellent, a sprayer/airbrush-type attachment for the can, primer, and five colors of paint. Since I'd never done airbrushing, I felt this was a simple and inexpensive way to try it out.

If you prefer a more traditional look, the instructions for The Grasshopper include a listing of the Tamiya paint colors and where to apply them on the car.

28
of 30

Painting The Grasshopper

Stages of painting the body of the Grasshopper.
Step 21, 22, 23 of Building the Grasshopper Stages of painting the body of the Grasshopper. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

The most fun was painting the body. To me, the original color scheme was boring. So instead of a white car with red and green stripes, I went with a purple and teal color scheme, black and red detailing, and most of the included decals -- just not the stripes.

29
of 30

Painting the Driver and Lights

Painting the driver and the headlights.
Step 22 of Building the Grasshopper Painting the driver and the headlights. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

While my initial coat of paint on the car body dried, I worked on the driver and the lights. I used the screws that attach the lights to the body to attach them to a scrap of cardboard for ease in handling.

30
of 30

My Finished Grasshopper RC

I built and painted this Tamiya Grasshopper.
Assembled, Painted, and Ready to Go I built and painted this Tamiya Grasshopper. © J. James

Details on Building The Grasshopper by Jacci James

Isn't it pretty? Runs great too.