Inside Story on the RC10
by Gene Husting — 1998
Before the RC10 - On road 1:8 gas and 1:12 electric
When I joined Associated in 1969, I became a co-owner partner with Roger Curtis, who was the original owner with his first partner. The only kind of R/C racing in the world at that time was 1:8 gas cars. We became quite successful, winning numerous National Championships and the first-ever World Championships with the RC100, which was a car I basically designed. At this time I was 50 years old, but I still managed to finish 3rd in the World's, with Butch Kroells winning.
Then, a few years later, a new type of car became popular. It was a smaller electric powered car being raced indoors in the Midwest. Roger and I talked about making a 1:12 electric on-road car and we both agreed that this was the time to do it. Roger is an engineer, so he took over the designing of the car, and I'm basically a racer-type guy, so I picked out the body, which was called a TOJ Can Am type car.
The success story is basically the same. Many National Championships, then winning the first ever IFMAR 1:12 Electric On Road World Championships, with Kent Clauson driving.
The RC10's beginnings
All of our racing up to this point was mainly on outdoor asphalt tracks, and on some indoor carpet racing. Then, in 1983, we started looking at a new type of racing that was growing - electric off road cars. So Roger and I went to a few off road races to see what it was all about.
It was quite unbelievable what we saw, heard and learned. Everyone started running 6-cell battery packs, but because there was no limit on cells, they would then go to 7 cells. This of course made the cars go faster, but they didn't stay on the ground, so they all simply added weight...a lot of weight.
I guess the weight kept the cars on the ground more, but now it was too slow. So they went to more batteries, 8 cells, and, you guessed it, more weight too! Basically, they ended up trying to make a tank go fast. Someone even made brass wheels, thinking the weight placed on the wheels would keep the wheels on the ground better. They were basically clueless on race car design.
A couple weeks later, there was a big convention for real off-road buggies, with all the major manufacturers attending. So, Roger and I also went to this show. There were over a dozen companies making chassis and complete cars.
It seemed like most of them were built with a VW engine and chassis, or a Porsche engine and chassis. This seemed very strange to us. And every time we asked them why they used either a VW or Porsche engine, they all said, "Because everybody else does it!" Wow, what a great reason. There was no design theory being tried here.
But then there were two companies who actually had designed their whole chassis in a way that looked correct to both Roger and I. In one of the booths, there was no one there that knew anything about the design of the car, he was just a salesman.
Then we got lucky. In the other booth, the designer was there, and we told him that we make R/C cars, and that we were going to make an off-road R/C car and not a real off road car. Once he knew we were no threat to him, he answered all our questions truthfully, and basically confirmed what we were already thinking.
So, we agreed to start making an off-road car. Roger would do the design and engineering work, while I took care of the overall business work, and had the responsibility to do the body and wheels. It took about a year for the design work and for all the tooling to be built.
But in the meantime we had my son, Curtis Husting, very busy machining prototype parts. Curtis was the machine shop foreman, and now on top of that, he had the assignment to hand-make six totally new, complete RC10 prototype cars. As soon as Roger had the design of a part completed, Curtis was busy making it.
If you had to hand-make an RC10 aluminum tub chassis, how would you do it? Good question, right? But Curtis made 6 chassis that were works of art. After Curtis finished machining all the arms, arm mounts, steering blocks, hub carriers, complete transmissions, etc., we were almost ready to go racing.
Associated's first 1:10 off road racing team
There was only one problem - we didn't have an off road team! We were all on road racers. So, Mike Reedy recommended we ask Jay Halsey to see if he would like to join our Team. Mike had been working with Jay with motors in off road. Jay agreed to join the Team, and Gil Losi Jr., who also raced on our 1:8 gas on road Team, also volunteered to join the Team.
So we gave Jay and Gil Jr. their cars so they could learn how to tune the cars before the upcoming ROAR Nationals in Vineland, NJ. The rest of the Team members were all 1:8 gas racers: Roger Curtis, Curtis Husting, Ron Paris, and me. The RC10 dominated the race, with Jay Halsey running away with the event.
From that point on, RC10s dominated off-road racing worldwide. For the next six years Associated could not keep up with the demand for the RC10 cars. We doubled the size of the company, and moved in to a much larger building, but the demand for cars kept growing.
The first ever IFMAR Off Road World Championships was held the next year, 1985, in Del Mar, California. Jay Halsey ran away with the race, becoming the first ever IFMAR World Champion.
An interesting side note on this World's was that we made a last-minute decision to have some fun, and turn an RC10 into a 2WD car. When I say last minute, I mean we didn't get it done until the night before qualifying started. It was very fast when it was running, but we ran into too many unforeseen mechanical problems. Nevertheless, it was fun for a while!
The 1989 World Championships RC10 Car
The 1989 World's was held in Australia. With Cliff Lett now heading the design team at Associated, along with Roger and Curtis, they designed a whole new car. We gave the first prototype to Jay Halsey to find a good track setup.
When we got to Australia, Jay shared his setup with everyone else on the Team. I was standing under the driver's stand, watching Jay run, with his father Jim Halsey. Jay was the most enthusiastically happy driver I've ever seen. He would always have a big smile on his face when he drove.
Jay liked to stay on the throttle as soon and as long as possible. There was a big banked turn at the end of the straightway, and he would take the high side so he could stay on the throttle. He was doing this in three other turns too.
So I asked Jim, "Why don't you tell Jay to take the short way around the track?" Mechanics don't tell drivers how to drive, so Jim said, "Why don't YOU tell him?" So I asked Jay to drive a few laps, taking the shortest way possible around the track. This meant the absolute inside line in every corner. Jay said OK and drove a perfectly tight line.
Jim and I were both timing Jay, and after a few laps, Jay brought the car in and said, "It's too easy to drive and it feels too slow this way." Whereupon Jim showed Jay his lap times, which were now over 1/2 second a lap faster. From that point on, Jay had the fastest car on the track.
But it just wasn't meant to be Jay's race. He had a couple traffic problems, and Masami Hirosaka won the IFMAR World Championships. Because this car was not a production car, we wouldn't allow any photos for the magazines.
The 1991 World Championships in Detroit
Detroit, Michigan was the site of the 1991 Worlds. The design team had come up with another whole new type of car for the Worlds. Unfortunately, we just finished the cars the week before the Worlds, so there was almost no testing time. I think we built 16 cars, and after the first day of practice they were all not so good. I don't think we could have even gotten one of them in the Main.
So Cliff came to me and he said, "Gene, we've only got two more days of practice. We need to use this time more efficiently. We need to divide the Team into groups of three or four drivers. One group would only test changes to the front end, one to the rear end, one to the tires, etc. That way we can learn a lot more." I thought it was a great idea, and that's what we did.
We went from having the worst cars on the track to having the best cars on the track after we found the best setup. Masami Hirosaka won his second 2WD IFMAR World Championships.
The 1993 World Championships in England
England hosted the 1993 Worlds on a large outdoor track. At the beginning of the week we had the fastest cars on the track, but the track was deteriorating every day. It was literally falling apart. Day by day we were going slower and slower.
On the last qualifying round a couple of guys put on a Hydra Drive and their speeds immediately picked up. So for the Mains we had Hydras on all the cars. After the first two Mains Brian Kinwald was the only driver that had a chance on our Team to win.
So I went around to all our drivers who made the Main and I said, "Brian's the only one who has a chance to win. He's starting in 6th position. He needs to win this round. If he comes up on you, give him plenty of room to pass. You are, of course, free to race everyone else on the track." Every driver said they had already figured out the same thing, and that's what they would do.
It took Brian a couple minutes to get to the front, but he did it. However, in the last minute, both Craig Drescher and Masami Hirosaka were right behind Brian, and they had to keep backpedaling to keep from passing Brian. But Brian won the round and the World Championships.
The 1995 World Championships, Yatabe Arena with the RC10B2
In 1995 we went to Japan for the IFMAR Worlds to run on Yokomo's home track, Yatabe Arena. Yokomo ran one of the best Worlds I've ever seen. But let me go back in time a few months, to the ROAR Nationals at So Cal.
Matt Francis was on a qualifying run and he was cutting every corner so close you couldn't fit a piece of paper between his car and the corner. He was going fast, but he clipped a couple corners and lost some time.
So I asked Matt if he'd do me a favor. He said, "Sure, Gene. What do you want?" On the next qualifier, which was his last one, I said, "Leave a full six inches between the corner and your car, I mean on every corner." I'm not sure if he wanted to do it or not, but he said, "I've tried everything else, so I'll try that too."
Well, he didn't get stuck in even one corner, and the clean lap times were even faster than the previous clean laps. After they announced his time, which was a lot faster than his previous times, he came over to me and said, "Thanks, Gene! It was actually easier for me to go faster, because I didn't have to slow down so much."
Now, back to Japan. Matt simply dominated in Japan with his all new RC10B2 car. He was fastest in every qualifier and won the first two A-Mains to become the IFMAR World Champion.
The 1997 World Championships, RC10B3 - the fastest car at the Worlds
In 1997, the IFMAR Worlds was held at the Ranch Pit Shop in Pomona, California. We debuted our new RC10B3 car there. We weren't able to finish the car until the week before the race, which meant we didn't have as much tuning time as we would have liked.
Nevertheless, Masami Hirosaka did take Top Qualifier honors and turned the fastest laps of the race, and we had five cars in the Main. We were pleased with the B3's performance in its very first race.
Looking back from this 15-year Anniversary, we owe a lot of thanks to all the people that made this possible: the design team Roger Curtis, Cliff Lett, and Curtis Husting. Mike Reedy for giving us motors that Masami calls "Stupid Fast," and super batteries to power them. And Orion, for all their help with batteries. To Novak, and now to LRP, for the best speed controls in the world. And to Pro-Line, for being so helpful, generous and patient with us. A BIG THANKS TO ALL OF YOU.
These people allowed us to dominate 1:10 off-road racing worldwide for 15 years, winning five out of seven IFMAR World Championships.