January 31, 2011
Just getting home from my trip to Taiwan after visiting the Alpha Plus factory along with a day trip to Kingstar. I spent 5 days in Taiwan, mostly practicing and wrenching on my Durango. I think I spent at least 8 hours of actual on the track practice time which equated to a LOT of abuse! When I arrived the first day and we headed to the track, I still had my set-up from CRCRC. This track couldn’t be any more different! It was a challenge with many ruts and holes in the jumps. It was common to hit a jump and go cartwheeling if you hit a hole. My set-up was very stiff from CRCRC and my car was just a handful. Many locals showed up every day that I was there to run with me. That first day they were definitely showing me the way around the track! I was crashing everywhere and had some pretty spectacular tumbles. We went back to the Alpha factory that evening and I did an overhaul on my set-up. Changing to larger hole pistons, shorter camber links, different shock positions, and a lot more droop! We also prepared some engines for testing that second day.
Day two went a lot better as far as me getting around the track! My set-up changes, while no where near dialed in were much better and I was able to complete laps without crashing all the time! I was now able to at least run with the locals. (There are some very fast local drivers!) A representative from Team Durango / Kingstar showed up and I got to see his car all decked out with some prototype bling that we should hopefully be seeing in the near future once testing is finalized! As for me, I played with a few different engines and carb restrictors among other engine tuning things to try and get maximum fuel mileage while maintaining the awesome power of the Alpha Plus engines. This track was a very fast track with basically a 200 ft front straight away with a left turn at the end and full throttle all the way around to the back straight which was about 100 ft in itself. So basically it was about 350ft of full throttle all the way around the front, right, and back of the track only letting off a smidgen to get around the corner. Fuel mileage wasn’t the best for anyone at this track so making any kind of progress when running this flat out I’m sure is going to pay bigger dividends on a more ‘standard’ type of track.
Day three Alpha was generous enough to drive me to Kingstar which is the manufacturer for Durango, along with many different R/C companies. I got a private tour of the facility and while I am sworn to secrecy of what I saw and encountered I can say that Kingstar is a top notch company and they do amazing work! I got to see the assembly lines of people packing parts for kits. Also where and how the RTR kits are built in mass production. My favorite thing though had to be how bodies were made and more specifically how the screen printed bodies are made. My journey to Kingstar is one I won’t soon forget and it was an amazing opportunity to get to experience what I did.
Day four was some more testing at the track. I ran about 3 hours of actual on track time on day four and I began to really like this track. It got more fun the more I ran on it, which is rare for me but shows the level of difficulty of the track and how it was constantly challenging. We did a lot of engine testing and fuel mileage runs as well as just hanging out with the locals.
Day five was the last day at the track. Probably ran just over 2 hours of on track running. Did some more runtime tests and just had a good time. At the end of the day I pulled off my first Durango DNX408 backflips with a twist in them. Also allowed about 5 of the locals to run my car and have some fun with it. Being there in Taiwan with my ‘fans’ was such a great experience and I had a great time with them.
Now for some things I can share about the Alpha Plus factory. Before I went there I admittedly knew very little about R/C Engines, you know, how they worked basically. haha. But I now have a better understanding and also a deeper appreciation for Alpha Plus as a company. People often times bash these Taiwanese companies as not making products that are as quality as other places in the world. However after having spent a few days working with the main designers of the Alpha Plus engines and getting to know why they chose what materials they did for the engines I have come to the conclusion that they know how to make a great engine and can produce engines as good as anyone in the world. The main designer for Alpha Plus was the first person to bring the correct technologies to produce top of the line competition R/C engines in Taiwan. I was able to take some photos of before and after of the Piston, Sleeve, and Case to share. While many people may know what the before and after of engines look like I for one didn’t so this was cool to see for me.
I also want to explain a little on how the Alpha Plus engines are different. If you have ran an Alpha Plus engine or tuned for a buddy who has one you may find that they are very tight when new. Also they like to run a bit hotter than other engines. Some people assume this to be a bad thing however I have learned that it isn’t bad at all, only different. Alpha Plus uses different materials for their Piston and Sleeve which allow for a different expansion rate of each compared with other companies. This is why the engines take about 1.5 to 2 gallons to fully break in a get rid of the metal pinch. During the break-in time the engines will run a bit hotter and will not provide optimum performance. However once they pass their break-in time and loose the metal pinch they will cool off slightly which will allow the user to lean it out more. One very cool feature about these engines is that they can run hot and it not really affect the tune. This for one gives a wider tuning window and allows for a ‘lean mistake’. These engines also allow you to run them hot without damaging them like other brands. Mine have seen over 300*F on many occasions and they are totally fine with it. It doesn’t shorten their life or anything! They were made to handle it! 🙂 So if your Alpha Plus engine is running 240 and your afraid to lean it out a bit, don’t be! Tune for performance and don’t worry so much about the engine temperature.
All in all I was extremely impressed with the level of professionalism and just outright nice people I encountered in Taiwan both in the factories and at the track. Alpha Plus can and does make engines that are of as high a quality as any other engine out there. Even the engines that cost more than twice the price. Kingstar is also a top notch company that is growing fast with some amazing ideas! There is a reason why they manufacture a lot of the best R/C cars on the market today!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to Taiwan, if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an e-mail, or if I forgot to mention anything in my blog here let me know and I will add it!
Next two weeks for me will consist of starting my 1/8th track in the backyard, (tractor arrives Wednesday!)
maybe a club race or two, and spending some good quality time with my family!