Many of the sites’ visitors grew up in the 80s and 90s and may have been lucky enough to own a Typhoon Hovercraft. Some of you may even have children of your own now, and wish to share your love of the Typhoon Hovercraft or other Taiyo Tyco R/C with them. But which one to buy?
This is a question that’s been asked of me more than once… and so it’s time to write an article!
What models are there?
There are 16 different hovercraft listed at TycoCollectors.com, all of them with origins in the original Typhoon released in Japan in 1988, and there are no doubt more I’ve yet to document. But these are all the major versions you will find.
Here are some of the more common models…
Whew! That’s a lot! So then… which one should you get?
Full Size or Mini?
The most fundamental choice is whether you should get the full size 1/8 scale Typhoon, or the Mini Typhoon. As you can see from the photos below, the “Mini” version isn’t actually that much smaller.
Is the Mini less powerful?
No, not really. While it’s normal for the Mini and Micro versions of Taiyo / Tyco models to have a reduced battery size, the Mini Typhoon, Mini Typhoon 2, and Jet Typhoon break this convention and all carry the same 9.6V battery as the original full size Typhoon. And while it’s possible the motors themselves might be smaller (I’ve not opened them up myself) it’s not immediately obvious in use.
What about driving, how are they different?
To be honest, I prefer driving the Mini version. As there’s less weight floating around on the floor, there’s less momentum, and momentum was always the enemy of this model – usually resulting in you struggling to control it, and smacking sideways into a wall! So if anything, I’d say the Mini version might actually drive better than the original.
It sounds like you’re recommending I buy the Mini?
In general I’d recommend the Mini to anyone looking to buy purely as a once-off. It drives the same, is a little easier to handle, is cheaper, smaller to store, and costs less. It’s the complete experience.
Typhoon Original or Typhoon II?
The second release of the Typhoon underwent considerable change in both the body design, and the underlying chassis and skirt / cushion design.
The original’s larger, heavier body fully enclosed the air cushion. This was necessary, as the original’s cushion was relatively thin and delicate compared to the Typhoon II’s thicker rubber bag.
The Typhoon II extended the air cushion well beyond the body, providing a bumper car style surrounding that would make small impacts softer, and while this does expose it more to potential damage, it is made of a thicker rubber material. This makes it less likely to tear, but like all rubber any repeated folds in the same area will cause wear over time.
Underneath the body there are also significant changes in design.
The original has 25 outlets along the bottom of the air cushion, allowing the bag to expand while focusing the escaping air downwards evenly around the perimeter of the craft. The original Mini has added holes at the rear (perhaps to support the motors) while the original full size has two large downward thrusters directly underneath the battery compartment to support that area of extra weight. These were “true” hovercraft, floating on a curtain of air. Does that make it better though?
While the original had legitimacy, it also made for a difficult to control RC toy. Driving the original Typhoon can feel like sliding around an ice skating rink with only a fan to push you away from whatever direction you don’t want to go. It can be quite frustrating, especially for younger kids.
Clearly reacting to feedback on the first version, the Typhoon 2 and Mini Typhoon 2 removed almost all of the 25 outlets, now with just two small holes at the rear edges, and a line of three small outlets in the center mass of the craft, with no other visible method of creating that necessary ‘curtain of air’.
Having not driven a T2 in many years I can’t recall it being massively different, however comparing videos of them both in action it’s clear that the Typhoon 2 (and T-3) is creating much more friction with the ground, which does a good job of reducing that ‘skating on ice’ effect and providing more predictable control, at the cost of speed.
Where should I buy these?
If you have time, and live in a populous country such as USA or UK, you’ll find garage sales and estate sales to be the cheapest place (by far) to buy old Tyco RC and Taiyo RC toys. However for many of us, that’s not an option, either due to the time involved, or simply the randomness of what you’ll find.
And so eBay ends up being the place most people will buy their Vintage Toys and Tyco RC cars.
This will show any Tyco Typhoon in your area:
If you’re like me, and live in Australia or another country who does’nt have heaps of these available, then the best place to buy is eBay Global, though postage will obviously be higher. Here’s a look what’s available there:
What about the Super Typhoon?
The Taiyo Super Typhoon is a monster sized 1/6 model with the same 9.6V battery pack as the original. I’ve never personally drove it, so can’t say much other than it’s harder to find, generally more expensive, and probably best for collectors to focus on rather than someone looking for a little fun or nostalgia.
What about the Typhoon T-3?
The T-3 is essentially a T-2 design with an updated body, typically transparent and more colorful, but other than that there are no significant differences in design or behavior. The benefit of purchasing a Typhoon T-3 is simply that you’ll find more of them in better condition, often with the full box (if you’re buying the Taiyo version from Japan), and many come in some pretty sweet looking designs
The T-4 is quite rare, and I’ve only seen a few of them in the wild, so I won’t be speaking about that model in any detail.
So what should you buy? Ultimately the original will give you the most realistic ‘floating on air’ hovercraft feel, and if you had this craft as a kid it’s probably the one you’d want again for the nostalgia. If choosing this option, go for the Mini Typhoon variant for all the reasons explained above, unless you’re a collector in which case you’ll want to grab the original for sure.
But overall, if you’re simply looking for the best one that they made, something you’d like to have your kids play with and not run off screaming in frustration, then the Typhoon 2, and in particular the Mini Typhoon 2 offers the more stable and predictable RC vehicle. But remember – just as you might have learned on Christmas morning in the early 1990s, it’s still a hovercraft, and there’s one thing a hovercraft does not have that you might miss… brakes!