The Tyco 4WD Turbo Racing Pickup is a radio controlled car released into the US, UK, and other global markets in 1987.
For me (Tyco Collectors Admin) this is my #1 80s RC car. Manufactured by Taiyo (Japan), it’s as close as they ever got to perfection in my view, and the predecessor to the massively popular 1990 Tyco Baja Bandit and 1992 Tyco Bandit.
Features and Performance
Taiyo / Tyco would put everything they had into this model. There are few (if any) others of the era which surpass the engineering of the Racing Pickup.
- Designed after Sherman Balch’s 1984 off-road racing pickup, among others
- Large 1/14 Scale
- Exceptional quality Made in Japan
- 9.6v ‘Turbo’ powered by 8xAA (12V Alkaline)
- High torque with a top speed of 15.5mph
- Dual Mabuchi 280 motors operating 4WD drive-train
- Front differential, coupled with rear solid axle, said to be the best configuration for off-road racing
- All-around blue shock absorbers featuring steel shafts
- Backup tire mounted on the rear
- Air intake on the rooftop
- Nissan King Cab hard body
History and Development of the Baja Racing Pick-Up
Initially proposed by Taiyo Japan to Tyco Industries (USA) as a possible leading product for the 1988 market year, the 4WD Turbo Racing Pickup was intended to be a smash hit that would take over from the wildly popular Tyco Turbo Hopper which was now beginning to cool down.
It was a logical move, considering the Racing Pickup was modeled after actual Nissan 4×4 King Cab Racing Pick-Ups, like the ones driven by the late American Sherman Balch, who triumphed at the Baja 1000 in 1987, a world renowned off-road race that takes place in the Californian Peninsula (Mexico).
Roger Mears, another popular off-road racer also raced in the Red White and Blue Nissan pickups that closely resembled Taiyo’s truck, and so they must have thought this was a sure thing for the American audience.
It was a monster of a “toy” R/C car, more like a hobby grade Tamiya than anything Taiyo had ever designed.
With dual motors, front differential and solid rear axle, steer reinforcements, pistol grip controller, and the 8xAA batteries to drive it, with suspension that looked like it was straight from the 1/10 section of the hobby store, and of course that Red, White, and Blue Nissan 4×4 King Cab Pickup hard body. This was something special.
Tyco thought the same, and following the usual repackaging and rebranding for the US market, they would release the Tyco Turbo Racing 4WD into the US, UK, and other markets globally in 1988, while Taiyo also launched their own Taiyo branded model in the Japanese market.
Sadly, it was just not meant to be. The 4WD Racing Pick-Up did not achieve the sales success that Tyco had anticipated in the American market, and there has been much speculation as to why.
- Was the high price point, attributable to the vehicle’s advanced specifications?
- Could it have been the Japanese brand (Nissan) instead of a Chevy or GM Pick-Up?
- Or perhaps the market timing and promotion was just off, or badly timed, when customers just weren’t ready to buy?
Whatever it was, we are thankful that Tyco saw through this small failure and knew there was still opportunity. They would use this setback to inform their 2nd attempt at designing the ultimate successor to the Turbo Hopper. One that would hit a more acceptable price point, while being tailored as much as possible to resonate with the average American consumer.
Tyco gets their smash hit
The iconic Tyco Baja Bandit was born – and it was a smash hit.
This new model used the same Nissan Pick-Up hard body but featured an entirely new, simpler, yet high-performance chassis that would cost much less to produce, yet still have wild performance off-road for a model in its class (remember, we’re talking “toy grade”!).
In any event, 30 years later, most collectors concur that the Taiyo Racing Pickup 4WD, whether Taiyo or Tyco branded, ranks among the finest radio-controlled cars Taiyo ever produced (in my opinion, it’s the best). Its limited production run of just one year also makes it one of the rarest.
And whether you like the Racing Pickup or the Bandit more doesn’t matter so much – they’re both great toys with a great story behind them, just begging to be taken outside and raced.
And if you’re too old for that, simply sitting on the shelf these things look amazing, and will bring back those nostalgic memories of a simpler time, before kids were stuck to their tablets and cell phones, when Nintendo was relatively new, when you could just go outside, plant down the pride of your toy collection…. and let her rip!