The Tyco Triple Wheels is a radio controlled vehicle manufactured by Taiyo (Japan), and released into the US/UK and other countries worldwide by Tyco in 1994.
So… how did this happen!
One of the strangest designs that Tyco would ever release, the Triple Wheels is a product of its time – that is, the mid 90s when the likes of Nintendo and Sega had a firm grip over the minds of children, and the days of Turbo Hoppers and AFX slot-cars were sadly nearing an end.
Following the purchase of a significant stake of Taiyo (the Japanese manufacturer of all their R/C cars) around 1990, Tyco would exercise increasing control over the products. At first that delivered the kind of fresh thinking that Taiyo needed – giving us the Tyco Bandit, the Eliminator, and other all-time favorites. But as time went on, Tyco went off the rails deeply into ‘toy’ territory and away from any semblance of practical engineering that had led to their success so far.
It’s not hard to understand why – if kids are wanting the fantasy that video games provided, why not give them the same experience with their R/C toys?
And so the outrageous styling was in, and while the Triple Wheels may seem questionable now, it’s hard to disagree with other obvious winners such as one of my all-time-favorites the Tyco Rebound, the Tyco Mutator, and the Tyco Python.a These are all highly collectable and desirable 30 years later.
And based on the volume of cars still available on auction sites in Japan, they must have sold a lot of cars.
Features and Performance
The product itself has 4 active wheels, on the rear and rear ‘top’, with the front wheels freely turning, allowing it to drive in 3 modes:
- Regular way up
- Standing up on it’s rear
- Upside down / flipped over
Possibly the most innovative feature of the Triple Wheels is the unusual curved rod on the underside. What is it? Have you guessed already?
That’s right, it’s the antenna!
Driving all this was 2 x Mabuchi RS260 motors, the same as the Tyco Scorcher.
Role in the demise of Metro RC Australia
So, why is the Triple Wheels notorious for leading to the failure of Metro RC in Australia?
GTI (George Tauber Imports, trading as Metro RC), was the local reseller of Tyco/Taiyo in Australia, and naturally sold the first version of the Triple Wheels upon release.
Unfortunately that original version had a defect, a weak point in it’s gear system that ran its dual axle. Looking at the patent (below) you can see how complex this was, with various gears forming the drive-train. Apparently the defect was in the materials used for these gears which would break too easily, causing a complete failure of the vehicle.
This was revised in a 2nd version that was released later, using gears made of a higher strength polymer, however Metro RC Australia had already accepted many returns from Australian customers for these broken cars, expecting to reimbursement from Taiyo.
Unfortunately for Metro/GTI, when it became time for reimbursement, Taiyo (Japan) wouldn’t accept such a high number of defective units ‘out of the blue’ and it became a sticking point in their relationship and any negotiations between the parties from that point onward.
This eventually led to Metro RC being prevented from receiving new stock of the next season’s models, and it wasn’t long after that Metro RC / GTI would be pushed out of the market by none other than Tyco RC, major investor in Taiyo and clear competitor to Metro.
You’ll either love it, or hate, it, and I’m sure you’ve made your mind up already, but from a purely ‘fun’ perspective (these are toys we’re talking about!), the Tyco Triple Wheels does a decent job, especially for the younger audience, and is a significant car in the history of Taiyo, Tyco, and Metro RC.
So should you get one? For me, this car says everything you need to know about Tyco in the 90s, and fits in well with other cars of the era as part of any collection.