The Tyco Batmobile Tumbler 1/6 is a large scale radio controlled toy released in limited quantities worldwide in 2005.
At the time of its production, Tyco was merely a brand used by Mattel for their R/C range, but in knowing that I think it’s fair to say this has to be one of the most ambitious RC toys ever produced by Mattel.
The 1/6 scale Batmobile Tumbler is seriously large, and what’s more, it’s packing a proper 7.2V battery. But can it live up to its beastly potential?
The Tumbler, made famous in the 2005 film Batman Begins, is a formidable armored vehicle that resonates more with a tank than a traditional sports car. This vision of the Batmobile is built with practicality and function in mind, embodying the grim, realistic tone that writer/director Christopher Nolan sought to bring to his Batman trilogy. Several real-life vehicles were built for the film, most housing a 5.7-liter Chevy V8 engine, together with the suspension system from Baja desert racers, two super wide front tires from the rear of a Sprint Car, and achieving speeds of 160km/h or 100 mph. Surely with those specifications, this was the most realistic and believable Batmobile that had ever been constructed.
As for the toy, this Tyco Batmobile 1/6 scale model has been accurately reproduced by Mattel. Large, dark, and menacing, with all the right angles and highlights, it’s a good looking toy.Of course, directly comparing 1:1 with the real thing there are some obvious modifications to make it work as mass produced low-cost toy store fare, but overall I think they did an incredible job.
Features and Performance
Perhaps the greatest thing about this mammoth isn’t its size, but its the fact that Mattel realized it would need some serious power to haul it around, and they didn’t mess about, inserting a 7.2V Hobby Grade battery pack with 6x Sub-C batteries, the same kind used by Tamiya RC cars for decades. And while its less volts than a 9.6v pack, the capacity and amperage is higher, allowing longer runs and greater torque. The only complaint I have is that it’s still a NiCd – by 2005 I’d have expected a NiMh, but ultimately, it’s not a big deal.
So can the Tumbler move? Yes, though it’s not what I’d call fast. It moves with plenty of purpose for a toy of its size and weight, and I’d prefer not to be in its way as it came hurtling toward me… Though I’m pretty sure I’d survive the hit without a scratch, if that’s any indication!
When driving around the Tumbler makes a satisfying roar, and it’s really quite something. Check out the video for a sneak peak. Note he’s not going at full tilt, as when that happens I believe the afterburner noise kicks in which is a bit different.
There are a few other features worth mentioning on the Tyco Batmobile Tumbler 1/6 such as:
- Turbo engine sound which is unusual given it’s a jet powered vehicle!
- Two sound effect buttons on the side
- An afterburner light at the back that gives a nice glow effect, particularly in the dark
- Four “beaming headlights” which look suitably menacing in their quad pattern
- Adjustable “air brakes” flaps that you can tinker with on the cars body
- Shock absorbers on both the front, and the rear, similar to the real vehicle.
Sadly there is one key compromise in the design so that it was able to work at this scale, and still fit within a reasonable cost. This is immediately revealed once you turn the model over to check the underside.
So the front wheels are fakes – it’s a three wheeler! Clearly not intended for offroad, but scooting about indoors and on the pavement should be fine.
But was this really a necessary compromise, considering the much smaller 9.6V Tumbler has a more traditional steering mechanism? I suspect the giant size of this model has simply been too expensive, requiring a price reduction in other areas, and also to ensure that its odd design was still able to turn around inside the average home.
Second Battery Compartment
This is a practice that Taiyo Japan (Tyco’s original business partner who manufactured the bulk of their RC models between 80s-90s) did in its very early 1980s models which featured 3-4 C size batteries for the motor, plus a 9V for the electronics, both inside the car. Not including 9V for the controller!
And so Mattel has revived this design style for the first time in perhaps 25 years (as of production date), with this model accommodating a 2nd battery compartment, no doubt used for the lower voltage (~4.5v) circuitry such as the sound effects and lights.
This really demonstrates the priority of cost reduction in the engineering of this model, as I’m sure those nickel strips in the battery case would have been cheaper than a buck converter necessary to reduce the 7.2V down to safe voltage for the sound and light circuitry plus whatever else might be required to filter out all the interference from the brushed motors. Then again, perhaps it was just a case of simple solutions working best, as completely separating the power for the lights/sound from the motor/steering does solve two problems at once…
Collectability and Availability
Had it not been for the trade-offs in the design of the Tyco Batmobile 1/6, it could have been an absolutely incredible model, perhaps even in the Top 20 of all time for Tyco. As it is, it’s still a beast though, but a compromised one.
So, is this Tyco Tumbler worthy of being a collectable? While its hidden secret does surely place this into the ‘toy’ side of radio control model, there’s no doubt it’s an impressive one, and combined with its release side-by-side with one of the most influential films of the 2000s, it would be hard to argue that this isn’t a toy worthy of special care. Only time will tell exactly how much value is placed on it, and it will be interesting to see a comparison between this and the slightly more sophisticated yet smaller 9.6V version which I’ll be reviewing shortly.
At the time of writing there’s a few of these available on eBay however the smaller 9.6V and 4xAA versions are often mislabelled as 1/6 scale since that’s what most people have been looking for – so be careful and ensure you’re buying the real thing!