After a few years of failed partnerships and general unhappiness, THECar finally made it to the shelves of local hobby shops around the world. But only after a new company was started by myself, in Finland, and a lot of money was borrowed. All in, Against THE Odds, that’s the only way to do it! THECar was released at the end of 2010, and now it is time to look back and report on the first half of 2011, THE Beginning of JQ Products.
Seeing these kinds of pictures felt really unbelievably good!
All the years of work that was put in prior to the release of THECar truly paid off, as the hype surrounding it was something we did not even dream of when starting this project. Everyone seemed to be talking or writing about it, good or bad, but it was still the topic, which was great to see, as there were many other cars being released around the same time. The interest was great, and I was very happy to see that I now had a good opportunity, and foundation, to start building my RC Empire.
So much for the Honeymoon; Headaches and Missing Parts
After THECar was released, it was really exciting to see the feedback from customers, and just people in general. I was really surprised at how positive the reception was on the internet. Normally a new product gets completely slammed by keyboard heroes, but this time I was surprised at the mainly positive reaction. It felt great to receive emails, and pictures from customers who were happy with THECar, and I finally started feeling like I actually achieved something.
The time to relax lasted about as long as it took to take this picture.
After the first couple of weeks, reality set in, and it was clear that there were some problems. Even then it was really great to see that most internet forums still kept things mainly positive, which proved to me that JQ Products already has a good sized following, who have the patience and understanding to stick it out through any problems arising from a new product.·The first batch had a fair amount of wrongly packed kits, with missing parts, or the wrong parts, as well as some faulty parts that were missed in QC. These were all quickly addressed and fixed for future batches.
As I was saying JQ Products got a hardcore fanbase around the time of THERelease…
Late Nights + Hard Work = Problems Solved
We had a few problems that stood out, and we quickly started solving them, and posted the solutions on our website.·
·Maingear: The first maingears were machined wrong and about half of them broke, so we quickly made more and replaced them free of charge. This problem was gone quickly, but our reputation was harmed. It really sucked.·
On the left the wrongly machined gear, on the right the correct one. Luckily we got the new gears out to customers, free of charge within one month.
·Fueltank Posts: The first fueltank post design was too thin with the production plastic, and broke in cold weather, and on big crashes. The post was updated, making it thicker, and the problem was solved.·
Old post on the left, new on the right.
·Hingepins: The first hingepins were too hard, and they broke too easily. We tried some different hingepins, and found something that works. The new hingepins solved the problem, and on hard crashes, they may bend, but they dont break. It is easy to tell the new ones from the old. Looking at the ends of the pins, the new ones are shiny, and the old ones are a dull grey.·
The old hingepin’s end is grey, and the new ones is shiny, that is the best way to tell the difference.
The new hingepins don’t break, and cause the whole front end to explonde. On extreme impacts they may bend, but you can still finish the race. For this, we used a hammer.
·astics: The pre-production cars were great. At the very beginning we broke a lot of stuff, but as the moulds were finished, and materials finalised, THECars were strong. At the very end only few parts broke, in big crashes, which is acceptable.·Then the production cars were a different story, we started breaking stuff that we had never broken before, like swaybar links. So my worst nightmare had become reality. The only thing that I was really worried about, and that I had done everything I could to avoid, had happened, the production plastics were somehow different to what we had tested earlier, and not strong enough. The next months we basically had to figure out what the problem was, and how to solve it. We ended up modifying the moulds to make sure the process ran as it should, and there weren’t problems with air bubbles in the parts, or problems with the temperature of the material, or the mould itself. There were a lot of variables that we took a look at, at this time. We also made some of the parts softer, and changed the design of some parts.· Luckily, the parts seemed to break mainly in cold weather, in warm weather the plastic was ok. This meant that in the warm countries THECar was received well, and in cold areas, people had problems, and JQ Products image which had been so good at the release, was destroyed. This made me so angry, because I felt like I had done everything I could, and what happened wasn’t my fault. I had been let down.·
·The second batch was already an improvement over the first one, and the warmer weather around the world also helped the situation. People were however still breaking front arms, rear hubs, and links too easily in my opinion.·Now I can finally say we seem to have solved the plastic issues, with softer and modified, arms, links, c-hubs and rear hubs. Now THECar is strong enough to race confidently, and I only wish we could have got all of this fixed earlier! But better late than never. For a new company and for a first car I think we have done a decent job, and will only continue to improve. Haters will hate, but the truth is that we are in this for the long haul, with big goals, and nothing or no one will stop us. Set backs are just things that need to be dealt with, and this one is a big one that we will put behind us.·
·Diff Cross Pins: The diff crosspins in the first batch were too soft, and the black coating wore off too quickly. This made the small diff gears lock up on the pin, causing problems. We solved this for the second batch by using a harder material for the pin, and a different, silver surface treatment. We also feel like we need to improve the gears themselves, and will be working on this in the future.·
Old pin on the left, new on the right.
·Shock Shafts: The shock shafts were not smooth enough, and the black coating wore off quickly. We changed the treatment for them, and they are now much smoother, and silver in colour.·
Old shafts on· the left, new on the right.
Servo Saver Posts: The first servo saver posts were machined wrong, and they were too weak. It didn’t affect performance, but they broke easily and had to be changed when rebuilding THECar. The new ones were made stronger.
Old post on the left, new on the right.
·Testing and Racing
Right after the release of THECar, JQProducts, who at that time was me, and Ari Jyvä, flew out to Los Angeles for a month of testing our own car. Finland was covered in snow and ice, so it wasn’t possible to do anything there. I actually received some complaints in regards to the trip, with people saying that instead of fixing the problems, I just took ”their money” and went to USA to watch supercrosses and have fun. I guess haters will hate. The 1 month trip was the best thing we could have done, we practiced, tested and raced a lot, and figured out all the big and small problems with THECar, and actually managed to solve many of them while we were there. My job isn’t fixed to a location, all I need is a computer, internet, good weather, and an RC track, and I can do my job. It’s awesome, this is how I have planned it. I visit my manufacturer and vendors a few times a year, and the rest of the time we communicate via the computer or phone.·
Testing, testing, testing
·After the USA I have been to a whole bunch of races and events, with varying levels of success. I feel like my driving, along with THECar has been improving, although it has been hard to concentrate on racing, due to the workload that comes along with releasing a new product, specially the first product for a new company. The definite highlight of the first half of 2011 was making the A Main at the Nitro Challenge in Phoenix. Only a handfull of Europeans have managed that, and none of them with their own cars :-p. The neobuggy race was almost a highlight, my speed was very good in the semi final, but I just had no luck with traffic, and always made the wrong decision, or got the wrong end of the stick, but I was fast enough to make the main, and I was happy about that. My best results so far have been the A main at the NC, and 4th place at the Rhein Main warm up in Germany. As for other drivers, THECar has had a lot of success on a national level around the world, from Venezuela to Cyprus to Thailand, winning anything from clubraces to national races. This makes us extremely proud, and happy, as it is clear to see that we are on the right track!
Here are some pics from THE USA Adventure:
THECar had a strong start in USA at the Airtronics Race
Tanner Stees was ripping it up with THECar at The NitroPit! Look out for this kid in the future!
On the way to AZ
A Truck Fannypack
A cool paintjob in Phoenix
We spent a day with Jeff Alessi, went to see him and other racers at their supercross test track…
…and drove on his RC Track, in his backyard…
…which was dialed!
An instant classic, I wrote on RCTech that I would buy an ice cream to whoever popped a front driveshaft out without breaking something. So far I haven’t had to buy any icecreams, but Durango Lover FrankL thought it would be a good idea to dress The Dirt Girls in JQ shirts and have them distribute ice-creams in the pits at the Nitro Challenge. Very Cool. Thanks Frank.
And while on the subject, Mr Durango Gerd Strenge himself showed up in SoCal, and we had a staring contest.
·When THECar was first released, the following things were evident. THECar had great acceleration, it jumped and cornered well, and felt light and handled bumps well, but it also felt loose, specially in the rear, on low bite tracks, exiting corners.·After the set ups evolved, and more rear traction was dialed in, some people started experiencing an off-power push on loose tracks. This can be solved by less caster. We don’t offer those yet, but our Portuguese distributor has some made available.·I was really happy to see that most people liked to run link and shock locations around the middle of the set up possibilities available, so adjustment is possible both ways depending on the conditions. I seemed to have placed the locations well.·Our goals with setting up THECar, is to make it easy to drive and fast. The rear traction needs to be good at all time, specially exiting corners, and this is what we have been working on. Bump handling is always a priority also, and shock locations, pistons, springs and oils are tested continuously. The stock settings just seem to be rather good as far as pistons and springs go.·
·As far as handling is concerned, it seems like the people who are doing the best with THECar are what I would call average drivers. From mid-pack in the races, to winning local events. For some reason many people at this level have commented on how they have improved their results. I think it is because of the fact that you don’t need to drive THECar hard to be fast, because it is fast, it maintains cornerspeed, and it accelerates fast. However, for beginners, and for throttle junkies, and for the very top, world championships winning level, we still have more work to do. But I am happy, because we are off to a good start. Impatient people of course complained because they couldn’t get THECar to work with whatever they had learned from running their previous car, instead of trying things with an open mind. But the same thing happened when the Losi was released, and look at them now!·
Set up is critical, both for the manufacturer and for the driver. The manufacturer has to provide the right options, and the driver has to find the right ones to use.
·We have not been able to work enough on set ups, testing enough of the different options available, due to all the work with running the company, and solving the problems with THECar. Now after we have got the ball rolling, and have figured out a more efficient way to work, and we have managed to fix the urgent problems, as well as improved a lot of the parts on THECar, we have started to focus more on improving the handling, and helping THEDrivers out there improve their cars. This is the main goal for the second half of 2011. Improve the handling of THECar, and get more information out to all THEDrivers. During the end of this year, and all of next year, we will be working hard on making THECar faster, and also easier to drive for everyone. This is the reason I made THECar in the first place. I want to make it the best car out there, and I want to run the most successful race team out there. Big goals I know, but why would I use all this time and spend all this money to just make an average car, and get average results? It isn’t easy, but it’s possible, it will just take time and hard work. We are making good progress and that’s what counts.·
·Continuous R&D (Random Desicions)
One thing that has been hard to juggle, is honesty and being completely open. Here’s the thing. The whole time before the release, the whole reason for the release being so successfull, is in my opinion because it was honest, I said what I did, and why I did it, and people understood my reasoning, and liked it. I would like to continue the same way, but things get more difficult when talking about a product on the market. The whole idea is that people buy it, and honesty can in many cases kill sales. For example running changes are commonplace, but when you talk about them, it means that people will want to wait for the update, and not buy the current kit. Then how do the shops sell all the kits in stock? As far as problems are concerned, they shouldn’t be covered up, just dealt with asap, and that is what we have been doing.
So with our newly found ability to keep some things secret, what I can tell you, is that we are constantly working on improving THECar, and option parts will be released throughout the year. We are still working on the arms, hubs and links, in order to make sure they dont start breaking when the weather gets really cold. We will also be testing different geometries, including arms, arm holders, shocks, links etc, because this is a racing car, and development never stops, but there will not be a drastically different car for next year. We are just testing all kinds of things so we have the best possible package for the next World Championships.
Testing and improving never ends…
So You Think It’s Easy? It isn’t!
One type of comment that actually made me slightly unhappy for at least a few days, before I realised they didnt know what they were talking about, was the kind of comment where keyboard heroes and armchair engineers thought I didn’t test enough, or I spent too much time marketing my products that I didn’t do it right, and should have spent more time testing and developing THECar. Or that instead of going to America for a month of supercross and fun in the sun, I should have stayed home solving problems or gone to visit the manufacturer to kick some ass. Well I can tell you, we solved a lot of problems that no one even knows about, and I decided to make a small list so you can understand just a bit better how it is to make your on 1:8th Buggy. These are the things I can remember off the top of my head:
Problems With Pre-Production Cars, Solved Before Production,(that no one ever knew about)
- Chassis kickup would bend back when bending the sides, resulting in less kickup, and constant pulling force that broke the front gearbox.
- Servo Saver Cylinder was too thin and the top would sometimes snap off when putting the clip on.
- Arm holders didn’t fit the chassis as it was machined wrong.
- Plastic inserts didnt fit arm holders.
- The angle on the brake calipers was wrong, and the brakes didn’t work.
- Fueltank spring didn’t fit the groove and it was too weak.
- The threads on the turnbuckles were machined the same way so it just moved left to right.
- The Steering Knuckles were machined differently to the original design and would break easily.
- The O-rings were wrong for the shock collars, so they didn’t work right.
- The servo saver spring was too weak.
- The gearmesh in the gearboxes was too tight.
- The bearings didn’t fit the steering knuckles.
- The front bumper was too weak and snapped off.
- The special brake pad screws’ threads were too long, meaning that the space for the brakepads and disk was too small if the screw was tightened all the way.
- Battery Box needed strengthening around the servo.
- Front arms needed strengthening, and shock holes modified.
- The lower row of holes was added on the rear hub.
- A design mistake was fixed on the servo saver plastic part.
- Shock tower, shock and link locations were improved.
- A groove in the shock collars was added.
- Brake disks didn’t fit the outdrives.
Problems That Happened in Production Batch 1 and Were Solved for later batches.
- Swaybars would bend back during the coating process resulting in an unequal and not consistent bend angle.
- Upper links were too tight to thread.
- Front Arms, Links, and Rear Hubs were too fragile, specially in cold weather.
- Shock O-Rings would swell, and the friction on the shock shaft was too big.
- Shock shaft finish was too rough and didn’t last.
- Diff crosspins were too soft, and the coating didn’t last.
- Front hingepins were too hard.
- Fueltank posts were too weak.
- The CNC servo arms didnt fit the servos.
- The maingear was machined wrong and it broke.
- Steering Posts would break too easily.
- The Ackermann Screw was too low, and in some cases could seize the steering in dusty conditions.
- Dogbone pins were too long, so we made shorter pins, so they last longer.
Things We Still Want to Improve Further
- Set up and handling: We are still improving the set ups, and finding new ways to make THECar both faster, and easier to drive. Some things include new parts, some are just changing things within what is already possible. This is the most enjoyable part of the whole project.
- Shocks: We need to make them smoother, less friction in the body and also the o-rings.
- Diff Gasket: We need to find a better gasket that is not too much thicker, as that will change the inner gear mesh.
- The fueltank seal needs to be improved.
Marketing, and other Fun Stuff
One of the coolest compliments we have received was in regards to our marketing department. I mean obviously we have a marketing department, as we had a very good and successfull campaign pre-release, including videos, pictures, interviews, reports, and general in your faceness. This was really great to hear, as our marketing department consisted of the same two people who are doing everything else at the same time, and of course friends who helped out when we had an idea we wanted to get done. So a big thank you to everyone who thought we did a good job. And what about now? We still have ideas, way too many ideas, but we haven’t been able to get them done this year. A couple of things are in the works, and some things have been pushed forward to next year. Can’t tell you more about that I’m afraid, other than I am excited about the results.
We have also started working together with Harri Kullas, the young Finnish Motocross rider competing in the MX2 World Championships. He currently sits in 8th place with 2 rounds to go. JQ Products supplied him with his fan club gear, and JQ hats have been spotted at Motocross races around the world! We also have some other ideas up or sleeves and will continue our collaboration with Harri.
Finally, we have THETeam. We even made a website, but we just left it and didn’t do anything with it. The reason was that we had to prioritise. We simply didn’t have the time or the workforce to fullfill our ideas properly, and we feel that if we do something we do it properly, or not at all. So we decided to let it brew for a while, and after the first year, when things have settled down a bit we will begin revealing the idea behind THETeam, and the website. And also, we will reveal our 100% non-RC industry title sponsor soon….
As you can see, it has been a very busy first half of 2011. It has been very interesting too, because at the end of the day, none of us have done anything like this before. The best way to learn how to do stuff is to just do it. Don’t care about the how, just start doing it and it will all happen. It sure is a great adventure and now we have to see how we manage to continue for the rest of the year and beyond. Thank you for all the support! We will keep working hard and having fun. Become fans on facebook and get the latest updates, and see what we are up to, or tell us how you are getting on with THECar.