Vaterra Ascender Kit Review

27 November 2014

 

Vaterra seem to have taken us by surprise once again with their new offering in the form of a scale crawler aptly named the ‘Ascender’. Following suit with other real world cars they replicate the body shells on this is another officially licensed product from Chevrolet. The 1986 K-5 Blazer body is not only replicated superbly in Lexan but it gives you a scale of how big, at least to us Europeans, the cars must be over in the USA as this body simply dwarfs other 1/10th scale bodies out on the market. There is an RTR version now out but this KIT version is a must for fans who like to build and then go on to mod their RC cars.

Vattera Ascender

As always the packaging of Vaterra products sell themselves when sat on the shelf. It may be a simple thing and one which people dismiss as most will throw boxes away, however being a designer by trade and one who appreciates the effort someone has put into the packaging you can tell a lot about a products quality by how it’s presented. This follows suit with the build instructions and the specific parts bags collated in a logical order.

Vattera Ascender

First on the menu to do then is the motor and transmission assembly. Being a kit you will have to supply all the running gear and electrics yourself and it really depends with how serious about the hobby you are and how big your budget is as to the performance you are looking for with a kit like this. You can spend hundreds and hundreds, indeed two or three times the price of the kit itself if you are serious about scaling but conversely there is a lot of bargains and entry level electronics from big brand manufacturers now that will perform equally as well. Back to the build, the green aluminium motor plate is a mounted to the plastic transmission housing firstly, it’s a nice addition of an aluminium mount to dissipate heat from the motor but in slow moving crawler I wouldn’t be overly worried about generating too much heat. Internally the main gears run on precision steel shafts which are rotating on metal shielded ball bearings. The slipper clutch assembly is fitted next and like most kits there is no advice on how much tension to tighten this up to. As the name suggests though it’s a slipper clutch, too loose and it will spin easier and not transfer the power to the wheels. To tight and it will force traction to the wheels under any condition so on slippery surfaces the wheels will just spin. It’s a fine balance, though I do air towards the tighter option and let the tyres do the thinking. In any case it’s a simple adjustment with the included box wrench tool that can be done in seconds.

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

The main driveshaft assemblies are next which are made up of telescopic plastic mouldings, one attached to the transmission, one attached the axles drive. Both ends are on rotating CV joints with the transmission end grub screwed to the drive output from the transmission you previously built and the axle end screwed in situ via a pinion. This pinion which sits in the axle then directs the drive down the spindles to the wheels all of which rotate again on metal ball bearings. A shiny ‘Vaterra’ embossed differential cover seals up the internals and adds not only a depth of realism to the kit but quality brand awareness, something I have found Vaterra is very good at. Subtle hints of the brand are, etched, moulded and printed in some neat and tidy areas.

Vattera Ascender

The front steering knuckles are made, like the rest of the kit from very robust plastic and pivot nice through top hat bushings between the carrier and axle. The links, both steering and suspension, are nicely machined aluminium and I’ve heard lots of conflicting opinions over the years that aluminium links hook up on the rocks too much whereas plastic slides over easier. This is of course comes from the competitive side of the hobby, but personally I always prefer metal over plastic, for robustness, aesthetics and well……. Its metal! The steering links then comprise of one long piece connecting the steering knuckles with a shorter piece coming off one of the knuckles and going direct to your steering servo. The rear axle is pretty much the same build internally as the front with no steering knuckles on though you could buy the front axle assembly and put it on the rear as both axles mount the same and you could enter the world of crazy four wheel steering angles.

Vattera Ascender

Onto the chassis and the main legs are made from steel, our US brothers and sisters say they are stamped, in good old blighty we press them….. Same thing. It’s a neat little piece of engineering though and when you look at it, it’s one of those designs that makes you think why on earth nobody else has thought of it. Instead of one long leg, each side is made of two, therefore you can close them together for shorter wheelbases or extend them for longer wheelbases. Genius! Both sides are braced by plastic mouldings running through the centre. Up front is the servo mounting brace, centrally is the transmission brace and at the rear is the radio box brace. Each corner then has suspension tower mountings attached strengthened at the top by some more exquisitely machined aluminium links. The transmission assembly you initially made is now mounted on the central transmission brace.

Vattera Ascender

At this point you will start to add your preferred electrics, starting with the servo. It’s mounted facing directly downwards, if you are going to be a hard-core mudslinging aqua driver I would suggest a waterproof servo to save the heartache of the inevitable happening once in use. An ESC mounting plate is fitted just in front of the radio box brace with your chosen ESC placed on. The radio box is screwed shut and is water resistant, unless you are going to totally submerse the car I wouldn’t give this box another thought. If you are though you may want to run a bead of shoe goo or make a seal of your own to keep water out, I personally wouldn’t bother and leave as is, as I’m not that brave with RC crawlers and water anyway!

Vattera Ascender

The shock absorbers are relatively straight forward and like any other shock to build. The main cartridge is sealed with ‘O’ rings where the main shaft passes through. The piston has two holes to monitor the flow of oil passing through. The two springs are then mounted are made adjustable via the threaded collar on the cartridge.

Vattera Ascender

The battery tray is mounted up front and low down in line with the chassis, another lovely design on a scaler to keep the centre of gravity low which stops it from tipping over at the crazy inclines you will be aiming for. This tray though is relatively small and will fit shorty style batteries so all the 6 cell NiMH’s and 2s LiPOs you had won’t work in here. The chosen battery is held in place by Vaterra branded Velcro straps.

Vattera Ascender

Fitting all the suspension and axles links is a straightforward process as long as you pay attention to the instructions and don’t mix the built lengths up. It’s at this stage it all finally starts to come together as you slide the two telescopic driveshafts, fore and aft, together then they attach finally to the chassis. All that’s left are the bumpers, rock sliders, wheels and tyres to fit and you have the chassis built with the body shell left for you to paint as you wish. The only thing which needs highlighting is you may need to get extension leads for you steering servo as it’s a long way off up front to the radio box situated at the rear.

Vattera Ascender

It’s a good move on Vaterra’s part to put a nifty adjustable body post on the chassis to, made easy to use by being held fast with one screw. Adjust this and the post simply moves up and down. Most of you will eventually go on to become obsessed, if not already, with scaling so mounting bodies will never be an issue with adjustable posts and wheelbases to boot.

Vattera Ascender

Driving the Ascender you have plenty of confidence in its go anywhere capability. The steering angle is a whopping 45 degrees out of the box, this makes it turn so sharp I’m sure if you were going to compete with it in a box stock category it will hands down get around the course better than anything else on the market. The low centre of gravity keeps the Ascender well planted, even at the craziest angles and if you watch the movie we made we had some moments that had the rear end about to up end itself when others would have fallen short well before. The body shell is a mammoth size but it doesn’t look out of place against other rivals products, especially as this is an officially licensed replica of the real thing. I hope you enjoy the movie of it in action, it seems a better way to put the actual working of the kit across. Some people suggested more talking on specs and build in past movies, some wanted more action so doing a written review with photos and accompanying movie makes more sense.

Happy RC’ing

Chris Dickinson
RadshapeRC

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender


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Vaterra Ascender Kit Review

27 November 2014

 

Vaterra seem to have taken us by surprise once again with their new offering in the form of a scale crawler aptly named the ‘Ascender’. Following suit with other real world cars they replicate the body shells on this is another officially licensed product from Chevrolet. The 1986 K-5 Blazer body is not only replicated superbly in Lexan but it gives you a scale of how big, at least to us Europeans, the cars must be over in the USA as this body simply dwarfs other 1/10th scale bodies out on the market. There is an RTR version now out but this KIT version is a must for fans who like to build and then go on to mod their RC cars.

Vattera Ascender

As always the packaging of Vaterra products sell themselves when sat on the shelf. It may be a simple thing and one which people dismiss as most will throw boxes away, however being a designer by trade and one who appreciates the effort someone has put into the packaging you can tell a lot about a products quality by how it’s presented. This follows suit with the build instructions and the specific parts bags collated in a logical order.

Vattera Ascender

First on the menu to do then is the motor and transmission assembly. Being a kit you will have to supply all the running gear and electrics yourself and it really depends with how serious about the hobby you are and how big your budget is as to the performance you are looking for with a kit like this. You can spend hundreds and hundreds, indeed two or three times the price of the kit itself if you are serious about scaling but conversely there is a lot of bargains and entry level electronics from big brand manufacturers now that will perform equally as well. Back to the build, the green aluminium motor plate is a mounted to the plastic transmission housing firstly, it’s a nice addition of an aluminium mount to dissipate heat from the motor but in slow moving crawler I wouldn’t be overly worried about generating too much heat. Internally the main gears run on precision steel shafts which are rotating on metal shielded ball bearings. The slipper clutch assembly is fitted next and like most kits there is no advice on how much tension to tighten this up to. As the name suggests though it’s a slipper clutch, too loose and it will spin easier and not transfer the power to the wheels. To tight and it will force traction to the wheels under any condition so on slippery surfaces the wheels will just spin. It’s a fine balance, though I do air towards the tighter option and let the tyres do the thinking. In any case it’s a simple adjustment with the included box wrench tool that can be done in seconds.

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

The main driveshaft assemblies are next which are made up of telescopic plastic mouldings, one attached to the transmission, one attached the axles drive. Both ends are on rotating CV joints with the transmission end grub screwed to the drive output from the transmission you previously built and the axle end screwed in situ via a pinion. This pinion which sits in the axle then directs the drive down the spindles to the wheels all of which rotate again on metal ball bearings. A shiny ‘Vaterra’ embossed differential cover seals up the internals and adds not only a depth of realism to the kit but quality brand awareness, something I have found Vaterra is very good at. Subtle hints of the brand are, etched, moulded and printed in some neat and tidy areas.

Vattera Ascender

The front steering knuckles are made, like the rest of the kit from very robust plastic and pivot nice through top hat bushings between the carrier and axle. The links, both steering and suspension, are nicely machined aluminium and I’ve heard lots of conflicting opinions over the years that aluminium links hook up on the rocks too much whereas plastic slides over easier. This is of course comes from the competitive side of the hobby, but personally I always prefer metal over plastic, for robustness, aesthetics and well……. Its metal! The steering links then comprise of one long piece connecting the steering knuckles with a shorter piece coming off one of the knuckles and going direct to your steering servo. The rear axle is pretty much the same build internally as the front with no steering knuckles on though you could buy the front axle assembly and put it on the rear as both axles mount the same and you could enter the world of crazy four wheel steering angles.

Vattera Ascender

Onto the chassis and the main legs are made from steel, our US brothers and sisters say they are stamped, in good old blighty we press them….. Same thing. It’s a neat little piece of engineering though and when you look at it, it’s one of those designs that makes you think why on earth nobody else has thought of it. Instead of one long leg, each side is made of two, therefore you can close them together for shorter wheelbases or extend them for longer wheelbases. Genius! Both sides are braced by plastic mouldings running through the centre. Up front is the servo mounting brace, centrally is the transmission brace and at the rear is the radio box brace. Each corner then has suspension tower mountings attached strengthened at the top by some more exquisitely machined aluminium links. The transmission assembly you initially made is now mounted on the central transmission brace.

Vattera Ascender

At this point you will start to add your preferred electrics, starting with the servo. It’s mounted facing directly downwards, if you are going to be a hard-core mudslinging aqua driver I would suggest a waterproof servo to save the heartache of the inevitable happening once in use. An ESC mounting plate is fitted just in front of the radio box brace with your chosen ESC placed on. The radio box is screwed shut and is water resistant, unless you are going to totally submerse the car I wouldn’t give this box another thought. If you are though you may want to run a bead of shoe goo or make a seal of your own to keep water out, I personally wouldn’t bother and leave as is, as I’m not that brave with RC crawlers and water anyway!

Vattera Ascender

The shock absorbers are relatively straight forward and like any other shock to build. The main cartridge is sealed with ‘O’ rings where the main shaft passes through. The piston has two holes to monitor the flow of oil passing through. The two springs are then mounted are made adjustable via the threaded collar on the cartridge.

Vattera Ascender

The battery tray is mounted up front and low down in line with the chassis, another lovely design on a scaler to keep the centre of gravity low which stops it from tipping over at the crazy inclines you will be aiming for. This tray though is relatively small and will fit shorty style batteries so all the 6 cell NiMH’s and 2s LiPOs you had won’t work in here. The chosen battery is held in place by Vaterra branded Velcro straps.

Vattera Ascender

Fitting all the suspension and axles links is a straightforward process as long as you pay attention to the instructions and don’t mix the built lengths up. It’s at this stage it all finally starts to come together as you slide the two telescopic driveshafts, fore and aft, together then they attach finally to the chassis. All that’s left are the bumpers, rock sliders, wheels and tyres to fit and you have the chassis built with the body shell left for you to paint as you wish. The only thing which needs highlighting is you may need to get extension leads for you steering servo as it’s a long way off up front to the radio box situated at the rear.

Vattera Ascender

It’s a good move on Vaterra’s part to put a nifty adjustable body post on the chassis to, made easy to use by being held fast with one screw. Adjust this and the post simply moves up and down. Most of you will eventually go on to become obsessed, if not already, with scaling so mounting bodies will never be an issue with adjustable posts and wheelbases to boot.

Vattera Ascender

Driving the Ascender you have plenty of confidence in its go anywhere capability. The steering angle is a whopping 45 degrees out of the box, this makes it turn so sharp I’m sure if you were going to compete with it in a box stock category it will hands down get around the course better than anything else on the market. The low centre of gravity keeps the Ascender well planted, even at the craziest angles and if you watch the movie we made we had some moments that had the rear end about to up end itself when others would have fallen short well before. The body shell is a mammoth size but it doesn’t look out of place against other rivals products, especially as this is an officially licensed replica of the real thing. I hope you enjoy the movie of it in action, it seems a better way to put the actual working of the kit across. Some people suggested more talking on specs and build in past movies, some wanted more action so doing a written review with photos and accompanying movie makes more sense.

Happy RC’ing

Chris Dickinson
RadshapeRC

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender

Vattera Ascender


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