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Old 2013.04.28, 06:52 PM   #1
Geo-Z
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Life and times of a Mini-Z display/stall in a Sydney shopping centre...

G'day!

I'm a long time lurker on these forums who has recently been employed as a store hand/ consultant at my friend's Mini-Z exhibition stand at the local mall in Sydney. At the moment I've been working there for a few weeks and many things have happened so I'd like to write about my experiences in case anyone is thinking of doing the same. I'm also going to regularly post back here in a journalistic fashion so that more people would know that there have been enthusiastic Z'ers who've been actively promoting our passion to the public. Think of it as a bunch of memoirs if you will.

The Mini-Z craze has, sadly, yet to hit down under in a significant way and my friend has always had a passion for seeing it become a reality. He already manages and operates his own website on Mini-Z's in Sydney. He also regularly imports large quantities of X-power, Atomic and PN parts to feed our hunger.

At first, it started with an awesome guy who liked Mini-Z's with a passion. He was an international student from Guangzhou, China. The Mini-Z scene in neighboring Hong Kong is huge and since he started studies here in Sydney he started an online club dedicated to 1/28 scale. Last year he acquired lots of Kyosho chassis sets and autoscales through the right contacts and has always made sure he sold it to the members of our club for zero profit, or even at a reduced price. He is one of the most passionate, selfless Mini-Z fans I've ever seen and nothing delights him more than seeing people jumping on the bandwagon and having fun. Oftentimes when we were in need of a set of batteries, a new body, or a fresh set of wheels, he would take whatever we needed out of his RC bag and insist we hang onto it or keep it at no cost. He was also one of the few people in our community to own an RCP track complete with an IC lap counter. the club started small, but quickly grew in the coming months. When I saw his website I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was 2km from my place. No longer in need of selling off my MR02's and autoscales, I was back into Mini-Z's and racing at his home track. As word spread we won the hearts of some racers at the local 1/10 track at St Ives who, in turn, told their friends about the mini craze. More and more people came to look at the track and before long we'd won a few converts. .

Three weeks ago my friend saved up enough money to buy a small shipment of MR03's, x-power parts and Firelaps along with a few grand leftover for floor rent in a busy shopping mall. It was the first time we would unveil Mini-Z's to the Australian public in a large way and I was stoked. Us Aussies have hardly ever heard of RC cars being able to fit in the palm of your hand. RC cars? Aren't they in kmart for 20 bucks? Arent they loud and expensive? My friend wanted everyone to know (and want) a Mini-Z.
He packed up his RCP and bought some display tables. He drove almost cross-country to pickup a bunch of cheap crowd-control barriers. Another friend who ran a Hobby shop loaned out aprons, chargers and a large banner bearing the Mini-Z logo. A member who works in design made pamphlets advertising our club. And another member who works as a electrician brought along a small table+soldering gear to patch up any Z's. We were all set.

We rented a 6mx5m space close to the entrance at the local mall and did all the paperwork. Being an absolute newbie at this sort of thing, we were slightly taken back by all sorts of additional costs aside from the rent which was already not cheap. Promotional levies, storage fees and many more...altogether it came to a whopping amount but my friend still wanted to go forward. He told me he was prepared to lose some cash if that's what it took. Keep in mind that he definitely wasn't being too spur-of-the-moment, nor was he lacking in foresight. He had really thought about it for a long time and decided to take the plunge.

We set up our Mini-Z exhibition/store with a large table beside the RCP track containing a sample of our stock which was put into plastic tubs when not on display. I thought that we'd be likely standing around while driving our Z's. Well, either that or serving the customers/informing the people who are interested.

To tell the truth, though I wanted to see my friend's dream come true, I was a little skeptical that this approach would yield much results. Mini-Z's are a niche market (in oz anyway) within an already niche market itself (RC cars in general). It wasn't a cheapo toy. still, I threw myself into my role as a consultant and junior mechanic (techie-sounding, eh?)

An hour before we opened, my friend was taking out his own MR03's and lining them next to the track. He explained to me that these were for rental and letting the crowd 'try out' the mini-Z. A thought struck me: for what age? demographic? what if they broke it? My friend told me to just let things run for a few days and adjust our practices accordingly. The sh0pping centre was awash with mostly grey-haired mothers approaching forty and young kids, lots and lots of kids.

(to be continued)....
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Old 2013.04.28, 07:31 PM   #2
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Nice read Geo, keep it coming.
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Old 2013.04.28, 07:50 PM   #3
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First day of business!

As soon as the doors to mall opened a small stream of early birds starting trickling in and walking past our track. They would mostly walk at normal pace and slow down when they got to our track as soon as they saw our cars zipping around. They thought it was gimmicky and that's it.

At this point my friend, his girlfriend, our electrician friend and I were clad in vests bearing the Mini-Z logo and smiling behind a display table containing boxed mr03's and a few printed signs. Now and then one of us would rotate between that and giving the cars a whizz 'round the track. It certainly drew a lot of stares.

Twenty minutes later we had our first customer.

A lady in her mid thirties asked if her daughter could use one of the rental cars and my friend let her inside while I explained how to use the KT-18. Right away the little girl went full on forward and slammed the car into the wall so we rushed over to correct her. She was having difficulty getting the proportional throttle/steering right and couldn't activate reverse because of the break. Soon her time was up and her mother smiled and thanked us. This didn't come as a surprise to me at all and I talked to my friend about it but he just said that it was all part of promoting awareness. Personally I would not let a youngster touch my Mini-Z unless I was sure he or she had previous experience in something similar and even then it had to be monitored.

Anyway, after that we managed to get lots of attention and more parents started unloading their kids at our stall while they went and got a few groceries. Pretty soon we had a line of kids stretching around five metres around our barrier at any given time.

At this point, my friend was advertising a 'go' at one of 4 rental cars for free as part of the opening day specials. It worried me a lot because our original plan was to use cheap Firelaps for exhibition instead - however our shipment of Firelaps was arrested in customs for random checking. So my friend used Mini-Z's instead.

Soon, I and all the staff available were kneeling down and instructing kids aged 3-13 about how to operate Z's and watching them crash into walls, bash the cars around and do donuts. It was distressing to watch because I knew that these cars were not being used in a proper way. Whenever they smashed the Z's we would gently inform them of how to do it correctly and they would more or less make the effort to do so. This stream of kids died down around noon and picked up again at 1:30 when everyone had finished lunch. It really was a kid-magnet! Some adults were interested too and went in for a go though it really was the kids who showed the most interest.

At the end of the day we had had one enquiry about the mini-z's and a lot of kids. No sales were made and if anything the price of the MR03's turned a lot of people off.

Make no mistake, I really liked working with kids. Most young children are naturally angels possessing a sort of innocence, free of judgement. Their hearts had not yet been hardened and they were naturally curious and really intent on having a go and I was always glad to help.

After cleaning the stall and packing up our track we got together and discussed putting a suitable rental price on our cars. We agreed to charge $3 for five minutes and $6 for ten minutes over the weekend before making a final call to customs to ask about the progress of our Firelap shipment which was still waiting to cleared. Aussie customs are known for their laidback attitude and our shipment was over three weeks overdue so our electrician friend said he would drive over there on saturday and pick up the boxes himself.

We examined the cars that the kids had used and, surprisingly, their bodies held up well. We used F355 bodies with coloured stickers to differentiate between them and they had only got a few scratches. Wings, lights and side mirrors were all smashed off but it was okay - as long as the cars worked. The firelap motors that we'd installed into them was slow enough for beginners but we thought it would be best to slow 'em down more so we dialled the throttle to 50% speed.

Though we made no money that day the weekend was coming up which would mark the first day of the Easter holidays. We were determined to see it done right.
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Old 2013.04.28, 07:53 PM   #4
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" Nice read Geo, keep it coming.
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Cheers from down under Vincent. I really envy the sort of support the Z has in north america...You're from NJ? I'm a pizza addict, I heard the best NY style pizza is in Jersey is that right? Nothing like a good slice after a bout of mini-Z races.

Last edited by Geo-Z; 2013.04.28 at 07:58 PM.
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Old 2013.04.28, 10:27 PM   #5
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What a nice story :-) Looking forward for more...

Thanks for sharing it w/ us.
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Old 2013.04.28, 10:53 PM   #6
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Been there... though I never had the guts to take it to a shop level. I set up at a flea market last year and had my entire fleet available as rentals. My one big piece of advice for the cars?... Slow them down and toughen the weak points.

6 tooth pinions, very loose ball diffs and K40 front tires. Alloy knuckles are a must!

Some take to it right away, some don't. It's tough to get people to even drive them sometimes... even some of the kids were too timid to even touch the controller! But once I had 5 or 6 on the track, they all started to line up. I didn't make any money but I had fun watching my cars get blasted to bits all day long!
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Old 2013.04.29, 12:04 AM   #7
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@Kyoshosan: Cheers Kyoshosan! We really appreciate your work on your website as well, it's ace for Kyosho-related news.

@Imxlr8d: that's nice to know mate. Yes, after a while we indeed put on 6t pinions, firelap motors, incredibly loose ball diffs and hard tires. Metal t-plates are also a must:P . You've just given me and my friend an idea: the flea market. The rent may be cheaper so I'll suggest it to him when our contract with the mall expires.
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Old 2013.04.29, 10:31 PM   #8
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Kiddie crack and blown mosfets

The following weekend we started to charge money for renting the cars. At $3 for five mins and $6 for 10 mins we opened our stall to a flood of Easter holiday families who were anxious to please their youngsters.

We were pulling in lots of smiles and laughs from the kids and learned that there is a certain minimum age that should generally be considered when deciding if they are up for the ride.

Usually, children below the age of 8 have the most difficulty in controlling the cars not only because of the sensitive nature of the steering/throttle, but also because some of their fingers are just too small to even reach the trigger. In such circumstances we sometimes had to manipulate the throttle ourselves while the kid just hacked away at the steering wheel. Some kids were thrilled, some were bored after a while but it seemed to take the pressure of most parents for a good five minutes. Thus, there weren't any complaints

The process would go something like this: we'd let the kid in, jot their name, the current time, and amount of money paid onto a roster, and teach them how to control the cars for about 2 mins. Then we would move onto the next kid double-quick! If the cars ran out of batteries we would simply put in new ones and give 2mins extra time.

If you are considering opening a Mini-Z course at the local bazaar or fare, we recommend you have as many cars as you can with at least 5 sets of NIMH's per car and eight fast chargers. WE had 9 fast chargers and were running out of power fast! Because the kids tend to spam full throttle a LOT and that ate up power fast, even on 6t and 70t motors!

Also, plan ahead and open on the FIRST weekend of the school holidays if you are trying to make cash with rentals. We had a turnout of around 80 clients by the time we closed and raked in about 400-500 bucks on rentals alone.

Crack! Bump! "Um, my car isn't moving!"

Righto, so I zoomed over and picked the car up. Broken knuckles! My God it's only been three hours. 40 mins later another car was in the pits for broken steering - the servo gears were completely stripped - even though we had servo savers on our good ol' 03's. Okay, car no.3 is retired until our electrician friend could slap on a set of new gears. Another car slammed into the wall at full speed and snap! There goes the T-plate. I was literally cringing inside while wearing a big smile on the outside, even though these rental cars all belonged to my friend! Our electrician friend was going as fast as he could, repairing and swapping broken parts out with any spares we had. Meanwhile we would give the kid a reserve car and after a few days that too had broken almost every plastic part and had to be replaced with a lot of expensive X-power aluminium.

At 3:34pm a lady and her daughter asked to come in and I checked the lovely little girl's age: 7 years and not a day over. Her birthday! Well, let's give her an extra 2 mins to celebrate, why not?

A minute passed and one of the other kids pointed on track and said 'WHoa!' 'Cool!'. I was in the middle of teaching another kid and so was my friend until an anxious baby-boomer politely tapped me on the wrist.

'Mate, that car's got smoke on it. You right?'

Me and my friend exchanged grins and told the nice gentleman that the cafe nearby regularly sends a few wisps of smoke from their coffee machine every now and then. No cause for alarm right?

After all, the cars had been fetted with 8 mosfets and a firelap 70t motor they can't surely burn thru right? Wrong. More parents were pointing at the smoking car and sure enough the yellow F355 was frozen with white smoke billowing out of the wheel-wells. This wasn't the first time I'd seen fets blown but it was first to see so much white smoke - like dry ice had been shoved into the body! For the first time my friend's face turned a shade of green and he uttered his first swear word in front of a groupd of impressionable young minds.

"Sh-t."

We examined the car and, I kid you not, 4 fets dropped out of it. The solder on the board had been melted down and the heat burned a hole on the chassis big enough to stick your pinkie into. When we turned the car upside down to look at the gaping hole, the hole from the top plate gave way and the top fets fell out like hailstones. All 8 fets lay in a pile on our mat, some still smoking and all of them swollen and bubbled up. All this from a 6t, 70t motor that had been stressed to the max. My friend was quiet.

"Will it be ok?", asked the lady, slightly worried. SHe was the mother of the biirthday girl, a nice Chinese lady who was as concerned about our car as we were. My friend was incredibly generous about it and said that it could be fixed but I knew he had taken a hit to the gut. It would have been unreasonable of us to ask the lady to pay for damages. A little silent for the rest of the day, my friend seemed to be hit with the reality of loaning out 250 dollar cars to a bunch of kiddies.

We kept straight smiles throughout the rest of the day and from that point on, made it compulsory to inform the driver/parents of the driver that the car cannot be throttled into walls. What happened with the birthday girl was that she went into the wall and the car stopped. She gunned the throttle and the car didn't move so she held it down for about two minutes with more force until the current overloaded the fets and blew. It was a high price to pay but lesson learned.

At the end of the weekend we had barely pulled in enough to cover 2 days of rent. The mall rent was high - it cost a few hundred dollars for 1 day and even more on weekends and school holidays. We pulled in around 470 bucks for 2 days which was alright but not enough to cover the combined rent for 3 days.

On a more positive note, a good-natured council worker expressed interest in the MR03. He was a part-time 1/10 scale RC guy and self-professed fan of American muscle cars and immediately asked if we had Shelby cobras/ Mustangs/ TransAms! We didn't but instead showed him the catalog. The MR03 sets were still unsold...drat. But we had fun.

Soldiering on!

Last edited by Geo-Z; 2013.05.25 at 08:54 PM.
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Old 2013.04.29, 11:37 PM   #9
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Excellent read, thanks for sharing.

Do your cars still have the yellow PTC attached to the motor? If not its a must in your usage, I'd even consider ordering a custom one from an electronics shop with a lower value that will cut off power sooner.

I'd also recommend 50% throttle max for newbies.
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Old 2013.04.30, 12:36 AM   #10
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Geo, so you don't have any tracks to play the mini-z? in my place, we set-up an RCP track, and let the kids play with it. i won't worried so much regarding hitting a wall since RCP walls are soft.


and have you switched on the training mode in the kt-18 remote?
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Old 2013.04.30, 01:53 AM   #11
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@TheSteve: How's it going Steve, we actually don't have Stock Kyosho motors with us (everyone in our club doesn't have spares of it either since we've long since run them out in stock class races) but we did order a large batch of Firelap stock motors (70turn and still slower than Kyosho stock). Unfortunately Firelap motors don't have that square yellow cap that cuts off power if it gets too hot. At the moment we are ordering a bunch of Stock Kyosho motors from overseas.
As per the speed issue, we have dialed it down to 50% but it seems it became too slow...the kids complained to have it done faster, especially after seeing my friend's exhibit-only PN 33t fly around the track. Should we only use slow motors for exhibition too? cuz at the moment we use slow motors for rentals, fast motors for exhibits. Thanks for your input mate.

@unearthed name: Yes indeedy bro. We are doing this on an RCP track with IC lap counter from KYosho. Hitting the wall is the least of our worries it's mainly the throttling against it that has us biting our nails lol. We actually did activate beginners mode - the thing is so many kids complained that it was slow and so we turned it off and dialed the throttle to 70%. In the beginning we let all kids use max throttle but we now activate slow mode for younger kids while we let older ones use full settings.
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Old 2013.04.30, 07:57 AM   #12
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great experience and thank you for sharing it with us sounds very similar to what many of us have done in an effort to grow the hobby and share in the fun

imxlr8ed, myself and some others ran similar exhibitions and rentals (free) at a large anime convention that got 2-3,000 attendance 3 years in a row. all the cars were personally owned. we had a similar format in which we had demonstrations with competitive race cars and open rentals that people had to signup for. toward the end of the day we took the results and asked rental period winners to come back to participate in finals races which they could win prizes. it was a LOT of work but also very fun. we ran many stock kyosho motors till they seized up. always keep them well lubricated. if you can find a good deal for cost, i would suggest the kyosho eco 80t motor. you could then keep the throttle setting higher with overall reduction in speed. when running faster cars always make sure to distinguish them as exhibition or demonstration cars. can't tell you how many times strangers would ask to drive ours or why the rentals did not go as fast.

i've seen fets burn up more time than i care to count. while depressing to see a board go up in smoke, it actually looks cool doing so the most realistic experience i had was running an F1 that burnt fets pouring smoke out of the back till the car just stopped. the upside to fets is they are cheap to replace provided the board is not damaged. materials cost is not the issue, it's usually the expertise in installation.

good luck with your endeavor and keep up posted on the progress
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Old 2013.04.30, 10:44 AM   #13
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CP cup conversions would serve you well for the rental fleet. I'm sure someone makes a kit similar to what they were. It's a larger lexan Nascar body on a Mini-Z with carbon fiber mounting system and foam bumpers.

Personally, the servo gear issue with the 03 is something that would keep me from renting them out... I'd go with 02s. Lot's more parts and a bit cheaper too.

Too many fets... I would think just replacing the 3010s with an aftermarket fet would do it (no stacks). You don't want to give them too much speed, plus the heat doesn't dissipate too well from the lowest fet on the stack. For a ten minute race with a good driver behind the wheel, it's not an issue... with constant running, the heat just builds and builds and all it takes then is one decent amperage spike and poof!

80 turns would serve you well, ball bearing cans would help too. I don't trust Iwaver motors or armatures one bit. When they first came out they were all over the place as far as amp spikes on the dyno... I fried an 02 back in the day with one of their older motors. They were fast motors, but highly inconsistent.

I hope you're at least using racer type bodies, the kind with the most front protection.

Just trying to help, this thread is inspiring to say the least.
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Old 2013.04.30, 01:06 PM   #14
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the cp cup cars are a niche product/look though. unless your setting up in nascar country, they aren't going to be popular. the draw to mini-z is the autoscale. to jump to a non nondescript lexan cup car really changes your marketability. i'm not knocking the cup cars... they aren't everyone's cup of tea so to speak and in a rental environment, aesthetics are key component to success.
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Old 2013.04.30, 04:36 PM   #15
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Being in charge of a shop that offers Mini-Z rentals, I can sympathize with some of the plights you and your comrade face. Great reading, now I think I know what ladies feel like when they read romance novels lol

We started with 5 Mini-Z MR02 rentals in November and those 5 cars are still going strong. For tires, we used race-worn PN6 radials and Kyosho 40's up front. The K40's wear at a slow rate and make the cars more manageable for those who arn't very smooth on the controls. We also run the stock Kyosho motors. The standard Kyosho Mini-Z Racer motor is great for the rentals. To those new to driving RC cars, it's plenty of speed for them to have fun with, but not so much speed the cars are breaking. Speaking of breaking, within the first 2 weeks I had to replace all the plastic suspension plates with carbon fiber pieces because they had failed. We haven't had any knuckles/tierod breakages with the MR02 Readysets yet, but we've had a few of the standard Autoscale rims break.

Mini-Z isn't necessarily something anyone should do to make money from. Mini-Z tracks are typically opened by those who want to promote the hobby and/or want to provide the local racers a place to hang out and enjoy themselves at. If you're lucky and in the right situation, sometimes it will work out. Rental vehicles are the best way to support the endeavor. It seems like a lot of work everytime you get a car ready for what seems like a nominal fee, but it adds up. That is what will keep your venture going and R/C in the minds and hearts of the people who are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of your effort!
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