Tamiya Wild One Max – your questions answered

Last month, CEO of TLCC Ben Hedley pledged a full Q&A – here's what he had to say about price, power and the future

By PH Staff / Friday, 22 September 2023 / Loading comments

So what was the original logic behind the Tamiya Wild One MAX?

I’m a big believer that cars have got too big, too heavy and too fast. We’ve all got a bit obsessed with numbers, rather than the experience, and I’m proud that our Little Cars are a lot of fun at 30mph, rather than 130mph. 

I was also frustrated at the parts costs of our super authentic junior cars, so rather than take a big car and make it a bit smaller, we decided to take a small car and make it full size. It allows us to add our own detail, and try and engineer out as much cost as possible. And as a child of the 1980s myself, getting to drive the R/C cars of my youth is a dream come true. 

The price drastically changed for the Tamiya Wild One MAX – why? 

The Tamiya Wild One MAX (TWOM) was a massive jump into the unknown. We did an initial rough specification and came up with a simple spaceframe chassis with a 25mph top speed and a 25-mile range. 

We asked our deposit holders what they wanted from the car and the feedback was very clear; 95% said they wanted it to be road-legal, while pretty much everyone said they wanted two seats and more performance. However, with two seats you need to be double the width, which doubles the weight….you can see where this is going right? 

We don’t take shortcuts, so we’re also launching with the most expensive variant that we plan to produce with all the premium components for the biggest fans; Brembo brakes, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, Maxxis off-road tyres, a carbon fibre dash, and 8 battery packs. Once we’ve built these first 100 Launch Edition cars, we can look to build lower-priced versions with more cost-effective parts and a lower specification. 

What drove the decision on the performance (or lack thereof)?

For road legality in the UK / EU we have to use L7e quadricycle regulations so we’re limited on continuous power to 15kW (20hp). As Carroll Shelby used to say, it’s the torque that matters, so we’re going to be about 120-150Nm from zero rpm and similar final drive ratios to an ICE car – even the brilliant Alpine A110 only has 290Nm/tonne at peak.

Powertrain voltage is a trade-off that we thought was worth making. By staying under 50V we can have swappable batteries, you don’t need special HV training to service or build the car (we want to do kit versions) and there is much lower electrical risk. The downside is that it limits the absolute power you can achieve and how fast you can charge it compared to high voltage vehicles like the Porsche Taycan at 800V, the charge time we can get around with those swappable batteries. 

I assume that a spaceframe chassis and electric power pack can be configured in any way imaginable. Do you have any plans for other niche products: passenger version, light commercial / delivery vehicle etc? 

For the cars we’ve launched so far we’ve developed our own modular powertrain which (for road vehicles at least) has swappable batteries, something that is virtually impossible in cars due to the necessary weight of battery needed move the car each mile.

I think our powertrain is perfect for lightweight delivery or passenger vehicles, and modular, swappable batteries would be our solution to charging infrastructure issues and allow you to tailor the range of the vehicle to the purpose. 

Have you got any idea how good this would have been with a 6.0 V8? 

I imagine it would be awesome. During the development of the car we bought an IVA’d Polaris RZR Turbo as a reference vehicle to understand the market. 150bhp, 700kg and it was brilliant fun in the right environment.

Because we’re making an EV, we’re not trying to take on Polaris on performance figures. We wanted to try and do something different and prove that fun doesn’t have to be directly linked to horsepower or top speeds.

Can you put the 8-hole wheels back on? It doesn’t suit the Weller ones. 

Yes indeed – we’ve done that already. The wheels in the photos are prototypes as the tooling hadn’t been completed for production versions when we announced it. 

At the time of asking for deposits, the price was very reasonable in my opinion. Now, it has increased by many multiples. I understand that the spec has changed, and features were added, but I have a sinking feeling there was never an intention to have a car at the original posted price. Can you redeem this by offering something at the original price? Even as a heavily pared-back version?

At The Little Car Company we pride ourselves on being upfront and honest. There was never any intention to mislead people on the original price but we did listen to what our deposit holders wanted and enjoyed getting them involved in the design process and that led to a bigger, more expensive vehicle.

We are fully intending to release lower-price versions. We are going to do both kits and built cars with two and four batteries rather than the eight batteries of the Launch Editions which are a big chunk of the cost. 

We’ll also look to change some of the component specifications as well. For example, the rear tyres are as visually authentic as we could get them to the original, but cost £230 each. However, we are looking to compromise on the spec to get the cost down as low as we can. What I would suggest is to come and see it in the flesh at one of our events as the photos don’t really do it justice in terms of size. For context, it’s slightly wider, but slightly shorter than a current generation VW Golf.  

You seemed to feel road-legal status to be important to justify the £35k price. Have you considered releasing a track-only no-compromise version with the output screwed all the way up for the people who couldn’t care less about driving it on the public road? Proper off-road tyres maybe? 

We definitely plan to produce versions of the car for different purposes. The road kit; mudguards (though they weren’t shown in the press photos), windscreen, wipers, lights and more all add cost and weight which we can strip out for people who want a bare-bones version. We are looking at other off-road tyre options, but the Maxxis Big Horn 3s we’re using in testing seem to be working really well. Increasing power output is trickier due to the existing low voltage limitations, but we’d suggest giving it a try as the torque is what makes it fun to drive. 

Why so big? At this size (and price point) I cannot see why anyone would choose this over an Ariel Nomad, which is a similar size, not that much more expensive and guaranteed to be on another level (or order of magnitude) in performance *and* fun. If this was half the size, just for one person, and around 0.9m x 1.8m, then it would be so much more interesting. 

Ariel is a brilliant company, and we’re huge fans of all their products. We appreciate that as an ICE car the Nomad is more powerful than us, and Ariel is absolutely at the top of its game, but they’re not cheap – second hand they start at £50,000 and are 120kg heavier. 

If you build an off-road buggy with two seats side by side, you tend to come up with similar dimensions but what we’re trying to do is subtly different to the Nomad. We’re creating a new niche in the market with an EV alternative to traditional off-road buggies. We’re looking to make something which feels fast and fun at 50mph, and because they are so quiet, they can be enjoyed off-road (or even on certain circuits) without annoying the noise police. We do see an interesting opportunity for on/off-road racing at relatively low cost, made possible by the swappable batteries. 

If, in the future, batteries are half the weight/twice the power, will there be upgrade kits? Can this be modified in the same way the original RC car can be?

The Tamiya culture of “Hop Ups” is something we are really embracing. The idea is to create a base TWOM which you can customise as much as you wish, with mountain bike and surfboard racks, light bars and road tyres for example. We’d also like customers to design their own accessories and try and build a community around the car, sharing ideas.

Our packs are built on the standard 18650 cells from Samsung, LG & Panasonic used throughout the industry, and these will keep improving so we can upgrade as technology advances. 

What’s coming next? 

We’ve also just launched the Bentley Blower Jnr which is another ‘lightweight road legal EV’, but from a very different perspective. We are a young company not even five years old now, and while we have big ideas we have a relatively small team. 

That said, because we’re not a big corporation we can be creative, and test wild ideas. For example, we’re looking into solar panels to charge the car while it’s stationary – we’ll keep you updated on that. We’re also exploring a potential track-focused wheel and tyre package as it’s surprisingly capable and fun on the circuit. And finally, and what I imagine you really want to hear, we are looking at the feasibility of a high-voltage version with three-digit power outputs in the future. 

Many thanks to Ben Hedley for his time, and to all the PHers who submitted questions. Further details on the Tamiya Wild One MAX can be found here

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