You gotta be kidding me!! That
was our reaction, or something to that effect, anyway, when we
got to see HPI’s new Baja 5B for the first time. Photos simply
don’t do this big buggy justice, no matter how well they’re
shot or what item is shown as a scale reference. As a result,
all of us here at R/C Car couldn’t wait to get the 22-pound,
1/5-scale 5B out into the wild open for dirt and sand roosting.
It’s not often that a new vehicle shows up at our office and
causes everyone to stop what they’re doing and begin fighting
about who’d get to drive it first, but the Baja 5B literally
stopped our office traffic and caused quite a few wrecks in the
The Baja 5B is the first “big scale” RC we’ve seen
that actually looks like a real, standard-size 1/10 buggy.
Designed by HPI’s Senior Designer Akira Kogawa, we weren’t
surprised to notice that the 5B looks similar to Kyosho’s
old-school Scorpion and Burns, because Mr. Kogawa designed those
cars as well!
The 5B features a long-travel, four-wheel independent
suspension just like you’d expect to find on a race buggy,
only the 5B’s suspension is much stronger. Designed to handle
all 20-plus pounds of the 5B, the long arm suspension works to
allow the buggy to float over large obstacles. The chassis’
narrow design also allows the suspension arms to be very long.
Up and down travel is dampened by four huge coil-over,
threaded-body oil shocks with adjustable internal damping. HPI’s
“Hyper Adjust Piston” design has five damping settings you
can dial in without disassembling the shock. Dual-rate springs
are included as well.
Propelling 20 pounds of buggy is no easy task, so HPI beefed
up the 5B’s drivetrain considerably, especially compared to
what most hobbyists are used to seeing. The 2WD buggy’s
differential is a huge “viscous torque control” differential
with hardened steel, which is tuneable with silicone oils just
like the smaller 1/8-scale versions. Power transmits through a
large slipper clutch with rubber pegs through to the diff to
steel dogbones with rubber dust booties, driving the rear
wheels. The entire drivetrain spins on a set of rubber sealed
ball bearings, while a large dust/debris cover protects the
pinion/spur gear set.
Like most other buggies, the 5B’s steering consists of a
dual bellcrank system with bearing support and a spring-loaded
adjustable servo saver. Thick metal steering turnbuckles with
oversized ball ends adjust front toe, while a massive HPI SFL-10
quarter-scale servo (with over 300-oz/in torque) steers the
The Baja 5B’s purple anodized chassis is a throwback to
old-school buggies, with its U-shape channel design, thick
aluminum (4mm) construction, and lattice work cutouts. Purple
anodized like nearly every HPI product, the chassis also
includes a plastic rear underbody which helps reduce wear and
tear on the rear of the chassis under load. All radio gear rests
inside a sealed waterproof plastic radio box, while the radio
box itself, as well as the roll cage, body shell, gear cover and
undertray, may be removed easily by unclipping a few body clips.
HPI includes plenty of nice RTR gear with the Baja to get
you up and going. The 27mHz FM radio reduces the glitches
associated with 27mHz radios when used with gas-powered RC’s,
and a 2000mah receiver pack with included wall charger keeps the
Baja running strong during its entire 40-plus minute per 750cc
tank run times. The Baja’s tires are pre-mounted as well on
bead-lock wheels, which eliminate the need for CA tire glue.
Several tools are included as well, such as a wheel wrench,
spark plug wrench, cross wrench and an amazing multi-tool that
features no less than nine individual tools built into one.
Finally, the part we’re all most interested in—the Baja’s
gasoline powered, “Fuelie 23” pull-start engine. This
massive two-stroker runs on a gasoline/two-stroke oil mixture,
and features an actual spark plug (unlike the glow-plugs we use
in nitro engines), carburetor, primer bulb, and red button kill
Before fueling up the Baja, I cruised down to our local
Chevron for a half-gallon of 87octane. It was strange, fueling
up a gasoline can to fill up an RC car, but it was nice to spend
$3 for a gallon rather than $35!
Our Baja started up on its second pull, after priming the carb
with the primer bulb. From there it’s a no-brainer test and
tune session, as the carb is well tuned from the factory to
provide great performance while literally idling all day long if
required. Collin and I headed down to the sand wash area within
walking distance of the office for the photo shoot, and let ’er
The first thing you notice with the big Baja is its impressive
acceleration, given its mass and overall size. The 5B shoots
away with huge rooster tails of sand in tow—just check out the
photos!—and accelerates to an impressive 38.30 mph top speed.
Top speed isn’t what the 5B is all about, however; bashing
around a beach or dune area with the 5B is when the buggy is
most at home, kicking its way over obstacles and bashing over
deep ruts that would punt a standard 1/10 scale RC car into
oblivion. Nearly 40 minutes later, Collin had filled his memory
card with a few hundred shots and I had already forgotten how
long we had run the buggy without stopping. My smile muscles
hurt in my face, and neither of us wanted to call it a day.
Over extended periods of run time, I noticed that the Fuelie
23cc gas engine developed a low-end bog after 15 to 20 minutes
of hard run time. Just like a typical .12 or .21 nitro engine,
this is a sure sign that the low-end mixture is too lean. A tiny
twist of the tuning screwdriver on the low-speed needle
(approximately 1-1/2 turns) later, and the Baja 5B was up and
running full power for the duration of the tank, with no
stalling. Too cool!
What Did We Like?
We could go on for days about the Baja 5B’s realistic
looks. Everywhere we went, the 5B drew massive crowds, all
wanting to know how fast it goes, who makes it, and of course,
how expensive it is. After lots of run time, we’re happy to
report that the buggy is highly durable.
Speaking of run time, we managed to get an awesome 35 to 40
minutes per tank. Finally, we also really like the 5B’s
adjustability; its externally adjustable shocks, threaded shock
bodies, turnbuckles and silicone filled gear diff all add up to
a fully adjustable buggy.
What Would We Change?
We’d like to see the Baja 5B offered in more body color
schemes, and we’d also like to see more tire options, though
HPI intends to release street slicks for those of you who want
to run your 5B on asphalt for speed runs, and they also plan to
release sand paddles at some point as well.
The Baja 5B certainly isn’t for everyone; its price alone
(streeting at around a grand) may scare some away, though its
total price including radio gear, engine and starting equipment
falls shy of a full 1/8 race buggy’s total price. The biggest
limiting factor (no pun intended) is the 5B’s overall size;
for those of you limited to small tracks and little to no
backyard, construction or public park areas, you’ll be hard
pressed to find enough room to fully enjoy your Baja. The Baja
5B is most at home out in the wild open, where it can stretch
its legs, roost everything in sight, and have plenty of room to
move around. Even as a shelf queen, the 5B just looks
incredible, and out in the sand dunes and BMX tracks, its all
the fun you could imagine. True to its roots, this 1/5-scale
sand rail is all about fun.
Setup We Used
The box-stock setup is as spot-on as we could hope for, but
the big Baja is completely adjustable. We left it alone and
enjoyed the long run times in the desert, as well as on a small
50cc mini-motocross track. The only “setup” change we made
was to remove the exhaust extension tube to increase power, as
suggested by HPI, and kept the rest of the buggy bone stock.
Sand dunes, mini-motocross track, and everywhere else the
big buggy would fit.
Ultra-scale appearance, runs for 40-plus minutes per tank,
fast for its size, and it’ll draw a crowd everywhere you go.
Size eliminates 95 percent of the RC tracks available, and
the radio box isn’t sealed well against water.
The Final Call
Dare to be different? The 5B is an ultimate bash machine
that runs on cheap gasoline, goes forever on a single tank, and
simply looks amazing in person.
At first glance you are greeted with a humongous box, that
alone is a recipe for fun. But then it gets even better once the
Baja is out of the box; this is not just a big chassis with a
big engine. The 5B is a very well thought out and designed
buggy, the fit, finish, parts quality, down to the FM radio. I
had the privilege of driving the buggy during the photo shoot,
and the feeling that you get when you drive this thing is
unreal, it’s like driving a 2wd 1/8th scale buggy, but not. To
make the deal even sweeter, this thing uses regular gasoline,
and comes in at just under $1,000!