1/5-scale monster buggy!

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 process.

Kit Features
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 front wheels.

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.

RTR Gear
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 switch.

Performance Testing
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 rip.

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.

Test Track
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!


Vehicle: HPI Baja 5B
Type: 1/5 scale 2WD gas buggy
Retail/Street Price: $1839/$999.99
Class Rivals: Duratrax Firehammer, Traxxas Monster Buggy

Width: 18.9 in (480mm)
Wheelbase: 22.4 in (570mm)
Length: 32.17 in (817mm)
Weight: 21.3 lb (9661g)
Ground clearance: 3 in (76mm)
Fuel tank capacity: 750cc
Wheel hex size: 17mm
Chassis: Purple anodized aluminum tub
Thickness: 0.16 in (4mm)
Suspension: Four wheel independent
Damping: Aluminum threaded body oil-filled shocks
Swaybars: None included
Drivetrain: Two-wheel drive with gear differential
Clutch Bell/Spur: 17-tooth / 57-tooth
Final Gear Ratio: 8.38 : 1
Differentials: Rear viscous torque control diff
Bearings: Rubber shielded ball bearings

Average run time 45min
0-100ft 3.33sec
0-top speed 5.06sec
Top Speed 38.30mph
(Stalker ATS verified)





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