Restoration of Joel Johnsons 1987 WC Ultima

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This is not a webshop, and beside what’s listed under the “FOR SALE” tab in the menu, nothing presented here is for sale, so please don’t ask. If I have anything I would like to sell, I’ll post it in the “FOR SALE” section.

Part 1 (Friday 7th August 2015)

Let’s start with credits (updated as we go, hope I don’t miss anyone!):

Project: Joel ‘Magic’ Johnson 1987 Ifmar 2wd world champion Kyosho Ultima
Project web hosting: Tom Erik Gundersen
Front & Rear Shock towers: Jeff Malar (aka gomachv)
Rear wheels: Naushad Ali Junglee & Thomas Russell
Cells: Thomas Russell
Trinity Motor: Cedric Devillers
Suspension arms: Carlos Oca
Rear motor guard: Carlos Oca
Thorp differential: Darren Stehr
Steering Servo: Ross Aloise
Decals: Nathaneal Ellis at MCI Racing
Lots of bits and being the other half of the team ;o): Dirk Anderson (who incidentaly also competed in the ’87 worlds for Kyosho)

Invaluable stories, advice help and laughs:

Joel Johnson (AKA)
Dirk Anderson (OSRC)
All friends on Iconic RC and OSRC
Jim Dieter (Trinity)
Ernie Provetti (Trinity)
Steve Pond (Kyosho/RCCA)
Randy Pike (Tekin)
Graves RC in Orlando FL for their friendly service and litespeed dye

Hello fellow R/C nuts.
I’d like to start by thanking everybody above – all have been immensely helpful since Joel and I announced that we were working together on his iconic/legendary/worlds winning Ultima. A little bit about me. I’m from England, have been racing since 1987 and am mostly a Kyosho fan. My first car was a Turbo Optima Mid which served me very well and I even won a few local races. As with a lot of people, I went to study and R/C took a back seat – only to re-emerge stronger than ever in 2002 when I moved to Scotland with work and found there was a track nearby. I now live/work (temporarily) in Muscat which is South of Dubai and collect vintage buggies – the collection currently stands at around 90 cars….a mixture of runner, shelf queens and new in box. In 2014, Jamie Booth (SMD main man & R/C legend) and I worked together to restore his very well known prototype Egress from 1990 – this in part set the scene for Joel’s famous Ultima to see the light of day for the first time since he ran it at the 1988 Reedy race, the only other time he ran the car after becoming 2wd world champion in 1987 in Romsey, England. A funny thing that happened already – myself, Dirk, Tom and Steve Pond were discussing the wheels and how to ensure we get the rare Kyosho front yellow Tomahawk rims. I was on holiday in Orlando at the time and had found some Fluoro yellow Litespeed Dye in a box of old bits at Graves RC hobbies – literally a few hours later Steve said that exact dye is what is needed to obtain Kyosho yellow – I rushed back to the shop and bought all 3 packets! What a coincidence!

Over the coming weeks/months, Tom and I will be updating this page with build/restoration progress and a lot of detailed pics – unfortunately work sometimes gets in the way so please bear with us – it will be worth it to see the car returned to the same state it was when Joel carried it off the track after his victory. Tom’s website already contains a lot of info on Joel and the car itself – I would recommend watching the 3 legs of the A finals on YouTube, great watching. For now, here are some quotes and memories of the race from Joel and Ernie:

“When I landed in England I didn’t think I had any chance of winning the race – Kyosho actually released an advert saying the Ultima was going to be the next world champion prior to the race! I believe the rear tyres were our advantage, they gave superior grip! It was an amazing event and thanks to everyone for the attention to detail with the rebuild.”

Ernie (Trinity):
“Good news – I found my notes for that race….28 years ago, lol. We did run a pure gold motor. We did not arrive with that motor. When I saw the layout and the lack of dirt…to me it looked like an onroad track! We could use a lot more power than we could on a normal powered off road dirt track! I called Trinity and a custom wound motor was shipped that day federal express to England. At that time it was the first Triple Wind we had ever done! It was a rocket and never came out of the car! Ernie”

“So many great stories from that race! Joel qualified as an “alternate” for that race! We had no illusions of doing anything there until we saw the track! The second I saw the track I knew we could win! We had run very little off-road. Everyone had written us off! At one point Joel had run about 5 charges and we were in the top 3. I asked him though why aren’t you working on the car! He never touched it and everyone else was tearing the cars down every run! He said to me….it runs pretty good and why take a chance of ruining it. Smiling face with smiling eyes. By the end of the week everyone was looking at our car! We were pitting near Cliff Lett, Associated’s chief designer. He was checking Joel’s car out. That was the ultimate compliment, as Lett was one of the most knowledgable set up guys ever in RC. Honestly we never even changed the shock oil and won as an “alternate” (since someone else could not go) I guarantee you this will NEVER be done again!!!!!”

More soon…..a couple of pics are attached of my preparations for the rebuild – including moving my entire workdesk into our bedroom…..needless to say Mrs. Rowlands will get a big bunch of flowers….


The eagle eyed may notice that the race number on the rear wing is different. Our shows 091 instead of 084. Joel actually used the same wing in 4wd and changed some decals and the race number 😉

Part 2 (Tuesday 12th August 2015)

Apologies for the delays with updates as I have been away all this week with work.

The car is now sitting on wheels again! The front Tomahawk wheels arrived from Japan and I’ll be dying them yellow with the vintage Litespeed fluoro dye. Naushad also kindly donated some new white rear wheels so I will likely wait and dye all 4 together to match the colour, a few options remain for the wheels to get them just right including some original yellow and NIP yellows donated by Thomas.

Jason Millward (Bormac) also came to the rescue with the Tekin esc, including the gold heatsinks – he’ll use his master soldering skills to rewire the unit.

My mum came to the rescue with 1983 and 1985 1 pound coins, quite easy to source as it’s from my home country – also quite apt as this is the year “Back to the future” was released :o) the coin that was on the chassis as it arrived was from ‘Photon – the ultimate game on planet earth’, more of a token than a coin – from a lasertag arena in the 80’s/90’s, more info here, I still need to figure out if this token was underneath the 1 pound coin when Joel ran the car or if it was actually 2 x 1 pound coins stacked:

Dirk is currently soldering up the 1200SC cells, donated by Thomas, with the correct braid and Joel himself is on the case to find the receiver – tricky finding a G-plug NER-2S (NER40) which has the yellow aerial wire denoting the frequency as Novak use the wire colour to show this.

Nathaneal at MCI racing and I have been working together to produce the decal sheets which will enable me to make a replacement rear wing – it’s a shame to alter the wing I have that is the same wing Joel ran in 2wd on the car but then changed some decals and also used it on his Optima Mid prototype in the 4wd class at the same event.

Watch this space!


Part 3 (Friday 9th October 2015)

Update 3 – I received all the needed parts and the car can now be finished!!

Hi All, well it’s been a busy time and I apologise for the time it’s taken for me to type update number 3 which will in fact be the final update with the car in my hands – once Joel receives it we will post a pic of him holding it of course.

In part this was due to work getting in the way but mainly due to friends and family gathering parts to send to me here in Oman.

In reality, when the box arrived yesterday from Dirk in the USA, I got the car finished within 24 hours! I had already received another box from my Mum in Newcastle, UK containing wheels, the 2 x £1 coins needed (coins from 1987 of course which took a while to find in change at various supermarkets!) and the motor too. But the main box arrived  to work yesterday from my partner in crime Dirk Anderson , containing the NIP Thorp diff, battery, receiver, ESC from Tekin, Servo, wing buttons from Jim Dieter himself and some decals that Kent Clausen had sent to Joel who had then forwarded.

Nathaneal Ellis of MC Racing ( helped reproducing the wing, so I didn’t have to make changes to Joels, that had been changed for the 4wd race.

…..the box was huge and also had a few cars that I’d bought and had sent to Dirk over the past few months….thanks again Dirk!

So once the kids were in bed I got to work – first was to countersink the rear shock tower as per how Joel ran it in ‘87 – this is done so that the ESC can be mounted flat to the tower.

Once this was done I installed the pre-built Thorp diff in the gearbox which dropped straight in.

Then it was onto the Sanyo 1200SC battery pack which Dirk had soldered using the correct Trinity braided wire. I already had the fibreglass strapping tape which wrapped around the pack and held it in shape – a quick trip to the local supermarket and I purchased a pack of cable ties that would hold the pack to the chassis – installed exactly as per the reference pics of the car I had on my screen.

Daniel Hood had kindly given us the G plug NER-2S receiver and installed the yellow receiver wire denoting 40Mhz. I raked in my RC10 box and found a new ae aerial tube mount and clear aerial tube.

Tekin had rewired the exact ESC we needed so I simply stuck it to the tower, routed the wires again as per reference pics and soldered them in place to the battery tabs and motor. The ESC switch was also attached to the chassis. The 2 x 1987 £1 coins  were fixed to the chassis, one on top of the other.

The servo had it’s lugs removed and was installed along with the correct Monster Horsepower motor which dropped in and received a bit of solder for the wires.

So, that was it done – it went together extremely smoothly, but I had planned it for weeks and had everything set-up…….here are some pics for you – I hope you all enjoy the pics as much as I have enjoyed working with friends around the world to get this iconic car exactly as it left the track when Joel ‘Magic’ Johnson held it after his 1st place at the Romsey 1987 IFMAR 2wd world championships.

When Joel has the car we will add the last piece of this article.

Thanks to all,

Dan Rowlands

My daughters holding the car with forced smiles (haha)

I also started to make myself a replica

Part 4 (Saturday 7th November 2015)

The Ultima is back where it belongs!

Please Take Notice

This is not a webshop, and beside what’s listed under the “FOR SALE” tab in the menu, nothing presented here is for sale, so please don’t ask. If I have anything I would like to sell, I’ll post it in the “FOR SALE” section.

About TomEG 72 Articles
I have been into RC cars since the beginning of the 80's, but have really never been much of a racer. I competed in some local races and some "Tamiya Cups", and actually came 6th in the Tamiya Cup Norwegian Nationals in 1987. My main interest has always been building and modifying, and that's where I still am today. Through the years I have been able to build a solid network of contacts around the world, consisting of both former and current members of the industry, as well as quite a few of the former top drivers. I have a genuine interest for the history of the 1/10 scale off-road buggies from the 80's.


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