Well, it’s back to 1985 again, and the first IFMAR Off-Road Worlds at the Ranch Pit Shop in Del Mar, California. Kyosho had sent a team as a part of the Japanese contingent to these first IFMAR 1/10 scale off-road World Championships, but had failed to bring their brand new Kyosho Optima as their preferred weapon of choice. Instead they had decided to use the 4WDS Progress/Gallop in the Modified class (which later would become the 4WD class), and would wait with releasing the Optima until immediately after the Worlds. The Optima WAS ready to be raced, and the decision not to use it has baffled many people in the years after, including myself. Here they had a brand new race ready car, miles ahead of the competition, performance wise, with a state of the art suspension system that would be the gold standard for electric off road buggies for decades, and still they chose the Progress/Gallop for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. I mentioned this in my 1985 Worlds article, and I still believe internal politics over at Kyosho HQ was the reason for the decision.
The fact that just two Kyosho drivers, the Progress/Gallop designer Shigeru Hino, and one of Kyosho’s top drivers at the time, Toshifumi Watanabe, chose the 4WDS, while the rest resorted to using 2WD cars in the Modified class, kind of says it all, I think. The other drivers, like Hidetoshi Nagamine, Masatoshi Kobayashi, Kazuhiko Nakanishi, and the Optima and Scorpion designer, Akira Kogawa, all chose cars from the Scorpion series, instead of the 4WDS for the Modified class. Kogawa told me his Tomahawk was quite a handful to master with the added horsepower on the slippery dirt track. What wouldn’t he had given to drive his brand new Optima instead? One of the drivers, Yoshiaki Fujita, even chose his old SRB based Dyna Models car, instead of the Progress/Gallop. Without the Optima on the starting grid, the 1985 Worlds was dominated by the Yokomo 834B Dog Fighter. An Optima, in the hands of a seasoned driver, would most certainly had won the race, at least that is my opinion. You might disagree, as I’m obviously quite biased towards the Optima, but I honestly believe it would have been a real shocker in the Californian dirt.
Ok…. enough about the Optima, and back to the Progress/Gallop that Toshifumi Watanabe raced to 87th place, beaten by Takashi Aizawa (22nd) and Keiichi Kikuchi (81st) with their Mugen Bulldogs, Masahiko Oda (62nd) with a Hirobo Zerda, Tadashi Kurihara (84th) with a Marui Samurai that had a habit of falling apart as soon as it hit the track, and by Kazuhiko Nakanishi (77th) in a Turbo Scorpion and Akira Kogawa (82nd) himself with his trusted Tomahawk. He was even beaten by Yoshiaki Shimotori with a Tamiya Hotshot! So I think it’s fair to say that the Progress/Gallop wasn’t much of a race car, as Toshifumi Watanabe was quite a good driver. This does not mean I don’t like the Progress/Gallop, far from it. I think it’s darn cool, and it was Kyosho’s first 4WD electric off-roader. It just wasn’t a full blown race car. Watanabe’s Progress/Gallop hybrid was certainly a fine specimen, using the rear cage parts from the Gallop and the front part of a Progress body.
He also had the option of using either the Progress’ one-way front “diff” or the gear diff of the Gallop, depending on the track and surface. From what I have found, he used the Gallop diff at the Worlds in Del Mar, but I know he experimented with both options. There were also a few performance modifications done to his 4WDS, like removing the coil-over spring on the front mono shock, depending solely on the torsion springs. The original Progress/Gallop shocks were replaced by the red Turbo Scorpion/Optima versions.
The lower shock mount positions for the rear shocks were also modified, by using small graphite plates that were mounted on the rear trailing arms, so the bottom of the shocks were mounted higher, for a different angle, thus giving a different shock action.
He had also dropped the stupid E-clip mounts for the front wheels, and replaced the front axles with rear axles, so the wheels could be mounted using nuts, like at the rear. Additionally, the various chassis parts had undergone the “Swiss Cheese-treatment”, with holes drilled all over. Even the front wheels had been Swiss Cheesed, to reduce the unsprung weight.
Like a lot of the Kyosho guys back then, Watanabe used Sanwa electronics, with a SM-346 Speed Controller 200 and a BB-HS, ball raced, high speed servo. The motor was a Le Mans 480T (the green one), although all pictures of the car shows the Le Mans 360PT, the “recommended” motor from the manual. The 360PT was not legal at the Worlds due to the IFMAR rules, as it was a 550 size motor and not a 540. I do believe they were legal in some Japanese race classes.
The body was painted in Watanabe’s trade mark colors, a livery that undoubtedly inspired Joel Johnson, two years later. Talking about painted bodies….. Toshifumi Watanabe is in fact the artist behind some of Kyosho’s most famous box art body paint schemes, like the Turbo Scorpion, the Optima, the Turbo Optima, the Gallop Mk.II, and virtually every Kyosho model from that era. Watanabe san did them all.
I have quite a lot of different projects running at the moment, but waiting on different small parts makes me constantly want to start on new projects I have planned. I have for a while wanted to build a Watanabe Progress/Gallop, and when I found this Gallop wreck, I thought it was time to start.
The car was in a very bad shape, with lots of rusty screws and other metal parts. Luckily the important parts like the chassis and the gear box etc. were salvageable, and after taking it all apart for a good cleaning and WD40 treatment, it was time to change all the bushings for ball bearings. The bushings were press fitted, but actually much easier to pry out than what I have earlier experienced with eg. Scorpion gear boxes.
The gear box and the front diff mount were also carefully shimmed to remove any sloppiness. The gear box is now silky smooth, and a huge difference from the gear box on my standard Gallop. There were quite a few broken and/or missing parts on the wreck I bought from Japan, most noticeably the front left steering hub, front dog bones and axles, as well as rear wheels. There were one rear wheel coming with it, but it fell to pieces when I tried to remove some big chunks of glue. There were no tires either. Most of these parts I have NIB in my “inventory”, like axles, dog bones, steering hubs, motor cover, both front and rear tires etc, but I also decided to buy a small lot of used parts from Sweden, with the help from Filip Williamsson, that includes a full gear box, chassis, and a lot of small parts, as well as a Progress front “spool” that is different from the Gallop front diff and case. I will choose the best parts from the Japanese donor car and the Swedish lot. What the donor car did have, was the rear part of the cage, including that infamous rear cage support plate. This was perfect, as these are the only parts of the cage that is used on Watanabe’s car!
Wilhelm Pantring from Germany kindly donated a pair of rear wheels for this project. Thanks a million, Willi.
I still have to make the carbon plates for mounting the rear shocks, and make a mini bumper. The bumper I will either cut from kydex, or from an original Gallop bumper. I need to study the pictures a little more before I decide. The car also use a few what looks like Trinity flat head aluminum screws. I have a couple of sets of those, so I believe that is sorted. I only need to find them……
Then it was on to sourcing the electrics. I do have a LeMans 360PT for the project, as well as lots of different vintage Sanwa receivers. The receiver is “buried” inside the car, and I have not been able to find any info on which exact model Watanabe san used. I will just pick one of those I have. One that will be correct for a 1985 car. The Speed Controller 200 is VERY rare, and not easily found. I have been trying to source one for a while, but the only one I could find was a blue rebadged model that Bart Loomans in Belgium had. It was rebranded for the Belgian distributor, and anodized in a beautiful blue colour. But since the ESC is so central and easily spotted on Watanabe’s car, I decided to continue the search for an original silver one. Then all of a sudden, Mike Haswell in England sent me a PM with a link to a Japanese auction. The auction was ending in less than half an hour, the leading bid was at around 3000 Yen, and it steadily went up by the minute. Luckily there was a BIN option at 5000 Yen, so I just skipped the whole bidding game and bought it directly. I got it quite a bit cheaper than I had expected to pay for such a rare ESC, anyway. Then it was just the servo missing. The servo was only partially visible in a couple of the pictures, but from what I could see, it looked nothing like any of the many vintage Sanwa servos I have. I put the picture up in a few Facebook-groups for help, and it soon was clear that the servo was a BB-HS, a high-grade, high-speed competition servo. I haven’t been able to find the exact model, but Jerry Hellström in Finland found a BB-H, a visually identical model, but with a higher torque. I decided it had to do, and Jerry kindly agreed to sell it to me, removing it from one of his cars.
Well, that will have to do for now. Next is starting the “Swiss cheese process”, and making the custom parts. More to come.