Hot Bodies Lightning 2 Pro Evo Review
The Hot Bodies Lightning buggy has been around for a while and was always a good value buggy. Now we get the Pro Evo edition with some nice updates without a big price increase… does it work?
My 8th scale history…
About a year ago I decided to try a bit of 8th scale buggy racing and, in order to do that, needed a buggy. At that stage a friend had a Hot Bodies Lightning Pro buggy for sale and sold me it along with a Nosram engine. On my first outing with it at my local club the Banbridge and District Model Car Club (BADMCC) I managed a third place overall and had a ball – I had a big grin on my face all day. The thing that struck me about the Lightning Pro was that it was so easy to drive – I drove it kit setup and did not change anything except possibly springs and it went well.
This year with the arrival of the BADMCC’s new track I bought another Hot Bodies kit in the form of a Lightning Stadium Pro truggy and went truggy racing – I have to say that truggy racing is superb fun and I think that a lot of people who struggle a bit with buggies may find truggies more fun (they definitely require skill to setup and drive but are a bit more forgiving over rough ground and are easily as quick, if not quicker, than buggies).
The next stage in my buggy career came about when Mirage Racing, around July time, put out an open advert looking for drivers to run the new incarnation of the Lightning buggy in the form of the Pro Evo. They said in the advert that they were looking for bashers, club drivers as well as good drivers and feeling that I fitted in somewhere in the middle of all that I sent of a CV email to Mirage. A few days later I received an email from Ben Cosgrove offering me one of the drives using the Pro Evo, GRP tyres, Tornado fuel and Falcon engines. I immediately accepted and put in my order for all the required bits and pieces.
Opening the box…
A large box arrived on my doorstep and I opened it to see what the buggy looked like – I had read about some of the improvements including; 7075 hard anodised chassis with milled out areas under the engine, new suspension blocks front and rear, new inner/outer suspension shafts, three camber link positions (was 2) on the rear, 10 shock mounting holes on the front and 9 on the rear and new graphite radio tray among other changes. I had seen some pictures on the Mirage and HBEurope web sites but there is nothing like seeing a piece of kit hands on. I have to say that first impressions were very good – the new chassis is a thing of beauty with the milled out portions below the engine and the curved edges designed to add strength. The graphite radio tray also added a touch of class but it was the fact that you get alloy hubs front and rear, alloy shock towers (all in Hot Bodies purple off course), a 7075 alloy chassis as well as all the improvements mentioned above in a buggy that retails for Â£275!
Building it up…
Building the Pro Evo is not that difficult as it comes pretty much ready built!
Even the shocks come pre-filled with with oil and the springs and ‘shock boots’ (to keep dirt and dust from getting into the shock seals and ruining your race) all in place and attached to the chassis.
There is a separate box that contains the rear wing and mounting hardware and the parts to build up the throttle and steering linkage – this being a Pro piece of kit you get to fit your own engine, paint the supplied clear shell and install your choice of servos for throttle and steering. There was a black Hot Bodies pipe in the box and some wheels and tyres (the tyres looked quite good) but I left these in favour of GRP tyres and an Edit pipe.
I fitted the wing and then concentrated on fitting the servos – I have been using Ace DS1015 Digital Servos for a while in my truggy so installed two in the buggy. These have a retail price of about Â£65 but can be found for less and I and a few others in the club consider them to be good value for money and provide 14.5kg of Torque at 6v.
I built up the clutch on the engine as per the instructions – I have always found the Hot Bodies clutches resonably easy to build although the springs can sometimes be a bit difficult to get on. The engine bolts on to a new purple alloy finned engine mount designed to draw heat away from the engine and this bolts on to the chassis. Hot bodies also supply fuel tubing and a holder for a fuel filter (but no filter) and there is a fuel guard that stops fuel being spilt over the brakes and throttle linkage when refueling.
That’s basically it for the build – no problem to anyone who has owned a buggy or truggy before and even though this is a Pro level buggy I would say no major problem for a beginner either.
Unfortunately, for my first outing, I did not get a chance to run in my new Falcon engine (so more on this at a later date). I went with another .21 engine that I had been running in my Stadium Pro. Great timing meant that my first run with the buggy would be at an open practice day at the BADMCC track – the track is reasonably demanding track with good jumps including singles, doubles, quads,a huge table top, astroturf and worn grass sections. A good A final lap pace is sub 55 sec – that was my aim for the day.
I put on a set of GRP Grip A soft pre-glued wheels/tyres (I love the whole pre-built thing – I remember the days of gluing up touring car tyres and have them come off in the final!!). I left the buggy springs in standard kit form although I did change the ride height to a little over arms level front and rear using the included shock spacers. I took it out on the track knowing that the engine would be ok so I could concentrate on how the buggy handled. I was expecting it to be a bit of a handful to be honest having gotten used to driving the truggy. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a real understatement – the buggy handled the bumps on the main straight well and when I went to turn the corner at the end of the straight I nearly hit the corner because of the amount of steering I had.
The real test for me was the jumps in front of the rostrum which consists of a single followed by about eight feet of track and then a double. The Pro Evo jumped and flew flat, landed well and with another short pull of the throttle trigger it jumped the double again flying flat and landing well and more importantly in control for me to take the hairpin just after the jumps. It felt really safe and because I did not have to use the throttle or brakes to control jumping I was able to concentrate on lines. It almost had too much turn in but I got used to that after a few laps.
There were a number of people at the track who were interested in seeing the Pro Evo 2 go and I think they were impressed. At one stage I found myself racing along with a Ho Bao Hyper 8 on the track being driven by one of the better drivers in the club. I was able to keep up and managed to get past for a time – this was down to (in my opinion) the ability of the Pro Evo to jump better and get away. My favourite comment of the day was from a driver who drives one of the more expensive buggies on the market who, having looked the Hot bodies over, and seen it on track was amazed that he could, pretty much, have got two of the Evo’s for the price of his buggy – great value!
I spent some time rebuilding the shocks, not because they were in any way bad, but because I wanted to know the starting points for oils (I ended up with 30 front, 25 rear) and trying out other tyre/spring combinations. I made no other adjustments during the day although there are plenty that can be made including shock towers featuring 10 mounting holes on the front and 9 positions on the rear.
During the day I spent a lot of time on the track and did not break anything and believe me I did get a bit carried away a few times but the Pro Evo 2 just rolled away from anything I threw at it. Oh yes my lap times… I was averaging 52-53 second laps by the end of the day which I hope means good things for my first real race but as we all know we can get carried away ‘in the heat of battle’.
Based on my first outing and on the comments of other drivers on the day I would recommend the Pro Evo 2 not only to those seasoned professionals that the title would imply because it certainly has all the required pro features but the price, I believe, puts it within reach of those starting out (spend a few more pounds/dollars or whatever to get a better buggy than the cheaper end of the market) or those looking for a better second buggy.
Hot Bodies are putting a lot of effort into promoting the new buggy and have even gone to the lengths of recruiting top US driver Travis Amezcua as the US Team Driver Supervisor.
‘Bling’, strength and adjustability…
I should also mention the Edit range of Hop Ups as marketed by Mirage include additions for the Hot Bodies range including the truggy, buggy and indeed the Cyclone touring car. The additions for the buggy includes; Hard Anodised Rear Hubs (in 1, 2 and 3 degree variations), Hard Anodised Rear Toe-In brackets (54mm, 56mm and 59mm), Alloy Centre Diff Mounts and even threaded shock bodies for front and rear (complete with purple alloy pre-load nut). Everything is hard anodised, looks good, and is stamped with the Edit logo.
They also do other parts including full bearing sets – well worth checking out and a line of pipes that are EFRA stamped. I will be looking at these in more detail when I fire up my Falcon engine/Edit pipe combination.