Who invented Remote Control cars? (Invention Timeline Explained)

It’s always fascinating to deep dive into the history and evolution of various inventions over the years. In this case, it’s a quick look at the invention and development of the remote control car. Also known as the radio controlled car (or the RC car for short), it can be argued that remote control cars are probably one of the most entertaining toys and models one can have.

The fantastic thing about remote control cars is it’s ideal as both a toy for kids and a hobby for adults. Let’s look into the development of the RC car!

Who invented remote control cars?

While the origin of remote control cars can be traced back earlier, the inventor of the RC car is a company known as El-Gi (Elettronica Giocattoli). The first remote control car was a 1:12 model of the Ferrari 250LM.

The remote control car’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Elettronica Giocattoli
    Creators of the first RC car

    The first commercial RC car was a 1:12 model of the Ferrari 250LM. This was then followed by the model they would show in the 1968 Milan Toy Fair, the 1:10 Ferrari P4.

  • Mardave
    Created nitro and gas-powered model cars

    After El-Gi’s creations, Mardave, a British company, tried its hands at the development of RC cars. Typically, these models were nitro and gas-powered, and were sold in the early 1970s.

  • Tamiya
    Trailblazers that paved the way for RC cars

    A Japanese company, Tamiya began to develop car models that were mechanically simple, but detailed everywhere else. Tamiya RC cars became fantastic toys, spurring Tamiya to continue development.

When was the remote control car invented?

The first remote car was invented in 1966 courtesy of Elettronica Giocattoli. That said, the model shown in the Milan Toy Fair in 1968 would be more advanced: the 1:12 Ferrari P4.

A brief history of remote control cars

It would be easy to peg the start of remote control cars to the development of the automobile, but there’s no need to go so far. Instead, the beginnings of the RC car can be traced back to the 1940s. This was the time when the development of nitromethane-powered engines began to make its way to the market. The unique thing about such engines was that they were built to be surprisingly small. Thus started the trend of engine-powered model cars.

That said, these engine-powered cars could only go in circles through a tether. It wasn’t until the 1960s when miniaturized radio control began to blow up. After its introduction in the early 1960s, it would only take a few years for the first RC card to be created. Elettronica Giocattoli is the company responsible for the very first RC car, namely the 1:12 model of the Ferrari 250LM.

It wasn’t the model that the company would show off at the Milan Toy Fair, however. That would be the 1:10 Ferrari P4 model car. Naturally, when El-Gi started to introduce the concept of commercial RC cars, many other businesses tried to follow suit. The first was the British company Mardave, developing nitro and gas-powered miniature cars in the 1970s. There were many more companies that tried their hand, though one business outshone them all.

In 1976, the Japanese company Tamiya released the more expensive but intricately detailed car models. Despite the hefty price tag, these models sold surprisingly well. It was enough to spur Tamiya to continue development, creating remote control cars with actual suspension systems. It was this development that led to RC cars driving well on any surface, which then spurred the RC car rise as a hobby for adults.

The remote control car timeline

  1. 1940s
    Development of the miniature nitromethane-powered engines

    It would be these small engines that would spark the beginning for RC cars. It paved the way for the development of proper model cars.

  2. 1966
    The 1:12 Ferrari 250LM

    Development of the first RC car, courtesy of El-Gi. It would be the invention of this car that starts the boom. The reason why it was developed in 1966 is that the miniaturized radio was developed in the early 1960s.

  3. 1968
    The Milan Toy Fair

    The Milan Toy Fair would be where El-Gi introduces its next RC, the 1:10 Ferrari P4 model car. With the introduction of the P4, many other companies took note.

  4. 1970s
    Mardave’s RC cars

    Mardave, riding the success of El-Gi, developed their own version of the RC car with nitro and gas-powered models.

  5. 1976

    Not much needs to be said about Tamiya that hasn’t already been said, other than their contributions are why RC cars are so popular today. 

Where was the remote control car invented?

The remote control car was invented in Reggio Emilia, Italy, by Elettronica Giocattoli.

The importance of remote control cars

  • A universally loved concept

    Give any child a remote control car and they’ll love you for it. Even those who aren’t all that interested in cars will immediately squeal for joy if you give them control over an RC car. It’s a universally loved concept!

  • A platform for healthy competition and happy customers

    When El-Gi first started the remote control car craze in the 1968 Milan Toy Fair, most companies could see the potential of such an innovative new toy. It’s the reason why so many businesses tried their hands at developing model cars. Not only is it great competition, but the customers benefit!

  • For the casual market and the hobbyists

    RC cars aren’t just toys for the kids! The modern RC car has variants that are much more detailed, offering an avenue for car hobbyists.

  • A miniature form of automobile evolution

    The most popular type of RC car today is electric, as well as being one of the most advanced. It requires electricity to charge, but what you get is a clean, smoke-free experience with little to no noise. It’s a far-cry from the original RC cars that rely on combustion. You can see RC cars as a miniature form of automobile evolution.

Remote control cars by the numbers

  • 934While Tamiya is well-known as the most popular company to produce RC cars, its first ever model was the Porsche 934 RSR.
  • 1/8The average scale of the modern RC car. While there are many different scales for various car models, 1/8 (or 1:8) scale is the most common you’ll find in stores.
  • 100The XO-1, considered to be the fastest RC car, can exceed 100 mph.

Five facts about remote control cars

  • The three-gear transmission

    As always, Tamiya has the distinction of pushing the envelope and developing all sorts of advanced RC cars. They were also the first to develop the three-gear transmission for their RC cars — a development that took RC car hobbies to the next level.

  • Electric is quicker than gas-powered

    As far as RC model cars are concerned, there have been plenty of debates about which type of model car is quickest. Currently, electric RC cars yield the best results when it comes to overall speed. It’s also far more efficient and cost-effective than the gas-powered variant.

  • The difference between RC and remote control

    These days, RC and remote control are interchangeable, and is an acceptable term for model cars that work through a radio. That said, RC does stand for radio controlled more than it stands for remote control. Fortunately, the terms are interchangeable which means it’s not a big deal to go with either remote control or RC.

  • Military uses

    One of the biggest advantages of RC model cars is that the military can use such devices without putting anyone at risk. It often seems like every useful device in history also has a wartime function!

  • The ever-growing RC market

    RC model cars are the kinds of things that have only grown in popularity over the years. It’s predicted that by 2027, the RC market is to grow to about 2 billion dollars.

FAQ about remote control cars

  • How long do RC car batteries usually last?

    The typical RC car battery can last up to an hour or two before needing to be recharged. If you’re talking about the general shelf life and how long it takes before it starts to degrade, it can last about four to six months. 

  • What are RC cars made of?

    Considering that RC cars have to be both light and durable, you’ll find most RC car models are made of injection-molded plastic.

  • What makes RC cars a hobby grade?

    While there are many different RC car models out there, it needs to fit a few requirements to be considered a hobby grade. For one, it requires more maintenance and upkeep than the usual RC model. It’s also customizable, giving hobbyists the chance to upgrade and keep improving the overall design.

  • What’s the RC car bashing craze?

    It’s a type of RC car model event where the rules and regulations are out the window. It’s more of a testbed for pushing the limits of RC cars, without worrying much about the state of the RC car at the end.

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