Growing up, my favorite toys were my collection of remote control cars. I’d look forward to the weekends when I could spend the day racing them around the street or, in the case of my prized hovercraft, the pool with my dad. I haven’t played with one in about twenty years, and was curious what improvements have been made over that time. A spy car from Trend Times with a video camera and a microphone was too tempting to let pass by.
What’s In the Box
- spy car
- rechargeable battery pack for car
The car itself is fairly average looking and made of a very lightweight plastic. I would have initially categorized it as flimsy, but while playing it has survived many crashes into my actual car, living room furniture, Belgian block, and trees and is still intact and running strong. It has a 007 decal displayed across each side–it is a spy car after all. The bottom of the car contains an on/off switch and a channel toggle switch in the event I have two friends racing the identical car with me.
Other than the camera, there really isn’t anything on the surface that’s all too different from any other RC car. It’s about 15″ long and 6″ high. The car bears absolutely no resemblance to the hardcore, Batmobile-meets-steampunk looking car from the website picture, which was a bit of a disappointment.
Setting up the car was a lesson in patience. All four wheels were bolted into the styrofoam with (stripped) screws. One eyeglass screwdriver and many curses later, it was free! Next up came the batteries. I had charged the battery pack for the car and bought the necessary 8 AA batteries for the remote. I discovered my new pet peeve: adding teeny tiny screws to battery covers that already snap and lock shut. So I battled with the screws on the car, then the screws on the remote, placed the batteries, screwed everything back in. The car turned on with red glowing tail lights, but the remote–nothing. Another thirty minutes of replacing batteries and dealing with the screws still resulted in a dead remote. I placed a small piece of aluminum foil between each battery and finally found the two that weren’t making a tight enough connection. After a day or so of rigging, the battery connection began to work without foil. Whew! Now for the roadtest…
Boy this thing is loud!
The car only has one speed–I call it “go.” I remember back in the day the speed was determinate on how far forward you would press the acceleration stick. Not this car. The slightest nudge sends the car off, as does a full push forward. This makes turning and keeping control of the car a little tough.
Despite the rugged looking tires, I had a difficult time navigating the car over gravel or grass. A large piece of mulch was enough to cause a hang up.
The radio frequency range is around 50 feet (car responds intermittently and with a delay; camera tends to break up more often) to just under 100 feet (no response from car or camera).
The biggest feature of the car is the inclusion of a camera with corresponding 1.5″ LCD display on the remote. This is really the best part of the car because it works well (with a caveat–in a moment) and the picture quality on the remote is actually quite good.
I was expecting a very grainy, barely recognizable image and was pleasantly surprised. Occasionally, there is a bit of interference and breakup of the image but otherwise video reception was consistent. The remote has a dial to adjust the brightness of the image. An addition to the camera is a corresponding microphone, and another surprise–it also works well. There isn’t an overwhleming amount of motor noise from the car while it’s moving, but it obviously works much better when the car is still.
The remote also features audio and video outputs that could be hooked up to a TV or recording device, an option to turn the headlights of the car on and off, and a laser for playing car laser tag with those two aforementioned friends.
The only issue I have is the placement of the camera, which is a bit too high to see any obstacles in the car’s way until you’re already stuck on it. I get great images of the sky and buildings, but nothing at ground level. It’s nearly impossible to drive the car relying solely upon the display.
All of the car’s special features do work but then the thought struck me–who is it that I’d actually be spying on? It’s not as though the car is so quiet that someone wouldn’t notice a car whirring up behind them. I guess maybe the car could just sit in a corner and observe without moving, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of having a camera on a car.
I probably would have had this car on a Christmas wish list as a kid and found some nefarious use for its camera and mike. The adult in me though is just sort of scratching her head trying to figure out the practicalities of it, especially when you take into account the nearly $200 price tag. Maybe I just to lighten up and take a few more laps around the street!