San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Remote control cars go four-wheelin’

If you can judge a book by its cover, you should be able to judge an activity from a Web page. The videos on are entertainment itself, with colorful lines of all-terrain vehicles making their way through various obstacle courses. They clearly demonstrate the intrepidity of 4x4s even as some topple over or get stuck in the mud and others spare no efforts to climb over boulders to keep the line moving.

But none of these cars are manned. They run on remote control, and those are pebbles and puddles that they challenge, not boulders and rivers.

These Land Cruisers, Land Rovers and Jeeps measure about 24 inches long with 5-inch-diameter tires and belong to members and followers of RCTicos, a club whose interest is not just in playing with cars, but in the engineering as well (also, according to several members, because they can’t afford to drive the real thing, but they can drive a miniature). Prices are hefty, about $500 for this type of remote control, but within dreaming range.

RCTicos began about two years ago, organized by Roberto Feigenblatt, a professional photographer with a love for motors and remote control vehicles. He owns three remote control cars. 

“The club has about 45 members in two categories, but about 130 followers from the Web page, including some from outside the country,” Feigenblatt said. According to the Flag Counter utility on the RCTicos website, people from as far as Russia and Indonesia have visited the page.

Cars can be fuel-driven with a special mixture of nitromethane, synthetic oil and other mysterious stuff. At $50 a gallon, it outprices the gasoline from the bomba.

Several members are engineers who find this is a hobby to match their interest. Others say they always liked remotos as kids, and this way they can continue playing with them. 

Remote Control Cars

A remote control car takes on a curb.

Mitzi Stark

Some members prefer the strictly remote control cars, but these are power-laden for performance, which is what counts, even on a track in a parking lot. The track is as tricky as any racecourse, and it is a challenge to “drive” the cars from the end zone and ensure they don’t collide or shoot out of sight. It’s also a feat to get them to climb up a curb that’s roof high or whirl around a traffic cone. 

It was Feigenblatt who filmed the shots on the Web page and made it look like a parade of toughies facing the wilderness instead of a paseo or outing to Braulio Carrillo National Park, Barva Volcano or Playa Naranjo.

On Sunday mornings, members meet at an empty back parking lot of the University of Costa Rica to test-drive their cars on a track laid out with hoses, traffic cones and obstacles. It’s wide-open space for cars that measure less than 2 feet long. This is also a chance to talk over repairs and damage control or the stock car market. 

Es una cosa de hombres,” a guy thing, said a woman who came to watch. “They can spend hours discussing cars.” 

Indeed, there are no women in the club, but Feigenblatt said they are welcome to join in on Sunday mornings or to join the organization. Children, too, are welcome, with adult supervision. Among the small audience that came to watch was a family with a boy about 10, who brought along his remote control car – hardly in the same class as the others, but if his interest grows along with him, he has a future with RCTicos. 

Cars of the caliber used by RCTicos are a special market. Several members said they bought their cars in, or had them brought from, the United States, where the prices are lower. Hobby Aventura in the Centro Comercial 2000, next to the Best Western Irazú in northwestern San José’s La Uruca district, sells remote control cars, airplanes, helicopters and boats for hobbyists, and manager Clay Arce said demand for them is growing. The shop also offers an unlimited variety of ways to customize a car and can provide information on remote control clubs and competitions.

But to get a better idea of what these remote control cars can do, go to and watch them go.

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