While less well-known to most backyard R/C drivers than Tamiya, Kyosho was another Japanese icon of 1980s R/C modelling who created a range of stunning, high-end, kit-based vehicles in their heyday – often with a race-winning edge.
Like Tamiya, original examples of their early R/C models are now highly sought after by collectors.
Some of those kits are now being reissued as well, but the new versions are different. So if you’re nostalgic for the original Kyosho models, here are some quick buying tips to help identify them.
The explosion in retro toy nostalgia was always going to catch up with the R/C car hobby, and it was inevitable that a few of the bigger brands would delve into their past to release new versions of their popular cars of the 1980s.
I’ve written in the past about Tamiya’s foray into this. And in recent years, the second most famous Japanese R/C kit maker, Kyosho, has followed suit.
Early Kyosho R/C cars were works of art in construction, performance and even packaging. Their history in R/C pre-dates that of Tamiya, but Tamiya produced electric R/C cars first, with Kyosho starting a year or two later.
Many people have a great fondness for Tamiya’s iconic R/C kit boxes with their hand-drawn illustrations, yet vintage Kyosho models were beautifully photographed and were every bit as inspiring if you were a kid gazing up at those huge car boxes sitting on the shelf at the local hobby store. Inside, they featured blister pack displays of fat sand dune tyres, lots of metal parts, along with plenty of realism touches like driver figures, decals, headlights and window netting, making them a joy to build. Components were well made and sometimes embossed with “Japan”, with the company proud of it’s miniature engineering skill. Out on the racing tracks, there were certainly periods of time in the 1980s when Kyosho buggies were the ones to beat.
With Kyosho continuing today as one of the few surviving R/C companies who were around during the hobby’s boom years in the 1980s, inevitably the company has seen fit to reproduce some of those classic 80s kits as a tribute (and to earn a few extra dollars from the popularity of nostalgia in the wider toy and hobby market).
The reissued Kyosho kits are nicely presented, and on first glance they look quite similar to the original kits. They are definitely worthy if you are interested in re-living the look of vintage R/C models, without owning cars that are actually from the 1980s. Like so many products out there these days, they are what you might call “retro style”.
But as with Tamiya’s reissues, closer inspection reveals that the new Kyosho reissues are also quite different to the original models. And since plenty of original Kyoshos are still out there being traded between collectors, this article is a quick summary of the basic differences between original Kyosho R/C kits of the 80s, should you wish to go on a treasure hunt for one of the true classic Kyosho R/C models of the 1980s.
If you’re already an experienced hand at collecting vintage R/C cars, this article will be too basic for you. It’s mainly aimed at those who are just getting into vintage R/C, and are interested in finding or collecting original Kyosho models of the 1980s.
Easy Ways To Spot An Original Kyosho Kit
Every single Kyosho reissue kit is different to the original kit. From the price, to the box art, to the kit contents, it’s easy to spot an original Kyosho once you know what to look for.
Recent years have seen the market for collectible vintage R/C cars mature somewhat. Initially when the first reissued kits began to appear, they had a significant affect on the collectible value of the originals. But as the years have passed, the market has matured and most collectors have realized that nothing quite replaces the original version – thus I think originals are more easily holding and increasing in value these days, regardless of the existence of reissues. I only speak from personal experience.
In the longer term, original kits really have nowhere to go but upward in value, as the number of originals left in good condition dwindles. So as a general rule of thumb, an obvious way to spot an original is if it has a higher price.
For example, here’s a reissue version of the Kyosho Optima buggy kit that recently sold for around the AU$400 mark – a fairly typical price…
Compare that to two original Kyosho Optima kits from the 1980s that recently sold for over AU$1200 each…
As a general rules, originals kits are worth at least twice the value of the reissued kit. But they might be as much as 3, 4, or 5 times more valuable, depending on a particular model.
But what happens if someone is simply selling a reissued kit for an inflated price? Well, just look a little closer at some other details, like…
2. Kit Number
Just like Tamiya reissues, Kyosho reissues are not really “repeats” of the original models. They are new models with new Kyosho model numbers.
At the time of writing, Kyosho has reissued 4 models – the Scorpion, the Beetle, the Tomahawk and the Optima.
The original kits had the following model numbers:
Kyosho Scorpion (1982): #2136
Kyosho Beetle (1982): #2138
Kyosho Tomahawk (1983): #3065
Kyosho Optima (1985): #3032
The reissued kits are new models, with the following new model numbers:
Kyosho Scorpion (2014): #30613B
Kyosho Beetle (2014): #30614B
Kyosho Tomahawk (2015): #30615B
Kyosho Optima (2015): #30617B
Any honest seller of R/C kits will be up-front about which model number they are selling.
3. Kit Box
Another easy way to spot an original vs reissue kit, is the box itself. Not just the model number, but the box photo.
Kyosho kit boxes have almost always used actual photos rather than illustrated box art. The Kyosho reissue box photos attempt to emulate the look of the original boxes, using photos of the new cars. But since the cars themselves are entirely recreated from new molds and with new parts, the photos are different.
4. Kit Box Internals
A quick look inside a Kyosho kit will also reveal whether it is vintage or reissue. Provided you know what to look for.
Here’s an original Kyosho Scorpion kit…
And here’s a reissue Kyosho Scorpion kit. While the reissue also features those clear “blister” displays, the layout of the parts has completely changed…
5. Country of Manufacture
Another interesting change is that in the old days, all Kyosho products were manufactured in Japan. But today, most are manufactured in Taiwan, Republic of China.
So if you see Taiwan mentioned anywhere on the box or parts, this means the kit is a reissue.
6. Construction, parts, decals & everything else
Last but certainly not least, are the actual parts differences.
Virtually none of the parts in the Kyosho reissue kits are the same as the original parts, and there are two reasons for this. The first is that the new models use are made from new molds because Kyosho no longer has the original molds from the original kits. The second reason is that the new models have been redesigned for different performance to the originals, designed to suit newer equipment, batteries and motors.
Tamiya’s reissues differ from the originals for similar reasons. But if anything, the differences in the Kyosho reissues may be seen as more extensive when it comes to the parts. To give just one notable example, let’s look at the original rear tyres found in the Scorpion, Beetle and Tomahawk kits…
Original Scorpion Rear Tyres
First, here are the original tyres.
- They are made from a hard-wearing compound.
- They have alternating 3 and 4 larger knobs per row of tread.
- They have raised/embossed “Goodyear” tyre letter outlines that you can colour-in yourself with white paint. (Note also that some original kits may have “Sand Super” as the sidewall writing).
Reissue Scorpion Rear Tyres
Now here are the reissue tyres. They are not really “repeats” of the original tyres, but rather, entirely new tyres made from different molds and with a different material.
- They are made from a different compound.
- Many buyers have said they have a strong chemical smell when you take them out of the kit.
- They have alternating 4 and 5 smaller knobs per row of tread.
- The white tyre lettering comes pre-sprayed and has no raised/embossed outline.
- Many examples arrive with the tyre lettering paint coming off. And with no outline, it’s hard to touch up.