Building the Tamiya High Lift RC Truck Kit

Tamiya High Lift
Just as we look back at the Tamiya Bruiser with great fondness I think years from now we'll also be looking back at the Tamiya F-350 High Lift as a kit we all wish we could have had. Personally I've been wanting to build one of these from the second I laid eyes on one so when the opportunity came up for us to acquire a brand spanking new HighLift kit we just couldn't let it slip away. So follow along with us as we build the Tamiya High Lift aka Project Three Speed with a little customizing along the way.
I don't know how anyone could not know this already but for those unaware what makes the Tamiya High Lift kit so special is its three speed transmission. You heard right, this truck has three speeds. That means with the help of a three or four channel radio you can shift on the fly. If you've ever seen how slow a crawler is you can definitely understand how helpful such a feature could be. For example you could gear it down so it crawls super slow in first gear while still having extra wheel speed in the upper two gears. Or you could gear it higher which would make the first gear fairly fast with second and third being over the edge. Either way the High Lift's transmission is a cool piece of engineering.

First thing we should go through is what is including with the kit, what you'll need, and what is in the box. The High Lift includes a 540 silver can motor and requires an electronic speed control, and three or four channel radio system with two servos. One servo will be used for steering, and the second will be used to shift the transmission. There a couple of radio options including using one of the many four channel stick radio systems available or another option is to modify the Traxxas TQ3 radio system to work with the High Lift.  The problem with using a TQ3 radio system is that the toggle switch for the third channel only has two positions while the High Lift transmission needs three. The solution is the perform a simple mod that allows the TQ3 to have three positions.

Here are pictures of some of the parts including in the kit. First up is the F350 body. This is whats known as a hardbody which is formed out of ABS plastic and is painted on the outside.  (as opposed to the inside with a lexan shell)  As you'll see later we originally meant to run this body but opted to go with something a little more custom. I'm sure this beautiful body will find its way onto some project in the future.
Tamiya High Lift Ford F-350 Body
The Tamiya High Lift's 1.9" six spoke wheels included in the kit
Tamiya High Lift wheels
Here are the included Tamiya Rock Cruiser tires. Although these tires are fine for scale looks we wanted something a little more trail ready which is why we opted for a set of the new 1.9 Pro-Line Flatirons.
Tamiya High Lift tires
Here is another shot of the tires included in the kit...
Tamiya High Lift rock cruiser tires
Here are the tires we decided to use in this build. The Proline Flatirons are made of Proline's new G8 compound which is ultra soft and includes a set of Proline memory foam inserts.  We decided to run the flat iron's on a set of HPI stockcar wheels. The difference in traction between these tires and the stock Tamiya tires is like night and day. IMHO these tires put every other 1.9 tire to shame. They're so soft that when leaving the truck sitting on the garage floor for a few days you can actually feel them sticking to the concrete as you try to lift the truck up. The only problem is that they're so soft that they create a flat tire look on heavier trucks like the High Lift. We have heard that some people have had luck getting rid of that flat look by using a set of 2.2 foam inserts in these tires.
Tamiya High Lift proline flat iron tires and hpi stock car wheels
Here is a side by side of the High Lift's stock tires vs the Flatirons. The Prolines are softer, larger and have a much more aggressive tread. We chose to mount our Flat Irons on HPI stockcar wheels.
Tamiya High Lift tires vs proline flat iron tires
Another picture showing the height difference between the stock tires and the Proline Flat Irons.
Tamiya High Lift tires vs proline crawler tires
The Proline Flatiron tread pattern
Proline flat iron rc crawler tires
Alright enough with the tires here are some pictures of the rest of the parts included in the Tamiya High Lift kit. Here is a parts tree with all of the satin aluminum looking parts such as the exhaust, and differential covers.
Tamiya High Lift silver parts trees
The Tamiya High Lift's transmission case parts tree. If only these parts could stay this clean and shiney forever...LOL
Tamiya High Lift transmission parts tree
One of the High Lift's stamped steel chassis side rails. Believe it or not all that swiss cheese will be used to mount a ton of parts to it later on. As with a lot of Tamiya kits this one is pretty over engineered.
Tamiya High Lift chassis rail
Here are a few of the many parts bags including in the kit.  The one in the upper left is mostly bushings and steering rods, next to that is the bag of shock parts. Also pictured is that parts bag with all the included tools, and lubes, and the bag with the lower brush guard.
Tamiya High Lift parts bags
Enough with all of that, its time to build this sucker. I think a lot of beginners may find it a little intimidating that the first item Tamiya instructs you to build on this kit is the three speed transmission. Its a little complicated but as long as you take you're time and focus on the details you'll be fine.

Here are the two Tamiya High Lift's main transmission shafts assembled with all the gears in place.
Tamiya High Lift transmission gears
Here are the gears installed between the front and rear plates of the transmission. Check out the tiny shift forks and syncros. I'd like to put one of these in a glass case on my desk...LOL
Tamiya High Lift 3 speed transmission gears
A close up shot of the transmission internals...
Tamiya High Lift 3 speed
Here is the High Lift's tranny assembled with the side cases installed
Tamiya High Lift tranny
The gearing on the rear of the transmission
Tamiya High Lift gears
The slipper clutch. For rock crawling you're going to need to tighten this thing up quite a bit more than the manual says. Ours was slipping like crazy until we cranked it tighter.
Tamiya High Lift slipper clutch
I guess it makes sense that Tamiya instructs you to assemble the transmission first because as you can see everything else in this kit is built around the transmission. I feel sorry for anyone who has to repair this transmission down the road because half the truck has to be pulled apart to get it out again. This is the beginning of the chassis build.
Tamiya High Lift chassis and transmission
Next up is the assembly of the axles including the assmebly of the differential units as shown below. Much like the diffs in the Tamiya Land Cruiser, these are made so that you can lock and unlock them without removing the diffs from the axle cases. Its nice to see that Tamiya thought ahead when designing these. If you're looking to use your truck as a crawler then save yourself time now and lock them while they're out.
Tamiya High Lift locker differentials
The Tamiya High Lift axles being assembled...
Tamiya High Lift axle assembly
Here they are completely assembled with steering links installed
Tamiya High Lift axles
The kit includes extra leaf springs so you can choose how hard or soft you want the suspension. We found that even the softest setting was still too hard for a lot of articulation.
Tamiya High Lift leaf springs
A few minutes later and the axles were installed on the chassis. As you can see we've gone and also installed the shocks. We chose to remove that ugly red anodizing with oven cleaner for a brushed aluminum look.
Tamiya High Lift shock
Here is a front view of the assembled chassis including the front bumper
Tamiya High Lift shocks
From the rear...
Tamiya High Lift roller
Check out those beefy steel driveshafts. It makes you wonder why Tamiya chose to install weak plastic driveshafts in the larger tire'd Land Cruiser.
Tamiya High Lift metal driveshafts
We finally got the new tires installed. In this picture you can also see our new body. We chose to go with a Proline Chevy C10 lexan body. I guess we'll be saving the Ford F-350 hard body for a later project.
Tamiya High Lift custom body
Rear end...
Tamiya High Lift diff cover
Here she is completely assembled. Those blue things you see on top are balloons that we wrapped the electronics in so we can go mudding later on! Our Tamiya High Lift lives!
Tamiya High Lift waterproof electronics
Underside view...
Tamiya High Lift slid plate
All clean and shiney...for now.
Tamiya High Lift custom chevy pickup truck body
Here you can see the flat tire look we were talking about earlier. It looks really bad in this shot but when you're running the truck that flex actually provides a lot of traction. Some have had luck running larger inserts in the tires but we're leaving it as is.
Tamiya High Lift chevy
Here's a photo of the Tamiya High Lift's rear end. Yea we know, we know, the body mounts are going to get cut.
Tamiya High Lift pickup body
Our Tamiya High Lift with our Axial AX10. Which one do you like better?
Tamiya High Lift vs Axial AX10
Lets face it, this truck never was intended to be and never will be a hard core rock crawler. However with the addition of those super sticky tires and lightweight body this truck does pretty well on the rocks.  Compared to Project Scorpion it is really heavy and inefficient, but if you want a three speed that is just what you've got to live with. We ran the stock gearing and in first gear it crawled really well and was nice and slow. Second gear was useful when you needed a little more wheel speed on the rough stuff but third gear was nearly useless unless you were running on a flat surface. The leaf springs left a lot to be desired when it came to articulation but with a few mods they can be made to work fairly well.  Finally those Proline tires are just unbelievable. If you read our latest installment of Project Scorpion you already know that we were less than happy with the tires we chose for that build, but the Prolines are excellent in every way. They're really soft and do give your truck a weird flat tire appearance but traction and flex wise they're awesome.

I hope you enjoyed this build
Tamiya High Lift jump
Tamiya High Lift rock crawling
Tamiya High Lift mud bog
Tamiya High Lift mud truck
Tamiya High Lift rc rock crawler
Tamiya High Lift mud
Tamiya High Lift snow

Update
Since posting about this build, our Tamiya High Lift has remained mostly unchanged with one big exception. Years back, my brother talked about building or buying a snow plow for one of his RC trucks. So a few years ago I decided to tackle the project myself and to give it to him as a Christmas gift. The Tamiya High Lift snow plow project started as a few feet of standard u-channel aluminum and a sheet of aluminum from the local hardware store. I then hand cut, drilled and assembled what you see below. It is attached to the High Lift's chassis with custom made aluminum plates and is raised and lowered via a third servo that sits up on the chassis. Surprisingly, even with those soft Pro-Line Flat Iron rock crawling tires, the High Lift does a pretty good job of plowing snow. If you'd like to see it in action, check out the video here.
Tamiya High Lift snow plow
Tamiya High Lift rc plow truck
rc plow truck
If you have enjoyed this build and would like a Tamiya F-350 High Lift of your very own, please purchase it from Amazon. We get a small commission from the sale which helps support future projects. Thanks!
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