I thought I'd write up an article on the differences between the various incarnations of the Tamiya Wild Willy RC jeep.
There are 3 distinct versions of the Wild Willy:
- Wild Willy M38 SWB (short wheelbase) - the original Wild Willy, first appearing in late November 1982. Identified principally by the front mounts of the trailing arm rear suspension (which are found halfway along the chassis) having round holes;
- Wild Willy M38 LWB (long wheelbase). This is much more common than the SWB version. Amongst other detail changes, the rear trailing arm front pivot points are longer & have slots rather than holes. With modified motor & gearbox mounts these increase the wheelbase by 10mm. Generally thought to be for better control, and thought to have been introduced around 1986, there's no evidence to support that & IMO it's equally likely to have just as much to do with making the parts common with the Willy's Wheeler (released August 1983). The Audi Quattro Rally (July 1983) and the Opel Ascona Rally (November 1983) use the Willy chassis with a longer central plastic tub and use different rear arm front pivots, but do use the "LWB" elongated motor/upper gearbox brackets;
- Wild Willy 2. This appeared in 1999 with a very similar body but a very different chassis and "All Traction" chevron type tyres. Apart from the sizes of some of the fasteners, the only holdover from the M38s was the wheelieing ability & the motor still being a 540 type. This also spawned a Wild Willy 2 Metallic Special and a Wild Willy 2 XB ("expert built", i.e. factory finished) version.
Please note the examples used for the photos here are not fresh out of the box builds, the M38s have been used, stripped, repaired & repainted; the Wild Willy 2 was built way back & not to the standard I'd do things now, and has also had LEDs fitted. Bits broken off the front winch seem to be depressingly common.
I'll cover the chassis differences (between the M38 SWB & LWB) in a later article.
Willy's Wheeler vs Wild Willy M38s
The Willy's Wheeler chassis is basically a LWB M38, but aside from some of the fasteners, there are absolutely no body parts in common. Even the Driver's helmet is different - on the Wheeler the two halves can be screwed together, on the M38 sprues, gluing is the only option.
Wild Willy M38 SWB vs Wild Willy M38 LWB
The body is identical between the wheelbase versions of the M38, with two exceptions:
The large body clips are the reverse of the norm - the "inside" extending part should have the bends & fold to accommodate the body post, not the outside as on every other Tamiya car.
It's also possible that early examples used M2 fasteners with slotted heads rather than the compound slotted / JIS heads on later Tamiya cars.
Wild Willy 2 vs Wild Willy M38s
The M38 windscreen panel has 2x 2mm holes on each end to accommodate aluminium hinges (plus slots on the ends of the C1 dashboard top panel), WW2 panel has a single 3mm hole further up & further in. The front rollcage loop on the WW2 has added extrusions near the base of the plastic portions to take 3mm screws through the windscreen panel.
Written by TB member Jonny Retro