Behind The Scenes>>a Visit To Hpi Racing, Pt.1

Is there anyone that doesn't like radio control cars? Seriously. Now obviously some are more devoted to the hobby than others, but I doubt there are many people out there who would see someone playing with an RC car and not think "I wanna try that".

With those thoughts in mind, I took a trip down to Foothill Ranch in Orange County yesterday to visit to the headquarters of RC car maker HPI Racing.

Originally I was planning to visit HPI last month as part of our collectables theme, but because SoCal was getting soaked by rainstorms and the chaos of the holidays, we decided to postpone my visit to a better day. I arrived at the large modern building not quite sure what to expect. I had seen HPI's products before, but was not expecting their facility to be this substantial.

After walking through the front door I arrived in the lobby where the walls were filled with framed magazine articles featuring HPI's products.

A few moments later I was greeted by Andrew Hillman and Collin Cocores who would be my tour guides. Here's Andrew showing off a pair of Calsonic GT-R's of vastly different scales.

I was introduced to the various employees in the office, and all of them seemed to be enjoying their jobs quite a bit. Working for one the world's most established RC companies can't be a bad gig. The USA location has about 70 employees total.

One of the first things that caught my eye in the office area was this gas-powered RC buggy that made a 120 mile trip across the Mojave Desert from Barstow,California to Las Vegas, Nevada. Incredible.

The warehouse was one of our first stops on the tour.

As we walked around the massive warehouse I learned that contrary to popular belief, HPI Racing is actually an American company – not a Japanese one. The founder, Tatsuro Watanabe hails from Japan, but he started HPI here in Southern California selling RC accessories in the 1980s. The company operates branches in Japan and other countries, but this is the heart of the global operation.

There are rows and rows of RC car parts stored in these aisles.

I got quite a kick out of these scale Watanabe/Panasport type wheels. Perfect for your vintage RC car!

I got to see a lot of the super-secret R&D area, but most of it was off limits to my camera. I did get a chance to shoot this tool for HPI's new Scion xB body. The detail is wild!

Our next stop might have been the coolest place in the entire building – a museum of sorts. Did you know that HPI also made die cast cars? I didn't until I saw this huge display of HPI 1/43 scale cars. Most of these were done for the Japanese and European markets.

Check out these toolings! Amazing.

Here's Andrew giving me an up close look at some of these die casts.

I had to be careful not to salivate all over this Sauber Mercedes LeMans three-car set.

The Lancia Stratos die cast was equally drool-worthy. As you can see, it was produced in both street and race trim.

How about a little JDM flavor with this full selection of Group A R32 Skylines?

Can't forget about the Mazda 787B either!

Down the way from the die cast area is a collection of classic HPI products and competition winning RC vehicles. The Super Star Wheel was HPI's first product, and quite popular one back in the '80s. As this vintage ad states, HPI stands for "Hobby Products International".

This F1 car was HPI's first full kit, produced back in 1994.

Here Collin shows off the chassis of this historic RC machine.

As you might be able to tell now, Tatsuro-san is huge fan of Formula 1. The entire building is filled with F1 memorabilia and photos.

I've put my thumb up to give a size reference for this massive 1:5 scale off road truck. Powered by a weed whacker engine, this rig weighs about 30 pounds and can hit 40 miles per hour on rough terrain.

Have a look at this ridiculously detailed die cast motorcycle. A "special project".

A selection of competition-winning touring cars with pro livery.

More F1 gear.

The real highlight of this room though has to be the pair of real life HPI-sponsored Impreza Super Taikyu race cars from Japan.

Although they still run and operate, Andrew and Collin say they are essentially 1:1 scale die casts now.

Check out the RC body pins that are part of the livery. Nice touch.

Hmm, what's under that cover? I suppose it's just some sort of big F1-inspired collectable.

With that I'll wrap up the first half of my visit to HPI Racing. Be back soon with part two!

-Mike Garrett

HPI Racing



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Used to be big into RC back in the day... very cool to see behind the scenes.

P.S that's an enzo


Nice story!

HPI has some nice products, I used a lot of rims for my Tamiya TRF416.

But seriously, when speaking about Tamiya, I check they're much much better in quality and performance..


Actually what IS under that cover? Im guessing an Enzo... but for some reason the shape seams distorted.

I love that diecast V-MAX!


It's an Ferrari F60


judging byt he shape i'd say thats an Enzo under the car cover


That's an Enzo...

and by the way....where can I get my hands on some of those HPI 1:43 diecast models? I'm located in FL USA and I couldn't find anything from a quick search.


i think that a enzo is behind tha red cover


Repost ! I swear I've seen this post in the past....a while back....


Good stuff Mike!


i bet thats an enzo under the cover in the last pic.


ah, the old days.

i still have my original RS4 and RS4 Racer2 10th scale touring cars and the Proceed pan car sitting on a shelf.


Looks like an enzo maybe under the wraps with a cone on the front like that?


Enzo under the cover?


definitely NOT a Ferrari Enzo! :P


great stuff Mike, i love RC cars! why is it we (SpeedHunters and readers in general) seem to have such expensive hobbies?? lol.. between cars and photography i don't have any money left for anything else :(


If by "big F1-inspired collectible" you mean a Ferrari Enzo, I think you're correct!


must be really cool working in that place. blanket covers an enzo?


I'm pretty sure that the car under this cover is a Ferrari (ahaha too easy) Enzo. Nice collection of die cast cars, some of them are amazing...I've ruined my keyboard on those Sauber...


oohhh yeah Enzoooo


Is that bitch an Enzo?


I remember when i was younger and the RS4 first came out. It was like the hottest thing out anf gave Tamiya some competition. Never knew they were an American based company though...shame on me.


I hope that V-Max isn't the last of their die cast motorcycles!


I wanna see that Enzo!!


Whats under that cover?


Hpi<3 I still have my Hpi R40 with Penzoil R34 body:)


Cool!! HPI has stuff for sale at Hobby Link Japan (HLJ) if anybody is looking.

The die cast stuff is right up there with the european stuff like BBR & Marsh models.


I think under this red cover is Enzo or FXX!


Never heard of an Enzo bring a F1 collectible but ok sure.

the bulge in the front is from the battery trickle charger cable propping the hood up about an inch.


I too had the privilege of visiting HPI years ago when I attended an RC car race. Awesome company, Killer products, and super staff. They also produce some of the nicest bodies around.

You didn't happen to spy the AE86 coupe body for 1:10 did you/ I've been waiting forever for them to release that shell in the US. I own quite a few HPI bodies and I love them!


yup defo an enzo under that cover!!


nice coverage. i got to learn a bit of history into my favorite brand. that must be a nice place to work at.


I've got an HPI 1/10 R/C touring car too!!! I simply love painting new bodies...


That covered car looks like a Ferrari Enzo, but not sure about it, but anyways HAWT RC cars, I'm probably going to buy an RC Drift Car by HPI soon, well that's what I hope. But I would love to have one of those R32 :D


my friend has a hpi car(hpi firestorm) :)

i love their rcs


I'll take the Calsonic GTRs!!! Oh, and the enzo...


Most likely that's an Enzo


Yes, the owner upgraded from a lambo to the enzo.


been racing HPI since 1996...currently building a Blitz ESE,,,HPI has been great to the RC scene...BTW, I am a 2 time HPI Challenge winner and repped the USA in the HPI world finals in 2004...finshed 7th in the a-main...visit my site at


ENZO . . . ????!!!




"A selection of competition-winning touring cars with pro livery."

Looks like (left to right) Andy Moore's 2006 World Championship Cyclone, Atsushi Hara's (TITC?) Cyclone, 2005 IIC Mod Rubber Cyclone, 2008 Reedy Race of Champions Cyclone, 2010 IIC Mod Sedan TCX.

LOTS of RC history in that little box, VERY cool!


Dude, that's a Baja 5T... And it's not a weed wacker engine!... A weed wacker engine can't run 45!!!...


I'm gonna have to get myself some of those 1/43rd diecasts some time, they look incredibly detailed!


What do you call the tire stops that are on the display wheels in Pic # 3?