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Team Losi NXT Graphite Plus

[Overview | Kit Assembly | Test Drive | Long-Term Results | Summary/Rating]

Team Losi NXT Graphite PlusOverview
The highly popular GTX stadium truck series, praised for it's simple, easy-to-get-to setup and award winning performance has been reborn into a new series dubbed the NXT. With its updated suspension geometry, the Graphite Plus kit's titanium turnbuckles, graphite A-arms and chassis top deck/frame, full ball bearings including the steering servo shaft, this is probably the hottest gas kit or RTR you can buy in its price range. 

For the budget minded (or those who want to hop-up gradually), this model comes in three different flavors, from the bushing/bearing combo of the NXT Gas truck, to the full-ball bearing (and other upgrades) Racer, to the full, all-out-racing-monster, the Graphite Plus. 

 

Kit Assembly           [Back to Top]
Keep in mind that the following is based on the Graphite Plus kit.  The basic designs on the three different kits are the same, just some of the hopups, such as bushings on the base kit are bearings on this kit. I've never built a Losi kit before so I can't tell you about their past, but this was probably the cleanest, well thought out kit manual I have come across.  Taking a cue from HPI (or maybe the other way around), a picture is worth a thousand words and they have captured this concept well.  Although it is well documented, you don't necessarily need to rely on it (in most cases) to successfully build this kit. The only real problems I encountered with building this kit either lied in mislabeled (or not labeled at all) parts bags, or in obsolete information that could have been better updated.  We'll get to that later.

It starts out, simply enough with the front end and works it's way steadily towards the rear.  This is, oddly enough, how the complexity builds.   In other words, the front-end is a snap and the rest slowly builds up in complexity.

Once you have built the front bulkhead/a-arm assembly it simply screws onto the chassis with four Philips head screws (the first and some of the last ones you will see in these kits).

The next section involves the middle section which is comprised of a one-piece graphite frame, the fuel tank and the steering assembly.  The steering assembly requires you pay a little bit of attention as you could mount some pieces backwards, but short of that, it's fairly straightforward.  You then simply mount the fuel tank within the frame, mount the two steering servo posts and the steering linkage assembly to the chassis and then screw the frame to the chassis and front bulkhead. 

The rear end is a little more complex.  To start off, if you've ever built a ball-differential, you'll recognize the classic pattern. This is probably the most critical operation in the kit, and if you're not extremely careful, you'll lose or tweak any of the delicate and small parts. The manual gives you pretty detailed step-by-step instructions on how to assemble this diff, but it's important not to get frustrated if you don't understand them at first. They sound more difficult than they really are, it's just a matter of using common sense and careful handling. You have to juggle the assembly several ball bearings, paper-thin shims and a fundamentally awkward-to-assemble diff casing all the while you some how have to defy gravity. If it's any clue, you use grease like you would use bubble-gum to hold things together as you are assembling the whole thing and your trusty Allen wrench gets a whole new use to add to its list. . You just have to do it... it can't be fully explained.  Once you assemble the thing, you can take a deep breath and set the thing aside.

Next, you are instructed to assemble the diff, idler gear, slipper shaft, brake arm pin and all the bearings into the tranny case and seal it up.  I would have to disagree with the manual at this point.  Later when you go to mount the brake arm onto the brake arm pin you then have to place a C-clip on the end to keep the brake arm in place. However, there is enough slop in this shaft that it actually retracts into the case just enough to prevent you from clipping it!  By leaving the case open, you can push this shaft back out from the inside with your finger and prevent any hair-pulling episodes!  :)

You are also instructed to glue the brake pad material onto the inner surface of the brake arm before installing it onto the tranny.  Unfortunately they instruct you to cut one of the pads down to 1/3 it's original size to mount on the top end of the brake arm.  The idea here (I'm sure) is that only the fulcrum end of the brake arm will have sufficient pressure on the drum to do any real braking.  However, this isn't the real case, in my opinion.  Once you run the truck it will become all to evident that this is insufficient for any kind of real braking performance.  I would advise gluing the entire length of the pad so that it extends to the upper most end of the inner brake arm.  This upper region may not have as much brake pad pressure, in theory, but its supplemental coverage dramatically increases the braking performance even with a modest servo's torque.

Once you have made it to this point, you are pretty much home-free.  The remainder of assembly is much like the first section of the manual, simple and straightforward.   The shock assembly is very much typical. Preventing shaft damage by covering it with cardboard, for example, seems to be missing from the manual and this, as you may know, can result in scratched shafts and permanent silicone leakers.  They may be assuming only experienced builders will build this kit?

You're biggest obstacles remaining involve the radio gear installation.  The instructions call for mounting an included Lexan radio receiver cover but don't really explain how to do this.  This seems to be because there is no real one way of doing this. You'll have to be creative at this point and figure out a way of attaching so that you can get to the radio gear to swap out crystals but at the same time be useful in keeping the elements out of your precious gear..   Running the wiring can be a great obstacle, especially the battery supply wires that need to run from the rear end of the vehicle, up the radio receiver mounted on the side of the mid-section frame.  There is an excellent article on this on page 62 of the May 1999 issue of Hi-Torque's R/C Car magazine.  It basically entails routing this wiring above the tranny case using a scrap piece of Lexan and a rubber grommet and screwing it to the side of the plastic tranny case.  Again, you'll have to be creative because there is no one right way to do this.  Just make sure that you keep these wires from getting pinched or exposed to any moving parts.

The engine assembly is simple enough.  I would take the manuals advice about scuffing the clutch shoes as this will greatly improve performance, especially during the break-in period.  The spur gear meshes perfectly with the clutch bell, even though there is no built in adjustment.  Although this may seem like an inconvenient feature it actually saves the headache of losing spur gears over a suddenly shifting engine mount.  The price for this convenience is that you'll have to buy spur gears and clutch bells in pairs to keep the gap the same.  The above mentioned magazine claims that you can put a 75-tooth spur gear with the existing clutch bell but I don't think I'd try this without having a spare spur gear real handy.  I don't buy that there's enough slop in this engine mount to make up the difference, however I could be mistaken.  The approximate 1.3 percent difference in radius of these spur gears may prove to be negligible in actual operation.

Once you have this complete, the only real steps left are mounting the tires and painting, cutting out the included body.  I found the rear stock tires to be barely adequate for my local track and quickly upgraded to Pro-Line's new Super Squares.  The hookup was phenomenal.  You may want to consider this upgrade before gluing the stocks down.  The front tires are the typical dual-pattern groove type and work sufficiently for most tracks.  The body is sub-par in my opinion as it's extremely flimsy, but it's the first body, so who cares, right?   The single-rear mount is a clever idea that seems to work very well, but I would recommend that you not only install the including body grommet for this hole, but that you glue it down well.  If it comes off, you will quickly wear a square hole that will grow to major proportions, very quickly. 

I was never able to figure out what they were trying to convey about the tie-down method for the battery, so I went with my own configuration that seems to work very well.  Just take two zip ties and make a 1-inch wide loop going in one hole and out the other on each side, plop your battery pack down and then take a third zip tie and join the two loops.  This gives you a good, solid cinch-down configuration that will hold well under the most extreme conditions.

 

Test Drive           [Back to Top]
I have to agree with most articles I've read on this truck, that the stock setup is pretty much your best one.  I ended up swapping the springs so that the stiffer red ones are on the back and the softer, pink ones (they really could have skipped that color) up front.   I seem to get better straight-away stability at my local track with this setup.  My ball-diff broke in rather rapidly and so after only a lap or two it was time to re-tighten, but other than that things held together very well.

After running a few tanks through the OS 12CV plant I put in this baby it was time to shake things up a little bit.  As I mentioned earlier, I learned by trial and error that my hookup with the stock rear tires was less than desirable.  As soon as I hooked up with Pro-Lines I had no problems negotiating the track.  Understeer/oversteer was well balanced, take off was solid and smooth and braking was predictable and highly responsive!   I almost immediately discovered that a sustained wheely on the back stretch was now a reality.  Thankfully, Losi was clever enough to extend the chassis to encompass the battery mounted on the rear end.   This protected things very well even though I was dragging the rear end through the whole back forty in my little stunt (a kind of a built-in wheely bar!).  :)

The HS-615MG high-torque Hi-Tec ball bearing, metal gear servo I chose for the steering matched well with the ball-bearing steering linkage on this kits and provided smooth, responsive action; a definite must for stadium truck formats.

The included stock tuned-pipe was noisy but responsive, however the stinger should have been better designed.  Not only is it easy to pinch off the exhaust, but I had a hard time keeping it on the pipe whenever I side-swiped something (like another car).

I was quickly pointed out a few weak-points in this truck that I quickly avoided by hopping up to aluminum and titanium.  The spindle carriers are not exactly what I would call "beefy" and seem to have been overlooked as the Achilles heel of the predecessor GTX model.   The other thing I found to be true almost immediately is that with Titanium turnbuckles and Losi's grip-from-hell ball ends, the only thing left to give in a wreck are the standard metal ball ends.  Why Losi missed this one I'm not sure, but titanium upgrades to this are definitely on the must-have list for truck, especially the camber rod ones mounted on the shock towers.  They seem to take the most punishment.   Losi's own titanium ends seem to work best and offer the most convenience with their Allen heads.   According to the Losi veterans, the rear-suspension pivots are also a weak point that will eventually give.  Upgrading to aluminum on these would probably be a good idea as well.

 

Long-Term Results           [Back to Top]
After running the truck hard for several days, another couple weak spots showed up that were minor, nevertheless, worth mentioning.  The GTX (predecessor) had a bumper wide enough to mostly cover up the the front of the a-arm spindles which helped to protect the c-clips.  This was obviously an intentional design parameter in the GTX, but for some reason, Losi apparently forgot about it on the NXT because there is virtually no protection here.  Unless you weld the clips to the spindle shaft they bite it on every jump and quickly end up coming off.  This is especially bad if the shaft then migrates backwards, leaving the a-arm to hinge on its rear tab.  Even a slight rail hit at that point will snap the a-arm in a hurry.  An aftermarket spindle brace will probably help create a little more stability, especially in preventing broken a-arms, but only time will tell.  It still doesn't prevent the clips from coming off in the first place and at the time of this writing, there doesn't appear to be any aftermarket bumpers that will alleviate this problem.

The second thing that time on the track proved was that Losi's ball-cups are great for hanging onto the ball-ends.... a little too well.   I actually ended up tweaking a few titanium turn buckles rather than the ball-cups popping off.  Even more common was for the brittle ball-cups to snap.  A few of these incidents would be expected, but I nearly went through the entire original set and a half a set of replacement Losi ball cups before switching over to RPM's.  The RPM's have a good balance of popping off in a serious accident but not overdoing it at every little bump and scrape, and more importantly, I haven't broken a single one since.

Other than these two minor problems, I was impressed with the overall durability of this truck and would have no problem recommending it to anyone serious about off-road racing.  Every format has it's weak spots, and I'm sure that Losi will address these weak spots in future versions of the NXT.   Considering this is basically a whole redesign on the GTX platform, minor problems are to be expected.  This is the price to pay for innovation. 

 

Summary/Review           [Back to Top]
Overall, this is an excellent, easy to build, easy to work on, and highly competitive truck that can easily compete with the best out there.  Losi's advanced design with the NXT should prove to be a new standard by which the aging TA RC10GT format will be hard-pressed to keep up with.  You really don't have to do a lot to this truck to make it serious competition, right out of the box.  If you're looking to get into the stadium truck format you can't get more bang-for-the-buck than the Losi NXT.

Rating (1-10): 9.5

Likes:  Graphite and titanium candy, MIP CVD's, ball bearing steering shafts, battery-tray incorporated into chassis.   Drum brakes!  Easy to understand manual.

Dislikes:  Should have included titanium ball ends in GP kit.  Wimpy spindle carriers.  Some parts bags were not clearly identified.  Stinger on pipe proved troublesome.

 

 

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This page last modified: 07/26/11