Let’s Remember ZipZaps, A Gateway Drug To Tuner Cars For Kids Like Me
Radio Shack was the greatest place for young budding tuner kids.
Toot toot! It’s time to ride the nostalgia train, y’all. Earlier this summer, thanks to the latest entry in the franchise, Fast and Furious was trending on social media and we all collectively reminisced about the fun nonsense that is (or was) the F&F series. The last (and best) F&F movie I remember caring about was Tokyo Drift. Last I checked in on the series, Vin Diesel and Tyrese were pulling bank vaults down the street in Dodge Chargers. How did we get to Pontiac Fieros in space and what the hell did I miss?
Anyways, as a kid, Fast and Furious, Need For Speed Underground and Initial D were instrumental in developing my love of cars. The first Fast and Furious movie came out when I was seven, and I vividly remember those black Honda Civics rolling under semi-trailers. I was seven, so I didn’t really have the attention span to pay attention to the rest of the movie. (I fell asleep.) 2 Fast 2 Furious is the first installment where I cared about the story—such as it was—but it made me want to get involved in tuner car culture so badly.
The problem: I was only like 10 or 11. My parents drove a Ford E-150 van and my older brothers were definitely not going to bring a pre-teen kid to a goddamn street race. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, because I remember going to a Hot Import Nights car show at age 12. (My older brother’s friend won a copy of Juiced for the Xbox, it was a good memory.) Still, I didn’t have a video game system of my own (my brother was really into first-person shooters, and wouldn’t let me on very often), and I was years from ever getting my license.
Then I learned about ZipZaps.
Sold exclusively through Radio Shack, ZipZaps were tiny little RC cars with interchangeable bodies and wheels.
ZipZaps were a bit more modular than a regular basic RC car you could buy at at Toys “R” Us at the time. They featured upgrades from the “starter kit” that featured bigger motors, larger batteries.
Radio Shack marketed the hell out of these. No doubt a natural fit, ZipZaps had editions of the hero cars from 2 Fast, 2 Furious, Starsky and Hutch, and Initial D. They were hot sellers, I remember my 11-year-old self calling several Radio Shack stores for weeks trying to find “starter kit” ZipZaps. Eventually, on one fateful fall weekend, I got the last one in the store—a starter kit of a brown 1995 Honda Civic.
Eventually, I got bored of the ZipZap. It didn’t have enough power to go up any moderate inclines, the charging time was long and the playtime was short, or at least too short for an kid with nothing to do. I kept running it into walls because I wasn’t good with the controls, and then either my mom, or my older brother stepped on it, splitting the body in half. Oh well.
That’s when I moved up to Xmods – a larger, faster, more modifiable RC car platform, also sold by Radio Shack. These cars were complex as heck for a 11 or 12-year-old. You could change tire compounds, wheels, suspension, weight distribution. Most of the car bodies offered upgraded tacky, of-their-time ground effects and hood kits, too.
It looks like ZipZaps are real collectors items, as unopened examples can reach well over $100 on eBay.
Damn, sometimes I miss being a kid. Before I got bored of them, I had the time of my life pretending my XMOD Supra or ZipZaps Civic were right next to Ja Rule and Paul Walker in the Fast and Furious movies. Y’all youngins just don’t know.