Building the Ultimate Off-Road Jato 3.3


The Jato® 3.3 is one of my favorite R/C vehicles when it comes to serious bashing. The speed that the Jato is capable of is enough to make anyone’s jaw drop, and when set up properly it can be one of the most capable off-road thrashers out there. You already know that it’s fast, but it’s what you do with that speed that takes Jato to the next level. The weight distribution of the Jato favors high-speed corning and lots of traction. This helps keep the truck in control even with all that power. It still has plenty under the hood to throttle some serious power-wheelies, but the overall balance keeps the front end on the ground when most stadium trucks struggle to turn.

One of the most important features of the Jato is its enormous suspension travel. When its shocks are set up and positioned for maximum travel, the Jato becomes an insane dirt jumper, and gains the ability to soak up even the most brutal of ruts and bumps. Add some Baja-style tires or some sand-slinging paddles, and the Jato will become one of your favorites too. In this article, I’m going to showcase many of the Traxxas® accessories for the Jato, and also how I set the truck up to transform it into the ultimate dirt thrasher. Keep in mind that not all of the accessories mentioned through this article are mandatory for these results. Some of them will improve durability, while adding a custom look to your Jato. So, let’s check them out.

Key Ingredients

Durability

The Jato is already a very durable truck, but there a few things to look at when wanting to take that durability one step further. The first thing I did was swap out the stock blue chassis for the Traxxas 7075 titanium-anodized chassis (#5522X).

This chassis not only looks sweet, but the higher grade aluminum improves strength by more than 40% over the stock chassis. The accessory chassis is 10% lighter than the stock unit due to slick machine work that removes un-needed material in low-stress areas.

Next, I decided to beef up each corner of the truck. I replaced the stock front plastic steering blocks and caster blocks with Traxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum steering blocks (#5536R) and 25-degree caster blocks (#5536X). The 25-degree caster blocks improve on-power control and high-speed steering.

The 30-degree caster blocks (#5532X) improve on-power steering and high-speed control. Decide what is best for your needs and adjust accordingly. Out back, I replaced the stock plastic hub carriers with Traxxas 6061 titanium-anodized hub carriers (#5555X).

These high-quality machined aluminum pieces improve durability for high-speed thrash sessions, and I love the neutral titanium anodizing. They go well with any color scheme, and the finish will endure the test of time better than colored anodizing.

The stock steering drag link works great for general bashing, but the Traxxas 6061 machined aluminum drag link (#5542X) increases rigidity, eliminates slop, and is virtually maintenance-free.

Steering performance is also improved due to ball bearings located at each end. Over time, you’ll really appreciate what this little item does for your Jato.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#5522XTraxxas 7075 titanium-anodized chassis
#5536RTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum steering blocks
#5536XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum 25-degree caster blocks
#5532XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum 30-degree caster blocks
#5555XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum hub carriers
#5542XTraxxas 6061 machined aluminum drag link

Handling

The Jato already handles extremely well in its stock configuration, but there are just a few items that I recommend checking out for long-term performance. The Traxxas aluminum GTR hard-anodized shock set (#5460X) is a significant upgrade for maintaining ultra-smooth and consistent damping performance.

The shock bodies are not only hard anodized, but are also PTFE-coated for silky-smooth damping, and consistency that will last for quite some time. These shocks not only last longer, but require less oil changes, which keeps your Jato off the bench and out on your favorite stomping ground kicking up dirt. The shock shafts are Titanium nitride (TiN) coated, which provides a very durable finish. These are the same shocks that I use on my personal race-spec Revo, and they use the same pre-load adjusters and rubber diaphragms as the standard GTR shocks.

Next, I selected a spring set that would best suit the needs for extreme off-roading. With the extra travel dialed into the suspension and the rough terrain that I planned to blast the Jato through, I decided that softer (more plush) springs would be in order to keep the chassis steady at speed and to absorb the jump landings more effectively.

Up front, I swapped out the stock 1.1 rate green springs for a pair of 1.0 rate tan springs (#5429). Out back, I changed the stock 1.4 rate pink springs for a set of 1.2 rate silver springs (#5431). This combination gave the truck a plush, yet responsive feel that was perfect for big-air landings and for excellent stability over rough terrain at high speeds.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#5460XTraxxas aluminum GTR hard-anodized shock set
#5429Traxxas 1.0 rate tan springs (pair)
#5431Traxxas 1.2 rate silver springs (pair)

Power / Performance

The stock dual chamber pipe is an excellent pipe, and will work just fine for most conditions. However, I chose the Traxxas Resonator single-chamber pipe (#5483) for a little extra bottom-to-midrange punch, which will compliment with the bigger Baja-style tires and help out in the soft sand with the paddles. Plus, it just looks trick.

Next, I chose to gear it down a little bit - for the same reasons. I swapped out the stock 24T clutch bell gear for the 20T clutch bell gear (#4120), and stayed with the stock 54T spur gear.

With the larger diameter tires, the shorter gear ratio would allow the engine to spool up into its power band much easier and propel the truck without hesitation. This also helps launch the truck out of deep sand just as effectively.

Once the TRX® 3.3 was tuned and geared appropriately, I decided to improve the power delivery to the rear wheels by replacing the stock universal slider shafts with the Traxxas low-mass constant-velocity (CV) rear driveshaft set (#5551X).

These shafts improve acceleration, and they’re designed to work with long travel set ups due to their low dog bone plunge. This keeps the dog bone end of the shaft in the drive cup even under extreme suspension articulation. The best part about the CV driveshafts is their extremely smooth power delivery throughout the suspension range. CV driveshaft joints virtually eliminate joint wobble at extreme angles. I also prefer these shafts over others, since all of the CV driveshaft drive pins are captured to virtually eliminate the possibility of them coming apart.

The next item I chose to install onto my project Jato won’t increase the power or speed of the Jato, but it will increase the power and speed of the servos. I removed the stock 4-cell AA battery holder, and replaced it with a Traxxas 1100MaH 5-cell receiver pack (#3036).

This is an important upgrade for controlling a ballistically-fast TRX 3.3–powered stadium truck. Plus, the receiver pack is rechargeable, so it eliminates having to buy many boxes of AA batteries, which saves money over time.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#5483Traxxas Resonator single-chamber pipe
#4120Traxxas 20T clutch bell gear
#5551XTraxxas low-mass constant-velocity rear driveshaft set
#3036Traxxas 1100MaH 5-cell receiver pack

Sharp-Dressed Jato

Of course, no project would complete without some machined high-tech bling. The first thing I had to get was a set of the red-anodized turnbuckles (#5539X) to replace the steering and the upper camber links

These are the coolest looking turnbuckles I’ve seen, and they save nearly 20 grams of weight over the stock steel units. Next, I replaced the front wheel spindles with ultra lightweight Traxxas blue-anodized 7075 aluminum spindles (#5537X), and then I threaded on lightweight Traxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts (#1747X). I finished off the accessory list with a set of Traxxas fire-red anodized aluminum wheelie bar wheels (#5186).

These machined wheels come with a full set of sealed ball bearings and are outfitted with rubber wheels for total control during full-blown power wheelies. I don’t always use a wheelie bar, but when I do, I really need it. These wheels help keep the Jato tracking straight when the front end is in the air.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#5539XTraxxas red-anodized turnbuckles
#5537XTraxxas blue-anodized 7075 aluminum spindles
#1747XTraxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts
#5186Traxxas fire-red anodized aluminum wheelie bar wheels

Extreme Off-Road / Desert Set Up

Wheels & Tires

I wanted a big and burly Baja-style tire set up for general off-road thrashing, and for the sand I wanted some serious paddles out back and ribbed tires up front. Pro-Line Racing® had what I needed in both categories. I glued up a set of Pro-Line Moab 2.2 tires (#1120-00) for the off-road duties.

These tires have an aggressive tread pattern and they are very popular in the R/C world with 1/10-scale bashers and rock crawlers. They have a great Baja-style look to them, and perform extremely well on rough terrain. For sand duties, I chose a pair of Pro-Line Sand Paw tires (1052-00) for the rear, and a pair of Pro-Line Mohawk tires (#1126-00) for the front.

I mounted both tire sets onto Traxxas 2.2 dished wheels (front - #1974, rear - #1972). These dished wheels won’t clog up with dirt, and are molded in white nylon, so they can be dyed any color.

I topped off my project Jato with a Parma® X-citer body (#10214) specifically designed to fit the Jato. The body has smooth Baja-inspired lines and gave my Jato the look I was shooting for. I dusted off my airbrush kit, and went to work.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#1120-00Pro-Line Moab 2.2 tires
#1052-00Pro-Line Sand Paw tires
#1126-00Pro-Line Mohawk tires
#1974Traxxas 2.2 dished wheels (front)
#1972Traxxas 2.2 dished wheels (rear)
#10214Parma® X-citer body

Suspension

This is the key area in set up for serious off-roading. Before I did anything else, I removed the sway bars from the front and rear suspension arms. This allows the arms to move more independently from one another. Sway bars can actually be beneficial in certain conditions and for track racing, but for this project I decided to remove them. The next item on the list is shock length and position.

I increased the length of the shocks by a few millimeters by threading the shocks ends out a few turns. This increases the overall travel of the shock without adversely effecting shock performance. Be sure not to go more than that though. You need to keep an ample amount of the shock end on the shock shaft to keep the shock end from pulling off. To get the maximum amount of down travel out of the suspension arms, the shocks need to be located in the inner most shock positions on the suspension arms and shock towers.

The next thing I did was decide on what damping effect I needed for maximum bump and jump handling. I used the stock Jato 3.3 shock pistons for the front and rear shocks, but I increased the viscosity of the shock oil to 45wt, since I would be using the inner most shock positions on the suspension arms and on the shock towers. The heavier oil would compensate for the decreased damping effect of using the inner shock positions. This setup provided a plush feel throughout the entire range of the suspension without inducing an over-reactive rebound effect.

Differential

Keeping the rear stable under heavy acceleration can be accomplished by increasing the viscosity of the differential fluid. This reduces the diff action and helps prevent the differential from unloading prematurely, and it provides more traction and stability at high speeds.

I replaced the stock diff grease with Traxxas 10K diff fluid (#5135). This worked great at getting the power of the TRX 3.3 to the ground on a variety of surfaces.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#5135Traxxas 10K diff fluid

Balanced Wheels

This is a technique that I use on most all of my race vehicles. Balancing the mounted wheels and tires improves control, traction, and smoothes out acceleration. It also greatly improves stability at top speed.

I chose to balance the Pro-Line Moab tires due to their large diameter and heavier weight versus the paddle tires. The paddles performed just fine without balancing.

Hitting the Dirt

I was quite pleased with the overall feel of the transformed Jato. Acceleration was instant, and the smooth power delivery of the balanced wheels really made the truck easier to drive. The large Moab tires kept the Jato in check over nasty ruts, and the long travel suspension setup soaked up everything.

The Jato could take even the nastiest of sections at greater speeds than ever before. The new Jato would wheelie on command, and once it hit second gear, look out! This truck is so much fun. I’ve always loved the performance from the Jato and this project takes performance to the next level. After fooling around with the Moabs, I decided to bolt up the Pro-Line Sand Paw and Mohawk tires to see how it handled the sand.

Wow! Check out the video and you’ll see what I mean. I didn’t want to let go of the throttle. My project Jato was slinging roosts like a modified dune rail. I just wish that the drive to Glamis was a little shorter. I can’t wait to take it to the Red River to see what it will do with more room.

If you’re looking to turn your Jato into an off-road animal, or just want to improve the performance over the stock configuration, try some of the tips mentioned above. Or, try all of them. You won’t be disappointed. The Jato 3.3 will soon become one of your favorites too.

Complete Parts Summary for the Ultimate Off-Road Jato 3.3

Part NumberPart Name
#5522XTraxxas 7075 titanium-anodized chassis
#5536RTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum steering blocks
#5536XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum 25-degree caster blocks
#5532XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum 30-degree caster blocks
#5555XTraxxas 6061 titanium-anodized aluminum hub carriers
#5542XTraxxas 6061 machined aluminum drag link
#5460XTraxxas aluminum GTR hard-anodized shock set
#5429Traxxas 1.0 rate tan springs (pair)
#5431Traxxas 1.2 rate silver springs (pair)
#5483Traxxas Resonator single-chamber pipe
#4120Traxxas 20T clutch bell gear
#5551XTraxxas low-mass constant-velocity rear driveshaft set
#3036Traxxas 1100MaH 5-cell receiver pack
#5539XTraxxas red-anodized turnbuckles
#5537XTraxxas blue-anodized 7075 aluminum spindles
#1747XTraxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts
#5186Traxxas fire-red anodized aluminum wheelie bar wheels
#1120-00Pro-Line Moab 2.2 tires
#1052-00Pro-Line Sand Paw tires
#1126-00Pro-Line Mohawk tires
#1974Traxxas 2.2 dished wheels (front)
#1972Traxxas 2.2 dished wheels (rear)
#10214Parma® X-citer body
#5135Traxxas 10K diff fluid
The Revo Rocks Project 1