R/C Hobbyist Spotlight: Nick Coward (The Toy Car Creative)

R/C Hobbyist Spotlight: Nick Coward (The Toy Car Creative)

The R/C hobby not only provides fun and relaxation, but it can also serve as a gateway for other hobbies and creative endeavors. Whether those interests involve custom model fabrication, 3D modeling and printing, photography, or video production, there are a multitude of ways to immerse yourself within the hobby.

I recently discovered a hobbyist (and fellow auto racing enthusiast) that is taking is love for radio-controlled machines to the next level through his photography. Nick Coward, “The Toy Car Creative”, has been around cars and racing since the day he was born…well, at least eight days after he was born. To hear him tell his story, he’s seen and done quite a bit in his journey so-far, and he’s not yet reached the pinnacle of what’s he’s hoping to achieve.

The photos that he has been posting on Twitter and Instagram grabbed my attention and I wanted to learn more about him and his life in the hobby. He was gracious enough to provide a detailed background on himself and his love for all things motorized. In his own words,  here is Nick’s story:

I have always been into everything motor racing. My old man claims he took me to my first dirt track speedway race at just 8 days old. I use that unconfirmed but jaw-dropping fact to brag about having dirt in my veins. Growing up in rural Australia, Dad and I would go to speedway most weekends of the summer, mostly local but often travelling long distances to do so. He put a lot of kms on the clock following some pretty exciting racing. Don’t get me wrong, it was amateur, no more pro than what I do with R/C cars nowadays but it was a good way to grow up and I have fond memories of my favourite rivalries and spectacular crashes. Dad would become the local track photographer at both the car and motorcycle speedways. I remember him writing some articles for the newspaper too but I’m not sure that was his favourite thing to do. He was always pretty pumped to get his name credit in the paper and fair enough too. Seeing how thrilled he would get with a great capture probably inspired me to dabble in photography. I never took it at school though and I never had a real camera until much later in life. I just liked capturing ‘moments’ at that period in time, dumb stuff with my friends and such, on nothing more than a disposable Kodak. I have selfies from 15 years before a selfie was even a thing! Back to Dad, the old bugger only had one eye too! Blind since a childhood accident, it made for some hair-raising moments on the infield. He always got out of the way though. He also used to shoot with a film camera. We’re talking the absolute beginning of the mainstream digital era, mid to late 90’s. That’s probably why he gave up in the end. He didn’t care to keep up with the expense of upgrading his equipment. His confusion when I set up an email address (circa 1999)…wow!! It’s too bad really because he was good. He probably could have justified the initial expense with further work but he didn’t. Some of his best speedway shots proudly adorn the walls at home, have done for years and probably will for all of the foreseeable future, much to my mums quiet disgust. It’s odd, admittedly, you only see that in hardcore speedway people’s houses after all, but that’s exactly what we are. Hardcore speedway people. He was ballsy too, doing weddings and important life events for people. I would never do that! What I do recall very vividly is his DIY approach. Hand painting a logo on his overalls, making his own flyers and logos for t-shirt prints, that DIY attitude stuck with me through so many other things I have done in my life.

Like any kid I always had toy cars, but I would guess I probably played with mine more than the average kid. There was always a Matchbox speedway in the garden or living room, I even had separate outdoor and indoor cars. My first R/C experience was pretty early as you see in the photo, but I was too young to drive it much. That car was a Tyco Turbo Outlaw and it was just a toy grade R/C but it was a pretty solid machine for it’s price point (around $100 in 1989, +almost as much in batteries!). Back then toys didn’t really hit the ‘scale appeal’ nail on the head very often, but this thing was on-point! I think that’s why Dad bought it really, who knows. It’s still in his office. I’d love to get hold of it for my collection someday.

Nick & Tyco Turbo Outlaw

From there I dabbled in R/C as a young teenager. I had a Kyosho 1/10 scale nitro touring car, the Calsonic Skyline body and a Futaba stick radio. Oh man what a beast! I weaseled my way into owning it but that’s another long and shameful story! I didn’t have the resources to go racing anyway. We didn’t even have a track within 400kms of Mildura, my hometown! I’d heard of guys getting together in parking lots but never saw it and never took part in it. I took that car apart and rebuilt it more times than I drove it. I don’t even know where it is anymore, probably junked. That’s actually a real regret of mine, that was such a beautiful machine and it was so wasted on me at the time. Such a shame. What I do recall being extremely passionate about as a kid was this ridiculous dream I had of moving to the big city and becoming a contributor for one of the R/C magazines I used to read so feverishly. I was going to do it the day I turned 15 and was self-sufficient! Haha I was very naive obviously, I was about 12 at the time and eventually that dream got filed away in a haze of high school and teenage testosterone. It was destined to be dug up at some point though…

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Life unfolded as it does and I really didn’t think much about R/C or even follow much racing of any kind until about 2009. I was living in Whistler Canada and my Kiwi mate James (a rev-head too) mentions these 1/10 nitro buggies he found on Ebay for $150… quicker than you can say free shipping we had them broken in, pissing off the neighbours and the rest would be history. The nitro came and went over the years, making random appearances in the cul-de-sac but I wasn’t introduced to modern electric technology until 2013 when I got a Slash 4×4. I spent months just bashing in the driveway, blindly assuming I was the only one in town with an R/C truck. As I started to discover more like minded folks in the area I was inspired to start putting on local get- togethers, hoping it would bring even more people out of the woodwork. To my surprise I actually got some negative pushback but that really is where The Toy Car Creative got it’s roots. It was known as Area99RC in the beginning. My website is still a tribute to that and the name comes from our local area. Highway 99 connects the Sea to Sky region, hence Area99. I tried really hard to promote locally and put on a lot of organized gatherings, some really good race events too but over time the support just didn’t come from enough other places for it to prosper. It took its toll on my morale but more than anything it probably made me more selfish with what I chose to share. In the end I’m happy with how it’s turned out. I’d obviously still love to be part of something permanent in Whistler but my own ideas have shifted. I started getting my racing fix with Outlaw RC in Vancouver, Area99RC became The Toy Car Creative and the whole focus became sharing things I loved about toy car hobbies, not just R/C. I struggled for focus at times and probably wasted a lot of content and time spinning my wheels. I tried a lot of different things from a creative approach but eventually it became obvious photography was my passion. Especially the action shots. I love capturing action! I make do with sub- professional level equipment but guarantee I make up for it with a good eye and willingness to get down in the dirt for that perfect angle. Being a part of the events is great too, the community is awesome. I went to Reedy Race in January and seeing the professional approach to racing was so inspiring. That’s when I really set my sights on being a creative contributor in the industry. I would love to be a part of that.

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Social media has been the core of TTCC since the beginning, simply because it is free advertising and I have zero budget. I definitely could have used it better sooner but I have learned a lot and am pretty proud to say I have over 1000 followers on Instagram and 300 on Facebook. All of that was achieved using my own material and without any third-party help to recruit followers.The content on each platform has evolved over time and finally I feel like I have a good grasp on what to share, how to share it and where. The website doesn’t do much but I do update it from time to time with backdated material once I have a few articles to do all at once. It was never about being a massive database of current material, I just don’t have time for that. It is more of a portfolio, a job interview, and I’m very proud of what I have compiled. I have used real events and experiences, it just won’t ever be relevant to a massive audience. Potential clients can go there and see what I am capable of, that is the hope. A good photographer with decent writing skills should be valuable to someone in the industry, right?!?

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As I said earlier, racing has always been my absolute favourite thing. Even as life took different directions, racing was always there in the background waiting to be a part of it all again. R/C gives me that. I tried crawlers, boats, minis, all kinds of stuff but I always gravitated back to the race cars. It’s just my thing, the thrill of competition and the buzz of winning, the atmosphere can be electric. It makes the hair on my neck stand up! In 2017 I am hoping to put together a calendar of events and really promote myself and TTCC as a travelling race team and supporter of the hobby through means of my creative offerings. I’d really like to add some professional paid work to that schedule. On the TTCC side of things I will be at races to take photos but I am also approaching organizers about sponsoring special track features and jumps at their events as a way of cross promoting. As for racing, I just signed with Maclan Racing for 2017 which is incredibly exciting and should help my racing tremendously. I have good friends on that team and their home base is in the PNW which is double cool! I hope to sign a few more sponsors but we’ll see. I really want to be taking these photos and writing the articles for someone!

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All things considered it has been a crazy journey the past couple of years. This damn hobby has taken over everything I think about and I have way too many experiences to share in one sitting! It is good to finally have a clear sense of direction. Putting some legitimate relationships in place has really helped solidify things but there is still so much work to do. I am just inspired by the hobby. Even with all the complaining and politics that tends to go on in the hobby I believe we are stronger together and the future is bright if we do a few things right. Good tracks and clubs are built on solid foundations and too many of these groups disappear because they fall apart once the growing pains start. Success and growth brings challenges and ultimately headaches. Stepping back and taking a deep breath can be so beneficial but we tend to get caught up in the small details. I hope I can always be a positive influence on that, continue to inspire new people to try the hobby and not give it away through frustration. By concentrating on racing, and select limited classes at that, I don’t have that much on my plate and the hobby is enjoyable again. It is easy to mix racing and photography, I love it!

As a fan of both photography and the world of R/C, it’s great to see someone like Nick who is embracing their own passion and working toward participating in the hobby on a deeper level.

If you want to see more of Nick’s photography work, or get in touch with him regarding a project, here is where you can find him:

Image credit: Nick Coward

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